It’s four months before the big day — four months until you publish your book! Everything is written, revised, edited, and laid out and you’re even finalizing your cover. You’ve made your marketing plans, and part of that includes pursuing professional reviews.
You’re all set to mail out your packages and upload your digital copies when you realize that each and every pro outlet requires a sell sheet.
What the heck is that?
A sell sheet is basically a cover letter for your book. It’s sometimes called an info sheet, fact sheet, dealer sheet, or pub sheet — you know, just to make things more confusing for you.
It’s not as complicated as all those names suggest, though…just some basic publication information that any reviewer, bookseller, or other potential big buyer needs to know to log in your book and potentially add it to their ordering plans.
You can easily create a sell sheet using Word, Google Docs, or Pages, but you can also make a fancier version in InDesign or another professional graphics program.
Best of all, once you’ve created one sell sheet, you can use it as a template for others! All you have to do is swap out the cover image and the relevant information, using the same layout, and hit “print.” You’re all set for the next book in your series to go to reviewers!
Basic Elements of a Sell Sheet
Every sell sheet needs to include certain key information about your book. In no particular order:
- Title and subtitle
- Author name and bio
- Page count
- Format and binding
- Publication date
- Contact information
Let’s go over a few of these elements that aren’t quite self-explanatory.
This is the sales area that your book best fits into. If you’re writing a cross-genre novel, this might be a bit of a challenge to determine, but do your best. “Vampire romance” is perfectly acceptable, but it’s best to go broad and then narrow, such as “Paranormal romance: vampires.”
Same for nonfiction — “business” might be a little broad, but “how to start a dairy farm” might be too specific. “Business: agriculture and startups” could do the trick.
Think of it like picking your sale category on Amazon and you’re good to go.
Author Name and Bio
This is where you should pitch yourself to the reviewer. Have you written any books previously? Are you an established expert in your field? This is where to let your accomplishments shine.
If you don’t have these credentials, don’t worry. Just put the same kind of author bio you plan to include on your website and in your book, like information on where you live and what spurred you to write the book.
If you have a publisher, list them here. If you’re self-published or you’ve gone through a fee-based publication service, just leave this information off to avoid potential complications or raised eyebrows.
Most professional review outlets prefer books that are available in both print and digital formats, or print only. It’s best to include the print page count here.
This should be your print price, but you can also include the digital price if you’re going to sell in both formats (and you should!). This is often listed as the “RRP,” or “recommended retail price.”
Format and Binding
For most small publishers and indie authors, the format will be “trade paperback,” the 6×9 book format. You can also note “Trade paperback and major digital formats” to cover all your bases.
The binding is typically simply “paperback” and the exact signature size. For most small presses and self-published authors, this will be “6×9 perfect-bound paperback.”
You should have your own ISBN for your book, preferably not one owned by CreateSpace or another service. Include that here. If you have separate ISBNs for print and digital (which you should), list each with its appropriate format.
This is the exact day you plan to put your book on sale to the general public. This will be published along with the review of your book, so that booksellers, librarians, and others know when everyone will be able to purchase the book and can order before that.
This is where you include your back jacket copy. You can also include an elevator pitch for the book that you might not put on your book cover, such as “Ideal for fans of Michael Crichton and Oprah Winfrey, this self-help horror book fills a niche you never knew was needed.”
If you have any blurbs from author friends or industry experts, this is where you can include them.
The people you’re sending your sell sheet to need to know how to get in touch with you if necessary. It’s best to include all possible contact routes, such as postal address, phone, and email, but including only an email is acceptable these days.
Some sell sheets also include information on publicity and marketing plans. If you have a specific budget in mind, you’re planning an author tour, or you’ve got other big plans, you can include a section on that.
Trade reviewers like to know what books are going to get a big marketing push so that they can figure out whether they’re worth recommending to the booksellers who will surely be targeted by that effort — and so that they can recommend books that bookstores will have some help in marketing to customers. This is a multi-billion-dollar industry, remember, and marketing dollars speak volumes.
Sample Sell Sheet
Want help putting your sell sheet together? Grab this free Word template, swap out the information and photos for your own, and you’re ready to go!
Sell sheets help reviewers keep track of key book information and understand more about a book. They’re also helpful for visualizing your full book profile.
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