The average press release only contains 300 to 400 words.
The best press releases are short and sweet, but writing a great press release that actually gets you exposure in the media takes a lot more work than writing 300 to 400 random words.
In this article, I’m going to show you how to write a press release that gets you publicity in the media, without having to hire an expensive PR agent or firm.
Whether you’re writing a press release for a product launch, an event, a book release, or something else, these are the steps you need to take to get publicity and attract the attention of the media.
How to Write a Press Release Like a Pro
Learning how to write and submit a press release professionally is more important today than ever before.
That’s because in today’s fast-paced, fact-checked world, reporters rely on press releases to contain all the relevant facts they need in one easy-to-find place. Reporters are busier than ever before so you have to give them exactly what they want and need if you want them to feature you in a story.
A well-written press release can grab a reporter’s attention and get them to feature you and your book in an important piece or story.
If those benefits weren’t enough to get you interested in writing a press release, do you realize Google posts links to press releases in search results? In fact, many of my clients have found their press releases on the first page of Google when they searched for their keywords!
Imagine searching for “new leadership book” and finding your book on the screen! That’s what a press release can do for you, and that’s only the beginning.
Who knows, you might even find your press release on page one of Google for your keywords too!
First, let’s address the elephant in the room.
What Is a Press Release and Why Do You Need One?
A press release is a document, (it can be paper or electronic) that says what’s new about your book or your company. So if you have a new book coming out, that’s news.
If you have an old book you want to keep promoting, take some information from the book and present it in a unique way as news you can use.
If you type “Do you need a press release?” into Google, you’ll find many articles saying you do not need a press release. You’d also quickly see that those articles were written by PR and marketing people who are trying to sell you their own services instead.
It’s not that they don’t like press releases; it’s because they want to sell you their own bright, shiny objects. That’s hardly a reason to not use a press release!
Granted, I run a press release writing and distribution business so I have my own vested interest here as well. All I can say is that many authors from many well-known publishing companies like Morgan James send their clients to me to help them write their press releases.
What to Include in a Press Release
Let’s talk about the content you must include in your press release first, and then we’ll cover proper press release formatting.
So, what kind of information does a reporter look for in a press release?
Press Release Pictures
Your press release should show your book cover and your portrait. I hate writing mug shot or head shot—you just need a good photo of your face.
Important: Every picture in a press release should be high resolution and in color.
A Great Headline
A strong headline for your press release is important for two reasons:
- It grabs the reporter’s attention
- It grabs readers’ attention in Google and search results
Unfortunately, these two goals require two different tactics.
You have to decide which is more important when you write your press release: Reporters or readers.
Here’s how to NOT grab the attention of a reporter with a headline:
Leading expert publishes new book on this topic
Why is this bad? Several reasons:
- There are 5,000 new books published every day! Your book being published is NOT news to a journalist, so when they read a headline like this, they will simply stop reading and move on to the next press release.
- It’s all about you, and, unfortunately, reporters don’t care about you; they care about their audience of readers. That’s why you must focus on adding value to their audience.
- It’s not interesting. Reporters want to write about interesting things because they know their readers will only read interesting things. They can’t afford to bore their readers.
Here are a few guidelines for an attention-grabbing headline:
- Be interesting. Use startling facts and figures.
- Be funny. Puns and jokes could be an effective headline if you do it right.
- Be helpful. Promise readers you will offer useful tips and ideas.
You might want to look at the covers of magazines to read enticing headlines. Read newspapers to see the headlines they use for articles that quote authors.
Press Release Headline Generator Tool
I created a free headline generator for any occasion.
You can use it to help you come up with great headlines for press releases, blog posts, articles, and more.
By generating lots of different headline ideas quickly, you’ll be able to find the perfect headline for your project a little bit faster.
Headline Examples that Work Wonders
Now, let’s look at headlines that will impress Google and help you get on the first page of search results.
I’m giving away my secret sauce here, so please pay attention.
I’ve written or edited literally thousands of press releases for authors and businesses over the past five years and I’ve seen all the changes that Google has made to keep their search results pristine.
With all the changes from Google, the one headline template that still works is very simple to follow.
Here it is:
New KEYWORD Book by KEYWORD Expert AUTHOR NAME Helps Target Audience Achieve Benefit
In practice it looks like this:
New Communications Book by Marketing Expert Mary Doe Helps Accountants Get More Clients
There are five key things this headline template does, so make sure you understand why this type of headline can be so powerful for a press release:
- New Communications book – That’s your keyword phrase. When someone is looking for new book on your topic, there’s a good chance they will see your press release.
