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Guest Writing Tip Entry...

Building A Successful Press Kit
by Mitchel Whitington

You're the proud parent of a shiny, new book. Published by yourself or a traditional house, it's been written, edited, printed, bound, and you're holding it in your hand. A job well-done, a job complete.

Or is it?

If you want to actually sell copies of the wonderful tome that you've written, then you're far from finished. A mighty task lies ahead: promotion! Without a strategic promotion effort, your book will simply sit on the bookshelves, or in boxes in your garage.

There are many facets to doing promotion, but one weapon that you will definitely need in your arsenal is a press kit. Whether you're using it to get reviews in newspapers, sending it ahead to bookstores where you'll be signing, or forwarding it to help publicize your speaking engagements, a press kit is definitely worth the small amount of time and money that it takes to produce.

If you've never seen one, a press kit is very simplistic in nature: a folder with pockets that contains information about your book. The type of information that is presented includes a synopsis of the book, an author bio, any clips, etc. The exact contents of any press kit vary with the author and book, but the items in the next section should be considered.

Ingredients of a Successful Press Kit

Book Synopsis: Long before a reviewer or interviewer gets your book in hand, someone is screening incoming queries for them. This person will be sorting through a heap of mail on their desk, and will only be able to give each item a few moments consideration. If your book comes clunking out of the envelope, it may be easier just to ignore it than to try to sift through the story and decide if it merits further consideration. A one-page synopsis, on the other hand, is easy to read and takes very little time -- something that will be greatly appreciated, and will be a mark in your favor when the book is being considered. Make it to the point and easy to read - after scanning it, they should know whether your book presents a money-making business opportunity, shows the reader how to grow award-winning roses, or contains the latest important medical information that is crucial to the average person.

Author Biography: A short biography one page at the most should be given to tell the reader exactly why you're interesting. If you are being considered for a radio interview, it doesn't matter if you got the attendance award in third grade, but if you've just completed a perilous canoe trip down an Alaskan river to research your new book, then you've just given the program a slant that they'd love to feature! Stick to the relevant facts, and add as much color as possible. Remember, you're selling yourself.

Clips: If your book has been reviewed in periodicals, be sure to include photocopies of the favorable articles. Quotes from radio and television interviews or reviews should also be included. Be prudent with what you include, however. Fifty photocopied reviews will turn off the screener, while two or three interesting ones will help to pique their interest.

Reviews/Quotes: Many books contain quotes from other authors on their jacket. Whether yours does or not, it's worth contacting some of your writer-friends for a sentence or two on your book. List several of these on a 'What They're Saying' page, and be sure to credit the author with their latest book. It helps them out, but it also lends credibility that a published author is commenting. These should be in the form:

'Riviting. A fantastic read. It taught me the hottest marketing techniques on the planet~' - Mitchel Whitington, The Book Constructor, and author of The Book Construction Kit.

Author Interview: Many interviewers will state that they don't use scripted questions, but this item is still a must. It gives the reader a flavor for the kind of responses that you might have during an interview. It provides background to use in an article, and it gives them questions to ask whether they admit it or not! Stay relevant and interesting, and keep the questions and answers to a single page.

Sample Chapters: Including a few sample chapters will give the reader a feel for your writing. You should especially consider this if you will not be sending a book in addition to your press kit. Be sure to select chapters that can stand-alone, are inroductory, and that represent the book in the best possible light.

Unique Information: If there is anything unique about your book, be sure to incorporate it into your press kit. If you have a cookbook, for instance, you may want to include a recipe or two. If it's a life-success instructional, then give examples of people who have used your techniques.

Send-A-Book Cards: You can give the reader an opportunity to request the entire book by including a self-addressed, stamped postcard to return to you. If your book doesn't fit the venue that you've targeted, then the price of a promotional copy would have been saved by sacrificing a stamp.

Don't take these examples as a finite list for your press kit. Be creative, and include the items that make the most sense for your book.

A Case Study

When I was considering a press kit for my book, Uncle Bubba's Chicken Wing Fling, I wanted something that would reflect the light-hearted humor in the book. The story is set in the fictitious small Texas town of Cut Plug, so I drew on that fact and used the various organizations that the characters in the story belonged to.

For the folder I went to a local office supply store and found a plain (but attractive) deep purple folder. It contained an inside pocket on either side, and nothing more. To dress it up I used a printing package on my computer and made a small banner (about 6 inches by 3 inches) that read, 'Honorable Order of the Armadillo New Members' Manual,' complete with an armadillo clip-art. The Armadillo lodge is big in Cut Plug, so it was a good hook to use on the front. I printed it on glossy paper, cut it to size then attached it to the folder using adhesive spray from a local craft store.

For my bio, I printed a letterhead on blue paper that read, 'Cut Plug Police Department' with a badge logo and a few official-sounding phrases. Before listing my bio, I printed the words 'Police Report' across the top, and attached a wallet-sized photo to give some color to the page.

The Author Interview page was done on yellow paper with 'Cut Plug Garden Club' letterhead. I gave about five question/answers, including 'Just where is Cut Plug?' and 'What's next for Uncle Bubba?'

After soliciting several of my writer friends for blurbs about the book, I compiled a one-page issue of the 'Cut Plug Gazette' that contained all the kind words.

I worked enough information about the book in the Author Interview and Bio pages that I didn't feel the need for a synopsis. The loose sheets went into the left-hand pocket, and I put an armadillo graphic on one of the pockets for a little flair. When I send out the press kits, I write a personalized letter to the individual who will be reading it, and attached it to the front of the press kit with a small paper clip.

All the printing is done on my HP Inkjet printer using the highest quality print mode. I produce each kit myself, which gives me the flexibility to modify them for particular targets. Each press kit costs under three dollars to put together, and I've gotten wonderful comments on the package.

Good luck with yours, and remember, be creative. Whether or not your book makes it into a specific magazine, newspaper, or talk show may depend entirely on the press kit that the screener pulls out of the envelope!

2005 Mitchel Whitington




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