Thursday, May 25, 2006

Defining an Effective Press Kit

As we were electronically tossing around a press kit draft yesterday, a client and I were working to come up with something we could rush out with the galleys in the next week or so. Under that deadline pressure, the client admitted that she still wasn't sure what the point of a press kit was.

My first reaction was to be a bit frustrated. After all, we'd talked about the purpose of a press kit extensively. However, now she wanted more...and it challenged me to really think about it. What are book publicists trying to achieve when we craft press kits? What do effective press kits add to book promotion campaigns? What's an ineffective press kit, and how can you avoid writing one, and what happens if you do?

My quick response to the question, what's the purpose of a press kit, is this. It's to capture the interest of a journalist and provide enough information about the author, and the potential story, so that the journalist can take the next step -- whether that means calling a book publicist to arrange an interview with the author, or simply writing a book review.

An effective press kit stands out in a positive way from the rest of the day's mail. It addds credibility to the author. It informs, it entices, and it leaves the journalist wanting more . . . and, one hopes, going to the source (whether it's the book, or the book's Web site, or the book publicist, or the author) to get more. It provides enough detail so that, if a journalist wanted to do a quick-and-easy story with little effort, he or she would be able to borrow enough copy from the press release to do that -- or, if the journalist wanted to do an intelligent interview with the author, the interview questions that would launch such an interview would be right there and ready to go. An effective press kit is tight, stays on topic, and is simple to read. It provides the key book information (title, author's name, publisher, ISBN, price, and so forth) in a discreet place.

In ineffective press kit sounds like a commercial for the book and/or the author. It hypes. It exaggerates. It throws too much information out at once, or it's disorganized or contains jargon, and is difficult to wade through. It lacks the key book information. It calls into question the credibility of the author and/or the book. An ineffective press kit will all but guarantee that the journalist will not interview the author, and it's probably a good bet that an ineffective press kit would also make a book review less likely to happen.

So what's the point of a press kit? I think the point of a press kit is to pitch a story to the media; to sell yourself as a credible resource; and to interest the media in finding out more. A press kit should be subtle and powerful. A press kit should launch a media story.

How can you blow a press kit? By turning the press kit into a overt advertisement, and by giving journalists an excuse to question your integrity and motives.

In other words, a press kit has to sell you as an expert, and it has to persuade the media to cover a story . . . but it has to do so without appearing to sell anything at all.

That's the challenge of creating an effective press kit.

Do it right, and you'll build a solid foundation for the book promotion campaign of your dreams. Do it wrong, and you'll hamper all of your other book promotion efforts.

There's a balance you have to strike, and it's up to your book promotion specialist, and/or your publisher, and/or you, to determine what that balance is.

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