- Marketing Expert – This is your keyword phrase that people would search to find someone like you. Remember, prospects don’t know you are alive. That’s why they go to Google, so they can find someone like you. They do that by typing in keywords and questions. If you have the right keywords or questions in your press release, Google very well may show your press release to these prospects. You might find your next client has found you by accident when they searched Google for this keyword phrase.
- Mary Doe – That’s your name. It will help you when people are Googling YOU to find out if they should hire you. Since many non-fiction authors are also consultants, coaches or speakers, you can be sure your prospects are going to Google to see what they can find out about you.
- Helps Accountants – This positions your key audience. I know, you are saying “My book helps everyone.” But people don’t search for books that help “everyone.” They search for books that help them. Use the keyword term that describes your clients and you can create a connection.
- Get More Clients – This is the benefit. You can have any benefit you like. People are motivated to read more if they see that there’s a benefit for them.
There you have it: a nearly foolproof way to help Google place your press release on page 1 with your most important keywords!
Nothing is guaranteed, but I’ve seen this headline structure work wonders for many authors.
How to Write the First Paragraph
The purpose of the headline is to grab attention and make the reader want to read the next paragraph.
The purpose of the first paragraph of your press release is to state the facts in a way that they want to read the next paragraph.
Every sentence you write in your press release must make the reader want to read the next sentence, and so on, or you’ve lost your audience and your chance to get publicity.
Sample First Paragraph
Here is an example of an opening paragraph that is fact-based and promotes the author and the book while giving a benefit to the reader. They could also include links to the book’s Amazon page and to your website.
CLEVELAND, July 16, 2017 — Philanthropists and grantmakers will become more efficient and more effective in their charitable giving when they read “Confident Giving: Sage Advice for Funders,” a new book on effective philanthropy written by Kris Putnam-Walkerly, President of Putnam Consulting Group, Inc.
You might be wondering if you can be witty, punny, funny or use startling statistics. The answer is “yes.” There are many ways to write a good opening paragraph.
However, you can’t go wrong by stating the facts. You could go wrong if your joke or pun lands flat.
Unless you’re sure your joke or pun is going to be well-received by journalists, just state the facts in the first paragraph of your press release.
How to Write the Second Paragraph
Now, let’s look at the juicy stuff—the main content of your press release.
What is the book about?
In many cases, you might be able to take the back-cover marketing copy and repurpose it for the press release.
Who is the book for?
This will help reporters determine if the book fits their audience’s needs. It will also help you with search engine optimization with Google.
Next, show how the book will help them. I’d suggest you create a list of five benefits the reader will receive. For example:
This communications book will help accountants
- Overcome their fear of talking to clients
- Learn how to build stronger relationships with clients
- Manage their time effectively
- Market their services without spending a fortune
- Create a work-life balance
One “trick” that I discovered that works sometimes with Google is to put these benefits in the form of a question. That’s because people search Google with questions. If Google sees your question in a press release, it might show your page!
Here’s an example:
This book will help accountants answer such questions as:
- How can an accountant overcome their fear of talking to clients?
- How can an accountant create work-life balance?
Get the idea?
By the way, did you notice that I wrote “This communications book…” in the line that introduces the tips? That was on purpose. I always want to include a keyword in front of the word “book” if it seems appropriate. That will help with Google searches. After all, people who are looking for a book to buy or promote are searching for a kind of book, not a general book. The more targeted keywords you can use, the more power your press release will have.
However, please note that you should NOT use the same keyword again and again. That’s a good way for Google to dismiss your press release! Google considers that practice to be keyword “stuffing.” Keyword stuffing is a death sentence for your press release because both Google and reporters will ignore it.
Don’t use the same keyword more than 2 or 3 times in your press release.
Writing Your Bio
The next part is all about your favorite subject: You. That’s right. You can include info about the author. Don’t be shy. The reporter wants to know who you are and what makes you credible. It is an essential part of the press release. It is not about vanity.
Be sure to include your credentials, such as academic degrees, titles with companies, awards won, places you’ve spoken, media coverage and anything else you can think of that will show the reporter you are someone who is to be trusted.
