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Many authors want to get media attention, whether it’s to build reputation or attempt to sell more books. In today’s interview with Steven Lewis, I find out how to write perfect press releases.
Steven’s background as a feature writer/ journalist and how he transitioned his career to writing travel books and speaking professionally as well as helping authors. As a journalist he received a LOT of press releases and the biggest issue was the difference between what the journalist is looking for vs/ what the author is trying to tell them.
A few years back I decided to try and get some traditional media attention for my first book. Through strategic, targeted use of press releases I managed to get on national Australian TV, national radio shows, in national newspapers but it barely shifted any books. So is it even worth chasing traditional media if it doesn’t sell books? Steven explains that media is more about reputation building and validation, although it can sell books as well if they are widely available.
Why the book itself is not the story. People don’t care that you wrote a book, they care about what it can do for them. Non-fiction is relatively easy because you can use your topic to craft an angle that suits readers. For example, Steven had a guided app tour of Sydney Harbour and got press about it related to tourism.
How can fiction authors think of hooks for their books? Example of a novel about an Irish cop in Shanghai in 1920s could be framed around a travel article about Shanghai, or something aimed at the Irish community.
How do you find your target audience? You should already have an idea of the target market for your book, your ideal reader. What else do they do apart from reading your book and where do they hang out? Look for publications that target this market, then drilldown to the specific journalists who write about specific aspects around the topic. For the maximum chance of success, target them specifically.
The key elements of a press release. The purpose is to paint a picture of a kind of story the journalist might want to write. Use an arresting headline. [I recommend Copyblogger’s headline clinic to get better at headlines for both press releases and also blogging.] Then start with the biggest news and work down to the least important detail. A press release has more formal language than a blog post because you are cramming facts in and must keep it short. Keep it to one page but use a decent sized font.
How to submit a press release. Use the headline in the subject line of the email. Put the text in the text of the email so the journalist doesn’t have to open any other document. Paid/free press release services basically spam thousands of journalists with no targeting, so Steven doesn’t think much of those for actual media attention. It’s better to target specifically.
HelpAReporter.com is brilliant though, so definitely subscribe. Steven also mentions Sourcebottle.com.au which is a similar service to match journalists with experts. Having a platform is also fantastic as people find you through the internet. I mention a Jungian journal that interviewed me about Pentecost.
Make sure you have a Google Alert for your name and book title and any key-phrases, since sometimes you won’t be notified if media is actually published.