JK Rowling has one. Lee Child has one. You should have one too. Simon Whaley explains what to put in your Media Kit.
Eric James is a children’s author, word tickler and champion asparagus thrower. He’s sold over 2.5 million books in the UK, USA, Canada and Australia. How do I know all of this? Because he’s put all this information, and more, in his Media Kit on his website (www.ericjames.co.uk).
When it comes to the business of writing, we need to make life easy for anyone who might promote us to a wider readership. Perhaps you’ve had an article published and the editor is looking for a short biography and head-and-shoulders photo of you to use in the This Month’s Contributors slot. Or a journalist may have heard, via your’s or a publisher’s press release, that you have a new book coming out, and they’ve got a 30-minute deadline to write a short feature about you. Where can they find all they need to know about you and your writing?
This is where a Media Kit comes in. It gives any prospective journalist or public relations officer all the relevant and pertinent information about you and your work that they need. Include the right information and it will earn its keep many times over. So what should your media kit contain?
All About You
Firstly, it’s worth bearing in mind that a media kit is designed to help journalists and the media sector. It’s not written for your readers. So even if you have an About Me page on your website, where you reveal to your readers why you write, where you take your dog for a walk, who your favourite English teacher was at school and where you get your inspiration from, you still need to have a separate webpage to act as your media kit.
The first thing to include is a biography. Actually, make that three. Yes, many media kits have two or three biographies, each of different lengths. This offers flexibility, depending upon what the media is looking for.
Short Biog: Eric James lives in the south of England with his beautiful family. He’s a children’s author, word tickler and champion asparagus thrower. To date he has sold over 2.5 million books and is published in the US, UK, Canada and Australia.
This is the perfect length for an editor or journalist to use in a This Month’s Contributor’s slot, or at the very end of an article if they’ve acquired the right to reprint a sample from your latest book.
Medium Biog: Eric James lives in the south of England with his beautiful family. He’s a children’s author, word tickler and champion asparagus thrower. To date he has sold over 2.5 million books and is published in The US, UK, Canada and Australia. As penance for what clearly must have been a very wicked past life, Eric spent 12 years as a programmer. A well-timed midlife crisis caused him to quit his job, move to Thailand and start writing. He has since written over 10 titles for a number of publishers – not all of them under the same moniker.
This gives a little more background, and often includes aspects of the writer’s life that may or may not relate to their writing career. This is ideal for the journalist writing a more in-depth piece. Try writing it in a style that conveys your personality too.
Some media kits have a longer biography, citing the publication dates of an author’s works, sales to date, awards and other notable achievements. A good example is JK Rowling’s, which can be found at https://www.jkrowling.com/media-kit/
As well as words, journalists are looking for fabulous photos to accompany their piece, and these generally fall into three categories: author shots, event images, front covers.
A minimum requirement is a head-and-shoulders image, similar to those that you find accompanying the articles in Writing Magazine.
Photos of you at events are a great way to illustrate your writing life: signing books, collecting an award, giving a talk.
Front covers are key, especially if you have a new book to promote. But include all of your front covers, because they are vital for a journalist who needs to fill a two-page splash about you. A selection of images also demonstrates your breadth of work.
All photos need to be high quality jpegs, of at least 300dpi for print publication purposes. If you’re unsure whether your images are of a high enough quality ask a photographer friend to check them for you.
Writers are often asked the same questions over and over again: Where do you get your inspiration? Describe your typical writing day. How do you overcome writers’ block? What advice would you give to budding writers? It can be useful to include a range of these as part of your media kit, and then offer your answers underneath. Journalists can take these and use them as quotes within their article.
Going back to Eric James’ media kit, I can use one of his FAQ answers to add some life and further interest to this feature. For example, his journey to becoming a published writer in need of a media kit wasn’t typical.
