Finished your book? Great! Now it’s time to spread the word with a press release. Unfortunately, most authors tend to gloss over the marketing angle of the book-publishing business. It may be embarrassing to admit, but you might not know the first thing about crafting a decent press release! To combat this ignorance, we’ll be taking an in-depth look at a number of tips on how to write a press release.
Press Release Definition
If you’ve paid attention to the media, there’s a good chance that you’re already familiar with what a press release is.
What’s a good press release definition? Essentially, a press release is an official announcement issued from organizations or individuals to media outlets. The goal of a press release is to garner interest from journalists and publications, as well as the public.
As you can imagine, a press release is a rather broad term, which encompasses all forms of media. Similar terms include: a “press statement,” a “news release,” or a “media release.”
Essentially, it’s a pitch. Ultimately, the goal of a press release is to provide enough information so that news outlets (i.e. tv, radio, blogs, etc.) have enough material to craft their own stories about the company or project. As an author, this may be the release of your new book, a book tour and signings, planned public appearances, and so forth. The more press you attain, the wider your influence will be. And it can’t help to sell a few books, either!
Sample Press Release
There are countless sample press release images and documents out there. Google “Sample Press Release” or “Press Release Example” and they’ll be the first images that appear. I know that probably sounds like a lazy cop-out, but the truth is we’ve seen these examples ourselves and we’ve worked with many writers who have used them and haven’t quite gathered the information they need from them.
There’s also the fact that every image seems to be different, which defeats the purpose of a boilerplate press release example. Especially when they’re looking to create press releases for books, in which case the rules are a little different. So, to counteract this and to offer our own unique perspective on how to write a press release for your book, FreelanceWithUs have written a full guide explaining each step. You can find this guide on “how to write a press release” on our Book Press Release page.
Press Release Guidelines
Press releases follow a predictable form, which includes:
However, there are nuances to each of these elements. Let’s take a look at some general rules to follow with these tips on how to write a press release:
The first thing that journalists and other readers notice about your press release is the headline. Because a headline is limited to one line, each word must make an impact and convey an immediate meaning to the reader. To do so, use action verbs, and clear wording. Above all, make the headline interesting. Reporters get hundreds of press releases daily, so do what you can to make it stand out from the crowd.
Avoid Needless Jargon
If the average person doesn’t know what a word is, chances are a journalist doesn’t have time to do the research and legwork. That’s your job, and you should take heed to simplify all that you can. For Abbreviations are acceptable if they are considered common knowledge. For example, everyone knows what an MRI is; however, you may not recognize it in a headline if you wrote “magnetic resonance imaging” instead.
Remember that if you regularly produce works, give readings, or events, it may be helpful to space out your press releases to avoid overexposure. Of course, the opposite holds true if press outlets have been receptive to you. Strike while the iron is hot!
Most press releases do not exceed one page. Unless you have a reason to extend it beyond this constraint (i.e. additional quotes, reference information, etc.), you are likely to seem inexperienced and not up to par for mainstream publication.
First Paragraph of Press Release
The first paragraph of the press release is should deliver of the expectations of the headline. You should answer every journalist’s burning question: Why should I care?
Be descriptive and answer the Who?, What?, Why?, When?, Where?, and How? that are implied from the headline. However, you must be succinct. Reporters are busy people with tight deadlines that don’t have the time to get hung up on extraneous details and filler information. Instead, stick to the facts that can help a reporter out when they want to pitch a story about your company or project to an author. The easier it is for them to find an angle to your story, the more likely it will be written about—which is the purpose of the press release!
It’s helpful to include a relevant quotation to bring some social proof to your press release. For writers looking to promote their book, this can include the praise of established authors, tastemakers, critics, or colleagues in similar fields/industries. The more important person may appear to be, the bigger the impact and more persuasive the quote will be for readers simply by association. If you can, avoid platitudes or paint-by-numbers compliments.
You should write a press release that brings a reader up to speed without any prior knowledge of your business or public presence. The reason is that this is exactly what a journalist will do by writing an article for a publication’s audience.
Last Paragraph of Press Release
By the time the reader gets to the last paragraph, they should have all of the vital details and information to spread the word. Avoid the temptation to add more facts than necessary. Instead, offer details that strengthen your press release, such as how your book is part of an emerging movement or aligns/bucks with current trends.
It may be Internet 101, but email attachments from unknown sources tend to be avoided by recipients or filtered out by spam filters. Instead, include links that can provide journalist with related information, like clippings, author pages, and so forth. This also includes images, like your book cover and author picture.
Alternatively, if you have a press kit on your author page or book’s website, then by all means offer a downloadable PDF of your press release there.
To Give or Not to Give
Offering complimentary copies of your book has two effects:
- Book-for-Press Exchange: Offering a free copy, especially a printed copy, shows that you are a legitimate author that is confident in your work. There’s also the financial loss of sending the book, (printing cost and shipping) which subconsciously communicates your financial investment and commitment to journalists. The intent is reciprocity: if you give, you expect to get.
- Let Them Ask for It: Conversely, giving away a free copy can show that you’re trying too hard to woo journalists. No one likes a desperate author eager for self-promotion. Remember, journalists are inundated with press releases and offers of “free” stuff all the time. Whether they choose to take the bait is their decision.
Instead, a solid press release should compel the journalist to ask for a free copy for their purposes, like a book review.
Bear in mind that not every news outlet will spin your press release in a positive light. This can be used to your advantage, especially for media outlets that are contrary your work. Remember the saying: “All press is good press.” It is far worse to try to please all critics and be ignored than to find a solid footing with those who vilify/champion your cause.
How to Write a Press Release: Getting a Helping Hand
If all of these tips on writing a press release make you want to throw up your hands in frustration, you’re not alone. It’s hard enough to finish a book, only to realize that now you have to write about it some more! Luckily, there are a number of services out there for authors of new books to get their work promoted.
That’s why eReleases, a PR company that specializes in getting your press release in front of real journalists. Their distribution networks, which include PR Newswire, Associated Press, and their own network of websites, can take the work out of marketing. Instead, you can focus on what’s important: writing!