Posted On March 15, 2010 by Print This Post

The Skinny on Media Kits

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!

Kelsey: Hi, Michelle! We’re delighted to have you back at RU to talk with us about media kits. Can you give our readers an idea of what a media kit is and its purpose, especially for authors?

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 researchHer 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 pitchunless 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!

Michelle’s Bio: 

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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Discussion

40 Responses to “The Skinny on Media Kits”

  1. Michelle –

    What amazing info you’ve provided for our readers! I’ll be sure to give Stephanie’s site a close gander. Do you have any advice for authors who are promo-phobic? Maybe where they should start if baby steps are all they can handle?

    Again – thank you for taking the time to answer all RU’s (and our readers’) questions about media kits!
    Kelsey

    Posted by KelseyBrowning | March 15, 2010, 1:15 am
  2. Michelle, thank you for this very informative post. Putting together a media kit is something I’ve been thinking of doing for a while, but never had a clue where to start! Now I have no excuse ;-)

    Posted by Christina Phillips | March 15, 2010, 6:25 am
  3. Thanks for a great “lecture”. That’s interesting that you’re at B & N now. I’ll check it out. I’m off to look at Stephanie Tyler’s kit, but if you have any others you also think are worth checking out, I’m all ears.
    Thanks again.

    Posted by Carly Carson | March 15, 2010, 9:02 am
  4. morning michelle…

    wow, so much great information! i’m saving that to my files..hopefully some day I’ll need a media kit! =)
    would you say it would be a waste of time to make a copy of your media kit on CD or small jump drive to hand out?

    thanks!

    carrie

    Posted by carrie | March 15, 2010, 9:34 am
  5. Michelle, thanks for sharing this information. I haven’t really thought of a media kit before, and now I can see how valuable, and detailed, it really is. I can see I better get to planning!

    Posted by Donna Cummings | March 15, 2010, 9:38 am
  6. ‘morning, Kelsey and RU! I probably should be more embarrassed than I am to admit how happy I am to be back with you, especially talking media kits, which I both have created/used and am offered for use regularly. I hear you on the ‘promo-phobic’ thing; I think that’s part of the reason why I started writing RBTB back in ’05. I met many romance authors who were talented, yet really shy about promotion or simply meeting readers. I thought it’d be fun to bring authors and readers together. But it surprised me, too, because even before the economy tanked, I’d always believed we’re our own best publicity agents. But as a sort of shy person outside of the professional milieu, I totally get how overwhelming reaching out can be.

    So a good baby step is to start by writing a bio to post on your blog, linked from the side bar. Write a brief one — about 150-200 words. This isn’t the place to write about every award you’ve scored. Those are put in all the other areas you’ll create later. Remember that it’s harder for folks to read online, and the nature of the online beast is pithy, vigorous/concise anyway. This can be the hardest part for authors who’re used to writing ‘long’. But it’s a great exercise in writing for media who want info about you. News releases, bios, pre-written interviews: all short and sweet. It may be different for others, but if I see a news release longer than one page, double spaced, I probably won’t read it, at least not more than the first graph or two. I just want to know the Who/what/when.. and the Big Why/How: Why would my viewers care — and how would your information help me write an interesting/entertaining piece?

    Posted by Michelle Buonfiglio | March 15, 2010, 10:12 am
    • Hi Michelle and welcome back. Great post! It’s going right into the keeper file.

      You make a great point about keeping the info. succinct. I immediately thought about when I worked for an ad agency. It drove me crazy to have to dig through media kits to find a rate card. All I wanted to know was how much it would cost to buy an ad and I’d have to look through pages and pages of promo info. that I didn’t need.

      Posted by Adrienne Giordano | March 15, 2010, 10:59 am
  7. Hi, Christina! Oh, there’s always an excuse! Let me know, and I’ll provide you about a dozen for not starting a project — or for putting off finishing it!

    Hi, Carly. I actually just left BN to finish the final phase of an RBTB project I’ve been working on for the last year and a half. I’m wicked excited about it, and am starting on my own media kit right now! But I really am proud of having created their first romance blog, as well as having brought RBTB/romance fiction sections to Lifetime and the other TV news websites.

