Most authors find the idea of pitching or promoting their book to newspapers, magazines, radio and television daunting. However, you presumably wrote (or are writing) your book because you feel you have something worthwhile to say. So it’s worth making sure as many readers get to hear about it as possible.
One of the biggest mistakes authors – and indeed some PR consultants – make is to assume that your press release should be sent out mainly to book reviewers.
To my mind, this is a massive mistake. A book review tends to have postage-stamp sized coverage, with a teeny image of your book cover if you’re lucky. What’s more, someone has to actually read 70,000+ words before this can happen. Yes, book reviews are influential in selling books. But they shouldn’t be the only weapon in an author’s arsenal.
If you send your press release to a specific science editor, features writer, reporter or broadcaster instead, you power up your PR campaign considerably. SAGA Magazine, for example, has first serialization rights for my forthcoming book. This spans six pages and includes four photographs, plus an image of my book jacket, as well as a double-page illustration. If I paid for similar coverage in advertising, the cost would run into tens of thousands.
Journalists like stories that are:
topical (an event or activity that’s linked to a trending news topic);
inspirational (ordinary people doing extraordinary things);
educational (improves health, wealth or relationships);
unexpected (eat more chocolate, get slim);
controversial statements (men are worse bosses);
‘then and now’ contrasts (you were overweight/broke/depressed etc. and now you’re the opposite);
a big promise (lose wrinkles in 7 days with facial yoga).
Remember that most journalists won’t have time to read your book. So bullet-point the necessary facts. Or write your press release about you and your inspiration, or anything else that is interesting and relevant. Another approach is to create an event or photo opportunity for them to attend.
Here are some quick and easy guidelines for structuring your press release:
• Headline – start with something that’s likely to grab attention.
• Paragraph 1 – summarize your ‘story’ giving key information.
• Paragraph 2/3 – flesh out your story – who, why, what, where and when.
• Paragraph 4 – include a quote from you or someone relevant to the story.
• Paragraph 5 – include extra relevant information such as a photo opportunity.
• Final Paragraph – include the all-important sentence: For a review copy, permission to use printed extracts, or to arrange an interview, contact xyz.
• Contact Details: phone, Skype and email.
• If the story is for immediate release, say so. If it’s embargoed until a certain date, this gives journalists time to prepare ahead.
Take time to tailor your press release for different publications. Suppose, for example, you’ve written a dieting book. Your press release for health magazines might look at emotional and physical topics. For national newspapers, you might include more statistical evidence. For regional media, you might mention a “local author”.
Like all things, it takes a while to master new skills. But eventually, you’ll learn to do this on ‘auto-pilot’ and may even start to enjoy it. It will also leverage your time considerably. Compare the potential return on investment of an hour spent writing your a press release with an hour spent giving a reading in a local library or bookshop. To my mind, it’s a no-brainer to send out your press release to as many journalists as you can to get maximum coverage!
And if several publications want serialisation rights for your book? Then, you need to weigh up what your long-term goals are and whether their target readership is the same as yours. This is rather a nice problem for any author to have!
Stephanie J Hale is a publishing expert, specializing in helping