Let’s face it. With e-books being so easy to publish, any quack can write a book. Reporters need to know that your book is written by someone who has the experience and expertise to write a book that their audience should know about.
Calls to Action
Yes, you can make an offer in a press release. Many of my clients are surprised to hear that. But it isn’t the offer you are thinking of with an ad.
Instead, you can write messages that help the reporter and the reader.
- To receive an editorial review copy, reporters can email [email protected] (Notice the wording here. It does not mean that average readers can get a free copy. It’s for reporters.)
- For more information, go to mywebsite.com
- The book is available for purchase at Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and mywebsite.com
- Reporters can schedule an interview with the author by sending email to [email protected] or calling 1-800-My-number.
- The first 100 people who buy the book will receive a free, 30-minute consultation with the author.
I like to have three testimonials to give more credibility to the book. After all, everyone knows that you think your book is great. Why not have an outside authority back you up?
A good testimonial has three key components:
- One sentence saying WHY the book is good (i.e. the book is full of new insights in this field) or WHY you are the right person to write the book (i.e. the author spoke to our company and I was convinced she had insights no one else had).
- The full name and title of the person giving the testimonial (i.e. Dr. John Smith, head of pediatric medicine at Local Hospital). If you don’t have a full name, don’t use the quote (i.e. George M. from Bethesa, Md.). Those names have no credibility with reporters.
- The quote should appear in the form of a paragraph, i.e.
“This book offers new insights into this field,” said Dr. John Smith, head of pediatric medicine at Local Hospital.”
- Each quote should be in its own paragraph.
This information contains the essential publishing information about your book.
- Book title
- Publication date
- Number of pages
- Format: print, ebook, audio book
- Where can the book be purchased?
- Contact person’s name, email and phone number
- Website for book
How to Format a Press Release
A press release has a distinct look and feel. Just as a poem looks different from a book, a press release has its own unique format that must be followed if you want it to be taken seriously by reporters.
If your press release doesn’t look like a press release, the reporter will think you are an amateur and will throw it away.
Here’s what you don’t want to do – and I’ve seen a lot of authors write press releases this way!
Do not use:
- Bold face and italics and UPPER CASE. Those are signs of an ad.
- Ellipses (those three dots …). Authors use these dots to build suspense in advertising copy, but they are completely out of place in a press release. For one thing, ellipses are used to show where words are missing in a quote. So, even copy writers in ads are using them incorrectly. Don’t get me started on using ellipses in a press release!
- More than 750 words, including headline and contact information (name, email and phone). You can easily tell your story in that amount of space. Reporters have limited attention spans. If you can’t interest them in 750 words, you won’t convince them with 7,500 words.
- For Immediate Release. I know. Every press release book tells you to use those words. They are ancient history. It is not needed. The fact you are sending a press release today using this magical tool called the internet means it is (obviously) available for immediate use. Printing those words just wastes space.
Press Release Formatting Outline
Now you are ready to put all the pieces together.
Here’s the outline:
- Book cover and author portrait
- Contact information
- Dateline and first paragraph
- Book Content
- About the Author
- Call to Action
- Book Publishing Details
The book cover and author picture are at the top of the page, as you would do with a company logo or letterhead.
The contact info is flush left with each piece of info on its own line like this:
The headline follows. It is written in title style, which means the first letter of each word is capitalized, except for articles (a, an, the) and prepositions (i.e. for, with, by)
The book title is surrounded by quotation marks, “My Book Is Great.” Do not use italics or bold face, even though some literary style books prefer that format. The media uses the Associated Press (AP) Stylebook and they prefer quotation marks.
The first paragraph is introduced by a “dateline” that tells the reader where you are located and the date of the release. It is followed by a dash and then the first paragraph. The headline and first paragraph looks like this:
New Communications Book for Accountants by Mary Doe Offers Tips for Building Strong Client Relationships
BOSTON, Feb. 28, 2017 – A new client-services book shows accountants how to get clients and keep them. Written by award-winning consultant Mary Doe, “Getting Better Clients” will be published today and is available at Amazon and the author’s website.
The next section shows the book’s content.
The next section shows the about the author information.
The next section has the calls to action.
The next section has the book publishing data.
The next section has three testimonials. If your press release is running long, trim the testimonials to just one or two.
At the end of the press release, print three# # # or -30- to indicate the end of the press release.
