Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Writing press releases...

...without sounding like a complete tosser

Why press releases, you may ask. And why would you, an author, write one? I can think of a number of reasons. Press releases can announce a sale, a release or awards. You write a press release because you want to give a journalist or an editor incentive to follow up with a more in-depth article. Now wouldn’t it be nice if your local community paper, radio station or a magazine wanted to feature you? Hell, wouldn’t it be nice if they even knew you existed?

Here’s a scenario:
Author Marge Pennyroyal sold her novel, Little Red Robbing Hood, to Grimm Press and the book is due for release in a month’s time. She’s won a number of awards for her previous offerings and a well-known, best-selling author has written a puff for the upcoming work. Marge would like to generate some media interest in her writing, especially in her home town.

These are already brilliant bits of information to offer the media. Now, this is what Marge does with the information...

Local author releases follow-up to successful novel

Marge Pennyroyal is pleased to announce the release of her second paranormal romance novel, Little Red Robbing Hood (Grimm Press), on November 13.

Says best-selling author Stef May: “Little Red Robbing Hood had me laughing out loud all night. Marge has definitely got a winner here. Her characters are larger than life and her magical world is very well-realised.”

A winner of numerous literary awards, including the Golden Scroll award for “Best Debut Novel of the Year 2009” and a Ruby award from Paranormal Authors Unite (2010), Pennyroyal’s latest offers readers a continuation of her existing setting popularised in
Dawn of the Poppies (Grimm Press, 2009).

See the author’s website at
www.pennyroyaltea.com or email penny@royaltea.com for additional information.

Okay, that’s just a very short example. And no, those links aren’t real, and neither is Marge but, generally, press releases shouldn’t be more than about 150 to 500 words. They are short bursts of information that are quick to read.

What to avoid…
Whatever you do, don’t tell people what to think when you write your release. Avoid flowery writing. Don’t use superlatives like “the best” or “the most fabulous”. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve edited out words such as “unique” or “the most luxurious” from press releases I work on during my day job. If you’re going to try to slip in something good, rather have a respected industry professional say something nice about you to include in the piece. Or, if you’re going to try to personalise the piece, pretend you’re interviewing yourself while writing it. You need to report on the information. Don’t write in first person.

When all else fails, keep it simple…
Try to aim for objective writing when putting together your press release. What are you trying to say? Do yourself a favour and read some newspaper articles. Try to emulate the kind of objective style journalists are supposed to write. Your aim is to pass on information, not sound like a right twunt bragging about your achievements. You want to communicate clearly and succinctly. Take some time to think up a snappy headline that will communicate the gist of what the piece is about. Don’t go over 500 words. Most media types have the attention-span of a goldfish (speaking from personal experience, okay?) in an environment filled with numerous distractions. We simply don’t have time to read essays.

What next?
Find out who the book editors at your local newspapers and magazines are. Find out who their equivalent is at your radio stations. When you send out your release (and by gum I hope you proof-read it and get some of your writing buddies to cast their beady eyes over it), include low-res images of cover art and perhaps an author’s mug shot. But low-res, please. If an editor or journalist wants high-res visuals (of more than 500kb, they’ll contact you).

Oh, and be sure to include relevant contact information in your release, like phone numbers and email addresses. There’s nothing worse than needing a high-res image yesterday and the individual who sent you the release two weeks ago simply isn’t replying to her emails today, an hour before print deadline.

Get in the habit of writing a press release for every milestone you achieve, be it a book release, a book launch, an award or a new contract. Be diligent in sending these out to the right people and, you never know, you may just have given yourself the edge over many of your fellow authors.

* * * *

Apart from writing urban and dark fantasy, Nerine Dorman works as a sub-editor for a South African newspaper publisher and edits fiction when other people are sensibly watching TV or hanging out in shopping malls. Occasionally she pretends to be eccentric contemporary romance author TherĂ©se von Willegen. Yes. She’s a sucker for punishment. Follow her blog at http://nerinedorman.blogspot.com

1 comment:

Sutton Fox said...

Excellent advice, Nerine.

Thank you!