- By Samantha Rideout, Journalist, Editor & Book Publicity Assistant at Substance Books.

As a professional journalist who writes reviews for magazines, I don't have enough time in the day to read title after title until I find a book that would interest my readers. This is why I like to skim through press releases. These concisely-written documents are designed to give me an idea of what a book is about and to get me interested in doing a story or review about it.

With the help of your own press release, you can reach the avid readers who browse newspapers and magazines looking to learn about new books to buy. You can write it yourself if you have the know-how, or you can order one from a professional publicist or journalist. Either way, a press release provides great bang for your buck, since it costs only a fraction of the price of advertising space in a newspaper or magazine.

A press release can be used over and over again. At book expos, there's usually a press room where reporters and literary reviewers go to collect releases and see which books they might like to write about next. But you don't even have to wait for the next book expo to roll around before you reach journalists: you can send your press release directly to their publications. If it is written well and has a catchy news hook, then you might see your book featured in an upcoming issue. If not, then it costs nothing to reach out to more publications until you do.

Here are some tips on how to write or recognize an effective press release:

Make it newsworthy
With the overwhelming number of books that are published every month, the fact that your book is on the market is not news in and of itself. This is why your press release must catch the attention of journalists in some other way. Ideally, it should connect your book with an event, issue, trend or story that is in the news. If this is not possible, then it should highlight something specific that makes your book unique and interesting. Here are some examples of the type of angles that work, taken from book reviews in the New York Times:
- "Author argues that actress Hedy Lamarr was more interesting than her lackluster place in film history would suggest."
- "Novel explores how difficult it is to be satisfied with the status quo."
- "Psychologist sheds light on how dogs actually experience the world."

Write it in a journalistic style
There are many different styles of writing, from literary to academic. Journalism has its own style, and reporters are far more likely to respond favourably to a press release that uses it. For international guidelines about journalistic writing, the Associated Press Stylebook (ISBN: 978-0-917360-54-1) is a recommended reference.

Target the publication's audience
Take a few minutes to think about which audience would be interested in your book, and then choose a publication that targets a similar audience. Are your main characters motorcyclists? Try sending your press release to a motorcycling specialty magazine. Does your novel take place in a real-life location? Try that town's local newspaper. Consider re-tweaking the press release each time you send it to a dramatically different publication. Choosing appropriate target audiences will not only make it easier to win over the journalists, it will also mean better book sales once the article is published.

Include convenient follow-up information
The press release shouldn't be longer than a page. Its purpose is to grab journalists' attention, and it won't work if it's too long and wordy. However, the easier you make it for journalists to get additional information, the more likely they are to follow-up. Be sure to include contact information for yourself or others who could comment on the book. If you have an online press room, then you can conveniently direct reporters there.

The most effective publicity campaigns advance on several fronts, including online listings, networking, expos and media exposure. With a press release in your arsenal, you're all the more likely to draw attention to your book.

If you're interested in promoting your book with the help of a press release, then you're welcome to contact me at I'm available to write it for you and assist you with distributing it. In doing so, I will draw on my experience as a journalist for various magazines including Reader's Digest. The price of this service depends on your distribution needs and whether or not you would like for your press release to be search-engine optimized. I'd be happy to provide you with a price estimate free of charge.

Montreal Canadian Editor &  Book Publicity Assistant
Editor & Book Publicity Assistant
    "I'm a freelance magazine writer, editor and translator. My work has appeared in the UC Observer magazine, the Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph and La Scena Musicale. I also freelance for Reader's Digest magazine as an editorial fact checker and researcher. My university degrees are in journalism, world religions and Icelandic literature.

Before I decided to work with words, my adventures ranged from cattle farming to teaching music. As a curious person, I love to travel, explore cities, meet new people and of course, read day and night. I'm very pleased to be joining the Substance Books team as the Literary Marketing Assistant. I'm looking forward to working with the authors and discovering some great new books to read."