Let’s look at a few examples. In this first case, we used a headline and a sub-headline (also known as the “second deck”) to add more information.
Full Press Release Example
New Philanthropy Book, Confident Giving, Gives Grantmakers an Honest Look at Ways to Improve Effectiveness
Charitable giving expert and speaker Kris Putnam-Walkerly gives advice on how to be a smarter, more confident grantmaker
CLEVELAND, July 12, 2016 – Philanthropists and grantmakers will become more efficient and more effective in their charitable giving when they read “Confident Giving: Sage Advice for Funders,” a new book on effective philanthropy written by Kris Putnam-Walkerly, President of Putnam Consulting Group, Inc.
Based on her humorous and insightful blog posts that bring out the triumphs and tragedies of grantmaking, philanthropists will gain provocative ideas that will transform their practices. They also will be better able to identify worthy programs to support when they heed the recommendations of Putnam-Walkerly, who advises and speaks to foundation boards, community associations and professional associations.
“As a grant maker, what do you wish you could do better? What’s standing in your way? How do you eliminate the thoughts and practices that hinder your efforts and elevate the ones that enhance your effectiveness?” said Putnam-Walkerly, who was recently named one of America’s Top 25 Philanthropy Speakers by Philanthropy Media and The Michael Chatman Giving Show. Other finalists included Bono and leaders of the Ford Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
If you’ve wrestled with a grant making challenge, chances are that she has addressed that issue in her weekly “Confident Giving” e-newsletter. Now, the wisdom and insights from more than a year’s worth of weekly posts are collected in this easy-to-read volume.
About the book, “Confident Giving:”
“Confident Giving” offers Putnam-Walkerly’s unique insights to help grantmakers run their organizations more easily and effectively. Her advice will help high-wealth donors and philanthropic organizations, government organizations, as well as CEOs and senior management at foundations, community foundations and corporate philanthropies.
Using a refreshing combination of common sense and humor, the book helps readers learn how to:
Create logical, streamlined grantmaking processes
Approach grantmaking with an abundance mentality
Define your personal journey as a grantmaker
Deal effectively with real-life hurdles grantmakers face every day
In this concise and compelling volume, Kris brings inspired wisdom that stands out among the field’s thought leaders.
“Confident Giving” is available in print and Kindle. The book has 155 pages. The price is $14.95. The ISBN is 978-0-692-61891-2.
The book can be ordered at Amazon.com.
Praise for Kris Putnam-Walkerly and “Confident Giving”
“Kris shares the kind of advice that one wishes every consultant would give— insightful, useful and to the point, and always with good humor. She provides clear and inspiring thinking that comes from her experiences and a clear passion for our field,” said Peter Long, President & CEO, Blue Shield of California Foundation.
“I find the wisdom in Kris’s newsletter to be inspiring—so much so that I hired her firm to help our foundation tell our own inspiring story. The fresh perspective that Kris brings to philanthropy is always eye-opening and spot-on,” said Allen Smart, Vice President of Programs, Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust.
“Smart, relevant, and reader-friendly, the Putnam weekly newsletters are always a must read for me. What a treat to have them compiled in one place for easy reference! Every philanthropic leader will want to have “Confident Giving” on their professional bookshelf,”Judy Belk, President and CEO, The California Wellness Foundation.
About Kris Putnam-Walkerly
Kris Putnam-Walkerly, MSW, is a global philanthropy advisor and president of Putnam Consulting Group, Inc. For over 16 years, top philanthropies have requested Kris’s help to transform their giving and catapult their impact, including designing strategies that achieve results, streamline operations, assess impact, and allocate funds. Her clients include the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, Annie E. Casey Foundation, Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation, and California HealthCareFoundation, among dozens of others. She’s helped more than 50 foundations and philanthropists strategically allocate and assess over $300 million in grants and gifts.
A thought leader in transformative philanthropy, Kris is the author of “Confident Giving” and the forthcoming book, “Delusional Altruism,” and is a frequent contributor in the publications of leading philanthropy associations including the National Center for Family Philanthropy, Foundation Center, Southeastern Council on Foundations, Exponent Philanthropy, and AsianNGO Magazine. She provides expert commentary about philanthropy in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Seattle Times, Washington Examiner, Entepreneur.com, BusinessWeek.com, and others.
Prior to forming Putnam Consulting Group, she was a grantmaker at the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and an evaluator at the highly esteemed Stanford University School of Medicine.
