This week we have a guest post from Virginia Tell, on creating effective press kits for authors! I found myself in need of one for my new short-story collection, Over the Pass, and Other Stories, and needed it quick. Of course, like most writers and editors, creating a press kit was out of my bailiwick. Enter Ms. Tell, who far exceeded my expectations! You can see the one she created for me here. Now, settle in as she gives us a tutorial!
But, really, what’s all the fuss about? You know your book, right? Who better to introduce or explain it to the media and general public than you? Anyway, it’s mostly just a press release, isn’t it? And, after all, you are a writer.
Turns out, there really should be a big fuss over press kits.
Below are 7 critical elements to help you deliver a knock-out punch with your press kit—to excite the media (thus your readers) so much that they’ll have to catch their breath and want to hop right on your story!
The bones of a kit for books and other products/services are similar but, on the whole, press kits for books are really a bit of a different animal. Whether the kit is for a book launch, a specific use (such as a competition), or to enhance circulation, the goal is to make such a big hoopla that those who see the kit are compelled to join the craze and create a bigger hoopla.
Unfortunately, many press kits contain factual press releases that are dry and uninspiring. Even worse is the kit’s visual impact—it’s akin to creating a television commercial comprised only of white letters on a black background.
Marketing companies know that the visual and audio elements of promotion efforts help trigger consumer desire to buy products, so the point is to tap into your reader’s senses, not bore them with dry copy.
The best press releases and kits use messages (words), sound, sight, and emotion to make the press feel what it’s like to be part of the action. A little hyperbole, a snazzy touch here and there, all help to create interest.
But how do we make it all happen?
FIRST, tap into your creative juices to develop a hook because, after all, hooks catch fish!
As an author, you understand the criticality of hooks, but press-kit hooks are carried throughout the entire press release and other documents in the kit. Start off by developing hooks for the press release in the same manner as you developed a hook for your query letter and synopsis.
If you haven’t developed a thirty-second elevator pitch, now’s the time to do so. Hooking an agent or publisher requires catchy phrases comprised of sparse words that convey the tone, content, and flavor of your book. Same thing with the media and readers. Appeal to the brain and senses to make them feel your book. That’s what your elevator pitch is supposed to do, so utilize the same processes to hook the recipients of your press kit.
SECOND, wind these sensory hooks throughout your bio, another part of the press kit. Present yourself to the media and your readers not only to make them care about the story in your book, but also to care about you, the author. Open your mind to all the wonderful things that make a unique you.
For both the press release and your bio, you can use more hyperbole than you might have in your agent query. Now’s the time to show the world how wonderful you are. If your publisher hasn’t created a sell sheet for the bio section of your press kit, you can make one yourself.
Don’t be modest. Tell the world why you’re the perfect person to write your book. Tell them how much you care about readers’ time, and how much you appreciate good writing. Make them trust you enough to spend their time and money on you. That’s one more way of sinking a hook!
THIRD, prove to the media and readers why and how you and your book are so wonderful. Cite book reviews in your kit in two ways: List all the news organizations who’ve reviewed any of your books, short stories, etc.; and, include samples. Spread partial quotations throughout the press release, your bio, and your sell sheet, and include entire reviews in a separate section of your kit.
FOURTH, include a section that lists all relevant speaking topics. If you have video of speeches or presentations, include the links. For those who have little experience as a speaker, include what you have in your bio rather than a separate section.
FIFTH, include an excerpt of your book. For competitions, include an excerpt even if they don’t ask for it. For such specific-use kits, tailor your documents to appeal to that particular audience by focusing on that particular use throughout all documents in the kit. For example, if the specific use is a competition with a cultural focus, be sure to tailor the words and visuals in your kit for that (or any other) narrow focus.
SIXTH, imbed the documents, full of hooks, into a visual presentation with the sights and sounds that use emotion to generate buy-in. Media buy-in helps generate consumer buy-in. Be sure to include links to your email and website, retail sites where your book is available, your publicists’ website and email, and any other Web links that may be required by organizers requesting a press kit for a particular purpose, such as a competition.
SEVENTH, include a video. Sometimes referred to as a book trailer, think of a book video as a movie trailer, a 30-second commercial that includes the sights, sounds, and feel of you and your book.
IN THE END, if you’ve compiled a press kit for a special use, pare it down for the general media. Specific-use press kits can include information that the general media doesn’t want to see, such as long reviews, sell sheets, and excerpts. Then, post the entire functional (electronic version with functional links) general-use kit on your website so you can direct others to it in the future. Be sure to keep copies of both the specific-use press kit and the general-use press kit for future use.
About Virginia Tell
Virginia creates press releases and kits for everything from new products, to nonprofit organization events, to books. She is a ghostwriter and the author of several Faulkner finalists and short-list finalists. Additionally, she writes commercial, corporate, and nonprofit documents, speeches, videos, and event programs.