For authors (and others) able to afford the services of a publicist, there's little worry about promoting books, personal appearances, announcements, etc. However, the majority of writers have tight budgets, and since publicists can be expensive, the alternative route is doing their own publicity, including developing press releases.
During the few years I worked in PR, writing effective press releases was just one of the many tasks I'd honed. The way press releases are written can make the difference between piquing interests of the media and having it tossed in either the wastebasket or hitting the 'delete' key.
Though having a professional compose a press release can be best, many people take the do-it-yourself path. In addition to including the 'who, what, when, why and how', there's other points to consider to create a polished, effective press release on your own:
Keep the press release to one page. Anyone employed in the media from radio stations to television are busy people, leaving them little time to do more than scan most incoming press releases. Therefore, keeping your news to one page makes their job easier and likely to be read. For newspapers, it's also good to include photos, interview clips, and review book copies if your budget allows such.
Type your release with either Times New Roman or Courier fonts. While most fonts can be pretty, using them not only looks unprofessional, but also difficult to read.
A press release should be written in third person. Use the terms ' he/she, they, them,' and 'theirs' instead of 'I, we, us' and 'ours.'
Know your potential audience. If you've written a YA book, gear your press releases toward youth-based publications or broadcast stations which your targeted readers will likely see your work being promoted. If your book has a sports theme, aim for outlets that may support such work.
Study other press releases. This is one of the best ways to learn and receive additional insight on how to compose your own successful release. Google 'press releases' to find various examples on how effective press releases are done.
What to include:Headline: This tells what your press release is about and should be the most eye catching. Capitalize each word in the sentence and remaining letters in lowercase. Acronyms may also be in uppercase. The best ways to get your target's attention is writing headlines from a journalist's perspective, and of course, getting straight to the point.
Summary: This is a short description (usually between 100-200 characters in length) which sells your press release once readers are past the headline; therefore, it's important to include the most important and unique assets about your book.
Body: The main part of your press release which includes the following:
Dateline: Contains the release date and originating city of your press release.
Introduction: First paragraph which answers questions of who, what, when, where and why. This immediately follows the dateline.
Details: The next step of your press release after the introduction, which contains relevant information, additional explanations, details, and background about you and your book.
For best results, press releases should contain the maximum of 500 words or 3,000 characters, with paragraphs between five and eight lines each, with blank spaces between each paragraph.
About: A short section providing background information about the author, publisher, etc. on the press release. This follows the press release body.
Media Contact Information: It's very important to include accurate information should any member of the media wishes to contact you (or your representative). In this part, include your name, phone number, email address, web site, etc. If you have a separate public relations representative, include their contact information instead.
Press releases aren't always generic, but can be 'fine tuned' to aim specific media outlet or bookstore. Author Scott Nicholson offers some examples of such on his website.
For those with little time to distribute press release individually, there's many online sites which distribute them, varying from free of charge to small fees (a few authors have used PRLog, a free site which both prints press releases the same day and distributes to a wide array of search engines). As a result, your press release can appear on various search engines and RSS sites, making it even more visible to journalists and retailers who may express interest in what you're offering.
Once you've written your first release using the above guidelines, it becomes easier to compose subsequent ones. After all, what better way to promote your next potential best seller?