Sunday, October 19, 2014

Tips for creating press kits and author bios

 * written by: Harriet Hodgson - she has been a freelancer for 36+ years and is the author of 33 books. Her latest releases are Happy Again! Your New and Meaningful Life After Loss, Help! I'm Raising My Grandkids, and Seed Time: Growing from Life's Losses and Sorrows. Visit her website for more information about this busy author and grandmother.

It's been a few years since I assembled an author press kit. I'm working on one now and have been at it for days. Things were going well and then, to my surprise, I foundered on the author bio. This surprised me because I knew my book and myself better than anyone else.

Publishing is changing quickly. Most publishers, whether they are traditional, print on demand, indie, or hybrid, ask authors to get involved with marketing. Each author has to figure out how much they are willing to do and spend. Publishers rely on social media and author websites for publicity. Fortunately, my website was professionally designed.

Despite decades of freelance experience, I needed a press kit update. Joanna Penn, in her article, "Book Marketing: Creating Your Author Press Kit," posted on The Creative Pen website, thinks the author bio should be about 200 words long. She asks authors to include "things that make you sound interesting and professional." Joel Friedlander offers more advice in his article, "Book Marketing: Your Online Press Kit," posted on The Book Designer's website. Author platform information should be in the bio, Friedlander says, and the bio should include your photo.

While I understood these suggestions, I wasn't sure I could follow them. I had already written a 300-word bio and didn't think there was room for the cover and a photo. For hours, I grappled with Penn's advice about adding copy to my bio that would make me interesting. After freelancing for 36+ years I had many stories to tell. Too many.

Should I tell the story about participating in New York is Book Country and my booth in front of St. Patrick's Cathedral?
Should I tell the story about flying to a large city, appearing on radio and TV, and finding out the publisher hadn't shipped books to stores?

Should I tell the story about the fire in the television studio? Bingo! That was the story.

The story would end my bio. Problem was, I didn't have much room for it. I revised my bio five times and it's pretty good. However, it's the publisher that casts the final vote. I've hit the highlights -- home town, writing experience, number of books, and author quotes. If you're writing your author bio now I have suggestions for you.

Check with your publisher. Knowing what your publisher expects can save you lots of time and revisions. My publisher sent me a list of the press kit contents and it was very helpful.

Don't be afraid to ask questions. I forwarded the first bookmark design to my publisher. Again, the publisher had some suggestions and they were all helpful. My graphic designer is re-doing the design now.

Pay attention to details. In the past few days I've emailed my publisher a lot and worried about being perceived as a pest. But I'm glad I checked with the publisher because the bookmark design was confusing. At the suggestion of my publisher, I wrote sell copy for the back of the bookmark.

I don't know how many hours I've spent on my press kit and don't want to know. My goal is to assemble the best kit possible. This is your goal as well. Take the time you need to assemble a top-notch kit. Your press kit is your ambassador.

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