Your Marketing and Publicity Plan: Step 4 of How to Write a Compelling Nonfiction Book Proposal in 10 Easy Steps

nonfiction book proposal marketing publicity planIf you’re writing a nonfiction book proposal (and you’re following this series), you already understand the importance of your author bio and how to identify your target audience. Now it’s time to articulate your plans for selling your book by including the marketing and publicity plan that will grab the attention of an agent or editor.

Remember, you’re selling two things in your book proposal: your manuscript and yourself as the author-expert. A strong proposal weaves those separate pieces together in creative and compelling ways, and the Marketing/Publicity section of your proposal is where you bring together the best of those with some creative ideas of your own for making your book a success. And whether you ultimately publish traditionally or decide to self-publish, you just can’t expect publishers or booksellers to bring the readers to you.

As author K. S. Brooks writes,

Book sellers do not want to take up space on their shelves if you’re not going to push your book. They want to know what you have planned to getword out about your book. . . . If they don’t think you’re going to make an effort to sell the books they put on their shelves—well, you can kiss that opportunity goodbye.”

So how do you wow agents and editors with your marketing and publicity section?

*List what you WILL do to sell your book, not what you are willing to do.*

So how do you wow agents and editors with your marketing and publicity section? #bookmarketing #authors #writers Click To Tweet

Make a concrete and realistic list of your plans for marketing your book both with and without the publisher’s help. Don’t be tentative; talk about what you have and will do, not what you might or could do. This is not the time or place to insert blue sky, either. As Bookends Literary Agency writes,

It’s easy to think that we can all write articles for major magazines, but unless you’re already doing that there’s no guarantee that you can get published in them. Just because you think your idea should get attention from media sources doesn’t mean they’ll agree. Everyone can make their book a bestseller if they get on Oprah, but don’t even bother mentioning this unless you’ve been on Oprah before. Everyone will take the time out to do whatever publicity or talk show circuit the publisher can get for them, so this doesn’t make you special. What does make you special are the things you’ve done or the columns you write that already get you noticed.”

Offer your ideas for the best ways to reach your target audience. Past experience is a good indicator of future potential, so be sure to include all those platform-building activities you’ve worked on. Publishers both large and small expect authors to bring their platform to the table, so mine your author bio (click here for more info) and strut your stuff!

  • Have you appeared on any radio or television shows or been profiled in any newspapers or magazines? Be sure to include links to any media—agents and editors will ask for them.
  • Have you spoken to groups in the past year? Do you have future appearances scheduled?
  • Do you belong to a group whose members will be interested in the subject of your book? List the group(s), the number of members, how you are connected, if there is a larger (regional, national, international) connection you can tap into, and your scheduled speaking engagements. An active speaker is usually able to sell books (often called back-of-the-room sales), and your growing platform is attractive to a publisher. Even if you don’t have future appearances scheduled, be definite about your plans to pursue them.
  • Do you have lists of names and addresses or email addresses you can utilize to promote your book’s publication? List specific plans you have for tapping into those contacts.
  • Are you willing to commit to hiring a publicist to complement the efforts of the publisher? If you’ve already identified that person, share the name and your time frame.
  • Are you or an organization to which you belong willing to commit to purchasing a large quantity of your book (at least 1000 copies) because you have a ready audience who will want to purchase copies, or as a complimentary giveaway?
  • Is there an upcoming anniversary or event to which publication of the book can be tied? 
If you have any unique ideas for this tie-in, list them in this section.
  • Do you teach about your area of expertise? Whether you’re a college professor or a hobbyist, mention both past experience and future scheduled classes.
  • Do you have access to the media? National media is great, and if you are mentioned in a national magazine or will be featured in a major newspaper article, be sure to include links. But even regional and local press is good press, so remember to mention your connection to the editor of your local paper or the fact that you have a personal relationship with the chairman of a local charity whose members are part of your target audience.
  • Do you know major experts in your field you can approach to write a foreword for your book or who will help you with promotion?
  • Can you provide prepublication endorsements from well-known figures?

Weave in the stats and analytics you have about your online following to show how you will leverage your social media to sell books, and list your specific plans for each group. This includes:

websites * blogs * e-mail * newsletters *regular * online writing jobs * podcasts

 videos * Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google +, LinkedIn, etc.

