Okay, so, press releases. If you're an author, you need to know how to craft them. A well-written one can give you lots of mileage -- editors love it when they can just take your press release and print it, as-is! (I have had this happen many times -- remember: media people are just as time-crunched as the rest of us! They will be much more willing to spread the word about you and your work if you make it as easy as possible for them to do so!)
And since it was such a big deal for me to learn how to write a press release, I figured there are others out there just as intimidated as I was.
The best way I can think to teach you is to deconstruct one of mine. First, I'll show it to you in its entirety, then I'll break it down. Feel free to post any additional questions in comments!
September 19, 2012 For October 2012 Release
Contact: Irene Latham
Alabama Author Goes Behind Zoo Gates for New Book
Birmingham – Stint as Teen Volunteer at Birmingham Zoo Inspires Second Novel
Inspiration is sometimes found in the most unexpected places – like one’s own backyard. That’s what it’s been like for award-winning Alabama poet and novelist Irene Latham, not once but twice: first in 2010 with her debut historical novel Leaving Gee’s Bend (Putnam/Penguin, ISBN: 978-0-399-25179-5), which evolved out of her fascination with the quiltmakers of Gee’s Bend in Wilcox County, Alabama; and now with her latest novel Don’t Feed the Boy (Roaring Brook/Macmillan, 978-1-59643-755-5, Oct. 16, 2012).
“I signed up for the teen volunteer program because I wanted to be a zoo veterinarian,” said Latham, a Birmingham resident since 1984. “I loved learning about exotic animal, but all it took was witnessing one surgery to make me realize that perhaps I’d better just write about the animals instead.”
Which is exactly what she did. Don’t Feed the Boy is about a boy who lives at fictional Meadowbrook Zoo, which is named for the North Shelby County neighborhood and modeled after Birmingham Zoo. The book includes all sorts of animal facts and behind-the- scenes adventures drawn from Latham’s training and other research.
It’s hard to be human when you live at the zoo. Now that he’s eleven, Whit feels trapped by the rules and routine of zoo life. With so many exotic animals, it’s easy to get overlooked. But when Whit notices a mysterious girl who visits every day to draw the birds, suddenly the zoo becomes much more interesting. Who is the Bird Girl? And why does she come by herself to the zoo? Together the two kids take risks in order to determine where it is they each belong. But when Stella asks Whit for an important and potentially dangerous favor, Whit discovers how complicated friendship—and freedom-- can be.
Praised for her authentic and memorable stories, Latham has also published two award-winning volumes of poetry and is highly regarded as a speaker for school, library and other groups. She is often asked how she finds time to write the next book in the midst of all that travel. It’s easy, and it isn’t, Latham said.
“The best part of being a writer is connecting with readers. I can’t tell you how much interacting with students and teachers means to me. It’s one of the best, most unexpected joys of my life. It’s one way to practice what I preach, which is ‘live a life worth writing about.’ Yet I do have to be careful not to over-commit myself. I still have children at home, and I need the writing time to nourish my creative soul.”
Latham lives with her husband and three sons in north Shelby County. She is a frequent visitor to Birmingham Zoo, and has a children’s book of poems also on an animal theme scheduled for release in 2014. It’s easy to pick a favorite animal, Latham said. “Without question, humans are my favorite species. The best part about going to the zoo is sharing that experience with loved ones.”
Two book launch events are scheduled to celebrate the release of Don’t Feed the Boy:
Sunday, Oct. 14, 2-4 pm Birmingham Zoo: admission required; feed giraffes for free!
Sunday, Oct. 21, 2-4 pm North Shelby Library, 5521 Cahaba Valley Road: free!
For more information about Irene Latham or her books, please visit www.irenelatham.com. and follow her on Twitter @irene_latham.
Okay, so that was it. Starting at the top:
1. Be sure to include your contact information and a to-be-released date!
2. Title your press release in an attention-getting manner. It should read like a headline. Think about what makes your title newsworthy... can you tie it to recent news? Think a.timing (if your book included Valentine's Day, a Valentine's Day press release makes sense), b.proximity, c. prominence (helps if you're famous or writing can be tied to something or someone famous), d. significance (this is the "how many" angle, as in, this effects a lot of people... the more the better), e. human interest (current topics like bullying, immigration, violence, poor economy, election year). This is your chance to show your angle.
3. Subheading is an opportunity to further develop said angle, allowing you to "hook" the reader. REMEMBER: the media wants to tell a story their readers/viewers will be interested in. They are interested in the STORY, not helping you sell books.
4. First paragraph should open with a general theme - don't mention yourself or your book until the end of this paragraph!
5. Your first quote should be one tailor-written for the intended audience. Since this press release is going out to my local media, it makes sense to tie to a local attraction.
6. "Which is..." are golden transitional words here. "Which is why, which is how, which is where,..." Use whatever makes sense in your case, whatever will get you to (finally) your book!
7. It is very important that this summary be brief and attention-getting. For me, it's the hardest part of the press release. I look over flap copy and any work I did while trying to develop a log line. Again, include the details that seem most relevant to the intended audience.
8. Now is a chance for you to toot your own horn. Include here any reasons readers should be impressed enough to actually read your book. That might be awards, job experience, personal info. And use this space to your advantage! Since I want to continue my work in schools and other speaking engagements, I chose to highlight that aspect of my life here.
9. Another quote! Speak directly to your audience. This is your opportunity to build some sort of emotional connection. Think about why you write, or why you wrote this particular book. What does it do for your audience? Why should they care? Remember, stories are about the READER, not the writer!
10. Close with any specific invitations to events open to the public -- in fact, it is often these events that make the difference between the press running the story or not running it. If you are traveling anywhere for signings or school visits, be sure to include a open-to-the-public event you can talk about in your press release. That alone makes it newsworthy!
11. Finally, provide contact information once again, but in a form that can be reproduced in an article (or as-is).
And hey, if I can do this, you can do this. You'll want to post it on your website and send to local magazines and newspapers, including the neighborhood variety. I also sent this one to my alumni news magazines and local parenting magazines.
Feel free to leave questions in comments. Let me know if I can help!