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I used to host a drive-time radio show where I interviewed authors. Before scheduling the interviews, I would visit an author’s website looking for a press kit page. A press kit is a page on an author’s website designed specifically for journalists. If an author didn’t have a press kit on their website, I assumed they were not ready for a live radio interview.
If you don’t have a press kit page on your website, journalists may be making the same assumption about you.
Press kit pages don’t take long to build, and they can go a long way in getting you booked for media interviews on TV, radio, and podcasts. A press kit page is sometimes called a media kit. Whether you’re independently or traditionally published, having a press kit, or a media kit, on your website makes you look media-ready. A well-written and neatly designed media kit page could get you an interview with your local paper, which could help get your books shelved in your local library.
How do you add a press kit to your website?
To help us learn about creating a press kit, I interviewed Susan Neal. She is a Certified Writer Coach, an award-winning author, and director of the Christian Indie Publishing Association.
Everyone can benefit from media coverage. A good press kit will help increase the likelihood of favorable media coverage, while the absence of a press kit will definitely hurt your chances of being covered at all.
What should I include on my press kit page?
Susan Neal: First, you want to include your bio. You need a short version and a long version. My bio is two paragraphs long. If a podcaster only wants to use the first paragraph, that’s great. If they want a longer version, they have the option to read the second paragraph as well.
Thomas Umstattd, Jr.: Some authors may be wondering why they need two bios when it seems like a long bio would suffice. You need different bios because journalists use them for different purposes. If I’m introducing you on my radio show, I want a short bio written in third person that I can read to introduce you.
But if I’m writing a custom bio for you, or if I’m a newspaper reporter writing an article about you, I want a lot of information from a longer bio so I can build my own narrative around you.
Susan: You’ll want to include at least one professional headshot, possibly several.
When you attend a writers conference, be sure and take advantage of the professional photography services offered. A professional headshot demonstrates your professionalism and commitment to your career. You’ll use that photo across all your social media channels so people can easily identify you.
Thomas, I noticed your headshot is the same on all your websites and social channels. That’s great because you want individuals to recognize you on Facebook, Instagram, your website, or your press kit. Your photo will become an element of familiarity wherever people find you on the internet.
Thomas: James L. Rubart had a standard headshot of himself that I had seen all over the internet. I had never met him in person, but we had both heard of each other. We finally met in the Austin airport because he had a giant poster of himself with his own headshot on it, and I recognized the photo.
I introduced myself. My recognition of his headshot led to an introduction that eventually led us to create the Novel Marketing Podcast. You never know what connections you’ll make as a result of having a consistent, recognizable headshot.
Book Cover Image
Susan: Include one book cover image for each of your books. Use the flat Kindle-type image rather than a 3D cover image. Your cover image should be downloadable because journalists will want to download it.
A radio host should be able to right-click and download your book covers or your headshot.
Thomas: All your press kit photos need to be high-resolution images. Normally you should use low-resolution images in your web pages because you need the images to load quickly. The faster your webpage loads, the higher it will rank on search results. Google penalizes slow-loading webpages, and slow-loading webpages cause people to get frustrated and leave your site.
On your press kit page, however, high-resolution images are important. If the interviewer creates any print materials, they need your images to be 300 dpi, which is a large image in the web world.
Journalists aren’t using their phones to visit your press kit page. They’re typically on their computer with a fast internet connection, and they’re looking for images to use in their blog post or newspaper article review of your book.
Sample Questions and Answers
Susan: Interviewers do not have time to read your whole book. They may read an excerpt if you provide a link to a couple of chapters. But it’s safe to assume they won’t even have time for that. To help the journalist, provide a list of interview questions and answers.
The podcast or radio show host will look through your list and decide which questions they want to ask you. They may add other questions and ask follow-up questions, but your list gives them a starting point.
Thomas: Journalists will use your list of questions in several different ways. When I interviewed authors on my radio show, I did a lot of preparation for the show, but I couldn’t read three books every day. If I had a copy, I might skim it, but I leaned heavily on the sample questions provided by the author.
As a podcaster, I do just the opposite. I look at the author’s list of questions so that I don’t ask any of those questions. I assume that person has been interviewed on many podcasts, and they’re answering the same questions repeatedly. I want my interview to be unique.
In both instances, the sample questions are helpful, but I’m using them for different purposes.
Susan: You’ll also include either an excerpt from your book or a link where the interviewer can read a couple of chapters if they want.
Thomas: I’d recommend including a link to a contact page where they can request a free copy of the book. If they need to fill a slot tomorrow, they won’t take advantage of the free copy, but book reviewers may have a much longer lead time.
Most traditional publishers are happy to send a free copy to a journalist. If you’re independently published, you should be happy to spend $10 to ship a book. That $10 investment will bring a better return than spending $10 on advertising.
