Promote Your Book Using a Press Release

Using PR to Market Your BookUsing PR to Market Your BookUsing PR to Market Your BookUsing PR to Market Your Book

Getting the Word Out

One of the most cost-effective ways to “get the word out” about your new book is to use a press release. Basically, this is a brief announcement directed to the media (magazines, newspapers, TV, and online sites), which describes something which is newsworthy. Obviously a new book is a newsworthy event, and a press release is a valuable component to letting the world know the book is available, has been published, has won an award, or anything else that would be considered news about the book and/or author.

A press release is not an article, or an advertisement, and must be written to catch the interest of somebody reading it for potential use in a news outlet, where it may eventually be seen by the public.

For your information:
This article originally appeared on PublishersNewswire.com in July 2004; and is loosely based on my original 1999 article, “How to Write a Press Release” (also found on this website). It has also appeared on various Websites by permission, including PublishingBasics / BooksJustBooks and PRclassroom.com. It is Copr. © 1999, 2004, 2012 and 2014 by Christopher Laird Simmons, all rights reserved.

Some of the most important things to know when developing a press release to send to the media is proper formatting, the required elements such as “attribution,” and making sure the right information is included.

The Right Length

The common optimum length for a press release is 400-800 words, with 400-600 words being a good target length. In many cases a 400-500 word release is “just right” because it ensures you get to the point in what you’re announcing. Length will vary, and run longer, when there is mandatory “boiler plate” information typically found in releases for publicly traded companies or with partnership announcements.

Write for brevity when possible and make every word count, but you don’t need to be obsessive about it — it’s important to remember you’re writing a news announcement and not the “great American novel.” Be matter-of-fact but also attempt to engage the reader with information that draws the interest of the person who might read it. Be aware that some major media outlets like the Los Angeles Times book review section might receive hundreds of press releases per month from around the world, so your “hook” can be very important.

With product announcements your headline can be more general, as simple as “BigBear Publishing Announces Latest Version of BearMarket, the Leading Bear Tracking Guide.” With general editorial — sometimes called feature stories — you need to be more creative.

The release should be written to reflect the actual news announcement in specifics, which are clearly stated. Avoid hyperbole like “the greatest book ever written,” and similar statements. Vague or projected content will not interest the receiving media targets (editors, assistant editors, etc.). Use good grammar, and strong action words like “will” versus “may” and “does” versus “might.”

Be aware that most news services that send releases to the media electronically have word length limits (length of the entire release in words, not characters). Words are calculated “absolutely” using the word count feature in a word processor, and not the old-fashioned line/character counting method once used for book manuscripts.

Getting Started

The first line of a press release should be all capital letters, and will sometimes be “PRESS RELEASE” but more commonly should be “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE.” We recommend the latter. (Neither version is included in word count limits for the majority of wire services like Send2Press Newswire). Commonly, “PRESS RELEASE” is used for news announcements which are not being distributed on a specific day, such as those which might be included in a media kit or posted on a Web site.

There are two accepted locations for the placement of contact information: either at the top of the release, or at the bottom. If you choose to place the information at top, it should be below “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE” and any sector/industry identifiers, and before the body of the release (before the headline). If you choose to place the contact information at bottom, it should be after the body of the release.

The contact information should be the name of the contact person by name, PR firm (if any) or company where contact person works; then phone number, and e-mail address. Each item should be on a separate line by itself. (See examples, below in this article.)

Although it has become common practice to put contact information at top, a brief survey of 100 journalists conducted by Send2Press Newswire in 1999 discovered that working writers preferred to see the “meat” of the release (the headline announcement) first, with contact info at bottom, when receiving news.

Most wire services such as Send2Press put the contact information at the bottom for online copies, which is the preferred placement for electronic news distribution, but at the top in emails so it’s clear at the outset who the point of contact is. With a formatted release printed in a media kit, and sent by postal mail; or a faxed release, it is preferable to have the contact information at the top.

