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Top 5 Things in Your Promotion Package

At the beginning of the month, I gave you the Top 5 reasons why you should have a promotion plan, even as an (as yet) unpubbed writer. Today I want to talk about what you need in your promotion package.

I put them in order of importance, but I really think having all of them ready for when that Big Call comes in, will make your life a lot easier!

#1) Blurb & Elevator Pitch. If you’re ready to start submitting, then you probably already have a blurb and elevator pitch, but if not, make sure that you’re prepped to talk about your book on a moment’s notice, and that you have a written blurb which will represent your book well.

#2)  Business Card. Your business card should be professional, attractive, and preferably will match your website in tone and theme.  It needs to prominently display your name and your contact information (At a bare minimum, Phone number, Email Address, Website).

#3) Website. This is, as you might imagine, my favorite topic, which I can go on about for days (and have, on occasion,  much to the chagrin of the people forced to listen). I won’t insult you and tell you that you MUST hire a professional, but if you don’t, make sure that your site looks like you have. I’ll talk at more length about websites on the 28th, but for now, I’ll recommend that at the very least, make sure that it represents what you write well, and features your bio, your contact information, and blurbs/excerpts of each of the books you are hoping to sell. Mostly, what it needs to do is prove that you can market yourself well, and give people a way to contact you.

#4) Facebook Page & Twitter Account. It’s true that Facebook and Twitter aren’t for everyone. However, I’m going to recommend that you at least try them out before determining whether or not they are or are not for you. To be honest, the time to play is when no one is watching.  Give yourself the time to decide what Social Media options you’ll be able (and more importantly WILLING) to keep up with, and what you won’t. That way, when your finishing edits for your publisher and dealing with 100 other very important details, your main concern isn’t “Wait! How do I post a tweet again?!”

#5) Press Kit. Keep a list of articles you’ve written, or that have been written about you. You’ll want a good, professional headshot (high res, if it’s digital). A biography. (This might be a duplicate of the bio from  your website, but it could also be more formal.) Compile a list of publications to whom you might want to announce that you’ve sold. (This should include your local paper, the alumni magazine(s) from where you went to college, the newspaper of the town in which you grew up, and the newspapers of any location featured in your book (and so on).) Finally, write your press release in advance. Yes, the dates may change, and possibly the person to whom you sell. However, it’s a positive affirmation to the universe, who sometimes listens to positive affirmations. (And you’ll be that much closer to a full press release once you do sell!)

I’ll be here all day to take your questions, so feel free to ask away!  But first, I have a question for you: How close are you to having your promotion package ready?

74 responses to “Top 5 Things in Your Promotion Package”

  1. Elisa Beatty says:

    Elevator pitches…aaagh!! (Can Regency writers substitute a pitch more suitable to the time it takes to stroll down a country lane together?? For the sake of historical accuracy and all….) Still working on that sucker…but I’m glad I heeded the advice of many Rubies to start a website and a Facebook page even though I’m not published. If you’re finaling in contests, leaving comments on other people’s blogs, submitting work, or are active in an RWA chapter, people really do come and check you out. (Eeek!!)

    When I scrape some extra money together, I’ll be knocking on your door, Liz, for a pro website!!!! (Anyone who hasn’t checked out bemispromotions.com should jump over there right now–and know that Liz designed this beautiful, super-user-friendly, trouble-free site for the Rubies!!)

    Here’s a question: when you’re designing a website for a writer, how do you go about figuring out what’s going to “look” right for that writer? How do you match the site to the person’s style?

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    • Liz Bemis says:

      Elisa–Great Question.

      First, I ask a bunch of questions about who the client is, what the client writes, and what the client is hoping to accomplish with his/her site. Often, I’ll ask to read an excerpt. And finally, I’ll ask the client to find five sites that they really love and to tell me what they love about them. If they find five sites, which usually gives me an indication of what their personal style is. (If I get five sites in monochromatic blue, guess what I’m going to design?) It’s not that I rip off any of the examples, but the five favorite sites helps me narrow down the kinds of things they really like.

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    • Amanda Brice says:

      Country lane pitch for Regency writers. Ha! I love it!

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  2. Elevator pitches. The words make me shiver. I know my book, but for some reason I get tongue tied when asked about my story. I feel like what I say is totally not what I planned and so boring. Any advice, sisters?

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    • Shoshana Brown says:

      Me too on the shivers. The only way I can give a semi-decent elevator pitch is to write it out beforehand and memorize it. Once I do that, I can modify it slightly on the fly so that it (hopefully) doesn’t sound rehearsed. But otherwise, I find myself saying something along the lines of, “It’s…you know…a book…”

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    • Me three! I’ve got a one-sentence spiel for my witch book (isn’t that enough???), but ask me anything about the story after that and I become a babbling fool.

