Monday, June 12, 2006

Press Releases

In my continuing effort to become known as the Martha Stewert of thriller writers (except for the prison part) I write my own press releases.

The problem with press releases when you're a fiction writer is: There's nothing press-worthy about writing a book.

Sure, you're excited about it. Hopefully your publisher is too. But why should the Podunk Times or Small World Weekly care?

To be considered newsworthy is difficult. Even newsworthy stuff needs to have a spin on it before it can reach the masses, or else it isn't interesting enough to warrant the time and/or space.

My new novel, while a helluva lot of fun to read, isn't really newsworthy. But a press release is still needed to help garner reviews and make media folks aware a new Konrath book is coming.

However, my upcoming Rusty Nail 500 Tour, is newsworthy. This has never been done before, and is a fresh approach to book publicity.

So this year I'm doing two press releases. Since it's the least interesting of the two, I'm posting a link to the Rusty Nail Press Release, which you can view as a pdf. Click HERE if you'd like to see what it looks like.

I had more fun with the Rusty Nail 500 press release. Here's the text for it:

Author Takes Book Tour to Great Lengths

In a day and age when multi-million dollar ad campaigns drive the bestseller lists, and many of the books sold in America are through outlets such as Wal-Mart and Costco, breaking out a midlist author is harder than ever.

One author has come up with a non-traditional way to spread the word. JA Konrath (author of the previous Lt. Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels thrillers Whiskey Sour and Bloody Mary) is hopping into a rental car and driving cross country, signing at 500 bookstores in two months.

Supported by his publisher, Hyperion Books, Konrath will average 8 bookstore drop-ins a day, where he'll sign stock, meet the booksellers, and pass out signed drink coasters featuring the cover of his latest novel, RUSTY NAIL.

"Hyperion sent me on a traditional tour last year, visiting ten cities in eleven days," says Konrath. "These were scheduled events, and I had decent fan turnouts. But the real success of the tour happened between signings, when I managed to visit an additional ninety-six stores during that time frame."

Konrath believes that meeting the people who sell his books is the only way to compete with the mega-bestselling authors and their huge marketing campaigns.

"Enormous print runs and large co-op budgets don't impress booksellers any more. But actually meeting bookstore owners, managers, and employees, is a grass roots approach that people seem to enjoy. I certainly do. I love meeting booksellers."

That love extends to print. Konrath has named five major characters in past and upcoming books after booksellers, and has thanked hundreds of them on his acknowledgements pages. Every single bookseller he meets on this current tour, which he's dubbed The Rusty Nail 500, will be similarly thanked.

The tour kicks off July 6th, and you'll be able to follow his daily progress on his website and blog at
www.JAKonrath.com.

Writing press releases isn't rocket science, but it is much different than writing prose. I suppose having a background in news or advertising is helpful. I have neither, but the formula is pretty simple to pick up if you study it.
  1. What is happening and who is involved?
  2. Why is it relevant or important or newsworthy?
  3. Where and when is it occurring?
  4. How can we get more information?

Brevity is important, because media folks are busy. It's like breaking and entering; get in and get out fast.

Quotes or blurbs are good, because they add a human element and take some of the writing responsibility away from the media person, who is almost assuredly overworked and pressed for time.

In this day and age, the hook is almighty. You need to spin your press release to make it seem very relevant, or else it won't attract media attention. What makes your book different from the 40,000 other novels being published this year? Why are you newsworthy?

Pictures aren't normally included in press releases, but in this case, my publisher is making this shot available to those who are interested: www.jakonrath.com/RustyNail500.pdf. I think it's a good indicator of the scope of what I'm attempting, and often pictures help to sell stories.

Should you write your own press releases? I can't answer that. Perhaps your publisher's copywriter is a genius at this stuff, and can do a much better job that you. Or perhaps your press releases are written by your publicist, who just graduated college and hasn't even read your book.

At the very least, you should have the opportunity to read your press releases before they get sent out. If this isn't offered to you, don't be afraid to ask. You also shouldn't be afraid to offer your services to tweak, or even write, the press release yourself. Chances are, whoever is writing your press releases is overworked and under a time crunch, and your assistance will probably be appreciated.

