Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Building An Author's Promotional Package, Part 2

Yesterday, in “Building An Author’s Promotional Package, Part 1,” I talked about writing a description for your book, and a bit about press releases. Today, I would like to talk about the next two elements you should include in your promotional package: images and quotes.


Just as your description can pique a reader’s interest, the cover of your book and any associated images can as well. Always include an image of your book cover in the press package. It draws the eye in a way that a dense paragraph of text can’t. I also like to include an advertising banner, so whoever is helping you spread the word about your book has something eye-catching to put across the top of the page. I’m not going to get into the elements of good or bad cover design; there are many other discussions about that. But here are a couple of my banner ads as an example of what those can look like (my blog displays them too big if I go up a size, so click on them for a better view):

And here are two banners from paranormal thriller writer Micheal Rivers:


You can see that you can use an "abstract" type background, like in the Sullivan's War banner, you can put the actual book cover in the banner, as I have done with Short Stories, or you can zoom in on certain elements of book cover, as Micheal Rivers has done. From these examples you can also see that you can condense your book description down into a single line ("Can Rick Sullivan Defeat His Enemies Before He Defeats Himself?" or "Can You Bargain with the Dead?"). That, along with the book title and your name, will pretty much fill the space in your banner ad. But if you have a little extra room, your website or a quote from a reader, as in Sullivan's War banner, are also great things to put in your banner ad. 

In addition to your book cover and a banner ad, you should include a photo of yourself. Typically called a 
head shot, this will give a face to the words. And make sure it's a good face. The way I see it, there are two main schools when it comes to the head shot: casual and not casual (I don't use the word "formal" because sartorially that means white or black tie, and I don't want you dressing up in a tux or gown for your head shot).

The casual head shot is what most authors will opt for, as we live in a casual society. I have chosen to go with a non-casual head shot:

However, if you decide to do this, make sure it is a real part of your persona. Between the symphony, opera and occasional ballet performances and plays, I end up wearing a coat and tie quite a bit throughout the year. I am comfortable in it. If you feel like you're suffocating when you put on a tie, chances are you're going to look like you're suffocating. Be comfortable, but avoid any clothing that could be seen as objectionable or anything very revealing (unless you write erotica, I suppose).

Even if you do go for casual, try to avoid the common snapshot. Have an actual photo shoot with a friend taking pictures of you, telling you which poses/smile/etc. look the best. You want your photo to look like a professional author's photo (pick up some books around your house to get an idea). You want to exude an air of confidence and professionalism. It's purely subconscious and completely unfair, but if you look untidy, readers might worry that your writing is untidy.


This is where you really have to plan ahead. What you want to do is find some authors or readers who really enjoy your work. I was very fortunate in this, as I didn’t have to seek them out. People began leaving glowing reviews on my product pages at Amazon and from there I connected with many of them via Twitter, Facebook and email.

Once you have a list of people who you feel you can count on for a positive review, people who not only like your work but love your work, you will want to have a review copy of your book ready about a month before you release it to the general public. A review copy is simply a draft of the book (these days it's often an eBook) that is not quite finalized but is complete and close enough to being revised and edited that a reader can get a good sense for the work. Send this review copy out to your short list of readers. If they enjoy it, you will hopefully get a nice quote from them to add to your promotional package. Another thing you can do once you have your cover image finalized is create a book entry on Goodreads and list it as "Coming Soon!" You can ask your readers to leave their reviews there as well as at the Amazon and B&N and other stores once the book is for sale. Great quotes, especially from other authors, can interest a reader in your upcoming book as much as a great description can. Another benefit of listing your book on Goodreads in advance is that you can start getting people entering for a book giveaway, if you choose to do that.

Of course, if other authors send you quotes to use in your promotional material, it is only right that you offer to do the same for them. Be very careful, however, that a quid pro quo isn’t established wherein you say nice things about their book simply because they said something nice about yours. However, unless they are truly bad writers (or you are hyper-critical), there should be something you like about the book. Even if their book may not be your cup of tea, look at it from the perspective of its intended audience and try to see what they will like about it.

Tomorrow, I will conclude the "Building An Author's Promotional Package" series with two more elements you should include in your package, one optional element as well as one final element that I think is a rather novel idea. Stay tuned!

UPDATE: Read Part 3 here.


  1. This was so helpful. THANK YOU! Just what I need as I prepare to launch my first book.

    1. Be sure to check in tomorrow for the final installment!


  2. Oh, sure... now you tell me. :P

    Thanks for the advice, and I'll put away my tux for the next headshot.

    1. I favor a waistcoat over a cummerbund, while we're on the topic. :oP


  3. Wonderful blogpost. I'm your new follower. More power to you!