You will find yourself using this frequently, especially to your local media outlets because you’re more likely to get good coverage from your area. This is one of the goodies that will be included in your press/media kit, which I will discuss later. But for now, let’s start with your press release. What is a press release and why do you need one? Basically, it is an announcement of your book that is sent to the media: journalists, editors, television and radio directors. You send them to stir up the buzz about your book it deserves, and one of the ways to do that is piggy-backing on someone else’s large platform; the media.
The best advice on where to send your press release is to start local, and then branch out. National papers are more likely to put you in print if someone else already has. It shows there is buzz around you, people are already interested in you and what you have to say. Without that local coverage, you’re just one of the 200 press releases crowding NY Times inbox every day. That’s not to say you shouldn’t send to national papers (especially if you’re sending it in search of getting reviews!), but you might see more results (and quicker) if you start local.
The most effective press release will be tailored to a target media outlet. Don’t send a press release about your pet training book to journalists who typically handle fiction because you googled and their name came up in the results, and don’t swarm local resources with your press release. Seems like a no brainer right? You would be surprised how many people have taken the ‘blanket’ approach. Treat it the same as when you queried agents; send them out in batches to get a feel for how it is being received. If you’re not getting any nibbles, time to revise and send out another batch. You don’t want to use all your avenues at once.
The hard truth is most program directors, journalists, or editors don’t care about your book. They care about news. As several journalists have stated (sorry, can’t find the links for you), the best press releases (that end up getting story coverage) seem newsy. Write it to almost read like an article. Include quotes from the author, a quick statistic if it applies to your subject, a snippet from your best review. Your job is to tailor the press release to convince them your information will be of interest to their news hungry audience. If you’ve written a cook book, send a press release to your favorite columnist in the Cooking section of your local (or national) papers. Perhaps even send them a galley copy of your book.
The trick is to make it seem not only about you and your book. If you’ve written a YA novel, tie it into a possible article of creative ways to get kids to read over summer break, or reminding locals of the great reading programs offered at your local libraries.
The books section of newspapers would seem the obvious place for us writers to send our press release, right? Unfortunately, even in local papers, it seems there is only room for articles on known names these days. To make yourself stand out, come up with a few reasons why your book is exciting and different from the rest. But if you really have your heart set on coverage (don’t we all want our name being spread around?), don’t rely only on the books section. This means you’ll most likely end up writing two or more versions of your press release, a newsy one, and your standard book announcement. But that’s no biggie, compared to how many versions of a query letter we wrote right!
Make your press release clear and concise, and relevant. Your contact information should be at the top of the page, one line below PRESS RELEASE. To get a feel for how a press release should look, click ‘images’ on google and search for ‘press release’. But for a quick example, this is how they typically appear.
A few guidelines to get started:
- Include all contact information
- An exciting/catchy headline immediately below contact information
- Press releases should contain the who, what, when, where, why, and how. And what I have read that means is: who it’s about (you), what the book is about, where the event is, why it’s exciting/fresh, and how to contact the author
- Put most exciting or relevant info about you or your book first, then list any other ideas in descending order
- Use bullets for key points
- Put books technical details last (title, author, ISBN, trade paperback, cost, etc)
- Let them know a media kit is available on your website
- Include short bio at the end
If you still feel a bit uneasy writing one, try writing up a mock press release for your favorite book, highlighting the overall feel the author has created. You’ll find it’s not as intimidating after you’ve written one for a book you love. Then write one for another book you love…yours. If you’re still apprehensive, or plum just don’t have the time, here are a few other options besides writing it yourself.
- www.ereleases.com/write.html offers sample press releases, offers services to write it for you, and several links to poke around through.
- www.elance.com Allows you to post your press release needs, writers/publicists specializing in this type of work put in bids for the job. You can also search through publicists and contact one that seems to meet your needs.
- Contact local universities and have your assignment posted where it would be available for communication majors to see and contact you about it.
- Consider hiring a publicist. Here are a few recommended names to get you started: Judy Spagnola, Carol Fass Publicity & Public Relations, and Steve O’Keefe of www.patronsaintpr.com
In addition to explaining all of the goodies you’ll have packed in your press/media kit, coming soon I’ll also tell you where to send it all once you have your pile of awesomeness ready to send out. I hope this breaks down the workings of a press release. Just remember, when deciding where to send it, try and think outside of the box too. Any publicity mentioning you is a step in the right direction!