Sunday, August 17, 2008

An Electronic Press Kit Doesn’t Always Work for Authors
By Pat Simmons

I’ve often read suggestions about how much material a person should put into a press kit. The focus should BE what to put in it, how to use it, and when to use it.

The same question goes for an electronic press kit. It’s cheaper, easier, and faster, BUT it should never be used as the initial point of contact.

*An EPK (electronic press kit) should be a condensed form of an author’s hard copy.
*An EPK should only be sent as an attachment upon request, otherwise the recipient may not open it from an unknown sender. Putting the information in the body of the email, will give the information, but not the professional look an author may want.
*An EPK on an author’s website makes information easily accessible.
*Radio/TV morning and afternoon producers MAY consider authors who will be in town for an event. Those producers could book show guests one week to thirty days in advance. If an author gets a late start on securing a book signing, an EPK may be the only option vs. snail mail. This still should be sent upon request.

A hard copy press kit is preferred over an EPK when mailing out complimentary copies of a novel—every time—whether it is to the media, a book reviewer, or a book club president—ALWAYS.

I can almost hear some of you saying, “Is she crazy? Does she know how much that will cost?” As a matter of fact, I do. Every year, I’m the co-publicist for the RT BOOKLOVERS Convention. One of my duties is to secure radio, television and print interviews for authors.

In order to be successful as a publicist, I mail individual hard copy press kits for each author. I often coach authors on what to put in it, but I’ll get to that later. Your press kit is your Mercedes—the style, the sleekness, the (you get the idea). No book, repeat, no book should leave an author’s hands without a press kit whether it is for a review, book club president, media, etc.

Here are the pros and cons for an EPK. Imagine this scenario: a busy newsroom needs news tips and story ideas. A novel about a fictional murder can’t stack up against a serial murderer on the run. When I (the assignment editor, executive producer, etc) open the GroupWise mailbox, we skip business grand opening, jazz concerts, author appearances unless it’s Tavis Smiley, RK Rowling, Senator Obama, etc., of course, who get priority.

Earlier this year, I worked with a producer with KDKA in Pittsburgh. I knew I wanted to push a diverse group of authors, some I had never met. One author I booked a TV and radio interview was Anne Elizabeth. Producers were blown away by her print representation (hard copy press kit) that they didn’t hesitate to book her.

Producers want the material in their hand whether they read one page or the entire book. It’s visual. Sometimes—well most of the time—the book gets separated from the press kit while it’s circulating in the newsroom. We (the media) are a nosy munch and love to read magazines, books, articles, newspaper, etc. It’s not unusual for me to send an EPK once or twice, after I have already sent the hardcopy-up, as a follow up.

Let me cross over to radio where I worked in that medium for more than seven years. Hosts are bombarded with author interview requests. A polished press kit will stand off will get an author on the air sooner.

Remember, electronic press kits are great, but only as follow ups. A radio or television station might consider an author as a guest for its: early morning news shows, noon magazine show, weekend early mornings shows or weekly public affairs show. Don’t be surprised if you are asked to send more than one book/press kit to different producers.

Okay, the contents in the press kit are simple; it’s how an author packages it that could make the difference for an interview. Things to consider: Have matching stationery for your customize high glossy folders. Throw in some extras like a magnet of your book cover, a note pad with your website address, a personalize ink pen; or as author Anne Elizabeth did—a T-shirt with her book cover on the front! I’ve sent T-shirts and caps, bearing my book cover or title logo. Do what you can afford. Hint: Vista print is a great place to get free items with every order.

Press kits should include a press release: one page or three paragraphs about the author and the book (you can include the book’s blurb). Writers and producers depend on press releases to write the stories—how, what, where, when, why. This may seem simple, but I have personally called the contact person because pertinent information was left off. Make sure the press release has a strong lead sentence. The lead sentence, as it implies, is meant to grab the attention for people to keep reading just like the first chapter in your book. I have two friends who help me brainstorm the lead sentences for my novels.

The biography is all about you, baby. Toot your horn, but keep it to three paragraphs or one page. Educational credentials are wonderful. National bestselling Christina Skye was booked as a guest on a Fox2 noon show because of her bio. I liked the fact that she mentioned her experience about eating while on a visit to China—talk about a conversation piece. That one tidbit made her a fascinating guest. Leslie Esdaile, or as many of you know her as L.A. Banks, is also an easy author to book because she is the first African-American author with a multicultural/black vampire series translated into Russian. My co-publicist and I have never failed to book Leslie on radio, TV, or print because of the fact that she is the “first.”

