Create a Powerful Press Kit
Dawn Josephson, Guest Author
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:
- A reason for the correspondence in the first paragraph, such as, “Because the author is an expert on a subject you cover so well, I am writing to propose an interview with. . .”
- A brief overview of the book. In one paragraph, state what the book is about, who the audience is, and how the book will help them. Stick to the facts. Using words such as greatest, most informative, and revolutionary will raise red flags and signal that youre exaggerating.
- Information about the author. Again, facts sell. State the authors name and explain why the author is qualified to write this book. Mention any career highlights or awards.
- A compelling call to action. What do you want the person reading the letter to do? State it here: “I would like you to review the book in an upcoming issue.”
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 http://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:
- The books cover image (in color if possible).
- A short author bio.
- A brief overview of the book. Many times, the books back cover copy will suffice for this section.
- Technical information, such as the books page count, dimensions, subject category, year released, price, ISBN, and distribution arrangements.
- One or two key endorsements, preferably from well-known and respected leaders in the relevant industry or profession.
- Information on ordering the book via phone, fax, mail, and/or the Internet. The sell sheet can pull double duty as an order form if you sell direct to readers at conferences and conventions.
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:
- A postcard that reproduces the books cover image on the front and provides a description of the book with ordering information on the back.
- A book cover, dust jacket, or cover art sample to show off the books cover design.
- A bookmark, again with the books cover image on the front and ordering information on the back.
- Book reviews from outside sources.
- A sample chapter to show the authors writing style and the books interior layout.
- An annotated table of contents that gives details about each chapter.
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.