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    • Liz Bemis says:

      I’m in the same boat. I had to give an “elevator pitch” about my business in front of the Chamber of Commerce the other day… and it’s not like I don’t know what I do… but I still managed to get tongue tied, and I’m normally a fairly comfortable public speaker. Ask me to talk for an hour, and I’m Golden. Ask me to talk for 90 seconds, and I’m a babbling idiot. 😀

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    • Tina Joyce says:

      I’m right there with you ladies. Elevator pitches are hard for me to come up with. As for knowing how make that sucker sound natural–rather than like a canned speech–yikes. I think I just have a mental block (which I’d better get over…pronto).

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  3. Shoshana Brown says:

    I’ve got 3 out of 5. Okay, more like 2.5 out of 5.

    Thanks for all the info, Liz. I’m working on a website now, and, like Elisa, looking forward to the day when I have the money to hire you. Graphic design is definitely not my thing.

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  4. Gwynlyn MacKenzie says:

    Promotion what? Okay, okay, so I was a good girl and bought my domain name—for five years—along with a privacy package to keep my info my info. I have a twitter account (does that make me a twit?) although I’m anything but proficient. I reactivated my one blog (the one in keeping with my current GH final) and once I get my scores, may reactivate the other. As for the rest, I’d probably have more success pitching elevators–if they made mitts big enough–than formulating elevator pitches. Distilling 100K into a three page synopsis is hard enough. A single line? Yeah, right. Remember me? The wordy one? 😉 I’ll work on it.

    Laurie is planning to take a day to help me get a website up, but since I write in two genres and really don’t want to have to manage two sites, I can’t imagine what it will look like. Oh, give me a garden, some fabric, yarn, two tomatoes and a frying pan. Those things I can manage. This? Maybe not so much.

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    • Liz Bemis says:

      Gwenlyn, it sounds like you’re on your way! 🙂 Good luck with the diy website! Let me know if you have any problems! My recommendation, particularly since you’re working with a couple of different time periods, is to keep it super simple. I think the biggest mistake DIYers make is to try to get overly complicated.

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      • Gwynlyn MacKenzie says:

        I may be skating with sacrilege, but I think putting so much of the promo on the authors has actually hurt the larger houses; why should an author pay a middleman when he or she is paying out of pocket and doing most of the grunt work? Yes, editors are wonderful things—especially if you get a competent one who shares your vision—but editors now freelance (of course, separating the wheat from the chaff could be interesting.) The minimal support available to the majority of authors makes a strong case for indie publishing, I’m afraid.

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        • Off subject, be I so agree.

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        • Tamara Hogan says:

          —> I may be skating with sacrilege, but I think putting so much of the promo on the authors has actually hurt the larger houses; why should an author pay a middleman when he or she is paying out of pocket and doing most of the grunt work?

          I don’t think this is sacrilege at all – it’s just a smart business question. Why sign with a traditional publisher if you’re going to be paying for and coordinating all of your own promotion anyway? Yes, editorial input, data conversion and physical distribution requires expertise, but the publishing landscape is changing by the day, providing authors with other alternatives, each with their own pros and cons. It seems to me that a traditional publisher who invests in author publicity and promotion differentiates itself from the competition and might be a more attractive option to aspiring authors than one who doesn’t provide these services. Just sayin.’

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  5. Great tip about the press kit, Liz. I hadn’t even thought of that.

    I have a biz card, plus a basic website that I maintain myself. If (when) I sell, I’ll invest a little more and get a professional site.

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  6. Tamara Hogan says:

    The thing about an elevator pitch is that you always need one, even after you sell. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been asked, “What’s your book about?” or “Tell me about your book!” since TASTE ME’s publication. It pays to have put some thought into this question before it’s asked! The audience for the explanation is slightly different – potential readers rather than agents and editors – but the need to describe your book in a quick and hopefully enticing way never goes away.

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    • Liz Bemis says:

      Tamara, It’s true! Have it down. Practice it on random family members, pets and strangers until you’re comfortable with it. 😀

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    • I hadn’t thought of that, Tammy. Good point. Now I need to remember two pitchs for current wips and a pitch for books already out there. Oh boy. I’ve got some work to do.

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  7. Laurie Kellogg says:

    I’ve got 1-4 pretty well covered, although I do need new business cards. A press kit, huh? That’s one more thing to put on my To-Do list. Thanks for the advice, Liz. It’s greatly appreciated.

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    • Liz Bemis says:

      Thanks Laurie! The most important thing is the list of places you’ll want to send your first major press release. Keep it handy! You may need it sooner than you think. 😀

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  8. Amanda Brice says:

    I love, love, love elevator pitches. I’m telling ya, I once came home from Nationals with 12 requests for a full just off of my elevator pitch at cocktail parties.

