Book Marketing Boot Camp: Press Releases

We talk a lot about marketing in my Continuing Ed. self-publishing class at Hofstra Unviersity, and one of the best ways to get the word out about your book is to write a press release.

What is a press release?

A press release is a “news story” that you write about yourself in third person. Its goal, first and foremost, is to gain editors’ or reporters’ attention, so that your news item will be placed in their publication or on their website. Nowadays, most press releases are sent by email, but you can also use snail mail or fax. As an editor, I get hundreds of press release emails a day, and in order to catch my eye, an email subject line has to:

  • Be unique or clever
  • Convey newsworthiness
  • Convey relevance

Once an editor decides to click on your press release and read it, your release should cover some journalism basics:

  • Who is this news release about?
  • What has happened that is newsworthy?
  • Where did the newsworthy event take place?
  • When did this happen?
  • How is this newsworthy?
  • Why should I (or my readers) care?

That last one is an important one. Make sure the publication or editor to whom you are emailing is the right person or outlet for your news. Do your research beforehand. Think of all the news outlets that would be interested in your news: Local newspaper? Trade journal? Website? Alumni magazine?

In the cover letter to your press release (or in the body of your email), you can detail why this news is of relevance to its intended recipient.There are various acceptable formats for a press release, but all of them include a headline, dateline, paragraph (or more), and contact information.

Once your release is emailed, it’s always a good idea to follow up on a press release in case the editor has missed it or accidentally deleted it (it happens). Give the editor about two weeks before following up (try not to hound her after a day or two), or check the organization’s website for the preferred follow-up etiquette.

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