    Your question about other sites is a good one, and I’ll think about it as we go along. But as I was writing, Steph’s simply rose to mind as a standard.

    Posted by Michelle Buonfiglio | March 15, 2010, 10:17 am
  8. Hey, Carrie! I think that’s a great idea if you can do it low cost. I guess the benefit of a thumb drive would be that it might be a good ‘gimmee’ in general that you could use w/fans also. You could include excerpt/s that are offered to media and to fans to read. And then I guess folks could keep/use the drives, right? So that’s useful, too, and avoids the paper waste of a hard-copy kit. :grin:

    Posted by Michelle Buonfiglio | March 15, 2010, 10:22 am
  9. but let me add, Carrie, that if the cost is prohibitive, the URL of the press kit could be listed on a business card along with email/soc media info…

    Posted by Michelle Buonfiglio | March 15, 2010, 10:23 am
  10. Donna, i’m so pleased I can make more work for you! :) I do think it’s important to have the bare minimum of info: contact, bio, headshot, cover art, current news release/info re book/s, tour. It’s really frustrating to want to offer promo to an author but not be able to find an email address let alone more info.

    Posted by Michelle Buonfiglio | March 15, 2010, 10:25 am
  11. Wow, Michelle! I’ve been thinking I needed a media kit for a good long while, but actually putting it together is so daunting. Your lecture has at least given me the steps I need to take in an order I understand. :) Huge improvement on my chances of successfully putting this together. :)

    Posted by Lucy Monroe | March 15, 2010, 10:40 am
    • Lucy –

      Thanks for stopping by RU today. Just wanted to let you know I’m a fan (especially of the Ready, Willing & Able series!). I’ll have to pick up a few of your titles I’ve missed along the way. Your new release, Moon Craving, sounds fantastic :).

      Kelsey

      Posted by Kelsey Browning | March 15, 2010, 12:43 pm
      • Thank you so much, Kelsey! If you read Moon Craving, I would truly love to hear what you think of it. :) RU is fabulous…I need to add the link to my For Writers page on my website. Don’t forget… Don’t forget… Won’t forget. :)

        Posted by Lucy Monroe | March 15, 2010, 4:16 pm
  12. Thanks, Michelle. Great timing! I’m updating my website in preparation for the new book in May and I will add this to my list of to dos. Ironically, I’m like the shoemaker’s barefoot children. I used to be in public relations and, yup, prepared press kits when they were all hard copy and had to be stuffed by hand! Time to take care of the basics for myself!

    Posted by Blythe Gifford | March 15, 2010, 11:08 am
  13. Hi Michelle! Do you think building a media kit is something that is mainly of use to published authors? Should struggling writers build one even though they don’t have a published book to promote?

    Posted by Becke Davis (Becke Martin) | March 15, 2010, 11:17 am
  14. Thanks Michelle, What wonderful ideas for future use! I am curious to as to what Becke asked, what about aspiring authors? Do you think it is a good idea to have a small media kit?

    Posted by Jane L | March 15, 2010, 11:36 am
  15. It actually sounds fun. And I’d like to second Becke’s question. I could see gathering a list of contacts at this point, but not sure what else.

    Posted by Amy Kennedy | March 15, 2010, 11:41 am
  16. Hi, Lucy! Well, you spend so much time helping other authors promote, it’s always good to take some time to promote yourself, too. : )

    It can seem daunting. But when we think about it as simply adding to our sidebars or slapping up an extra page or two, it can seem a little simpler. The key is not to be overwhelmed, right? It’s not like writing a book. Sure, you’ve got a little planning to do. But if you just choose one example of everything you need, you always can add to it later — extra headshots, more fun facts, bio choices, interview links, etc.

    Posted by Michelle Buonfiglio | March 15, 2010, 11:55 am
    • LOL I just give what I’ve gotten and that’s lots and lots of blessings. :) But you’re right, I need to take the time to develop the media kit for my sake and my PA & Promotions Coordinator. He’s a very busy many. ;-)

      Posted by Lucy Monroe | March 15, 2010, 4:18 pm
  17. hi, Blythe! Ugh, yes. stuffing, stuffing, stuffing! At least digital doesn’t give paper cuts! And they’re the worst kind, I hear… Do you agree that it still looks good to have a hard copy kit or two at your place when you’re at a conference signing, etc.?