*Don’t be vague*

Many authors make the mistake of listing vague and unspecific marketing plans. As former acquisitions editor Brooke Warner suggests in her book, What’s Your Book,

This is not the place to make a case for the fact that there’s an audience. You already did that in the target audience section. This is the place to talk about where your readers hang out. It’s the place to make long lists of TV shows, radio stations, and magazines that might want to feature your work. . . . The point of this section is to show the person reading the proposal that you understand that you have to cast your net wide and that you’ve uncovered any and all stones in your efforts to understand who your readers are, what they like, and where they spend time.”

As you define and refine your ideas for ways to market your book, give your agent and editor the ammunition they’ll need by using statistics, market demographics, and a clear plan.

Here are some examples of ideas that are too vague and ways to improve them:

Weak: “I will try to make speeches at elementary schools.”

Better: “I will contact PTAs at all twelve elementary schools in my school district and offer to present a training program on my book’s subject.”

Weak: “I will begin a blog with the name of my book.”

Better: “I will register a domain name and link a blog with my book’s title to my current website where I will blog three times a week about subjects relating to my book.”

Weak: “I plan to guest blog for other authors.”

Better: “I have identified ten bloggers who write about subjects related to my book; each one has more than 2,000 followers. I will contact each one about writing a guest post for their blog as a way to reach potential new readers.

And finally, a word of warning from author Jane Friedman:

In many nonfiction topics and categories, the availability of online information can immediately kill the potential for a print book unless:

  • You have a very compelling platform and means of reaching your target audience, and they prefer books.
  • You already reach an online market and they are clamoring for a book.
  • You are writing something that isn’t best served through an online experience.

Many book ideas I see pitched should really start out as a site or community—even if only to test-market the idea, to learn more about the target audience, and to ultimately produce a print product that has significant value and appeal in its offline presentation.”

You don’t want to spend days or weeks crafting a strong proposal only to be told the information is easily accessed on the Internet. One of the main purposes of your marketing plan (in conjunction with the Target Audience info you’ve already compiled) is to demonstrate that you, the author-expert, can attract an audience of readers for your book. The other is to show your future publisher that you have a clear vision for partnering to market, publicize, and sell your book.

Jane Friedman continues,

The secret of a marketing plan isn’t the number of ideas you have for marketing, or how many things you are willing to do, but how many solid connections you have—the ones that are already working for you—and how many readers you NOW reach through today’s efforts. You need to show that your ideas are not just pie in the sky, but real action steps that will lead to concrete results and a connection to an existing readership.”

*Let me know if I can help!*

I’ve read hundreds of book proposals as an acquisitions editor for a traditional publisher and helped many authors write them, too. I know how carefully agents, editors, and publishers’ sales and marketing staffs review proposal marketing and promotion sections, and I’ve tried to share that with you. If you have specific questions about writing any part of your book proposal, I hope you’ll email me at and let me know how I can help.

Happy Writing,


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Candace Johnson is a professional freelance editor, proofreader, writer, ghostwriter, and writing coach who has worked with traditional publishers, self-published authors, and independent book packagers on nonfiction subjects ranging from memoirs to alternative medical treatments to self-help, and on fiction ranging from romance to paranormal. As an editorial specialist, Candace is passionate about offering her clients the opportunity to take their work to the next level. She believes in maintaining an author’s unique voice while helping him or her create and polish every sentence to make it the best it can be. Learn more here.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

8 thoughts on “Your Marketing and Publicity Plan: Step 4 of How to Write a Compelling Nonfiction Book Proposal in 10 Easy Steps”

  1. Marketing is super important to publishers because that’s (along with content that can sell) how they will make their investment pay off. It’s probably worth several months’ work toward those bulleted points prior to submitting the proposal.

    1. You’re right, Chris. It is important to make sure you have not only have as strong a platform as possible, but a strong marketing and promotion section to show you can “deliver the goods.” This is definitely not something to rush.

  2. Again, I find so many things here for the fiction writer as well. Love this:
    ~You have a very compelling platform and means of reaching your target audience, and they prefer books.
    ~You already reach an online market and they are clamoring for a book.
    Thanks again Candace I can always find something in your blogs to make my journey easier!

    1. Thanks, Tam–perhaps I should do a dedicated post for fiction writers, too. As you said, there are so many things that apply to any writer who wants to be published. I’m glad you’re finding this series useful for your own career!

  3. The work definitely isn’t over once the book has been written. It’s actually just getting started! Many authors have said that writing the book is the easiest part of the process. It’s important to use all of the resources and connections that are available to you when marketing your book.

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