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Seven Steps to a Great Press Release

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It's a simple equation: media exposure equals more money for you as a writer. Give an interview on a local radio station and watch your book sales increase. Get quoted in a magazine article and find yourself negotiating more pay for your next freelance article because you're a "recognized expert" on a topic.

And while you can dream up many creative ways to get the attention of the media, the fact is 99% of all media exposure begins with a simple, well-written press release.

Writing a great press release -- one that grabs the attention of an editor and results in media coverage -- is easy once you understand the basic elements involved and how they fit together.

Format Correctly.

News is a time-sensitive, bottom-line oriented business. Give editors and reporters the basic information first: who you are, how they can reach you, and when they can run your story. Start by placing the release date in the upper left-hand corner.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 22, 2002

Most of the time, this is the release date you'll use, but if you're issuing a release well in advance of an event, you can give a specific date. For instance, if you're publicizing a book signing four weeks ahead of time, you might want to put "FOR RELEASE (date)." Choose a date that's closer to the actual event.

Next, drop down two lines and tell the editor whom to contact and how to do it. You would be surprised how many people make it difficult for the media to contact them about a story! Format the information like this:

CONTACT:
Elizabeth Hanes
555-555-0021 (office)
555-555-0034 (cell)
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Hook 'em With an Irresistible Headline. Drop down two more lines and type your headline in bold caps. Write your headline in the form of a question, provocative statement or outrageous claim to pique the editor's interest. "Do 400-year-old Horses Roam New Mexico?" works better than "Local Author Writes Book About Bloodlines of Local Horses."

Show You're a Pro by Giving a Dateline.
Two lines below your headline, the story begins in earnest. However, before you dazzle the editor with your sparkling prose, provide dateline information. The dateline shows where the press release originated and gives the date it was written. This allows the editor to categorize the release in a variety of ways, while also letting her know your news is fresh. Here's how to format the dateline:

LOS LUNAS, NM (5/16/02) --

Immediately after the "em" dash, begin your story. Double space and use 12-point Times New Roman or Courier.

Reel 'em in With a Compelling Lead. Editors read dozens of press releases every day. It's crucial you provide a one or two-sentence lead that grabs and holds their attention. Playing off the headline above, here's an example:

"When Spain sent conquistadors, missionaries and horses to New Mexico 400 years ago, they expected their legacy to last. Now, surprising new DNA evidence shows that the blood of the original Spanish Barb horses -- long thought to be extinct -- may still flow strongly through the veins of local mustang herds."

Use the Inverted Pyramid Style. Chances are, you learned this technique when you worked on the high school newspaper, but it bears repeating. Editors are busy folks working on tight deadlines. Don't waste their time by making them wade through eight paragraphs before discovering your point. Instead, put the basic information in the first paragraph of your release. If applicable,use the "Five W's": who, what, when, where, why, and how. In the subsequent paragraphs expand on the Five W's. Focus on the newsworthy item or event you're publicizing, but also include information about yourself, your credentials and education. Be brief. A press release should run between 300-500 words or no more than two pages.

Tell Them When the Show is Over.
If your press release runs to two pages, number the second page. Two lines below your last sentence, type either "-30-" or "###" to indicate the story's end. This tells the editor she received your entire release.If you don't mark the end of the story, the editor might wonder if there's a page missing.

A Few Do's and Don'ts



Do send your release to a specific editor. Address the envelope by name to the person you think would be most interested in your news.

Don't send your release to more than one editor at a single newspaper. If you don't get a response within four weeks of mailing your release, write a new one and send it to another editor at the paper.

Do send your release to different types of media outlets. Radio stations make good targets, especially those with talk radio formats. Send releases to television stations only if your news involves a visual event they can cover.

Don't
send your release to every media organization in town, regardless of their focus. Your local gardening magazine will not appreciate receiving your press release about an article you published detailing technical advances in jet propulsion engines.

Do follow up with a phone call. In 20 years of public relations, I've never been rebuffed by an editor for making a courtesy phone call to inquire about whether they received my release or had any questions about it.

Don't pressure the editor to commit to a story or ask when "your story" will be running. This is a surefire turn-off for editors. Rather, keep your follow-up brief and polite. "I just wanted to see if you had any questions" and "thank you very much" are really the only things you need to say.

A single, well-written press release can net you media exposure in several outlets. Issue press releases on a regular basis and watch the payoff you reap through increased book sales and higher profile name recognition.

________________________________________
Elizabeth Hanes is a professional copywriter with 20 years' experience in marketing communications and public relations. Her clients include large international corporations and small, local non-profit organizations. In addition, she's an award-winning humorist.
 

 

Spur Book Sales with E-Mail Newsletters

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E-mail newsletters consisting of material based on your book are an inexpensive way to create pre-publication buzz and post-publication publicity, as well as to generate useful feedback. However, you must be careful with distribution and avoid several technical traps.
About a year before the publication of my book FusionBranding: How to Forge Your Brand for the Future, I started sending out excerpts, first to friends and family, and then to industry and other professionals. Sending excerpts of 700 to 800 words every two weeks taught me several lessons–some painful–and boosted initial sales substantially.

