By Sherry Ziegelmeyer
Last month, we discussed media kits; as you may recall from that post, media kits are important for making that first approach to any writer or editor. When you initially begin a relationship with a new media contact, I don’t suggest that you immediately start giving them product for free. If you want to bribe them (and, in the context of getting people to write about you at all, bribery can be a good thing), then do so with something on which you’ll lose nothing, in case they hand it to some civilian, non-writer friend. And no, I don’t think “word of mouth” is worth enough to be handing over your copyrighted, produced-for-profit, material to just anyone; reserve your copyrighted product for writers who indicate a willingness to write about it (themselves, as opposed to passing it on to someone else) and hold off on sending review kits otherwise.
But once you have established that a writer is interested in giving your book a spin, it’s time to set them up with a “review kit”. Review kits can be very important for an author’s publicity campaign—good publicity is based on getting as many other people talking about you as you can. This is especially important with adult entertainment products, be they sex toys, print books, ebooks or adult videos. The consumer has no way to know exactly what the book, product or movie is about (or what it does)—and they certainly don’t know whether they’ll like it or not—until they can actually get their hands on it.
Since a lot of your books are sold online (and often there is no return or refund option for an e-book, or any book), giving an adult-media reviewer a copy—so they can offer their readers a third-party opinion and synopsis—helps you to make the potential consumer more aware of, and interested in, your product to begin with. In the mind of the consumer, the reviewer is going to have more credibility regarding the book’s worth than you are, so reviewers are an essential publicity force.
While a review kit is similar to a media kit, it will contain less information about you and much more about the book. A review kit must include the following, or you’re wasting your time and that of the reviewer:
A Copy of Your Book
Insert a physical sample of the book you are submitting for review. If you only sell e-books, for goodness sake, include a CD containing the book in an easy-to-open and easy-to-read format, such as a Word document or a PDF file; don’t just send them a link to some download. And I have to say, if at all possible, a printed book is much more impressive to a reviewer than only sending them a digital copy, unless you load it into a brand new Kindle or Nook.
An Art Disc
Include a CD containing all relevant artwork concerning your book. You will want to include the book’s cover art, but also include any images that you are using in your book’s overall marketing effort. Sometimes your publisher has created sales slicks or fliers, ads or other marketing tools, any of which may suit the reviewer’s taste, or fit into the layout of the review, better than the book cover does. (Be aware the media will not run ads without you paying for them, so we’re talking only about art to accompany the review itself.)
As with media kits, make sure the artwork you provide in review kits is capable of being reproduced in a print format. This means that images, logos and photos included in your art disc are all capable of being printed on paper at a minimum size of 8.5 inches by 11 inches when set at an image resolution of 300 dots per inch (DPI) or higher. You will also want to include web-resolution artwork in your art discs, so that an editor can immediately use the image on the publication’s web site. Web resolution is usually 72–78 DPI, and all images should be sized at a minimum of 600 pixels by 800 pixels.
If you have Adobe Photoshop, or your publisher has Photoshop files of your book art, include these in their original .psd format—including all photos, logos and book covers—saved as unlocked and layered. This gives the publication the ability to resize and reformat them in any way they may need to run them in print.
Please be sure to label this disc as “Art Disc for [Title of Book] by [Author name]“. You should also write a list of the disc’s contents on its label, or as an insert into its case—this way, the writer can take one look at it and know they have all the art they need to complete their review.
To be safe, write your name and your phone number and/or email address on that label as well; if it gets separated from the rest of the package, or if there are problems opening any of the files, they can contact you quickly and easily and proceed with the review of your book.
For all book review kits, you should put together a one-sheet containing all the information the reviewer needs, outlined in a convenient and easy-to-read format.
The top of the page should contain the full title of your book. If you have a second line, or “kicker”, to the book title, such as Sex Slave: One Chick’s Journey into Submission, please make sure you indicate that so the reviewer won’t mistake it for two different titles. Sometimes a book’s cover design won’t make it clear that the book contains one novel with a kicker and not, say, two novelettes (though it should—but that’s a subject for another column), and it’s never a good idea to end up with a reviewer giving their readers the wrong title of your book!
Right under the title (or left aligned with it and all the following text, if you want to be professional) embed an image of the front of the book cover. Sounds odd, but especially if you are sending digitized books, the reviewer needs to be assured what they have in their hand is definitely the book you sent them to review.
Under the photo, include the date of publication, the author name (yours and those of any co-authors), the publisher’s company name, the ISBN number, retail price and any information on where your book is available for sale.
Don’t add in direct links to the book on Barnes and Noble, Amazon and the other retail outlets unless you know for a fact that the publication has an affiliate account set up with a specific retailer. If they do have an affiliate account, make it as easy as possible for them to find your book listing and link their affiliate account to it. Money makes the entertainment world go around, darling.
Next on the One-Sheet is a synopsis of your book. Please don’t just copy this from the back of the official book jacket! Make an effort to tell your reviewer the plot of your book in easy-to-understand words. You can be dramatic and a bit flowery, but save the “heart pounding adventure on the high plains” crap for the consumer market. Less “hype” is more with the press . . . they get spun each and every day, so they don’t need more spin from you.
