Writing a Press Release for Your Self-Published Book

by Arthur Klepchukov

I just created a press kit to promote blinks of awe. What’s a press kit? How’s that different from a press release? What do you mean I have to do marketing?

After you’ve emailed everybody in your address book, posted the billionth tweet, and flooded your Facebook news feed, it’s time to let the rest of the world know about your work. Regardless of how many friends you have and how much they love you, that doesn’t mean you have an audience. That’s what I’m trying to build. Read on for the start of my journey.

I found this awesome list of ideas to promote my book. I would swap #1 and #2: start by writing a press release.

For reference, you can download my first press release (I reference it in most of the examples below).

Expect Humility

First and foremost, don’t expect to master marketing overnight. Just do your best. Don’t expect to write something today and get coverage tomorrow. Leave time for feedback and expect the news to take some time to spread.

Get Excited

Forget about the mechanics of everything that’s supposed to be in a press release and just focus on conveying an exciting and interesting message. If you get that wrong, the proper formatting won’t save you.

A good place to start is the copy from your book description. The problem with book descriptions is that they always strike me as attempting to be timeless, but that’s the exact opposite of what a press release should be. So great as your description may be, find it’s sense of urgency.

Example: Most versions of my press release promoted my book as being made with Apple’s new iBooks Author tool or that it was the first poetry book to leverage the new iBooks format. Both iBooks Author and the new iBooks format came out just a few months ago. At the pace the publishing world moves, that’s recent enough.

Write at least two paragraphs. Introduce and elaborate the most interesting bits about your book. It could be the themes, the timeliness of the topic, the technology aspect, or something totally unique to your work. Then, look for something that would make a good, short quote. Get inspiration from your favorite magazine articles. Those quotes still need context but even if you read one before you see the headline, it hooks you. Time Magazine, the only print publication I still read, does a particularly good job of this.

Example: My press release has interesting tidbits: using Apple technology; new vs. old art; drawing inspiration from digital magazines, audiobooks, and tablets; the interaction of imagery, typography, and sound. I considered using the quote “the medium truly complements the content” but went with “Blinks of Awe is poetry you can see, touch, and hear.” This is the simplest message that can get a reader excited about my work without bogging them down with details or vague promises.

Read what you wrote. Does it make you want to read your book? Does it make you want to read it now? Would someone who has never heard of you care?

Congrats, you just wrote the body of your press release. We’ll come back to the necessary but boring bits soon.

Write the Headline

Now that you’ve infused the body with something timely and quotable, try to craft a headline that captures the spirit of your message.

Guidelines (mostly from PRWeb):

  • 80 characters or less.
  • Use titlecase, not ALL CAPS.
  • Include an active verb.
  • Don’t include articles.
  • Don’t just write something catchy that your body copy doesn’t deliver on.
  • Make it memorable. You are a writer after all :)
  • Iterate!

Examples:

  • Blinks of Awe is a Poetry Experience You Can See, Touch, and Hear
    Catchy but no active verb and not timely! 
  • Blinks of Awe Now Available for iPad
    Timely but not catchy. What is Blinks of Awe? Why is it special? Why should anyone care?
  • Blinks of Awe Reinvents Poetry on the iPad
    Catchy but also too arrogant for a first work! Reads more like a review.
  • Blinks of Awe Breathes New Life into Old Art Form on iPad
    Still unique. Suggests something bigger with new vs. old art but a bit ambiguous.
  • New Life Given to Old Art Form with Blinks of Awe on iPad
    I like it. Can I have my marketing degree now?

Get Those Other Details Right

Now unleash your inner editor.

Did you answer as many of these questions as you can: who, what, where, when, how, and why? Not all of them may apply but you should at least make a conscious decision about which ones you leave out.

Example:
“Who?” touched on my personal history, which motivated the poems.
“What?” Blinks of Awe is now available in the iBookstore.
“Where?” doesn’t really apply to my situation because my book isn’t limited to or about a place.
“When?” The date in the front. Blinks of Awe is now available in the iBookstore.
“How?”  The entire book was written, designed, recorded, and performed by the poet to capture the pure spirit…
“Why?” …most poetry is black text on a white page and most ebooks are simple copies of print material…

Do the first 2-3 sentences leave you wanting more? Are they just getting warmed up for your real message? Try cutting them. Make sure you’ve put your best foot forward. Most people won’t get past here.

Does the first paragraph make you want to keep reading?

Make it third person, no matter how excited the “you” representing the reader should be!

Provide your contact info up top and on the bottom. See my example.

Keep it under a page.

Get Feedback

You don’t completely trust your inner editor? Good, me neither. Seek outside help.

I cannot stress the importance of this step. Somebody in your network has experience with marketing. This is the time to get a hold of them. Offer good karma and better coffee. Get some critical feedback.

Supplement the Press Release with a Press Kit

A press kit is for the benefit of anyone who wants to write about your book. It includes any relevant media about your book. See that awesome list for ideas of what to include.

Example:
Here’s what I included in the blinks of awe press kit:

  • Fact sheet (basic book details like ISBN, publication date, etc.)
  • Cover image (don’t skimp on the resolution!)
  • Author photo (look pretty)
  • Author biography (sound pretty)
  • Press release (just in case)
  • Multimedia samples: (knock their socks off)
    • 2 poems as images
    • 2 poems as audio
    • Full .ibooks sample ready to be viewed on an iPad

Spread Your Press Release

There’s the throw money at it approach with services like PRWeb. And there’s the do it all yourself approach with submission lists like this one. I plan on doing both. I’ll post the results when I have them.

You Won’t be a Real Marketer Unless You Remind People to…

buy the book!

Update: 06/13/2012
Yahoo! News has posted my press release!

Update: 06/29/2012
I blogged about my specific results with PRWeb.