Press-Release-IconSome writers come from a PR background. Such writers are fond of saying things like “I could write a press release in my sleep!”–which may explain why most press releases make dull reading.

(In this case, PR means Public Relations even though it could conceivably stand for Press Release. Why use an acronym that could be interpreted as two different things in the same industry? Dunno, ask a PR person.)

For the rest of us, though, press releases are a mysterious form of communications that people used to pay a lot of money for. In Ye Olden Tymes, those seeking publicity went to a PR firm or expert, who composed a press release and sent it to a mailing list of thousands–thousands!–of eagerly receptive media moguls. Or so they would have you believe.

new_way_media_center_press_room_icon_press_release_px208x150_enToday, there are as many folks telling you that hiring PR firms to send PRs “is a waste of money” as there are supporters and PR firms trying to drum up business and get paid to write more PRs. Yes, I do expect you to follow that sentence, but admittedly this PR stuff can be confusing.

Fortunately my amazing book designer did a webinar last year that Explained It All to me.

As far as books and writers are concerned, a well-crafted press release is simply an article in disguise. You are sending a harried editor an article that s/he doesn’t have to write. All they have to do is pretend to edit it, cut a paragraph or two* to fit their needs, and run with it.

Step by step, here is how you should write a press release about your own book or signing event. Here, PR stands for press release.

  1. First, it’s 2015, almost. The PR will be emailed, so get the email address of the editor of your local paper or magazine.
  2. Subject: Do NOT use “Press Release” as a subject. Ever. (Yes, people do this. Ask any harried editor.) Use instead a practical phrase like “Author John Doe to Sign Books” or “New Thriller from Local Author”
  3. Start your PR with Dear –. The editor is human. Use their first name; it sounds friendly.
  4. Explain briefly that you are sending the editor information about your book signing/new release, that you hope will be deemed newsworthy. Then skip a line.
  5. Suggest a headline in bold font.
  6. Write about your event exactly as you’d like it to appear in the newspaper.
  7. Since you don’t know how much space the editor might have for your piece, pack the first two paragraphs full of information. Then relax and include some fluff, including a quote or two from yourself or a reviewer. The editor can cut these as needed.
  8. I like to end the article with **** because I’ve been told this is what professional journalists do–or used to do. At any rate, it clearly marks the end of the article part of your email. Now you go back to addressing the editor in a conversational form.
  9. Finish in a friendly way, sign your name, and include your email address, phone number, a link to your website, a link to the book on Amazon, and whatever other information the editor might need.
  10. Spell check, attach a jpg of the book cover, and send.

It may not be exactly the way a PR professional would send it, but it gets the job done.

*cut a paragraph or two: One trick I’ve learned with articles is to always insert a paragraph or two that can be cut without affecting the rest of the article. That way, the editor feels that s/he has done their job, but your great ending remains intact.


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