 

Don’t Get Seen as Spam


Many ISPs have installed automatic spam-blocking software such as SpamAssassin. These programs "grade" e-mail based on such common spam characteristics as using capital letters or such words as FREE! For a free test to see whether these programs will snare your e-mail, send the e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Be sure to put the word "TEST" in the subject field.

 

Of course, every e-mail you send should have easy-to-follow "unsubscribe" directions and you should immediately honor all requests to "unsubscribe."

Every message that goes out should also include two or three sentences about how you will protect subscribers’ privacy. Never sell or "lend" your list or information about subscribers to anyone.

 

Getting Started


The hardest task is building a subscriber list. Who’s next after friends and family? Begin by encouraging people to forward your messages. Ideally, this will result in more subscriptions to your newsletter. Check your files for business cards. Review Web sites or other sources for the e-mail addresses of members of your target audience.

 

Then send an introductory e-mail explaining that you are looking for feedback and insights for a book in progress. Include a sample newsletter. Because of the e-mail overload we’re all suffering from, you’ll get a lot of "no, thanks" messages back but enough people will sign up to make the effort worthwhile. Other subscribers can come from registering your e-mail offering at various sites that offer specialized newsletters, such as eZINEsearch, NewsletterAccess, or Marketing-Seek.com.

 

Sending


When your list is small, you can send out the newsletter yourself with your current e-mail program. Virus-check each transmission, and keep your anti-virus program up to date to reduce the risk that a virus will hijack your list and send out infected messages. Put recipients in the BCC: field, not the TO: field. That way, they won’t have to wade through a list of e-mail addresses before reading your message and you’ll ensure each recipient’s privacy.

 

There are other pitfalls. Due to a problem in either my software or my ISP, about one-third of my list received four or more copies of my newsletter over the course of a day. About half of those hard-won subscribers unsubscribed. I immediately signed up with a professional e-mail distribution service.

Distribution services include Topica, Lyris, and SparkList, and fees generally depend on the number of subscribers. Some companies also offer e-mail personalization and click-through tracking, and some offer free distribution in exchange for ad space in your newsletter, which, in my opinion, dilutes the integrity of your information.

 

More Tips

 

  • Subject lines are critical. Recipients decide whether to open e-mails based on the sender name and title. Use a provocative, contrarian, or "how to" headline.
  • All newsletter copy should be relevant and valuable from the reader’s viewpoint. Don’t discuss writer’s block, why you like your font, or the terrors of staring at a blank screen each day. Save those topics for online publishing or writing forums or start a blog. Instead, provide specific tips and techniques that readers can apply in their personal or professional lives.
  • Establish bonds with readers. When I sent out an excerpt arguing that "positioning" was a mass-economy strategy that often backfires in the customer economy, numerous readers responded with vigorous defenses of positioning. After getting permission, I incorporated their responses in the next e-mailing. When I heard a speaker offer an innovative customer service strategy, I invited him to submit a "guest column." I also gave subscribers a significant "early adopter" discount on book purchases.
  • Remember that subscribers can provide valuable feedback during production. I solicited comments on three potential cover designs. The response was quite impassioned, and I wound up going with the most popular alternative–even though it wasn’t my favorite!
  • Watch frequency and length. As a general rule, don’t send mailings more than once a week. Once every two weeks or even once a month is better. Keep the length down to three screenloads; some experts advise a maximum of 350 words. Use "bullet points" to speed the read. Once you set a schedule, keep to it; unexpected mailings may be perceived as spam.

Nick Wreden’s FusionBranding: How to Forge Your Brand for the Future was selected as a "Best New Business Book" by The Business Reader Review.

Reprinted from Independent Book Publishers Association

Publicity 101

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Did you ever play with blocks when you were a kid? You always used the same set, but you mixed and matched the pieces differently every time you built something. Constructing a publicity campaign directed to consumers is similar.
There are four major types of general consumer publicity campaigns: national, regional, local, and grassroots. Let’s take a look at the core building blocks for each one, bearing in mind that they can be mixed and matched in infinite variations.

National consumer campaigns. A national campaign means publicity that reaches the entire country. It can consist of three building blocks:

  • Print coverage via national newspapers, magazines, syndicated columnists, and wire services
  • Broadcast coverage via network, syndicated, and national cable television talk shows, and network and syndicated radio outlets
  • A media tour, in which an author does local print and broadcast interviews coast to coast, visiting a city per day

Regional consumer campaigns. A regional campaign targets a specific part of the country, such as the Midwest, deep South, or northeastern seaboard. Regional campaigns have two building blocks:

  • Print outlets, such as daily and community newspapers, newsletters, and magazines
  • Broadcast media, like local network affiliate and regional cable television shows, and regional radio shows

Local consumer campaigns. A local publicity campaign, which is sometimes called a market-specific campaign, targets one city. Local campaigns can use two building blocks:

  • Print coverage in local daily newspapers, weekly community papers, newsletters, and city journals and magazines
  • Broadcast placements with network affiliate, regional cable, local independent television shows, and local radio programs