Please, please make sure your biography has a professional head shot. Unfortunately, television is visual. If you’ve missed your hair appointment the day of your photo shot, who is to say you won’t skip it for the television interview. Kudos are a must. What are others saying about your book—media, reviewers, other authors? You need an entire page, but three to four 5-lines max are perfect. I’m mentioning the cover letter last because I’m assuming it’s a given you include one anyway.

If not, include a cover letter that is addressed to one person. Okay, one more piece of paper: your books!! Believe me; no wants to read a ten or more page press kit (EPK or hard copy) so make it easy. In conclusion, an EPK should not be the norm, but the exception. I hope more than anything, this information has been a blessing to advance an author’s career. I have to put in the disclaimer: this is only my opinion from both sides of the fence. To see a sample go to http://www.patsimmons.net/ or directly to http://www.patsimmonspresskit.blogspot.com/

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

I notice that many EPK's are in PDF form on websites. Is there a particular reason people do this?

Charlotte

Christian Author Pat Simmons said...

Hi Charlotte,
PDFs are easier to print, however, I used my blogspot to list my electronic press kit because of technical challenges.
The EPK I send as an attachment doesn't translate well on my website.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for answering my question. I have a request and another question.

Request - Please give me an example of a STRONG lead-in sentence.

Question - For stationery is placing your logo on printer paper acceptable or do you need to spend money for special paper?
And should the stationery go to a professional printer or is it okay to just copy?

Charlotte

Jeanette Hill said...

Thank you for this valuable information. I have been struggling with how to create an effective media/press kit. I am a playwright with local success and looking to broaden my horizons. I do have newspaper articles, radio interview, my website, DVDs and a demo tape of several of my productions. Recently, I have had inquiries and requests from organizations and promoters in other cities about my work.



What do you suggest I include in my press kits and what information to give out to those I meet during the course of the day?

Anonymous said...

Would you tell the proper way to seek a tv interview. Do you introduce yourself with the press kit first?

CJK

Pat Simmons said...

Hi Anonymous,
Strong Lead:
Action Verbs, make the reader pause, make the reader want more.
The same rule for writing a novel.
My lead sentence for my first press release: TV newswriter digs up the dirt on dead people.
It was designed to create a "what?"
People would have to continue reading to learn I'm an amateur genealogist and I use some of my ancestors as characters in my books.
Not knowing synopsis of your novel, pull out the funniest, saddest, or craziest scene in your novel, in one sentence(ONE) summarize it.
**Another example:
A woman has three wishes, but she has to be dead to fullfill them.
or
Love is blind when the wrong man shows up at the right time.
I don't know if this is creative enough, but it takes time for a powerful lead.

To answer the second question, I'm not sure what you mean by placing a logo on the stationery. It almost sounds as if you are placing a sticker on a piece of paper. As long as it looks POLISHED, that's all that matters.
An author doesn't have to spend a lot of money, but it SHOULD look as if he/she did.
It's like wearing a hand me down suit with new shoes. It's all about the presentation.
I hope this helps.

Christian Author Pat Simmons said...

Anonymous,
Producers ARE EXTREMELY busy. They don't want an introduction. They want to know what you have to offer.
Okay, let me see if I can give you some helpful advice.
1. Every news show usually has a different producer.
6 am, 8 am, noon, 5 pm, 6pm, 10pm.
weekend 6 am, 5 pm, 6pm, 10pm newscasts.
The BEST chance for an interview will probably be early morning because they balance the hard news with feature stories.
Always get a contact name then send out a personalized press kit, give the producer (or show booker) about a week before following up.
2. The next question is what makes you or your story unique? For example: talk about how you sold 1,000 copies in one week and you're willing to share your secret; for me, another way to track down my ancestors was through my novels. I call it a new way to research; why you sell your first ten copies for a penny at a book signing; talk about for 30 book store tour in 30 days--it sounds crazy, but we(media) look for something different; every year, I'm about to secure media coverage for the RT convention because I taunt 1,000 readers and 300 authors from all over the world--they take notice.
3. If you are trying to get a local interview, tell them about your award, etc.
I hope this helps!

Shelia E. Lipsey said...

Thanks for the great information, Pat. It is indeed helpful.

Shelia E. Lipsey
www.shelialipsey.com
shelialipsey@yahoo.com
www.myspace.com/shelialipsey
Author of My Son's Wife coming to a bookstore near you.
Into Each Life - available wherever books are sold
Sinsatiable - available wherever books are sold

Arianna Sins said...

Do you want to know What is an EPK ?? It's an electronic press kit is a must for anyone seeking exposure and publicity as an artist. You can send your electronic press kit to music industry professionals, clubs, media or anybody who might be interested in your work. EPK is your professional resume to the world