18 comments:

A.J.Savage said...

Nice work as usual Joe. Just have to make a quick adjustment to one section:

"Supported by his publisher, Hyperion Books, (an iron lung and a host of chemical stimulants) Konrath will average 8 bookstore drop-ins a day, where he'll sign stock, meet the booksellers, and pass out..."

I hope you're taking a film crew. This will make one hell of a documentary.

Andrew

Richard said...

I'm sure I'll have to buy you a drink at ThrillerFest now that I've read this impressive account. Heh.
Best,
Richard Cooper

Ross Hugo-Vidal said...

JA,
If anyone is maniacal enough to pull this off - in every best sense of the word - it's you! Jack's devoted Maine readership (Portland chapter)will be following your adventures like NORAD tracking Santa. Isn't there a mini-series in here somewhere? If your sleigh reaches New England, we'll buy you a lobster! Happy Trails...
Ross and Julia

Scott said...

I agree with Andrew. Film this trip as a documentary. It could be more entertaining and informative than "Super Size Me" or any other blockbuster docu-film.

Besides, you are much more photogenic than some guy stuffing his face with McDonald's.

zdaddyo said...

I'm surprised that you are passing Denver and Boulder by. Denver has a really nice/large relatively famous independent bookstore called the Tattered Cover and Boulder actually has a bookstore that specializes in mystery novels (High Crimes Mystery Bookshop) and the Boulder Book Store which is another very nice independent. I'd recommend trying to hit these stores as they are very well respected in Colorado.

JA Konrath said...

I was in Denver last year. Love that town. I'll try to visit in 2007.

Christine said...

I always write my own PR's. Now, my first book, the reason behind the PR was that I was having an event at the local library. That got me an interview in the local paper.

Events at libraries make good press. Human interest and all that.

Jeri said...

Great press release, Joe. Seems newsworthy to me just by the crazy magnitude of it. And the name, Rusty Nail 500, is inspired.

I think "Runnin' Down a Dream" by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers would be a good theme song for this tour, especially the driving part.

NL Gassert said...

Dear Joe, I’ve only recently become acquainted with Jack, but I love her. I’ve just ordered Bloody Mary from my independent bookstore (by “my” I mean the only independent bookstore on the island).

I’ve also taken some liberties with your press release. I hope you don’t mind:

JA Konrath (author of the Lt. Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels thrillers Whiskey Sour and Bloody Mary) has come up with a non-traditional way to spread the word on his latest novel, RUSTY NAIL. Kicking off the tour on July 6th, he’s hopping into a rental car and driving cross country, signing at 500 bookstores in two months.

Supported by his publisher, Hyperion Books, Konrath will average eight bookstore drop-ins a day, where he'll sign stock, meet the booksellers, and pass out signed drink coasters featuring the cover of RUSTY NAIL.

"Hyperion sent me on a traditional tour last year, visiting ten cities in eleven days," says Konrath. "These were scheduled events, and I had decent fan turnouts. But the real success of the tour happened between signings, when I managed to visit an additional ninety-six stores during that time frame."

Konrath believes that meeting the people who sell his books is the only way to compete with the mega-bestselling authors and their huge marketing campaigns.

"Enormous print runs and large co-op budgets don't impress booksellers any more. But actually meeting bookstore owners, managers, and employees, is a grass roots approach that people seem to enjoy. I certainly do. I love meeting booksellers."

That love extends to print. Konrath has named five major characters in past and upcoming books after booksellers, and has thanked hundreds of them on his acknowledgements pages. Every single bookseller he meets on this current tour, which he's dubbed The Rusty Nail 500, will be similarly thanked.

Follow Konrath’s daily progress on his website and blog at www.JAKonrath.com.

In a day and age when multi-million dollar ad campaigns drive the bestseller lists, and many of the books sold in America are through outlets such as Wal-Mart and Costco, breaking out a midlist author is harder than ever.


