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The Power of Sell Sheets
By Carolyn Howard-Johnson, multi award-winning author of the HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers
As I worked with clients over the years, I realized that too many authors don’t know about sell sheets and many more undervalue the opportunities they afford.
What Are Sell Sheets?
Sell sheets are generally thought of as fliers that get inserted into their review copies, otherwise known as ARCs. They are printed with a very short pitch (otherwise known as a logline), the book’s metadata, a bio of the author that relates well to the theme or topic of the book, and maybe even a few blurbs (endorsements) the publisher or author has already collected from other reviews or sources.
When reviewers prefer e-books, few publishers or authors are savvy enough to send a sell sheet as an attachment with it or, better, rework the e-copy into the very front of the e-book itself. A few of the big publishers do that with a special ARC edition of their paperbacks, too.
So Why Are Sell Sheets So Important?
Are you still wondering why they are so important? It’s a courtesy. But it also helps the author, publisher, and reviewer:
- It gives the author and publisher more control over what the reviewer might choose to say, especially if the sell sheet includes a synopsis or blurbs with information about the theme or premise of the book. The reviewer is not obligated to use subtle suggestions from them but they often do.
- It makes it less likely the reviewer will make a mistake with the metadata or other essentials.
- Because it makes it the process easier for the reviewer, she or he might succumb to the temptation to put this review ahead of others waiting in their to-do pile.
- Make it feasible more feasible to get review long after a release date, perhaps when sales begin to slow.
And… Be Mindful of Your Other Marketing Needs!
Sell sheets can also be inserted into books used for other marketing purposes. Books sent to bookstore buyers, TV directors and schedulers, feature editors, librarians, and more. When appropriate, publishers might add a subtle suggestion that reviews and blurbs are always appreciated or add a Post-it note to that effect. They may be called “sell sheets,” but they should also be useful, professional, and courteous.
What to Include on your Sell Sheet
Ideally sell sheets should be printed in color on glossy paper, 8 ½ x 11, and may be printed on both sides. Here is what they should include.
- A book cover image.
- A headshot of the author.
- Include book and author awards. You’re trying to convince people of the quality of the book and expertise of the author.
- Know your audience and let the sell sheet reader know who that is. No book is for “everyone.”
- Include the BISAC subject heading in your metadata. You’ll find them at bisg.org/standards/bisac_subject/index.html. These are the headings that bookstores and librarians use so you might as well do what you can to make their jobs easier when you are selling them on featuring your workshop or having a signing for you.
- Sell sheets may be printed on both sides of its sheet to accommodate contents or other essentials.
- Include your metadata. That includes:
- Your ISBN, both 10 and 13 if you have both.
- The book’s binding type (perfect, wire, comb, sewn)/
- How the book might be purchased. (paperback, hardback, jacket, e-book).
- Your book’s dimensions.
- Page count.
- When pertinent, include name of the illustrator, their awards, and short bio.
- Don’t forget the retail price for both US, Canada, and others that may be pertinent.
- Let people know what the book includes:
- Index, etc.
- Include review quotes and endorsements, most important and credible first.
- Include a short biography. Keep it focused on the author’s pertinent platform rather than how many children she has, unless the book is about raising children.
- Include complete distributor information. That, by the way, is not Ingram, though that info should be there, too. If you don’t have a distributor, do your research fast and try to get a good one.
- Include publisher and ordering info directly from the publisher.
- Mention the author’s speaking credentials, perhaps including a snappy title of a favorite topic.
If it will help, feel free to E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you a copy of a two-sided professionally produced sell sheet. Put SELL SHEET in the subject line.
Hint: You can use these as fliers at fairs, when you speak and more. When you send out ARCs, you can also include the most basic info on a label applied to the inside of the front cover. That way, if the sell sheet gets separated from the book, the recipient is sure to have all metadata she or he needs.
Don’t forget to include a way you can be reached by e-mail. You DO want to be reached, don’t you?
About the Author
Carolyn Howard-Johnson brings her experience as a publicist, journalist, marketer, and retailer to the advice she gives in her HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers and the many classes she taught for nearly a decade as instructor for UCLA Extension’s world-renown Writers’ Program. The books in her HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers have won multiple awards. That series includes earlier editions of The Frugal Book Promoter and The Frugal Editor won awards from USA Book News, Readers’ Views Literary Award, the marketing award from Next Generation Indie Books and others including the coveted Irwin award. How To Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically is the newest book in her HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers.
Howard-Johnson is the recipient of the California Legislature’s Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment Award, and her community’s Character and Ethics award for her work promoting tolerance with her writing. She was also named to Pasadena Weekly’s list of “Fourteen San Gabriel Valley women who make life happen” and was given her community’s Diamond Award for Achievement in the Arts.
The author loves to travel. She visited ninety-one countries before Covid-19 so rudely interrupted and has studied writing at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom; Herzen University in St. Petersburg, Russia; and Charles University, Prague. She admits to carrying a pen and journal wherever she goes. Web site:
CONNECT WITH CAROLYN HOWARD JOHNSON!
Amazon Profile: http://bit.ly/CarolynsAmznProfile
Website: carolynhowardjohnson.com. (Do not use https or http with this. Use it as you see it– naked. LOL.)
Thank you to several readers who requested a copy of one of my sell sheets to use as a visual example. Pleased to do it. I just finished a sell sheet for my publisher to use with the release of the third edition of my “The Frugal Editor.” I’m using both sides of the sheet so I can let possible reviewers know what is new and updated in this edition. If the publisher doesn’t use it, I’ll keep it to attachto my query letters for reviews. Yes, I still do that even with a marketing-minded publisher. If anyone would like to see this new one, let me know by email with THE FRUGAL EDITOR SELL SHEET in the subject line. Send it to, hojonews. at. AOL. dot. com.
Happy publishing to you all!
Thank you for letting me share sell sheets with your writing peeps, @ReaderViews! They are a fave promo device because once an author has a media kit, the sell sheet is very nearly a copy-and-paste effort. And it can be used in so many ways. Like a flier at book fairs! 📚🖊
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