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Building Your Author Press Kit

If you’re a writer, sooner or later you’re going to need a press kit. If you’re not published yet, a press kit can be used when contributing your writing to blogs, newsletter articles, and other venues. If you are published, a press kit is a must for readers, interviewers, and prospective clients visiting your site. Here’s what your press kit should include:

Author Headshot

Yes! Your author press kit should include a professional-looking photo of you. Now, this should not be a picture where you cropped everyone else out of a family reunion photo. You are the star of your writing career and it’s time to show it! Keep in mind that your author photo should be a mix of creativity and marketing – it should capture your personality and appeal to your target audience. Depending where you are on your journey to publication, consider hiring a professional to take your headshots. If you’re low on funds, scour your social media feeds for a local friend you trust with a camera. Generally, you’ll get better lighting outside about an hour before dusk in a semi-shaded spot so you’re not squinting at the sun. To make your portrait more personal, consider a location you’re comfortable with or relate to, such as a local park, a city skyline, even a cool brick wall can work. Take a look at other author photos on book jackets, author websites, or publisher websites to find poses you think would work for you. Communicate with your photographer and show them samples of your favorite poses, but also be open to the photographer’s suggestions. They can capture magic behind the lens.

Take 40-50 photos and pick 3-4 (or 1-2) that you really like. If you’re not sure, social media is great place to get feedback. Your friends will have a definite favorite or two and will always want you to be seen in the best light. Once you have your top picks, copy them and put them in a new press kit folder on your computer. Now, here’s the important part: rename each photo with your name. So instead of IMG1234, I would name my author photo: KELLI PANIQUE AUTHOR PHOTO. If you have more than one, just add a number at the end.

Why is titling the photo with your own name so important? One, it makes it easier for the person using it to keep track of it. Two, once they load your photo on their site and your name is in the title of the photo, then search engines can pick it up. So, when someone does an internet search for you, you’ll pop up in all the places where you’re a contributor or where your work or book is being featured. This increases your reach and helps you build an internet resume while adding to your authority in the field you’re writing in.

A note about photo size: Be sure to use nice high-resolution images. Include versions that are no smaller 500x500px and ones no larger than 1000x1000px. (For rectangular photos, keep the smallest side to 500px and the largest side to 1000px.) Also, include a photographer credit if applicable.

The Author Bio

Yes! You must write about yourself! Think of your author bio as an elevator pitch about your writing career. It should include an interesting summary of your life and/or career and how it relates to your writing. The About page on your website might include your bio written in first person and it may include a bit of life history. These elements on your website allow your reader to feel connected to you, like you’re talking directly to them. On the other hand, the bio paragraph for your press kit is for use on other websites and should be written in third person. They should be short, engaging, and to the point. Look at other books in your genre and read the author bio in the back of a book for inspiration on what to include and how to structure it.

What you include in your bio is up to you. Consider the kind of information that a reader will enjoy knowing about you such as:

  • Where you’re from
  • Your education
  • Your occupation
  • Other places your writing can be found
  • Your current and upcoming books
  • Awards
  • Your hobbies
  • Your family
  • Special pets
  • Your social media handles and/or website link

Don’t include information you’re not comfortable sharing with the public. If sharing information about your family or where you live makes you uneasy, leave it out.

You won’t always know how much space is allowed for your bio paragraph, so it’s good provide a long one and a short one. The long one should be about 100-150 words. The short one should be between 50-60 words. Here are a couple of examples:

Long bio:

Jane Doe graduated from College University with a degree in Biology. She’s worked in laboratories across the United States researching and studying the human genome. The more she studied the mysteries of the life, the more she wanted to write her own mysteries. Her popular mystery series The Atomic Amateur Sleuth Association won a Prestigious Writing Award and is available at independent bookstores nationwide. The 12th book in the series Atomic Amy Goes Nuclear will arrive on bookshelves in Spring 2023. Jane is a regular contributor to Fake Mystery Magazine Monthly. Jane lives with her husband and 18 kids on the island of Cape Cod where they enjoy walking their dogs on the beach (and occasionally chasing them in the surf). Follow Jane on Twitter @janedoenotarealauthor. Find out more about Jane on her website: www.janedoenotarealauthor.com.

Short bio:

Jane Doe graduated from College University with a degree in Biology. The more she studied the mysteries of the life, the more she wanted to write her own mysteries. Her popular mystery series The Atomic Amateur Sleuth Association won a Prestigious Writing Award. When she’s not writing, she enjoys walking her dogs on the beaches of Cape Cod. Find out more about Jane on her website: www.janedoenotarealauthor.com.

Important note on dates: If you include a date in your bio, such as when you’re next book comes out, you’ll need to revise your bio once that date arrives. Make a point to read your bio each year and revise as you accumulate new achievements, awards, and books.

Once you’ve written your bio paragraph, you can save it in your press kit folder as a PDF. Most word processing programs allow you to save as a PDF, but if not, including it as a Word doc will work too.

What else?

What else you include in your press kit will depend on what else you have to offer. If you’re just starting out and you only have the first two items, you’re off to a fantastic start! If you’re further along in your writing journey, here are some other items to include:

  • Your book cover(s) – Be sure they are high-resolution images and ones your publisher has approved for media distribution.
  • Author Visit Programs or Conference Presentations – If you have a school visit or a conference presentation program, include information about your program including the length of the presentation and the cost of presentation.
  • Reviews – If you have some stellar reviews for your books from industry sites like Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, People, etc., include them here to be used as references in articles or features about you and your books.

Where does it go?

If you have an author website, a link to the press kit can go on your About page and/or your Contact Page. As you publish more books, consider creating a Media page on your site for your press kit with downloads of your book covers and links to articles and features about your books and writing career. If your website will allow you to upload a zipped file, compress that press kit folder where you’ve saved all of the above items and upload it to your site’s media library. Grab the link from the media library and create a link on your About and/or Contact page to go to the press kit. This can be a text link (“Click here to download my press kit!”) or you can link the press kit to an icon or image to make it more visible on the page. If your site doesn’t allow for zipped files, you can include the images on the page and link each item individually or you can save your zipped file to Dropbox or Google drive and link it from there.

If you don’t have an author website yet, that’s okay! This press kit will make it easy when you do write for other websites, magazines, or newsletters or when presenting at conferences. Now, you’ll have an easy place to find what you need when someone requests your bio and headshot.

Writing an author bio may feel daunting, yet every published author has risen to the challenge– you can too!

Kelli Panique has worked with the Institute for Writers since 2016 where she edits weekly newsletters and blogs, assembles the elements for kidlit and adult writing contests, produces the Writing for Children podcasts, handles social media, and sets up celebrations for our published graduates and contest winners in the IFW Winners Circle. In her free time, Kelli likes to read books and watch movies—and then look up little-known facts for said movies on IMDb, which makes her a great addition to any trivia team.

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