In your synopsis, spell out the names of all the principal characters, the location of the story, its period and timeframe (2014? Two hundred years into the future? 410, BC? This matters enough to indicate to a reviewer from the getgo, and will increase your chance of a good review.)
If you have strong supporting characters, or just a lot of them, it’s wise to make a list of their full names and character synopses, so the reviewer can reference this after reading your book. You’d be surprised at how often some minor character in your book ends up getting “star treatment” from a reviewer, when you always thought your leading lady (or man) was the star attraction. So make sure you cover all your bases, and list the cast of characters so the reviewer can easily locate each one’s name and part in the story line.
Digital Copies of Everything
Always include a CD with digital files of your One-Sheet! You may be able to fit this on your Art Disc but if you can’t, include a separate disc that contains them. So many reviewers copy and paste whatever they are writing; you want to give them something to copy from quickly and easily. It won’t hurt to include a digital copy of your book, even if it is available in print. You never know when a reviewer may lose the copy you sent—and it’s better for them to have a backup than skip the review all together.
Your Business Card
A review kit should always have a printed, actual, hold-in-your-hand business card. Most reviewers will end up requesting one at some point, so include one in your review kit (and in your media kit, for that matter). Who says print is dead?
You should also include an Outlook Contact Card on your art disc, or at least a Word .doc containing all of your business contact information.
Seriously, did you think reviewers do this out of the kindness of their hearts? Review kits should come with “swag”! You don’t have to go overboard and include the keys to a brand new Ferrari (that’s reserved for the music industry) or stacks of non-sequential $100 bills (that’s for political lobbyists), but it never hurts to bribe a reviewer to read your book, as long as you’re subtle. Look at retail stores like Dollar Tree or Big Lots with an eye toward items that resonate with your book’s storyline and are easy to pack into a shipping container. Alternately, you can choose useful, everyday items that complement the book you are sending to your reviewer.
In the case of print books, it’s perfectly acceptable to include a beautiful bookmark (if you have some printed with your book title, send along a half dozen of those as well) or a small reading light that can attach to a book, shelf or airline seat. Just make sure that if you include a book light, you also include batteries for it, along with some spares—it’s always good to over-gift and never good to under-gift.
If you want to get more creative, go for it! If you wrote a western romance—how about sending along a bandana or a cowboy-hat-shaped keychain fob. For bondage-themed books, send along a pair of cuffs or some other toy (not a dildo!) featured in the plot. None of this grabbing you? How about a ceramic mug printed with your book title and artwork and a $10 Starbucks card or a box of upscale tea bags? Maybe you gave the reviewer an actual Kindle or Nook containing your ebook . . . think about adding a $5 or $10 dollar Amazon or B&N gift card to the package.
But please beware of sending along goodies that could backfire on you. Nothing ticks off a reviewer who is post-rehab, more than being presented with the object of their former addiction. Cigarettes, booze . . . anything that could possible offend someone should be discounted when choosing swag. That also goes for sending chocolates to someone with diabetes or muffins to someone with celiac disease. Unless, of course, you know a certain reviewer has diabetes or wheat intolerance and you send them something “free” of whatever their personal poison is—in that case, you don’t need my silly columns to be a damn good publicity agent for your books!
As with the media kits, it cannot be stressed enough that the better your packaging looks, the more interest the reviewer will have in its contents. Be creative, and remember that appearances matter in all aspects of publicity.
This is a physical representation of your professional image—and that of your book—which you are presenting to the reviewer. This is not the time to reuse an Amazon packing box, or use Band-Aids as the shipping tape on a mailing carton. Unless of course your book title is Naughty Nurses, and then maybe the bandages would fit the theme—but really, it’s still better to keep them to the inside of the packaging so your media contact’s first impression of your kit isn’t “…What?!”
Bottom line . . .
Include every possible thing that a reviewer could ever need to go forward with their review of your book. If you aren’t sure what a specific publication needs, ask! And more importantly, write it down for future reference.
Your contact list should contain detailed notes on each and every publication (and each individual writer and reviewer) you are working with. This is part of that all-important relationship that a publicist (you) will build with your media contacts. This level of understanding and cooperation makes a huge difference to a reviewer as they decide whether to work with you or not. If you are willing to give them everything they ask for, and make yourself available for anything else they may request later, it will go a long way toward making them want to work with you as often as possible.
Do you have specific questions concerning how to generate publicity for your books? Please email questions and comments to Sherry; answers will appear as future WriteSex blog topics.
Sherry Ziegelmeyer is a professional publicist and public relations representative, who happens to specialize in adult entertainment (in all its various forms). She resides in Chatsworth, California, affectionately known as “ground zero of the adult entertainment industry.” When not working on writing press releases, arranging interviews and putting together review kits for her clients (among dozens of other career related activities), she reads a LOT, loves cooking, appreciates beefcake eye-candy, spending time with friends, family and with her assortment of furred and feathered “kids”.
Get to know Sherry at blackandbluemedia.com or www.facebook.com/sherry.ziegelmeyer.