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Friday, February 22, 2008

What to Put in Your Media Packet

Your media packet represents you to the media and to conference organizers or others who might be interested in your work. Your publisher will probably instruct your publicist to put together one for you. Typically the publisher will have a list of outlets they’ve worked with in the past. So, it’s best to ask for that list and supplement it by sending out your own kits. You can also share your media kit at conferences because it’s not unusual for book reviewers, bookstores, and publications to attend. If you have a copy of your media kit with you, it’s easy enough to hand it out on the spot. Do ask first, however. Some folks would rather you mail your kit to them later.

Here’s the point: Your publicist will never send out as many media kits as you’d like. And you can’t pass one along if you don’t have it. So putting together a media kit is a wise idea. Besides, it really isn’t that hard.

Start by Preparing Your Folders

Start by buying folders with pockets from an office supply store. Or ordering nicer quality folders from places like Paper Direct. (

Ask your publisher to “over-run” the cover of your book. Do this before they go to press. After they finish printing all the covers they need for your press run, they will keep the color press going and crank out more covers. This makes the additional covers very, very cheap. What costs the most is the set-up of the press.

Adhere the cover to the front of your folder OR slip it inside your folder.

If you don’t have copies of your cover, you can simply label the outside of the folder. For my book The Best of British Scrapbooking, I created labels that said:

The Best of British Scrapbooking
Media Kit
Contact: Joanna Campbell Slan

You want the folder to be quickly and easily identified as YOUR information. Sure, a color copy of your cover looks great, but the media are pretty pragmatic. They are more concerned about a good interview possibility than about stuff being fancy.

Tip: Another option is to include a copy of your book cover on a CD. Also put your photo on the CD.

Tip: If you are simply sending a book in hopes of a review, just slip your information inside the front cover and dispense with the folder. Do be sure, however, that all your information includes your contact details.

Create the Guts of Your Media Kit

Your Author Photo

Sad to say, the media are more likely to interview you if you are attractive. So you need a great author photo. The mood of your photo should enhance your credibility. If you have written a thriller, and you appear pleasant and smiling in your photo, you’ve done yourself a disservice.
Okay, here’s the controversy: If you never wear makeup and you do just for your author photo, will folks recognize you at conferences? My vote is to be the best YOU possible, not to tweak your image so much you don’t match the picture.

Be sure your photographer knows you are using this photo for publicity and sells all rights to you. Otherwise, you can have problems later.

Ask your photographer how much he will charge to make 4” x 6” copies.

Tip: I ordered 100 copies of a 4”x 6” color shot for less than $10 with shipping from Snapfish. (

Tip: Keep on the lookout for Snapfish coupons in scrapbooking magazines.

Tip: You could have 100 color copies of your cover made by Snapfish. Just load the cover as you would a photo.

Media Release

You need a simple release, one-page long that quickly describes the “who, what, when, where, why and how” of your message. Answer those questions and you’ll have the guts of the release.
Now, let’s work backwards. What’s the most interesting aspect of what you’ve done? Consider what makes anything newsworthy:

1. Sex (if that’s part of your book or your book’s hook, go for it)

2. Money (see above. Also were you given an enormous advance? If you were, what the heck are you doing reading this? Give me a break.)

3. Location (Are you local? Are you a small town person with a New York publisher? Is your book set in or near the area covered by the media you are targeting?)

4. Number of people affected (My book is about scrapbooking, and by one estimate there are 32 million scrapbookers in this country alone. That’s a big number. If your book affects or is about a lot of people or a problem that could affect a lot of people mention that.)

5. Blood, guts and tragedy (Of course, if it’s a mystery, there’s bound to be some of that. Otherwise…is your killer unique? Or some part of your story fascinating. For example, Darkly Dreaming Dexter is about a serial killer.)

6. Celebrity (Are you famous? Is your story about someone who is famous? Perhaps you’ve written a roman a clef about someone in the news. Share that. Also, someone can be a celebrity in an industry or in an area, but not a national celebrity, so don’t disregard your stint on the city council too quickly.)

