Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Wordcraft -- Writers: prepare for our closeups!

Kat Smith
So we've written the book, or maybe we're still writing the book but looking forward to the next step. What is it?

Dr. Katherine "Kat" Smith brought the answer to the spring workshop of the Writers' Guild of Texas this past weekend. The word was: marketing. As is "selling" our book (or, we hope, our soon-to-be-book). And even if the book exists only in a file on our computers, Smith's words will help prepare for that upcoming pitch to agents at this spring and summer's writing conferences.

Smith is a former radio host as well as an author who's been on both sides of the media game. Today's post will focus on her tips for pre-interview preparation, including putting together a media kit. And if the word "media" gives some of us the willies, think of this preparation as something that will focus our minds on preparing for agent pitches and query letters as well.

Smith lists her must-haves for media contacts (with examples listed on her site. Although some of these echo items discussed in the March 1, 2016, post at this site from Kendel Lynn, managing editor of North Texas' Henery Press, Smith includes other items specific to media interviews or speaking engagements. Her list includes a:

  • one-sheet. This includes a brief biography, personal photo, list of books or areas of expertise, 
  • credentials (including previous publicity and publications) and contact information.
  • media kit. This includes everything in the one-sheet, plus brief reviews and blurbs, with photos or videos included. 
  • books (or areas of expertise), with again a photo and contact information.
  • pre-event questionnaire
  • contract rider 
  • biography
  • photos

Smith offers all of these in PDF formats readable online. She breaks out items separately, even though every item on the list includes overlapping information, such as bio and contact information to offer interviewers as much or as little as they need.

A common misconception about media interviews, she said, is that they exist to provide free publicity. Scratch that. From where the interviewer sits, the point is to "offer an entertaining or compelling story to my audience," the same experience we would want to provide to our readers.

The author's task in the interview is to make his or her book as newsworthy -- and with probably no more than three minutes of air time -- as time worthy as possible. After all, Smith asks, "who knows your book better than you do?"

With that in mind, media personnel pressed for time will love you for also preparing (and having ready to hand out) a list of FAQs (or a reader's guide). Also helpful for sales aimed at book clubs, these FAQs should list (her recommendation) 20 questions that coincide with the book's content and provide personal information about the author.

The 20 questions should capture moments from the book's story line as well as the author's inspiration for writing. Need more guidance about FAQs? Check out reader's guides in books we've loved. For personal information, include what inspired us to write the book. As always, include a photo of ourselves both on the FAQs and our sites, as well as, always, contact information.

(Next Tuesday, Kat Smith's tips on prepping to take our seat in the newsroom.)

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