If you spend $10 on ads, you might get $15 back in sales. The $10 you spend shipping a book to a journalist could result in hundreds of dollars of sales. You’ll get a much better ROI sending a free book to a journalist.
Review or Testimonial
Susan: If you have a review, testimonial, or endorsement from a famous person, be sure to include it on your press kit page. If you have multiple reviews or testimonials, put them in a PDF the interviewer can download.
Past Media Coverage
With each interview, you will improve. In your first interview, you’ll be nervous, but you’ll feel more confident by the tenth one. Practice makes perfect, so give it a shot.
Link to any media coverage you have secured. Your past interviews will demonstrate that you will do a great job on their show. List the links to all the different interviews you’ve done before, even if you’ve only done a few.
The media specialist can listen for a few minutes to make sure they want to have you on their show.
Thomas: Providing past interview samples is critical for securing future podcast interviews. Podcasters want to know if you have a good podcast mic and whether you know how to talk into it. Your recorded samples will demonstrate that you can string sentences together.
Most podcasters and radio hosts will want you to connect using Skype, Zoom, or CleanFeed on your computer and podcast microphone, not a landline.
Including your past interview recordings will also demonstrate some social proof. Journalists like to interview people that other journalists have interviewed.
If you’re using WordPress, you can easily file all your past interviews in one place on your website.
Every time you have an interview, write a short blog post about it where people can click to listen. If the podcast or radio show has a way to embed the recording, people can listen to it right there in your blog post.
Create a special category in WordPress called “Media.” If you’re using a modern theme framework, like Divi, you can embed the titles of all those blog posts in your press kit page automatically. Next time you do a media interview, you only need to create the blog post.
It’s a good idea to create a blog post for all your interviews regardless. Podcasters interview guests to grow their podcast audience, and they love it when you promote their podcasts to your audience. They’re hoping you’ll bring your audience to their show, and a blog post is proof that you have.
To make your past interviews easy for journalists to peruse, provide a link to your “Media” category. If you’ve tagged your interview-related blog posts as “Media,” you’ll have an up-to-date list.
They can check you out and get a good feel for your interviews. In their show prep, they may listen to your past interviews so they can ask you different questions or take the conversation in a different direction.
Susan: I keep my links to past interviews and articles on a separate webpage I call my “Media Page.” I have all the elements we’ve talked about so far on my “Press Kit” page. I include both of those under my About page at SusanUNeal.com.
What do you think, Thomas, of having two web pages versus one?
Thomas: I like having all the information on one page in one internet tab.
When I was a radio show host, I’d have a Google doc with my notes for the interviewer that my producer could see on the other side of the glass. I’d also have the author’s website open, and I could go back and forth between those two tabs. Having a third tab might have made things a little bit more complicated for me, but it wouldn’t have been the end of the world.
If I had done the appropriate amount of show prep, I would’ve pulled all that information into the Google doc ahead of time.
But the thing about live radio is that it’s very uncertain. Sometimes you have dead air to fill. Sometimes you’ll make a plan, and your callers, the weather, or news events will change your plan. Live radio doesn’t always go according to plan, which is what makes it fun.
If you have an interview booked for live TV or radio, remember you are at the mercy of the weather and the news. If there’s a big news event, you might get pushed.
Max, Lucado had a big book launch planned for September 11th, 2001, and no one remembers what the book was. He had all his media lined up. He was a big author with a big launch, and the book totally flopped because everyone was talking about 9/11 instead.
That’s one of the downsides of a media strategy. You’re more susceptible to events that are completely out of your control. Depending on the severity of the news event, you might still be able to get through to your own email list, though.
Susan: If you’ve gone to the trouble of creating a great video book trailer, include it on your press kit page. It will demonstrate your speaking abilities. Usually, authors spend a lot of time and effort on their book trailers. It’s a great way to put your best foot forward.
Susan: You can also include an excerpt of a press release. A press release is what you’d write for a newspaper. You’d use it to connect your book’s topic to a current event.
Thomas: We have an episode about how to create a press release and how to distribute it to journalists. If you create press releases, use the same categorization trick in WordPress to keep all your press releases in one category called “Press Releases.”
Press releases are a smaller part of the strategy for authors, but if you are creating honest-to-goodness press releases, you want to link to them in your press kit. A list of past press releases provides journalists with context for who you are and where you come from.
Social Media Links
Susan: Whenever you’re being interviewed, be sure and friend them on all their social media channels. After your interview, you can tag them in your social posts about the interview so they can see you are sharing their podcasts or radio show.
Thomas: If you don’t have the social media icons as a part of your website design, you’ll want to include links to your social media on your press kit page. Many websites have social icons at the top or bottom, but I’m seeing it less and less, partly because people are less active on social media and more strategic.
