Savvy Author Book Proposal Checklist: Your Book's Sales and Marketing Considerations

Updated: Oct 15



What are the opportunities for you, the author; the publisher; your fans; and other vested parties to promote and sell the book?


This article is part of a series that adapts and excerpts my entire book, Pitch What’s True: A Publisher’s Tools for Navigating Your Best Path to a Published Nonfiction Book* (Everything Goes Media, 2019). Find an index to the series here.

Sales & Marketing

The Savvy Author Checklist continues. [See here for Publishing/Publisher Knowledge, The Book, and The Author pieces.] A reminder: The boldface questions below are not simply the summarized knowledge of a veteran publisher rehashed for you somehow. These questions are from the actual assessment tool that my editorial team and I have used in-house when evaluating possible projects.

Will your book sell? Why? Does your book have competition? How many other books are in the market on this subject? On tangential subjects? Does your book meet the competition in value and content?

So…will your book sell? Why? What makes it better or different than competitive titles? What are the strengths and weaknesses of those titles, and how does your book fit within that space? ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


What is your book’s story? Its human interest features? What makes your book an “event” or a “thing?” The subject? The author? The approach? Its timeliness? Its relation to current events? Its celebration or evolution of its subject?

What is your book’s story? What are its primary points of appeal? ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


Does your book have a strong enough hook? Is its “story” significant enough, appealing enough, complex enough, and rich enough for continual promotion? What will prompt readers to talk about the book?

How can you take advantage of your book’s points of appeal? Do any of these elements need amplification? What changes to your manuscript or your approach can be made to strengthen this important aspect of marketing? ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Is this book easy and appealing for bookstores, libraries, gift shops, avid readers, thought leaders, bloggers, Tweeters, and anyone with a social media account, a mobile device, or a mouth to talk about, promote, and stand behind? Why?

Time to brainstorm. List all the easy and obvious talking points that others should readily be sharing about your book. ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


Are there enough different angles for constant promotions? For creative marketing? What is the degree of interest, loyalty, and passion for the subject among likely readers?

Back at it…what other angles are there? What are all the facets that expected fans might appreciate about what you have? How many different ways can you engage likely readers? ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Can the publisher reach the natural audience for your book efficiently, easily, affordably, and through various media outlets and retailers? Through their current distribution channels? Through new channels that are easy to forge? Through new channels that they would like to develop? Through new channels that would also benefit at least some of their other titles?

What might you know about your audience that a publisher wouldn’t? What information about this crowd can you share? What else do they read? Where do they shop? What are their other interests? Who do they talk to about this topic and where? What do they talk, think, and care about? How can this information open up new opportunities for a publisher? ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Does your book have potential in other formats (audio, video, children’s, foreign language, ebook, database, subscription, mobile app, etc.)?

Which ones? What makes your content a good fit for these other formats? How can your content be adapted or enhanced? How easily? ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

What are the opportunities to sell primary [1] or secondary [2] rights for your book (e.g., excerpts, TV, film, book club, and multimedia)?

Answer the question. Then jot down some notes on what makes your book’s content right for those situations. Next, what about the “how” — how might those sales take place — and the “who” — who might realistically purchase such rights? ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Does your book have a reasonably long — or indefinite — shelf life? Will it fare well on the backlist? Will it require minimal updating, or will it be easy enough to update when necessary?

How long? Why? If your book endures, how often should it be updated, and what will that entail? How will you keep current on your topic and revise your book as needed? ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Does your book lend itself to cross-promotions with other titles the company publishes? What multiple book/author events and synergies are possible? Will your book lead readers to other titles the company publishes?

Return to this question for every customized pitch you make to a publisher. List some beginning ideas in this area to get you started thinking along these lines. ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

What nontraditional channels are open to this book? What type of bulk sales opportunities exist for this book?

Brainstorm on both below. Where beyond bookstores and libraries can this book be sold? What sort of people and organizations might purchase multiple copies of this book at once? For what purpose? Who needs 10 books? 100 books? 1,000 books? ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


[1] Primary rights typically refer to any rights a publisher secures (most contracts will secure them all) that they may pursue (or desire to prevent others from pursuing) directly. These may include the rights to publish hardcovers, paperbacks, mass market paperbacks, ebooks, audiobooks, mobile apps, multimedia versions, etc.

[2] Secondary (or subsidiary rights) are the class of rights (also procured in nearly every contract) that are normally not exploited by a publisher but sold or licensed, if possible, to other parties. These may include film, theater, and television rights; commercial and merchandising rights; and foreign translations. A publishing contract spells out the publisher/author revenue split if any of these rights are sold.

*affiliate link