When it comes to dealing with the media, press releases are the single most important weapon in a writer’s arsenal. While some authors are fortunate enough to hire a publicist, most are responsible for their own promotion, and dealing with the media can seem intimidating. Here are some tips for writing an effective press release.
Think of a Press Release as a resume, but written in the third person. A common error when writing a press release is using first person. Yes, you want to sell your book, but you are really selling yourself to a media outlet. That means writing like a reporter, and reporters are taught write news articles in the third person.
Your first line is essential. Like any resume, you have a very limited amount of time to get the recipients attention. Your first line, or lead, has to catch the eye. Make sure you get right to the point with it. Don’t embellish by asking a question or teasing. If you won awards, say “award winning author” to catch the eye.
Do your homework. Don’t send a press release for a book about a conservative politician to The New York Times and expect a warm welcome. If you send it The Washington Times or The American Standard, you will fare better. Research the outlets you plan to send to as much as possible. When in doubt, go basic.
Avoid jargon. Try to avoid loading a press release with stuff that needs explaining. If you are sending to a trade publication, that’s one thing. A creative arts magazine can decipher a release full of jargon about painting; a newspaper will probably toss it.
Be personal. Find out who the person handling press releases are and get a name. Address the release directly to that person with a cover letter of no more than three lines. This is especially effective for small media outlets.
Be available. On any press release, always include contact info if some kind. Some reporters like email interviews, others prefer phone, and some like to do in person. If you give contact information on your release, you are far more likely to get results.
Finally, don’t forget to include info on the work. It’s great that you like to fish and hunt and knit and play catch with the kids, but the book is the item you are promoting. Make sure that you summarize it in the very first paragraph, then add relevant backstory, data and maybe a quote. All this is the red meat editors look for.
Hope this helps. If you want more advice, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.