7. Unique (Are you the oldest person to be given a publishing contract? One of a family of sextuplets? Are you a Siamese twin? Distantly related to George Washington’s slaves? The only person in your state to ever write a book? Whatever makes you one of a kind is newsworthy.)
Human Interest (If you love kittens and your book is about one, or if you have a sappy ending or if you wrote this book because your dying grandmother begged you to…share that.)

Standard media release format is always used for these. See the sample at the end of this piece.

Tip: A press release is a release that only goes to the press: magazines and papers. So the term "media release" is more current and all-encompassing.

Reviews and Blurbs

Create a sheet with all your blurbs. If you have already had media coverage, copy those articles and put them in the packet. If you’ve made any appearances on television or radio, you can include a CD or put in a page with links to those videos and audios. If you’ve had any public speaking background, you might wish to include this. Broadcast media—radio and tv—want to know if you can handle yourself on air and if you are well-spoken. Make sure that your information answers that question for them.

A Tip Sheet or a List

If it applies to your book, you can produce a tip sheet. For example, if your book is about a pet-sitter, you could write Ten Tops Tips for Pet-Sitters.

Another take on this is a list. So you might create Ten Things to Ask Your Pet-Sitter.

An Author Bio

Try to stay away from clich├ęs or long-winded information that’s not interesting. Think of the highlights of your life and why you were the right person to write this book. The main reason to do an author bio is to enhance your credibility, so stress your qualifications as an author. If this is your first book, what else have you written? (If the answer is “nothing,” you must be the luckiest person on earth. However, knowing that the media will want to know all this…write something! Create a blog. Contribute to an organization’s newsletter. Freelance articles.

Sample Interview or Sample Questions or an Author Q & A

The more of the media’s job you do for them, the more likely they are to cover you. So…think like a reporter and interview yourself. To get a sense of what questions a reporter might ask, read interviews with authors in your newspaper. (If your newspaper doesn’t interview authors, check out the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and book editor Jane Henderson. Or, go to websites of prominent authors you admire and read interviews with them.)


If you can’t include a copy of your book, include an excerpt. Bes ure to get your publisher's permission.

Cover Letter

Go ahead and ask for what you want! If you’re hoping for a review, tell the media that you’ll be happy to send a copy of your book for review purposes. If you’re hoping for an interview, tell them you are available in person or by phone. But…you are not the greatest thing since sliced bread, so be straightforward and business like. For example, “I hope you’ll be interested in reviewing my book. If you are, simply email me and I’ll get you a copy.” OR “I’m available for radio interviews, and I hope that you will consider me as a guest on an upcoming program.”

Media Release (This should be centered, but won't let me without centering everything! Use 16 point type and a serif font. Serifs are those funny little feet on letters. This is a serif font. This isn't.)

For Immediate Release: (today’s date)
Contact: (Your publicist or you)
Phone: (Make sure you will be available. Don’t give them a number and go on vacation!)
Email address:

Local Scrapbooking Celebrity Sets Mystery Series in St. Louis (centered)

After writing ten non-fiction books and establishing herself in the scrapbooking world as a celebrity, Joanna Campbell Slan claims it is no mystery why she chose St. Louis as the setting for her new mystery series which begins with the release of PAPER, SCISSORS, DEATH on September 13, 2008. “Our town absolutely fascinates me. You couldn’t find a richer more complex setting for a series,” says Slan.

PAPER, SCISSORS, DEATH features Kiki Lowenstein, a woman who has only ever been good at two things in life: scrapbooking and getting pregnant. After the suspicious death of her husband, Lowenstein is forced to sell her home in Ladue. But her daughter continues to attend a private school modeled after MICDS, where Slan’s son went. During the course of the book, the protagonist will travel to the City Museum to visit the World Aquarium and its famous two-headed snake, We.

“Did I model the private school after MICDS, heck, yes. St. Louis has more private schools than Chicago does, and we’re one-quarter the size of the Windy City. There’s definitely a whole private school culture here which is rich in tradition,” says Slan. “The challenge for any writer is to create an alternative universe that is new for the reader. But at the same time, it must be realistic. So I used the world I’ve gotten to know.”

