A review of Putting It On Paper by Dawn Josephson

While the book is targeted towards book authors, much of the advice is useful for any writer who needs to promote themselves (that is, for any writer). Writing good press releases, cover letters, bios and self-promoting articles are the keystones to any writing career, and Josephson clearly makes the point that, although there is nothing to stop writers from putting their work in a drawer, writing for publication requires a publicity kit. It isn’t an option, nor is it an easy end of process tag-on.

Reviewed by Magdalena Ball

Putting It On Paper:
The Ground Rules for Creating Promotional Pieces that Sell Books
by Dawn Josephson
Paperback: 170 pages
Publisher: Ground Rules Press (January 12, 2004)
ISBN: 0974496618

Self-promotion is the new buzzword in book publishing and it really doesn’t matter how introverted or otherwise creative you are. If you don’t promote your work, you won’t sell your books. Even if your book has been published by one of the bigger houses, the publicity machine will be minimal, and very limited timewise unless you are already very well known. As an author, you are generally expected to take responsibility for your own promotion. With self-published books, promotion is one of the most critical steps in the overall process. There are many aspects to self-promotion, and it can be daunting for new writers to deal with this—it requires very different types of skills to those involved in writing a book. Dawn Josephson’s new book, Putting It on Paper is a very specific and targeted guide to creating the written part of a promotional campaign – the media kit, including a cover letter, press release, mock book reviews, an author bio, selling sheet, catalog sheet, and some extras (“Chachkis”). There are also chapters which tell you how (and why) to use articles as promotional pieces, and how to pull the kit together. Josephson’s prose is clear and very easy to follow, and the step by step focused nature of this book allows her to do a very thorough job, exploring the different aspects of each component of the media kit, including some very useful templates, lots of samples and examples.

Each chapter contains a set of ground rules, frequently asked questions, and key points. The Frequently Asked Questions seem very authentic such as “My book is really, really in-depth and detailed. I can’t possibly get my message across in one page. Can I create a multi-page release due to my book’s advanced subject matter?” Josephson’s answers are occasionally humorous, and always persuasive enough to sway the reader to her obviously correct way of thinking. The chapter on press releases is particularly useful for all writers, and includes a number of different press releases targeted to different markets. Not only will this chapter get you thinking about different places to send a release, it also contains the kind of well written templates which can be used to create your own targeted releases.

If you never thought you needed chachkis (a Yiddish word which most Americans, and Seinfeld fans, will know, but if not, it is a kind of cute little nothing you can hold in your hand), Josephson will probably convince you otherwise. Postcards, bookmarks, copies of reviews, sample chapters, or counter cards are all the kind of eye catching freebies that Josephson suggests will make your press release stand out from others, and therefore lead to more sales. As with the other chapters, this one includes templates (very useful for chachkis you are making yourself), samples, and directions. Perhaps the most useful chapter in this book though is the one on how to obtain free advertising through writing articles. Not only is writing an article ona topic similar to your book a way of obtaining a free advertisement in your resource box, but you will also establish your credibility in a way that is much more likely to drive purchasers to your book than an advertisement full of superlatives. Josephson provides the nine simple ground rules for writing this kind of article including “writing for an eighth-grader:”

People reading magazine articles are neither dumb nor uneducated; rather thay are busy people who are press for time, and they don’t want to “work” to read your article. They want the information presented to them in the simplest way so they can get the facts they need quickly and then get on with their lives. (141)

The section titled “basic anatomy of an article” will make writing this type of article quite easy (especially after writing a full length book), and the samples provided make for interesting reading themselves. This isn’t unrelated to the rest of the book either, as an article related to your book is an integral item in your media kit.

While the book is targeted towards book authors, much of the advice is useful for any writer who needs to promote themselves (that is, for any writer). Writing good press releases, cover letters, bios and self-promoting articles are the keystones to any writing career, and Josephson clearly makes the point that, although there is nothing to stop writers from putting their work in a drawer, writing for publication requires a publicity kit. It isn’t an option, nor is it an easy end of process tag-on. The media kit may not be the only means of publicity for a finished piece of work, and Putting it on Paper doesn’t cover things like book signings, networking, working the web or the setting up a contact list, but as the media kit it is the most critical part of promotion, the focused nature of this book is what makes it valuable. A good media kit will open doors to all other forms of publicity, and Putting it on Paper is about as simple and clear a guide to producing the perfect kit as you could find.

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