Why you need a press release
Press releases provide the ground work for people in the media to create their story. It gives background information, the angle the story might take, and usable quotes. I have seen pieces of my own press releases appear in news stories. Press releases are still the standard form of announcement. Even if you are not seeking traditional media attention, bloggers and online radio hosts can make use a press release.
What goes in a press release
The most difficult aspect of a press release is crafting the headline. Think about headlines you see in newspapers to get an idea of the best way to word your own headline. It needs to be eye-catching and should indicate the angle you want to convey. What do I mean by "angle"? It is what will make the reader interested in the reading the press release. If it is a press release I'm sending to local media, I will play up the author's ties to the area - Jefferson native, local teacher, UGA alum, business owner - if you are known for something in your community use that to your advantage. It should be noted that when targeting particular outlets with your press release, the headline should be tailored to that audience. Even with a general press release in a media kit, you want to provide an angle for the story. If it is not your first book or it is part of a series the series or book title may form the basis.
When writing a headline, always ask yourself "what makes this newsworthy?"
After the headline you may want to have a summary that expands on the headline in a few sentences. It is not a must have, but can be useful when you can't convey your message in a concise headline.
The body of the press release contains the news you want to share. It should be written as a news story. It needs to be in third person - you might find it helpful to pretend you are writing about another person, instead of that fact it is about you. Lead with the most pertinent information. It is helpful to answer the 5 basic questions of writing a news story - who, what, where, when, and how.
The boiler plate - is generic information that the media might find useful, but isn't really part of the story. When I was with the publishing house, it contained basic information about the house. For my clients, it usually includes a short bio and information about the book - ISBN, price, formats. You should also include where to find more information or contact information. The boiler plate is at the end of the release. Use three hashmarks (#) to separate the press release from the boiler plate.
What to do with a press release
One of the main reasons authors do not create press releases is because they don't know what to do with them. It takes a bit of work to create a great press release and it can also be one the least seen pieces of writing. Books, particularly from unknowns, is of little news to traditional media. You may think a press release is just a waste of time, particularly when it doesn't seem to be getting any traction. However, I urge you to reconsider and hone your press release writing skills.
You may have tried submitting your press release to a free news wire service. One of the reasons I thought press releases weren't really needed for indie authors was because I was only using the free services. I don't think any of my releases were picked up by a larger distributor. And when I looked at what other stories were being submitted, I wasn't surprise - get rich quick schemes and the likes. However, if you have something that is truly newsworthy, you may want to try a paid news wire services. My author friend Karen Pokras Toz submitted a press release to a paid services and it was picked up by larger news distributors, such as Yahoo! News. The press release was not about a recent release, but about her participation in restocking libraries affected by Hurricane Sandy.
Can't afford a paid news wire service (they are pricey)? You can still get your news out there. Your press release may not get picked up by USA Today, but you can leverage it to give you and your book media exposure. Local newspapers still run human interest stories. If you are planning a book signing or other local event, your local paper will be more interested than it is just an announcement about a book release. Patch.com is specifically for providing community news. Check to see if your area has a Patch as I have found them welcoming to news about local authors.
Send your press release to bloggers and online radio show hosts. Many book bloggers write more than just book reviews. They provide readers with general book news, and your press release will come in handy for writing that story.
Be sure to include it in your media kit. Want brick-and-mortar bookstores to stock your book? A press release in your media kit adds to your professionalism and demonstrates your marketing efforts.
Have a public appearance planned? Be sure the organizers have a press release to include in their newsletters and websites.
I've used press releases to pitch stories to magazines. If you are a parent or teacher writing children or young adult books, research parenting magazines in your area.
I write the press release for the media kit first as it is the most general. I think tweak it and change the headline when submitting it to particular outlets to best capture the attention of that outlet.
I would like to provide more bookish news to my readers. Send me your press releases for possible inclusion in this new feature: donna(at)girl-who-reads.com
Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the blogger behind Girl Who Reads and author of the how-to manual Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.