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 release and kit 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 reasons why we still like them.
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).
Press Approved Copy
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.
Having the release available on your website, your publicist’s, publisher’s, etc. gives you more real estate online and can offer more search results. You will notice a search for your book brings up Amazon.com and other big properties first. Your publisher and our website can appear on the first page or near the top of the second page. It gives you more power online when there are more backlinks and references to you and your work.
The Press Relase vs. The Pitch
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. 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. However, 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.
Best Practices for Public Relations
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.