Author Tips: Steps to a Better News Release

Not Your Grandfather’s News Release … or

How to Sell Books with a Press Release in the Internet Era

Today’s news releases look different and serve more purposes than they did a generation ago. Yesterday a news release could be tossed in a drawer and never see a reader. Today a news release can travel the world and live forever on the Internet. Today they not only entice reporters to write and publish a story, but also get picked up by bloggers and get indexed by search engines. They find readership, even if no newspaper picks up the story. Exploit these nine tips to craft a contemporary news release that will promote your book.

1. The Headline

Your headline will be what’s seen on Google searches, which displays only 80 characters. That means the first 80 characters of your headline must summarize the story, arouse interest, have a verb, and contain keywords related to your book or topic. Getting the perfect headline is the hardest part of writing a news release.

2. Summary Statement

If you are using a press release distribution service like PR Web or Business Wire―or even if you are just putting your news release on your own website―story summaries are often required. They are short, one- to two-sentence paragraphs that summarize additional details without duplicating what’s in the lead or giving away the hook in your lead. They include keywords related to your topic.

3. The Lead

The lead is the hook that grabs readers and makes them what to read on, but the lead also provides the essential news summary of what the story is about. If readers read nothing else than the lead, they would have the essence of the story. If you are promoting your book, the mere publication of your book or your launch party date is usually not the hook that will drive readership. Try connecting your book’s topic to a news event, a holiday, a little-known fact, an offer, a historical event, a celebrity or a man-bites-dog incident. The operative word is “news.” You must find a news angle and present it in the lead.

4. Body Content

The traditional news style still works for the news release in the Internet era: Use the inverted pyramid approach. That means most important details go first, so if anyone stops reading, they will still get the gist of the story. Keep paragraphs short; often they are just one-sentence long. Always throw in key search words.

5. Key Words

Keywords are search terms that people use on Google, Bing, Yahoo, and Amazon to find books and content. Sprinkle keywords or search terms organically throughout your press release, starting with the headline then continuing through the summary, lead and body. Write naturally, but make sure all the keywords are included. For non-fiction books and memoirs, this is easier than for novels, but there are still plenty of keywords for novels; think of genre, awards, competing authors, historical events, and geography. For help researching keywords, tap the resources of Google at https://adwords.google.com/KeywordPlanner.

6. Quotations

People like reading about what people say, so include natural quotations in the body of your story, not only from you, but also from others. It would be boring to quote yourself saying, “This memoir is the culmination of 10 years work,” when you could say something like, “I’m not dangerous anymore.” Make your quotations interesting.

7. Call to Action

People need to know what to do after they have heard the story. Include links or other contact information that will let them easily buy your book, attend your event, or retain you as a speaker.

8. Pictures

Include photographs. Action shots are better than mug shots, but settle for mug shots if your action shots are not of the highest professional quality. Include a caption with your picture. More people will see the picture and caption than will read the main article, so include key information in the caption that will make readers curious or take action. You should also include an image of your book cover, but do not use your book cover as a sole substitute for another picture of you in action.

9. Social Media

Always link back to your news release with your social media, that is, Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Linked In, and Pintrest.