The 6 Outrageous Mistakes Authors Make
When Writing Press Releases (Part 2)
Guest Blogger, friend, and colleague Sandra Wendel
Now where were we? Oh, yes, the importance of a grabber headline and the mistakes authors make in writing press releases:
Mistake #1: Thinking that your book coming out is headline news. It’s not. Fix: Give your book’s press release a reason to be read.
The fact that you wrote a book is not news. But surely your book has a “wow” factor. Use it to hook reporters with a knock-their-socks-off headline that grabs them.
Common boring example many authors choose (Marilyn didn't submit this headline, but it's an effective example of what not to do):
Marilyn Coffey Releases 40th Anniversary Edition of Her Novel
Instead, set the hook and yank with this headline we actually used:
Taboo Novel Shocked America 40 Years Ago
Real-life current example from a traditional publisher who should know better:
From the Authors of Barefoot Running Comes the Essential Guide to the Life-Changing Benefits of Barefoot Walking
My rewrite (but nobody asked me):
What’s the One Simple and Free Physical Activity Everybody Can Do
to Change Their Lives?
Maybe the people in New York publishing think launching a book is news. They’re still stuck in that tired traditional publishing model. You don’t have to be. Why? Because your book is competing with millions of ebooks and tree books for eyeballs. Your goal: Get a time-pressed lifestyle/health journalist or book reviewer working on a big city daily newspaper to scroll through a lengthy email of headlines and first lines to linger and perhaps stop—and OMG click—the link to read your grabber headline.
Give ’em a reason to request a copy. Or risk becoming noise in their crowded Inbox.
Mistake #2: Making reviewers jump through hoops to get a copy of your book.
Your “wow” headline got the attention of a writer/reviewer/blogger. Now what? Offer them (a) a media review copy of the book by overnight delivery; (b) a virtual copy of the book immediately; (c) multiple ways to reach you via email, phone, web link to the book’s website; (d) all of the above. Right answer is (d).
Here’s an insider secret: journalists are busy and sometimes lazy. Make it easy for them to click for results. [P.S.: Make sure you are available to answer your phone and emails immediately if not sooner. Send a thank you note for any coverage you get.]
Only mail books with your press release right off the bat to the crème de la crème of media where you’re assured of a review, and that might be only five to ten sources that don’t include the Oprah Book Club.
Mistake #3: Saving the good stuff for the end of the release. Fix: Hit ’em with your best stuff first.
Don’t wait until the end of the press release to mention that your book contains never-before-seen photos or that you’re the last living relative of Al Capone. That’s your lead. Lead with it. Inside secret #2: Journalists may not read to the end. They live in a reverse pyramid world.
Mistake #4: Looking sloppy. Fix: Proofread.
And proofread again. If your press release is jumbled and contains typos and poor grammar, surely your book does too (or so the thinking goes).
Mistake #5: Thinking the entire world is interested in your new book. Fix: Hit your best prospects.
The entire world isn’t interested in your new book. But niche journalists and their niche readers will be. Include on your email hit list the big time reporters/reviewers/publications in your genre, with their emails and names spelled correctly. Other often-overlooked sources for publicity include your alumni magazine; your hometown media (and make sure you include a personal note telling them your connection); church bulletins; social club newsletters; membership organizations you belong to; affinity groups; bloggers on the topic; and anybody who helped you write your book.
Hit your followers on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn with hot links to your book’s webpage. Make them your little army of marketers to “share” your news on social media with a personal note (“I went to high school with this guy.” “Her kids go to our daycare too.”) These are the followers you have been cultivating all those months and years it took you to write your book.
Mistake #6: Using the wrong press release service with the wrong email list. Fix: Send a Hail Mary with a competent press release service and updated lists.
Yes, look into a press release service that (a) hits the media in the genre you’re dabbling in (lifestyle writers at major U.S. daily newspapers for your self-help book and fantasy bloggers for your Harry Potter–like novel), and (b) select a service with coverage you can afford.
Tuesdays are still supposedly the best days to send press releases. But nobody really knows. If the Dow tanks, that day is a bad day to send press releases. Avoid weekends and Monday mornings and Fridays before a holiday.
It’s an old wives’ tale that releases shouldn't be longer than a page. So how long is a page these days? Say what you need to say, say it well, and stop. Include pertinent information about your book (title, author, about the author, ISBN, number of pages, price, formats, a 50-word blurb, book’s website URL optimized and hot, color cover and color author photo, and tell where to buy the book).
Sandra Wendel is a book editor. (www.SandraWendel.com)