Ask and You Shall Receive. (Or at least ask and you shall know.)

photo by Bilal Kamoon

So you are having that first marketing meeting with your publisher for your book… or that first phone call. Is there anything you should be asking in particular? Should you push for anything specifically?

If this is the first call? You want to hear their plans. Then you and your agent should go over what they said and translate it – there can be code in their answers. Ask them what they are planning on doing and listen and take notes. When they say something like – We’re doing Goodreads- ask them to be specific and write down what they say.

Chances are the first call/meeting will be more than several months pre-pub. So lots of info won’t be available yet. They wait to decide some things till they get a sense of orders. But you still want to find out as much as you can. Just remember it is only the first call/meeting. There should be another before the ARCs are sent out. At that point they’ll know more. And then there should be yet one more once they have a sense of how those orders are looking.

At every stage there’s more you can find out and more you need to know. And at every stage you and your agent should be working on and refining a wish list of marketing and PR opportunities/efforts. To do that you’ll want to get a lot of questions answered so you can see if there are any holes and figure out if you need to bring in any outside services or if everything looks good.

Also all this knowledge helps you manage your expectations and that’s half the battle when it comes to having a good publishing experience. If you know going in that they are happy to be publishing you but aren’t giving your book the “it” treatment, you’ll be happy when you go back to press for a second printing. But if you have no idea how they see your book and are anticipating it getting “Gone Girl” PR, marketing and co-op treatment, you’ll be devastated when you don’t see stacks of books in B&N.

Here’s a checklist of what you want to find out to help you figure out what they are doing, what they aren’t, where your book ranks in terms in terms of effort and juice, and what you should be thinking about doing yourself.

  • Are they doing ARCs? How extensive is the ARC giveaway?
  •  Is the book on NetGalley or Edelweiss?  Are they doing an email blast through those services or just listing the book?
  • Other than the normal PW/Library Journal ARC giveaways, what else are they doing to get the word out? If it’s a late summer/fall book will it be at BEA? If it’s a Spring book will it be at The Winter Institute? Is the book going to any regional shows – NEBA, SIBA etc?  Will it get an Indie Next push? Be in the white box?
  • Do they have a “big mouth” list for ARCs?  How many people are on it? Can you give them a list? How big? How many ARCs are you getting?
  • What else is included in their pre-publication marketing plan?
  • Where are they hoping/expecting to get reviews?
  • Where and how does this book fit into their schedule? I’d say something like – I know I’m not the lead title but how many books are there coming out that week/ that month and what are the other books and what is the lead? (This is so there might be a way to piggyback with ideas you can come up with.)
  •  What is the plan for your book at Goodreads? At Facebook?
  • Are they doing outreach to blogs and how many and what are they going to need you to do for that?
  •  Is there a special plan to reach booksellers/librarians other than ARCs?  What is it? Will they be doing ads? Yes? Where?
  • Are they planning on sending you on any kind of tour?  If not – and if you want to – will they support it? Pay for any of it? Help set it up?
  • If your book has book club appeal – how are they planning on reaching out to clubs? If they say they are doing it in house with clubs they know of, how big is the outreach?
  • How long will the publicity department work on the book? When do they stop?
  • What is the co-op plan for B&N? Is there indie bookstore co-op? What is the Amazon plan? Is there any hope of Target/Costco/big box store taking the book?
  • How else are they planning on getting consumer exposure?
  • What do they want you to do to help?

Overall your goal is to get as much information as you can so that you and your agent can figure out what’s good, what’s bad, what’s missing and what you need to do to shore up your book.  And if you ever want to talk to me about figuring out a plan to add to what they are doing – feel free to write me at


About M.J. Rose

M.J. Rose is the international and NYT's bestselling author of several novels and two non-fiction books on marketing. In 2005 she founded the first marketing company for authors, AuthorBuzz, and is the co-founder of BookTrib and Peroozal. She's a founding member of ITW.


  1. says

    Hey there, M.J. This is a really insightful overview. I am familiar with AuthorBuzz and your expertise in marketing. May I ask you, what if you are among the little folk with no agent in the indie world? Let’s say your indie publisher doesn’t have the traditional big-time marketing/advertising plan and depends on the author to do much of the leg work. What can the author do to reach a vast number of readers? Thanks!
    paula cappa´s last blog post ..Ghostly Images of the Beloved Dead

  2. says

    To piggyback on what Paula said, should we come to the meeting with our own marketing plan, or what we intend to do seperate from the publisher? My thinking is that if I walk into a meeting with a ten page plan, the publisher might think I’m worth some extra effort.
    Ron Estrada´s last blog post ..Your Supporting Cast

  3. says

    Never go into a meeting with your own plan! First you can’t figure out what to do till you know what they are doing and it might look insulting. Also if you do they can figure they don’t need to do anything for you since you’re doing do much. The goal is to have the publisher do it all. The reality is you’ll have to do done to a lot- but at least try to get them to do the lions share and incentivize them to do less.

    As for the indie publisher question- if you need to do it all write me and I will send you a copy of Buzz Your Book so you can see how much you can do for free and then we can always talk about budget plans!

  4. says

    As a debut novelist going through this leading up to a November launch with an indie press, I can attest to this list. It’s great, but probably the most important statement in here is: “what you should be thinking about doing yourself.”

    Despite a small publisher and no agent, my novel’s an Indie Next pick for November and has been getting good advance word in the trade. The publisher has exceeded my expectations and I think I’ve exceeded theirs. I have a friend who is relatively passive in the process, with a top agent and publisher, who’s also an Indie Next author, but her total exposure is maybe 8 times mine.

    A good plan along these lines is important but executing it is essential, and the reality is most of us will have to be doing more of it ourselves.
    Charlie Quimby´s last blog post ..Book tour off to a flying start

  5. says

    Charlie – you can write me too and I’ll send you the book also. But in general – there’s a lot you can do yourself- and then a lot someone like do for you. We specialize in working with authors:)
    You can write me at AuthorBuzzCo @ gmail dot com.

  6. says

    Great information MJ. You are a wonderful source of information for writers and I will continue to suggest your articles to authors in encounter via my blog.