Apparently, we’re supposed to have a press kit before we even publish a book, but I’m just getting the memo. In case anyone else is as behind the power curve on this concept as I am, I thought I’d pass on what I’ve learned so far.
First of all, attach it to your blog. I’ve decided to add mine to my About Me since I already have a lot of categories on my blog, and some of the information overlaps. But you can give a press kit its own tab if you prefer.
According to StandOutBooks, the main reason for having a press kit is to make it easy for journalists, bloggers, etc. to promote you. As an interviewer myself, I can tell you this is a match made in heaven. Journalists have x number of articles to submit by their deadlines, and like everyone else, they’re short on time. If they have to comb your website looking for the relevant bits they want, they’ll likely scratch you off their list and move on to someone who makes their job easier.
Start with bios. The recommendations here vary, with Joan Stewart advocating four: less than 140 characters, so it’s tweetable, 50 words, a hundred words, and 400-600 words. Others merely recommended having both a long and short one. Georgiana Cohen‘s article contained an impassioned debate on whether we should write in first person or third.
I posted the long bio in my About Me section in first person because I felt odd about writing about myself in third, and it’s too long for most other people to include. But all my other bios are in third because I’ve experienced the extra work of having to convert bios into third person for my interviews. For interviewees on my site, it’s usually just a few lines, and it’s no problem. It’s not a deal-breaker by any stretch. But remember, we’re trying to make this whole process easier for others, so they’ll help promote us.
Everyone talks about adding your awards, but I’m not sure that does much good if they’re small. I have three awards from a small publisher, and I’ve won Blog Battle four times. I was totally happy to win these things, but I’m not one to pay out a bunch of money to submit to other awards with more name recognition–and most of them do cost. Most judges won’t work for free. I’m not sure I should use the award-winning author line. Maybe I should. I’d love comments on this because I really don’t know what I should do here. I am planning on listing the trade publishers who’ve published me.
Everybody recommends a professional photo for your site, and StandOutBooks says you should never change it. It becomes part of your brand. Joan Stewart also advocates including some “environmental photos” of you with dogs, etc. although I noticed that the one she posted was also taken professionally. I’m not hiring a pro for this one because both my husband and I have taken many photography classes, and I’m a painter to boot.
If you go the amateur route, pay attention to the overall composition of the picture. The most common mistake I see is too much background clutter. As much thought should go into your background as your foreground. If in doubt, go very plain. Carpet or floor and wall behind, like in Ms. Stewart’s example. No furniture or pictures. If you’re outside, you get more leeway, but try to make it something that won’t compete with the focal point–you. A busy cityscape, especially one with prominent ads and other random passersby, is not your best choice. Something like the skyline of New York across the Hudson could work fine. And don’t wear clothing that will attract attention away from your face–the most common mistake here is t-shirts with lettering or faces. I always choose solid colors that won’t clash with my background, but if you have a photo that’s otherwise good, you can convert it to black and white or sepia, since that’s often considered an artistic touch. And try poses that aren’t straight on, hands at your side. Three-quarter views more often flatter the subject. Sitting with one knee up and my arms around it is a pose that often flatters me. Try to look active rather than passive.
Joan Stewart also advocates five (or more) fun facts about you. I’ve decided to attach a memoir to each one, but that’s my own touch. If you don’t write short memoirs, there’s no reason to skip this step because really, it’s the easiest thing here.
You’re also supposed to have sample interview questions that you’re prepared to answer, again to make it easy for whoever’s interested in you. In my case I’ll include only questions that I have answered (although not the answers themselves) because I don’t want to flub an interview because I don’t have time to put enough thought into my responses. I haven’t gotten to this stage yet in my own press kit, but I should be adding it before too long.
We’re told to have a separate kit for each book published with review excerpts, book synopses, sample chapters, and a formal press release–headline, dateline, and all–for each one. I’m hoping it’s okay if I attach a link with a page for each one since I already have something like this under My Books.
I recommend checking out the links I’ve included earlier in this article since they covered other things–like speaking engagements–that I’m not doing, at least not yet. I figure this is enough work to be going on with. 🙂