One of the most basic tools in your PR and marketing portfolio is your press kit. A press kit provides basic biographical information and information about your work, in an easily accessible kit for reviewers and journalists. It makes it easy for people to write about you- always a plus- and it saves work for you, because you can avoid collecting and providing the same information repeatedly- definitely a plus.
There are 5 basic elements in a press kit:
1) Your biography
2) Contact information
3) Your photo
4) A synopsis of your most current work
5) Representative art for your most current work
Your press kit biography is a chance to present and brand yourself as a particular kind of author. Ideally, you should include a short, medium, and long biography in your press kit- each serves a different purpose.
Short should be no more than 50 words, about what you'd put on a magazine byline. Medium can be about 150 words- ideal for reprinting on websites- use the bio that would be on your jacket flap as an example.
Long can be as long as you like, but one page single-spaced should be more than enough. No one will be reprinting this bio, but this is where you get to brand and present yourself. Include your professional successes, especially ones that you want to emphasize (bestseller status, awards, grants, fellows, MFAs, etc., etc., etc..)
But also include the personal information that makes you interesting- and that you don't mind being asked about. Consider this document the base of every single profile and human interest story written about you. Hi, I'm Saundra Mitchell- I write books, but I also make paper! I'm a screenwriter, I've been a phone psychic, and I do radio shows about urban legends!
Present it in a voice that cultivates the image you want to portray of yourself. I'm a funny writer, I'm a literary writer, I'm an edgy writer- whatever. Take Meg Cabot's writing vlogs for example- her voice is informative, but she doesn't take herself at all seriously.
Once you have all three of your biographies written, compile them into a single document. At the top of the document, include your name, your e-mail address, and your URL. Don't include your mailing address or your phone number, because you're putting this on your website for any n00b to download.
Then, include your bios under these headers: SHORT BIO (WORD COUNT) MID BIO (WORD COUNT) and then just BIOGRAPHY (no word count required.) Don't use special formatting (bold, italics, bullets, etc.,) and single-space.
You will want to provide this document (along with any others in the kit) in both Word .doc format, and plain TXT. It's the standard showing of fealty to Bill Gates, because most people use Microsoft products whether they want to, but also a nod to the fact that some people like to use vi editor in UNIX.
One you have everything in your document, save it as a .doc . I don't think there's a single word processing program out there that doesn't give you the ability to save cross-format into .doc (see abovementioned fealty to Gates,) but if you've managed to stumble across the only one that does, then have a friend convert it, and skip to the TXT instructions.
The reason we had no special formatting is because now you need to SAVE AS. Click on SAVE AS instead of SAVE. When you get the dialogue box that lets you put in a filename, keep the same filename (that way you don't get confused later,) but select ASCII TXT (.txt) from the pulldown menu beneath it to save as text.
It will tell you that you are going to lose special formatting, but you can click okay with impunity because you don't have any special formatting, right? Right!
No point in making a press kit if the press can't find you! This is a simple document that should include:
Your name, your e-mail address, your URL: again, anyone can download this, and you don't want whackadoos with your home address. If you have a PO Box for fan mail, go ahead and include that.
Your agent's name, your agent's company (if any,) and your agent's e-mail address. Most people don't need this information, but certain professional people will- namely, people interested in getting rights clearances for your work, people who want to acquire subsidiary rights, people who want blurbs, etc., etc..
Those folks would generally rather talk to your representation than to you, because all you can do is giggle wildly on the phone and go, "Seriously? You want to know if there are comic book rights left on my contract? WHEEEEEE!"
Don't lie. You know it's true.
Anyway, save this as a Word .doc and as ASCII TXT as well.
Sorry guys. The media likes pictures, so you should include one in your press kit. It doesn't have to be your official author photo, but if you're like me, that's the only photo you dare show the public.
Whichever photo you choose, you'll want to include a high resolution (at least 1200X1200) version of the photo, suitable for being reprinted in newspapers and magazines.
Then, you'll want to include a medium resolution version (around 300X400 or thereabouts) that people can use on their website. That's large enough to let them add any frames or borders they might use for site consistency, or to resize as they need.
Finally, you need a thumbnail version (no bigger than 100X200, and a little smaller would be better.) This is suitable for use on forums, or in very short reviews or blurbs about your work.
Windows and Mac both have native image tools that will allow you to resize a large image file, or you can use online utilities like Shrink Pictures. I believe Flickr and Picasa will also resize for free.
Once you have all three photos, you'll want to compress them so it doesn't take 5 hours to download your press kit. Windows can do this natively, or you can download WinZip; Macs can also do this natively, or you can download ZipIt. (These are both pay-software titles, but they both include a free evaluation period.)
Zip all three files into a single file called portraits.zip, so you can keep track of the file later.
Those are the three elements which comprise your base press kit. Your bio, contact info, and photo only change when you want them to, so you can carry them over for each press kit you make. Each? Buh? Yes, you'll want to keep your press kit current with your career. And that's why we move on to:
Synopsis of Your Current Work
It's exactly that- a document that has your name, your e-mail address, and your URL on the header, and then the synopsis of your book. You can write a long or short one- I use one that's slightly shorter than what would be on the jacket flap. That way, if people just want to print a blurb about the book, they can use it wholesale.
Again, this too should be saved in .doc and TXT format.
Like your author photo, you'll want to provide your cover art in three resolutions, for the same reasons. Again, you want a large one (at least 1200X12000), a medium one (around 350X400) and a thumbnail (100X200 or smaller.) These are approximate resolutions- each file has its own dimensions, but as long as the first number is around the suggested size, the second number will adjust itself accordingly. :)
Again, zip these together into a single file, named something like coverart.zip
Compiling Your Press Kit
You will want to compile your press kit into two versions- high bandwidth and low bandwidth.
High Bandwidth: Include all of your files in this one. You should have your biography in .doc and TXT, your contact info in .doc and TXT, your synopsis in .doc and TXT, and two zip files: authorportrait.zip and coverart.zip
Collect all these files and zip them into a single file, called yourname-presskithb.zip . This is suitable for folks on DSL or better to download, which should be most journalists and reviewers.
Low Bandwidth: In this version, include only the document files, leave out the two image files. Even when the images are compressed into zip files of their own, they're still pretty large, so we're omitting them.
Zip these files together into a file named yourname-presskitlb.zip . This version of your press kit will download even if somebody's still on a 7600 baud dial-up Internet connection (or if they don't need your pictures, just your text. I won't judge.)
Distributing Your Press Kit
You (or your webmaster) can upload both files to your server, and then create links directly to them. When someone clicks on a .zip link, they will download automatically.
You can also e-mail these press kits, although I would suggest asking if they need a photo before trying to send the high-bandwidth version out.
Also, you can burn copies of your press kit to CD to send via postal mail. If you do this, I suggest burning all the files without putting them into a zip first.
You have 800MB of space on a writable CD, and putting more data on a CD doesn't add to the mailing weight. It just makes it more convenient- someone can drop the CD into their drive and automatically access the files, rather than having to unpack them first.
And that's how you create your own press kit. Costs you nothing but time, but it's a great tool to make available to journalists and reviewers. It makes their job easier, which makes you an appealing subject for consideration! Have fun, and happy compiling!