Why You Need a Press Release in the Digital Age

From Jane Friedman:

If you’re wondering whether press releases are still relevant or important, I’m here to convince you that they are.

Why send out a press release?

Media relations departments from all types of companies—Fortune 500 to startups—use press releases to communicate with the media. Why do billion-dollar businesses bother to send them out? Because this is still how you send information to the media. A press release is a tool that is considered “approved” copy for any media organization, online or traditional, to use to discuss an outside entity.

Here is a simple example in the book world: It is very likely that someone will review or feature your book and lift copy straight from your release, which is exactly what you want. If a media outlet decides to run a story about your book with a price or on-sale date that’s inaccurate, you can cite information in the press release and ask to have it corrected. If there are factual errors in coverage tied to your release, you can easily point to the problem and ask for a change. 

If you want to include a blurb or endorsement, or include a quote from an expert cited in your nonfiction book, a media outlet understands they can use it. If Michelle Obama endorses your book, wouldn’t you want to have her name and her words in your press release? This is an extreme situation, but it illustrates my point. 

However, before you email one sentence to a journalist, there are direct benefits you get from writing your own release.

Why am I writing press materials?

You are writing this document because it will help you figure out what your core message is.

The core message is the newsworthy or unique aspect(s) you, your book, and your ideas can offer to a target audience—an audience that is most likely to spread word of mouth and/or purchase your book or services. The core message is ultimately part of your elevator pitch. 

Creating a release also forces you to think about your competition and how you are offering something different than what every other mystery, romance, literary fiction, self-help guru, history buff, academic author, etc. is writing about. In an online world, this is incredibly important, because most likely, the first place you are going to make your mark is online and with search engines.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) for press releases

Having the release available on your website, your publicist’s website, publisher’s website, etc., will help with you or your book appearing in response to search queries. If you Google your book title, you will probably notice Amazon and other big retailers first; your publisher and your own website can appear later. Having a press release can boost this rank in search queries.

Because the competition for ranking is much more competitive these days, you should do some extra work to enhance your release: include keywords or keyword phrases in the text. You can research which ones to use by using Google to search for terms related to your work such as “books about WWII,” “self-help divorce books,” “books about good habits”, “books about joining the circus,” etc. See what comes up in the search window and consider what phrases or keywords will help your press materials rank better in results.

I don’t think paid services like PR Newswire (that publish and distribute your press release) are worthwhile for most books. If you have an amazing news peg, that could be one reason to invest, but there are thousands of releases posted at such PR websites.

Press release structure

This structure is based on how much interesting or provocative information you can share, without overhyping your message. When you introduce the book in the opening paragraphs, you will need to identify it using the entire title with the subtitle; in parentheses include the publication date, imprint, format, price, and ISBN, like this:

The Great Book: A Novel by Bobbie Bobs (imprint name, publication date, format, ISBN, price).

The first paragraph should tell the reader of the release why your story is compelling and what its relevance is to the audience. You will also want to explain why you wrote the book and how your personal story is connected to it.

The next one or two paragraphs should be a short synopsis of the plot if you are promoting a novel, and a list of the main facts or talking points if you are working on nonfiction. You can also include a more in-depth section on yourself and your story as it relates to the content if you believe it will enhance the core message.

Within the release, you will want to mention the book’s title at least two times. In the final paragraph, you need to develop an action statement “Call to Action” (CTA) that will tie up everything and encourage the reader to pick up the book and open it.

Add your short bio under “About the Author” and the specs of the book (the ISBN, etc) below that. Finish it off with the traditional # # # centered on the bottom, which indicates to the media person that all the words preceding the hashtags are approved for the press.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

PG is ambivalent about press releases (well, actually not very ambivalent) about old-fashioned press releases(and thinks ISBNs are worthless for indie authors).

If you have a publisher or publicist, they should be the ones writing and distributing the press release (if they think it’s worth the effort).

Ultimately, it’s a matter of the bang for the buck for an author (the buck may represent money or time).

A serious public relations agency charges serious money because their people have longstanding relationships with all manner of people working for all manner of publications, print, online, TV/radio, etc.

A good PR person knows who should be contacted because she/he is interested in stories about books like yours. The PR person won’t make a call or send an email to the sports editor about your regency romance.

Most large places where you would like to have a story about your book to appear have someone or several someones whose job is to spend time every day screening incoming emails, letters and voicemails and delete/destroy 90% of them because their boss has more important things to do. Or they may just rely on their spam filters.

2 thoughts on “Why You Need a Press Release in the Digital Age”

  1. I do think it’s worth it for authors to send out press releases to local media, especially if they’re in small or mid-sized cities. I got the first book in a mystery series featured in the Albuquerque Journal with a full page article, and I’ve been profiled in Albuquerque Magazine. (Granted, this might not happen in a really big city.)

    I was also profiled in the Juneau, Alaska paper, after sending a press release noting that I was a graduate of the high school there. These press releases can also be used for college alumni mags, emphasizing the connection to the school.

    The key is to make the personal connection clear immediately, as in the title: New Mystery From New Mexico Author, for example.

    • Good points, K. Thanks for posting.

      Were you able to ascertain whether your news stories translated into measurable sales?

      A long time ago, I worked for a large advertising agency. One of the client sayings that I recall was, “I know that half my advertising spend is wasted. I just don’t know which half that is.”

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