Pitching Book Publishers with an Attention-Getting Leave-Behind

May 12, 2017

By David Walker

Jeanine Michna-Bales landed a contract from Princeton Architectural Press to publish her foreboding nighttime photographs of Underground Railroad stations.  A key part of her pitch to book publishers was a leave-behind packet that she developed for the project.

The book, called Through Darkness to Light, was released in late March. Michna-Bales explains the project and how she found a publisher in PDN’s May issue (you can read the story here). So readers can see the leave-behind packet, we present it here in an abridged PDF format. (Download PDF Here.)

At portfolio reviews and other meetings with book editors, Michna-Bales would present her photos. Then hand over a packet of information that gave editors time to absorb some of the information her book presented.  The packet included an artist statement, a synopsis of Michna-Bales’s research, thumbnails of dozens of images from the project, and examples of some of the 19th century ephemera, such as maps and newspaper advertisements, that she intended to include in the book to give her photographs historical context. (At the request of Princeton Architectural Press, only a few of the images are included in the PDF available for download).

© Jeanine Michna-Bales

Selections of images from the packet. © Jeanine Michna-Bales

Michna-Bales says her leave-behind packet was inspired by her previous experience as an art director for agencies including TBWA\Chiat\Day, McCann in San Francisco and others. To pitch campaigns to advertising clients, she explains, “You had creative briefs, so you talked about target audience, and unique selling points. I had that in the back of my mind” for the leave-behind packet for her Underground Railroad project. “[I] thought about who the book would appeal to.”

She notes that she had help from photography consultant Mary Virginia Swanson with the editing of her artist’s statement and other text for the packet. In addition to giving copies of the packet to publishers and photo editors she met at portfolio reviews, Michna-Bales also sent it to authors she was trying to recruit to write a foreword for her book. “The packet explained the project,” she says, and a cover letter she sent with it explained why she was approaching the particular author who received it.

For more information about her project and how she got it published, see our story “How to Publish Your Book: The Underground Railroad by Night.