Entries Tagged 'Press Kits' ↓

How to Write a Kickass Author Bio

I know that sometimes when you sit down to do something that should be simple, like write your own paragraph-long author bio, you just get blocked and stare at the blinking cursor and wish for death. But you’re a writer. Suck it up and write your damn bio. You’ll need it for your website, any press you get, your book covers (eventually), and your query letters. Here’s how to do it:

1. Write your bio in the same tone that you write your books.

If your books are a little humorous, your bio should be a little humorous. If your books are about familial relationships, it’s probably best to highlight your family. If you write dog training books, you’d probably better mention your dogs.

2. Keep it short.

Remember, no one cares as much about you as you do, so don’t put them through the agony of reading a page-long description of your quirks and history from age 2.

3. Make it interesting.

Your readers want to be able to connect with you on some level, so make it easier for them to do that. Think about the questions people most often ask you: What do you do? Where do you live? What are your hobbies? Do you have any kids? If you have some weird fact to share that also relates to what you write, score one for you. Use it.

4. Write it in third person.

This is true for almost everything. The major exception is, of course, query letters. Those need to be in first person because, uh, they’re letters, duh.

5. Put your name at the very front.

I tried, but I cannot think of any other item that must be in every author bio besides your name, and it should be the very first thing people read. “Jane Doe has been a writer since the tender age of blah blah blah…”

If you’re still drawing a blank, here’s some other stuff that you could include in your bio, but certainly don’t have to. Oh, and don’t include all of them. I will personally hunt you down if you use all of them in one bio. It’s just unnecessary and no one wants to read it.

  • Where you live
  • Who you live with
  • What you write (If this is for a book cover flap, what you write besides what the reader is holding in her hand.)
  • Your hobbies/how you spend your non-writing time
  • What got you into writing in the first place
  • Any REALLY BIG credentials– I’m talking New York Times Bestseller here, not Mom’s Yearly Poetry Contest winner.
  • Your educational credentials only if they relate to what you write (If you have a PhD in coniferous fungal varieties, I don’t really want to know, unless that’s what your book is about.)
  • Any causes dear to your heart or volunteer work you do (even better if it relates to your subject matter, but doesn’t have to)

Don’t forget to go around and read the bios on some of your favorite authors’ websites and get some ideas for what you’d like to do with yours. Remember, this writing stuff is fun, so enjoy it!

Press Here, Press

Don’t forget to make your press kit available online! The press doesn’t want to search through endless cutesy pages of stuff to find what they need. Everything in your press kit should be available on one page in your “press room,” ready to print or download.

Also, I’ve heard from a marketing presenter, the press room page of your website will consistently be the most trafficked part of your site. I’ll keep an eye on my sitemeter and see if that turns out to be true, but it makes sense. I always click on the link for the press, just because it makes me feel special. (Take that, press. I can see everything you can see.)

Press Kit, sans Pink Kitties

In order to do press releases and get yourself some media attention, you’re going to need a press kit. A press kit must include:

1. press release
2. book tip sheet
3. biography

It should also include:

4. photo
5. business card
6. book reviews (which should only be short blurbs excerpted from full book reviews, and can optionally go on the book tip sheet)
7. excerpts
8. copy of your book
9. recent newsletter
10. bookmarks and other promotional items
11. pitch letter

We’ll go over a lot of pieces of this in other articles, but to cover the most important aspect of the kit, the press release, I’d like to direct you to a how-to article. (Hey, why am I gonna rewrite what’s already been written by someone who knows what she’s doing a lot better than I do? Hm?) Check out How to Write a Press Release by Luan Aten. Follow it carefully. You’re a writer, so don’t whine about how hard it is to write a press release. You wrote a freaking novel. A press release is nothing. Here’s a word of warning though: Spin it. You’re not writing a release about how your book is coming out. That’s boring. Find an angle. “Local author published in emerging eBook format.” Something like that. Consider your audience. You might have a few different press releases to use, depending on where you’re submitting them.

Your book tip sheet is just a simple one-pager with the following information: title, author’s name, publication date, genre, page count, blurb, reviews. Format it nicely on your letterhead and don’t go over a page in length.

Each press kit will have a different pitch letter. I know, whine whine whine, it requires work, but in order to pitch yourself, you need to be targeting the specific place you’re pitching to. Think of it as a book pitch. Get those hooks and twists in there and think of a unique way to market yourself, beyond “my book is coming out.” I guarantee no one cares that your book is coming out besides maybe your mom.

