How to Write a Press Release for Your New Novel

I have written a lot of press releases in my time.  They take about 30 minutes tops, but can have a great, lasting effect for your new release.

Think of your press release as a birth announcement.  It needs to be short and sweet, letting the reader know what kind of baby you had, how much it weighed, how long it was, what you named it, where it was born…  You get the idea.  It should be one page, unless you’re introducing Pottermore, and then you can do whatever you like.

Following is a sample based on my own press release.

press release

Beside your contact info, include a picture of you, or your publishing house logo.  Then, be sure you have the following:

  1. The announcement.  What do you want released to the press?  If you are self-published, skip the bit about the publishing house, but if you are releasing your own announcement for your publishing house, be sure to include it.
  2. City, State, and Date.  This is important for helping pressrooms decide whether or not your release is newsworthy to them.
  3. Your book blurb.
  4. Your book info–where can people find it?  How long is it?  What is the ISBN?
  5. Your author info.  This is the place to shine.  If someone isn’t interested in your book blurb, they might be interested in you.  Sell yourself as much as the book.  What makes you unique?  Why are you the best person to write about your subject?
  6. Your publishing house info.  Give your publisher credit.  Again, this is a sales tool.  If someone doesn’t know much about your book, or you, maybe they recognize the publisher and give you a shot based on their reputation.
  7. Somewhere in there, put a picture of your book cover.

That’s it.  You can do that!  You do not need to pay someone to do that for you.

Next week, I’ll tell you how to send it out.  You don’t really need anyone to do that for you either, though it does take some time.  But you’re a writer!  The next time you are procrastinating over writing a scene, you can send out press releases 😉  That’ll buy you some good time.


How to Get a Book Signing

Okay, you are marketing your new novel.  You are an author with an independent publishing house, using POD press.  You want to get a book signing at your local bookstore.  What do you do?

Before you do anything, you need to be prepared.  You’re going to be having conversations with decision makers, and you need to be ready to answer all kinds of questions.  Before you start calling bookstores do the following:

  1. Gather reviews.  Send your book to readers and beg for reviews–honest reviews.
  2. Write a press release.  I say “Write a press release,” because it is ridiculous to pay someone else $300 to write one for you.  After all, you need a press release written because you are a writer. (More on that later–like in a separate blog entry.)
  3. Find calendar dates and times that work for you and write them down.
  4. Know your ISBN number.
  5. Research whether or not your book is available for the store to purchase.  To do this, go to the store website, and search for your book.  If they can order it, it will be in their list.  If it is an independent store with no website, you can always call and ask if it is available.  Helps to disguise your voice, or practice your British accent.
  6. Write yourself a little script, so that when you are put on hold for the store manager and you’ve listened to muzak for so long you’ve forgotten why you’ve called, you’ll be able to read your script and still sound intelligent.
  7. Spend a few minutes in the mirror repeating the following, “My book is good enough.  My book is smart enough.  Doggone it, people will like it!”

Once you’ve done all that, it is time to start dialing.  When you connect with the store, this will happen:

  1. Someone will answer.  It may be someone who sounds like a nitwit.  Be pleasant.  This should go without saying, but you never know.  No matter who answers the phone, or how they answer it, be kind.  Ask to speak to the store manager, bearing in mind that if it is a nitwit answering the phone, this might terrify them.  No one ever asks to speak to the manager because they are happy, do they?
  2. When the store manager picks up, say something like this, “Hi, [store manager’s name].  My name is Nextbig Thing.  I’m a local author and my new novel is available in your list.  I was calling to find out how to set up a book reading and signing event at your store.”
  3. The manager will probably ask you for the name of your book, or your ISBN.  Then, she’ll look it up and see if she already has some in her store, or how easily she can order them.
  4. Your book is POD.  She will say something like, “Oh.  Your book is POD.”
  5. You will say something like, “Yes.  I am published through Awesomesauce Press, and I’m getting some great reviews…

You know that’s not going to cut it, right?  Here is where you need to be able to sell.  You need to be able to tell the manager WHY it is worth their time to have you taking up space in their store.  Let them know:

  • Why you picked their store.  Do you live just down the road, and are all your neighbors excited to come?  Do you work nearby, and your whole office building wants to support you?
  • How you know your books will sell.  Neighbors?  Coworkers?  You are a Duggar?
  • What marketing/promotion/advertising you’ve already done.  Did you have a good signing at Coffee Houz?  Did the Monday Morning News review your novel?  Are you trending on Twitter #YOURNOVEL?  Did JK Rowling write a blurb for you?

