An author press kit is a package of information about a particular writer. They vary somewhat in context, complexity, and appearance, but most will include basic information about the writer's services or recent projects, as well as contact information.
Not everyone needs a full-blown press kit. However, almost all writers are asked for basic bio information at some point in their career, either in preparation for an interview, by their publisher, or as part of promotion of a workshop or book signing. Having the information in a Web site helps, but sometimes it's nice to have something in hardcopy to give out at events. Some people may not remember to check out your Web site when they get back to work or home, or may simply prefer having your information on paper to remind them. Having this information prepared ahead of time can save you inconvenience and stress later on, and could also impress an editor or potential client.
"The press kit is great when someone is already doing a story on you and wants more info," says Amy Chavez, "Or if an agent/publisher requests a look at your ms. It just makes sense to have a showcase of your work ready to send out or take with you when you think you'll be meeting important people in the publishing industry. I've handed mine to TV people, agents, publishers, etc." Josh Aterovis mainly uses his press kit to give to prospective bookstores that he hopes will carry his book. He also sends them out to reviewers. The cost of putting together a press kit can vary widely. Some press kits might only consist of a photocopied page of information and a self-printed business card. Other writers may opt for a professionally printed package with a color cover and high quality paper.
"Putting together a press kit is costly," says Chavez. "I've found that the press kit only works to my advantage if it is requested or if I can physically hand it to someone who is important to achieving my objectives (people at conferences, agents, publishers, references, etc.) I used to send a press kit out with magazine and ms. submissions to try to impress publications with my qualifications, but it never helped me get published, so I stopped doing it."
What should go into a press kit?
As mentioned earlier, contents of a press kit are determined by a number of factors, including the intended purpose (are you promoting a specific book? yourself in general? your services?), target recipients, and your budget.
Some authors use presentation folders with pockets, customizing the contents for whatever event they are planning to attend, sometimes personalizing the cover with a printed sticker or other type of label. Chavez, for example, uses this technique in her press kit. "I usually put the query letter in the right side of the folder, with clips in back and a list of publications, media appearances and speaking engagements on the left side with a business card."
Put effort into tailoring your press kit to the person who will be looking at it. Don't try to cram too much information into any one page, or the kit itself, especially if you know the recipient is very busy. Josh Aterovis designed his press kit to be as compact as possible. "I was going on the idea that someone will take the time to look over a brief professional looking document quicker than they will look at a huge amount of material."
Here are a list of some of the items that could go into your press kit:
Basic Bio. Don't forget to include contact information.
Author Photography. Preferably, this should be a professional-looking headshot. Including a photo of yourself isn't essential, but it does visual interest and add a level of personalization.
Book Info. If you're promoting a recent title, have a page of information about the book. Info should include the basic info needed for a person to find the publication in a bookstore or on Amazon.com, like the full title, your name, publisher, date published, and ISBN. If possible, include a picture of the cover to add visual interest, even if it's just a black and white photocopy. Book information pages could also include reviews and endorsements, press releases, and ordering information. Always include contact information on every page.
Other Publicity Information. If you're promoting your general writing services rather than a specific book or books, then you could include testimonials from satisfied clients, a list of past clients, media appearances, a list of your pieces and where they were published, perhaps even a few samples.
Bookmarks. "It's hard to determine the effectiveness of flyers and bookmarks," says Peggy Tibbetts. "You never really know, except it seems like a lot more people know who I am when I go to conferences now. It's very hard though to getmedia attention, unless you do something outrageous, or have friends in high places. But I think they are effective in spreading word-of-mouth."
Postcards. The most typical type of promotional author postcard will have a book cover on one side, brief information abou the book on the other. Writers promoting themselves in general (rather than a specific book) might want to include a photo of themselves instead.
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