A good press release informs the media of an upcoming event, or of a reaction to something that’s already happened. The press release isn’t a finished article: but if it’s good enough it will be used as the basis of several articles, written by the journalists who receive it, and it might just get you on the telly too.
So, what should a press release contain? It must make clear what the news story is, and who should be contacted for more information: years ago, when I had to write a few week, I would top-and-tail each one with this information.
Between those two things I would write a short paragraph about what was happening, and why it was significant. New books are published every day so on its own a new publication is not particularly interesting: you need a hook to hang it on. When Mary Wesley’s first novel was published much was made of her advanced age (she was 70); little attention was given to the fact that she had already had a long and relatively-illustrious career writing for children; and there was a tremendous fuss when Erin Pizzey made her big career change from running a women’s refuge to writing commercial fiction. Similarly, you need to work out what makes you and your book so very special, and explain it clearly.
Make sure that you include information on why this thing is so significant: link to other events in the news where relevant, or to similar research. And take care to include several quotes which can be used in context by the journalists as they write up their pieces—if you supply just one, and four different publications use it, the coverage will end up seeming overly-familiar, and readers will get bored: if you supply three or four quotes of various degrees of seriousness and quirkiness, then that’s likely to be reflected in the articles which result.
Finally, remember that while a book’s launch provides a good opportunity to send out a press release, that should not be the end of your book’s life in the press. Try to see everything as a potential press opportunity, and learn to write witty and compelling press releases, and your press coverage is bound to increase.