Next, the market segment identifier is used to identify to whom your press release will be of interest. This can be in the form of listing a specific market such as “Entertainment/Books/Publishing” or it can be directed at editors in the form of “Book News Editors/Entertainment Writers.” Each method is correct, with one stating a market and the other identifying which editor at a general interest publication the release should be directed to. Generally, only one of the forms is used, however you can mix the approaches as necessary.

Although not every PR firm uses an identifier line, we’ve found that it helps identify the relevance of the announcement to the receiving party, and may help it be read/used. This is often true with broadcast outlets or weekly newspapers which have one main point of contact for all submitted press releases. It is recommended.

Most wire services will use their own market identifiers, such as “Attention Book Editors” and you can include them for guidance on your target audience, but they will be changed by the specific wire service to their methodology. These are not counted in “word length limits” used by all legitimate wire services.

Below the “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE” and the contact information (if you choose to place contact information at top) you must put your news “headline information.”

This should be one of the two most carefully crafted aspects of your release (along with the first paragraph), and must be both attention getting and describe a genuine newsworthy event. It doesn’t need to be a cure for cancer, but must clearly state what you intend to announce in the body of your release.

Did you get a book published, did you sign with a literary agency, did you win an award, or launch a new publishing company/imprint? Spell it out.

It needs to be compelling enough for the editor reading it to not dismiss the entire release and then immediately “round file” it in the trash. The better your headline, the better your chance of an editor reading the rest of your announcement — but, again, it doesn’t have to be ground breaking, merely succinct and spell out clearly what it is you’re announcing.

And keep in mind for SEO (search engine optimization and visibility), it’s imperative that the phrases you most want your news to be found under online should be part of the headline, ideally within the first 10 words.

As a rule, your headline should be 20 words or less (some online systems have an issue with overlong headlines). Long headlines may be chopped into a headline plus a sub-headline. Note that some online news outlets that pick up feeds from wire services may not always capture the sub-head, so be certain the sub-head is not critical to your announcement (media receiving your news announcement by email will still see the sub-head).

So, for example, the top of your release might look like this:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Of interest to editors and journalists covering: books/publishing, features, women’s health, fitness

New ‘Yoganomica’ Health Guide Propels Active Women to Better Health

Illustrated with hundreds of how-to photos, this new book features dozens of celebrity exercise workouts at home or on the go.

Or, with media contact info at the top:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Of interest to editors and journalists covering: books/publishing, features, women’s health, fitness

MEDIA CONTACT:
Joe Smith
Smith PR and Puppies
+1-555-555-1212
smithy@smithypups.xyz

New ‘Yoganomica’ Health Guide Propels Active Women to Better Health

Illustrated with hundreds of how-to photos, this new book features dozens of celebrity exercise workouts at home or on the go.

Also note that the headline should be title-case (first letter of main words capitalized) while sub-head should be sentence case (first word capped, but not every main word). Wire services like Send2Press send releases with title-case. Online news sources that pick up wire feeds may convert headlines to all-caps, depending on their formatting standards. For printed releases being sent by fax, postal mail, or placed into a media kit, all-cap headlines are still considered acceptable. (Informally online, however, ALL CAPS is also considered “shouting,” and hence the move to initial capped titles in the 21st century.)

Book titles go in “quotes,” and are not italicized, or bolded. In the headline a book title would go in ‘single quotes.’ Per AP style, there are no double spaces after periods, and all commas and periods go inside of quote marks.

UPDATE: While headlines were often up to 30 words in the olden days of the 20th century, the reason why a 20 word maximum length should be adhered to is that modern news sites like Google News may skip a story entirely when issued via a newswire service like Send2Press or elsewhere due to it looking like a short paragraph and not a title (per Google’s guidelines for news publishers). Similarly, social media like Twitter have a title/headline character limit, and so a long headline would be truncated (chopped off). If you have very long words, consider no more than 17 words. In fact, in 2014, the Twitter 140 character limit, is actually a pretty good length target. -cs

A Good Body

Next, we get to the “body” of the release. This is the story you want to tell about your book and should be everything a potential editor/writer at a media outlet needs to know to decide to consider your news for possible use. Some smaller newspapers (and most online news outlets) print elements from the first paragraph in summary format, so the first paragraph should be direct and to the point.