    I don’t think it’s a must by any means. But with color printers everywhere, it’s pretty easy to make up a folder w/a color image of your book glued to the front, as well as a one-sheet, a news release and a fun-fact sheet inside. Have all contact/soc media/url/online press kit info on ea page, your business cards and cover.

    Posted by Michelle Buonfiglio | March 15, 2010, 12:00 pm
  18. hmmm, becke, you ask a question that i’d addressed then cut from this piece because I didn’t want it to turn into any more of a saga than it already is.

    You can do anything you want, of course and, as I suggest, should start collecting components. But I would be wary of offering a press kit or news release to media if you don’t have a product to sell. It’s the difference between pushing product and creating persona, the latter of which unpubs can/should do online, and which we discussed when I last visited RU. http://romanceuniversity.org/2009/10/26/staying-out-of-hot-water-developing-an-appropriate-online-presence/

    You might alert local media when you’ve won a RWA chap contest. But I think you’d not want to tout yourself to the general media as “an award-winning author,” and expect coverage simply because of a manuscript win. You are a writer, but the media is looking for pubbed authors to feature and use as talking heads these days.

    But I guess the questions I’d ask are: What’s your goal in having a media kit? What’s the product you’re trying to sell? Who do you want to buy it?

    Posted by Michelle Buonfiglio | March 15, 2010, 12:12 pm
  19. Hi, Adrienne! Thanks so much for letting me visit again! Thinking of this writing as ‘ad writing’ is a terrific comparison, which comes to mind because of your comment. The fewest amount of words possible used to say only what’s meant. “Lather. Rinse. Repeat.” Genius.

    Your experience w/the rate card is exactly what we don’t want media to go through, especially when trying to contact us or find out info about our current book, on-sale date and who the heck we are. Like you say, it’s like looking for the price tag. The journo’s thinking, “How much will it cost me [time/effort] to get info to write what looks to be an interesting story.” We’ve got to be thinking, “How do I get the price tag [who/what/when/where...] front/center so they buy/sell for me?”

    Posted by Michelle Buonfiglio | March 15, 2010, 12:17 pm
  20. Hi, JaneL! You know, it can’t hurt to have a small media kit on-site or en blog: headshot, brief bio, awards/interesting facts/accomplishments. :idea:

    Posted by Michelle Buonfiglio | March 15, 2010, 12:19 pm
  21. Hey, Amy! Yep, contact list and, if you don’t have one, a site or blog w/contact info. Then, as w/JaneL’s thought, perhaps a media page, which can’t hurt and helps folks stay in touch, builds persona.

    Posted by Michelle Buonfiglio | March 15, 2010, 12:21 pm
  22. Hi Michelle,

    Thanks for hanging out with us at RU!

    This is a topic that I’ve often wondered about. I’ve seen numerous “press kits” on different author sites, but never really knew what a GREAT kit entailed. I’ll definitely mark this as a keeper article for when the time comes that I can use it, although it sounds like there are some things unpubs can do while waiting for The Call.

    Thanks bunches! Always great to have you with us.

    Tracey

    Posted by Tracey Devlyn | March 15, 2010, 12:38 pm
  23. Michelle and all: ref hard copy. I no longer hold myself out as an expert, but I do remember not too many years ago that RWA had a press room at National and did have an array of press materials available there. So if there is an event, it could be helpful to have something that could be carried away as a reminder. But I’d be sure to put the URL for the digital “kit” on the press release, too.

    Posted by Blythe Gifford | March 15, 2010, 2:50 pm
  24. Thank you for this post, Michelle. As usual, you make it all sound so do-able! I second everybody’s grateful comments on your reminder to be succinct and pithy.

    Question for you: Where should a debut historical romance author (like me!) send a press kit? Are there any must-sends?

    Thanks!!

