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Create a Powerful Press Kit
A strong press kit is crucial for effective book marketing. Without it, all your promotional efforts could be wasted. You may be able to talk a good game and get people excited about your book, but when they ask for your press kit and see a measly, uninformative packet with a few clippings and nothing more, your build-up will fall flat.
While kits vary in complexity, the overall goal of each one is to highlight what a book is about, why its message is important, who the author is, how it will help readers, and how you're marketing it.
Kits are important for three different kinds of recipients: media people (including magazine editors, book reviewers, and radio and television producers), book distributors (including wholesalers such as Baker & Taylor, Bookazine, and Ingram), and niche marketers (including selected bookstores, specialty shops, and organizations). You will probably need several versions of your press kits, each targeted to a specific audience.
The Eight Ingredients
Regardless of its slant, each press kit you create should have eight basic components. They are:
1. Cover Letter. This one-page letter should highlight why you're contacting this particular person or organization, and explain why the contact is justified. It should not give details about the book that's the press kits job. A good cover letter will include:
2. Press Release. Usually one page long, the press release describes the book and the angle you're pitching in two or three paragraphs. It also includes the books price, page count, ISBN number, and your contact information. Write a compelling headline for the press release, and use blurbs liberally, as well as short excerpts from the book.
Ideally, you'll rewrite your press releases every month, and update the other elements of the press kit as well. The typical press release cycle starts with the initial release, which announces the books publication; continues with a second release pointing out a current societal or industry problem and showing how the book addresses it; and then moves on to monthly releases relating the book to specific incidents in the news or in relevant industries or professions as they arise.
3. Mock Book Review. If you supply a publishable book review, many reviewers will pull material from it. A good book review gives all the pertinent details in a maximum of seven paragraphs, six paragraphs about the book plus one paragraph about the author. It also includes the books full title, publisher, price, and other pertinent details (for example, Available online at www.YourWebsite.com).
4. Author Biography. This one-page document introduces the authors credentials for writing the book and provides relevant background material along with nice to know information such as names of groups or organizations the author is affiliated with.
A good bio highlights the author's accomplishments in an authoritative way without bragging or exaggerating. To make the author more real to readers, add a few personal details, such as favorite hobbies or types of pets but dont get too personal. You can include a photo if youd like, as photos help build trust, but a photo is not an absolute necessity. If you do include a photo, be sure it's professionally taken and tasteful (no snapshots from last years birthday bash).
5. Sell Sheet. Think of the sell sheet as a books birth announcement, giving all the particulars of the newest addition to your list of titles. This one-page piece should be attractively designed and it should include:
6. Catalog Sheet. Dont let this marketing pieces name confuse you. A catalog sheet does not refer to sales material used for book catalogs. Rather, it's the sheet that data entry people use to catalog information in their database. As such, the catalog sheet is the one piece of the press kit that is entirely information oriented, not sales oriented.
Unlike the sell sheet, which is highly visual, the catalog sheet is not pretty. Restricted to one page, its entirely fact-driven. It includes a short description of the book (one paragraph max), technical specifications, marketing activities related to the book, unique selling points, target audiences, major endorsements, and any extra sales materials.
Since this is what the data entry people at the distribution houses and book buying offices use to input your information into their system, you'll want to keep the data formatted in simple bulleted column lists for easy scanning.
7. Novelty Item. You can put various giveaway items in your press kit. The more popular items include:
8. Article. Many magazines don't have book review columns but do accept articles, so it is wise to supply a bylined piece that runs between 1,000 and 1,500 words. Each article should, of course, be geared to a specific magazines style and readership. Some authors write overviews; some focus on themes from particular chapters or sections, and still others transform excerpts from their books into articles.
Putting It Together
Now you'll need something to house all the pieces of the press kit. The best and most economical outer package is a standard two-pocket folder. Choose a color for the folder that complements the covers main color. And once you choose a certain color or style, stick with it; you want to convey a consistent image.
Jazz up the folder with some identifying marks or an image. You might use stickers of the book cover or simply glue a postcard of the book cover to the folder. Or consider having custom folders made that resemble the book cover.
The right pocket of the folder should contain (from front to back) the sell sheet, the catalog sheet, the press release, and the book review. In the left-hand pocket of the folder place (from front to back) the novelty item(s) and the bylined article, plus other articles that feature the author or book. Include no more than five articles and make sure they were published within the last four months. Anything beyond that is outdated news.
The cover letter always goes outside the folder on top. In general, it is not a good idea to send the book with the press kit. If magazine editors, meeting planners, or others are interested in the book, they will contact you and request a copy or ask for one when you make your follow-up calls.
Remember: The book you are promoting is in competition with hundreds of thousands of other titles, many of them also new, so you have to do more than sell the books idea to potential readers. You have to sell the fact that the book is worth readers precious time. A powerful press kit will help you make the point.
Copyright © - Dawn Josephson. - Reprinted with permission. - Dawn Josephson, the Master Writing Coach, is president of Cameo Publications, LLC, an editorial and publishing services firm based in Hilton Head Island, SC. You can reach her by phone at (866) 372-2636 or via e-mail at email@example.com. This article is excerpted with permission from Putting It on Paper: The Ground Rules for Creating Promotional Pieces that Sell Books (2004, Ground Rules Press). www.MasterWritingCoach.com.
If you would like to talk one-on-one with Larry James about issues related to this article, you are invited to arrange for a private coaching session by telephone. Go to Author & Speaker Coaching for specific details and fees.
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