Remember that your news is not being read by your audience/customer in most cases, so you must avoid phrases like “come on down to Bob’s house of pancake recipes for the best food you’ll ever get for your eyeballs…” because it’s not an advertisement, and you must be careful to avoid the appearance of an “advertorial” — as those of us in the publishing business call them. So-called “advertorials” will be dismissed immediately, unread.

A press release is a news announcement, and must actually announce something considered “newsworthy.” It’s not a classified advertisement or a flier announcing your services. It is also not an “article” which is automatically published in a newspaper or magazine.

The first sentence of the first paragraph of the release must contain the city in all caps and then the state abbreviation (i.e., Calif.), unless it is a major market like “NEW YORK” or “LOS ANGELES” which are unique. This method is per Associated Press (AP) formatting and is followed by wire services like Send2Press and PR Newswire. The wire service will modify this as needed, but you should always include the city and state, as this indicates where you’re located regionally.

If you are in a suburb or outlying area in a major city/county, you may wish to skew this to the major city. For example, if you were located in Redondo Beach, California, you would likely put “LOS ANGELES, Calif.” instead, unless there was some compelling reason to include your small city (in this example, perhaps beach-related news). Although not strictly required, it’s good to always include the state abbreviation even if a major city for better SEO and those using research tools.

You also need to include the date of the news announcement, which will always be the date the news is being distributed (this is always added by a wire service as the date issued, not a date in past). You can abbreviate the month (i.e., “Jan.” in place of January). Some wire services will remove the year (since with a wire service it is self-evident which year it is), but others will include it, so you should as well.

So, for example, the first part of the first paragraph of the body of your release might read:

ANNAPOLIS, Md., June 23, 2004 /Send2Press Newswire/ — Visitors to the Parthenon in Athens and to the British Museum in London, where most of the Parthenon sculptures are displayed, can now do more than “ooh” and “aah” at what they see: they can actually understand what the Greeks were telling us about themselves and their history. The newly-released book from Solving Light Books, “The Parthenon Code: Mankind’s History in Marble” (ISBN: 0-9705438-3-2), by Robert Bowie Johnson, Jr. ….

You don’t need to include the wire service identifier, sometimes placed as /WireName/ or (WireName), as the specific wire service or news distribution company will add their identifier to match their system formatting. If distributing the news yourself, you need not put any identifier, and certainly don’t make the identifier yourself or your company as that is incorrect. Don’t put the date inside parenthesis as this is common with certain “bad” PR templates, and is also incorrect formatting.

The first paragraph is also where you should always include your book title, and the ISBN (International Standard Book Number) for the book following the title. Some like to put the publisher name after the ISBN, inside the parenthesis. If you have both a paperback, hardcover, and ebook ISBN which are different, I tend to use the paperback edition in first instance, then list the other editions at bottom of release). For printed books, use the 13 digit ISBN instead of 10 digit version.

While individual paragraphs should be somewhat dry in describing your book, and what it’s about (and by dry, I mean without prose or hyperbole), you can make statements in a quote which could be considered hype, since it’s an opinion (more on quotes in a moment).

Other paragraphs within the release should describe what your new product actually does (as in the case of a software product), or with a book, describe what it’s about. At least one paragraph must describe the general feature/benefit of what you are announcing beyond the headline and first paragraph; what does somebody gain from reading the book – what is the book about? If it’s fiction, a brief outline of what it’s about helps describe to the media person a bit about it, and perhaps may lead to a review request (to cheat, you can often rework the dust jacket or back cover “blurb” which you should already have).

The next paragraph(s) should be at least one quotation, as “lazy media” love to grab quotes without ever contacting you about your news. With a book release this can be from the book author, and sometimes the publisher (avoid using any quotes from paid reviewers, as media cannot use those, nor can they use anonymous quotes about how awesome the book is, as they tend to be made up). This brings a human feel to the announcement, and puts a face on the story. It also provides a quotation from someone at the company that can be used in a news item.

