• Press release

You may write several press releases: one for the launch, and others that target niche media outlets.

A good media release has a good headline

A good headline helps to attract attention. Today, journalists are bombarded with media messages and you only get one chance to make a first impression.

This is an example of a poor headline:


• It is too long. Great headlines can be spoken in one breath. Use simple language. Headlines need to be succinct, short and snappy.

• It is passive, there are no ‘active’ verbs suggesting movement or action. The headline should provide a basic image of the content of the article.

Here is a good headline:


• It’s short – tells the story in ten words. It’s written in vivid, simple and active language.

• It’s in the present tense, so it’s newsy. (The future tense would work equally well.)

• When you are writing a headline, remember the obligation is on YOU to attract the reader.

• A good media release answers the key questions in the first paragraph.

  • Why?

In many cases all the journalist will read is the headline and the first paragraph. If you don’t make an impression with them then your release is doomed to fail. If your story makes it to print, and a bigger story comes along before it goes to print, the journalist will edit your story. This is usually done from the bottom up.

Readers are busy and distracted. They may not have time to read every story to the end.

So, you need to deliver the key information early:

1. What (is happening)?

2. Who (is involved)?

3. Where (is it happening)?

4. When?

Your press release needs to be short and succinct, no more than 500 words. You want to do the journalist’s work for them and produce a well written piece that sounds like they wrote it, so they take the entire release and print it.

Target relevant media and be aware of their objectives

– They want to entertain/educate/inspire their readers or listeners.

How can you help with that and include your message? In every media release think how you can tell the producer or editor how you can add value to their publication or programme.

Understand how media works; regional or local newspapers tend to be weekly with a specific shelf day. Do not contact them the day before that as they will be finalising that issue and won’t be able to give your story proper consideration. Give them at least two weeks’ notice before any events. Some media have longer lead- in times, particularly if interviews are necessary.

If you are emailing, get the editor’s name and individual address – don’t bcc (or, worse, cc) several journalists with the same generic press release. Include your AI sheet so they have all the information about the book.

It’s a good idea to start building your media contacts early on in the process and ask editors/producers when and how they like to receive notice.

  • Taking it to the press

• Include your contact information and AI sheet with the press release.

• Prepare for interviews and ensure you have all the relevant information with you. Take your AI sheet to help prompt you. Aim to try and mention the book title five times.

• Try to anticipate questions:

– How long have you been writing?

– Why did you write this book?

– Why did you want to publish your work?

– What’s the theme of the book?

• If your interview and the book are based around an anniversary/event, do your homework and be able to talk about this.

• A good interview is like a conversation – it’s not just one person asking question after question while the other person says ‘Yes’, ‘No’. Make sure you give each question a full answer and add in extra information.

• Interviewers won’t try to catch you out but they like people to be prepared, people who are willing to talk, and people who make it easy for them.

• You want listeners/readers to want to buy the book so give enough to intrigue but no spoilers! Don’t tell them so much that they won’t need to buy the book.

• Don’t say things like ‘you’ll have to read that in the book’ when asked what a story/poem is about. But do say things like ‘one story in the book tells of …’.

• Listen to interviews on the shows where you want to be featured. Read articles in the papers where you want to be covered. Get to know the style of the interviewer/paper and tailor your answers/intros accordingly.

• Use your ‘hooks’ – is your story dramatic or about an interesting local person? Does it feature homelessness or is it a cancer survivor’s story?

• An important bonus of being prepared is that if you go blank when asked a question (which can happen), you have something to fall back on … ‘That’s an interesting question but what I like/think is important/relevant/ interesting is …’.

• Rehearse your answers, and remember to say where people can buy your book.

• Speak slowly. Breathe.

• If you are doing a radio interview, have water ready and take a sip when needed. When you get nervous your mouth gets dry and listeners can hear this.

• Try to smile, it makes a difference to how your voice sounds. Media coverage and sales will continue for the life of your book, so be persistent, but don’t badger people. If a  journalist or bookseller says no, respect that.