Don't Keep Yourself a Secret

Guest blogger, James R. Callan, is author of Cleansed by Fire  and Murder a Capella, which he wrote with his daughter, Diane Bailey. He thinks that in the fast-paced world of social media, writers should not forget or overlook the time-honored and traditional kinds of marketing and promotion.

Why would I need a Press Kit? I have trouble getting my family to ask about my book.First, that’s the wrong attitude. You must expect there will be interest in your work. Suppose Katie Ledecky, the fifteen-year-old on the American Olympic swim team, got on the block thinking, “I’m not going to win. Why try?” She would lose. She would be indulging in a self-fulfilling prophesy. She didn’t think that, and she won gold.

Jim Callan

You need a Press Kit because you expect people to want to know about your work, and you expect some to write about your work. Why not make it easy for them? At the same time, why not put the pictures and words you like in front of them? Many will take your press release as is. It saves them time and effort. It also encourages them to come back for more when you have another book to publicize. True, these may not be from The New York Times or even Publishers Weekly. But a good mention on somebody’s website might precipitate a little buzz, generate some sales. It never hurts to make it easier.

So, what goes into the Press Kit? The basic elements are:

  • Pictures of you
  • Pictures of the covers of your book(s)
  • A sell sheet (or One Sheet) for your latest book
  • Author biography
  • An actual Press Release (on a recent book release, award won, presentation, book signing, etc.)
  • A list of all your currently available books
  • A list of links to places you’d like them to visit.

Pictures of the author. You should have at least two: one in high resolution and one in “Internet” resolution. In other words, one that is perhaps two megabytes in size and one that is 100 K or less. You want a good quality one in case someone is going to print the picture in a program or brochure. On the other hand, a large file is slow to load on the Internet, the ensuing picture is generally small and the Internet picture isn’t going to be displayed in high resolution anyway.

Sell Sheet — You probably already have one. Include a copy in the Press Kit. I recommend a PDF file which ensures that it looks the same after it’s downloaded. What goes in one? A picture of the cover of the book. A brief description of the book – similar to the blurb on the back cover. A small picture and a brief bio of the author. And – this is important – where the book can be purchased, and where additional information is available.  One page only.

Author Bio. There’s one on the sell sheet, so why do you need a separate bio? Actually, you need TWO separate bios, one short and one longer. If the person wants a bio and doesn’t see “Bio” or “Biography”, don’t expect her to go through all your files looking for it. She’ll just do without. Remember what I said earlier: make it easier; save them time.

Why two versions? If you only have a short one, they can’t write much about you. Suppose you only have a long one and they want a short one. Would you rather decide what gets cut out or let them decide what to cut? And put your picture on each one. “But, I have picture files.” Make it easier.

Press Release. Again, make it easy for them. If there’s a readymade press release, particularly one well done, they might just grab it and publish it. Give them that opportunity. Tell about your latest release (if not too old), or an award you won recently, or a book signing. Perhaps you gave a workshop at a conference, or made a presentation to the Rotary Club. Anything that is “news” and concerns you and your writing. If you haven’t done anything recently, then do something now.

List of Books. Letting them know what else you’ve written can only be good. Who knows where it will lead?

Links. Guide them to additional information. That should include your website, blog, especially good reviews, awards you’ve won, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. They might not follow any of the links. But they might. We’re back to that “Make it easier” bit. They may browse some of these sites and use nothing from them. Is that a waste? Not for you. The more they know about you, the better position you are in.

At one of the Northeast Texas Writers Organization (NETWO) conferences recently, an agent and an editor stayed up well past midnight playing board games with several conference attendees. I don’t know whether any of those game players signed with the editor or agent. But I’m betting the agent and editor know their names, and will respond to a query at some later date.

The more they know about you, the more likely they are to remember you in the future. It’s why you give people one of your cards. It’s why WalMart pays to print its name on the throw-away plastic bags.


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