To be effective as a publicity tool, a press release should follow these guidelines:
1. The purpose of a press release is to notify the media and your target audience about an event or important story. The goal is provide enough enticing information to have someone call you to find out more, so keep the release to one or two pages.
2.Follow the accepted standard format (samples are in provided in 4Ps to Publishing Success, or available by googling "press release format"). You can and should use your letterhead for the release, but don't deviate from the format.
3. Write your press release like an article (which is what you want a journalist to turn it into!). Develop an interesting headline. The first paragraph is your hook. What is new or special about your book? What problem does it solve? Who is your audience? The second paragraph can explain what inspired the story or book, why you are an expert and a personal quote related to the information. The third paragraph gives a directive, or call to action. Why should they call you? Are you available for interviews? Will you be holding a book signing in the area? Give your contact information here.
What can you send as part of a media kit?
Include an image of your book cover (postcard, bookmark, etc.) In your cover letter, offer to send a copy of your book. Tell them if you are available for telephone or radio interviews and why you would be an interesting guest. You can even include suggested interview questions on a separate sheet of paper.
When should you follow up with the media?
You can call to follow up with a magazine editor or news reporter about the information you've sent. Rule number one: ask if they are available to talk for a few minutes when they answer the phone. Busy editors/reporters on deadline don't like to be interrupted and will tell you so if you just start talking. Rule number two: Never ask, "Did you receive my press release?" Always offer some new information--preferably something that will be interesting or beneficial to their readers. Ask what you can do to help them and then pitch yourself as a guest or someone they can call upon for information.
It may seem a little uncomfortable if you've never done this before, but after one or two times, you'll feel more at ease with the process. And once you get a response, you'll be juiced to write them all the time.