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Writing a good press release for your book

Your job does not end when you sign the contract or you sign off the proofs for your book. Big publishers expect authors to become partners in the promotion and marketing of their books. Smaller independents and self-publishing require you to take most of the responsibility for the sales success of your own book. You will need to use the media to reach your potential audience and for that you will have to compose a story to attract their attention.

What to write

You need to persuade a journalist to write a story which will please their editor and get printed. Writing this sort of story takes skill and judgement. A few hundred words saying somebody has written something will be spiked by every editor. It is not a story.

A few tips:

  • If you already have some claim to fame, however obscure, think about how you can use it.
  • What makes you different and newsworthy?
  • Can you turn some challenging part of your job or life into a story?
  • Have you overcome adversity to write the book?
  • Is the book a long-promised dream or undertaking?
  • Did you make some significant sacrifice to achieve self-publication?
  • Offbeat stories about authors can make news at the local level.

Targeting

It does not matter which comes first, the story or the target publication. If a good story springs into your head, work out who might like the story. Something for the national press is probably wrong for the local press.

It is great if you can manage to meet the journalist. Having the name is very useful. Offering to bring a copy of the book provides a good excuse for a face-to-face meeting. The junior reporter who will be dealing with your story will probably be overworked so meeting at the newspaper’s office will save them time. If you are making a cold-call, the news desk is always a good place to start. They will soon pass you on.

Format

When you think you have found your storyline, follow the simple rules for writing a news release. The journalist wants to know what, who, when, why and where, and not necessarily in that order. Stick to the facts.

Remember who you are talking to. They are reporters, not readers. Their job is to digest what you say and then write a story.

Use email

  • Many papers will not accept attachments so paste your copy into the email and the title of the release into the subject line.
  • Never use the Cc (carbon copy) facility to send your email because this not only tell the journalist who else is getting your release but reveals all their email addresses to each recipient, which many regard as a breach of email etiquette.
  • If you are sending the story to a website your release needs to be publication-ready. This means that you might need to send an email in HTML rather than just plain text. Most sites will carry a buy-link for your book so these details must be included.

Other points to remember.

  • Have a synopsis and make a set of bullet points to give to reporters.
  • Flyers or bookmarks can be presented to reporters.
  • Include contact details, especially phone numbers, plus an email address on every release.
  • Always include the ISBN reference and where the book can be bought, even if it is a website.

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