Smiley Lollipop 110Self-publishing is full of mug’s games (that’s Brit-speak for ways to take suckers in). Sometimes it even seems that there are more people trying to exploit self-published writers than there are Indie-authors. Is selling press releases another one of them? Absolutely. Are there any exceptions to that blunt statement? Let’s see if we can find out.

First of all, let’s start with the easy part – why I say that writing and issuing a press release is a useless exercise.

We all know that there are hundreds of thousands of new books being published every day. But there are hundreds of thousands of press releases that are issued every week. So when an author issues a press release to aid in the discovery of her book, she’s actually using an even more diluted commodity to do so than the book itself. So the intended audience – book reviewers – for example – is already getting barraged with press releases from all sides, many of which are coming from credentialed sources – like publishers and agents.

The second problem is that many of those credentialed sources are issuing press releases as part of coordinated campaigns. They have lists of media sources, and follow-up the press release with direct outreach, in the form of emails and calls.

The third problem is even more intractable. What exactly can you say in a couple of hundred words to make your book stand out from all of the other thousands of books that are released that week?

In other words, simply pumping out a press release is about as futile an effort as one can imagine engaging in. It’s likely to produce even fewer ripples than throwing a pebble into a lake.

So why do so many people bother?

First, there are the package publishers, who pay a flat fee to distribution services to send out releases. So it’s easy for them to throw a press release into their own service packages to bulk up the list of promotional tools they offer. Second, there are the press release services themselves, who of course are in the business of selling the technique.

And third, there are all of those people making money writing books, holding seminars and webinars, and selling services trying to convince authors that sending in a check will help them sell lots and lots of books. Which, of course, almost never happens. Press releases are a perfect inclusion for these folks, since they have an air of mystery to them. Everybody knows they exist, but most people don’t know how to write one, or what to do with one if they did.

Then there’s the fact that sending out a press release isn’t cheap. While there are some services that offer “free” press release distribution, when you read the fine print, the degree of exposure they’re offering doesn’t amount to much distribution at all. Instead, it’s a come on to buy one of their priced packages, which can go up to, and over $100 per release.

So with that by way of prelude, is there ever a reason to write a press release at all?

The most obvious one is as part of a media kit, which is a series of tools that you may send yourself to a reviewer. Whether or not you go through the formality of issuing the press release through an actual media service, you may want to write one simply to make your marketing package look more professional and legitimate. The next is if you plan to actually go launch a serious marketing push assisted by a paid publicist.

All of that said, I always like to understand as much as possible how the wheels turn behind the system, and one of the services that the press release agencies offer today is access to on-line analytics that allow you to get a sense of the attention your press release has received. Even if no actual coverage or sales result from that particular press release, you can at least see how many recipients spent some time looking at it, which will allow you to gauge whether or not it’s worth sending one in the future.

But what’s a good occasion to find out? Simply releasing a press release that announces that you came out with a new book isn’t likely to get any attention at all, unless you’re a known author. So that means you’d really like to have some sort of hook to provide an incentive to the reader to take a look at all. And that can be very hard to come up with.

A couple of weeks ago, Donald Trump handed me a hook. He did that by jumping to the top of the polls, despite being one of the most ridiculous cartoon caricatures of a human being ever created. The result? People are being besieged from all sides by coverage of an event that’s straight out of my just-released new book, where the tip-off to hacking is that totally implausible candidates are jumping to the tops of the polls.

And hence, the hook:


Press releases traditionally have sub-titles (although this is much less true with book press releases), and therefore this subtitle:

Is hacking a more likely explanation for the Donald’s success than real voter interest? Current events mirror plot line of just-released cybersecurity thriller

Maybe not the most compelling hook ever conceived for a press release, but enough of one to stand out a bit from the run of the mill come on, because it immediately suggest a story line to a journalist facing a deadline. I set this up last night at PRLog, a press release service that charges $49 a shot, and you can view the full press release here.

As the day goes on, I’ll monitor the results, and report back on what I see. My expectations? Very low. But I’ll know more tonight than I did this morning, and that’s always a good day’s work.

Update, 11:30 AM: Here are the results so far:

Unique Hits 216
Total Hits 241
Headline Impressions 17,449
Click Through Rate ~1.38 %

As for yield? Again, here’s an update:

Sales: 0

Contacts: 1 – someone trying to sell me additional press release distribution  services.  Q.E.D

You can find the final results here.

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