With all quotes, the main guideline is that you must always attribute the quote to an actual person. You cannot state, “A valued customer called our product the best thing since sliced bread.” A non-assigned quote is worthless in a press release. A journalist can state “An unnamed source called it the best thing since sliced bread.” You cannot. (See example release bottom of this article, for examples.)

Other ways to bolster the value of a news announcement is by using supporting research. For example, if you are announcing the launch of a new book about science, food, how-to, etc., there is likely a reason you believe there is a need in the marketplace for your product. If you’ve done market research, this may include data and statistics related to growth in your book segment, or industry trends.

You can find this kind of information online, if you don’t have it (but always attribute any research or data to the source you’re quoting, such as a medical study about yoga reducing age-based muscle or lower back pain, in one example; cite the study and include link if possible).

For example, for a release about a real estate investing book, an example of credible research might be something like this, which is taken from an actual client release writing project:

According to a study commissioned by the California Association of REALTORS® (CAR), home buyers using the Internet invest significant time investigating the housing market and financing options before contacting a real estate agent. 49 percent think the Internet helped them better understand the purchase process, 92 percent use the Internet much like a screening process to narrow choices, and 78 percent of Internet home buyers find their real estate agent on the Internet.

(Note: AP style specifies the percentage sign % to be written out as percent; but this article will not cover AP style issues in depth.)

As you can see, this can be of great benefit in illustrating there is actually a need in the marketplace, or a value to the readers of a particular news outlet, for the news being announced in the release.

Finally, it’s important to use good formatting. Clearly separate paragraphs of information to make it easy to “scan” quickly. Large overlong paragraphs should be broken into two or more chunks, where each chunk contains your information (this article is one example of this practice).

Attribution Rules

Most newswire services now require proper “attribution” for a release, which simply means that you must include the news “source” (which is the name of the person, company, or group announcing the news) in either the headline or first paragraph. This is to clearly identify WHO is announcing the news.

Taken together, the headline and first paragraph should clearly show WHO is announcing WHAT. The rest of the release won’t be read if these two elements are not clear and to the point.

So, for a book release, the news source could be the book publisher, but often with self-published books, it would be the author.

The Final Touches

The final paragraph(s) should describe the author(s) and/or book publisher. A small publisher would typically do one paragraph about the author as a mini-bio (often to support why somebody is credible to write on a specific topic like yoga), then a paragraph about the publishing company. With self-publishing, you might have your own company/imprint, but that could be redundant if you only have one book and then the author bio might be sufficient.

Put another way, the reason this short paragraph can be valuable is in demonstrating an expertise in the area of the news you’re announcing, a history of past accomplishments in your market segment, industry awards, or the like. This can help to establish your bona fides — the fact your company is a legitimate professional entity. With a book author, you can demonstrate you’re qualified to be writing about a particular topic, which is valuable with technical and non-fiction topics.

A last line either by itself (or last sentence of “about the publisher”) should state something like: “For more information, visit: http://www.yourdomain.xyz/.” This is essential in case the news editor chooses to pursue more information about your book without contacting you directly.

UPDATE: this article was originally written before social media really started to appear in 2005 (e.g., Digg, then Technorati, etc.). In 2014, you might also include a link to your Facebook page in addition to a publisher page about a book, or an author website/blog. -cs

Below this, you may also want to state that a product photo is available online and provide the URL directly to a sample image or your company logo (where appropriate). Some wire services like Send2Press may also allow you to attach additional photos (such as book jacket and author headshot), and/or video to your announcement. You can also simply include link to a photo gallery on your website which might have headshot, book jacket image, or a mixture of those, if applicable.

Finally, you need to close the release “body” with three hash marks, like so “# # #.” This indicates the end of the release (may vary with a wire service, so you could as easily put - end - ). Any “for media only” info can be placed below the hash marks (number signs, if you prefer), helps to identify information which is technically “outside” the press release proper, such as a true note to editors (link to a press-only page for example), and media-only contact info.

