Thursday, November 17, 2011

Writing press releases

 It may seem odd to write press releases (sometimes called media- or news releases) about yourself, but I was once a reporter and know that information that comes over the wire (or via email, these days) is valuable.

A reporter cannot hunt down all stories and to have a good one land in her lap is a bonus.  While there is no guarantee that the media will pick up on the story, if you send it to several outlets, chances are one or two will find it fits in with their programming or on their page.  (Remember to include TV, Radio, and newspapers in your mail out  There are also online news sources that will pick up press releases.) 

When writing a release, try to make your story relevent to the media who's attention you are after and make it 'news'  In this release, I include information not only about my scheduled author visits and books, but about my links to this northern community and how my book relates to recent headlines relevant to the people there.

CKLB Radio phoned me long distance to arrange an interview

It worked.  I got a call from one of Yellowknife's radio stations requesting an interview.    Some media will run a news release or part of it exactly as it has been submitted but many want to follow up with their own questions, sound bites, video, photos, etc. so be sure to include contact information in your releases

Above all else, remember the 5 W's of the news world: Who, What, Where, When, and Why.  You must have those somewhere in your release, preferrably near the beginning.  In the press release below, I don't mention my author visit until several paragraphs into the story.  To compensate for the late mention of my 'newsworthy' visit, I made sure it was mentioned in the headline. Ideally, however, I should have had it sooner.

In my defence, first sentences and first paragraphs of media releases are as difficult to write as those of novels.  You want them to grab attention, reveal relevancy, prove your story is newsworthy, entice the reader to keep reading, etc.  It is hard to get that all accomplished in a few words!

Speaking of first sentences, make them real attention grabbers, but keep them honest.  Most media pride themselves on their credibility and are not out for the National Enquirer-type story  A misleading headline or opening sentence will immediately kill journalistic interest.  Remember, reporters want NEWS, so make your entire release timely, interesting, and relevant.

Although I've had lots of experience reading press releases, I'm quite new at writing them.  However, judging by the great response to both my latest releases, I believe I'm getting better at writing them!

ps: in journalistic tradition the 'date line' (ST. PAUL, AB, November 15, 2011) includes the place where the release was written (not necessarily where the story happened or will happen) and the day on which it was 'released'.


Author of novel for at-risk kids to visit Yellowknife

ST. PAUL, AB, November 15, 2011  When Canadian law enforcement and social service agencies publically pleaded for community help in combating the increasing incidents of criminal gangs’ recruiting youngsters, Northern Alberta author, Eileen Schuh, immediately knew how she could help.   

THE TRAZ, Schuh’s debut novel about a 13-year old girl who falls in with a biker gang, was about to go to press and Schuh saw the opportunity to turn the adventure tale into a learning experience for both those on the cusp of maturity and the adults in their lives.   

Rather than interrupting THE TRAZ’s emotional, fast-moving story with life-lessons, Schuh appends a Discussion and Teaching Guide to her novel.  Calling on her experience as a volunteer with the RCMP and making use of Government websites such as Canada's National Anti-drug Strategy  and RCMP Reports Research and Publications,  Schuh researched the social issues on which the THE TRAZ touches. 

As part of her determination to help keep youngsters off the street, Schuh will be in Yellowknife at the SideDoor Youth Center after school on Thursday, December 1st to engage young readers in a conversation about difficult situations they may face and choices they may have to make. 

 “What are some important differences between a family and a gang?” is one discussion question.  “What are some life-altering decisions you may soon have to make?” asks another. The Discussion Guide also includes information about resources such as the Kids Help Line and Suicide Prevention Centres.

Schuh has links to the North through her daughter and her family who have lived in Yellowknife for several years.  She is very aware of the unique problems that youngsters in isolated northern centres face and hopes a visit with the SideDoor kids will inspire them to make wise choices. 

Schuh will also be visiting the Yellowknife Public Library during her stop.  On Monday evening, December 5th from 7:00 pm to 8:15 pm, Schuh will be at the library talking not only about THE TRAZ, but also her other recent release, Schrödinger’s Cat—a adult sci-fi novella.  

“I’d be happy to talk to readers about either of my books.  Or about the publishing industry or even about life as an author,” Schuh says.   “As an added bonus—everyone who drops buy will be entered in my draw to win a Kindle eReader!”

She will also be selling and signing her books at the library and reminds people that books make great gifts —even for those who already have everything.   

Schuh’s books can also be bought through the Yellowknife Book Cellar or from online bookstores such as Amazon, Smashwords, iTunes Library, and Barnes and Nobel.   They are also available for borrowing through the Yellowknife Public Library.

You can learn about Schuh and her books online at

For more information, to arrange an interview, or to receive a review copy of her books:
phone: 780-645-7890

Eileen Schuh, Canadian writer


Sunny Frazier said...

I, too, am a former journalist and have been trying for years to help authors understand how to work with the media for publicity. Your piece was terrific and I'm passing it on to my Posse. Kudos!

Cora said...

I'm definitely storing your article for future use. Thanks for the great information. Good luck with your new novel.

Sunny Frazier said...

From John Lindermuth:

As another former journalist, I suggest paying close attention to Eileen’s example of making the release relevant to the community. Media are deluged with press releases and many end in the trash because people overlook that important consideration.

Anonymous said...

Very good pointers. As a former city editor of a small newspaper, I received dozens of releases too. My biggest problem as a writer of mostly historical fiction is tying my books into something relevant, but I'm trying to learn by reading blogs such as this one.

G Thomas Gill said...

Thanks for bringing this subject up, Eileen. It is something often overlooked. There are so many outlets we can contact, and it doesn't cost anything to try.

Best of luck with your novel.

Anonymous said...

Nice post, Eileen. This is such an important part of publicity, and it's one that we often get wrong. I'm taking notes.

William Doonan

Augie said...

Eileen, thank you for the post, I too am keeping this for future reference. Augie

Eileen Schuh: said...

Thanks to all of you for leaving me such great messages. Wow. Awesome. (in case you didn't notice, I LOVE feedback!)

Augie, William, Thomas,Sammy, Corey, and Sunny, John, and Velda--you da best!

Velda, making historical novels relevant to news releases may seem unattainable, but it isn't.

Your story is relevant to readers in today's world, or you wouldn't have published it. Why is it relevant? Does it comment on war? Then link it to a modern war headline. Civilian deaths? Collateral damage? A new weapon? A new defence? The effect of war on relationships, families, societies. We live in a world ravaged by war--so did people 300 years ago. Have we not learned anything?

Perhaps there is an architectural story in the news and you can link it to castles or pyramids, or an archeological find that relates to your story. Perhaps a story about domestic violence and your herone knows all about that.

The weather--were medieval climes colder? (global warming/climate change headline)) Was the air cleaner (a pollution headline). What was the economy like? Were things less or more scary back then? (you know what can go here!)

If your story is at all relevant to today's readers, you can likely find headlines to which you can link it.

Also, not all newspapers are strictly news. Some have entertainment sections or book review columns to the attention of which you can specifically address your press release.

Maybe YOU are the news. In a small town, getting published is sometimes VERY big news in and of itself.