The Penurious Promoter’s Guide to Book Publicity #1 -- How to write a press release

Penurious -- pen-u-ri-ous -- (adjective) stinginess, unwilling to part with money, miserly. Root: penury (noun) lack of money, poverty, want.

Welcome to Penurious Promotions and the first in a series of articles for the do-it-yourself book promoter with a...  "restricted" budget. Today, we’re looking at everything you need to know but haven’t yet asked about press releases.

Why? Because I need to write one, and I don’t know how, so guess what: we’re in this together. As I research and learn, so will my readers. What fun!

But before we get started, a few thoughts

I should perhaps share another bit of advice with you, dear readers, before we go any further. Like many another solvency-challenged promoter, I’ve happily accepted the well-intended (I’m sure) and sincere-at-the-time offers of help from friends and colleagues. In return, I’ve received what I’ve paid for – nothing. When someone has made an offer of assistance, you can hardly nag or demand action. I mean, they volunteered… As is the story with my press releases. The offer of assistance came in early September, or was it mid August.... This is late December, my book is scheduled for release in thirty days and I have no press releases.

So here’s the very first rule for the Penurious Book Promoter: If you can’t afford to hire someone to do it, learn how to do it yourself. Do not depend on friends, family or other volunteers.

Now that’s out of the way, here we are, hand-in-hand and on our way to learn everything there is to know about press releases, and we’ll write one as we go.

Ready?

Why do we need to write press releases?

You’d think that formal press releases would be a thing of the past in this day and age, what with the internet reigning supreme for information seeking, gathering and dissemination.  But no, definitely not. In fact, the press release has grown up into the information age, and e-releases are written in the same way.  For all that we dream up hundreds of creative ways to get media attention, the truth is 99% of all such exposure begins with a well written press release.

Now, it is a well-accepted truth there is no such thing as bad publicity, but it is equally true there is much ineffective publicity. And we don’t want to be ineffective.

What makes a good press release?

In my many hours of research, one message came through loud and clear: a press release must be a news story, not an advertisement.

It must be written as a news story, in reporterly fashion. That is:

  • in third person address (no I, me, we or us)
  • In active voice
  • No direct address
  • No hype,
  • No slang,
  • No excessive exclamation points,
  • No funky fonts
  • No emoticons

In other words make sure it is professionally written. Use a journalistic approach and answer the five W’s:

  • who
  • what
  • why
  • when
  • where

Even more importantly, we need to address content. We or me, the press release writer and he, the editor who may or may not use my story, have two completely different goals.

  • What I want is to bring to the world’s attention my book’s release so that potential buyers will know of its existence.
  • What an editor wants is something that will tweak his readers’ interest.

While the release of my novel, This Bird Flew Away, is very exciting to me, why would the rest of the world care? What is the news story here? It’s not the release of yet another book (out of the 175,000 of new releases last year alone) however much my ego would rather believe otherwise.

What is the angle? There must be a strong back-story attached, something beyond “Lynda M Martin has written a novel.” What makes this book release newsworthy?

What is the “hook” and why is it necessary?

The “hook” is the term agents, publicists and editors use for that angle we spoke of in the sentence above (though it is often misused, particularly in rejection letters.) In other words, what is the “real” reason this story will be of interest?

Now, in the case of my book, This Bird Flew Away, there is a larger back-story and an ongoing media event to piggy-back the novel into the realm of a news story, and it’s not too much of a stretch. Did events in my life lead to this story? Most certainly, and those would be my years in child protection where I came to know the official statistics presented by authorities reflect less than a third of actual victims, which means a large percentage of the population has never had treatment, never joined a survivors group and therefore never learned the stages of healing. I’ve met so many who are going through life damaged, wounded and hurting, who have never had the comfort and direction of assistance in their journey toward health. I wanted to address that. I wanted to write a story of survival and triumph for this large group of people (and yes, I wrote predominantly for women,) an optimistic story, an inspiration at best, a road map at the least.

At the same time, I resisted using this “news” angle, because so much has been made of the abuse component of the book by some of the reviewers. My story was almost presented as a dark story, when to me it was a joyous (but realistic) tale of victory over adversity. My protagonist is a happy, spirited girl who rises above her bad experiences and finds the strength to grow and heal. She has a delightful view on life, and makes me laugh.

