Do Authors and Books Need Sell Sheets?

Note: If you have a copy of my book, How to Create a $1,000,000 Speech, Chapter 8 that starts on page 81 of it details how to create the Author One-Sheet.

What About One of Those Sell Sheets, Anyway?

Excerpted and abbreviated from a chapter on preparing review copies in How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically, third in the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally Series for writers.

Most authors doing their own publicity forget or don’t know about sell sheets. Some call them sales fliers. We should put them into the free copies of books we send to reviewers, bloggers, bookstore buyers, and others. They need to sell, yes, (include a great pitch or logline!)  but they really are all about giving the receiver info they can use to give you the publicity you are asking for, on reaching you, and—for some—on ordering your book. Sort of a trifecta on one sheet.

Here is what they should include.

  • They should be in color and include a book cover image. Sometimes a headshot of the author, as well.
  • It will necessarily be crammed with information but it should still be interesting and well designed.
  • 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.” Use the BISAC subject heading. You’ll find them at 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.

Include your metadata. That includes:

  • Your ISBN  10 and 13.
  • The book’s binding type (perfect, wire, comb, sewn)/
  • The cover type (paperback, hardback, jacket).
  • Your book’s dimensions.
  • Page count.
  • If there are illustrations or photos and what kind. Include the illustrator is for children’s books including a short bio/awards on him or her, too.
  • Don’t forget the retail price. Include the Canadian price.
  • Let people know what the book includes.  
    • Appendix
    • Glossary
    • Reference
    • index, etc.

An excellent way to do this for nonfiction is to include the contents table (though it does crowd the page).

  • 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 ability, the subjects she is qualified to speak on.

You can see that one side wall of a page will probably not do the job. Use both sides. E-mail me at and I will send you a copy of a two-sided professionally produced sell sheet.

Hint: You can use these as fliers at fairs, when you speak and more. When you send out ARCs, you can 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 the information 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?




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 an 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 both the first and second 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 has visited eighty-nine countries 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. Her Web site is