Anything you can think of to distinguish yourself–be prepared to say it.  Be shameless.  You already sold your book to a publisher, now you’re just telling a bookstore manager why the publisher thought your book would sell.  Piece of cake!  Very dry, hard to swallow cake if you hate cold calling as much as I do, but still cake.

After that, the conversation can go any which way.  Your job is to keep a positive attitude.  If the manager isn’t sure about the book, at least she’ll be sure about you.  She might like you so much, she wants to help you.

However the conversation goes, make sure to do two things:

  1. SAY THANK YOU.  The manager just took time out of her day to talk to you.  Again, it should go without saying, but it’s important enough to repeat.
  2. Get the manager’s email address.  Tell her you want to send her your contact information.  Then, follow up with an email.  In that email, say thank you again, attach your press release, any reviews you’ve received, and be sure to include your address so they know you truly are local.

Lather.  Rinse.  Repeat.  Hopefully, everyone will say yes!  If not, eventually, someone will.  Just keep plugging away.

Good luck!

What I Would Tell a Daughter About Selfies

Since I’m getting emails and PMs about the girl side of things, I’ll address the girl side of things here.

So, I used to teach Sunday School for 6th Grade girls.  When I took on the responsibility, I thought I was going to be–I don’t know what I thought I was going to be teaching, but it was NOT sex.  I started reading through the lesson book, and halfway through BLAMMO sex/pregnancy/abortion.  Uh…

I worried about a few things:

  1. I would accidentally warp these children.
  2. I would say something that would make concerned parents take up pitchforks against me.
  3. That the church hadn’t thoroughly vetted my thoughts on sex/pregnancy/abortion before handing their 12 year old girls over to me.
  4. What if one of the girls had been bad-touched, or was already sexually active and I said something that made her feel like a monster?

I worried most about the pitchforks.

At the time, I was single, had never been married, had no children of my own, and  hadn’t been all the way around the block, so-to-speak.  I had been bad-touched and was sensitive to that, and I had ducked down some of the block’s back alleys.  I knew enough to be dangerous.

I knew enough to know that anything I said, could and would affect these girls for a long time, and I didn’t want to hurt any of them, and I didn’t want my words haunting them in regard to choices they might make in the future.  We all do stupid things sooner or later.  I wanted my words to be building blocks for them, not stumbling blocks.

So…I didn’t talk specifically about sex/pregnancy/abortion.  I talked about choices, redemption and the Proverbs 31 Woman.

Because here’s how I feel:  My job as an adult guiding children (or now, as a parent) is to help them learn to navigate rough waters by teaching them to reason, think, and adjust course.  My job isn’t to give them marching orders (as a parent, my job is definitely giving marching orders along with instruction on the how and why.)

So, first I wanted those girls to know that they had autonomy, and they got to choose their futures.  I wanted them to understand that good choices led to better futures, and good choices were things like eating well (I tried to touch on eating disorders because you never know), getting good exercise (because healthy bodies help promote healthy minds), doing your homework and reading for pleasure (because intelligent, educated women have a better chance to make good choices), working toward a goals in small increments (a good test, a good report card, honor roll, head of the class, etc.), and having a hobby or something fun to do, just for the love of it (because well-rounded women have their own interests.)  And, I told them to make good friends because good friends are the best things in life, and good friends will keep you out of trouble.  I have excellent friends, by the way.

Next, I wanted those girls to know that if they slipped up somewhere, it wasn’t the end of the world.  Get a bad grade?  Study harder/ask for help/do better next time.  Hurt someone’s feelings?  Apologize/learn from your mistake/don’t do it again.  Eat a whole cake by yourself?  Oof/see above.

And I told them that when they were focused on proper nutrition, their health, their studies, their hobbies, their goals, and their friendships, everything else would fall into place.  When they were well-rounded people, they would attract the right kinds of attention.  Predators are afraid of self-confident girls.  Losers don’t try to smack around Margaret Thatcher or Hillary Clinton.  No one crosses Wonder Woman–and no one ever tries to butt grab her, no matter how hot her pants are.