However, go with what works, I suppose.

So, I found my news story. Like all good news stories, it should start as a headline: Author says less than one third of the victims of sexual abuse get the help they need.

The editor's pyramid

Lynda's pyramid

Which one do you think will be most effective? How many of us tend to write the second rather than the first? Quite a few according to what I've read... Hmm. Who would'a thought?
Which one do you think will be most effective? How many of us tend to write the second rather than the first? Quite a few according to what I've read... Hmm. Who would'a thought?

How should the press release or news story be structured?

All the sources I’ve found describe the same basic format. Picture your press release as a pyramid says another source. Give the basic information first. Back it up with supporting details, placing emphasis on the most newsworthy items first. Remember to give the editor what he wants, and to leave what I want to the end (which is a plug for my name and my book.)

  • Contact information – first item on the page.
  • Dateline (date of the release and your location.)
  • Headline – striking, demanding interest, centered around your news angle, your hook. Keep it short and simple.
  • Sub heading – should succinctly describe the topic with more information.
  • Body of the press release should start with a thought-provoking, hopefully clever first sentence. One writer suggest mentioning the complete title around the middle of the press release, followed by more about how the book release relates to the angle (the hook.) Perhaps, this source suggest, insert a quote from the author, and a sentence on the writer. Use statistics where possible to give an indepth background.

Your press release should be between 300 and 800 words, though e-mail press releases are shorter in length at 200 to 400 words.

My Press Release

To be released day/month/year (or immediate)

Contact: Lynda M Martin

  • LyndaMartin@email.com

Two Thirds of Sexual Abuse Victims Receive No Assistance, Says Author

North Port, Fl (12/22/2010) -- Official statistics for childhood sex abuse drastically understate the problem, says Lynda M Martin, author and veteran child protection worker, leaving an estimated two thirds of all victims with no access to professional assistance or support. Healing from such trauma is difficult without counseling and guidance, she states. “Too many past victims live in pain and anger, unable to put the past behind them.”

Two years ago, Martin decided to write a fictional account of one girl’s twenty-year journey from neglect and abuse to success and happiness, a tale based on some of the many real-life stories she encountered in her thirty years of work with child abuse victims. Her goal was to craft a story that would appeal to women and mature girls, one which maps out the traditional route to healing, deeply buried in an entertaining and exciting tale.

The result, her new novel, This Bird Flew Away, is scheduled for release January 27th, 2011. According to the more than one hundred advance readers, this hybrid of a self-help book and inspirational novel, tackles one of society’s most common and neglected problems in a sensitive, realistic manner and received such comments as “reached out and grabs the reader” and “no one will leave untouched.”

New York Times Best Selling Author, Kathryn Lynn Davis writes, “This Bird Flew Away is a tender, wrenching, funny, brilliantly written novel about so many kinds of courage, so many layers of beauty and strength, and the bonds of family (however unique they may be) that help us survive even the worst life makes us suffer."

Brian Knight, reviewer for Premium Promotion Services says, “A surreal experience; one that will haunt and demand you ponder the reality the story depicts. This book is a must have for those seeking an emotionally charged story of survival… sure to take the world by storm.”

In the late nineties, Martin attended an international conference on child protection and learned professionals estimate less than thirty percent of child sex abuse is reported. World-wide, they suggested, seven out of ten girls and four out of ten boys are victims of childhood sexual assault. “That number has haunted me ever since. I wanted to find a way to reach out to the seventy percent of all women who are living with those memories,” Martin said.

This Bird Flew Away will be available from the publisher, Black Rose Writing http://www.blackrosewriting.com/, or at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and from the This Bird Flew Away website. Visit the website at http://www.ThisBirdFlewAway.com for more information.

###


Is this how I’d really like to announce my new novel?

No, not one bit. As I stated before, I’d like my book to be presented as an inspirational look at the human spirit, an uplifting tale of a young girl’s courage and determination, a study of the chemistry of love in all its permutations, family and its dynamics at work… Mostly, I’d like to see it described as a highly entertaining read of a girl’s journey into womanhood, minus all the drama of the above. Really. Why not? All that happens to the fictional Bria is hardly unusual. Quite common place, in fact. (Seven out of ten girls...)

