Author Media Kit

My "Office"

My “Office”

This past week, while cleaning out e-mail and reading writing newsletters I subscribe to, I ran across an article in a newsletter that nearly made me gasp. I have moved into book-promotion-land with Perceval’s Secret. I know less about promo than I do marketing — they are related, true, but promo is a function of PR while marketing is a function of advertising and sales.  I’d found a possible place for an ad online at a reasonable price for the novel, but I was struggling with the PR part.

Then my eyes rested on a newsletter article entitled “7 Must-Have Items for Your Author Media Kit” by Joan Stewart, publicity expert and author of 10 books.  Exactly what I needed and didn’t know it!  In the article, Stewart lists the items to include in a media kit and describes them.  She has also developed templates for a media kit which is available at BookDesignTemplates(dot)com under the Specialty section.  I’ve bought the templates.

Why create a media kit?  When you send your book to a book reviewer, or you want attention from a magazine or newspaper book editor, or you want a bookstore to stock your book, you need to give them a bundle of information about your novel that includes synopses (in different lengths), book cover photo, maybe some point-of-sale materials, e.g. bookmarks, and information about you.  You can mail them the kit initially, or you can hand it to them in the store.  But it is a wonderful informational tool for your book publicity.

press_kit_sample

Media Kit Example from Debarholdings.com

With the information in a media kit, your promo target will have the information he or she needs to promote you or your book intelligently whether it’s for an interview or a review.  In the newsletter article, Stewart lists the seven critical items that must be in an author media kit.  They are:

  • Cheat Sheet for Book Reviewers
  • Sell Sheet for Retailers
  • “How to Order” Form for Readers
  • Press Release with a High-Res Cover Image
  • Interview Topics or Questions
  • Author Bio for Events
  • Introduction for Events and Speaking Engagements

I’ve been creating a list of book reviewers that I want to send a kit to along with an invitation to read and review my book.  This will probably be my primary use of the media kit.  It’ll be on my computer, so I can also send it to any bloggers who may be targets for reviews.  I can also send it to bloggers when I approach them about doing a guest blog for them.  Oh, and you can send a media kit to book clubs who want you to attend one of their meetings.  Other uses include sending a kit to any bookstores you plan to visit, to organizations or schools who have invited you to come speak, and anyone else who requests the information.

Right now, I’m thinking that serendipitous article may have saved me a lot of embarrassment and helped me to be the professional indie writer I am. With a media kit, I stand a better chance of getting the attention that I want for my novel, and perhaps insuring that reviewers will review it.

So, you never know when subscribing to a writing newsletter will be just what you need…..

 

 

Living and Writing

Writers can face an ongoing conflict between their writing and their lives.  Life often intrudes upon my writing, but can writing intrude upon life?  I recently had a conversation with the mother of a teen daughter who was obsessed with writing. The mother had encouraged her daughter to become involved in more activities at school, in sports, etc. in order to try to balance her daughter’s time living life with writing.  I agreed with the mother.  If I had done nothing but write since I began in elementary school, I would not have been able to write any of the essays or fiction I’ve written.

1114_Cover_web-120x156The Writer has a monthly column called “Writers on Writing.”  In the November 2014 issue, this column spotlights John Freeman, writer, editor, poet and critic.  He’s the editor of Granta.  He was asked, “What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about writing?”  He began his answer by saying it was impossible to separate this question from questions about how to live.  This really caught my attention.  What does he mean?

Freeman goes on to say “For me, that is the question any good book asks; what does it feel like to be alive, how do we struggle, what is essential, what is felt?”

This quote captures the importance of living life to the fullest as a writer rather than writing all the time.  How could a writer write about life if he hasn’t lived life? A writer needs to have experienced what life has to offer, what physical experience feels like — we are all physical in our bodies — and emotional experience.  Has he been in love?  Has someone ever betrayed him?  Has she given birth or made the choice not to have children?  Or perhaps she cannot physically have children.  What does it feel like to be rejected?  To fail?  To climb a mountain?  Sleep under the stars?  Swim in the ocean?

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Freeman talks about writers using the senses to capture the physical world for readers, and complains that contemporary writing has moved away from this kind of writing.  He credits the effects of technology as the culprit.  He said:

“For me to be fully alive and to write well require the same thing. It comes down to a mindfulness which remembers the mind has as much to do with the senses as the wheels upon which it turns.”

