(This is the first part of a two-part series)
You can generate more publicity, sell more books and become more profitable if you follow several simple techniques for writing press releases. This is particularly true when communicating with buyers in niche segments such as corporations, associations, schools and the military. Part One in this two-part series describes writing the headlines, and Part Two tells how to write body copy that leads the reader through your release.
Publicity is the least expensive and perhaps most productive of the promotional strategies publishers use to generate exposure for their books. And a press release is the tool most commonly used to stimulate publicity. However, too many publishers' press releases go unheeded because the publicity copywriters make one major mistake – they write their press releases about their books.
Unfortunately, non-retail buyers are not interested in purchasing your books. They are concerned with solving a business problem, which might be introducing a new product, motivating their employees, or building their association’s membership.
These people are bombarded with emails and other correspondence every day, and they do not give equal consideration to all of them. They will not take notice of something they think holds no relevance for their companies. So, your first objective is to get their attention with a provocative headline that quickly points out why your content can solve their problems. Then you follow the headline with body copy that communicates your story in the same tone as your headline (Part Two).
There are two general categories of headlines that will intrigue the recipients and build anticipation for your body text. A direct headline uses one or more of the primary sales features of your book as the attention-getter (10 New Ways to Motivate Employees). An indirect headline attempts only to stop the readers and get them to read more (What are your Members Saying About Your Association?).
Here are several types of direct and indirect headlines. Practice writing headlines using all these or combinations of them to draw readers into your release and take action on your recommendation.
1) News. This is the most common method of direct selling. News headlines feature your content in the same manner as if it were a noteworthy item of timely interest. Simply select the outstanding feature of your book (from the perspective of the reader's audience) and present it clearly and quickly: TV Violence Impacts Performance on the Job.
Whenever a new book arrives on the market, you should announce that fact with a news headline (Announcing the First Book to ...). People are interested in announcements and these headlines have high readership. Similarly, you can begin your headline with words that have an announcement quality such as Introducing ...., Just Published..., Presenting the Latest ..., At Last ... . Headlines beginning with the words New and Now typically have the same effect. Combining these formulas can have a positive impact on the reader: Just Published. A New Book About an Amazing Way to Increase Employee Productivity.
Do not use this technique unless you really have a news story. Once hooked, readers will continue, looking for additional facts. If you disappoint them they will stop reading and never trust your releases in the future. And do not use exclamation points for added emphasis. Let your statement stand alone on its news value.
2) Primary Benefit. This is a simple statement of the most important benefit of your content: A Hassle-Free Product Launch. It is not necessary to be cute since a straightforward statement can be a powerful attraction. Some people choose to use the title of the book in the headline on the premise that it will result in higher recognition. Others elect to use a subhead to strengthen the headline, drawing the readers into the body copy where use of the title is widespread.
Make your message clear and compelling by beginning your headline with the words How To... (How to End Revenue Worries), Why (Why Your Employees Call in Sick) or Which (Which of These Five Sales Troubles Would You Like to End?). These types of headlines are interesting and address the reader's major concern: "Will this be of interest to my customers, members or employees?"
A technique that has been proven effective is to offer advice (Advice to a New Marketing Manager). The word advice suggest that the readers will discover some useful information if they read the copy, the knowledge of which they in turn can pass on to their audiences.
3) Emotion. A common approach is that of capitalizing directly upon the emotions of the readers. Typically, the headline has no direct-selling value, but simply makes an emotional appeal to involve the reader. This approach can be used well with testimonials. An emotional quote from a well-known person in your field can add credibility to your message ("I was Going Broke Until I Read ...").
An effective emotional headline tells the reader that you understand their audience (For the Teacher who is 35 and Dissatisfied). Keep in mind that certain books lend themselves to emotional approaches, while others do not. Make sure your title and topic are conducive to this appeal or it will be looked upon as frivolous.
4) Gimmick. It is not always necessary to take the sane, sound, common-sense approach to snagging attention. There are times when a light opening is appropriate, one in which there is no apparent relationship to the title or content of the book. However, it is important for credibility's sake that you make this connection eventually.
A gimmicky headline is most effective when your title has few important competitive advantages to shout as news or a direct benefit headline, and lacks the sales appeal of an emotional one. For instance, a gimmick headline addressed to librarians might declare: This Book is Two Years Overdue.
5) Curiosity. This technique arouses curiosity about your book by, in most cases, asking a question: What Ever Happened to Sex Education on the Job?
Both curiosity and gimmick headlines are methods of indirect selling. If you are selling content that fails to offer any attention-getting appeals, then you could try these techniques. However, it is generally better to use a logical, believable approach to the reader's interest through a straightforward presentation.
6) Directive. This type of headline is most useful when you wish to get immediate action from the reader. Directive headlines begin with words such as Go Now! or Call Today... and therefore are better used when addressing your ultimate customers. On the other hand, these tend to work well with sales managers who are looking for quick sales: You Can Sell More – and in Less Time.
There is no absolute formula by which you can determine when and where to use directive headlines. However, they do get people to stop and read because they are direct, concise and forceful.
7) Hornblowing. When you can be specific, do so. If your title has outstanding selling points, take advantage of them in your headlines. But if you can find no such appeals in the book you may find it advisable to lure the reader with a headline that speaks in general terms about the merits of it. These are called "hornblowing" headlines: The World's Most Definitive Book on ... .
This approach is useful in other circumstances, such as when your title compares favorably with competitive books but still lacks a unique point of difference. It may actually have some advantages that, for one reason or another, are not important enough to build an entire release around.
Headlines stop the readers and entice them to read more. These could also be used in the subject line of your emails. In any case, once you get the reader’s attention you have to deliver on your promise, and that is the topic of Part Two in this series.
Brian Jud is a book-marketing consultant and the Executive Director of the Association of Publishers for Special Sales (APSS – www.bookapss.org– formerly SPAN). Contact Brian at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.premiumbookcompany.com