This post is by Nancy Jardine.
No, I’m not going to shock everyone and tell a horsey story- sorry!
I spent a good while of my precious writing slot, yesterday, doing yet another book marketing task – that of writing a press release. This is not for a new book launch. I’ve written a couple of those before. This one is to make more people aware that I have a novel entered in a national competition which needs all the votes it can get to move on into the finals in May. I did mention this competition on my last Wranglers blog, but I’m now ‘branching down’ from the global…to more locally in Scotland… if there is such a phrase.
Some ‘wranglers’ may be experts at writing a press release. I’m not, though I know we have newspaper experience amongst us and I’m hoping to ‘milk’ from you. >smiley face here< Today’s was only the third I’ve sent out and I feel pretty inept at composing them. Only after I wrote it, and emailed it off to four different newspapers, did I think of checking what might have been a better way of going about it. Sort of remembering what I did before for very local use isn’t really very professional when it comes to national newspapers. It was a case of closing the stable door after the horse had bolted!
I wondered what it would take to make me feel more successful with this task and ‘Googled’ to see if I should have used a format, or scaffold, around which to frame my own needs. Did I find one? Actually, I found lots and lots of hits for ‘Writing a Press Release’ – most of them quite confusing and very lengthy. (I’m now glad I hadn’t looked at them first) Some of them even have conflicting information, depending on where you might be sending the release. For example, the coverage a provincial newspaper might give may differ from a national one, and their expectations differ in a submitted press release.( eg In December 2013 for the release of my latest historical novel, I knew who to contact at one of my local rags, and that was a very casual affair.)
Some sites encourage you to put the words “For Immediate Release” at the very top of your page. This would be important if you have a particular date that you’d be requesting exposure for. Some sites I think are maybe a bit old fashioned when they advise you to ‘centre’ your heading in bold or capital letters. When emailing a press release I’m not sure how relevant this is now, though I did use capitals in mine. Using italics for a subheading is also recommended by some sites. I see little evidence of italicised fonts being used in the local and national newspapers I buy nowadays, and wonder at the relevance in a current press release. However, I do agree with most sites when they recommend that your headline should contain important ‘buzz’ words which help in search engine optimisation when read online.
A neat, concise and error-free first paragraph, containing essential information sounds absolutely perfect advice.
The pyramid effect with essential layer at the top, next paragraph less important, with the remainder being the least important information is a structure I’m quite happy with.
Some sites recommend a relevant quote from the author; some others strongly advise that the quote matter should come from a third party. What is common is that the quote should, in some form, corroborate the information given in the first paragraph.
I agree with most sites I looked at on what should constitute a last paragraph. That it should include the basic details of the venture, and information on the author/subject of the press release is reasonable – information the newspaper editor, or indeed the reading public, can use easily.
Some sites say that, nowadays, the inclusion of a relevant internet link to previous publicity is a good idea – I like that idea, too, since it saves on journalist time- though I’m wondering what they do if I write the whole item?
Ensure you know the best person to send the press release to is easier said than done. A provincial newspaper may display editorial information and who to send to for what – but that’s not the case with the national newspapers I looked at in Scotland. Central contact only is displayed. It’s very good to read the advice on the internet that says do more research to find out who in the newspaper is the best contact, but time is a precious thing. (I might need it to write more blog articles like this one!)
One of the most crushing pieces of advice I read, today, was when it said that I should have included the press release in the main body of the email – the reason being that most reporters won’t open an attachment from someone they don’t know. When you have to send to a central email address, the main ‘switchboard’ of the newspaper, will the person receiving it read every email, if they are more than a page long? This one could be one major mistake that I’ve made, today, since I did send as an attachment. But then again, there are sites that recommend an email submission should include visual information- images and video material. You have to send them as attachments! In fact I sent on my book cover image as an attachment.
So maybe I need to rethink my strategies. And do a resend with the press release in the main body of the email – but would that seem like harassment?
Nonetheless, I’ve boiled down writing a press release to a little list that I personally can handle.
Who & What – my key message, ultimate objective and target audience
When & Where & How –duration of competition voting and how to vote link
Links for me and my books
Most important first, least important last.
To add the press release that I sent would make this way too long a post, so I’ve posted it on my blog. Anyone who is fabulously gifted at writing press releases I urge you to take a peek and tell me where I’ve gone wrong and tell me what would make an improvement to a next one. Please???? You’ll find it at http://nancyjardine.blogspot.com
Here’s another site I scanned in my quest: http://www.infoscavenger.com/prtips.htm
Nancy’s novels can be found in print and ebook formats at: http://amzn.to/RJZzZz They are also available from Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Crooked Cat Bookstore, The Wild Rose Press Site, W.H. Smiths, Waterstones.
Wishing you a happy weekend!