Then, I told them that wanting to have sex, or having sex didn’t make you a bad person.  (Pitchforks!)  I told them that purposefully hurting other people was what made a bad person.  I read them the definition of the Proverbs 31 Woman, and asked them, first, if she seemed pretty awesome.  She’s got her own house, runs a staff, dabbles in real estate, has a garden, has a fabulous wardrobe, people respect and like her… Sounds pretty good to me.  I asked them if that was a woman who seemed focused on her looks, her hair, her boyfriend, or her popularity, and I asked them to consider what it would take to have your own home/business/amazing closet.

We talked about the choices you need to make to be a spectacular, independent woman, and we talked about what might set you off course.  I told them that is why they should wait to have sex.  Because they had dreams, and plans, and goals, and wanted houses, and cars, and jobs, and careers, and having a baby before you were ready would mean putting all that on hold, or putting it aside all together.  And, I told them that an STI can really slow you down, or kill you, too.

I wanted them to understand I wasn’t trying to protect their chastity.  I was trying to teach them how to protect their ability to make choices.  Having sex too soon can rob you of your autonomy, and rob you of choices. (Then I quit teaching Sunday School because I was mentally exhausted.  I went and taught Adult Singles, thinking that because I was one, it would be easier.  Ha!)

That’s what I would tell my own daughter, repeatedly.  And when the hormones kicked in and she couldn’t hear me through the throbbing in her loins, there would be that little voice in the back of her head saying, “Guh!  I know Harry Styles is so hot!  But I don’t want to be just his back-up singer.  I want my own band!  And he can fall in love with me because I am so awesome and independent, not just because I’m fawning all over him.”

I know that because that’s what kept me off the tour buses I got invited onto.

I didn’t need AIDs or a baby.

So, when it came down to selfies, I would ask my daughter why she wanted to take them, and if they helped her further her goals/dreams/aspirations.  If they didn’t, I’d ask her what she thought they did do.  We’d talk about it, and if she didn’t come the right conclusions, I’d take away her access to cameras and stuff some cotton in my ears to muffle the wailing.  Because I’d still be the parent and you don’t let a kid drive on the wrong side of the street just because it seems like a good idea to them.



Smiley Miley at the VMAs

Nancy and I were talking about Miley at the VMAs, last night.  I’ve come to be something of a Miley apologist because I recognize that so much of what drives me up a tree about her, so much of what makes me want to yell at her to get off my lawn, is that I went through similar phases.  I am sympathetic to her plight, and moreso because she doesn’t even know she has a plight.

First, go read the article by Duana over at Lainey’s blog.  I have nothing but agreement for this.  I especially have nothing but love for this:

So I feel like Miley was bound and determined to write her own script [at the VMAs] and not just be a pretty fangirl and not just a “good girl” who secretly likes to be talked into sex [as part of the Blurred Lines performance], and what came out was…what we saw. It just makes me sad because I think she thinks she’s doing something other than what she’s doing, which is…still playing right into it.

I spent a lot of time doing something other than what I thought I was doing, which was playing right into “it” when I was about her age.  And if I’d had her platform?  Good lord.  I’m always going on about how glad I am the internet hadn’t been invented when I was coming up.  I am ever the more thankful that my parents never actively pursued a entertainment career for me because I sure would have been the misguided, well-meaning twerp showing up to an MTV party in rubber underwear, motorboating someone else’s magnificent nalgas.

It is hard to be a girl.  It is hard because the choices are so black and white.  Are you a good girl, or are you a bad girl?  Boys don’t have to make this decision.  Boys who have sex, who like sex, who say they want sex aren’t bad–they are just boys.

Miley has clearly chosen to tell the world that she has sex, likes sex, and wants sex, and she appears to believe that this requires giving the public an all access pass to her backstage–it’s a choice a lot of girls make.  If I’m going to be bad, then I’m going to be bad in your face so you can’t talk about me behind my back, you can’t call me a hypocrite, and you can’t say I’m a tease.  This is me, ass cheeks a’flapping.  I can’t stop.  I won’t stop.  It’s my mouth, my house, my song, my butt cheeks.  Deal with it, or go home.

