The Author Press Kit

Have you ever seen an author press kit? Me neither. At least
I hadn’t until I noticed a copy of Irving Wallace’s press kit for his novel, The
Miracle
. Produced by Wallace’s publisher E.P. Dutton, Inc. in New York, the kit
was meant to be sent to book sellers both to entice them to order the book for
their retail locations, but also to provide stock material those potential book
sellers could use to sell the book in their stores.

presskit-outside.jpg

The press kit arrives in a glossy 8.5″x11″ folder using the
same fonts and imagery as the novel’s cover. Inside the kit are two pockets,
one on each facing cover. In the left side, the kit includes the text of an
interview with Wallace about his new novel. The interview, often titled “Questions
and Answers” is a common feature of book publisher publicity and promotional
materials. The Q&A interview is created for every single book whether or
not a full press kit is developed. Additionally, the left-hand pocket includes
a 5″x7″ glossy black and white image of Irving Wallace looking particularly
authorly (Yes. I just made that up. Go with it.) in his suit and tie and
holding his signature pipe. His smile is friendly and affable if not somewhat
goofy (in a good way). The photographer managed to capture an image of Wallace
in which he looks a respectable professional, but also relatable.

mugshot.jpg

On the right-hand side of the folder, the pocket contains
three more items. The first is a glossy 5″x7″ black and white photo of the book’s
cover. Next is a press release from Dutton providing the sales pitch for the
book with a synopsis description that hooks the reader (the back cover text as
well). The “Dutton News” also lists the main cast members of the book and the
requisite price, ISBN, Publication date, and so forth. Finally, behind the
press release is a 3-page biography of Irving Wallace highlighting his long and
varied writing career and impressive bibliography of magazine articles, short
stories, fiction and non-fiction works to date.

presskit-inside.jpg

Since the press kit for The Miracle was produced
in 1984 with the release of the novel, I imagine that press kits have changed
significantly in the digital era. Although today’s press kits likely include
much the same information, it is, no doubt, sent electronically rather than
physically through the good ol’ snail mail. That’s too bad, really. Having gone
through this press kit I think there is something particularly endearing about the
physical artifact–its tactility: the smooth, glossy surface of the folder; its
smell: the faint chemical smell of the photo emulsion and the smell of good
quality paper with actual typed ink; and its visual appeal: the document design
of each item included, the photographic evidence of a real person and a real
book and even the sense that you’re holding the essence of the book in your
hands with the kit cover echoing the novel cover. All of these are part of what
makes us still buy physical books even when we own electronic readers, cell
phones and tablets that double as readers, and a host of other digital
equipment that lets us “read” a book today
.

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