Online Writer's Conference 2003

Shades Of Romance Magazine

August 3-9, 2003



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Creating The Press Kit

By

Nathasha Brooks-Harris

 

As an author, you will be making many appearances to promote your book: signings, readings, teaching seminars and workshops, etc. In order to get a placement on these events, the first step is to send the organizers or publicity people a press kit so they will get to know more about you and your book before they make a decision. If you are blessed enough to afford a publicist, she will have created a press kit for you and will end them it out on your behalf. However, if you cannot afford a publicist, but still need to look as professional as possible in the literary arena, you can create your own press kit. It is not difficult and is easy once you know how.

Please remember that your press kit is the first thing event organizers, book clubs, bookstores and publishing companies will see. Thus, it needs to be done as professionally as possible and free from dirt, grammatical errors, and typos. Your press kit must be impeccable because it represents you.

The best way to begin is by choosing colored glossy presentation folders. The general rule is choose the one that is the color of your book cover or is closest to it. Also, you will need business cards because these folders contain perforated area at the bottom into which a card should be inserted. Generally, the recipients of your press kit will take your card from the kit and put it in their Rolodex for later use.

Next, you will want to choose a good quality 20-pound paper in a pastel color that is nearest to the one of your book. Staple's, Office Max, Office Depot and Paper Direct at
www.paperdirect.com has wonderful selections. In fact, these stores have everything you will need to make a good, professional press kit and to do a well-presented promotional campaign. Now let's get to what should be included in your press kit.

You will need a biography that chronicles your background and some of the most important things you have done. Title it Biography and center that word. Double-space and center your full name (or your pseudonym you write under) directly beneath that. Then, give a bit about your personal history such as where you are from, your occupation, your family status (married, kids), your education, degrees earned, as well as some glimpse into how you began writing-most especially the book you are promoting. The bio shouldn't be very long, perhaps a page or two. Don't reveal anything that you don't feel comfortable telling or that you don't want to see in print in a publication or an event program later on..
The purpose of the bio is so that reporters will have some basic background information on you and event personnel will have something to draw from when they need to introduce you. Please update it often and make sure that the information is current. There's nothing worse than a bio with stale information.

In my press kit, I also include an Artistic Bio. This is a bit more extensive and is used if you have a decent background in the literary profession. It is impressive to people choosing workshop and seminar presenters and helps them to see exactly what you've done literarily. This type of bio details your educational background pertaining to writing, where you've taught and appeared in reference to promoting your novel and any awards or professional accolades you've received. It also details where and when you've been published. This type of bio is very helpful if you are applying for residencies at writer's colonies or for grants because it helps the selection committee to focus on your professional achievements in the writing field. Another thing, you might want to cut and paste a photo at the top center of the first page of this type of bio.

You will also need a press release in your press kit which announces the release of your book or your appearance on an event, radio show, or that you're teaching a seminar. In brief, a press release gets the word out and should be written as well as any other story. The most important information goes in the first paragraph and addresses the 5 W's of journalism: who, what, when, where, why and how. The dateline (the city and state where the press release came from) goes on that first line as well. That information must have some sort of hook that will grab the reader; namely, the reporter who has to read quickly and make a snap decision as to which authors she will interview for her paper or an event organizer has to quickly decide which authors she will choose to participate in an event. That introductory paragraph is introduced by an attention-grabbing, but short headline.

The second and third paragraphs talks about the "meat and potatoes" of what you alluded to in the lead paragraph, only more in depth.

The final paragraph condenses the event information and gives vital contact information.

The press release should be typed on good quality paper, have a one-inch margin all around and the words FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE in bold and caps in the upper right hand corner. It is important to put the date that the information is available for release to the public as the newspapers and magazines have a certain lead time they work from and will need to know this so your information will be placed in the right issue.

One way to make it easier for reporters and event organizers is to go the Romance Writers of America website at www.rwanational.com and download the latest statistics relating to the romance industry. Include a copy of them in your press kit. They will appreciate having those facts and figures on hand and will lessen their workload having to get it themselves. If you're speaking at a conference or giving a seminar about romance writing, choose a few of the statistics to cite. Doing so will give your presentation and genre legitimacy.

Another way to endear reporters, other press, bookstore and event organizers
you is to include a canned feature in your press kit. That is simply a fancy term for a series of questions and answers completed in interview form tat is ready for their immediate use. These questions should be writing-related because reporters can flesh out an article from the other materials you provided in your press kit. The canned feature allows them to extract fresh quotes for use in anything they want to write about you. Some basic questions to answer might be:

How did you begin writing professionally? Who or what inspired you?

What is your writing process?

What was a typical day like while writing this book?

Where and how did you get the idea to write this book and how long did it take to complete?

What was your research process for this book?

Who are some of your favorite authors and what lessons did you learn from them that you've applied to your own writing?

What are you currently reading?

What is the one thing you would have done differently if you had known then what you know now?

How do you keep your creative wellspring flowing and not become blocked?

Give us a sneak peek of your next novel.

What other kinds of things do you do (such as hobbies or other literary ventures) other than writing?

How do you separate being a writer from the other areas of your life?

As soon as you they are available, ask your publishing company for as many cover flats as they can give you because you will need to put one in each of your press kits. Also add a bookmark, postcard, and a professional photo of yourself. That photo should be 5x7 or 8 x 10. We're talking professional here and should e taken by a reputable photographer using the proper equipment. You might want to leave the photo that Cousin Pookie took at the last family reunion in the photo album.
The press kit should be topped with a well-written cover letter. This letter should one page and make your point quickly. This should be printed on your letterhead stationery and please, spell the person's name to whom you're sending the letter, correctly. You also need to verify that person's proper title. There is a certain formula for writing an effective cover or pitch letter.

Paragraph one is where you place the hook and introduce yourself. It explains the purpose of why you're writing the letter-an event, a signing, what you are offering, etc.-and does it by incorporating the 5 W's of journalism.

Paragraph two explains why you are the right person to teach that seminar, be on that show, get a feature article in the publication, etc. This is the section in which you should point up your experience in the area, awards you've won, books you've written, professional accolades you've received, other writing you have done, etc. This is not the place to be modest; instead, don't be afraid to toot your own horn.

Let me interject a tip here: if you are seeking radio or television exposure, tie yourself in with a national event, incident, or something timely or controversial. If your book will fit in, pitch it. It just might gain you some national media exposure. However, you must do your homework and research the types of guests they have interviewed or are most likely to in the future. If you have a good match, make sure that it gets to the right person to handle the job. For example: Don't send your book to the sports editor if the angle you're pitching has nothing to do with sports.

Finally, the third paragraph of your cover or pitch letter should detail how you may be reached during daytime business ours. Thank the person to whom you are writing the letter for her time and that you look forward to hearing from her at her earliest convenience. Or you can end by saying that you will contact her at a certain time and do the follow-up then, but not in a way to annoy, pester or piss the person off.

As stated above, putting a press kit is not a hard job. The key is knowing what goes into them and keeping them updated. The best way to stuff the kits is to put together a street team of kids you trust and ask them to come over and let them do it. Buy them a big pizza with the works, pop them some popcorn and keep the soda coming for their efforts. Heck, go all out and pay the minimum wage if they require pay. If not, feed them and buy them a CD or a trip to the movie. Barter and be creative. The point is that you'll get your kits stuffed and keep them ready to send out at a moment's notice. And remember, just because you don't have a publicist doing the kits for you, do them yourself and don't be left out of the running for the plum promotional opportunities!