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.
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:
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
I've long avoided watching Black Hawk Down. I hate war. I hate movies about war,particularly movies that glorify war. I had just spent several weeks in research preparing to write a paper on the tragedy of Somalia, so...
Recently a New York Times editor asked if it was a reporter's job to challenge dubious assertions made by newsmakers they write about. You mean they don't already? Eegads -- silly man, the answer is YES.
An exploration of 'voice' in writing. Today's discussion: writing from the child's perspective and the challenge of writing in the child's voice.