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Words for Writers: Media Kits

If you are a professional actor, writer, or creative of any kind, then you should probably have a media kit, both a hard-copy edition and one that is on your website and available for people to download. It is probably best to keep the digital version in PDF, so it is widely readable on many devices.

I have an entire segment of my website specifically designed to make life for people trying to contact me or my agent, or to write about me, easier. You can see it here. It’s a collection of bare-bones facts and links, and information like bios of various lengths, a list of publications and awards, and professional headshots. Sort of one-stop-shopping for everything-you-need-as-a-person-in-professional-media.

Why do it? It just makes it easier for them, but also for me. I am generally answering requests for interviews , to send along bios, or to send along photos from my smartphone. I have some of that stuff stored on my device, but most of the time it’s easier to say: “All of that is on my website, on the tab marked “media”; it’s all there for you! Please take whatever you want to use.”

It’s also important because it helps build a factual basis of your career for people who are looking for information about you. I have all the dates, award names, and proper titles listed there, too. Because websites like IMDB or Wikipedia can be edited collectively, sometimes the dates and things can get muddied. This is a place where everything is listed, and clear, and I try to make certain to keep it updated with each publication or casting announcement I make.

I also keep a list of most recent announcements on my main website page, so that people/interviewers/researchers can check in and get updated quickly.

So what is a media kit?

A media kit is basically a primer for people who are going to be working with you, and discussing your work with you; kind of a “Me And My Work For Dummies”. It can be a PDF file, or a hard-copy collection of print out pages and promotional items.

It should be updated with each new publication or performance announcement, to reflect a focus on whatever is the most important work for you to push at the time.

How is it (not) used?

Media kits are used to prepare people to be able to speak about you and your work, and discuss it with you, in a short amount of time. They’re generally used by interviews and chat show hosts who may not have time to do a lot of research about you, or as a jumping-off point for people writing profiles, or a host’s research team.

Obviously, in an ideal world, you want anyone who is interviewing you or working with you to have read everything you’ve ever written or seen everything you’ve ever been in. Unfortunately, that’s not always possible, so sometimes you have to help them fake it a bit. That’s the truth of the biz, and they’ll really appreciate the leg up. On top of that, it also lets you control what people focus on when you’re promoting your new work.

Don’t send a media kit in lieu of an actual conversation, or anywhere it’s unsolicited, like to an agent that you’re initially querying or to a producer that you haven’t already been in discussion with. A very simple rule of thumb is to never let the kit speak for you first. Have a conversation, then send the kit when they’ve agreed to have you on/work with you.

Where should I put it?

Media kits should be emailed or hardcopy mailed to any media outlets that are working with, interviewing, or hosting you. This can include: TV hosts/producers, newspaper reporters and interviewers, radio show hosts, chat show hosts, convention organizers, etc.

It should also be available on your website. You may also have a paper copy – I would suggest trying to keep it down to one slim folder. The paper copy has the advantage of being able to tuck bookmarks, short stories, and other promotional materials into it. However, resist the urge to overstuff it and over-saturating your message or confusing the readers. Stick to materials for the most important stuff, like the latest release, or the work that you’ve been invited to particularly discuss.

What goes into a media kit (and it doesn’t have to be ALL of this):

Media release: A press release about your most current project or work, if you have one. If you’re between projects, then you can skip this part or include your most recent release, as long as it’s not terribly out of date. Find out about how to write a press release here.

Sell sheet: No more than one sheet page with the vital information for whatever project you’re pushing. Say, for a book, it should include a include synopsis, cover art, short bio, publisher, ISBN, ordering info. how to get review copies, etc. For a film, this should be the poster, short bios on the filmmaker and leads, production stills, the pitch, how to acquire a screener, and release info.

Bio: A paragraph about you that mentions your most important accomplishments and your basic info. Mine is:

J.M. is an actor SF/F author, fanthropologist and pop culture scholar. She’s appeared in podcasts, documentaries, on radio, and on television to discuss all things geeky through the lens of academia. Her debut novel Triptych was nominated for two Lambda Literary Awards and was named one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2011. www.jmfrey.net | @scifrey

This is generally what also goes in anthologies and on convention websites.

