Getting the Word Out
One of the most cost-effective ways to “get the word out” about your new book is to use a press release. Basically, this is a brief announcement directed to the media (magazines, newspapers, TV, and online sites), which describes something which is newsworthy. Obviously a new book is a newsworthy event, and a press release is a valuable component to letting the world know the book is available, has been published, has won an award, or anything else that would be considered news about the book and/or author.
A press release is not an article, or an advertisement, and must be written to catch the interest of somebody reading it for potential use in a news outlet, where it may eventually be seen by the public.
Some of the most important things to know when developing a press release to send to the media is proper formatting, the required elements such as “attribution,” and making sure the right information is included.
The Right Length
The common optimum length for a press release is 400-800 words, with 400-600 words being a good target length. In many cases a 400-500 word release is “just right” because it ensures you get to the point in what you’re announcing. Length will vary, and run longer, when there is mandatory “boiler plate” information typically found in releases for publicly traded companies or with partnership announcements.
Write for brevity when possible and make every word count, but you don’t need to be obsessive about it — it’s important to remember you’re writing a news announcement and not the “great American novel.” Be matter-of-fact but also attempt to engage the reader with information that draws the interest of the person who might read it. Be aware that some major media outlets like the Los Angeles Times book review section might receive hundreds of press releases per month from around the world, so your “hook” can be very important.
With product announcements your headline can be more general, as simple as “BigBear Publishing Announces Latest Version of BearMarket, the Leading Bear Tracking Guide.” With general editorial — sometimes called feature stories — you need to be more creative.
The release should be written to reflect the actual news announcement in specifics, which are clearly stated. Avoid hyperbole like “the greatest book ever written,” and similar statements. Vague or projected content will not interest the receiving media targets (editors, assistant editors, etc.). Use good grammar, and strong action words like “will” versus “may” and “does” versus “might.”
Be aware that most news services that send releases to the media electronically have word length limits (length of the entire release in words, not characters). Words are calculated “absolutely” using the word count feature in a word processor, and not the old-fashioned line/character counting method once used for book manuscripts…