I Hate Press Releases

Blank Faces by Rommel Adao

Blank Faces / Rommel Adao

This is part rant, part advice.

I don’t write this post as if my needs were everyone’s.

But it’s frustrating to see authors AND PUBLISHERS—who probably have little time and resource to begin with—wasting their time by contacting bloggers (and others in the media) with dead-on-arrival press releases.

Let’s back up for a moment.

What kind of press releases do I receive?

I receive announcements primarily about new books, new products, and site launches. I also get information about author-experts who are available for interview.

When I say “press release,” I’m referring strictly to an e-mail announcement that is neither addressed to me personally (beyond an automated greeting line) nor is it seeking to serve me or my audience. It is looking to get something out of me: coverage on my blog or social network.

Why are the press releases I receive typically ineffective?

They are part of a huge and impersonal blast, hoping that a few hits will justify a send to hundreds or thousands of e-mail addresses. For instance, I receive regular blasts from book publishers announcing new releases. But it’s hard to feel any excitement at receiving such an announcement when it is not tailored to me, my blog, or my audience. Such releases demand that I make the connection—that I figure out the right angle or fit.

Bad press releases:

  • Do not address me personally
  • Don’t show awareness of my blog or site
  • Are far too long, wordy, or boring
  • Ask me to spend valuable time evaluating something I don’t trust yet (e.g., “Review this book!”)
  • Put limitations on what I can or can’t do
  • Do not propose any specific action steps for me to take
  • Focus on the author/publisher

In other words, I am not treated like a real connection.

Here’s an example of a good e-mail I received from a publicist. This was a cold contact, meaning we had never before been in touch. (This is an independent publicist, not a publicist working for a book publisher.)

Hi Jane.

I follow you everywhere and enjoy everything and always learn!

My client, Rochelle Melander, has her 10th book coming out on October 18 from Writer’s Digest Books.

The title is Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (and live to tell about it). Just in time for NaNoWriMo. Rochelle wrote the first draft of this book during NaNoWriMo 2009.

Rochelle’s website is www.writenowcoach.com for more info about the book.

We have a press release, bio and book trailer ready to go. Review copies are available digitally and by mail. We like giveaways of the book if that interests you.

Thanks for your kind consideration and I look forward to hearing from you.

Regards,

Dindy Yokel

[contact info]

This is short and to the point. It’s clearly suited to my blog and audience. The publicist and author are interested in doing giveaways, but I’m not, so I replied and said I prefer to run excerpts of new releases rather than review them. Anyone watching my blog for a week or two would catch onto the pattern—but that’s OK. It was easy to reply, and it felt like this would be an easy thing to run. Once I had a digital review copy in hand, I had control over selecting the best excerpt for my audience. And that’s exactly what happened. Easy, fast, and satisfying for all.

Here are 5 reasons I say “yes” to coverage of a book, product/service, website, or author on my blog.

  1. Strong, quality content that will appeal to my audience
  2. I don’t have to “work” for the content or create it myself, except in the case of Q&As. (But I usually only run Q&As with authors whom I know already to some extent—or can easily research. I put time and thought into drafting the questions.)
  3. I believe in the author’s message, or at least I think it’s worth considering/listening to
  4. The content is not going to be duplicated on everyone else’s site/blog
  5. I have some control in selection of the content (I choose the excerpt, headline, etc)

Yes, I pay more attention to appeals coming from people I know, or those who are referred to me by people I trust. But I’m happy to be pitched by strangers if I think their content or message is strong and suited to my audience. If I think the content is suspect, even if it’s coming from someone I know and trust, I will either reject it or edit it until it’s advice or instruction that I would feel comfortable delivering into people’s inboxes.

Back to the rant: I’ve read trend pieces on whether or not the press release is dead. Sometimes I wish they would die, but I also realize they still have a role to play in disseminating official information quickly to specific media channels. But no publicist worth his/her salt ought to be blasting out mediocre requests for coverage to a list of near-strangers. It wastes everyone’s time.

I’ll always remember publicist Dana Kaye answering a question at the Midwest Writers Workshop, from a writer who asked her how big her contact list is. Kaye rightly pointed out that it’s not list size that matters, it’s the list quality. Who will actually read her e-mails or take her calls? Can she get people to pay attention? Does she have meaningful connections on that list?

That’s where the real value lies—NOT in how many people you can reach with a generic message.

 

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Posted in Marketing & Promotion.

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the publisher of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors, and was named Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World in 2019.

In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. Her book for creative writers, The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), received a starred review from Library Journal.

Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.

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