‘When we returned from Thailand,’ he says, ‘I resolved to self-publish my first book, which is a tale of sibling rivalry. I never considered trying to get it traditionally published – I was interested in learning about crowd-funding and the world of self-publishing. So I tried my hand at doing a Kickstarter project. I didn’t manage to hit my funding target but my book was put in front of a publishing company, and after showing them several other rhymes (one of which was all about monsters) I was asked if I could write a rhyme based around Halloween. I had the first, almost complete version on their desk before the end of that day.’
So, by offering answers to common questions, you’re giving journalists direct quotes they can use in their features.
If you’re launching a new title, consider making all of your FAQs related to that particular book. Explain which was your favourite part of the writing process, what did you learn, and how you came to write the book on this topic in the first place. And look to the future too – mention your current work-in-progress.
It’s useful to have some technical information about your published books, especially your latest. Create a separate document for each book, usually in PDF format, that journalists can download as they require.
A sell sheet typically includes:
• Book title
• Format (paperback, hardback, ebook),
• Number of pages (and sometimes the size of the book),
• Publication date,
• Availability (eg, Amazon, Apple Bookstore, Smashwords, independent bookshops, Waterstones, etc)
Include an excerpt, or some sample text, such as the first chapter. Add an author photo and front cover on this sheet too, along with your contact details in case a journalist has further questions that cannot be answered from your Media Kit.
Media / Upcoming Appearances
If you’ve had any previous media exposure, include links to the relevant websites so journalists can read them. And if you have any publicity events booked in the future, such as author talks, books signings or after-dinner speaking engagements, then list these, with any relevant organiser’s contact details. Some journalists may include some of these events in their piece, providing you with useful publicity.
One of these events might provide the topical hook the journalist needs to write about you in the first place. If you’re launching your next book at a local library in a month’s time, a journalist might want to write about it in the local newspaper. That’s when they’ll seek out your media kit and further information for the rest of their feature.
If you’ve won any competitions, or received any awards for your writing, then list those accolades here. Even if you didn’t win, mention nominations or if you were shortlisted.
Social Media Links
You should have links to your social media accounts elsewhere on your website, but make sure you include them on your Media Kit page too.
List all of your preferred methods of contact so anyone can get in touch with you should they need more details. If you own your own domain name and email address, it can be useful to set up a dedicated address, such as firstname.lastname@example.org. Not only does it look more professional, but should you receive any emails via this address you’ll know immediately it’s one to be looked at promptly.
Include your agent’s contact details here, if you have one and they’re happy for you to do so.
It doesn’t matter what stage of your writing career you’re at, it’s worth investing a little time in creating a media kit. Remember to refresh it every time you launch a new book, and think about the sort of information a journalist, reviewer, blogger or public relations officer might want to know. You never know who may find it useful.
I hadn’t come across children’s writer Eric James until I started researching writers with media kits. And because Eric had one, I was able to approach him and ask him a few extra questions (see his advice in the boxout) about his Media Kit experience. This also means that you now know about Eric too. That’s the power of Media Kits!
Business Directory – Eric James’ Media Kit Advice
‘I first heard about Media Kits online, through a writers’ forum I regularly visited. I don’t think there’s a downside to having a media kit, but there could be a downside to not having one. It doesn’t require a huge investment in time, and there’s no reason why you can’t construct a media kit in such a way that it largely avoids the need for regular updating. Think of it as having a CV especially tailored for reviewers. Put yourself in the position of a reviewer and ask what information would make your job easier. That’s the information you want to include.’
Other Example Media Kits
Simon Whaley: http://www.simonwhaley.co.uk/media-kit/
Lee Child: http://www.leechild.com/downloads.php
Peter James: https://www.peterjames.com
Cathy Kelly: http://www.cathykelly.com/press/
Rachel Abbott: https://www.rachel-abbott.info
Clare Mackintosh: https://claremackintosh.com/media/
Khaled Hosseini: http://khaledhosseini.com/media-pages/media-room/