While doing research just before my novel was published, I came across the “press kit” and its usefulness when contacting people in the media for publicity. And since I started promoting the novel, it’s been a great tool, handy for sending out information quickly. It was also easy to give it to my publicist, so she could send it to her contacts as well.

But it’s not just for media or journalists; your press kit can also be requested by retailers, book bloggers, event planners, editors; basically anyone who might take an interest in you as an author or in the topic of your book.

So what should your press kit contain?

From my own experience, most people requesting a press kit would like the following information:

1) Author Bio and Contact Information

You should already have an author bio to hand. If not, start working on it right away, whether you’re already published or not. You’ll need it for your blog or website, for guest posts (like this one!) or stories submitted to magazines. Your author bio should be about 200 words, and it should have things that make you sound interesting and professional. You should include your name, your place of birth or where you currently live, what you do (or used to do) for a living, what you’ve written, perhaps your education (if it’s relevant), quirky hobbies, or interesting travel experiences. Basically, anything that will make you stand out.

Don’t forget to include your contact information, and your agent or other representatives if necessary.

2) Press Release

A press release should focus on the unveiling of your new work. It should be brief and sucking, one page should do. Include information that is newsworthy about your book or about you as an author. If you have upcoming events, it might be a good idea to omit them from your press kit press release to keep the article timely a month or two down the road. You can read more about creating a perfect press release on the Creative Penn here.

3) Sample Author Q&A

Make a list of interview questions (and responses) about you and your book. This can include questions about your background, your inspiration for writing this book, why you chose to self-publish, your own favorite writers, future projects, etc. This section is particularly helpful for the interviewer and bloggers who want to help you promote your work, as it’s useful and ready content for them.

4) Specific Information on Your Book

So many books are published every week, every month, every year. This is where you need to talk about what makes yours different. You can describe your book in terms of its unique features. Why did you write this book? Did you feel there was a gap in the market for this type of story? Does the book shed new light on a common issue? Is it a topic that a lot of people can easily relate to? Is the story set in a place or time that is quite significant? As the author, do you have a unique background different from most other authors? You need to convince the person reading your press kit that your story is interesting enough for their audience.

Tip: Sometimes, when requesting your press kit, you may be asked to send in excerpts of your book as well. I’ve put the first three chapters of my novel together into a sample PDF that can be downloaded from my website and blog, at the same time as the press kit. I also have the samples in print, so I can hand it to people when they ask about my book.

You can also include interesting information about your book’s topics (especially for non-fiction titles) and a sample Q & A for an interviewer, since it’s unlikely they will have read your book.

You may also include things like: editorial reviews, testimonials, links to relevant media content like audio and video, any awards you’ve won, etc.

Here’s two great examples of author press kits:
■Non-fiction: Michael Hyatt’s press kit for ‘Platform’
■Fiction: CJ Lyons, author of thrillers with heart

Nowadays, most people prefer to receive a PDF version of press kits. They are easier to distribute by email and upload onto blogs and websites. It’s also easier for the recipient to copy the information they need. I would still suggest printing a few copies and having them on hand, especially for your local retailers, bookstore or library readings and other speaking events. You should, of course, have a copy of the press kit on your author website or blog.

Remember, a press kit doesn’t have to be complicated or fancy.

The people who are requesting it just want information that will help them. Keep the format and font simple. If you’re putting one together for the first time, I’m sure you already have some of the materials needed. Start with the items you already have and then work on adding the others as you go along. You don’t want to create a press kit at the last minute for the editor or reviewer who requests one.

Let’s discuss in the comments below: Do you have a press kit? How often do you use it? Do you think press kits are outdated, especially in this digital age? I know some authors just use a “review request sheet” or a one-page sell sheet. What do you use?

Tolulope Popoola grew up in Lagos, Nigeria and moved to the United Kingdom in 2000. By chance, she started blogging in 2006, which rekindled her love for writing and telling stories.

A few writing classes and an online fiction series soon followed and in 2008, Tolulope quit her Accounting career to become a full-time writer. She now writes short stories, flash fiction, and articles for many print and online magazines.

She set up Accomplish Press in 2011 to publish her first novel, when she realised that there were not many mainstream publishers in the UK willing to take a chance on “ethnic” writers like her. You can interact with Tolulope online via her blog at http://www.onwritingandlife.com, on Facebook; http://www.facebook.com/TolulopePopoola and Twitter @TolulopePopoola or @AccomplishPress