Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Press Releases

Authors send out press releases to try to get people to buy their books, or to drum up bodies for a book signing (which is actually a promotion to produce sales of books), or to announce news, like contest wins (which are endorsements of the book or author which can increase sales), or to ... You get the idea.

As you write a press release, though, you can't look at it just from your point of view. If you did, your press release would say nothing but, "Buy my book. Buy my book. Thank you, Desperate Author." Or, possibly, like a button I have, it might read, "Buy my book or my editor will kill me."

You have to consider both the publication you're sending the press release to and its readership. Newspapers and magazines are not altruistic and very few are non-profit. If an editor reads your press release and comes away feeling as though all you're doing is trying to sell your book, he's liable to wad it up, two-point it into the trash, and mumble, "Buy an ad, buster."

Here are some overall points about press releases:

Check on each publication's deadline. In general, monthly publications can require a 3 to 5 month advance. Weeklies and dailies can need anywhere from a week to 2 months.

Keep it short, interesting, and professional. One page is preferable, two is the max. Try to keep it around 300 to 500 words. Don't make it goofy; but do make it interesting. Use short words and sentences. This is not a literary novel you're writing. Most likely, it's for a newspaper or a magazine. Did you know that the average educational level for a newspaper's readership is the 6th grade?

Use the proper formatting. Allow large margins for an editor to write or comment -- about one and a half inch margins. If the release runs two pages, avoid breaking in the middle of a paragraph, certainly don't break in the middle of a sentence. When you mail it, don't fold. More and more publications are accepting faxes and emails, some prefer to get them that way, but check first. Let the editor know your press release is finished by ending with either "-30-" or "###" centered as the last line.

Speaking of calling, always call first. That way you can check the guidelines, find out the fax number or correct email address, and get the correct spelling of the name to address the information to. Then you send the release, wait a few days, and do a follow-up call. Don't drive 'em crazy though.

Tomorrow … we’ll get to the press release itself.


  1. Good advice, Helen. I've also found that submitting press releases to PRWeb with a minimum donation gets results. The release is lited in Google and Yahoo News and is often picked up on other Web sites related to your topic.

  2. Joan Stewart8/22/2007 8:14 AM

    Your advice on press releases is right on the mark.
    You might be interested in knowing that I’m offering a free email tutorial called "89 Ways to Write Powerful Press Releases."

    I explain why we should no longer be writing press releases only for the press, but for consumers who can find the releases online, click through to our websites and enter our sales cycle, even if journalists don’t think our release is worthy of attention.

    The course includes several terrific press release samples as well as "before" and "after" makeovers.

    You can sign up for the free press release writing tutorial at http://www.PublicityHound.com/pressreleasetips/art.htm

    It's a very long tutorial but please stick with it. By the time you're done, it will be like earning a master's degree in writing and distributing press releases. And you'll know more about this topic than many PR people.

  3. I thought about not putting this comment up because it's clearly a promotion of the web site and tutorial. But I went to the site and saw that although there is an ebook for sale, you can just sign up for the free emails. It sounds like an interesting idea to get the emails on press releases, but, to all my readers, I haven't signed up, so I can't personally recommend it.

  4. What a great idea Lillie. Thank you!

  5. I subscribe to Joan Stewart's free newsletter and have found it helpful. She offers all kinds of advice on publicity. She does use the newsletter to promote her products, such as teleseminars, but there is good content in each issue as well as her promotional material.

  6. Thank you, Lillie. I'm really glad to hear your recommendation of Joan Stewart. She should be a great resource for all of us looking to learn to write press releases or looking to improve the ones we already write.


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