With the body of the release done, you would now place your contact information at the bottom (unless you place it up top). You must include a contact person by name, their company (i.e., your PR firm) if they don’t work at the same company mentioned in the release, a phone number, and e-mail address. All wire services will indicate the contact person as being from the company submitting the release (the company in the release), unless indicated otherwise.

Check and Review

If you’ve used a word processor, you should definitely use any spell-checking utilities on your release to find common spelling mistakes and/or typos. You should print your release out on a printer and read it in paper form to see how it reads, to ensure that it’s clear and to the point. You may also wish to read it out loud to yourself and listen for the flow and whether it sounds interesting.

It’s wise to have a dictionary handy to look up any words you’re not 100% sure are spelled correctly and check for common mistakes like “it’s” versus “its.”

Are you actually announcing something? If it just sounds like a bunch of nonsense, go back and edit it until it sounds like you’re telling somebody an interesting story for general news, and be matter of fact for product announcements.

Remember it’s news coming from you and/or your company/imprint, not an article about you.

If you intend to submit your release through a newswire service like Send2Press® Newswire, you should review any unique format requirements as found on the service portal for that specific service provider.

Checking in on Others

One trick you might consider, is going to a newswire service website and locate their book news archives, or a book publisher site and visit their news page, to see examples of what other authors and publishers are doing to promote their books. You might find these are great idea starters, but never steal another release for your own use. Be inspired by others, don’t plagiarize.

Things to Remember

Remember that an editor/journalist needs to see the facts about your book to understand the value of why they should consider writing about it, you and your news for their audience.

Some of the things I’ve seen companies forget to include are product pricing, ISBN for books, UPC/EAN numbers for music/CDs; and whether the product/book is available through a major distributor (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.), nationally, regionally, or only through a Web site.

For book releases, it’s often wise to post a “book summary” at the end of the release comprising the name of the publisher, the author, the book title, the ISBNs and related format (such as hardcover, 250pp), and publication date. This is also similar to what Amazon.com puts at bottom of the book page on their site.

UPDATE: if you wish to link to your book on Amazon, one trick is to use the “shortcode” from the share options which are often found above the shopping cart/one-click box top right of the book page on their site. For example, if you were to click the email page to someone, it would show you the short URL. The shortcode is a short version of the URL link to your book page, in place of the very long URL found at top of the web browser. -cs

It’s also important to not be too obsessive about your press release, as a single release will neither make nor break your effort. In addition to press releases, you should be exploring other promotion methods such as advertising, direct mail, and word of mouth, among other strategies.

By following the guidelines in this article, you should be able to compose and submit a proper release, which fits the criteria of what editors are looking for. This will ensure your best chance of getting the invaluable free publicity, which only the print and electronic media outlets can provide.


Example Press Release:

Note: this actual release example is from 2004, and so the information contained within should be considered out of date at this point.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Of interest to editors and journalists covering:
Books, Publishing, Libraries, Museums, History, Religion

New Book Deciphers Meaning of Parthenon Sculptures

Purpose of Athena’s Temple in Athens Understood for First Time in More Than 2,000 Years – Noah Depicted in Ancient Greek Art

ANNAPOLIS, Md., June 23, 2004 /Send2Press Newswire/ — Visitors to the Parthenon in Athens and to the British Museum in London, where most of the Parthenon sculptures are displayed, can now do more than “ooh” and “aah” at what they see: they can actually understand what the Greeks were telling us about themselves and their history. The newly-released book from Solving Light Books, “The Parthenon Code: Mankind’s History in Marble” (ISBN: 0-9705438-3-2), by Robert Bowie Johnson, Jr. deciphers the meaning of the sculptures of Athena’s temple, relating their messages to the early events described in Genesis.

According to the book, an authentic ancient Greek artists’ code, designed to portray their religious history simply and clearly, reached its highest and most straightforward form with the sculptures of the Parthenon, the national monument of Greece.

