Press Releases for Novelists: Think Before You Write

Newspapers B&W (3)

Newspapers by JonS, courtesy of flickr

Social networking tools may seem the most seductive of easy methods to promote your novel. They’re cheap, they’re hip, and they typically don’t cost anything but time. But when you’re just starting out as a novelist in any field you may not have the contacts and connections yet to make those social networking mechanisms seem like anything more than yelling in the dark. And for authors who are still learning the ropes of social networking, all the technology may seem a bit intimidating. Necessary, yes, but a bit overwhelming.

Fortunately, authors can still interact with a variety of news sources (including newspapers and radio) using an “old school” idea that costs virtually no money: a simple press release. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as sitting down and writing some text and sending it off through the aether hoping it hits its mark.

Press releases are designed for connecting. The first step any author must take in constructing a press release is not banging out copy and forwarding it hither and yon to any news source that has a submissions email address. Crafting a well-written and timely press release designed to connect with journalists and editors takes time and effort. Before you start writing your press release, think about these things.

Which goals will your press release meet? Authors risk the danger of alienating potentially vital marketing options if they simply start writing a press release without thinking about goals. Which goals are you hoping to achieve with your press release? Are you hoping to garner other news appearances or interviews? Convince a bookstore chain or organization to bring you in for a book signing? Are you hoping to generate media interest in your writing or are you hoping for something more, such as the support of a cause or a charity you advocate? All are excellent choices, but it’s only by sitting down with these goals clearly in mind that you’ll be able to guide your press release writing.

Every single word you write must support your goals. If an idea or sentence doesn’t directly support your goals, remove it and move on. All you’ll be doing by including irrelevant information is wasting a journalist’s time. Don’t force them to work to find the true meat of your press release. Focus!

Is each word in your press release meaningful and to the point? Always keep in mind that press releases are succinct. The KISS principle applies to news releases as well as life. Keep it simple, silly! Use your list of goals to help you eliminate unnecessary information and focus clearly on what the media will find interesting.

Keep the general tone of your press release strictly focused on the business at hand. Excessive personal information about you or details that don’t directly relate to your writing (and thus, your goals) have little relevance in a press release. Focus on the most important goal you hope to accomplish and keep the entire press release short; aim for 500 words in the meat of your text. Journalists will thank you for not wasting their time with irrelevant information.

Are you thinking about you, or are you thinking like a journalist? If you’re only writing for the sake of writing a press release, you’re likely reaching for disappointment. Likewise, if you’re writing for potential buyers of your book, you’re looking at the wrong audience. Your single most important audience is the journalist that might find your press release intriguing. Any other audience is secondary.

Speak into me

Speak into me, courtesy of BillV via flickr

Once you’ve identified what the goals of your press release are, sit down and think about what’s unique about the information or what’s unusual about it. When looking for information to present to their readership, journalists search for something that stands out. Even though journalists want something that’s timely and likely to catch the eyes of their collective readership, their eyes see it first. It’s more complicated than spelling words correctly and following common grammar rules.

Think about what the journalist you’re sending the information to will be looking for. A journalist wants news that will attract readers. Are you a local guy finally making it after struggling through incredible odds? Are you a one-woman army championing local awareness of childhood illiteracy by giving free writing lessons to local school kids? Whatever your angle, it must grab attention. Think like a journalist and figure out what’s relevant to them by looking over some of the local news media sources and the items they cover. Perhaps you can make your situation unique and interesting to them.

With a clear set of goals and by putting themselves in the place of a journalist, authors should be able to start answering the single most important question in journalists’ minds: why do I care? Presenting journalists with clear, concise, relevant will put you head and shoulders above the competition in promoting your novel. And if your press release is extremely catchy and timely, it could easily lead to full-length stories and interviews.

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6 thoughts on “Press Releases for Novelists: Think Before You Write

  1. Great tips Jennelle! I’ve never thought about the idea of using a press release for PR and promo purposes. And I think all your tips about keeping your writing focused, concise, polished, and clear can be applied to so many other aspects of our writing other than press releases. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

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