Good morning, RU Crew! We’re kicking off this week’s class schedule with a kickin’ lecture on media kits from Michelle Buonfiglio, Romance B(u)y the Book founder. If the idea of promoting yourself gives you a headache, Michelle’s savvy advice will be like super-promo-aspirin for your noggin.
So grab a seat, stop throwing those spitballs and listen up!
Michelle: Thanks! So cool to be back in session with everyone, Kelsey. OK. The down/dirty purpose of media kits is to make it ridiculously simple for someone in traditional/new media to create an as-positive-as-possible story about you/your book, hopefully using the branding and language you offer them in the kit. Hard-copy kits often are placed in good-looking binders and may contain: contact info; news releases; glossies; pre-written interviews w/featured subject; article seeds; pieces written by, or ghosted for, featured author to be published as content; or thumb drives w/additional images and content. Sometimes kits contain promo items, but most media/journalists don’t accept or frown upon accepting those. Digital kits contain the same minus the obvious, but live online, usually at an author’s/publisher’s/publicist’s site. Digital is green, convenient for media and can be updated easily.
Kelsey: At what point in an author’s career should s/he develop a media kit?
Michelle: This is actually kind of fun and inspirational. Make thoughts about the look of your kit and how you’ll use it part of your “vision” of what your published life will look like. Save stuff that may be useful, as we’ll discuss in question #4. Start tracking down, perhaps through your RWA chap or loops, lists of trad/new media contacts, and include local/personal ones when you collate and save in your press kit/media file. I.D./tag contacts as “pro romance,” “romance conscious” and “general” groups, so you’ll know how/what to pitch whom. Suggest pubbed authors in your RWA chap bring to a meeting their hard-copy kits and kit URLs so different styles can be examined. The minute you sell a book, begin building/finalizing your press kit.
Kelsey: What do you recommend an effective media kit contain?
Michelle: Of the digital kits I’ve seen, one of the most comprehensive for media needs, and easiest to use is Stephanie Tyler’s http://www.stephanietyler.com/mediakit.php. I suggest folks take a quick gander, and later study and benchmark it. I’ve “bolded” important components. Note how she offers spare bites of interesting info that can easily be tossed in a journo’s feature, as well as other articles/interviews for media research. Her rep/publicity contacts are front/center. You can join her soc med communities and fan list. We can’t miss her pitched/excerpted current releases, interesting key praise, books she’s released, what some key folks say about them, and where you can buy them. There are downloadable bios, non-copyrighted headshots and cover jpegs for mac/pc in various pixels/sizes. And she reaches out warmly to us at the bottom with a direct contact to the author by stating: Didn’t find what you were looking for? Contact Stephanie [link to email].
Steph says about her goals in creating the page: “I tried to think of it as a ‘best of’. I wanted to put together a list of facts /a short bio / long bio / pictures / a couple of quotes so that someone doing an interview could skim easily, pull what they needed and generate any questions they had for me. There are plenty of other things for them to explore on the site, but this pared-down version makes it an easy starting point.”
What if you don’t have a snazzy rich-media platform like Steph, and have a simple WYSIWYG platform like mine at blogger? Create post ‘pages” with the same types of content and link them to “list” widgets in your sidebar under the heading Media Kit. Make a page of images of you and your books that we can “grab”. For all: Try to offer only materials that can be quoted/reproduced w/out further permission.
Kelsey: What’s the best way to build a media kit, meaning how to accumulate quality content and actually create the kit itself?
Oops! I think I covered a little of the digital creation above, whether by yourself or a webmistress/master. But you’ll need to keep up-to-date on all yours/your management’s, etc., contact info and collect content as you either create it or trad/new media start creating it about you.
