How to Write a Press Release (and 3 Places to Send It)

Many moons ago, I eagerly planted myself in the front row of a Florida State classroom for my first day of a public relations writing class. I was two semesters into my third major in college and pretty stoked about learning the core of the skill set I would need to secure a job post-grad. A lifelong, self-identified writer, I was certain the class would be an easy A and took pity on my classmates for what I assumed were their inferior writing skills.

Flash forward to the day my professor handed back our first assignments. In a flutter of white and red, my very first press release written for a grade dropped onto my desk — covered in blood.

Well, okay I’m exaggerating, it wasn’t exactly blood. It was red ink, but in my eyes it may as well have been blood. I was devastated. My professor took to the wipe off board and listed the five most common mistakes he’d found it our work. I had committed every single one of them.

If you think this story ends with me studying hard and acing my next assignment, you’re wrong. I mean I did study hard (in between football games) but it took half the semester for me to get a press release back with only a respectable amount of red ink on it.

I say that to say this: writing a [good] press release isn’t easy.

Your creative writing experience is as relevant to press release writing as your experience watching Jersey Shore is to solving complex math problems. But the good news is, with some guidelines and tools it’s not difficult to learn how to write a good press release. And make no mistake, you need to learn.

To get you started, we’ve created a helpful Press Release Template (DOC file) you can download and use to craft the perfect release to announce the publication of your book, launch of your website, book signing appearance or any other event that should be shared with the media.

But what happens after you write it?

A press release that sits in a folder on your computer’s desktop is pretty useless, right? The point of writing it is to send it out to the media to entice them to write a story about you and your book. But where exactly should you send it? Fox News? Anderson Cooper? The Ellen Show?

Those would be some great long term goals for your press releases, but in the meantime, let’s start with three places you should send your press releases (and might actual get some press attention).

1. PRLog.com

This website is free. It’s pretty basic,  There are a bevy of paid press release distribution services out there, but we’re self-published authors for a reason. Every penny counts and your designated marketing pennies are better spent in other areas than paid press release services.

Sign up, submit your release and take advantage of the features of the free service. Use the five optimized keywords, three clickable links, email & RSS distribution and the analytic services. It may not show up on the first page of Google, but it will put your release out there for bloggers and small market journalists to find when they’re searching for topics to write about. Also, it’s free. Did we mention that?

Bonus: Here’s a list of 50 other free sites for submitting your press releases!

2. Your local newspaper

Definitely submit your releases to your local newspaper (and/or TV news outlet if you live in a bigger market). Do your research and find the relevant reporter or department to send your release to. Hopefully you can find someone who specifically handles book reviews, but if not just go for a features writer.

When you email your release (if you were thinking of faxing it you need to put your cassette tapes in the garbage and step into the new millennium) pitch the story in your email message by talking about why it’s relevant to the publication’s readership. Think outside the box in terms of how your book could be tied back to the readers. The first press release I sent out for my book was published in my local paper as part of special series they put together on buying local gifts for the holidays.

Bonus: If you’re not tied to your local community but your book takes place in a real city, submit your press release to the local news outlets in the city where your title takes place.

3. Your Website

Say whaaaat? Yeah, that’s right, the third and final place you should ALWAYS submit your press releases is to your own website. When you’re just getting started, the best you can hope for with your press releases is to capture some search engine traffic with your keywords of choice. Publishing your press release with PRLog.com is a step in this direction, but publishing it on your website can help as well. Make sure it’s posted in a blog entry or on its own page (not a PDF link) to be sure that the search engines will cache the content.

Bonus: You should also include your press releases (at least the most recent one) in your media kit.

Got more suggestions?

If you know of some other websites or news outlets where authors should submit their press releases, please let us know! Share with us in the comments, on Twitter or on Facebook.

And don’t forget to download your (free!) Press Release Template.

  • http://twitter.com/PublicityHound Joan Stewart

    May I elaborate on #3? The best place to post press releases at your website is, as you said, in your Media Kit. Or, in your online pressroom. I suggest you have a navigational button called “Pressroom.” 

    Other things to do with a press release: Write an enticing tweet and link to it. Post it on Craigslist. Send it to an ezine editor that would be interested in the topic. Send it to bloggers. Send it to your alumni publication. 

    • http://selfpublishingteam.com/ Toni @ Duolit

      Excellent additions, Joan! Thanks for sharing your advice.

  • Melissa Maygrove

    Great post! Thanks. = )

  • http://www.wiseinkblog.com/ Dara @wiseink

    This is super. Definitely bookmarking this post. I would never have thought to post a press release into a blog. Good stuff. I’ve used PRLog before and my release got decent traffic. What are you thoughts on indie authors sending press releases to fellow bloggers? One author I know did this and bloggers actually became his major source of promotion as a result. 

    • http://selfpublishingteam.com/ Toni @ Duolit

      Hi Dara! Shannon did a great job with this post for sure. I can’t totally speak for her but, personally, I’m all about fostering relationships with other bloggers. While I think a personal appeal via email may work better than sending out just a press release to others, attaching it as additional info to a thoughtful email would definitely be a viable option. Great idea!

