Monday, May 28, 2012

Anatomy of a Book Press Release

Ah, the press release. It’s one way to tell the world about your book. But, for some reason, it seems to be one of the most difficult items for self-published authors to produce. Perhaps it’s because many haven’t yet perfected the art of self-promotion. Or for some, understanding what goes into a press release and how best to “spin” the content of their book is difficult. Okay, so maybe a little instruction is in order.
Back in my journalism school days, the press release was all about the who, what, when, where, why and how of the topic. Not much has changed in that regard; your press release should definitely cover those critical elements. However, you have to begin by knowing the purpose of your press release. 
Here are a few common reasons to write a press release:

Book launch. You’re announcing to the world – well, at least the world that includes your ideal readers – that your book is complete, published and ready to purchase.
Current event. The focus and content of your book relates to a current event; something that is hot in the news right now. Here's one recent example of a press release I wrote for my client, Pat Montgomery, author of The Patriot Parent: Still the Best Hope for America.
Local. You want to tie in your connection to your home town, your current city of residence, your alma mater, the city where you’re speaking or some other localized event. 

Okay, so now that you know some angles to use in creating a press release, you need to make certain that you include all of the pertinent items that a reporter, assignment editor or blogger needs to know. You might think it doesn’t matter one way or the other how your press release is organized and presented, but it does. If for no other reason than to communicate your message clearly and effectively, you will want to include all of the following elements in your press release:
For immediate release: This lets reporters know that they can upload or print the release immediately and not have to await some specific date.
Contact information: List the name, phone number and email address of the person reporters can contact for more information or to schedule an interview with you. It’s always nice if this is someone other than you, the author. Which is why it’s good to work with a professional in public relations, marketing or media relations.
Headline: Grab their attention and be descriptive. Keep it brief. Five to seven words is plenty.
Dateline: Use the date you actually send the release.

Newsworthy: Make it timely and relevant. Even if your press release is announcing the launch of your book, you want to tie it to something current and relevant. Why should people care about this, and why now? 
Remember the five Ws: Be sure to creatively mention these critical elements of your announcement. 
  • Who are you and who is the book written for?
  • What is the book about (in just a few sentences)? What can readers learn from the book?
  • When did it come out (last week, last month, last year)? Even older books can get some play when you tie the theme of the book to a current event or observance.
  • Where can people buy the book, learn more about you or get more information? Where will you be speaking or signing your book?
  • Why did you write the book? Make it about the reader, not about you.
  • How can people contact you? How can readers use the content in your book to improve their lives?
Quote: Include a quote by you or another authority about why your book is important or why others should be concerned about the issues in your book.

Statistics: If appropriate to your book’s theme and content, include a few stats to help 
drive home the importance of your book or issue.
Interactive: Include hyperlinks in the body of the press release (your website, book excerpts, videos, book trailer, previous interviews or articles).
Call to action: Much like an advertisement, your press release is an opportunity to tell people what action you want them to take. Don’t make it salesy. Keep it simple (i.e. visit the website for more information, sign up for the newsletter to receive the free report, call to reserve your space).
As you write this phenomenal press release, try to think like a reporter. Write what 
readers/listeners/viewers need to know, not only what you want to say. Write the release as if the editor or reporter will drop your press release into the publication as is. Don’t assume they will change anything, which means you want the release to be as accurate and effective as possible. 
Here are a few common questions I'm often asked about press releases:

How long should my press release be? Keep it between 400-500 words; not much, but that should cause you to write lean and get to the point.
Should I attach or include a photo? Photos fill up a person’s email in box. At the end of your press release, add a note: Photo available upon request. Mentioning this is a great way to get a reply from interested journalists.
Who do I send the press release to? Much of this depends on the focus on your release and your book. Here are a few common titles to look for: 
  • Print: Book Reviewer, Community Affairs Reporter, Business Reporter/Editor, Lifestyle Reporter, Parenting/Family Reporter. 
  • Broadcast: Assignment Editor, Community Affairs Reporter. 
Whomever you send your release to, be certain you have the correct email address and name spelling.

How do I know if my press release was featured? Reporters will not advise you that your press release was picked up. So sign up for Google Alerts to make sure you know that your release appeard online. Or search “news clipping service” to find free and fee-based services to monitor and track your news online and offline.

Have a question about your press release? Submit your question below.


Anita Paul, known as The Author's Midwife, coaches aspiring authors to write a phenomenal book and helps current authors use their existing books to leverage their business. She is the author of Write Your Life: Create Your Ideal Life and the Book You've Been Wanting to Write, and is the creator of the Write Your Life program, through which she has created a dynamic system to Write Your Book in 90 Days or Less. She has owned The Write Image for 15 years, and has had her freelance articles featured in over 25 publications in the U.S. and Canada. Anita is also the host of "Book Your Success."

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Just the Facts

History (to me) is dry, tedious, and complicated. Who can remember all those names, dates, and places? And who cares? But historical research for a book I’m writing—now that’s different. Suddenly those names, dates, and places have meaning. They involve my characters. 

