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The “Don’ts” of Writing Media Releases

Media releases are promotional tools and are an excellent way to tell the mass media about your book. They’re not difficult to write but must not violate certain rules.

As a journalist, I received and acted on thousands of releases. I can tell you that certain practices doom a release to the “deleted email” folder. So don’t make these mistakes:

Don’t write an advertisement

You are selling your product, but it can't be a hard sell. Media releases that read like advertisements routinely get discarded. They should read like news stories, not ads.

Don’t send a release as an attachment

Gatekeepers may not be able to open an attachment or may not want to for fear of viruses or spyware. (Gatekeepers are any member of mass media who have the authority to publish or broadcast your release.) Even if they open it, they may not be able to copy and paste it into a story, and gatekeepers are not going to take the time to type your information.

Don't use fancy fonts, colors, emojis, or any other unusual formatting

Anything besides plain text is distracting and takes attention away from your message. Ideally, a gatekeeper wants to copy and paste your release into a print publication or a website. They can’t do that if you include any formatting. Use plain black-and-white text.

Don’t leave out critical information

I estimate that 30 to 40 percent of releases that are about an event fails to include either the time or place. Gatekeepers will not call you to find out important information. They will hit the delete key.

Don’t write a long release

A release should be 250-300 words. That’s the total word count, including contact information, tease, body, and the “about” paragraph. I gave you the total count because that’s the easiest to calculate. Subtracting the above information leaves roughly 150 to 200 words in the body. Assuming an average of 15 words per sentence, you should have no more than 10 to 14 sentences, including a quotation.

Don't direct your readers to a website for more information

All your information should be in the release. I can't tell you the number of times media releases directed me to a website to get fundamental information. Usually, I just didn't bother unless the event was so compelling I knew we just had to cover it.

However, it’s acceptable to direct a gatekeeper to a website if there are photos or videos that gatekeepers can use in their print publication, on their website, or in their TV broadcast.

Similarly, don’t write “For more information call . . .” The gatekeeper won’t do it.

Don’t make any errors

There must not be any spelling or grammatical errors. Remember you want web or print editors to publish your release verbatim. Don’t make them have to edit it. Your chances of publication are higher if they can simply copy and paste.

As you saw, this article wasn’t about how to write releases. To learn how, read another article I wrote, “Get free publicity by writing a media release.” But remember to adhere to the above “don’ts.”

Written by Readers’ Favorite Reviewer Joe Wisinski