    And I know i’ve said it before, but websites are so crucial for unpublished GH finalists. It might seem like overkill, but agents and editors really do search websites out. All of the YA finalists in 2009 received an unsolicited email from a brand new editor in chief at one of the Big 6 YA imprints when we came home from Nationals. He was congratulating us on finaling, and then invited us all to submit to him. He wouldn’t have found us if not for our websites.

    Oh, and press kit? I have all that info, but not necessarily gathered together that way. So thanks Liz! Gotta do that now!

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  9. Amanda Brice says:

    Oh, and just one quick quibble. I don’t put phone number on my writing business cards, and I wouldn’t recommend that you do that. I hand them out widely at conferences whenever I meet anyone. It’s part of my greetings act. I sit down at a table at lunch and introduce myself around the table, and hand out cards. I give them to writers, agents, and editors.

    So I don’t put the phone number on, because quite frankly, random people I’ve met once don’t need my phone number. Obviously I have my phone number on my day job business cards, but that’s a business line in my office and there’s a secretary answering (since it’s the general number, not my direct line) to act as a screen.

    My “author” phone number is my personal cell phone, and I just don’t want that out there.

    Any agent or editor that might need my number will have it when I submit to them, but it’s not like they’re going to be making me an offer solely on the basis of the business card.

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    • Amanda Brice says:

      The exception to not putting the phone number on there is if you have a “writing business” (not merely are a full-time writer) that you need to drum up clients for. For example, if you offer freelance editing services or web design services or something like that, then you’ll probably want the phone number on there, in addition to the website and email address.

      But for a random writer/author handing out cards to everyone she meets (people to network with, potential readers, agents, editors) I don’t think you need the number on there, and since small pieces of paper (like business cards) are often chucked or lost during conference anyway, do you really want your personal number falling into the hands of some random person off the street in NYC?

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    • Liz Bemis says:

      That’s a good point! Since I use my Bemis Promotions business card far more often than I do my writing card, I don’t actually think about that. If you don’t have your number on your card, you can absolutely write it on for important people. (Or have 2) 😀

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  10. Rita Henuber says:

    Grr-eight tips!
    Love elevator pitches. last year Elisa mentioned a series of books “Six Word Memoirs” I highly recommend them if you are having problems distilling your story down.
    I start with ten words or less and work up from there. You can’t tell everything don’t try. Think of it like a movie trailer. Go to the heart of your story and tell that.

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  11. Great advice, Liz! This is excellent info for pre-pubs as well as been-pubs. My third book comes out this summer so I decided to do a check-up on the five points you list here and realized my own promotions package is just pitiful. I don’t have my phone # on my business cards, my website is way too busy, and my press kit is nothing more than a jumble of info kept in several places in a variety of formats. Pretty much all I’ve got under control is Farmville. (Does that count?) Thanks so much for boiling this down to a nice, manageable list. You really know your stuff!

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    • Liz Bemis says:

      Susan — I think having your phone number on your biz card may be more important BEFORE you have that first sale… and frankly, less potentially dangerous. (So that one’s totally up to you!)

      And sadly, no. Farmville does not count. 😀 But let me know when you’re ready to get started with your site! 😀

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      • Amanda Brice says:

        Yeah, I definitely wouldn’t advise a published author to put her phone number on the cards. You never know whose hands the cards will fall. YHAte to say it, but same fans are stalkerish.

        It’s less risky for an unpublished writer to have her number on her cards, since she likely isn’t going to have weirdos trying to call her, but even there it’s not necessary.

        Unlike a business where you actually might make someone an offer on the basis of meeting them at a conference (for example, Liz with her web design business), writers still have to submit. I might hand an agent or editor my card during a pitch, but I still have to send in my manuscript afterwards, so I can put the phone number in the submission package. No editor or agent in her right mind is going to come home from Nationals with my card in her hand and call me up to make me an offer just on the basis of having met me…as nice of a daydream as that is!

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      • Tamara Hogan says:

        I don’t think a phone number is necessary. All my rejections – and my offer – came via email, with an exchange of phone numbers with my agent and editor occurring later in the process.

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  12. And here I thought I was doing okay, but nope, still behind. Gah! It’s hard to write, revise, and promo—correctly. lol. Great post!

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    • Liz Bemis says:

      Good luck Rachel! I’ve been petitioning for the addition of extra hours in the day myself… But I haven’t received word back so far. 😉

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  13. liz talley says:

    Man, i really need to sit and think about how I’m promoting myself. I have most of what you said…except a business card. I really want those RTC because that’s, like, a conversation starter right there. But I need some business cards, methinks. Hmm…maybe my website designer will be willing to help me out with that. LOL

    Good tips and something we all should think about…developing presence is important.

