Case Study of an Author Press Release

We all need Hemingway’s shockproof bullshit detector, but it’s vital when you’re running your own business. Career indie authors have so many options to promote themselves and their books that they have to develop the skills to determine if the poke they’re being sold really contains the pig, or a bag of busted balloon. Today’s lesson looks into the value of an author press release.

A book marketer recently wrote about his experiences creating and sending an author press release on behalf of his client. In a previous post, he had doubted the wisdom of doing so, and here he revised his conclusion slightly upward, from “you won’t sell any books” to “you won’t sell any books, but it might be worth trying because of the backlinks.”

One reason he gave was incorporated in this chart, showing a large number of media outlets and a huge number of potential reads.

author press release
author press release

If you’re just starting out as a career indie author, or you’ve never considered sending press releases, this might inspire you to add this to your list. In fact, going over to PRLog and sending out a press release is on my Book Production To-Do List, although truth be told, I rarely do it. It’s a very low-priority task.

Press releases are garbage

You see, I spent decades in newspaper journalism, and in my experience, the vast majority of all press releases are trashed. In the pre-internet days, we’d receive by mail easily a hundred releases a day. When fax machines came in, it became much cheaper to spam every newspaper in the country, and we’d get even more. The newsroom fax machine would spit out letters from readers, official government releases, police reports (cops were happy to do this if it kept away from the cop shop, and it made our job easier), crank letters, scam faxes selling printer ink and paper, and press releases.

Each department tasked someone to go through the stack to pull out their needed faxes. The rest were trashed.

So knowing that, I was curious about these figures. Was sending a press release really effective?

He didn’t mention any journalists contacting the author for a heart-warming story based on her release, so I assume it was a bust there. How did it do online?

I checked Google, Yahoo and Bing, searching for the press releases’ title and combinations of the author and actor’s name.

In short: Bupkis. Less than a dozen hits, of which at least three went to news aggregate sites. Click on those links, and you’ll see a list of headlines, with yours pushed down off-screen as soon as it hit.

The others were local TV sites, which at first glance looked good. Hey, the CBS station in Waco picked up your press release? Get ready for a flood of sales from Texas!

Well, no. It seems that TV stations turn over part of their website to third-party operators who roll in press releases. If you go to the station’s front page and search for the press release, it doesn’t appear. Which means anyone looking for news there will never see your press release.

Now you see it, now you don’t.

Is there any advantage to press releases?

Maybe one: Backlinks.

Those are links from outside websites to your website. Search engines look for those as a way of measuring your influence. The more websites that link to you, the better you look.

In theory, then, you could go to a free service like PRNewswire or PRLogand send a press release a week. If you get five backlinks from each release, you’d get 100 after 20 releases. Would that count for something?

Maybe. Maybe it wouldn’t matter, because as authors you run websites in which your name is the star. Search for your name, and you should already be on the first page (unless you’re cursed with “John Smith”).

Same for your book titles. They should already be on the front page simply by putting them on your website and book retailers like Amazon.

So unless you really do something publicly, like pissing off CNN for using their logo in a pro-Trump meme, sending press releases seems to be a waste of time.