In promotional efforts of yore, book publicists compiled and distributed a physical press kit to the media: an info-rich folder containing a headshot, bio, cover flat, useful quotes, project blurbs, awards, and the like. Today, 95% of all promotion is handled by online interactions. PR companies, marketers, journalists, and anyone else involved in promotion require immediate access to basic materials, and they expect to find those items clearly discoverable on your website in your online press kit (OPK).
Our OPKs save our butts at least four times a week, sometimes more. Inevitably, your OPK serves as a resource for you and the outside world, making things more efficient on both sides. Much of the content appears elsewhere on your website and social media pages, but gathering it in one easily accessed place for quick reference when you’re on deadline and can’t remember where you put that 150x150 avatar a reviewer needs.
If you’re building your OPK from scratch, tackle it in baby steps. Begin with a few elements you have right in front of you, then supplement as time permits. Focus on the simple bits that often prove the most powerful and necessary: alternate lengths on blurbs and bios, links to your communities, cover art. Anything will be more helpful than nothing.
Damon’s online press kit started small: bios in three lengths, social networking links, and a basic banner. The earliest iteration consisted mainly of stumps and spaces because his first novel hadn’t released and he had extras to offer. Still, he laid the groundwork, making spaces for that content as it arrived faster and thicker than expected. When building out the press kit, the pre-existing structure helped him sort through everything and plan for the future.
Heidi, meanwhile, had detailed information scattered throughout her site, until she heard a panel of Romantic Times magazine editors complain about how poorly designed websites complicate their jobs. They gave a handout describing ideal OPKs, which Heidi implemented the moment she got home. As soon as it went up, bloggers and media praised the addition, and the love hasn’t stopped flowing since.
To create a powerful OPK, all you need to do is centralize, strategize, synergize. Your press kit will never be finished, but it needs to start now.
This is the easiest step and will take the least amount of time. Just gather all the marketing components folks request regularly. Include anything that you’ve had to send to more than three entities that promote your work or love your books.
- Give options: As you compile your material, provide versions of your bio, photos, and artwork that meet different needs. You cannot predict every eventuality, but we guarantee you can think of some regular (and irregular) requests that could be addressed before they come.
- Remember resolution: For images, video, and audio, graininess looks hideous and unprofessional. Format the eye candy at a high resolution, while keeping bandwidth and hosting spaces in mind.
- Embrace placeholders: Missing stuff? No worries. Nothing is a perfect beginning. Make note of the absent elements and gaps that can be filled later. Consider material you might want to add as the need arises and your career develops.
Keep loading the whole mess into a single, massive document until you think you’ve found everything. List the things you still need to create or acquire.
Once you have your pieces in a pile, it’s time to put the puzzle together.
Our goal in this phase is organizing for ease of access and brand coherence. First, arrange your press kit by demand, putting the most requested sections at the top. Here’s a possible structure:
- Author bios (at least three lengths)
- Contact links
- Title list (including ISBN, length, publisher, release date, main character names, mini-blurbs)
- Book covers and banners (in several sizes, including hosting links to save their bandwidth)
- Author banners (in several sizes, including hosting links to save their bandwidth)
- Recognition (quotes, awards, endorsements)
- A/V material
- Avatars and artwork (in several sizes, including hosting links to save their bandwidth)
- Headshots (in several sizes, including hosting links to save their bandwidth)
- Topics for interviews and articles
- Panel/workshop/speaking topics
Brand matters. Every author and every book is different. Your OPK should be distinctive to your work and your goals. If you’re making a big push for YouTube interviews, then A/V might come earlier. If you want to promote a series of educational articles, interview topics might lead the list. In essence, your goal should be to frontload the popular info, yet include things visitors might not have thought to request.
Once you have a rough shape, think about how you can streamline it and solve problems in advance. Ultimately when anyone searches for your name on the web, your OPK should appear as close to the top of the list as possible, and visitors should be able to locate what they need swiftly and intuitively. Folks only have to ask if you don’t make things easy to find.
Divide the OPK into discrete, easy-to-navigate sections with LOTS of cross-linking so people don’t have to scroll all the hell over. Remember: this webpage should help folks who will be in a hurry to get what they need. Include many handy “Back to Top” links that will whisk them back to the OPK’s table of contents.
Make the OPK easy to find or they won’t find it. Include a link to your online press kit on EVERY page of your website. Include a way to contact you if they need something you’ve forgotten, and then the moment you’ve rustled it up, add it to the press kit for the next visitor.
Every millimeter of the OPK should sell you and your books in a logical structure. People want to help you. Ensure that their attention accomplishes what you want.
Now that you assembled all your pieces in a useful shape, you need to polish that page like there’s no mañana! In essence, this final phase never ends, evolving throughout your career so your OPK continues to keep your “brand” in the fire.
This press kit establishes your permanent presence for the entire web as firmly and positively as possible. Help your components produce an effect greater than the sum of their parts. Fill the gaps as you can, and constantly improve on what’s already in place. Brand yourself, and then help that brand evolve over time so you claim your spot in a crowded field. Keep your content fresh and current. The more you give visitors what they need in a way that supports your own marketing message, the more their coverage will resonate with your branding and presence.
As new material comes in, slide it into the relevant place on the page. When you get an info request, shoot them the necessary materials and a helpful link. Folks can just find the data on the page themselves, but you’d rather save them a step. By linking to your OPK in correspondence, you ensure they know where to look next time.
The Handy-Dandy Swiss-Army Press Kit
Who couldn’t use a clever, devoted press secretary who works 24/7 for no pay? Like a loyal employee, your OPK becomes your first line of defense against distractions and easily answered requests.
No one knows your work better than you, so no one can or will sell it with your care and enthusiasm. What about you and your work will get the right kind of attention? What are the elements that provide the simplest, strongest entry point for someone unfamiliar with your backlist? Make your content singular and memorable.
Stay vigilant about finding new hooks, angles, and spark. What will they want to know? Where have you been and where are you headed? What should fans anticipate from you? Why do new readers need to take a closer look? How will your brand and your books evolve, and how can your online content reflect and support that future?
Spin is critical and sizzle sells, especially as niche markets push the boundaries of mainstream appetites and the publishing landscape buckles under us. A centralized, strategized, synergized online press kit works for you, feeding the marketing mob so you can spend your time writing the next book as you ought. Remember: the next book does more to sell your work, build your brand, and define your presence than anything else.
At the end of the day, the sizzle only matters if there’s steak on the plate.
© 2016 Damon Suede & Heidi Cullinan, All Rights Reserved