Slan is well-known to scrapbookers. Here in the US, they’ve nicknamed her “The Journaling Goddess,” and in the UK they call her “America’s Scrapbooking Queen.” She’s written for all the industry magazines, taught at major conventions, and founded a contest for scrapbookers in the UK. She is also the author of seven books on the subject, teaches it online, and writes an online newsletter which reaches 4,000 readers. Her first book Scrapbook Storytelling came out when the hobby was young and sold 85,000 copies.

PAPER, SCISSORS, DEATH is the first book in the Kiki Lowenstein Scrap-N-Craft Mystery series. The ISBN is 0-7387-1250-7 and it is available through all booksellers. For more about Slan or scrapbooking go to her website:
--30-- (This is newspaper slang for "The End.")

Thursday, February 21, 2008

How to Promote Your Book

Since some of you was easier to write this up than to keep sending emails.

The best time to think about promoting your book is before you write it. Yes, I know a lot of you might disagree, but I’m the author of 12 books and I’ve sold more than 175,000 copies so I think I’m qualified to suggest this approach. By thinking before you write—or even as you write—you can build in natural audiences.

Venn Diagram Marketing Approach

You do this by finding that intersection between your reader and your characters. Think of this as a Venn Diagram. One circle would be all that comes to mind when you imagine your reader’s life and interests. Another circle is your character (or characters, but do this one at a time) and her/his unique interests and lifestyle. Where these two circles overlap, you have an arena of marketing potential. You need to keep this arena of marketing potential in your mind as you write. It’s a delicate balance. If you pander to that arena of marketing potential, your book will be a shill for products and organizations. If you ignore that arena of marketing potential, you’ll be without hooks for your manuscript.

Steps to Promotion

But let’s say you’ve already done that. Here are the promotional steps in nearly chronological order:

1. Start by getting a website. Today, a website tells people who you are and why they should buy your book. It tells folks you are for real, serious and in this for the long haul. You need to get one up and going before people can buy your book, because a lot of people will check out your website before deciding whether your work will be of interest to them. Some agents and editors will even look at your website to decide if you are going to do “what it takes” to create sell-through in the marketplace.

2. If you can’t get a website up and running (and trust me, this makes remodeling your house seem a snap), create a blog. You can do this very easily at At least you’ll have a presence on the web.

3. Join writers’ organizations. You can’t go it alone. If you don’t have time to go to meetings, join organizations with strong online communities. These communities will help you by offering you opportunities such as signings and contests and by answering your questions.
Work hard to meet people in your genre and to make contacts. Be a giver, not a taker. These people will help guide you, offer you opportunities, and perhaps blurb your book. But don’t count on any of that. Go with an open heart and an open mind. Years ago, I read a supermodel’s secret to success: “I steal with my eyes.” Great advice. Keep your eyes and ears open. You’ll learn a lot and save yourself a lot of heartache. (Believe me, I have. This is the best advice I ever read, bar none!)

4. Create a basic “kit” to promote your book: business card with your book and ISBN; bookmarks, and a media pack. Make it a goal to pass out tons of business cards. They don’t do you any good in your desk. Keep a copy of your media pack ready to mail out at all times. Yes, your media pack or kit can be files in your computer, but a hard copy is also a good idea.

5. Figure out what organizations might benefit from learning about your book. Let’s call these Allied Interest Groups or AIGs. This is where that Venn Diagram comes in handy. What special themes do you cover? Who is your main character? What is he/she involved in? What are your hobbies or your protagonist’s hobbies? Where is your book set geographically?

Think of these as links…as side roads that can lead a reader to your work. For example, my protagonist rescues a Great Dane. This provides the following organizational “links”:

Great Dane groups
Great Dane rescue organizations
Any dog rescue organization
Any dog lovers’ group

Once you figure out your AIG, think about creating a win-win situation. How can you help them? What can they offer you? (Notice the order of these questions.) Think of a win-win proposal you can offer. Here’s a chance to use your creativity.

6. Create your own media list. This would include:

Your local media
Any alumni publications
Any other affiliations you have—churchs and synagogues, clubs, associations, professional groups, neighborhood alliances, businesses you patronize, where you work, organizations your children are part of

7. Make connections with local booksellers. Don’t press yourself on them. You might even volunteer your time. Learn about their customer base. Your goal is to be an ambassador for your book, not to be a pest or to demand that your book be front and center. And never, ever demand a book signing or demand that they carry your book. Both are privileges.
If your book would be a fit, ask (do NOT demand) to do a signing or special event at the store. But you need to realize it will be up to you to market the event, so think this through.