The author writes that Greek myth/art tells the same story as Genesis except from the standpoint that the serpent enlightened Adam and Eve in Eden rather than deluding them. “Greek art depicts the myth; Greek myth explains the art. Together, Greek myth/art takes us back through the Flood to a woman, a serpent, and a tree in an ancient paradise,” Mr. Johnson said.

The Parthenon Code reveals that the ancient Greeks rejected the Creator God of Noah in favor of “man as the measure of all things.” Thus, the Parthenon sculptures celebrated the re-emergence of the way of Kain (Cain) after the Flood. The Greeks called Noah Nereus, the “Wet One,” and dated the beginning of their religious outlook from the latter years of his life, depicting the patriarch’s image on many vases, seventeen of which appear in the book.

Mr. Johnson’s work contradicts the writings of the late popular mythologist, Joseph Campbell, who wrote that the ancient myths were merely subjective metaphors and expressions of the unconscious mind. “The Greeks created the living basis of our culture,” Mr. Johnson said, “Let’s give them credit for knowing where they came from and what they believed, and especially for knowing how to vividly express that crucial historical information to posterity.”

Reviewer Ron Pramschufer of BooksJustBooks.com puts Mr. Johnson’s new book into a contemporary perspective: “While The DaVinci Code is fictional and The Bible Code is bogus, The Parthenon Code presents a genuine artists’ code which opens the door to long-hidden truths about the origins of mankind.”

The Parthenon Code features 251 black-and-white illustrations including Parthenon sculptures restored by computer artist Holmes Bryant.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Robert Bowie Johnson, Jr. has been studying the Scriptures, Greek myth, Greek art, and the Parthenon since 1984. He is a graduate of West Point and an airborne ranger infantry veteran of Viet Nam. He previous two books are “Athena and Eden: The Hidden Meaning of the Parthenon’s East Façade,” and “Athena and Kain: The True Meaning of Greek Myth.”

Table of Contents, sample chapters, and Flash presentation of Parthenon Sculptures restored in color: www.solvinglight .com

BOOK SUMMARY:
Title: The Parthenon Code: Mankind’s History in Marble
Author: Robert Bowie Johnson, Jr.
Publisher: Solving Light Books
ISBN: 0-9705438-3-2
7×10 hardcover, 288 pp., 251 b&w illustrations, $29.95.

The book is available to retail outlets through Biblio, a division of the National Book Network, 1-800-462-6420, or custserv@nbnbooks.com

The Parthenon Code is available now at: http://www.solvinglight .com

*Photo 72dpi: http://www.send2press.com/photoSP/johnson01.jpg

# # #

MEDIA ONLY CONTACT:
Robert Bowie Johnson, Jr.
of Solving Light Books
+1-555-555-1212
media@bookpubsite.xyz

//Editor Note: Review copies and interviews arranged on request.

 

* * *

Article Copr. © 1999, 2004, 2012 and 2014 Christopher Laird Simmons — All Rights Reserved; reproduction in whole or in part without express written permission of the author is prohibited under international copyright laws. This article originally appeared on PublishersNewswire.com in 2004, and was also published on the Publishing Basics web portal, with permission. It also appeared in slightly different form, with some out of date information on PRclassroom.com (this version fixes some errors from that version).

PHOTO CREDIT: Image courtesy of Renjith Krishnanrenjith at FreeDigitalPhotos.net. Derivative work created by and © Christopher Simmons.

* * *

Christopher Simmons
Christopher Laird Simmons has been a working PR practitioner since 1981 when his first earned media was a 1/6th page in the June 1982 edition of Playboy. He has been a working journalist since 1984 when he sold his first article to a national magazine. He is a member of ASCAP and PRSA, and served for 3 years on the judging panel for the PRSA's annual Excellence in Tech Journalism awards. He has written widely for various national tech and entertainment publications, and been interviewed by the same. He is the founder and CEO of Neotrope®, a marketing, PR, and publishing company founded Jan. 1983. Neotrope (neotrope.com) is a member of GS1, and was an INC 5000 company in 2009. He is also the founder of Send2Press® Newswire (send2press.com).

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