The hardest part about writing a press release is formatting it. Never have that fear again. Here are the sections to include in your press release.
For Immediate Release
At the top left corner of the page, type in ALL CAPS:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Skip one space; then write the headline, in bold type, centered on the line. A good headline should capture the main idea of the entire press release in one catchy phrase that includes an action verb but excludes “a,” “the,” and, often, forms of “to be,”
The headline should include the most important keywords from your press release. Some press release guides say only the first word and proper nouns should be uppercased but I uppercase all main words — meaning not articles or prepositions.
But don’t get hung up on the headline already. You may not be able to write the definitive headline until you finish writing the body of the press release. In that case, use a filler headline that can keep you centered while you’re writing the body text.
Dateline and Main Text
First paragraph begins with the dateline: the city and state where the release originated and the date: ANN ARBOR, MI, January 24, 2022 – ; or Ann Arbor, Michigan (January 24, 2022) – .
- The first paragraph repeats the main idea of the headline and expands on the main facts, described with a heavy sprinkling of keywords. The earlier they appear in your press release, the higher your search engine optimization (SEO) ranking will be, which means your story will show up sooner in Internet searches on more search engines. Use as many of the five W’s and an H—who, what, when, where, why, and how (or — Why not?— the 6 W’s: Whow nice would that be?)— as you can fit in.
- The next three to five paragraphs put the event in its proper historical context or provide immediate background if your analysis is the purpose of the release. If the release is about your book, you can include bullet points to spotlight the benefits it will provide or share an overview of the content.
- Consider including a quote from a significant person to the story. If the release is about your book, you can quote yourself or include one or two testimonial quotes (each its own paragraph). If it’s about an event where you will be appearing, you can quote an organizer of the event. The quotes add color to the story but are often the first lines to be cut when space limitations intervene.
Write in third person.
As much as possible, personalize the release and the cover letter to it. Do your best to find the exact reporter who will care most about it. If you’re focusing on the book, you may want the book review editor. If you’re commenting on a related news event, you want the news editor. Do the research on the publication’s website to find exact names and emails. Don’t hesitate to make a phone call.
Remember: This is a news piece, not a puff piece. Keep to the facts and under 500 words. Under 400 is better.
The author bio shows how interesting and authoritative you are. If you can fit in words like “award-winning,” “bestselling,” and “internationally known,” don’t let the opportunity pass. At the same time, don’t puff.
The final paragraph, called the boilerplate, is the “About the Company” template of metadata and contact information that appears in every press release. It tells what the company on the letterhead does and for what market, where you’re based, and any desired combination of contact name, phone number, email, and website.
It also usually contains some phrase that exaggerates its importance: “the world’s leading ….” Those phrases get edited out, too.
Keep the entire boilerplate to under a hundred words including your best keywords.
Write the contact information for the company representative you have designated to answer media questions:
Contact name, title
Phone, email, Web address
If you want to make your independent publishing company appear bigger than just the one-person operation it is, use a pseudonym as the lead person. Or use someone else’s name. I use my wife’s first name and her birth name; her title, President; our publishing company name, Azenphony Press; and my cell phone number.
Call to Action
Below the final paragraph, in bold type, include a “call to action.” The call to action is what you want the public to do with the information you are releasing:
- “Order your POD or ebook today!” — with the website where they can be purchased appearing either immediately after the phrase or as a hotlink behind the phrase.
- “Enter today to win a free copy of [your book title]!” with the hotlink behind the phrase going to the entry form, an email, and a phone number.
That’s All, Folks
End traditionally with “-30-” or “# # #” centered after the last paragraph. As a matter of style, years ago I started typing “kw” instead.
I don’t know if I ever had a press release refused because of that but I know I had plenty of press releases published so I don’t think anyone cared.
Use the headline of your press release as the Subject: line of your email message.
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This piece was adapted from Ken Wachsberger’s You’ve Got the Time: How to Write and Publish That Book in You. Ken’s other books may be found here and here. For book coaching and editing help, or to invite Ken to speak at your meeting, email Ken at [email protected].
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