By Joey Garcia
E-blasts are dead.
Most book promotion press releases are terrible. I should know—I’ve read plenty recently while on staff as a newspaper columnist, radio talk show host, and TV personality. It doesn’t matter whether the release was sent by a publisher, a publicist, or an author attempting to DIY their own publicity machine—the content isn’t newsworthy. I love books but I’ve hit delete on book promotion press releases just as quickly as my colleagues. Too few releases are written with the awareness that media outlets are busy, fast-paced, and in the news business. If one press release is a dud, there’s always another fifty (or more) to read. And sometimes, there’s a gem—a press release written by someone who understands how the media operates in the 21st century.
I’ll be teaching a masterclass at the 2022 San Francisco Writers Conference: Build an Author Platform that Attracts the Media & Sells Books: Practical Strategies from a Media Insider, Sunday, February 20, 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. that will teach you exactly how to build a platform and secure national media interviews. Until then, let’s take a quick look at three elements of a press release: the purpose, the subject line, and the format.
The purpose of a press release is to convey newsworthy information pertinent to the media outlet’s audience and to deliver that information in an easy-to-read format. You wouldn’t submit a press release about a gardening memoir to a political talk show, for example, because it’s not pertinent to the show’s audience. You might be rolling your eyes right now but that’s because you don’t work in a newsroom. Authors who send their book’s press release out via an e-blast service don’t realize that their promotional material is landing in the inboxes of media pros who don’t cover the book’s topic. Another problem: Those e-blasts are treated as SPAM by journalists, producers, and radio show hosts.
The subject line of your press release should be an intriguing and informative hook that compels a media pro to click and read your release. Here’s a real example of a press release subject line sent by a publisher: Fremont, CA Artist Publishes Art History Book. I can see that the publisher wants Bay Area media outlets to know that the story is local and about art. Unfortunately, the subject line tells the media that the press release is vague and probably boring. It’s a “So What?” subject line. As in, someone published a book—so what? Publisher’s Weekly reports that between 600,000 and 1 million books are published every year. Publishing a book is not news.
Authors, publicists, and publishers too often forget that media outlets are understaffed. The media doesn’t have time to try to scour your press release and figure out whether your book is a fit for their publication or program. Each press release should be targeted to a specific media outlet and written as a pitch that makes it clear why this particular book is what this specific media outlet audience needs. In other words, preparing a press release for the media has similarities to pitching an agent or publisher. Would you send a vague book pitch to literary agents via an e-blast? No, because doing so would be considered disrespectful. Don’t communicate with the media via vague press releases or e-blasts, either.
The format of a press release has changed, too. Wordy, two-page documents are dead. A successful press release is formatted for a modern newsroom: a single page (one side only), one font, black ink. The release should include a headline, contact information (an email account and cell phone that is checked several times a day), a pitch, three to four facts that support your pitch, and an author bio appropriate for the media outlet you’re pitching.
There’s so much more I’d love to share about composing a savvy pitch for your book’s press release and about writing an author bio that media outlets can’t resist. I’ll cover that and much more in our masterclass. You can also sign up for my newsletter: [email protected]. See you at SFWC 2022!
Joey Garcia coaches writers and authors on effective strategies to boost their books and platforms. Her widely published essays, poetry, and short stories have received awards, including a Pushcart nomination. Joey is the author of When Your Heart Breaks, It’s Opening to Love and is the on-air Relationship Expert for Fox40-TV. She is also the founder of The Belize Writers Conference and the book publicity track coordinator for the San Francisco Writers Conference. www.joeygarcia.com