The Sacred Flame is a story of love and betrayal set in ancient Rome in 216 BC. The main characters include a Vestal Virgin and an Equestrian commander. Who were the Vestal Virgins and Equestrians? What were the levels of government? What did the average house look like? What kind of food did they eat? What clothes did they wear? How did they get around the city? In short, I needed to find out anything and everything that dealt with daily life in Rome.  

The common language for that time was Latin. Many of the words of that era have stayed intact: atrium, centurion, praetor. Citizens walked down the Via Sacra and along the Via Appia (the Appian Way). They shopped in the Forum Romanum and Forum Holitorium (vegetable market). They rode in carpentums (a two-horse open carriage). And they ate a special pastry called placenta (made from cheese, egg, and flour, topped with honey; similar to baklava).

These are just a few of the facts I discovered through research. Sometimes the work was fun. Sometimes it was frustrating. Looking for “food in ancient Rome” brought up more information than I could ever wade through. Narrowing that search to “cherries” produced several hours of reading conflicting reports.  

One source of information is usually not enough. History reports details tinged with the reporter’s bias, prejudice, and/or emotions. How much is actual fact is difficult to tell. Often there is a common consensus around battles, presidents, even the myths and legends. But if you’re researching a lesser known subject, the details may be more muddied. Determining the Vestal’s hairstyle led me to a fascinating debate. Some scholars purport that the Vestals cut their hair and kept it short throughout their service (according to statues of Vestals in the Uffizi). Other scholars maintain that the Vestals wore their hair in the sex crines or bridal style: divided into six parts and wound on top of the head. I preferred my character with long hair and adopted the bridal style for my story. You may make similar choices with your own book.

The web is a warehouse of wonder at your fingerprints. If you can’t find what you need on Google (or elsewhere), try looking in Google Books. I found a marvelous book on Vestal Virgins which turned out to be a doctoral thesis. Then I ordered a used copy through Amazon for a very reasonable price. The Online Etymology Dictionary is a great source for word history and easy to use. And don’t forget your library system. If your library doesn’t have what you want in stock, perhaps another branch does. Or use an interlibrary loan to bring a volume from a university library right to you.

One last note. Beware of Wikipedia. I use it often, it’s easy to read, but the information is not 100% trustworthy. Anyone can upload text and people don’t always check their facts.

History is fascinating. Research can be too. Readers love gleaning new ideas and bits of other cultures, other times, other places. The facts you find will make your story come alive.


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Secret to Publishing Success: A.I.R.

Ask 20 published authors what their secret to success is and you’ll get at least 20 answers. Some might say focus, while others will say planning, and still others will suggest that a month spent at their favorite locale is just the ticket to spark creativity and cause the words to flow.

My suggestion is that there is absolutely, positively one thing – only one – that is needed to become a successful published. Whether you’re in the beginning stages of writing your book, or you’ve got what you hope to be a best seller in the palm of your hands, what you need to make a success of this publishing thing is plain and simple: A.I.R. No, I don’t mean the stuff that you inhale and exhale unconsciously every single moment. What I mean is this: Action Is Required. That’s it! Action Is Required.

Recently, while reading the book The Success Project: The Making of a Worthy Ideal by Belinda Mays (she was my guest on “Book Your Success” yesterday), I read about Parkinson’s Law. The law states that “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” In essence, however much time you give yourself to do something is how much time it will take (if not more). Think about that. So if you never set a deadline for completing your book or creating a blog, or doing the virtual book tour, you'll never get around to doing it.

Deadlines and due dates are dreaded by most everyone. No one wants to feel the pressure of having to finish something by a certain date. What if something comes up to prevent you from making the deadline? Yet, a better question is, what are you missing by procrastinating and making one excuse after another for failing to accomplish your goal of getting your book published, promoted and sold? How much visibility could you have gained? How much money could you have earned? How many more customers could you have landed?

Well, there’s no sense in thinking about that now. My point here is that you must take action on your book project TODAY! Set some deadlines and due dates. Create a timeline for when steps one, two and three will be accomplished. Even small steps matter. But deadlines don’t matter if you don’t take some action. By the way, this goes for practically everything else in your life. Whether you wish to take a trip, own a house, lose weight, read more, learn to play an instrument, clean your office or complete your business plan, taking action is a necessity if you want to see some progress and results.

Don’t get stuck thinking and wishing and planning. That can become a lonely hole you dig for yourself. It suffocates the goal. You watch others achieve their goals and then you renew your commitment to get yours done. Then something comes up; another distraction disguised as an emergency that eventually becomes nothing more than an excuse. What you don't realize is that you're still stuck in the hole. Do yourself a favor – come up for A.I.R.!

You don't have to have the entire thing planned out, but take some action. You don't have to have all the answers, just take some action. You don't need to know how much and how many and how often, just do something. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” In other words, Action Is Required!