Journalists like to check you out via social media. It’s another way they can research you. They’ll look at your past tweets and Facebook updates. So be careful what you post on social media.
Even if you don’t provide the link in your press kit, they will probably still find you on Twitter. They’ll just be annoyed that you didn’t provide the link. In general, you don’t want journalists annoyed with you unless you’re doing it on purpose and strategically.
Susan: Your contact information should be easy to find. Make it easy for a podcast host or journalist to email or call you.
Thomas: Some authors only include their phone numbers on the press kit. You won’t find it anywhere else on their website. List your phone number so journalists can reach you for a last-minute booking.
If you’re afraid to put your phone number on your website, you can always get a Google voice number that can shield your number, so callers don’t know your actual phone number.
If you write nonfiction, it’s especially important to be immediately contactable. If a radio show host has a cancellation, they have to fill their open spot. They look for the person who’s prepared to be interviewed. Be the prepared person and make yourself easy to contact.
You can reach out to journalists on your topic and say, “If you ever need a last-minute interview, let me know. I’m prepared and easy to contact.”
That’s how I got started as a speaker. When a conference speaker didn’t show, I would give the talk.
One time I was at South by Southwest, and the speaker just didn’t show. The South by Southwest protocol is that if the speaker doesn’t show up, one of the attendees can give the talk.
Another lady and I organized a discussion on the topic with the people who were there, and it was a great opportunity.
Susan: Finally, you can include additional photographs. Since I write books on healthy living and achieving optimal weight, I have some beautiful, professional photos of my fruit orchard, farm-fresh eggs, and vegetable gardens. I include those photos so interviewers have options.
Thomas: I noticed you link those in Dropbox. Why don’t you link them on your website?
Susan: There are quite a few photos for various topics from food to exercise. I was trying to make the page succinct because media personnel don’t have a lot of time.
Thomas: If you have hundreds of photos, I definitely understand linking to a Dropbox folder because it keeps it from being overwhelming. But the downside of linking to Dropbox is that your images won’t be indexed on Google. If someone searches your name on Google, the Dropbox images won’t show in search results.
A lot of journalists won’t even go to your website. They’ll assume it’s not helpful because, unfortunately, so many author websites are awful. They go to Google images instead, which is why it’s really important to have well-optimized images on your About page.
If somebody doesn’t have a Dropbox account, you’re adding a lot of steps for them to get access to those photos.
Some authors also include a quirky or unique element tied to their topic, but those are the core elements. When I was a journalist, I looked for the following:
- Sample questions
- Past radio/interview experience
What are some mistakes authors make with their press kits?
Susan: I’ve seen press kits that are too long or cluttered. Sometimes the headshot is not a professional photo, and it’s obvious.
Thomas: People assume that their $1,000 phone and a tutorial can get them a professional photo.
But photographers do more than just push the shutter button on the camera. Creating a high-quality photograph requires a special skill set. If you think photo quality is dependent on the device, you’re robbing yourself of an expert who could help you look professional.
People hire professional photographers to help them look as good as they possibly can. A professional can also help you convey the emotion that’s congruent with your message or brand. To learn more, listen to our episode on Seven Tips for a Bestselling Author Portrait.
Your husband with a smartphone is not the photo you want. I know it’s cheap and easy, but unless he’s a photographer, it’s not the way to go.
Too Much Information
Susan: Sometimes authors include too much information on a single web page, and it’s overwhelming.
Thomas: Since your press kit is online, you can link to longer bios on other pages of your website.
For example, in episode 300, I shared the story of Author Media, and in episode 250, I shared my personal story. Both episodes gave a lot of information about me. They were too long for an About page or a press kit page. But on my press kit page, after my short and medium-length bios, I can easily link to both blog posts.
If you have written the long story of your life, put it in a blog post. You can link to blog posts easily.
What’s the difference between an About page and a Press Kit page?
Thomas: Your About page and your Press Kit page will have many of the same elements. Just remember that your audience for each page is different. Your press kit page is not designed to be a popular page. Maybe only five journalists per month will visit that page, but you may get five podcast bookings from those visits.
Your About page is more popular because it’s often the first or second page readers visit. Readers are looking for more general information.
Susan: I use my About page to show how I can help the reader solve their problem. I tell them I’ll help them improve their health and achieve their optimal weight by teaching them to follow these seven steps.
Ask yourself what problem your reader has, and then tell them how you can help them solve their problem. That’s what I do on my About page.
Thomas: You’re presenting your story as a story of inspiration and a solution, which is a common nonfiction technique.
If you’re a novelist, you don’t have to make your life story a solution to somebody’s problem because that’s not what people are looking for.
Novelists and nonfiction writers approach things differently. They’re solving some of the same problems, but they solve them in very different ways. It’s a little bit like the Marines and the Army. You think they’re the same if you don’t know anything about them, but the more you learn, the more differences you start to see.
