Author Media Kits, Part 2—The News Release

Ciao, SEers. As promised, I’m continuing my exploration of the author media kit. (If you missed that post or want a refresher before continuing, click here.)

Today, we’re going to talk about the news release. (Press Release is an outdated term referring to the press that prints newspapers. That technology has modernized and we submit our release to more than just newspapers these days, so the name has been changed to News Release to reflect those changes.)

Authors can certainly submit their own news releases to the media, but I’ve found some elitist organizations still don’t accept indie authors as credible and talented artists, and therefore disregard announcements from them. Because of this bias, if at all possible, have your publisher or a professional organization submit the release on your behalf. However, if you have a kick-butt release and media kit, or if you find progressive organizations that don’t discriminate against indie authors, sending your own release is absolutely fine.

A news release is only one page long. No exceptions. There is no novel you can write that requires more than a page of notification to the media. If you have more details you want to include, use the rest of the media kit to include it.

NOTE: If at all possible, track down the name (with gender and correct spelling) of the person you’re sending the release to as well as his or her title. Miss Jordyn Johnson, Local Arts Liaison won’t give you a second thought if you address her as Mr. Jordan Johnston, Art Director. (As someone who frequently has her name spelled wrong—or even worse, is addressed by a different name altogether [like Tracy instead of Staci]—I can attest that getting such a simple detail wrong can be a real turn off.) If you can’t confirm gender, name, and title when you mail or email your release, it’s best to go with a generic address or none at all. (This pertains to snail mail envelopes or an email to a specific person rather than a general department.)

news releaseParts of a News Release

  • Header
  • Salutation
  • Title
  • Opener
  • Body
  • Closing
  • Visual Cue
Header

The header is the organization identifier at the top of the page. If your publicist or publisher is submitting the news release on your behalf, they will use their company letterhead. If you are an indie author, you should have a letterhead. You are an author, but you’re also more than that. You are a business. You are a brand. If you don’t have a letterhead, I hope you have a cohesive identity across all your social media platforms. Use that identity as your letterhead. (This is your website header, blog header, FB cover photo… you get the idea. It’s your logo, your corporate font and color scheme… the graphic identity of you as a company.)

Salutation

There are two lines (four parts) to the news release salutation.

  • First line, left-justified—“FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE”
    This should be in all caps and bold. Do not try to be clever here with a different word choice. This is what is expected, and it shouldn’t be deviated from.
  • First line, right-justified—Contact: Name and Title
    This is plain text, title case. (The contents of this item is self-evident and doesn’t need explaining.)
  • Second line, left-justified—Date
    You will (or your should) work on this draft until it’s polished and it shines. That means it may take you days. Make certain you change the date to the day you send the release. (It seems simple enough, but people forget. And details matter.)
  • Second line, right-justified—Phone Number
    Again, this doesn’t need explaining. One caveat, though. If you’re using your personal phone number rather than a business line, do not have a cutesy voice mail message. Make sure you state your full name so callers know they’ve reached the right person, and be professional in your recorded greeting.
Title

This is one line, left-justified, bold. It’s the crux of your message. The elevator pitch of the news release. Too pithy and the recipient won’t make the connection between your title and your message. Too dry and the recipient won’t care. Just like a blog post title, you want to be brief, dynamic, and clear. If you don’t happen to have a special hook to speak of, you still want to aim for clarity rather than cleverness.

If you’re good at composing tweets, you’ll excel at this. There are also online title analyzers that rate your titles (good for blog posts or news releases). Here’s one that I sometimes  use: https://coschedule.com/headline-analyzer

Opener

This is where you give a brief synopsis of the release’s content. Journalists will recognize the 5-Ws concept. In one paragraph, you ideally want to tell the recipient:

  • who you are
  • what you’re promoting
  • where you’re from (or where the story takes place, depending on who’s receiving this release)
  • when the story takes place
  • why it’s relevant

You may find you don’t need all the Ws. Maybe when the story takes place isn’t important. Maybe you don’t believe your location (or your story’s setting) matters. That’s fine. It’s kind of a judgment call for these things. But if you’re like me—an Arkansas resident from Pennsylvania with a book set in Pennsylvania—your location is definitely relevant (providing you’re sending the release to Pennsylvania media outlets).

Body

This is where the meat of your release occurs. Here you will provide details about your novel. This is where you explain what your story is about and why the recipient’s readers will care.

I’ve seen statistics claiming there are anywhere between 300,000 and 1,000,000 million books published a year. Even assuming the smallest number, that’s over 800 books a day. If you can’t set your novel apart in some way, the media outlets won’t care. They certainly aren’t going to do the legwork for you and figure out what makes your story marketable. Determine your sales pitch and lay it out for them.

Closing

This is more than a conclusion to your pitch to the media. This is also where you state relevant biographical information and give any extra details they may find relevant. Remember, this is your news release, but you also have the rest of your media kit, so you don’t have to give a lot of details here. Just enough to spark an interest.

Visual Cue

All news releases end with a graphic representation—usually three hashtags centered on the page—so recipients know they’ve reached the end. Without this, more information could be on following pages.

Ah-ha! Problem there. News releases are only supposed to be one page long.

Doesn’t matter. Make sure your release is only one page long, and still end with the cue. Even though it seems unnecessary, it’s protocol.