You can also do stock signings.

Some booksellers will let you talk to their employees or post a message in their coffee-break room.

8. Read every book you can get your hands on about marketing, promoting and publicizing your book. Sign up for Murder Must Advertise (, a wonderful service by Jeff Marks. You never know when you’ll stumble over a great idea.

Ideas will fall into two categories:

Saturday, February 16, 2008

About Giving Away Your Book

In my last post, I mentioned that an overly enthusiastic author pushed a copy of his book into my hands at Love Is Murder.

I received a lot of comments about that…both here and in my personal email account.

So I need to be very clear: I wasn’t angry with him. No, he wasn’t a bad guy. He was a very nice man. And his book might be just fabulous. It was nicely done from what I could see.

I don’t blame him. I wasn’t writing about what he did to blame him. In fact, I identified with him. A lot.

See, Paper, Scissors, Death will be my eleventh published book. I still get really, really pumped about seeing my work in print. But along the way I’ve learned to temper my exuberance.

I’ve also noticed something else. When I think back to conferences I’ve attended, I realized that over the past year I’ve not only had people push their books into my hands, I’ve actually been given three books free by the authors. All the books were self-published. Does that mean the books are no good? Not at all. (This isn’t an A plus B equals C sort of thing.) Does it mean the authors were selling themselves short? I think so. I mean, something about these folks handing over their work devalued it. I guess the very act, while generous and well-meaning, gave me the message they didn’t trust me to seek out their work. Or to buy it. And maybe, just maybe, they were also telling me they weren’t sure their work was worth the price on the cover either.

So I tried to imagine a few of my favorite authors handing over copies of their books. (I conjured up images of Anne Perry and Nancy Pickard, both lovely women whose work I admire.) And I just couldn’t. In fact, last week when I met Leighton Gage, author of Blood of the Wicked, he mentioned his daughter wanted to give away a copy of his book. He told her, “Authors don’t give away their books.” There was this tone in his voice of fatherly advice and I really took it to heart. (Thanks, Leighton!)

But I truly do understand that urge. I used to be just like that guy at Love Is Murder. In fact, I was probably worse. I’d give away copies of my books at the merest hint anyone was interested. For example, a home repair guy was walking through our house. He noticed my scrapbooking supplies. He commented his wife likes to scrapbook. So I did the logical next thing…I gave him a book.

Duh. Do you think he discounted his work for that? No.

Finally, my husband took me aside. “I don’t give away Steinways,” David said.

“But this is a book. It’s not a Steinway,” I said.

“Joanna, you put yourself through college. You’ve worked for years as a writer. Your work has value. You need to stop giving stuff away. Give yourself a little credit,” David said.

He was right. I remembered something I learned at good old Ball State U during a psychology class. They found that therapists who charged indigent patients a buck for a session found their patients improved faster than those who did sessions for free. It’s just human nature. We value what we pay for.

So if you’re at a conference and you are carrying a copy of your book, resist RESIST resist the urge to press it into someone’s hands. And if the urge to give away your book hits you…go up to your room lie down, take two aspirins, and call your favorite bookseller in the morning. And if you see me doing it—give me a swift kick in the butt, okay?

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Reviewing My Promotional Efforts at Love Is Murder

So, now’s the hard part. I need to review what I did to promote myself at Love Is Murder and decide what was worthwhile. Okay, here goes:

1. Interviews—I still think this was worthwhile. When I spoke to Tess Gerritsen, Lee Child and Barry Eisler, they all remembered my name. Lee said it was the best interview he’d ever had, which was the sort of psychological boost that keeps me going.

2. Business cards—Definitely worthwhile. I just need to train myself to pass them out.

3. Presentation and appearances—There’s no way to check this out…but I was lucky enough to be assigned to a panel with Jon Jordan. I asked if I could do some writing for CrimeSpree and I wouldn’t have had the courage to do this without being on the panel.

