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: http://www.easymedialist.com/
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!
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