Friday, November 6, 2015

How to Write a Press Release for Your Self-Published Book and Why You Should

As I talked about in a previous post, I decided against trying to mount a big PR campaign (or even a tiny one) for the launch of my first self-published novel, Eve’s Hungry. After much fretting, I decided to focus my spare energies on completing another ebook. I did, however, do one thing to promote Eve’s Hungry about a month after I launched it. I ran a Kindle Countdown Deal, which was as easy as clicking a few buttons and picking dates.

Then I wrote a press release to announce it.

Now, of all the things I might do to promote my book, search for reviewers, do an online launch party, stage a promotional contest, work the heck out of social media, etc., writing a press release might seem like a big waste of time. If I’m not going to really promote the book, who cares about a press release? Why would anyone bother to read a press release about one more Kindle Countdown deal for one more self-published ebook? Moreover, in this internet era, aren’t press releases kind of hopelessly old school?

Well, I’m kind of an old school type of guy. During my many years in Los Angeles as a jack of all trades writer/consultant, I’ve written several press releases for independent films and startup companies. I learned how to do it from some old school PR type publicity people. One of the things I learned is that if you’re planning to promote ANYTHING, having a press release really is important. The last thing you want is for some reporter to stumble upon your film/startup/book, offer to write about it, ask for a press release, and then find yourself scrambling to write one quickly. If you don’t already have it ready to go, by the time you scramble to put one together, they might have lost interest.

Admittedly, the kind of reporters likely to ask for press releases are a fading demographic. These days more and more people are getting their news from bloggers who probably have as much interest in press releases as they do in having a fedora with a card that says “PRESS” in the brim. But there are still enough traditionally trained journalists, traditional newspapers and news services, that I believe it is still worthwhile. Moreover, even a non-traditionally trained blogger will probably find a press release helpful if they decide to write about your self-published book. It never hurts to offer it up. And as I said, it’s something you want to have ready BEFORE someone shows an interest in your project.

Finally, like everything else related to text and media, the internet offers unlimited self-space, world wide reach and easy search that allow even old school stuff to be disseminated quickly to a broad audience and be available in an instant for basically forever. So that press release you send out today, might come in handy to someone writing about your book ten years from now.

Writing a good press release is hard, but even a bad one is better than nothing. Below is a link to a great post explaining the basic form. It also has links (which I used) to a press release template and good suggestions on where to send it when you’re done.

DUOLIT: HOW TO WRITE A PRESS RELEASE

I pretty much followed the suggested template and then wrote a press release for Eve’s Hungry which I posted, per their suggestion, on a separate blog so I could have a clean link to it.  Below is my version.  (Note that I don't bother to mention the book had already been out for a month.)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: HYPER GEEK ANNOUNCES EVE'S HUNGRY

Then I took Duolit's advice and submitted it to a suggested press release distribution website, PRLog.com. It’s free and easy to use. Here’s what my press release looks like when they published it:

PRLOG: "EVE'S HUNGRY," A FUNNY SCI-FI ADVENTURE ABOUT STEVE JOBS

Kind of cool and official looking, huh? What’s nice about a well written press release, distributed in this way, is that it doesn’t look like self-promotion. Sure, it’s promotion, but it looks like it’s coming from a promotional agency or team, not from some guy working out of his garage. That’s why you write it in third person and include “quotes” as if you were interviewed by someone else. In addition to submitting it to PRLog.com, I directly emailed the press release to about a dozen writers for various Apple news sites, because that’s my target audience.

And what was the result? Well, I actually think it was pretty spectacular given my low expectations. Technology Tell reporter Kirk Hiner wrote a very nice post about it, based primarily on my press release (he never directly contacted me). Here it is:

STEVE JOBS AS A MARTIAL ARTS ACTION HERO

This, to me, is exactly the kind of article you’re hoping to get from a press release. The reporter includes all the key information about the book, throws in quotes from the author (me), and added some personal commentary of his own. This was a win/win for both of us. My press release did most of the leg work, by providing him with all the information and quotes in a simple and organized way. Then it was easy enough for him to add his own take, and zip, send it out on his blog and move on to the next story. (And this being the internet, it was mirrored on other sites like THIS.)

Now, I don’t know exactly the size of the audience for Technology Tell, but what's great is that if you google “Eve’s Hungry” now, the Technology Tell article comes up third, right under the Amazon listing for the ebook and my own Eve’s Hungry website. And that’s exactly the way I would like it. If someone is curious, Kink Hiner’s article provides a quick overview of what the book is about.

But isn’t all that information on the Amazon listing? Some of it is. But my Amazon listing is kind of a hard sell and has to be short and sweet. The thing about a press release, and the hoped for articles based on it, is that it has a “just the facts” quality that appears to be more “objective.” It can include a little more detail that wouldn’t work well on the Amazon sales page. For example, I explain my motivations for writing the novel and it’s history as a blog series. That’s the kind of background material that might just confuse (or bore) someone who is debating clicking on the sale button. Yet, ulitimately, it's good to get as much material out on the internet about your book as possible.

So, did this particular article result in a huge sales spike for Eve’s Hungry? No. Overall, I only sold a few ebooks thanks to the Countdown deal and I have no way of telling how many might have been because of the press release coverage. Probably a couple.

So has it worth the time and bother for just a few sales? Yes, absolutely. For starters, it’s nice to have that article out there on the internet. It makes me feel a little more like a real author. (Nothing wrong with feeling validated.) On top of that, long term, I’m hoping that when people search for Eve’s Hungry, they'll think I'm a real author, one with a press team. (Or an author who at least has their act together.) In terms of search optimization, it's nice that Google suggests more than couple links for Eve’s Hungry. And, of course, if someone inquires in the future, I’m ready not only with my original press release but now there's an independent article about me and my book, including interview quotes, that I can send them a link too.

Eventually, when I've written more ebooks, I plan to put in more effort (and maybe money) into promoting them in other ways. But the great thing about a press release, like writing a novel, is that once it's done, it's done. You have it whenever you need it. A lot of other kinds of promotion comes and goes. But your press release can live on and be reused or revised. (And it's FREE.) So even though I'm more focused on creating new content, it was worth getting it out of the way now. And while the end result was only one news article, if the book takes off some day, other reporters will be checking out that story and it will provide background for their own takes.

I would, however, keep expectations low for press releases. There are a lot of sites that charge for distributing them, and frankly, I don’t think it’s worth spending any money on special distribution. (PRlog also offers premium/paid services, but I’m not sure they are worth it.)

Lastly, putting on my “PRESS” fedora, I suggest you don’t just include the basic facts in your press release, but really think about what kind of “spin” you can put on your ebook announcement so it helps your long term promotional goals. What is the story you’re trying to tell with the press release? Beyond the launch and sales price? What are you trying to get people to feel about your book? In the case of Eve’s Hungry, the story I was pitching about the novel is that no one has really been able to capture the spirit of Steve Jobs in a non-fiction biography, and maybe the only way to do it was in a fictional story like… Eve’s Hungry. And darned if reporter Kirk Hiner didn’t run with that angle.  That's what a good press release is supposed to do.


3 comments:

  1. MANY useful hints. I'm running a KCDeal this very minute for my debut novel, and I MAY take you up on your instructions, after I get a nap.

    For people like me, with NO energy, these things are hard - so thanks for putting up detailed instructions. I'll let you know if it flies!

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  2. Yes, let me know if it works for you.

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