4. Promoting myself as a writer with expertise as a speaker—Well, not so good. American Airlines kept canceling my flight so I raced into an empty room 10 minutes late. I was told no one was waiting, and it made sense. Most of the folks there early had paid to go to Master Classes, and I’m realistic. Between me and Tess Gerritsen, heck, it’s no contest. But I did worry about the unsold copies of Using Stories and Humor. So I had to make a mid-course adjustment and figure out how to sell the book…(Which I did. See below.) I really, really wanted to beat myself up over this. I felt horrible. But I decided in the end, it was better to move on. There was nothing I could do.

5. Handouts—Rosemary Harris came up to me and told me she STILL had my handout from SleuthFest, proving to me (at least) that good handouts are worthwhile.

6. Recipe Cards and Homemade Cookies—It was difficult to give these away. I had a real attack of shyness and awkwardness. I mean, I found it hard to decide when to share them and how. Have to work on this.

7. Pre-Order Contest--Vicki Erwin of Main Street Books was kind enough to agree to take pre-sales. ( 636-949-0105 ) She'll keep a list of all the pre-ordered books. From those, I'll draw one purchaser's name to be included as a character in book #2. I don’t know if this will work or not. It’s early days.

8. Bookmarks—Now I know I need two kinds: the fancy ones I customize to hand out personally and the plain ones. The plain ones can be left in a room for people to pick up willy-nilly, but since the customized ones take so much time, I should hand them out individually.

9. Prizes—Didn’t get them passed out. Just couldn’t figure out how to make this work. But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea, just needs tweaking.

10. A Small TBR Album—Unsure. It did impress some people.

One thing I learned NOT to do.

An excited author came up and told me about his book. Then he pressed a copy into my hands. I felt very uncomfortable. I felt backed into a corner. What do you say? This isn't my kind of book? Please back off? Well, I couldn't. People may think I'm tough, but...I just didn't know what to do except lie and promise I'd buy a copy so he would move on. That's a lesson to me: There's a fine line and making folks uncomfortable around you is bad stuff.

Benefits and Opportunities Along with a Mid-Course Adjustment

And now for the benefits I couldn’t have planned for and my “mid-course adjustment.”

1. In the shuttle bus, Al B. from Florida (sorry, I didn’t write down your last name, buddy!), told me he’d read this blog and the post. So that proves that just doing this blog was worthwhile. Thanks, Al!
2. My mid-course adjustment to not being able to promote my textbook during my session on presenting: I decided to give Joe Konrath a copy of Using Stories and Humor. Joe knows so much about this business, and he’s so generous about sharing his resources. I figure if he likes it, and if he runs across someone who needs that information, he’ll share it. A good thing, I think.
3. Carried around a copy of Using Stories and Humor, mentioned it during my last panel. I know we sold some copies. That worked!
4. Met with Tom Schreck, another Midnight Ink author and heard about some of this promotional ideas. Tom has done well with going to basset hound events, since his book features, Al, the basset hound. That encourages me to continue to work with the Great Dane rescue people.
5. Learned the value of getting my blurbs in early. From several people I heard you are safest if they go in with your manuscript. Important stuff.
6. Saw how Barry Eisler with his great joie de vivre totally wowed people. A reminder that energy attracts energy.
7. Offered to write for CrimeSpree.
8. Met the great Earl Merkel and was reminded that sending along a recording of an interview helps radio folks decide whether to book you.
9. The nice people at Brain Snacks not only carried Using Stories and Humor but also told me about a scrapbooker who got kicked out of the Hall of Fame, something I’d missed. That was important since I write about scrapbooking. (And yeah, I'm not surprised.)
10. Met a librarian from the Palatine Library. Yeah!
11. Got a recommendation about a store north of Chicago that’s great for signings.
12. Michael Dymmoch offered to help with the next Forensic U. That’s priceless.
13. Will continue to do interviews for LIM. That’s really professional development in disguise!
14. Kelle Z. Riley shared a nice contact at a bookstore. Thanks, Kelle!

Was It Worth It?

Was it worth it? Well, I didn’t have my mystery in hand, so it’s not like I can point to sales, but when I review all the new opportunities, knowledge, and the contacts, I think it was very worthwhile. I’m struck by the fact that when you go to a conference, you have no idea of the opportunities that might come your way…and I remember the saying, “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” So, if I keep putting myself where lightening will strike, who knows?