I also have longer versions on my “For Media” page, in case they’d prefer something more in depth. I also have a link to my Wikipedia entry, which I can’t control but seems to be consistently accurate.

Photos: There should be just one headshot, a really professional photo of the caliber you’d want on the dust-flap of your novel, or on your IMDB profile.

I had professional headshots done. It seems like an unnecessary expense when an author shot just needs to be in focus, flattering, and not too cluttered. But having really high-res, quality photos make you look serious about your craft, successful, and most importantly, gives the media outlets lots of appealing material to work with – they’re more likely to publish your picture if it’s of publishable quality. It’s also important that your readers know what you look like so they can find you at events and appearances, or can recognize you as they pass by your table at a convention or when producers welcome you into a studio.

On top of all that, a professional photographer knows all the little tricks to create a really flattering photo, and we all want one of those! I also got a few different looks in my gallery – something casual, something a bit dressy, and some fun things: one with a toy UFO and some with my steampunk goggles to represent the two genres I am writing in at the moment. If my other books ever see the light of day, I will get photos with props for those genres done as well.

I was lucky enough to already have worked with a professional photographer as a model for one of his shows, so I knew I liked his work style and his products, so I knew who to contact. If you don’t know a photographer, ask a local actor’s agent where he send his clients, or contact a local art school to see if there is a student who works in photography who might want to make some cash.

Be prepared to spend $400 on average (photographer’s time, studio rental [with backgrounds and lights], and some photo editing), and spend about 2-4 hours in the studio. You’ll also probably have to do your own hair and makeup, unless the headshot professional includes it in their fee. Don’t get a new haircut the day of, in case you hate it; only go to makeup counters for the free make over if you trust them and have seen their work before. However, do go to your stylist for a great blow-out, and do make an appointment at a makeup counter if you know it will be awesome. You will also have to provide your own wardrobe, so choose solid colours with no logos, flattering cuts, and clean tailoring. Look at yourself from every angle in the clothing – does it give you saggy arm or can you see your bra through it? Be aware that the light will be much brighter in the studio.

Don’t let your clothes muffle you – your face is the most important element of the photo. If your clothes take away from that, instead of framing it prettily, then choose something else.

If possible, make certain that you have pics that are right-click-able so they can actually copy/paste them onto their own websites, etc. Make sure to name the file something like “J.M. Frey Promo Photo 7 by Jane Camera” so both your name and the photographer’s name are attached to the file.

Media pitch/topics talking points – What are the important themes of the work you or pushing, or what concerns and themes run through your whole body of work? What do you want to talk about with this book? What do you think is important to highlight? Where would you feel the conversation would be most interesting and important. Also, what else are you an expert in?

Yes, I am often asked in to talk about my books, but I also get asked to speak about fanthropology, gender and sex in SF/F works and communities, steampunk, Doctor Who, and cosplay. I state that these are my fields of expertise so people can find me if they need celebrity talking heads on those topics.

Interview questions: I don’t often do this, but I know some people provide a list of short questions and answers for the hosts. I do however try to see the questions list before I got in, so I have a basic idea of where the conversation is heading. This way I don’t waste precious time thinking about my answers or “ummm” and “uhhh”ing. It also helps you to rehearse little sound bites.

Business card, bookmarks, brochure, postcards, and other promo items, including DVD or Book , if it’s a physical kit.Send a digital file of the book or the film if it’s requested and safe.

Reviews: No more than one page, and preferably about the most recent work and by important people in your field. I try to have at least one great short review attached to each book. Short articles you’ve written, other short articles about you, or a link to an archive of said articles.

Notable previous appearances.

Excerpt or sample chapters (if applicable)

Social Media links

Contact information for you and your agent, press manager, etc.

TL;DR: Basically write 4-6 pages on how awesome you are, and the basic facts of your career, with reviews and contact information.

For those who are curious, here’s my most recent digital media kit.

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For more posts on the business and craft of writing, search my Words for Writers tag.

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