For counter-balance, you have a Taylor Swift, who has clearly chosen to tell the world that she is a good girl.  Blurred Lines was written for Taylor Swift.  The girl who might want to go all the way, but who has to be convinced of it because that’s what is ladylike and proper.  It isn’t a sin if you can’t help it.  It’s only a sin if you want it.  My mouth is yours, my house is yours, my song is about you, you can tell me what to do with my backside.  Please love me and take me home.

Late-Teenaged and Early-Twenty-Something Lane was going to get up in your face about your misconceptions of what a good girl was/did/looked like.  Do you want to know what happens when little girls wear vinyl to the Campus Crusade meeting?  I could tell you all about it.  So could Miley.  I feel Miley.  I get it.  I understand.  I’m not calling her out for being sexualized or overt.

The performance was sad because it was so limp and dull.  It was sloppy and breathless, and the costuming was shameful in the sense of how poorly it fit, and poorly it reflected what was going on.  Miley Cyrus has a glorious figure, and whoever put her in those booty squishing shorts should be fired–and branded with some mark so that everyone knows not to hire him/her ever again.  I was okay with the Chuck E. Cheese swimsuit.  That was kind of cute for what she was doing.

Miley isn’t a performer who can carry a show, so she needs something more than dancing Pedobears to help her along.  She needs a better song, better choreography, and better fitting costumes, or just a better jam all the way around.  See her performance of Rebel Yell–that was a very good performance for her.

No one can tell a 20 year old girl who thinks she is making a statement by being blatantly sexual that the statement she is making, doesn’t mean what she thinks it means.  Because no one can tell a 20 year old anything.  All we can do as adults is be there to form a wall between her misconception and the dudes who are agreeing and nodding along with strings of drool hanging down their chins, telling her that it is a great idea to twerk upside down against the wall while they photograph her.

I told Nancy that I could sum up all my thoughts about the performance and the child with this:  Bless her heart.

And bless mine, too.

Thank you, God, for not inventing the interwebs until after I was far too old to twerk on camera.  Because You know it would have been out there somewhere.

Sara Bareilles, Katy Perry, and Selling Out.

Today, I want to eat everything in the world, but only if it is a carb.  I think I could eat a whole basket of bagels without feeling a morsel of regret.  Maybe a twinge of it, but only because I would realize the whole basket was gone, and I wanted more.

Normally, I’m not much of a bread person, but today I want to find a giant bread mountain and just start gnawing my way through it. 

What else is new?

My boy turns 8 this weekend.  I have no idea where the time has gone.  I have no idea where the summer has gone.  He starts school again in two weeks, and all those good intentions I had of doing flashcards and times tables?  Listen, my road to hell is extremely well paved.  It is the yellow brick road of roads to hell.

Katy Perry may have ripped off two different artists in writing and creating a video for her new song Roar.  First of all, I cannot get the song out of my head, and I don’t really mind.  I kind of like it.  I caught myself humming it earlier.  I listened to the Sara Bareilles “version” last night and it is stunningly similar.  Stunningly to the point of Perry’s really being a cover version with new lyrics.  And that’s the difference mass market appeal makes.

You sing your song, and no1curr.  Elvis Presley sings your song, and it’s an overnight sensation.  Bareilles is too serious a musician to ever dress like a smurf and date Russell Brand.  This is why Katy Perry will always have better market appeal.  That and the fact that Bareilles is indistinguishable from Anne Ramsay, whereas Perry is indistinguishable from Zoe Deschanel.  You are now asking yourself, “Who is Anne Ramsay?”  Exactly*.

If you’re an artist like Bareilles, you have a choice to make:  Always be a solid, reputable, decent selling indie artist, or just write songs for Katy Perry and become a multi-millionaire without ever having to tour the country on a stale smelling coach again.  I am lazy, so I would just write songs for Perry and feel moderately annoyed that I wasn’t getting the fame/recognition for them.  Then, I would go dive into my swimming pool filled with hundred dollar bills, and do the backstroke until I felt better.  That should take about as long as it would for me to remember I had a swimming pool filled with hundred dollar bills.

I have no concerns about being a sell out.  I would love to be a sell out.  Corporate America, call me!  I will totally sell you that little song I made up for Thor.  He won’t mind.  Or, he might mind for about as long as it takes for him to remember that he has a swimming pool filled with legos.

*Anne Ramsay played Helen Hunt’s older sister on Mad About You.