Keep a digital folder with media lists and links to — and pdfs or Word docs w/ hard copies of — reviews, videos, articles, interviews mentioning you/your novel/s. Why hard copies? Sometimes Internet content is peeled or moved, and you’ll want to be able to continue using it, as long as you repurpose it w/proper attribution/copyright info. Keep jpegs of your headshot/s, interesting/clear photos of you w/”famous” authors/friends and readers at events, book signings. Maintain info re honors and awards. ALSO: Keep a manila file folder with copies of hard news or photos to be scanned or copied. Your digital files can be captured to print for hard-copy media kits.
You also may develop original content related to book you’re pitching. Ex.: pdf or site-page news releases and fact sheets; pitch or talking points that may help “seed” the hook of a journo’s story, or inspire questions you really want to answer; entertaining, brief articles or blog posts you’ve written relating to your pitch which could be published by media; brief series of fun facts; brief/expanded bios.
Whatever you toss in your kit, ask yourself these questions: Does my kit look and read as “professional” as possible? Have I had it edited and spellchecked by someone whose opinion I trust? Does my copy make it seem as if I’m accomplished — or merely tootin’ my horn? And most important: Can a person who knows nothing about me or romance fiction understand all the concise pieces of this kit without further research?
Kelsey: How often should an author update the media kit, especially headshots? And should awards be “rolled off” at some point?
Michelle: Update immediately in your kit and soc media changes in contact info. Each time new book or project is releasing, you’ll toss old and develop new releases and pitch-specific fun facts, articles, etc. Some folks create a section for past releases. Keep your main list of articles, etc., for media to reference fairly brief. If you choose to cut as you gain new coverage, retire items that refer to older books/interviews you feel don’t reflect the growth you’ve made as writer/person, or the first reviews you got from your high-school’s and grandma’s blogs. But there are some great, timeless pieces – well, yes, they are usually the ones I write, thanks for asking — you may want to keep in the rotation. You also might create a section with your honors/awards, succinctly explaining for the least romance-conscious person why each is important.
In terms of headshot I think as long as your photo still looks enough like you that someone would recognize you in public, it’s perfect. Use the photo you feel best about. What’s undesirable is a photo that’s grainy or too small to reproduce, or too cluttered to get a good head/shoulders crop out of. Whether pro or candid, make sure it presents you as a professional, no matter whether your pose is casual, classic, come-hither, etc.
Kelsey: In what ways can an author best utilize a media kit?
Michelle: Your kit is a tool, not a pitch — unless your publisher or hired p.r. specialist is doing a blitz. If you want human-interest coverage re you, use an email or elevator pitch to hook the journo, give her your clear contact info and then lead her to the kit. If all you hope for is a no-contact review or feature, make your email pitch and tag it with a prominent link to your kit/other pertinent stuff. Most folks won’t open attached kits or news releases. And make sure your kit is prominently featured on your site nav bar, your blog and any applicable soc media pages and hard-copy outreach pages.
In addition to your digi-kit, make some inexpensive hard-copy form of the most important parts of your kit – news release, fact/seed sheet and pithy one-sheet about the book w/cover art – to hand to trad/new media or important contacts at events like signings, conferences, chap meets, etc. Keep a couple copies in your vehicle or laptop bag, etc., because you never know when you might need one. If it’s not accepted – after your elevator pitch of why you/your book deserve ink — I wouldn’t be discouraged; I hate the idea of just tossing away paper and your hard work, and would rather your card and a follow-up email.
Thanks again for inviting me! I’m happy to help answer your questions about media kits today.
Michelle’s offered us an incredible opportunity to pick her promo-brilliant brain about media kits. Raise your hands and ask away!
Stop by on Wednesday when Adrienne chats with our Man Panel about the “murse” or man purse. Laughter guaranteed!
Today’s visiting professor is well known among the romance community because she truly cares for and champions this genre. Michelle Buonfiglio is best known for founding RomanceBuyTheBook.com which has been featured at LifetimeTV.com, WNBC.com and 80 TV news sites. She recently created Barnes and Noble.com’s first romance blog. We are delighted Michelle was willing to share her incredible knowledge about the online world with our readers.
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