How do writers live life? Well, like anyone else. Seek to learn.  Seek to experience. Travel. Seek out interesting people and their stories. Have a variety of interests that will bring you a variety of experiences. I am not athletic, but during my life I have participated in many different sports and physical activities.  For example, in college I needed to fulfill a physical education requirement, so in addition to learning how to play squash and golf, I signed up for karate class to learn self-defense.  Out of my experience with that karate class, I learned that my roommate  would cheat on her boyfriend with the karate instructor, and I had the experience years later of using what I learned to defend myself when a man assaulted me.  These are life experiences.

For me, it can be a frustrating conflict when life intrudes upon my writing.  I have to remind myself that it’s OK.  Life may be giving me more experiences or material for my writing…..

notebook-computer-writing-blogging

“Seeking the Infinite”

book cover Seeking the InfiniteA good friend who knows of my deep ongoing interest in orchestra conductors loaned me Frederick Edward Harris, Jr.’s biography of conductor Stanislaw Skrowaczewski entitled Seeking the Infinite: The Musical Life of Stanislaw Skrowaczewski.  Lovers of classical music may recognize his name, but he’s not a “superstar” conductor, even though his extraordinary talent as a conductor and composer would make him one.  He was music director of the Minnesota Orchestra from 1960 to 1979, and has been their Conductor Laureate ever since.  He is responsible for the construction of Orchestra Hall in downtown Minneapolis (not the recent renovation) in 1973-74.  I met him once or twice when I was working there in the 1980’s, but I doubt he’d remember me.  Today, he’s 91 years old, still conducting, and still a staunch supporter of the Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra.

I’ve read many biographies of conductors over the years, but this is truly the first that offers an inside and intimate view of a conductor’s life, especially working as a music director vs. a guest conductor.  Maestro Stan ( as we call him in Minnesota now) was born in Poland, survived World War II just barely, and then managed to survive the communist regime that took over after the war.  His music education began when he was a young boy, and he began composing almost immediately.  As he went through school, he thought of himself as a composer and that he would earn his living as one.  He discovered, however, that he needed to conduct in order to earn a living.  During the early years of his career in Poland, he endured an inner conflict between conducting and composing.  He wanted more time for composing.  Time for composing would be something he’d search for his entire life.

Stanislaw Skrowaczewski about 1960

Stanislaw Skrowaczewski about 1960

Harris details Maestro Stan’s conducting career from the beginning to about 2011.  Maestro Stan had the good fortune to meet George Szell, the venerated conductor and music director of the Cleveland Orchestra, who invited him to conduct his orchestra in America.  This brought him to America and to the attention of American orchestras.  It wasn’t long after that that he landed the job of music director of the Minneapolis Symphony, now the Minnesota Orchestra.  He had one assistant conductor, so he conducted almost all the concerts himself.  At the same time, his education in working with a board of directors began.  Fortunately, he had good friends on the Minneapolis Symphony’s Board of Directors who helped him, championed his ideas, and supported his choices.  As a result, he was able to build the Minneapolis Symphony into a world class orchestra.  In fact, as I read these chapters, I thought often of what Osmo Vanska has done more recently.

Two major events mark Maestro Stan’s tenure as Music Director.  The first occurred in the late 1960’s.  The Board took the action to change the name of the orchestra from the Minneapolis Symphony to The Minnesota Orchestra.  The name-changers wanted the orchestra to  represent the entire state rather than a metropolitan area.  This name change also made the orchestra stand out because most symphony orchestras were named after the cities in which they performed.  Maestro Stan heard about the name change while he was traveling as a guest conductor, and he was furious about it.  Some orchestra musicians shared his anger, and a movement to change back the name to the Minneapolis Symphony existed in the orchestra well into the 2000’s.

Maestro Stan young

The second event was the realization of Maestro Stan’s dream for a concert hall of the orchestra’s own with superb acoustics.  He was involved in nearly every aspect of the creation of Orchestra Hall, campaigning tirelessly for it, raising money, then working with the architect and overseeing the construction, all while continuing his busy conducting schedule.  Orchestra Hall was completed in 1974, and Maestro Stan conducted at the grand opening concert.

Orchestra Hall before recent renovation

Orchestra Hall before recent renovation

It was fascinating to read about his tenure as Music Director.  In addition to conducting, he also had administrative duties such as developing programs for an entire season and hiring musicians.  He also had much closer contact with the Board than a guest conductor would.  Eventually, the administrative duties and needing to fight the Board for what he wanted in terms of artistic initiatives tired him out.  When he resigned his position in 1977, he decided to become a freelancer, a guest conductor.

