Sunday, April 5, 2009

Those Pesky Press Releases

We send out press releases because we want free publicity for our books which, we hope, will generate sales. Newspapers publish those releases for one reason only: they are in some way newsworthy and provide value to their readership. Frankly, they care very little about you or your needs, unless you can find a way to make them care. Unless you can make it newsworthy.

Years ago, I was the Communications Director for the Connecticut American Heart Association. Every year, I would send out press releases announcing that May is High Blood Pressure Month. I would then follow up with phone calls to ensure coverage. This one May, the science editor for our major daily paper said, "Honey, there's nothing new about that. Make it newsworthy and I'll print it. I might even run a whole story." I hung up, got a committee together and worked to create Stroke Awareness Week, an entire campaign designed to help lower the incidence of stroke during May (high blood pressure month). We had press coverage across the state!

So, translate this to the release of your book. First, do the leg work. Find out the deadline for every paper you want to send a release to. This is critical. Keep a log for future reference. Then find out if they prefer fax or electronic submission. Very few today want snail mail, but you never know. If you're sending books for review that's another story.

Second, slant each release to the intended paper/publication. For your hometown paper, the lead might read "Newtown resident publishes first novel." For your college paper it would be "Yale Graduate Has Best Seller." You get the idea. Make it even more newsworthy by inviting the public to a signing. And, by the way, you can — and should — send out a release for each book signing, ensuring that you get continued coverage, even if it's only a line listing. Always offer two photos (one of you and one of your book cover).

Third, be ready for a phone call that asks for an interview! That's happened more than once to me, with a photographer and all. Be gracious and be ready to meet their timelines. It's all about making their job easy and giving them something to fill their paper. You'll discover that your local papers are especially happy for the news.

Good luck.

Patricia Sheehy
author: Field of Destiny, Veil of Illusion, Giving with Meaning


Holli said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Holli said...

Thanks for the advice- but at what point do you send out the press release? Do you want to wait until the book is actually released, or do you start ahead of time?

F. M. Meredith, author said...

About press releases, if I'm sending one to our local newspaper, I do it before I'm having some kind of event to get the publicity for it.

I really think you ought to wait until people can actually buy your book to send out the other releases.

It doesn't hurt to get some word out though about your coming book and you can do that through Twitter, Facebook, and on your personal blog, let people know when you're giving talks.

I had someone contact a publisher asking how to order a book I'd mentioned at a talk. The book won't be out until fall. Hope the person remembers.