Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Press Releases

What is a press release? How does it help an author sell books? Is it worth the time and effort? These are questions every author should know the answers to, but I have found that many do not.

Before I go into what a press release is, it might help to start by saying what a press release isn't.

1. A press release is not a book advertisement. Do not write up your book blurb in the form of a press release in the hopes that you'll get a free ad in the newspaper or in online articles. These will be ignored.

2. A press release is not a book launch announcement. No one is going to care that another unknown person is launching a book. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but it is important to know that you can't write a press release about a book launch and expect it to get you sales. It won't.

3. A press release is not about writing what you want to say. Don't frame your press release with you in mind. You should be writing a press release with the reader in mind.

So, now you know what a press release is not. What is it, then? It is a communication to members of the news media for the purpose of announcing something newsworthy. There is one word in this definition that you should pay the most attention to, and that is newsworthy.

If you're going to write a press release, think of yourself as a news reporter. What story could you write that would be newsworthy? (And of course, how can you tie in your book or yourself to the article?)

With the explosion of ereaders, and ebook sales on the rise, now is the perfect time to write an article that would be relevant to the media today. Such stories could be: Local Author Joins the Ebook Revolution; Nebraska Author Makes a Living on Ebook Sales; or Ebook Sales on the Rise - Seward Author Profits. (You'll notice I focused on the local media. Unless you've accomplished something fantastic, the national news probably won't be interested.)

When writing a press release, focus on the newsworthy part of the story. Write it as though your article will be reprinted as-is. Many times, if you do write it well, the newspaper will run the copy just as you submit it. It saves them time in re-writing or editing your story. If they are limited on space, they might cut parts of the story.

Cater your press release to the entity in which you are sending it. Lets say you're sending out a press release to your local, college, and your hometown newspapers. Don't send the same press release to them all. Change the wording on the title and alter the story so they each have that personal connection to you.

You can send your press release to television stations as well as newspapers. Maybe your local station has a feature show about women who succeed, and you are a woman. You can cater your press release to fit that show, especially if you overcame a hardship in order to publish your book. (You were rejected by traditional publishers, for instance.)

Your press release should look professional. Here are some tips on writing the actual press release.

1. Type: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE at the top of your page. You can also put PRESS RELEASE at the top of the page if you'd like, but it's not necessary.

2. Date the press release.

3. Contact information. Include your phone number and email address so they can contact you if they want to do an interview.

4. Begin the press release with your headline. It should be brief, clear, and to the point. Make it something you would be interested in if you picked up a newspaper. Type the headline in bold or all caps.

5. Start the body of the press release with the city for which the press release is originated. The first paragraph should summarize what the press release is about. The rest should tell who, what, when, where and why. Add in quotes to personalize the story. If you're just starting out selling and don't have huge sales numbers to report, feel free to interview another author or two to get some sales numbers or quotes.

6. Use a basic font like Times New Roman.

7. End your press release with -30- or ###.  This tells them that is the end of the story.  If it continues onto a second page, use -More- at the end of the first page.  (This is not recommended, try to keep your press release to one page.)

8. If you used online sources for information, link to those at the bottom.

Okay, so now you know what to write and how to write it. Now you need to know who to send it out to. Here's a link to a website that might be helpful if you live in the US:

I suggest clicking on the top link, USA city and state local media lists, and then clicking on your state. You can pay to get the list of contacts, or you can just google each individual news outlet and dig up the contact information yourself. When looking on a website for where to send a press release, look for "Contact" or "Newsroom."

One last thing, sometimes newspapers will run your story without contacting you to tell you. Be sure to check to see if they ran your story.

Good luck with your press releases. Let me know if you got any coverage!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

More About Marketing

It's no secret that the word 'marketing' scares people. I've heard quite a few people say that they're trying to get traditionally published because they don't want to do the marketing. (Let's forget for a second that if you are traditionally published, you still need to do some marketing.)

However, I can't get over the similarities between trying to get traditionally published, and trying to market an already self-published book. Let's take a peek at it, and compare.

1. Research. When you're looking for an agent, the first thing you need to do is research, and most likely you'll do this online these days. You visit websites that list reputable agents, and go to their individual websites to make sure you're conforming to their submission guidelines. When you're marketing your self-published book, you start with research also. You visit blogs that review books and figure out their submission guidelines. You research forums that readers hang out in, and research what is appropriate and what isn't for posting about your book.