What action will you take this week towards accomplishing your goals for your book project?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Pick A Date And Promote

There are special dates every month — traditional holidays, an assortment of odd observances and awareness campaign themes. Choose a special date that relates to your book topic or to you as the author as an opportunity to send press releases to newspapers, magazines, radio and TV contacts. Write a guest post for a targeted blog or submit an article to a cause organization. Create buzz by generating content to share on social media sites or pass along links that relate to this date with comments of how it connects to your book’s content and/or your story as an author.

Here are some examples:

Sandy Weaver Carman’s book, The Original MBA: Succeed in Business Using Mom’s Best Advice was launched during October — Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Sandy’s mom died from breast cancer and a percentage of sales from her book are donated to breast cancer organizations. In addition, the genesis of the book was a Mother’s Day gift from Sandy — a framed list of life lessons learned from Mom’s advice through Sandy’s childhood. Mother’s Day is May 13th this year and a prime opportunity for promotion and additional book sales.

May is also Lupus Awareness Month with May 10th being World Lupus Day. Author Kim Green and Morgan, the lead character of her debut novel hallucination, share the distinction of living with the chronic disease of lupus. One out of every 200 Americans suffers from this disease and its effects, and African-Americans are three times as likely to get lupus as Caucasians. There are many published statistics around prevalence, prognosis, symptoms and economic impact that could be used to catch the attention of media and create a special promotion.

Co-authored by Echo Garrett, My Orange Duffle Bag is Sam Bracken’s memoir of overcoming homelessness, poverty and abuse by radically changing his life. Initially self-published, the book has been picked up by Random House and pre-sales are being promoted in May for National Foster Care Month. Proceeds from book sales benefit the Orange Duffle Bag Foundation, an organization providing coaching, training and ongoing mentoring to at-risk youth.

My first book, 30 Days of Gratitude, was a collaborative effort with my friends Dr. Robin Kirby and Carolyn Buttram. We launched the book in October 2009 with a social media campaign encouraging people to commit to the daily exercise through the month of November — the month of THANKSGIVING — a time when many are focusing on gratitude. The “Gratitude Girls” were booked for our first speaking engagement within two days of launch and thousands of individuals from countries all over the world have downloaded the book.

Dan Gennari is a survivor of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and the author of the Cureganizer. He developed this organizational tool during his own illness, bone marrow transplant and recovery. November is National Bone Marrow Awareness Month and a time that Dan can get the media talking about how easy it is to register as a donor, who benefits from stem cell and bone marrow transplants and how his book helps those fighting their own battle with cancer.

While May and November are popular months for awareness and holiday options, there are plenty of other special dates to target throughout the year. Pick a date and create a promotion for your own book.

Want help choosing a date and creating your promotion? Contact Anita Paul or Vanessa Lowry for ideas and marketing assistance.


Vanessa Lowry is a marketing consultant, graphic designer, author, radio host and speaker. She leverages nearly 30 years of design and marketing expertise to support book authors who are self publishing.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Are You Committed?

Recently, I did a presentation titled “Your Book as a Business.” During the talk, I tossed out a question to the audience about what it takes to be a successful published author. Without hesitation, one brave soul said, “Commitment.” Of course!

When you’re interested in something you’ll do whatever is required. But when you’re committed to something, you’ll do whatever it takes; whatever is necessary; whatever gets you from where you are to where you want to be; whatever gets you to your BFHD (Big Fat Hairy Dream).

Your commitment to writing, finishing, publishing, marketing, selling, repurposing, and leveraging your book is really a personal journey. It’s all up to you to make it happen. Your commitment will override any excuses, road blocks, interruptions, distractions, or fears. There’s no doubt that you’ll face these challenges, but your commitment will stare them in the face and say, “Listen here, I’m a successful published author, and I’ve got work to do!” 

When you have a big vision and an unshakable commitment to it, your self-confidence increases; your boldness takes a giant leap; you toss aside the doubts and uncertainties and you walk up to opportunity, shake its hand and say, “Thank you in advance for what you’ve delivered to me. I receive!” I know that sounds simple; like some of that positive self-talk. Well, you can either cower in a darkened corner of your writing cave and think of one excuse after another for why you haven’t finished your book, or why you still have 100 copies of your published book in your basement, or why you’ve only sold 10 copies of your ebook ... or you can muster up the courage and the commitment to go at it with full force. Here are three ways to boost your commitment to your book project:

Focus. Keep your vision, dream, or goal in the forefront of your mind. If you need to physically see it, find a picture and post it in a conspicuous place. If you need a reminder, discover a motivating quote, memorize it, and meditate on it daily.

Know your WHY. Knowing why you want to accomplish something often builds your commitment. If your why is bigger than you, that should push you towards accomplishment.

Expect results. You don’t have to wait until you’ve finished your book project to see results; expect results along the way. Every accomplishment in the journey of your book project is the result of your efforts. Value each result.
If it’s self-talk you need; do it! If it’s a power team you need; build it! If it’s support you need; find it! If it’s time you need; make it! 

Commit to doing whatever it takes to make your book project a success. There’s no time to waste. 

So, what are you doing to prove your commitment to your book project?