More Press Release Tips
Now that you know the fundamentals of writing a press release, I’d like to give you an extra bonus tip on how to write great a press release. It doesn’t invalidate anything you’ve learned. It gives you another option.
The good thing about the press release I just taught you is that it is fact based. It’s just what the reporter needs to decide to write about your book or review your book.
Here’s another angle to pursue: Offer them tips from the book.
The press release would contain all the basic information we have already discussed. AND it would add tips from the book.
Here’s the sample headline:
Communications Expert Jerry Jones Offers Tips for Accounts to Get New Clients in New Book
Here’s a real-life example:
Cross-Cultural Expert Harriet Russell: Top Ten Tips for Speaking English to Nonnative English Speakers
CLEVELAND, Oct. 6, 2016 — Talking with nonnative English speakers, both at home and abroad, requires more awareness to ensure your words and messages are understood.
That is the advice of international business and cross-cultural expert Harriet Russell in her new book “Doing Business With Ease Overseas: Building Cross-Cultural Relationships that Last” (Indie Books International, 2016).
“The potential for confusion creates stress or impatience and can also strain or break business relationships,” advises Russell.
For 30 years Russell has been doing one thing: stopping people from offending each other when doing business internationally. From managing public relations at Sony to helping the U.S. State Department in Minsk, Russell helps others understand when “yes” really means “no” or “maybe.”
“English is often the language of multicultural business communication, but it can be difficult to understand the English of nonnative speakers who are not fluent,” says Russell.
Here are Russell’s top ten tips for better intercultural communication:
Ask the speaker to talk more slowly.
Relax and remember to listen and try to understand.
Repeat what you think the speaker has said.
Read the speaker’s lips.
Do not interrupt the speaker. Give him or her enough time in which to communicate.
Observe body language and other nonverbal signals.
Encourage the nonnative speaker to give a written summary.
Share responsibility for poor communication.
Beware of a positive response to a negative question.
Beware of a qualified “yes,” in response to the question, “Do you understand?”
“Verbal communications with others who are not bilingual and whose English is a second language takes patience, relaxation, and openness,” says Russell. “When we relax, we are more able to drop expectations and linear thought of how things should be. We can then move into becoming more creative in our way of communicating, hearing beyond the words and into the heart of the meanings.”
Russell’s book highlights the principles of self-awareness, nonjudgment, and acceptance of others, while also seeing the whole picture to bring success in cross-cultural business relations.
She also cautions about the use of sports jargon such as ballpark figures, dropped the ball, or covering all the bases.
“Americans often like to use sports jargon in business,” says Russell. “These expressions are so common among fluent English speakers that many forget the expressions are jargon, a specialized language. Avoid them.”
Other things to avoid are jokes, sarcasm, slang, and confusing negative questions such as “So, you’re not going to do that, are you?”
Russell also offers a final caution: “Do not judge someone’s intelligence by his or her lack of fluency in English.”
About Indie Books International
Indie Books International (www.indiebooksintl.com) was founded in 2014 in Oceanside, California by two best-selling business authors. Similar to indie film companies and indie music labels, the mission of Indie Books International is to serve as an independent publishing alternative for consultants, executive coaches and business thought leaders.
Please note this press release omits the publishing data. I would have included it.
One final note about publishing data: You can include it as a block of text, or weave it into a sentence, as the first press release did.
Proofread Your Press Release
After you’ve written the final press release, make sure you have an editor or associate do a final proofread. A simple typo or error in your press release could make the difference between getting featured in magazines like Time and Entrepreneur and being ignored.
Don’t let a simple typo or mistake stop you from getting the results you’re looking for with your PR: always proofread your press releases before distributing them.
Now Go Write Your Press Release
Now you know everything you need to know to write a great press release.
I highly recommend modeling the press release examples in this article to make sure the form, word count, and style of your press release is done in a way that reporters will actually want to read it.
After your press release is finished and proofed, you’re ready to send it out to reporters far and wide.
If you follow these tips on writing your press release, you’ll have a good chance to capture the attention of reporters and readers alike so your book is reviewed and purchased.
Dan Janal has written or edited more than 2,000 press releases for authors, consultants and coaches over the past 10 years. He can write your press releases and save you hundreds of dollars distributing your press releases to the media via PR Newswire. For more information on best practices for writing and distributing press releases, go to www.CompanyPressReleases.com.