• 250-300 words is the perfect length for a press release; anything longer and you risk loosing your bottom paragraph/s
• put all the important dates, names, etc. near the top, in descending order of importance (in case your last paragraph does get cut)
• pictures are always a great idea and actually make your release more interesting; make sure they are close-ups

Nadja
(who used to write press releases for a living)

Devon Ellington said...

I LOVE writing press releases. It's a good part of my business, and I do most of my own, as well. I think they're enormous fun.

When I get bogged down, though, I sometimes swap writing releases with a friend -- I write the friend's release; the friend writes mine. The person is always someone who is:

A good writer

Knows my work well

Someone whose work I know well


It can get one out of the rut.

Dana Y. T. Lin said...

JA,

Eeee. How do you find the energy? I feel like a nap just looking at your schedule.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Just think of the great research you could do in a women's prison. I think you should reconsider that.

Stacey Cochran said...

Hey Joe,

This is an excellent example of how to write a press release (and why to write one as well).

How many copies of the Rusty Nail 500 Press Release will you send out? Where will you send them?

Are you sending these out via email, or traditional snail mail?

As always, thanks for the helpful information!

Stacey

Jaye Patrick said...

I'm with Nadja on this up to a point. Since I'm also a former journalist who wrote the buggers, I can tell you that the best way to write a press release is the inverted triangle theory. That is, the most important paragraph first:

JA Konrath, author of the Lt. Jacqueline 'Jack' Daniels thrillers is set to embark on an extraordinary journey on 6 July to promote his new book, Rusty Nail.

Mr Konrath, writer of the popular police thrillers, Whiskey Sour and Bloody Mary, will rent a car and drive across the country, stopping at 500 bookstores in two months to sign copies of the new book.

"My publishers, Hyperion, sent me on a traditional tour last year. I visited ten cities in eleven days," Mr Konrath said. "I also managed to visit an additional ninety-six stores during the tour; it was a real success."

(saying you had a 'decent' turnout is detrimental - it's so neutral as to be bad, also, suggesting that the 'real success' was the additional stores is insulting, however obliquely, to those who did turn up at the stores - were they unreal?)

Konrath believes meeting the people who sell his books is the only way to compete with the mega-bestselling authors and their huge marketing campaigns.

"Enormous print runs and large co-op budgets don't impress booksellers any more. But actually meeting bookstore owners, managers, and employees, is a grass roots approach that people seem to enjoy. I certainly do. I love meeting booksellers."

Konrath will average eight bookstore drop-ins a day, where he'll sign stock, meet the booksellers, and pass out signed drink coasters featuring the cover of his latest novel, RUSTY NAIL.

The tour will begin at (insert time, date again and WHERE!)

Mr Konrath will write about his journey on his website and blog at www.JAKonrath.com.

***

Press releases do not have photographs on them; that would be included in a biographical sheet attached to the release if you want.

Depending on whom you intend the press release for, a weekly or daily release could be beneficial; give places, times, bookstore names. Keep the event out there in the public eye constantly. The follow up releases don't need to be as long as the first, just short announcements that reinforce your name, the book, previous books and where you'll be, when.

Mary Stella said...

I write my own press releases because I work in publicity. It's always easier for me to write them about someone else.

Joe, in addition to keeping a video diary of this, I hope Hyperion told the morning magazine shows about your jaunt.

This is just the kind of semi-quirky, original thing that can wake up their interest.

I'm sure that you targeted the local affiliates, radio stations and newspapers in the cities that you're visiting. Great local hook. I can hear you doing cell phone interviews for radio from your car.

Got time to get your car tricked out with some of that shrink-wrap car advertising before you depart? May as well make your vehicle into a rolling billboard while you're at it.

Mary said...

Just saw the Wired article about your trip. Seems like the press release is garnering you a lot of attention from new sources.

Here's the link for those who haven't seen it
http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,71113-0.html?tw=rss.technology

JA Konrath said...

Thanks for the feedback, everyone!

taryn said...

this press release was a keeper- it generated a story in artsjournal.com which a friend sent to me, I read followed the link to your blog and interested in your book. My dad would love it! Viral marketing at work.
Cheers, T