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 (Press Release is an outdated term referring to the press that prints newspapers.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.)
Parts of a News Release
- Visual Cue
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.)
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.
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
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).
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.
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.
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.