Since then, Maestro Stan has done more composing as well as continuing his busy conducting schedule.  Harris shows in detail what the life of a guest conducting conductor is like — nearly constant travel with little down time, but the only administrative responsibility concerns deciding on one’s own program at each orchestra.  This, of course, reminded me of my conductor, Evan Quinn, in the Perceval novels.  Maestro Stan has been in demand especially in Europe and Asia as a guest conductor, and served as principal conductor for the Halle Orchestra in England and the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra in Japan, and principal guest conductor of the Saarbruecken Radio Symphony Orchestra in Germany.

Photo Credit: Toshiyuki Urano

Photo Credit: Toshiyuki Urano

Harris’ biography is massive, highly detailed, and fascinating.  I often thought of current events with the Minnesota Orchestra and the current Board while reading of Maestro Stan’s experience in the 1960’s while music director.  The more something changes, the more it stays the same.  I recommend this biography for anyone interested in the Minnesota Orchestra, composing, conducting, nonprofit management, and the life of a conductor.  I read this biography in spurts, took my time, and truly savored it.

Point of View: Second Person

My "Office"

My “Office”

The most common points of view that writers use in fiction are first person and third person omniscient.  Third person POV is especially versatile and gives the writer a lot of room to maneuver.  I used third person in Perceval’s Secret but with a close focus in on three different characters: Evan Quinn the protagonist (spent the most time with him), Chief Inspector Klaus Leiner of the Vienna City Police, and Bernard Brown the Deputy Cultural Attache (and CIA operative) at the American Embassy in Vienna, Austria.  With this POV, I could dip into each character’s mind when I needed to or step back and look at the big picture.

First person POV is quite restricted.  When a writer chooses this POV, she can only write what the “I” character sees, hears, and experiences, and what that character already knows or learns.  There is no opportunity to explore the minds of other characters, or give the reader information that the POV character doesn’t have.  This POV can be extremely effective in suspense novels, however, and it is often found in mysteries.

The second person POV is far, far less common and can be really tricky to pull off

Book Cover

Book Cover

well.  Probably the most famous novel written in second person is Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights, Big City (1984).  Here’s the beginning of the first paragraph of that novel:

You are not the kind of guy who would be at a place like this at this time of the morning. But here you are, and you cannot say that the terrain is entirely unfamiliar, although the details are fuzzy. You are at a nightclub talking to a girl with a shaved head.

This is a pure second person POV. It feels like the author is addressing the reader, putting the reader directly into the novel and the story whether the reader wants to be there or not. At the time that McInerney’s novel was first published, it caused quite a stir because of the POV.  He maintains it through the entire book.  It begins to wear on a reader.  After a while, it’s “you, you, you.”  So how to write a second person POV story without irritating the reader?

Book Cover

Book Cover

Charles Stross, in his novel Halting State (2007), handles the second person POV with style and brilliance.  I highly recommend this book for many reasons, but especially as a story told in second person POV that’s highly successful.  So how did he do it?

First of all, he doesn’t overuse the pronoun “you.”  In fact, once he establishes which character is the “you” character in the chapter, he backs off of the pronoun, using it sparsely.  The reader is deep into the character’s mind, so the “you” isn’t needed very much.

Second, Stross titles each chapter and includes the name of the POV character in the title. This insures that the reader will not become confused.  Why?

Third, Stross doesn’t limit himself to only one character as his second POV, no.  He has three characters that he moves among to give the reader different experiences of the same story.  I found this to be absolute amazing. It also heightened the suspense similar to the way first person does.  So, he uses the limitations of the second person to great advantage.

Here’s a little taste, the beginning of the first chapter entitled “SUE: Grand Theft Automatic”:

It’s a grade four, dammit.  Maybe it should have been a three, but the dispatcher bumped it way down the greasy pole because it was phoned in as a one and the MOP who’d reported the offence had sounded either demented, or on drugs, or something — but definitely not one hundred per cent in touch with reality.

Not a “you” in sight!  The first time one appears is a “your” at the end of the third paragraph.  This is the work of a master….

 

Contest for FREE Book!

How good are your eyes?

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There is an element in the Perceval’s Secret cover photo that appears not to belong.  Can you find it?  Look closely…..

If you think you’ve found it, send me a note at percevalbooks(at)gmail.com identifying/describing the element and its location on the cover.

The first twenty-five people who identify the element correctly will receive a FREE copy of Perceval’s Secret in the e-book format of their choosing (Kindle or Nook).  Then I will announce the winners here.

Have you found it yet?

Check at The Perceval Novels public Facebook page for hints.

Remember, you must send me a note at percevalbooks(at)gmail.com.  Any other communication will not be eligible to win.

Good luck, everyone!