Once you get everything together for your press kit, I suggest finding a nice way to present it. Since you’re an eBook author, have all of this stuff available (and formatted beautifully on your letterhead) in electronic format. You might even consider presenting the whole kit on a cd, though I would suggest presenting it in print format too for more traditional outlets.

To present it beautifully in print format, find a pocket folder that fits your brand. You don’t have to order custom folders, but consider getting folders in a color that goes with your letterhead. You can find pocket folders with a window in front to let your letterhead show through, or you can even print up stickers with your logo to attach to the front of the folders. Remember, be professional. No pink kitties. Some folders also come with perforations where you can insert a business card.

We’ll talk about where to submit your press releases in another article.

Letterhead, Cheddarhead

Now that you have your marketing plan in place, including ideas for your colors and theme, we can get started with some actual designing. If you’ve had someone design your website, you’re ahead of the game. If not, don’t despair. Designing is fun! One more time, with gusto: Designing is fun!

If you’ve done a good website yourself (and, I can’t stress this enough, “good” means you’ve had significant design experience and are pleased with the results) or if you’ve had someone design your website, use what you’ve already got to begin the process of creating a letterhead. You’ll need a letterhead for your press kit and your professional correspondence. You can’t use stationary with pink kitties on it. It’s not professional. You could probably get away with some simple, classy monogrammed letterhead, but this way is fun and cheap and stays consistent with your brand.

More than likely, you have some sort of banner that goes across the top of your page. This is usually a good place to start to pull our graphics to use for your letterhead. It’s usually as simple as right-clicking and saving to your desktop. Look through your website and find those little nuggets. (Disclaimer: It’s probably best if you check with your web designer to make sure it’s ok with her. She did design the graphics, after all.) Here are some pieces from my website (an older design) I might be able to use:

(Something like the About Sonja graphic might be good for other marketing materials, like my bio for my press kit, which we’ll talk about in a different article.)
If you’ve got a book cover, you might consider using that somewhere.

There is a possibility that, if you’ve had someone else do your design, you won’t find any piece that will work for a letterhead because it’s all chopped and spliced for the web. Now you have a few options: You can email your web designer and ask for files of the graphics in a format that you can use, or you can make something up on your own.

So let’s say you can’t get anything from your website for some reason. No problem. There are a wealth of images available on the internet. Surf, surf my darlings. But please keep in mind that most images floating around on the internet are copyrighted by someone somewhere. In order to avoid copyright infringement, I suggest either making sure the website where you’re getting your graphics says “FREE” really big on it, or you’re buying them for a nominal fee from a stock image place like istockphoto. In the long run, if you’re going to use the graphic on all of your marketing stuff, coughing up a dollar to buy a stock photo is not that big of a deal.

Ok, now you’ve got a whole stack of pretty stuff to use. DO NOT USE ALL OF IT. I’m serious. Imagine if I had to cram all those pictures I just showed you on a 1-inch section at the top of a page. No. Bad. Don’t do it. In fact, I would pull down a template from somewhere like Office Templates or just Google for letterhead template.

In whatever program you choose, play with all your pretty pictures in the layout. Keep in mind that your letterhead shouldn’t take up too much of the page. I’d say 2 inches would be about the limit, but use your judgment. Also keep in mind that you’re going to have to either print this stuff or get it printed at some point (that is, if you’re planning on doing anything in hard copy rather than electronic– we’ll talk more about this later), and you’ll want to determine how much ink you’re willing to use per sheet. Include in your letterhead information:

Your name
Your web address
Your mailing address (Yes, even if you’re working electronically, always include a mailing address for professional correspondence. If you’re uncomfortable giving out your street address, I recommend getting a PO Box.)
Your phone number (Same deal. You gotta give a number. I know you’re an introvert and you hate talking on the phone. Believe me, I feel your pain. I’d much rather IM. But listing your instant messenger name is not an appropriate substitute for your phone number. Suck it up and list it.)
Your email address (And the introverts rejoice.)

You could maybe stick your slogan somewhere in there, but don’t clutter it up. Keep things streamlined and simple. It’s letterhead, not a tri-fold brochure, people.

Et voila. You have a lovely letterhead to use for your press kits and professional correspondence.

Now, here’s the lazy method: Your web designer might do letterhead as well as websites, so if you’re already paying for a web design, see if she’ll throw in a letterhead design too. A note of caution: You must insist that she provide it in some sort of editable format (i.e. not a PDF) because you’ll want to use it for electronic documents as well as print documents.

Go forth and letter!