Remember, this is your one-page proposal for media coverage. It’s essentially your resume. The rest of the media kit is your portfolio once your foot is in the door. Next time, we’ll dig into the other parts of the kit. At the end of this series, I’ll include a complete media kit for your review.

If you have any questions, go ahead and leave me a comment. I’ll do my best to answer them for you.

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52 thoughts on “Author Media Kits, Part 2—The News Release

  1. Wow – I really could have used this a few months ago. I had to write a release and had no idea what I was doing – not many examples or explanations out there. This is wonderful, Staci!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good information and advice. I tired doing this, but I didn’t put too much effort into it, as I used a company that did this, with no feedback. I will be seeing what I can put together now on my own! Always more to learn. Thanks:)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, it’s definitely something to consider for your fiction, particularly if you have a working relationship with someone at your local paper. I’d be very interested to know if you find your format different for fiction and nonfiction, or if you notice a difference in success rates. If you decide to try one for fiction, we’d love to hear your results and thoughts.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Fantastic information here Staci! I’ve written press release over the years for my businesses and products, but none for my novels.
    You’ve made me think that I should maybe think about preparing one to send out for my latest romance read.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow! Excellent information, Staci!. I’ve done releases before (not related to my writing), but not with this kind of detail. I definitely have to get busy putting together my media kit.

    Some questions for you:
    In my experience, when you send a news release it’s usually chopped down to a paragraph. The media outlet pulls what info they want for the space available. With that being said, is it still common to send the whole media kit, and is that done mainly to establish credibility? I’ve not sent any releases for my work to local media sources but would like to start. I also hadn’t thought about going through my publisher, but I do have a publicist with them. Looks like I need to get busy as I have a new release coming out in July, and you’ve got my mind spinning with ideas. Thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

    • My experience has been to have the basics in that one paragraph (the opening paragraph) and have more details in the rest of the release, in case they want more than a quick blurb. (Just keep the whole thing to one page.)

      I do NOT send the entire media kit, but I do tell them the kit is available on my site, and then (of course) I provide the link to it.

      Again, this is a do-as-I-say-and-not-as-I-do thing, because I’ve temporarily pulled all my kits down until I have a chance to revamp them. So maybe I should say I would direct them to my kit online if it was there…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you Staci, here you go.

        I’d like to put forward some alternative points of view.

        Press/news release were always interchangeable. Also, any release was never just sent to press, it was sent out to broadcast media too, ie radio and television.

        A one page release is a good goal, but it’s not absolute. Apart from anything else it depends on paragraph length, font size, and spacing.

        Let’s look in more detail at your suggestions.

        Immediate release isn’t necessary. If it’s not for immediate release, don’t send it out, or embargo it, although an embargo is highly unlikely in a book press release as one wants as much publicity as possible.

        Date can be set left or right. No fixed rule.

        I would put contact details at the end with a personal, rather than organisational, phone number. That sits on the top. Plus email, and fax – some people still use them.

        I would use shorter paragraphs. Writing long pars to cram everything onto one page defeats the object of readability.

        Also the key aim of any news release is to get as much of the original content reproduced as possible. The media has always worked in soundbites. Soundbites = short pars.

        Rather than your ###, I would use Ends, or 1/1, or in the case of two pages, More follows, 1/2.

        I would cut the main release off before the bio. What you did isn’t part of the actual story. And, to be really honest there is no news here. It’s a news release after the event. I’d cut the part about being complete and accepted in May and the edits. Of no interest. But why not add where it’s available locally? Or a better release would be about a book signing.

        I’d add a Notes to/for Editors which would include the bio, and internet links for sales points. Also, would you be planning to send a review copy as you’ve not mentioned that? And a photo?

        Finally, for more information, please contact blah blah, plus all the usual contact details.

        The other piece of advice that people need to know, is to change the content depending on who it’s being pitched at.

        Liked by 1 person

      • All excellent points. Particularly the bit about customizing the release for the audience (which I thought I touched on, but clearly not to the level I needed to).

        The format I use is the one I was taught when I worked in PR (which was the exact one I learned in school), and it’s the one the publishing houses I worked in use. It’s also the format touted by a media consultant here in the US. I don’t know if the formats are different in the UK versus here, but I’d be willing to bet that as long as everything is recognizable (for example, how the release indicates an ending), the information won’t end up in the trash for poor formatting. Content should be more important than format, although I admit there are sticklers who are just looking for a reason to trash something. We always adhered to the one-page rule, though, as we were told no one would read past a page. I guess it’s up to the release writer to decide if they want to go longer.

        Contact information… most of the authors compiling their own kit are going to be indie authors, so the contact information at the top of the page will be theirs, eliminating the need to repeat it at the bottom. But that’s a great point for people who like to reinforce information through repetition or for traditionally published authors, so they know their contact info may be included by the publicist who drafts their release.

        As to the content of the release itself, you’ve listed some great points, and I don’t think anyone could or would want to argue about it (particularly about providing a copy for review, which I neglected to mention). But even if a format is followed, releases shouldn’t be cookie-cutter. Every author’s content should look and sound different from others, as the differentiation will let them stand out from the masses. As long as they have information a news organization might be interested in, I don’t think the format matters too much. Short or long paragraphs… if the content is good, it will be read.

        I’m really glad you weighed in on this. It gives our readers a lot more to think about. Thanks.

        Liked by 3 people

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