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The BubbleCow Guide to Academic Book Pitching: Part IV

Well, there are just a few instalments left of BubbleCow’s nifty guide to pitching your academic book, but there’s still work to be done. We have already looked at your query letter and synopsis, so now we turn our attention to your book’s intended market.

I hope you did your homework again?!

The section of your proposal that explains the market for your book is arguably the most important. This is because it will show the publishing house straight away whether your book is viable and the degree to which you, as prospective author, recognise that publishing is about selling books.  

It’s easy to get carried away in this section and list all the promotional ideas you have for the book or, worse still, detail your plans for a glamorous international book tour. You need to face facts now, there won’t be a book tour, and whatever ideas you have for marketing your book, that’s not your job, it’s the marketing teams’! By all means, as with your query letter, if there is an event coming up which would substantially increase the sales of your book, or something significant you bring to the table that would assist with the marketing of the book, then mention this. But aside of that, don’t get silly.

Staying in the zone, remember how well you wrote your synopsis? Using the same style, you now need to write a brief paragraph describing your book’s intended readership. Again, it’s easy to make wild claims here and they can actually do more harm than good. It’s highly unlikely that your book will ever be bought by enough of the so-called ‘general public’ for this to ever be listed as a prospective market. Instead, outline the main 2 or 3 subjects it covers and demonstrate (with examples) the types of courses and parent institutions that would almost certainly buy this book. For example, it’s as simple as stating that it would make essential reading for undergraduate art history, fine art and museum studies courses with modules on contemporary curation. If you feel really strongly that, in addition to these courses (and staying with this example), as the book looks at the use of digital technology in the art gallery, it would also be of some relevance to digital art and design courses, explain that too, with examples.  And leave it at that! Honestly, don’t be tempted to say that it would be picked up by all and sundry visiting Tate. It’s up to your editor to decide, at a later stage, if there is wider scope, through some proper market research. If you are not a market expert, don’t pretend to be one.

The other way you illustrate your book’s market appeal is through a set of comparables. You might be asked for this as part of the marketing section of your proposal or it might form a standalone component. READ THE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES CAREFULLY FOR EVERY PITCH YOU MAKE AND STICK TO THEM LIKE GLUE! Either way, let’s tackle that now too!

This can comprise the list you made for your homework, with a sentence or two explaining why that book in particular made it onto your list. If it is a book that yours will compete with somehow, say so, and say how and why. If it’s a book that yours complements by extending a line of enquiry, say so, and say how and why. If there are truly no books like yours at all anywhere in the world (and be really sure that this is true if you are going to make that claim) then refer to the books you’ve identified that you’d like yours to emulate and discuss exactly what those books do that yours will also do.

Now believe it or not – and you likely didn’t even notice the change – you’ve become a little bit of a marketer without even knowing. What you’ve done here is outline both the projected ‘end-user’ and provided a survey of ‘comparables’. You’ll be talking production values and bottom-lines before you know it!

Tonight’s homework is to take a well-earned rest from the high-octane world of marketing!


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