So why isn’t a human story about growing up in a certain time and place, facing and overcoming difficulties, and finding love and acceptance, beautifully written by a brilliant, talented, literary genius enough? Because that would not be news.

Child abuse and the lingering effects of it that last a lifetime, destroying many a survivor’s quality of life and how ineffectively we deal with the issue as a society, this is news.

A thought! This whole idea of finding ‘news’ in the announcement of a book’s release could become the latest new party game. Are you listening Parker Brothers?

What news story will you find in your book?

What new headlines could be applied to your favorite reads?

Or the classics?

A Few Do's and Don'ts about sending out press releases.

  • Do remember the editor isn’t interested in helping you, nor in furthering your agenda. He/she wants a newsworthy event written in a neutral, professional voice that will be of interest to the readers/listeners. Not marketing hype.
  • Do send your release to a specific editor whenever possible. Address the envelope by name to the person you think would be most interested in your news.
  • Don't send your release to more than one editor at a single newspaper. If you don't get a response within four weeks of mailing your release, write a new one and send it to another editor at the paper.
  • Do send your release to different types of media outlets. Radio stations make good targets, especially those with talk radio formats. Send releases to television stations only if your news involves a visual event they can cover.
  • Don't send your release to every media organization in town regardless of their focus. Your local dining out guide may be less than thrilled with a release detailing your thoughts on child sex abuse.

Thanks

I hope you enjoyed this penurious promoter's look at the art of press releases and thanks for coming along and learning with me. Enjoyed the company. Hope you'll come back for more promotion learning as I go along.

It won't be just my ideas. No. I've been in touch with other authors out there and asked them what they do, have done or plan to do to promote their works. Should be fun.

Keep an eye open for more Penurious Promoter articles.  Lynda

NEW! My editor took her red pen to my Press Release. See a difference?

Contact: Black Rose (publisher) xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Lynda Martin:xxxxxxxxxxx

For immediate release

Two Thirds of Sexual Abuse Victims Receive No Assistance, Says Author

North Port, Fl (12/30/2010) -- In the late ‘60s, the product a troubled youth and a dysfunctional family, Lynda Martin found herself on her own at the age of fifteen, two thousand miles from her home. She knows firsthand the dangers facing girls on the streets and the predators that prey on them. She was one of the lucky ones.

She survived.

So does the heroine of her upcoming book, This Bird Flew Away (scheduled for release January 27, 2011).

Martin, author and veteran child protection worker, says official statistics for childhood sex abuse drastically understate the problem leaving an estimated two-thirds of all victims with no access to professional assistance or support. Healing from such trauma is difficult without counseling and guidance. “Too many past victims live in pain and anger, unable to put the past behind them.”

In the late nineties, Martin attended an international conference on child protection and learned professionals estimate less than thirty percent of child sex abuse is reported. World-wide, they suggested, seven out of ten girls and four out of ten boys are victims of childhood sexual assault. “That number has haunted me ever since. I wanted to find a way to reach out to the seventy percent of all women who are living with those memories.”

So she decided to write a fictional account of one girl’s twenty-year journey from neglect and abuse to success and happiness, a tale based on some of the many real-life stories she encountered in her thirty years of work with child abuse victims. Her goal was to craft a story that would appeal to women and mature girls, one in which the traditional process of healing is mapped out but embedded in an entertaining and exciting tale.

The result is her novel, This Bird Flew Away.

This Bird Flew Away (ISBN 9781935605928) will be available January 27, 2011 from the publisher, Black Rose Writing http://www.blackrosewriting.com/, or at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and from the This Bird Flew Away website. Visit the website at http://www.ThisBirdFlewAway.com for more information.

More by this Author


Comments 36 comments

LiamBean profile image

LiamBean 5 years ago from Los Angeles, Calilfornia

I'm really kind of surprised that your publisher doesn't have a publicist on-board. Or maybe they do....that thought trailed off right there.

I did find this hub entertaining as both knowledge and humor. I have no advice though other than I thought the news release angle was interesting and I read every word.

Is it the winning approach? Damned if I know. I usually read authors by accident or recommendation. I certainly don't because of an advertisement or a press release.

Sorry.


