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.