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    • Liz Bemis says:

      Liz — Ha! Yes your web designer needs to get back to you about those RTC! 😀 (Call me about that tomorrow!) And we should do a biz card for you as well!

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  14. Thank you for the 5 tips! What I’m wondering is, I just had my website professionally done and have blogged once. Is posting a blog once a week a good idea? I’m unpubbed. Plus, should I put a blurb on my website of books that aren’t published?
    Thanks!

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    • Liz Bemis says:

      Patricia — If you are submitting then YES! You should have a blurb about each of the books you have complete on your site. And if you’re going to blog, then BLOG. And if not, then take it off your site! (Says the woman who can’t keep up with a blog to save her life!!) 😀 Which is now why my business “blog” is called “Articles” 😉

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      • Amanda Brice says:

        I agree with Liz. I got rid of my personal blog because I can’t keep up with it, and if you don’t have regular new content, people won’t come back for more. So now I just have my two small group blogs, plus the Rubies! (And I link to them from my page.) The “blog” feature on my WordPress site is just for news now.

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      • Thanks for taking the time to respond, Liz. I plan on doing a weekly Wednesday blog because daily is too much for me. How do you set up a “group” blog?

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        • Liz Bemis says:

          Patricia — The hardest part is finding a group of people who have interesting enough things to say, preferably who have some sort of built in audience, and who have the desire to keep up with it. They should probably also have enough in common that you can create some sort of theme. (e.g., Ohio Romance Writers, Victorian Paranormal writers, Writers who prefer cheese to chocolate, etc) Then figure out your theme and name, and reserve your URL. Next, determine your schedule and make sure everyone is in agreement about when they’ll blog. Get everyone to write a few blogs in advance, in case someone has an impending deadline, family crisis, or just doesn’t feel like blogging on a given day.

          Search out site designs that you all feel fits you. Then at this point, find a designer (or find/buy/download an appropriate theme) But honestly, if you have several people going into it, and can afford it, hire a designer!!! That way you get PRECISELY what you want and technical difficulties become someone else’s problem!

          Once your site looks as you hope, start blogging!!

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  15. I was just (yesterday!) writing an elevator pitch. Ugh. But what scares me more is actually having to repeat it aloud. I’m proud of my pitch, but my memory, especially when I meet someone new, isn’t the best.

    I also just started revamping my website last night (which will then lead to new business cards). Yay!

    But the part I forget is the last tip… contacting the media with a press kit. Yikes. I like the idea of putting something in the newspapers of the town where the story is set. Guess I’ll be contacting Chicago soon. 🙂 I heard a radio ad for a romance book a few months ago, and that got me thinking, too. Especially since my heroine is a radio talk show host. Hmmm….

    Thanks for the tips, Liz!!

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  16. I am in complete agreement with Tammy here. You will ALWAYS need that elevator pitch. The first thing anyone wants to know once they find out you are published is what the book is about. And the last thing they want is a long, drawn-out rendition of your masterpiece. Keep it short and to the point while highlighting the best elements of you book.

    Excellent post, Liz!!!
    ~D~

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  17. Jenn Stark says:

    Hear, Hear on the elevator pitch! More than anything else, a tightly written, high concept pitch will carry you through even the most intense agent or editor conversations.

    It also helps to know someone “in the know” about all things web-promotion-related… in other words, someone like Liz! 🙂

    Great post!

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  18. Donnell says:

    Liz, this is terrific. Scary as hell but terrific. 🙂 I will be studying this, and be back to listen to you on the 28th! Thank you, and thank you Ruby Slippered Sisterhood!

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  19. Kylie Griffin says:

    Thanks for outlining what goes in a media kit – there seems to be many differing versions but the basics are there. Just curious though – what do you put in a press release? Is there a structure to writing one?

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    • Liz Bemis says:

      Kylie — It completely depends on what you’re announcing. E.g., if you’re announcing an impending release, you’ll want to include an image of your cover (or better yet, a location for press to download it, since some publications prefer to receive faxes) and a high-res headshot.

      But a press release is generally a one-page sheet detailing what it is that you want to announce, and why that’s special. (If you’re sending a press release to the paper of the town from which you graduated from high school, then the announcement might be geared to “Home town girl makes good!” Whereas, if your book features a jousting troupe, then a press release to the International Jousting Association (IJA) would be geared toward content, rather than the writer! (hope that helps!)

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  20. Irene Ediger says:

    I wanted to call for an estimate on a new furnace and air. So I did, the people at Four Seasons were so nice I felt like customer service is very much a part of them. The estimator was on time, very nice and helped me with all of my questions. Even though I have put the project on hold Four Seasons will get my business.

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