2. Submitting. Next comes submitting to agents. Again, most of this is done online now, through email, although some agents still only take paper queries. Submitting query letters takes a lot of time and effort, and you have to be organized or you'll waste your time. Same with submitting to book review sites. Many of them now take electronic books through email. Some still only take paper. Submitting for review takes time and effort, and you do need to be organized as well. You can also submit your book to blogs that feature low cost ebooks or indie authors.

3. Waiting. After you send off your query letters, you wait to see what responses you get. In fact, you probably have to wait months. Same thing happens after you send your book off to review blogs, you have to wait for reviews to be posted. But you can continue to be social on blogs and forums to get the word out about your book.

4. End results: The end result to querying agents, if you're good enough, is getting published.  The end result to marketing your self-published book is book sales.  Both avenues bring in money.  (How much?  I won't argue that, there are large numbers in traditional publishing as well as indie publishing, just like there are small numbers in both avenues.)  However, if you're saying you don't want to self-publish because you can't spend the time to market your book, you're basically going to be doing the same thing as you query agents.

Sunday, April 3, 2011


Social networking is a reality for authors these days.  If you want to get the word out about your book, you have to join some social networks and start talking with people.  Facebook, Twitter, blogs and forums are pretty necessary for new authors.  But remember, you're not only selling books, you're selling yourself.  It's easy to forget this as we try to get noticed amongst the noise, but being professional is key in getting sales.

One of the big things I see that authors do to 'turn people off' is to spam everyone.  There is a time and a place for talking about your book.  The trick is to do your research first, and figure out where the places are that you can post ads about your book without coming off as a Sir Spam-a-Lot.

When someone mentions a forum they've successfully used to sell their book, don't rush in and post all kinds of messages about your book.  Each forum has its own rules about this.  Take some time to read all of the posted rules, and also read the forum messages to learn some of the 'unspoken' rules.  For instance, on the Amazon Kindle forum, the stated rule is to not post any messages about a product you're selling, but there are some threads created specifically for posting about your kindle book.  If you spend some time on the forum, you'll get to know what is socially acceptable there as far as self-promotion.  You'll also get to see what happens to authors that overstep their bounds.

In some places you'll find there are no written 'rules' about posting ads.  You'll have to either ask the people in the group or use common sense.  For instance, on the Facebook Kindle page the people there will tell you that it is perfectly fine to post a message about your book as long as you're not doing it too often.  I think once a week is fine.  Any more than that and you run the risk of annoying the people there.  And common sense should tell you that if you only show up once a week to post an 'ad,' you'll probably be ignored.  Try posting other messages, really talking to people, or answering some questions.  Then when you do post about your book you will get a much better response.

On Twitter, I have seen authors whose entire Twitter feed is posting ads for their books.  (I've seen this on Facebook too.)  Honestly, this is not going to get you anywhere.  Sure, you can post every once in a while about your book, that's fine.  But who is going to listen to you when all you do is shout an ad every hour?  Turn it around and look at it from a different perspective.  Imagine you're in a room full of people.  As you near someone he starts giving you a sales pitch about his merchandise he's selling.  He doesn't greet you, he doesn't ask your name, he just continues trying to sell you something.  Later on you meet someone else.  She says hello to you and asks you how you're doing.  You strike up a conversation, and find out you have a lot in common.  Who are you going to want to hang around with?

Social networks are like a large social gathering.  Don't be that guy that just goes around trying to sell something to people.  Be the kind of person you would want to hang out with, and you'll find yourself in a much better situation.

Okay, enough talk about ads.  Now you know how not to be that annoying Sir Spam-a-Lot.  That's good.  But if you're not talking about your book... what are you supposed to talk about?  The answer is simple.  Talk about whatever everyone else wants to talk about.  Be polite.  Let everyone get to know your personality.

Sometimes on forums you will see a post that might get under your skin.  Whatever you do, don't post a snarky response.  On the internet you can't hear someone's inflection.  Read over your posts to make sure you aren't coming across as rude.  Use a smiley face if you want to tell people you're not being snarky.  Don't participate in flame wars.  And if someone really makes you upset, step away from the computer.  Don't post a response when you're emotionally involved, you'll regret it later.

Remember, the internet is massive.  Not only could your post be read by potential readers, it could be read by agents, editors, publishers, or your mother.  Before you click that 'send' button, read over your post to make sure it wouldn't potentially offend anyone.  Think about how professional you sound.  Are you portraying yourself in a good light?  Do you come across as a know-it-all?  Could anyone take your post in the wrong way?

If you're new to a forum, make sure you're not jumping in and asking questions that have already been asked a million times.  Most forums have a search option.  Go ahead and do some searching to see if your question can be answered by checking old threads.

And of course, do not respond to bad reviews.  That goes without saying, right?


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