Blogger: Kathleen Y’Barbo, Publicist
Location: The Woodlands, TX PR Office
Weather: Sunny 82 degrees
Last week I talked about the writer’s resume–or one sheet–and how that document can be used as your calling card to editors before your book is published. I also suggested that it can be a useful item in your press kit. Those of you who have been around publishing awhile know that writing books is not just about writing. If you’re one who expected to sit at a computer and type away while an adoring public awaits your next piece of prose, please sit down. You’re about to get some bad news.
The average author spends the equivalent of one day out of his or her writing week performing tasks related to marketing. That’s 1/5 of the work week. And I’m being conservative. Many well-meaning writers get so bogged down in this process that the amount of time soars. Next week I will talk in-depth about how to tame the PR monster and keep the tasks related to publicity from taking over your writing week. For now, however, let’s consider how to put together the most basic item in your PR tool chest, your Press Kit.
A press kit works for both online and hard copy purposes. Put together a PDF file that includes all of these elements and offer it on your website. Also, buy some high-quality folders and stuff them with these items to include in book mailings. If sending out a hard copy, be sure to pick folders that have a place for your business card on the pocket. That way the reporter has something to remind him or her of you long past the time he or she would refer to a press kit.
So what goes into a press kit? First, decide whether you want to market yourself, a specific book, or your writing catalog. Each of these will require a different angle. Marketing yourself is a good tool for garnering interviews. In that case, you want to play up all your credentials: books, articles, speaking engagements, etc. Publicizing your writing catalog is a good way to promote overall sales of your books and to add life to your backlist. Most authors will choose either the writing catalog or book-specific angle. For the purposes of this post, let’s assume you are putting together a press kit for a specific book that’s about to release.
Elements of a Book Release Press Kit
1. Writer’s resume/one sheet. Page one of your press kit should be this vital document. As I mentioned last week, there are many good ways to do this. If you’re unsure, ask around in writing circles. Find a type that works for you and use it as a jumping off point, being sure to add your own flair. Double-check that your bio is updated, thorough, and professional and the information is both current and well-written. A typo here is not what you want to see after you’ve sent the document to several dozen of important recipients.
2. Synopsis of book, including back cover copy, book cover, with publisher’s information and ISBN. Think Amazon or Christianbook.com page here as you decide what to include. Your publisher can help you with any questions if you don’t have all the information. Your aim is to inform the reader of the title, topic, and basic information. There will be some duplication of your one-sheet, but that’s okay. Your purpose is to make it easier for a media rep to write about your book. Having the information on a separate page accomplishes this.
3. Endorsements page. Your book probably was sent out by your publishing house to potential endorsers. Those quotes can be invaluable in marketing your book. Title a page “What Others Are Saying About NAME OF BOOK” and list these quotes, adding any other endorsements you might have collected post-publication. Include only legitimate and recognizable sources here and provide an identifier such as the title of an author’s latest book or the university a professor teaches at. Your mom, best friend, and Sunday school teacher may have loved the book, but I doubt that information will sway any reporter.
4. Press clippings. This is the place to include any good press the book is already receiving, be it a starred review in Publishers Weekly or an article in your local paper. As with endorsements, be sure you’re adding only those venues that will be recognizable. If you’ve reached this part and are coming up blank, then you know where you need to start with your marketing efforts. Ask your publisher what plans are in the works for garnering reviews for the book. Offer to send books to local media and to anyone who has reviewed previous books or indicated an interest in interviews with you. Often the house will provide assistance in this area, sometimes providing books or helping with postage.
5. Author Q&A. This may be the most important part of the entire kit. The author Q&A is a list of interview questions and the answers to those questions. From this one page a reporter can construct an article, post information to a blog, or find what he or she needs to conduct an actual radio or television interview with you. Have a fellow writer help you with this. Think about the points you’d like to see come out in an interview and include those in this list. Try to keep the Q&A to no more than 10-12 questions and your answers to a paragraph at most.
6. List of previous publications. Create a page with your book list as well as any pertinent articles and speeches you’ve given. The emphasis here is on pertinent. If you don’t have a backlist (books published prior to this one), this is the place to put all those articles you’ve written or speeches you’ve done on the topic that is central to this particular book. Keep in mind your purpose is to get this book into the hands of readers, so if you have no backlist, only include the items that will show what led you to write the book or highlight the reason you are uniquely qualified to write on this particular subject.
7. Author photo. A reporter may want to run the story with graphics, so provide high resolution jpgs in color. If you don’t have a professional photo, now is the time to get one. It will be a worthwhile investment, especially when you consider that picture may end up all over the newspapers and other venues (which is, after all, the goal of PR).
All right, now you know the essentials of a press kit. Of course, you could add other pages. You might, for example, want to include a list of book club questions or your speaking calendar. Be creative.
Next week I’ll talk more about Taming the Marketing Monster. Until then, I would love to hear from you about press kits. What worked? What didn’t work? What unique ways have you used them or seen them used?