    Posted by Katharine Ashe | March 15, 2010, 3:23 pm
  25. YOu’re welcome, Tracey, and probably sick of hearing how much fun I find this. Social media drives me a little nutty sometimes, but I’m really thankful for the day you guys were kind enough to follow my inanity on twitter so I learned what a gold mine you have here. I believe there was begging involved on my part in terms of getting to visit… :oops:

    I think it’s fun to envision our success, not just dream about it, you know? So I think planning and collecting items for our media kits is really practical as well as healthy. You also could write a practice news release for the manuscript you’re working on. then, come up with a ‘pretend’ hook for your campaign. How would that be woven into your news release, fun facts, then on to your blog posts, cyber tour, etc….

    Posted by Michelle Buonfiglio | March 15, 2010, 6:02 pm
    • LOL – I don’t remember any begging, but I do recall a lot of squealing and clapping on our end after we spoke.

      I love your idea of a practice news release and how it ties in with your book hook. There are so many sides to this business. It’s so nice to have friends like you, Michelle, to help us through it.

      Thanks bunches,
      Tracey

      Posted by Tracey Devlyn | March 15, 2010, 7:30 pm
  26. Hi, Katharine! Especially today with limited pr budgets at houses, the debut authors see to understand best how creative they need to be. First, you’ll want to find out from others who write what you do who they suggest. Most folks are generous with the info and want to ‘pass forward’ the help they’ve gotten. As part of your leg work, you’ll want to make a list of the historical-mad blogs/sites/communities, then research the ones you’d like to be promoted by. You can toss out releases/pitches to everyone and hope for the best, or take time to study style/community, etc., as we discussed last time, and tailor pitches. It’s generally time well spent when you create targeted appeals.

    As a heads up to all, I’m really not a fan of this pitch I see more and more of, in fact, it pretty much assures I’m gonna toss a pitch in the ‘probably never look at again’ pile. I’m not sure how others feel. Someone sends me an email about how much they love my blog, how i write, how hard i work to promote romance. And they either use no address like, “Hi, Michelle,” which at least shows me they took the time to personalize their ‘form’ email — or they use the greetings, “Hi!” or “Hey!” Nothing better says to me, “Get ready, because I’m gonna bs you” like the latter. Be honest and write a professional email news release, don’t go for a half-baked ‘personalization.’

    Another thing that can turn off journos/bloggers is appealing to them by telling them what other journos/bloggers have said about the thing you’re promoting. By doing that you’ve told us a) You’ve already given this story to someone else; b) you consider us B team.

    So you see there’s a sophistication to appealing. Journos understand well what you want from them, and they want to write entertaining/interesting stories/scoops based on things you may send them. But keep in mind that doing the stuff I’ve told you about in the last couple graphs can seem condescending at worst, plain lazy at best.

    Posted by Michelle Buonfiglio | March 15, 2010, 6:22 pm
  27. That’s a great suggestion, Blythe! Press rooms.

    Even a one-sheet w/a clear b/w or color photo of your book could catch someone’s eye. Remember a catchy title that brings in your hook. Everyone else there is selling books like you. What makes a journo pick up your kit/one sheet?

    Posted by Michelle Buonfiglio | March 15, 2010, 6:25 pm
  28. Thanks for your suggestions, Michelle!

    Posted by Katharine Ashe | March 15, 2010, 8:01 pm
  29. If you are unpublished should you do a media kit?
    I am straddling the fence on spending a lot of time creating a web site and things.

    Posted by Kathy Crouch | March 15, 2010, 10:16 pm
  30. Thanks, Michelle. I’ll check out those links.

    Posted by Becke Martin/Davis | March 15, 2010, 10:22 pm
  31. Thank you for this information. This is timely for me because I’m in the process of putting together a media kit.

    Posted by Diamond McKenzie | March 19, 2010, 1:28 pm
  32. This information couldn’t have come at a better time, Michelle. Thanks so much! I’m a bit anxious, but now I’m thinking I might get through this in one piece. :shock:

    Posted by Rosie Murphy | March 19, 2010, 1:38 pm
  33. Fantastic information! I can’t wait to tell my friends about this. And, naturally, start building a media kit for myself. Thanks so much, Michelle!

    Posted by Jill Kemerer | March 19, 2010, 2:53 pm
  34. I see so many new faces. Thank you all for stopping by and commenting!

    Tracey

    Posted by Tracey Devlyn | March 19, 2010, 8:15 pm

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