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 5 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Hi liambean, and Merry Christmas. Yes, my publisher will send out the standard press releases, but you know the old maxim -- if you want something done right, do it yourself. Actually, most publicity and promotion is up to the author, no matter who publishes. Glad you found the article entertaining. Hope you look for more penurious promoter articles. Lynda


Mr. Happy profile image

Mr. Happy 5 years ago from Toronto, Canada

I enjoyed the read. I did not know much about press releases. Are press releases promoting books written by the author who wrote the book usually or someone else?

Sadly, you are right: if you want something done, you better do it yourself. Otherwise, you are no longer sure of the outcome. I am not happy with the reality of that because whether we like it or not, from time to time we do have to depend on others and if the others don't co-operate, life turns to become more difficult.

Good luck with the book (I thought it was great!), I do wish you a smooth ride for the last hundred meters. All the best!

P.S. The book is not only great but it is a good/necessary read. Good in all senses of the word.


GusTheRedneck profile image

GusTheRedneck 5 years ago from USA

Lynda - A terrific and now bookmarked article. Gotta read your great advice here way more than once such that it may really sink in between the ears. By the way, I want to volunteer cudding the piece after I have swallowed it several times before. That should certainly be more effective for us both than to volunteer to write a press release for what I hope will be your very successful book promotion. Thanks.

Gus :-)~


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 5 years ago from The Ozarks

lmmartin, this has been very useful. Thanks for sharing the information. I have one big follow-up question: how do you decide who should be receiving the press release? Your referred to an editor. Would this be the editor of a newspaper? How do you select the editors who will receive your press release?


itakins profile image

itakins 5 years ago from Irl

Great word penurious-What about contacts here?High book sales !


Duchess OBlunt 5 years ago

This is certainly a series I intend to keep up with so that I can glean every ounce of learning that you do as you go along. Thanks for sharing that with us all.

I will continue to click and forward and post wherever I can think of to promote your book Lynda. That's about all I can do, but hopefully it helps just a tad.


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 5 years ago from London, UK

This is all so new to me and thank you for all these information. I am sure it will be a bestseller. Wish you a properous New Year.


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 5 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Thanks Gus. Chewing cud -- but you don't have four stomachs like the bovines... Do you?

Thanks Aya. How do I decide who should get the release? I would simply call up the paper, or radio station and ask for the appropriate name, I guess.

Itakins -- penurious is a great word, but not necessarily a great way to live, though for many of us it has become the rule of day. Contacts there? Love to. Are you volunteering to send me a press list? Thanks. It would probably be good timing what with all the focus on child sex abuse in Ireland these days. Would you do that?

Hi Duchess -- your click and forward helps out a lot. I get Google alerts for all new postings and if I haven't thanked you before for all your help, I shall now. Thank you so much for your support.

Hi Hello, hello. I'd love to see it as a best seller but try to keep my feet firmly planted in reality. In truth, I'll be happy with it returning enough to cover the investment. But, if you'd like to wish on a star for me, please do.

Thanks everyone. And best wishes for the New Year. Lynda


drbj profile image

drbj 5 years ago from south Florida

This is an important series of articles, Lynda, that every aspiring fiction or non-fiction writer should follow. The most difficult part of writing a press release, for me, has always been remembering to write it from the point of view of the newswriter and not my own as the author.

A very Happy New Year to you and yours. :)


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 5 years ago from South Africa

Lynda, thank you for sharing this phase of a writer's work with us. I agree - rather do it yourself in order to be sure no important info gets overlooked. May all your dreams come true.


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 5 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Hi drbj and thanks. Yes, exactly -- not just the point of view, but differing motives.

Hi Martie. Do it yourself so it isn't some cookie cutter template, I say. Thanks for commenting.


ocbill profile image

ocbill 5 years ago from hopefully somewhere peaceful and nice

I did enjoy it. It was done professionally, thoroughly and easy to understand. Thanks


dallas93444 profile image

dallas93444 5 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

Lynda,

Enjoyed and "bookmarked" for future reference. Much to reflect on and learn. I like your "hands-on" approach. I am sure you will enjoy success.

Happy New Year!


Debby Bruck profile image

Debby Bruck 5 years ago

Great. I will also 'bookmark' for future reference. Thank you so much and Happy New Year.


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 5 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Thank you ocbill.

Hi Dallas and thank you. From your mouth to God's ear.

Hi Debby. Thanks.

