The 5 Questions Authors HAVE to Know How to Answer

1Close your eyes.  (okay, open them… you have to read)

Picture that you are at a cocktail party. The room is filled with librarians, book buyers, heads of major chain retailers, and book reviewers. A lovely mid-30s woman approaches you with a napkin filled with shrimp tails and a half-empty glass of wine.  You strike up a conversation and eventually the topic of your book comes up. This is PERFECT!  Even though you have no idea what this woman does for a living, she COULD be a major player. When she asks the following questions, are you ready to answer?

And if you ARE ready to answer these questions, are you ready to answer them in a manner that does not bore her to tears?  Are you quick and concise with your answers? Let’s look at the questions you will be asked over and over in the next few months.  Let’s come up with answers and let’s practice until you can rattle off the answers without a moment’s hesitation.

First Question: What is your book about?

As you answer this question, keep your listener in mind.  Be respectful of their time and keep your answer brief. The shorter your answers, the more people will want to know.  They will “lean in” and ask more questions. You will create a desire to hear more.  Answer this question in ONE sentence.

Here is mine:

The Write Way teaches self-published authors and publishers the rules of publishing and how to sell and market their book properly.

That’s it.  If they want to know more… they will ask.

Second Question: Who needs your book?

Answer: NOT EVERYBODY.  The woman at the cocktail party is most likely an industry insider and will not be impressed with any answer that starts with “Anyone” or “Everyone”.  The truth is, no one NEEDS your book.  Unless you wrote a book that has a PROVEN method to solve nausea for chemo patients, almost no one needs your book. Be specific and focused in  your answer.  Very specific.  Very focused.

Here’s mine:

Authors who have just published a book or about to publish a book and are feeling like they don’t have all the elements in place. Over 100,000 people self-published last year. Most of them could have used my expertise.

Third Question: What makes your book different?

This is where you show whether or not you know your market and your competition. Umming and Hmmming over this question will not look good. Do you know the authors you are up against? What are the other books your readers are buying? Why do they need YOUR book?

Here’s my answer:

Other books offer advice on the publishing process and stop there. Others focus on sales, promotion, and marketing. The Write Way walks you through, step by step. from manuscript all the way to a year after publication, saving you money and avoiding mistakes in packaging, design, editing, marketing, PR, sales, AND promotion.

Fourth Question: Where can I get your book?

Back to the cocktail party and your new friend. She is interested in your book and still asking questions. That’s great! But you don’t know who this lady is. Even if you DO find out what she does, you don’t know her whole story.What if she owns an independent bookstore on Main Street? What if she is married to an editor at Amazon.com? Be careful of how you answer this question. You want to use vague language that answers directly but does not unintentionally offend.

Here is my answer:

It’s available online, at bookstores, available for request at libraries, on my website  (newshelves.com) or from me directly. It’s also an ebook in all formats.

Fifth Question: How are you promoting the book?

This is the question that stumps most authors. And for those that do know the answer, their answers are often not enough to impress industry insiders like this lady.  Have an answer ready that will show her you know your business. This is not a time for sheepish grins and “aw shucks, I’m just an author”. Know your social media plan, know how many reviews you want to get and from where. Know how many newspapers you will be contacting. Know how many radio interviews you plan on doing. If you do not know how you are going to promote your book, how can you ask anyone to put it on their shelves?

Here is my answer:

I am doing 2-3 webinars a month with industry big shots like IBPA-online.org and promoting my book in each one. I am a guest blogger each week and writing guest articles industry magazines and blogs like thebookdesigner.com, NonFictionAuthorsAssociation.com, and WhereWritersWin.com. I have thousands of Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn followers and a mailing list that historically has purchased all of my past products. I am partnering with huge names in the self-publishing such as AuthorU, The Publicity Hound and Speaker Net. Last week, I was on a pod-cast out of Denver that gets over 30,000 downloads a week. I am promoting my book for several hours a day each day of the week for the next year and driving customers to the locations that agree to stock it.

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So.  Keep it quick, know your answers cold, keep your audience in mind, and be as respectful as you can. Practice your answers and you will never be caught up short when the chips are down. You may not get a second chance to make a first impression.

(and if you want a copy of The Write Way. you can find it on my website or online HERE)

TWW Front cover

7 Comments to The 5 Questions Authors HAVE to Know How to Answer

  1. I love all the questions and answers. They provide a literary GPS to help new authors like myself in navigating the highly complicated and competitive publishing landscape.

    And thanks for the free download of “The Right Way”

  2. I like the answers. They provide a nice template for constructing my own answers.

  3. I love the answers. They offer a nice adaptable template for developing my own answers.

  4. This seems like sound advice, thank you Joan. I’d have to substitute ‘Who needs your book?’ for ‘Who is your book aimed at?’ since I write fiction so ‘needs’ doesn’t feel quite right. 🙂

  5. Fitz says:

    Your step-by-step instructions are golden! Thank you so much advocating for authors, and helping your audience to prosper. Here’s to you ~ a winning duo!

  6. Joan Stewart says:

    Love these questions, Amy, and I’ll be linking to them from my publicity tips newsletter tomorrow.

    As for Question #5, here’s what NOT to say: “I’m still writing the book and I want to finish it before I even think about marketing it.” This is what 9 out of 10 authors tell me and what it really says is, “By not thinking about marketing while I’m writing the book, I’m missing many opportunities to publicize and sell it.”

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