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Press Kit Power

by Mary Jo Hazard

News of The Peacocks of Palos Verdes flew into 10,000 homes in the South Bay area of Southern California on April 10, into 35,000 homes on May 5, and into 75,000 homes on May 18 this spring. The reason for the flights—stories in three local publications stimulated by my press kit.

To launch Peacocks in March, I wrote an email news release for the local publications and television station. I followed up with a phone call two days later. “They won’t answer,” a knowing friend said. “Media people are always busy. Leave a message.”

Along with the message, I left my kit. Was that helpful? Within days, two reporters called, arranged interviews and photo shoots, and wrote articles.

One of them, Rebecca Villaneda, a Peninsula News reporter, told me that “the presentation was fantastic and eye-catching,” that she liked the colorful folder, and that the background information about me and the photographs were helpful because she could use them in her article and in coming up with questions for her interview with me.

“The book in the kit is ideal,” she said, adding that she had tossed the page of games I had included, “but it was a nice touch for people to pass along to kids,” and that she liked the page of peacock facts (“A publication can use those as a sidebar, especially a children-centered publication”).

Six weeks later, when I went to the library for a “lunch and learn” on getting publicity, I introduced myself to some people I had sent my press kit to, both panelists at the event. “I remember your press kit,” Leo Smith, a feature editor for The Daily Breeze, said. “It’s on my desk. I’ve been meaning to do something with it. I’ll call you.” Then the other panelist, the manager of the television station, said the same thing.

Leo Smith had Alexa Braden, a reporter for The Breeze, arrange an interview and photo shoot, and I’ve been booked for local TV.

Press Kit Contents

My kit is a glossy white folder professionally imprinted with the cover of my book. Sometimes publishers and authors just paste a book’s flyer on the front cover of a press kit, but this strikes me as a mistake. You want to look like a skilled professional—not a third grader with a glue stick.

As I worked to create material to fill the kit, I kept reminding myself that I needed to use it to connect with media, schools, booksellers, and readers. So I chose a simple design useful for advertising, in-store communications, signage, and school handouts.

A copy of my book fits in the folder’s left pocket, and I always personalize that with a date and a signed inscription. The right pocket holds the latest news about the book. An up-to-date media release is on top, followed by my bio and a headshot and the illustrator’s bio and headshot. Both bios have the same font and format and are printed on quality paper. Information about our Facebook pages and our Web sites is included. My business card is tucked into a slot in the front.

A promotion page in the kit lists all my events and appearances, with the latest ones first, and a page with a schedule of upcoming events is designed to allow everyone to become involved with my book publicity.

Because my book’s market is largely local at this point, I can, and do, deliver each press kit personally. This starts a positive relationship with an editor, reporter, store owner, or school official. After I’ve delivered a kit in person, I follow up with a handwritten note thanking the person for meeting with me and saying how excited I am that they have the book.

When I market to schools where I’m going to read my book, I add school handouts—a word search, word scramble, fun peacock facts, and so on—to the kit. Also, I include a preorder form for parents to fill out and return. When parents prepay for books, they can tell me how to sign them. I collect these forms and payments a few days before an event, personalize the copies, and give them out the day I read. The prepay sheet saves a lot of time.

If I’m marketing to stores, I add copies of the newspaper articles about the book and a page of fun peacock facts to my kit, and include bookmarks. Store owners appreciate getting all the information they need to arrange book signings, along with appealing facts to tell their customers about my book and me.

The kits are pricey. I paid $2.12 apiece for 250 printed folders, and of course it costs money to duplicate the contents. But the results have made the expenditures worthwhile.

Stimulating Sales

At Nantucket Crossing—an upscale gift shop—the owner had the Peninsula News reprint from my kit laminated and easel backed for display with my book.

The manager of Ralph’s—a large grocery chain—was so impressed with the press kit that he convinced his corporate manager to stock my book because it would be good for community relations.

Corners of the World, a gift shop, used the book from the kit to test sales potential. It is now selling about 24 copies a month.

The buyer from Terranea—a destination hotel—liked the press kit, asked me how many books I had printed (5,000), and predicted I would be reordering by the end of the summer.

Initially, I met with resistance at Lunada Bay Market, a grocery store/deli/butcher shop with outside tables for coffee and lunch, even though it seemed perfect for my book—lots of local traffic and a great place for an impulse buy. The owner told me he didn’t carry books. Still, he liked the press kit, and I told him to keep it. That night he called, saying, “Changed my mind, I’d like to order some books for the holidays.”

As I write, Peacocks is in 26 stores in the Palos Verdes area, and three local newspapers have run articles about it. The local library launched the book with a month-long contest and a special party for winners and guests. Schools have scheduled me months in advance for readings. I’ve had several book signings and have more on the calendar. The local TV station is doing its interview this month. And I’ve been interviewed by a reporter from NPR. She liked the kit and called me to ask if I would read from the book outside in peacock territory so she could have the sounds of the peacocks in the background. I did; we got some terrific peacock cries at just the right moments, and the day the segment aired I got orders from people in Alabama, Florida, Kansas, and California.

I’ve also been asked to speak at an authors’ luncheon in the fall, and to sign and sell my book at a Palos Verdes Juniors’ Fashion Show and lunch in December. And Peninsula High School will be using the book to raise funds for football lights for their stadium.

In three short months, The Peacocks of Palos Verdes sold over 1,300 copies, and I credit my press kit with making it fly off the shelves.

Mary Jo Hazard, the author of The Peacocks of Palos Verdes, is working on her second book, Palo’s World. To learn more, visit peacocksofpalosverdes.com or email hazardm2002@yahoo.com.



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