Monday, October 5, 2009

Tips For Press Releases -- Part 2


One of the complaints I often hear from authors is that they can't seem to get their signings and book info into the public eye through the local newspapers. I don't have that problem, and I have taught several organizations in my area a few ideas on how this is accomplished.

I once was a lowly paid newspaper reporter. I remember days of looking for feature pieces to fill up the pages and make my editor happy. I also remember getting excruciating “press releases” from the public. Sometimes it was more work to rewrite them than to use them.

Now I work with newspapers in 4 counties in my area, as well as TV and radio. I'm instrumental in putting together the local authors program for the local library, so PR is a must. I learned a lot of techniques while doing PR for the local Sisters in Crime group. Here are my methods:

First, make a list of all media outlets in a 40 mile radius of the area where you will be speaking or signing. Call local libraries to find the local papers, use the Internet.

Call each outlet and ask for the name of the Features Editor. Hopefully, they will put you on the line with that person. If not, ask if Community News has a FAX number or email where they would like to receive announcements. If you send a FAX, have letterhead stationary. The library letterhead I use always gets a positive response.

When you send a FAX, never let it fall into the hands of whoever goes by the FAX machine. It can wind up in the general file or the trash. Always put the name of someone on staff so they will receive the paperwork. It may get lost on their desk, but at least it will make it there. Make the effort to change the name on each FAX you send. No generic “Features Editor” in the routing.

Even a small paper will feel good that you even think they have a designated person as a feature editor. Small papers struggle and deserve respect. Never make demands or be pushy or overbearing. But, remember, they need to fill their paper and you can make their job easier by knowing how to write an effective Community News release.

Tomorrow I'll share a sample press release.

Sunny Frazier has been publishing both fiction and nonfiction since 1972. She is a Navy veteran, earned a BA in Journalism, and wrote for a newspaper before joining the Fresno County Sheriff's Department. Her first novel in the Christy Bristol Astrology Mysteries, Fools Rush In, received the Best Novel Award from Public Safety Writers Association. Where Angels Fear came out in April, 2009. Frazier is a member of the Central Coast Chapter of Sisters in Crime, as well as the Public Safety Writers Association.

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  1. Being the editor of a small town newspaper in Northwest Georgia, I agree with your comments. But sometimes it's hard to know everything that is going on and some authors seem to act like small newspapers are of no concern to them. However, there's a lot of readers in small communities that love a good book. Another thought is to check with the papers to see if anyone does book reviews (like we do) or would do a review prior to the signing, that might generate even more interest from the area.

  2. This is excellent information, and you have framed it in such a way that it doesn't look too daunting for someone who hadn't had to do this before!

  3. Great article, Sunny. And, it came to me at a great time since my book will be released soon. Thanks for the tips!

  4. Very sensible advice. It sounds like it might also be a good idea to have a spiel ready in case when calling you get hooked up with the right person at the paper. Or should you just ask for his name, email and deadline and not waste his time chatting up your book?

    Straight From Hel

  5. I wrote press releases for many years for a theatre company. I got to know all the reporters on a first name basis. Good advice here for first-timers! Well done.


  6. I'm going to start making my list of media outlets right away. I'm looking forward to your next post.

  7. Helen, regarding your question about chatting up the editor or reporter, that is fine if you can connect, but please do ask if this is a good time to call. Just the other day I had someone call me and start his spiel and I finally had to interrupt -- he barely paused for a breath -- to tell him I was on a deadline and couldn't talk. Most editors and reporters are happy to talk when they are not facing a tight deadline or otherwise swamped. So asking if this is a good time is not only polite, it is imperative.

  8. Excellent advice, Sunny. Another suggestion that's worked for me is to do brief "calendar items" in addition to or instead of press releases, and to send them by e-mail. Here in New York's Capital Region, our newspapers are steadily shrinking, and it's becoming harder and harder to get items printed. But usually they at least have events listings. When I have time, I try to check out each paper's format and tailor each one to their preferred style. That way, as with longer stories, they can just drop it right in with minimal editing.
    Julie Lomoe's Musings Mysterioso

  9. It's nice to get a perspective from the "other" side. And good point, Maryann, about checking that it is a good time to call. I even ask my friends that when I call, so I consider it general courtesy that extends to business.

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  11. Helen,
    Newspaper folks are always in and out getting their stories. IF you get an editor on the line, chat in a professional way. Get your info out first. If the person seems relaxed and has time to talk, make the conversation more personal.
    I always ask for a specific person before leaving a message. You never know!

  12. Good stuff, Sunny. We do an unusual press release that calls attention to itself. It's in keeping with our sense of not taking ourselves too seriously. As a result, most of the editors and reporters I talk to now appreciate an update via email which, after several years, makes the whole thing less time-consuming. Personal contact is really important at the beginning, if you can manage it. And if not, asking what a paper would like for a feature piece. Whether they take the offer or not, it is highly appreciated. Being professional at all times is really important.

  13. It's hard to get a journalist's attention. So many things cross their desks and get emailed to them, I think it helps to have a really catchy headline and lead paragraph. And a well-written release that could be used "as is" in the paper. (It makes the reporter's job much easier.)

    I look forward to seeing your example.

  14. Hi Sunny,

    Great info. Thanks for sharing! It's wonderful to stumble across juicy tidbits like this. One never knows when it will come in handy.

  15. As always, excellent advice. I had not considered going as far as 40 miles away, but it makes sense to reach a larger readership.
    Holli Castillo

  16. Thanks I appreciate this valuable information. I found your blog through a link Christy Pinheiro has on her blog. I became a follower of yours today and I am looking forward to your future articles. Thanks again and have a nice week.

  17. Thanks everyone for stopping by to read and comment. Good points being made in the discussion, too. That's one of the neat things about this blog, we learn a lot from the readers as well as those writing the posts.


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