As I mentioned when I started this series, my latest novel “The Chords of War,” written with Iraqi vet Samuel Gonzalez, Jr, has earned an award. Now I’m trying to get the word out. My notion is that this news gives me a wedge to market the book, something I haven’t done yet. That’s the essence of this series: to find the marketing secrets.
With this second post, I’m writing about trying a press release. The award is fresh news, so I have to trumpet it, hoping someone who is in the news will use it. The traditional press release was something I did in the publicity department at the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts). In the late eighties and early nineties, I was the Institute Writer there. I wrote hundreds of press releases each year, as well as articles. If a faculty member, student, or a visiting artist did something noteworthy—or had an upcoming event—I’d write about it in a way that was compelling. The idea was news organizations churn with voracious appetites. They have space to fill. They might write about our news.
My press releases aimed to be a page or less long. People didn’t have time to read. Another CalArts staff member would photocopy a few hundred of each of my releases. Others, often students on work-study, would fold the releases, stuff envelopes, add address labels and postage, and send them out. A few days later, my adept boss, Anita Bonnell, would call various media outlets to see if they received the release and, usually because they had not, she would pitch the story in the release.
Sometimes a release would be hot news, and several editors would call Anita. Stories that were then published would be put outside on a cork board. In those days, CalArts seemed to be in the news often.
These days, press releases go out through a web service. Instead of releases being sent with postage, they go out in email. As you can imagine, most email isn’t read, but if you want to do a release, you still need to write a compelling one. Does your headline grab? Do you have a subhead?
My challenge now is that the book’s award is NOT the Pulitzer Prize or something huge—and the winners have not been selected yet. My book is a finalist. Still, my hope is that people reading about it may think, “Hey, I’ve got to get this book. It sounds interesting.”
What service to use? If you’re a corporation such as Coca-Cola or a big name such as Rhiana or George Clooney, their publicists will use PR Newswire, which often costs over a thousand dollars per release. Alone, it costs $195 just to be a member of PR Newswire, and then you are charged for how many words, photos, and links you include.
Because it’s so expensive, the editors receiving releases are often curious what news is worth all that money? You’d have to sell a lot of books to pay for that. Realize, your release isn’t going to book readers directly but to people who cover news about books or publishing. Your hope is that they’ll take your news and make it as if they came up with it as news.
There are free services out there, but despite the promises, you pay for what you get. Over the years, I’ve tried PR Newswire ($1600), as well as less expensive options such as PR.com, PRLog, PRWeb, and PRLeap. I can’t say I’ve ever been bowled over with how amazing any have been, but my feeling is if you have news, you have to get it out there.
For this blog, I used PRLeap, simply because I like their interface the best, and you are not burdened with add-ons. You get to add a few links and photos with each release. It cost me $135. Will I sell 35 books (figuring an average of $5 profit per book)? Something tells me I won’t.
You can read the release I wrote and see its presentation by clicking here.
The press release went out early this morning. Has anything changed in the course of less than a day? Here are my book’s latest rankings on Amazon:
#1,520,899 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
#11747 in Books > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction > War
#1,620,473 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
#12238 in Books > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction > War
#45819 in Books > Literature & Fiction > Contemporary
#1,063,944 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
#6753 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction > War
#12714 in Books > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction > War
#64502 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Teen & Young Adult
The answer is NO. Then again, remember, this has not gone out to the reading public yet. It may take a day or two for someone to mention it in their own blogs or on the news. I know my reading public will be in large part people who read war fiction. Perhaps a military organization will pick it up. However, I am seeing my Facebook announcement and boost ($10) have led to no sales.
The secrets still lay out there for me to find.
What’s next? I’ve already set up an ad on Kindle Nation Daily on April 12, which goes out to people who read books on the Kindle. I’ll try something else before then. Look to this space in a few days to see what that is.
(NOTE: The photo was taken in Iraq of Sam, playing in the band he formed there. The book is loosely based on his experiences in Iraq as a musician and fighting soldier.)