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When to write a press release

Last week, B.D., an author, asked me for help writing a press release. Her book had been nominated for a statewide book award.

Not long before that, when author N.T.’s book was nominated for a citywide award, she asked if she should send out a press release.

In both cases, I discouraged them from sending announcements to the press. “Save it for when you win,” I advised.

My advice might have confused them. After all, I often recommend writing and sending a press release when you have news to announce. Many others with experience in this area provide the same advice.

What are the “rules?”

If an award nomination isn’t cause for a press release, then what is?

I’ll answer the question with two more.

First, ask yourself: “Is this really news?”

Then answer this question: “What media outlets use news like this?”

I applied these two questions to the nomination inquiries I received from authors B.D. and N.T.

For both, the answer to “Is this really news?” is “It’s news to share with your networks but not news for a general audience, particularly people who don’t know you.”

So in both instances, instead of encouraging them to send a press release, I recommended that they:

  • Add something about their announcement in their next e-mail newsletter
  • Write a blog post about it
  • Share the news on the social networks they use most often

All three tactics are reasonable and appropriate alternatives to sending a press release in this situation.

7 situations that deserve a press release

Being nominated for an award isn’t newsworthy from a media standpoint. Winning an award is, however. With that in mind, here’s a list of situations when you might want to write and send a press release to relevant media outlets.

  1. You’ve published a book. A book announcement press release is an essential author marketing tool.
  2. Your book has won an award. Congratulations on that book award! Your local daily and weekly newspapers will be especially interested.
  3. You’re speaking at a conference or event.  Send the press release to local newspapers and trade publications in the conference industry.
  4. You’re making a presentation and signing books at a bookstore or another venue. Send a book event press release to local newspapers three weeks before the event. If you’ve got good visuals, include local TV assignment editors on your distribution list.
  5.  You’ve been named or elected to a leadership position in an industry association. Local newspaper business pages and city business journals use this kind of news.
  6. You’ve been selected to serve on a board of directors. Local daily and weekly newspapers, city business journals, industry publications (trade journals), and the newsletter of any association you belong to might run this news.
  7. You can offer advice on a problem your target audience struggles with. (This type of press release is called a “tip sheet.”) Distribute your tip sheet nationally.

Write it like you’re a reporter

Remember to write your press release in a journalistic style — write it so it reads like something you’d see in your local newspaper. Don’t use exaggeration or hyperbole.

If you’ve never done this before and need help, use the templates and sample press releases in Build Book Buzz Publicity Forms & Templates.

Need help compiling your media list? Check out the instructions in “How to build a killer book publicity media list.

Want to send it to a national media list? Consider paying a press release distribution service to do it for you. (That’s an affiliate link, meaning, I’ll receive a small commission if you make a purchase with it.)

Tell us your news in a comment and we’ll tell you if you should send a press release. 

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  1. Thanks, Sandra.

    Scenario: An author didn’t put out a press release when their book was first published, but it has now attained bestseller status at Amazon (even though Amazon’s rankings change by the hour). Would that be considered newsworthy enough to crow about?

    1. Kathy, you can answer this yourself by responding to these questions in the post:

      Is this really news?

      What media outlets use news like this?


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