Thanks to all, and Happy New Year. Lynda


Quilligrapher profile image

Quilligrapher 5 years ago from New York

Thank you, Lynda, for sharing your research and your press release with us. Your hub is full of superb tips every aspiring writer can use. I wish you great success with the book. Q.


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 5 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Thank you, Quilligrapher. And best wishes to you and your success the New Year. Lynda


Mark Ewbie profile image

Mark Ewbie 5 years ago from Euroland

Impressive writing with some new information to me about marketing and selling your content. Interesting - and a lovely flow and direct contact with your reader, quality stuff.


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 5 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Thank you Mark. Glad you like my style. Lynda


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas

As ever, filled with useful information and helpful tips. I love the ones on news story reporting. Good luck with the promotion of your book Lynda. I will be tweeting and linking. Cheers.


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 5 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Thanks Peg and thanks for your continued support for This Bird. It's getting closer. Lynda


Kristine Manley profile image

Kristine Manley 5 years ago from Atlanta, GA

Great Hub. I am a children's book author and I use a free press release grader to assist me when I create a press release and it has helped. It's www.pressreleasegrader.com

My book is, Resumes for Children - 17 Years Old and Under.


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 5 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Thanks for the tip, Kristine. Good luck with your book. Lynda


Ben Zoltak profile image

Ben Zoltak 5 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

Great tips Immartin, I've read a lot of PR in my past and your direction to budding writers seems sound to me. I just published my first eBook and have been wondering if it's worth writing PR for my inspirational novelette (-18,000 words) I can't decide and don't want to appear foolish.

I'll have to come back here and reread your article one more time.

Best,

Ben Zoltak


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 5 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Hi Ben, You have to put aside the fear of appearing foolish. Fools are the ones that take no risks. Remember, even a small ineffectual action is better than no action at all. (Or so I tell myself, constantly.) Thanks for commenting. Lynda


2patricias profile image

2patricias 5 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

This is an excellent hub, and I have clicked the Facebook 'like' link.

If you have a local 'talk' radio I suggest that you contact them. In my experience small local radio stations have hours of time to fill and will offer you at least 10 minutes of time.

The experience gained on a small local station may help you to get air time on a larger station.

Good luck with the book.


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 5 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Thanks Patricias. Good advice which I will take to heart. I thought I'd wait till around my release date to seek out "real world" coverage. Thanks for commenting. Lynda


Ben Zoltak profile image

Ben Zoltak 5 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

Lynda, can I just say, you are awesome! Thank the Great Spirit there are people in the world like you, who empower others like myself. I applaud you! You are the cat's pajamas.

Ben


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 5 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Why thank you, kind sir. Lynda


Mark 5 years ago

It's probably too late for this, but have you considered changing the cover of your book? The design is amateur at best, and although one shouldn't judge a book by its cover, truth is most people do. I wouldn't even bother picking this one up to read the back cover the way it is. The picture is ok, but the fonts definitely need to be changed.


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 5 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Mark, this was a mock-up I did myself as the final version wasn't ready until this week. So it is amateur but served a purpose.


kirstenblog profile image

kirstenblog 5 years ago from London UK

I found this hub as I want to try a press release for my art work. I had absolutely no idea how to go about this! I know you are talking from the view of publishing a book but I think the info you offer could easily convert to 'the story' behind the art. Why would anyone care? What point is there for anyone to publish my press release? Etc. You got me asking myself great questions and hopefully that will make a difference in writing a press release. Now I just have to find good places where I can submit an art press release :D (gonna keep this page open as I work!)


Charles James profile image

Charles James 5 years ago from Yorkshire, UK

lmmartin

This is a really excellent hub. Thank you. I am working on a press release for my book and I am adopting your insights. You did not actually say "give them a photo of the cover" but obviously you should -as you did.

At one time I used to write election leaflets, and my test of a good leaflet was whether people spontaneously discussed it in the queue at the local hot food takeaway. This is quite a challenge, but I did succeed a couple of times.

My test for a really good press release is whether the editor/ recipient uses it on page 2 or page 12. Have you a test?


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 5 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Yes -- if they use it at all. ;) I'm not picky. Lynda


Natalie Bushnell  5 years ago

Loved it... I too will be book marking this for future use. I love your approach and its very informative... Congrats on your book... should be out by now. I am also working with blackrose. I will look you up. Keep us posted on your publishing adventure...

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