How To Write a Press Release That Works

By Sue Coletta

Writing a press release is something we all need to learn sooner or later. I’ve written my share of boring press releases that I’m sure no well-respected journalist ever read. Recently, however, I hunkered down and studied the finer points of how to make a book signing or new release newsworthy — and that’s the magic bullet right there. Envision the press release as an article in the newspaper, or on the radio, or, dare I say, as local news on television.

Even if you don’t feel comfortable writing a press release to announce a new release, most bookstores will ask you to write one from their perspective to announce your upcoming signing at their store. When this first happened to me, I panicked. I’m hoping this post will help erase some of the frustration for you. So, let’s discuss how to write a press release for a book signing. The same principals apply for announcing a new release.

All press releases must follow a specific format …

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE should be in all caps, bold, and justified (left margin).

Underneath, write the date, space, slash mark, space, the location i.e. July 30, 2018 / Annie’s Book Stop

The heading comes next and it should also be in all caps and bold. This time, centered. The most important thing to remember is we want the journalist to click our email out of the hundreds they received that day. So, it’s important that we take our time with the heading and make it newsworthy. A savvy bookstore will use it as the subject line of their email.

This is the headline I used to announce an upcoming signing for my new release, SCATHED …

SERIAL KILLERS STALK GRAFTON COUNTY, NEW HAMPSHIRE

Can you imagine a journalist not clicking that email? That’s why it worked.

Next line, still in bold but not all caps …

Meet the Author Who Has Residents Locking Their Doors

Then our sub-heading, which tells the journalist exactly what we’re announcing. This line is in lower case, centered, and in italics.

Book singing on August 18, 2018 at Annie’s Book Stop

In the first paragraph we need to get straight to the point. Journalists don’t have a lot of time to wade through fluff. Also, this paragraph should include the 5 W’s (who, what, where, why, when).

As an example, this is what I wrote for Annie’s Book Stop. Perhaps it’ll spark ideas for you. Notice just the town and state are in all caps. Which is exactly how it’ll look in the newspaper.

LACONIA, NH, August 18, 2018 — Annie’s Book Stop, a book store dedicated to serving the Lakes Region since 1983, is hosting a book-signing event with Bestselling Crime Writer Sue Coletta, author of the much-beloved Grafton County Series and award-winning Mayhem Series, on Saturday, August 18th from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Annie’s Book Stop is located at 1330 Union Ave. in Laconia, NH.

Include interesting information in the next paragraph or two. Our goal is to make it easy for the journalist to use the same wording in the newspaper. Here’s mine again …

Just as Stephen King reimagined Bangor, Maine, Sue Coletta toys with Alexandria, Hebron, Bridgewater, Bristol, Groton, and local treasures such as Wellington State Park and Sculptured Rocks in SCATHED, the latest psychological thriller/mystery in the Grafton County Series, which released on July 25, 2018 by Tirgearr Publishing. Even WMUR’s ULocal plays a pivotal role in the story.

Come meet Sue Coletta at Annie’s Book Stop and pick up a signed copy of SCATHED. All books in the Grafton County Series and Mayhem Series will be available.

***

(Note: I’m only including the asterisks for clarity, don’t use them in the press release)

Do you have a blurb from a celebrity? If you do, include it next. If you don’t, use a review from an author your target audience will recognize. If you don’t have either, use a line or two from a reviewer. Choose wisely. The quote should align with the focus of the press release. Since I focused on serial killers, I used a quote from a NY Times bestselling author that included the words “serial killer.” I also was lucky enough to know someone my target audience would recognize, and I included a quote from him, as well. We can’t skip this part, because this is where we show “social proof.”

The last paragraph is reserved for our bio. Don’t use a regular bio, though. Mix it up, make it personal so people can connect with you. Most importantly, it should align with the rest of the press release. Here’s what I wrote …

Sue Coletta has always been fascinated by why people kill. What pushes someone to the edge of a dark abyss? Researching crime, forensics, psychology, and psychopathy is a passion she shares with fans on her award-winning crime blog, where she delves into the minds of serial killers, explains groundbreaking forensic techniques, and writes true crime stories. Sue prides herself on striking that magical balance between realism and fiction … so much so she even locked herself inside an oil drum in order to experience her character’s terror.

Last line is short and to the point …

For more details visit Annie’s Book Stop: www.anniesbookstop.com

At the end of our press release write the word ENDS, all caps, bold, and centered.

This press release worked for me. Not only did I make the local papers, but I now have journalists who’ve reached out to me for interviews. It’s only been a couple days since the bookstore released it, so I’m excited to find out what happens next. I should also point out, it took me about 8 hours to write this one page press release. We can’t rush it; it’s too important. A good press release can skyrocket our career if the right person reads it.

Over to you, TKZers! Have you had good luck with a press release? If so, please share any tips you’ve learned. If you’ve never written a press release, will you give it a go? You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain. I recommend sending a press release for all new releases, even if they’re only available as ebooks.

This is my table at the Hebron Fair over the weekend. The police bling worked amazingly well to draw the attention of my target audience.  Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough time for shipping to include SCATHED; it released in paperback last week. But I still sold out. Super fun day!

4+

15 thoughts on “How To Write a Press Release That Works

  1. This is really useful information, Sue! Many years ago, when my daughter was a baby, I started a home based business. I had no customers and no idea how to find any. In my “previous life” I’d been a reporter, so I whipped up a press release and included a photo. A couple of community papers ran the press release as an “article,” and even included the photo. (That’s typical of many smaller journalism outlets—they’re usually short staffed and desperate for local news, so oftentimes they’ll simply run a press release in the news pages without changing anything.) A columnist from a daily paper called me for an interview, and mentioned me and the business in his column. I got a wave of calls from that exposure, and was off and running!

    • Fantastic, Kathryn! Your experience demonstrates how perfect a press release can work. They’re not easy to write, though. As I said in the post, it took me hours to key in on the right angle. Do you remember the headline you used?

  2. Great practical tips, Sue. Thanks!

    I’ve written press releases for years for our annual writers conference so I knew the mechanics. But writing copy to publicize your own books and yourself is much different. It’s difficult to self-promote without sounding like you’re self-promoting. I can whip out an article about the conference in ten minutes but struggle for hours with my own, as you do.

    Compared to your attention-grabber about serial killers stalking your county, my recent headline sounds boring and plain vanilla (“BOOK SIGNING PARTY”). Also liked your subhead: “Meet the author who has residents locking their doors.”

    I’ll incorporate your suggestions next time. Thanks for great ideas!

  3. Sue, you are a genius. If you ever tire of writing, you could have a great career as a publicist. I love your illustrations for this article, too, btw.

    • Hahaha. Thanks, Joanne! Writing press releases were never really my forte, but I was determined to learn the ropes this time. Hopefully this post will save others the frustration I endured.

      The local police chief and I had a great time digging for police bling. What a fun day!

  4. You are one knowledgeable writer chick, Sue! Press releases terrify me, but this is the perfect blueprint! Congrats on selling out at the event this weekend. Love the crime scene tape!

    • Thanks, Laura! Press releases terrified me, too. Hence my motivation for this post. If I can save one writer from bleeding all over their keyboard, so to speak, then I’ll consider it a win. Feel free to adopt the crime scene tape idea. Readers love it!

  5. Pingback: Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 08-02-2018 | The Author Chronicles

Comments are closed.