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One Powerful Piece of Paper: How to Create the All-Important Book Flyer

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One of the first things I
learned when I started in book marketing was how to write, develop, and design
the promotional page known as a book flyer or a sell sheet—the single
piece of paper that buyers, wholesalers, librarians, catalog buyers, and others
review to decide how many copies of your book to buy . . . or not.

 

The book flyer conveys the first,
and sometimes the only, impression a buyer may get of a book, and a mistake or
omission can have serious consequences because the sell-sheet information, once
entered into a supplier’s database, becomes the transactional information that
reference and promotional materials are derived from.

 

Two general guidelines and 10 tips
will help you make your flyer the very best document it can be.

 

Guideline #1

 

Design your book flyer to fit a
multitude of uses. For example, you might hand it out at lectures; attach it to
pitch letters; blow it up to be a poster; slip it inside complimentary and
autographed books; include it in your press kit; send it to people who are
writing articles, abstracts, or catalog copy; fax it, email it, and give it to
everybody who says, “Oh, you’ve written a book? What’s it about?” (Note: If you
want to take orders, it is advisable to develop an alternate version; see tip
#10 below.)

 

Guideline #2

 

Write and design the flyer so that
it fits your publishing personality. In other words, the copy, tone, graphics,
and general appearance should reflect the personal brand of your publishing
company. The voice, style, and character should be yours and not those of a
designer. And the copy and graphics on the flyers you prepare for each of your
books should be in sync with and reinforce the position you have established
for your publishing company within the market.

 

Tips

 

1.
Include a high-quality photograph of the cover.
<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> You already know that this is the most important
graphic element of the book, and why it pays to spend time and money on the
cover. Now you need to invest in a full-color digital photograph of it. Hire a
professional photographer who will dummy the book and take shots from different
angles to produce a photo of a complete book with a slice of the spine showing.
Make sure you own all the photographs and negatives and have the right to
reproduce the image any way you wish. If the photograph doesn’t look as good as
your printed cover, have it reshot.

 

2.
Display the title, the subtitle, and the author’s name and credentials
<span
class=95StoneSerifSBIt>prominently at
the top of the flyer. If this information is clear and readable in the cover
photograph, it does not need to be repeated.

 

3.
Next, present four, five, or six benefit-oriented short bullet points
<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> about your book as teaser copy. Each point should
answer the three questions below simply and directly, but also with flair,
gusto, panache, imagination, power, spark, and dynamism.

 

·      Why should I read any further on
this sell sheet?

·      Why should I be interested in
reading, let alone buying, this book?

·      What will I learn; how will I be
inspired; how will I improve; how will I make money; how will I have a better
life? In short—what’s in this book for me? (Just follow the AIDA rule:
Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action.)

 

4.
Include a brief quote, an excerpt, and/or blurbs at the top of the flyer.
<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> Use this copy as a hook to capture the reader’s
attention. Blurbs from high-profile sources are best; shorten them to
one-liners and splash them across the page. If you don’t have any blurbs (and
why don’t you?), or if the people providing the blurbs are not well known, you
can substitute a grabby quote or even a brief, enticing excerpt.

 

5.
Highlight the book’s three or four most important topics
<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> with one- or two-sentence excerpts. Some publishers
like to include the full T of C or an annotated contents list instead, and some
use blurbs to highlight the content. However you do it, the point is to focus
on the meat of the book—the topics that the reader, buyer, or librarian
is going to base a decision on.

 

6.
Outline advance publicity and marketing plans.
<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> Booksellers will not buy your book without knowing
that you have professional, realistic plans for marketing and publicity.
Include information on author tours and public appearances; radio interviews
already scheduled or in the works; forthcoming articles or reviews about the
book; the author’s own promotional activities; the size of the print run if
it’s large (e.g., 30,000-plus copies); the size of the marketing/promotion
budget if it’s large (e.g., $30,000-plus); any special author relationships
that may help sell the book; and any special events in the planning stages. If
you’ve hired a publicist or have a publicity calendar online, highlight that
information as well. And if you have tons and tons of publicity working for
your book, document all of it in a dazzling Web site and list the URL here.

 

7.
Present a brief author bio.
Keep
it to 100 to 150 words, and, in most cases, include a photo. Make sure every
sentence in the bio conveys valuable information and sends a message that the
author is an authority in the field and will be a strong self-promoter. Don’t
use an old photo or an airbrushed photo, and don’t use a photo at all if the
author is not reasonably good-looking.

 

8.
Provide the following must-have information
<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> (and I do mean must):

 

·      publisher name and contact
information

·      publisher URL

·      category or categories of the book

·      ISBN

·      list price

·      number of pages

·      trim size

·      number of photos, illustrations,
maps, drawings, etc. (unless there are none)

·      statement re whether the book is
indexed

·      format (paperback or hardcover)

·      distributor’s name if you have a
distributor

·      names of wholesalers that carry
the book if you don’t have a distributor; include Amazon and BarnesandNoble.com

 

9.
Put it all together.
Keep the
design simple, and print on quality stock and in full color on both sides of
one page. (Don’t allow your designer to even think about going beyond one
page!) Your design must be clean, elegant, attractive, and not so strong that
it overpowers the focal point, which is the picture of the book. Try to develop
a sequential copy-and-design path that draws readers in, moves them logically
from one point to the next, and ends by bringing them to a decision with an
incentive and a call to action (e.g., “Order today and receive free shipping and
handling”). Remember to use design elements such as color, bursts, cut corners,
rules, and subheads.

 

10.
Prepare a special-sales version.

If you plan to fulfill orders you generate at seminars or via special sales or
direct mail, replace the information about the distributor or the wholesalers
and online retailers with your direct-order information, and make ordering easy
by including Web site, email, 800-number, fax, and business address. State that
all orders will be fulfilled promptly; say which credit cards you accept;
explain shipping and handling options and costs; and offer a discount for
volume purchases and/or an incentive for ordering direct (such as free shipping
and handling). If taking and fulfilling orders is a major activity for your business,
design and attach a simple key-coded order form that buyers can fill out and
fax or mail back to you.

 

To see how these tips can best be
used, study the outstanding example of the book flyer from the Benjamin
Franklin Award-winning book by Dr. Eve A. Wood, <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>Medicine, Mind and Meaning
. The tip
numbers are printed in black next to the appropriate parts of the flyer.

 

Note: A special thanks to Brian
Jud, Sharon Castlen, and Carla Ruff, all PMA members, who reviewed and
contributed to this article before publication.

 

Robin Bartlett is the
director of sales and business development for the American College of
Physicians in Philadelphia; a member of the Executive Committee of the
Healthcare Marketing Council; and president of the American Medical Publishers Association.
He is a frequent contributor to PMA Independent, a former member of the PMA board of
directors, and educational chair of the PMA University program. To contact him,
email robin@robinbartlett.com; or visit www.robinbartlett.com.

 

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