    • Shannon O’Neil

      Hey Dara! I thought about listing other blogs as a great place to send press releases as well, but I think that might be something we will do a whole separate post on. I definitely think it’s a great idea and probably will become the standard for press releases in the future since blogs are sort of becoming our own unique news outlets.

  • Tom D Harris

    Hi Shannon & Toni. 
    Another great post, thanks yet again. I did have a couple of questions as I am looking to self publish my debut YA novel The Amber Room next month. Before I announce a release date, I am going to send a document off to book reviewers, bloggers to ask if they will review my novel. Similar to the press release you discuss here, but with front cover, blurb etc… I’m going to e-mail some sites I have researched this week, do you have any idea, roughly, how long it takes for most book review sites to respond to review requests and then how long for the review itself, is it completely random as to how busy they are or is there an etiquette about the time I should allow them? Have you guys posted something on this that I may have missed? Any advice would be as always fantastic! Thanks again for the wonderful posts, they’ve truly helped me to navigate my way through the processes behind self publishing a debut novel. Cheers :) Have a great weekend.

    • http://www.selfpublishingteam.com/ Shannon @ Duolit

      Hi Tom! I would allow about a week for responses and probably a minimum of 3-4 weeks for a review with a more likely timeline of about 6 weeks. Are you going to send paperback copies for review or eBook copies? I found when I solicited reviews for my book that a lot of review sites wouldn’t take eBooks, especially from self-published authors :-( It’s probably best to give the reviewer the option and be prepared to have to mail copies if they’re interested. I don’t think we’ve actually done a whole post on getting reviews, but it’s a good topic so you can bet you’ll probably see something about it soon! Thanks for your comments and questions, hope that helped with some clarification!

    • Tom Harris

      Thanks Shannon, as always your advice is appreciated. It looks like a pretty complicated area for self published e-book authors. My plan is when it’s published and I have my ISBN number, to send out a professional document – with the front cover, a blurb, an about the author and my contact details and snippets of reviews that will be posted on the release. I’ll see what comes back. I’ll keep you updated with how things go, as it may prove useful to other self published authors out there. But for now thanks again for taking the time to help an author out. This site is just amazing! :)

  • http://thebestchapter.com/ Diana Bletter

    Thank you for this information! Along with press releases, writers can promote themselves by promoting others. (You can’t keep it unless you give it away!)
    Before I publish my book, The Mom Who Took Off On Her Motorcycle, is to post reviews of other people’s books on my blog, http://www.thebestchapter.com.
    I’ve interviewed Laura Vanderkam who recently released All The Money in the World (Portfolio/Penguin) and I’ll be reviewing Liz Jansen’s book, Women, Motorcycles and the Road to Empowerment (self-published). This way, I’m already making contacts to send my press releases to down the road.
    Thanks again for all your tips.
    Diana Bletter

    • http://selfpublishingteam.com/ Toni @ Duolit

      That’s an excellent idea to garner both additional publicity for your blog as well as (as you noted) make contacts for distribution of your own releases down the road. Thanks for the tip, Diana! 

  • http://twitter.com/paularenaye Paula Renaye

    I love your comment about writing experience relevancy for writing press releases. Oh, so true! Thank you for sharing your wisdom!

  • Jack Morgan

    Thanks for the wonderful information! I especially enjoyed reading your intro about your paper covered in blood – lol! I remember taking Caribbean Women’s Lit at FIU and had the same thing happen, crushing my belief that I was a superb writer. Ha! I did, however, manage to pull off an A in the course. :-)

    I’m heeding your advice and writing style for my press release…love the random bold emphasis!

    Cheers!

    Jack Morgan

  • Tammie

    PRLog won’t let you sign up with a Yahoo or a Gmail account (all most writers have). Any suggestions for bypassing this?

    • http://www.facebook.com/kate.cales Kate Cales

      It will not accept outlook accounts either.

  • http://www.facebook.com/angel.lepire Angel Lepire

    Great information! Completing a press release was my top priority for this weekend, and I just happened to click in an email you sent me and ran into this article. Thank you so much for the helpful tips and especially the template!

  • http://www.facebook.com/kate.cales Kate Cales

    I am writing under a pen name to keep the relatives I mistrust in the woodwork (as it were). Problem is when I want to send out a release, they want my name. Should I use my real name or the pen name I am writing under?

  • http://www.coyneenterprises.org/ Coyne Enterprises

    Great ideas, we are working on a press release at the moment.

  • jonesjimd

    FINALLY! A site that explains the basics of press releases. I have been scouring the internet, libraries and Amazon for someone to explain how to do a press release for weeks. I stumbled upon your site and I am so happy I did. Your template made it easy to write my press release and to submit it to the right people. THANK YOU!!

  • John

    A nicely crafted article. :)

  • karen carroll

    I downloaded and saved the press release template for help. Then I typed over with my own information and saved changes to my Microsoft word. My computer accepted my information. However when I go in to see my press release the file has disappeared.

  • http://www.cloudstaff.com/ Thelma Case

    A very helpful article in writing press releases and where to send them. Thanks for sharing.