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