Media Release - The Basics

Mini Primer for Putting Together a Publicity Release

Guest post by Carolyn Howard-Johnson

You’re Invited to a Publicity Party

Many authors don’t crash the FREE publicity party because, although they’re writers, they fear the process of assembling a press release, or more accurately a media release.

They may worry about looking less than professional to the media. Kind of like we worried about what to wear to the prom when we were in high school. I promise you this party is lots easier to dress for. Here are the basics for sending your release off in style, but you’ll find more detail for the entire process in The Frugal Book Promoter ( 

  • Use a header of only five lines on your existing business stationery.
  • The first says M E D I A   R E L E A S E. Put it in caps, large type, boldface, 18 point Ariel typeface with a space between each letter. Justify it on the left of your page.
  • Leave a space and enter CONTACT: in 14 point, Ariel caps. Left justify it. If you’re the one who knows the most about what you are publicizing, this is your name, phone, fax, and e-mail address, each on its own line. Revert back to upper and lower case for the details. Include this information even if it is in your letterhead. I have read advice to authors that they use a fake name and pretend they have a publicist. Don’t do it. Editors are on to it. If you’re not a consummate actor/fibber, you’ll only make yourself look foolish.
  • Release information goes one space beneath that. Type in For Immediate Release in 12  point bold Times New Roman, also left justified. Change this only if there is a very good reason for doing so, in which case it would read: For Release After…with your chosen date. Space is an issue for editors. Don’t limit them unless you must.
  • Your headline is centered in 16 point Ariel bold. This catches an editor or producer’s attention.  Study headlines in the newspaper. Avoid anything cute or elaborate at first. More advanced party-goers will learn how to make their headlines catchy. Choose the most newsworthy (read that original, unique or honor-driven) element of your story to feature. 
  • The lead should be simple and brief. It is the first sentence in the body of your release. State who, how, where and what.  Check to be sure that the “when” includes the day of the week and the date. Here’s a sample: “Joseph Martin was honored by Authors of America at a gala ball Tuesday, March 8, at Rockville’s City Hall.”
  • The body of the release follows, single spaced. Leave a space between paragraphs. Do not indent. Mention the single most newsworthy aspect of your story in the paragraph after the lead: “Martin was a Pulitzer Prize winner in 1976.” Or even, “Martin has been a Rockville resident for more than a decade.” Add details to the next paragraph: You might credit those who are involved with planning and include the town in which they live after their names. This gives editors an idea for local angles, if needed.
  • Your permanent promotional paragraph comes next. Put it together once and it may only need an occasional update. It is your sales pitch or mini bio and it lists your most important (and relevant) experience and honors. Also include and/or any local organizations you belong to or important offices you’ve held. This kind of information can convince an editor that you are newsworthy. Use it in every release you send out.
  • Your pitch might be a quote about your book, a blurb or short or synopsis about your book. Loglines work here, too. Look up an easy way to write a great logline in The Frugal Book Promoter.
  • Media kit or photos are mentioned next in parentheses, 10 point bold, Times New Roman, centered: (A  media kit and photos are available on request.) 
  • Fax or e-mail your releases; those are the cheapest ways. A fax, however, is most likely to get attention. Include a Fax cover sheet to direct it to the proper editor or use the subject line. This will usually be the features or book editor. For radio and TV, it will be addressed to the producer of each show. Check by phone to make sure the name is current and spelled correctly. If you send photos with your release, use envelopes to match your letterhead and print each address using the envelope feeder on your printer.
Warning: When this simple release is complete, you won’t want to be overdressed.

Warning #2: One page or less is best.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson is a multi award-winning novelist and poet who learned to market her books the hard way—by falling into publicity potholes along the way. She wanted to share what she learned and pitched a how-to market a book class at UCLA and then began the HowToDoItFrugally series of books to support those classes which she taught for nearly a decade. Get more writers' resources on her site at Find her Frugal Book Promoter at


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Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Thank you for inviting me to guest post, Karen. It is good to partner with someone else who makes such an intense effort to help authors on the path to success. You know me. I believe that reading is the most frugal--and best--way to assure our own success. That and great networking.
Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Loving helping writers get read with my HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers including the multi award-winning second edition of The Frugal Book Promoter (

Karen Cioffi said...

Carolyn, having you guest post on Friday's this month is such a thrill. You provide such helpful information to writers and marketers, especially in your Frugal Book Series!

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Karen, I went back and tweeted this page. This is such an essential part of a professional marketing campaign for writers!

Karen Cioffi said...

Carolyn, sharing posts is definitely an essential part of marketing. That's why I have a guest article that you have graciously accepted to include in an upcoming Sharing With Writers Newsletter and on your blog.

It's all about visibility!

Unknown said...

Is there any tools for Online Press Release Writing Services?

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

There are tons, Jang. Just Google them. But you'll also find templates you can adapt in your Frugal Book Promoter and even in your Writer's Digest Directory. Remember that each release must showcase the best aspects of a specific news story.


Unknown said...

Its a good turn over to solve the media release marketing as it gives a chance to spread news of the page to everyone.Thanks

Karen Cioffi said...

Sandhya, thanks for stopping by. Press releases do help spread the word!

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Thanks to all for joining the conversation. Jang, The Frugal Book Promoter ( has several media releases that can be used as templates and a whole lot of advice for spicing them up so they'll get attention--and when and how not to do that! (-: And Sandhya, one of the most productive uses for a media release is to send it to the contact list the author himself or herself has built--and fostered over time.
Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Loving helping writers get read with my HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers including the multi award-winning second edition of The Frugal Book Promoter ( .