Susan: I send media to my press kit page.
Last year I won the Christian Author Network Excellence in Broadcast Media award for being on 29 podcasts in eight months and selling 5,000 books.
Every time I contacted the media, they asked for the same things over and over again. After writing a dozen emails with the attachments, I decided to make my press kit page. Having the press kit page made it so much faster to correspond with the media.
If you are going on a podcast tour or seeking bookings with lots of media, having all your info in one place on your website will save you a lot of time.
Thomas: You’re also going to work harder on that page than you would on an email you write for the twelfth time with all the attachments. It’s a hassle to attach all those photos every time. A polished press kit means you’re putting your best foot forward. You’ve made sure to include all the pertinent and correct information.
Where on my website should I put the press kit?
Thomas: When I was a journalist, I always looked for the press kit in the footer of a website.
On most company websites, the press kit lives next to the privacy page. Companies don’t necessarily want regular visitors clicking the press kit page because there’s sensitive contact information there. They don’t want the PR team flooded with customer service requests.
I know you’re an author, and you’re not receiving service requests, but the journalists covering you are the same journalists covering all those companies. They expect to find the press kit page in the footer of your website. But that doesn’t mean it’s the only place you link to it.
How have you used your books to grow your national prominence?
Thomas: You were on 29 podcasts, and you’ve also been on major corporate media and national media. How have you used your books and writing to grow your national prominence?
Susan: Every month, I tried to be a guest on one podcast, publish one magazine article, and write one guest blog post. I did that for two years, but I wasn’t getting as many podcast interviews as I wanted. Last year, I decided to focus on being a podcast guest. I was on 29 shows in eight months, and it went great. But I was better on the 29th interview than I was on the first.
Thomas: It does take practice.
What did you do to get those podcast interviews?
I contacted the host to say I’d listened to their podcast and written an iTunes review for it. Then I explained how I could help their listeners.
If I’m contacting the editor of a magazine or blog, I tell them how I can help their readers. Before you contact the host or editor, do your homework to learn about the podcast, magazine, or blog.
Thomas: That process is powerful because it forces you to figure out the goal of the podcast or magazine. When you write to them, they’ll know you’ve identified that their goal is to entertain or educate. Then you can pitch your promise of how you can help educate their listeners on a specific topic.
When you use the right bait for the fish, you’re more likely to be invited to the show.
Susan: After I do my homework and prove I understand their goals and audience, I explain how I’m qualified. I have an MBA and a master’s degree in Health Science. I’m a registered nurse and a health and wellness coach. I wrote the book Seven Steps to Get off Sugar and Carbohydrates, which has sold over 20,000 copies in the past three and a half years, and it’s indie published. I’ve also written a healthy living series.
Explain how you’re qualified to write about your topic. I’m qualified because, a decade ago, I lost my health. I had ten medical diagnoses, two surgeries, I was gaining weight, and I was a train wreck. I know what it feels like to not want to get out of bed. But my body healed, and I can help you improve your health, lifestyle, and well-being.
Thomas: You have two kinds of credibility. You’ve studied it, and you’ve lived it.
An interviewer can approach your topic either way. They could ask you to address it from your professional point of view. Or they could ask you to share your story, which is what you probably do most of the time. People love interesting stories.
The Novel Marketing Show is more of a how-to show, so we’re getting to your story at the end of the show, not at the beginning. It’s a very deliberate approach.
Stories are powerful and easy for people to remember. That’s why it’s important to find a way to share your story in your bio or connect your story to what you write.
You can talk about how your experiences inspired the stories you write. It gives you credibility, and it makes you easier to interview.
Susan: Since I’ve been successful with marketing, I’m also the director of the Christian Indie Publishing Association (CIPA). We create products for authors like our Author Media Kit. We have courses that teach you how to do mock interviews, media interviews, and media pitches.
Members of the CIPA have access to ten courses, 20 guides for different aspects of publishing, and more than twenty marketing discounts on ISBNs and Ingram Spark set up. Indie authors can save a lot of money as members of the CIPA.
I love serving a population of authors to help them market their books. Right now, we are offering a free ten-page guide for authors on How to Create an Author Media Kit.
Thomas: Indie authors writing for the general market have similar help from other organizations. But you’ve niched down, and you are helping Christian indie authors.
I’ve created my press kit using Divi. Susan doesn’t use Divi, but hers looks great.
Any final tips or encouragement for authors?
Be sure to download the guide for How to Create an Author Media Kit, and you’ll be on your way to giving the media what they need to cover you and your book.
How to Get Booked as a Podcast Guest
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Peter DeHaan, author of 52 Churches
Peter and his wife visited a different Christian Church every Sunday for a year. This book is their story. Discover more about Jesus’s church, the people who go there, and just how vast our practices and worship are.
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