Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Hedging your promotional bets

My eldest son, Karel, has a diploma in publicity and promotion. He ultimately decided that this wasn’t what he wanted to do in life, but I’ve made good use of his educational experience over the past few years.

Frankie noted last week that she has a new book out. This is really great. We’ve all heard it said that having a new book is a lot like having a new baby: now you’ve got to bring it up. So my topic today is a timely one for Frankie, but also to all us.

Most publishers aren’t very good doing personal promotion for their authors; certainly the midlist ones often get little or no help. They don’t even get a promotional package.

A what? Exactly. How many of you out there know what a promotional package should contain? How many of you have ever heard of one?

A promotional package is something a publicist sends out to people and organizations they’re hoping will get the word out. It’s designed to pique interest and once that’s accomplished, make it easier for the target party to do their job, or in the case of an interview, to prime the pump. You don’t think that interviewer read your book, formulated those questions, took a huge interest in your work did you? Well, the people behind him/her on the show probably didn’t either. All this heavy lifting was probably done by the book’s publicist’s promotional package.

Now, if I’ve piqued your interest, here’s the first and most important item this little godsend contains.

A Backgrounder: This is the heart of the package. It’s basically a dressed-up bio. It should have a good author photo on it (be smart and get one professionally done). It will have general biographical information on it, focusing in on interesting things about the author. Then it will go to work on writing and publishing credentials. Either at the beginning or end of the backgrounder will be information on the new book itself, depending on how the backgrounder is framed by the publicist. Finally, it will include all necessary contact information. Even if the author is doing the package (likely), it should contain contact information back to the publisher’s publicity department (and they should vet what the author is doing, of course), as well as direct contact information to the author — and a promise to rush answer any and all questions that come in.

Everything should be laid out in a professional and inviting manner. A sloppy, I-have-a-computer-and-a-brain-so-therefore-I-can-design document won’t get you very far with a professional organization, unless you have a hell of a compelling story they’re interested in!

These days, most promo packages are sent electronically and that’s good news for us struggling authors. A fully realized, printed promo package is an expensive thing. Now, they’re packaged as PDFs and sent out, the expense being confined to concept and design. Why PDFs? Because you can control how the content will look. Do yourself a huge favour and don’t use Word. I receive Word documents daily and the way they look on my computer is usually WAY different from the originator’s computer, most often to the negative. Believe me, you don’t want this to happen with your promo package. The pros use PDFs because they will look exactly the same on every computer.

I’ll continue with this topic in next week’s post when we’ll discuss the “background article”.

If you’d like to see one, contact me and I’ll send you the backgrounder we created for my most recent book.

Later...enough people asked to see it, so here it is (click on it to see it larger):


John R Corrigan said...

Rick, Great advise and insights. Thanks for sharing. Can you post an example somewhere?

Melodie Campbell said...

Excellent start with this topic, Rick! Looking forward to the next installment.

Hannah Dennison said...

I agree!! I look forward to the next installment too!

Donis Casey said...

I'd like to see an example, as well.

Frankie Y. Bailey said...

Yes, this is great info. I'm just seeing because I've been busy editing.

Thanks, Rick.

Donis Casey said...

Thanks, Rick