Grassroots consumer campaigns. Grassroots campaigns are similar to local campaigns, except they target much smaller markets, such as rural towns and little villages scattered across the map. These campaigns can be made up of two blocks:

  • Print
  • Broadcast

 

Tailored to Fit


How do you know which types of campaigns are best for a particular book? Carefully examine such variables as:

 

  • Initial print run
  • Budget
  • Author expertise and interview ability
  • Target demographic
  • Distribution details
  • Newsworthiness
  • Time lines
  • Logistical concerns (such as author availability)

Then use logic. With a book that’s highly publicizable, the rule of thumb is to start out with national media, then segue into a tour or local press. On the other hand, if you’re promoting a book that’s more obscure or targets a narrower demographic, you may want to start out small with grassroots and local media before pitching national print and broadcast. Some books are best served by an aggressive regional campaign. Think about how publicity, public relations, and promotions can be tailored to enhance the strengths and compensate for the weaknesses of each specific book.

I’d like to share a final secret with you about campaign choices. Be resourceful. For example, if you’re publicizing a book that could benefit greatly from a media tour, but there’s no budget for it, you can generate similar excitement by doing radio and newspaper phoners in 10 or 20 markets, plus national television. No matter what obstacle is placed in front of you, stop for a moment, analyze all the elements, ponder each of the building blocks we’ve discussed, then unleash your creative acumen and engineer a campaign.

Occasionally you may have to go on a limb in support of a daring idea. Take the risk! Publicity is about courage and imagination.

Jodee Blanco has publicized dozens of books that became regional and national bestsellers. The author of the New York Times bestselling memoir Please Stop Laughing at Me, she was a founding partner and former president of the PR firm Blanco & Peace. This article is excerpted from the new edition of her book The Complete Guide to Book Publicity.

Reprinted from Independent Book Publishers Association

Publishing Tips

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Selecting a publisher for your book is one of the most important decisions you will make as an author. There are so many things to consider,

 

  • Keeping the rights and creative control of your book.
  • Choosing your book selling price and keeping the royalties.
  • Receiving a professional looking book that will sell—not one that looks home-made.

The big publishing houses don’t let you keep your rights. Other online publishers don’t let you set your book price and they keep most of the royalties. Some online publishers make you format your book--cover and all.

At CertaPublishing.com you don’t have to worry about any of that. You keep your rights. We work for you, so you get to have creative control and decide how your book should look. You pick the selling price and keep the royalties. You will get a book that looks like it belongs in any bookstore delivered when we say we will deliver it!

When choosing a publisher, make sure you keep all of your rights and that you have a non-exclusive contract. Make sure that the publisher you choose gives you the flexibility of setting the retail price of your book and lets you keep a majority of the royalties. Make sure that included in the contract that you sign, is professional interior pages and cover design. Make sure you don’t have to figure out how to design the page layout of your book yourself. You are the author, you write the book and the publisher should worry about the rest.

Becoming a publisher should be a fun and adventurous process, not a mysterious, confusing one. To begin the process of turning your written words into a published work of art, visit our website at www.CertaPublishing.com and give our friendly publishing experts a call today!

Organizing Your Book

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Easy steps to begin the writing process.

 

Create a brief outline, in chronological order, of the storyline of your book.

Using index cards and a pencil, write a chapter number at the top of each card. Then lay the cards out on a table or on the floor around you. Using your outline, break your book down into chapters. This means writing just a sentence or two on each card about what you think will happen in each chapter.

When you have broken your outline into book chapters, go back over the cards to see if you want to move any items from one card to another. Or you might want to re-number the chapters (that's why you are using a pencil).
 
Next, put the index cards beside your computer and start writing your book by typing in the events you have noted on the cards, keeping them in the correct order. Almost immediately, you will find yourself adding to, subtracting from and/or totally changing many things. You will even begin to hear your characters speak.
 
In order NOT to interrupt the creative flow, just keep typing. If you stop to check spelling, punctuation, grammar, etc., you could lose something valuable that you may never recover. The ONLY thing that matters here is the creative process. You can always go back later and move or change anything you want to--that's the beauty of using a computer!
 
Don't fight changes. For example, your characters will take on lives of their own. You may not always agree, but at this point, you are no longer totally in control. Deal with it.
 
Obviously, you will have to stop at some point in time. When you start writing again, just go back a chapter or so and read what you have already written, in order to kick-start the flow. It's an old trick, used by most writers, and it works. Please resist the urge to "clean up" any errors that you see! And be sure to keep your work backed up as you go along.
 
When you have finished the first draft of your book, you have two choices: read it on the screen or print it out. This will depend on the method with which you are most comfortable. I prefer to edit hard copy, and I use a pencil, so I never permanently delete something I might later wish I hadn't.

Editing in pencil also allows me to erase corrections about which I might later change my mind. This makes the hard copy a lot less cluttered and much easier to follow when I return to my computer to input the changes I decide to keep. And that's it.

 

See? It's all quite simple. So get started on your book today!

 

 

Derry Sampey is the senior editor for CertaPublishing.com

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