Book Publicity 101: 5 Reasons Press Releases Still Matter

I have heard directly from book review editors that they toss the materials that come with review copies.  I have also had a radio producer chastise me for mistakenly not sending a press packet with a book.  Clients have asked me if press releases matter anymore: “I mean does anybody really read those things?”  The short answer is “yes”: there are media, booksellers, librarians, academics, etc. who actually do pay attention to an old fashioned press release, and you have no way of knowing who is going to insist on having one and who isn’t.  So in my opinion, I wouldn’t sacrifice this tool just yet.

Here are five practical reasons why:

  1. The Core Message: Press releases are different from any of the other copy you will use to market your book. Some of the words may be the same as what you have on the back of the jacket, but the release is supposed to achieve a few things including delivering the newsworthy or unique aspects of what you are presenting; giving the reader an idea of why you would be a good interview subject; and a relatively brief synopsis of the best points of the book (or product depending on your industry).  If you want to read some examples you can check out these links on our website:
  2. Press Approved Copy or When Your Words Come Back to Haunt You: This is my favorite.  First of all the copy on your release is assumed to be vetted and usable for the press.  It is likely that one outlet or another will actually lift the synopsis or even the entire release and reprint it online or in the newspaper.  The first time I saw this it was a little weird, but the words on the release, by the very nature of what the document is, are fair game for repurposing.
  3. SEO Optimization: Having the release available on your website, your publicist’s, publishers, etc. gives you more real estate online and can offer more search results. You will notice a search for your book brings up and other big properties first, your publisher, and even our website can appear on the first or near the top of the second page.  It gives you more power online when there are more references to you and your work.
  4. The Pitch Package: So many people interact primarily on email these days, so there is a bit more “room” to present the best aspects of your book. As a standard practice we write pitches according to which people we are sending them, and we paste the press release below so the media contact can choose to learn more.  In the past we would send a cover letter with the press kit which constituted the pitch, and I know that today all of those pages won’t get read in a mailing.  The release is an informational supplement that provides another tool for marketing.  If a contact only wants to read three sentences, fine.  If more is desired, it’s all there in the email.
  5. Standard Practices: More people want to see a release than not, and it’s part of the public relations/media relations process. In addition, your booksellers, event coordinators at higher end venues, librarians—they want to see the meat of what you are selling without having to read the entire book.  Having a press release gives you a more serious, professional persona when you are marketing your book.  It says, you mean business and people should pay attention to you.  Don’t sell yourself short.

The other more esoteric reason for the release is that it is an opportunity for you and your publicist to come to an understanding of what your intention is about your book and its relevance.  You may also discover some things that are unclear about your work, or an interpretation that is not at all what you meant.  It’s important to come to terms with how the book will be presented and what the selling points are.  It’s super competitive out there, as you know, and you want to make sure your work is getting the attention it deserves.


Language is important: Don’t call me “stupid”!

2016 Presidential Election
Image via

As a PR person I am trained to manipulate the English language to express what I need  to, at any given moment.  As a kid I was pushed by parents who spoke foreign languages and insisted on proper verb agreement and other basic grammatical sentence structures. Since I spend so much time glued to the words I hear, it’s very depressing to find nearly every newscaster and public speaker having trouble with “there is” and “there are”.  For all of you out there who know what I mean, thank you!  For everyone else, “there is” is to be used when speaking of a single item; “there are” is for more than one.  There is a storm brewing.  There are a lot of storms in the Midwest at this time of year.  Slurring the words together in a slack form of “there’s” is not acceptable and does not excuse anyone from knowing that “is” relates to one thing.

It has been particularly interesting to watch the Presidential races of the past decade.  First Obama’s team put together a brilliant campaign aimed at those people who are heard less in this country.  Many of them are on the internet, and between using social media well, and papering low-income neighborhoods, Obama was able to win the election…twice.

2016 is shaping up to be a different animal altogether.  This is the age of referring to the words of co-candidates as “stupid” and telling your constituents to “sit down and shut up”.  If I thought our problems rested in the way we put together sentences, I was so wrong.  We seem to have fallen into a schoolyard, junior-high world where sounding like you just came out of the local pub on the corner and you are yelling at a guy who ran the stop sign, is the way to express yourself.

Who cares if your suit costs $5000? If you comb your hair or even take a shower?  Gee whiz, how debasing it is to watch potential world leaders practically pull out “nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, naaahhhh” (again, schoolyard).

And even funnier is to hear them actually put each other down.  A newscaster recently pointed out that “sit down and shut up” didn’t think  “stupid” has the proper “temperament” for the presidency.  Meanwhile another candidate from the other party decided to go all out and label a domestic terrorist a religious zealot commonly found in occupied territories in the Middle East.

Have these public figures spent too much time on Instagram and Snapchat?  Or have they made too many appearances on late night television? I’m not sure what’s happening, but it is sad to watch “stupid”, “sit down and shut up” and “religious zealot” standing at their podiums trying to tell us that they are going to take the country in a direction that will provide for the common welfare and keep us safe.  I mean, really, it isn’t proper for us to be pointing and laughing behind our hands when our national leaders are trying to be serious.