What exactly is a press release? And do I need one for my book?
A press release is a short – usually 1 page – news “story” about your book. It’s written in a journalistic style with the most important information in the first paragraph. Less important information is in subsequent paragraphs, so it can be cut to fit as a newspaper editor sees fit. If a publication wants to do a story about you and your book, they could use the press release as is or they could tweak it or cut it. You’re actually doing some of the reporter’s job for them and making it easier for them to run a story about you.
Press releases can also be distributed online through PR websites. Some (depending on whether you pay for distribution) are sent to publications or are just posted on their website.
And, yes, you should do one. Here’s why:
A press release is a great exercise in writing about your book. You’ll use variations of your press release in all of the other marketing materials you’ll create for your book. Write your press release and marketing materials as you are writing and editing your book. Then you will have details to tease out on your blog and on your social media. Your media kit will be done, too!
The basic layout of a press release is as follows:
Your contact information goes at the top of the release. This is your name, email address and phone number.
Your Headline: needs a hook that creates interest. Why should anyone want to read your book?
Subhead: Clarifies the headline and adds additional detail.
Dateline and location: Your release should include the date and your location at the beginning of the first paragraph.
1st and 2nd paragraphs: The first two paragraphs continue to explain the headline and adds details about the story.
3rd paragraph: a little about the author and perhaps a good quote about why this is all important
4th paragraph: adds more info about the book, including the publishing specs and where it’s for sale. It’s also a good idea to direct the reader to the author’s website for more information.
If you break down the components of the release, there are 3 elements you will use over and over again as you promote your book. Those elements are the hook, the book description, and the author bio.
What is your book about? To get started, describe your book and what it’s about. If it’s fiction, describe the main plot of the book. Don’t write a blow-by-blow summary of the plot. Instead, Include the genre (Is it mystery, detective, romance) and a 1 or 2 sentence description.
Example: My book is a murder mystery set in an art gallery. The hero is the new director who finds the body of their hot new artist after the opening of the exhibit of his work.
If it’s nonfiction, what problem does it solve? I teach ____ how to do ____. Example: My book shows baby boomers how to get fit if they haven’t exercised in years. Then expand the description. Create a short (50 words) medium (100 words) and long (150+ words) version of your book description. You will use variations of this description in:
• The back cover copy
• Your Amazon book page description
• Your elevator speech
• In social media posts
You’ll also become a master in describing your book on the fly!
What’s the hook of your book?
What makes your book different from other books like yours? What will people learn/get if they read your book? How do other people describe/endorse your book? Start by brainstorming a list.
The all about you part – your author bio
Why are you qualified to write this book? Authors, for the most part, hate to talk about themselves. But, if you want to be taken seriously, you need to address your qualifications for writing your book. However, writing your bio is not at all about writing your life story.
Your background: Your bio should start with your book. Your birthplace isn’t relevant, nor is where you went to high school. Higher degrees could be relevant if they relate to your book. Examples would be an MFA if your book is a novel, or a Masters in counseling if your book is a self help guide.
Work experience counts if it relates to your book. Maybe you’ve worked for years in an art gallery and you set your mystery novel in one. Maybe you’ve been a newspaper editor and your book is how to be a better business writer.
But what if you don’t have any qualifications at all? You will need to address these questions in your bio:
- Why did you write it?
- How did you research your book?
- What experts did you consult to write your book?
- What did you learn from writing this story?
This isn’t as daunting as it sounds. What if you wrote a police detective novel and you have no experience or training as a detective? Perhaps you interviewed detectives to learn about police procedures. Perhaps you did ride-alongs with patrol officers. Those are the experiences you add to your bio to give yourself credibility.
Like your book description, you will use your author bio over and over for your marketing. Develop a short (50 words) medium (100 words) and long (150 words) version.