Sunday, March 20, 2011

Press Releases and How THEY CAN Help You on Amazon

I will let you know up front, you may wonder what this has to do with Amazon Optimization. Keep with me, you’ll understand soon. What we are going to discuss here are press releases. You probably have some familiarity with what a press release is, because one was probably put out when you became published (if you are self published and have not put out a press release, you should do so as soon as possible). For those that do not know, a press release is effectively a news article written with the purpose to draw attention to something. For instance, large companies will put out a press release when announcing a merger or a movie production company will put one out to announce an upcoming movie. The press release is to entice the media to pursue a story and/or to notify the general public of some new development or product.
The press release has several sections.
1.       Title: Like any article, the title is a major draw and it is the first thing a prospective reader will see.
2.       Abstract/Summary: This section is a two or three sentence overview of what your press release is about. This is what shows up in searches. It is extremely important that you use the limited space here to provide text that will entice a reader to actually open your release and read further. You want yours to stick out. Remember, books are released every day, what is so special about what you have to offer? Attention spans are short, you need to be able to grab the attention of your target audience in the first sentence.
3.       Introduction: The introduction is similar to the abstract (but should not be word for word the same). It is only a few sentences and it needs to draw the reader in. This is where you really will want to angle your story as best as possible.
4.       Body: Like any other piece, this is where you give more details. Remember, you don’t want a press release to be too long, so the body only needs two or three paragraphs of solid material. Avoid making it read like an advertisement. You will really want to show that you have a story to tell or that what you have to offer is interesting.
5.       Conclusion: Like any other document, this is a paragraph to wrap things up. It’s a good time to restate the introduction and remind the reader of what your angle is.
6.       Tags (Optional): Not all press release services support this but these are a series of keywords to tag your press release to have it show up when someone is looking specifically for topics related. Make sure your tags make sense to the content (don’t tag it mystery if it is science fiction, etc).
7.       Contact Information: This is how interested parties will communicate with you. Depending on the service, they may mask the information (a link for email without displaying your actual email, etc). Whatever you do, don’t put your personal contact information. This is where you would have a specific email address meant for being an author. If you have a PO box, you could list that as an address.
8.       Pictures/Other Media: Depending on the service, you may be allowed to upload a certain number of images and/or videos. You may also be permitted to upload documents such as PDFs. It can be tempting to take a feature like this to the extreme but remember, you only have a few seconds to catch the attention of a reader. Believe it or not, too much media draws their attention away from the point of your article.

When writing your copy, keep in mind the concept of SEO (Search Engine Optimization). The search engines index press releases, no matter how basic or advanced the service. To increase the chances of getting a higher ranking, strategic insertion of keywords is important. A pitfall with this, however, is when the same keywords are inserted so often that the quality of the writing suffers (or doesn’t make sense).

So, why do I mention press releases? What are some advantages beyond announcing your book’s release do they serve?
1.       Each and every release you put out is another indexed page. You are allowed to place two or three self-serving hyperlinks in your release. One of these should be to your website. The more links to your website that you pepper the internet with, the better the search engine rankings for it are.
a.       For those of you that do not know, here is a basic explanation of hyperlinks. They are the underlined text (called anchor text links) that you click on that carry you to another site. They can appear as regular text with an underline, or they can be a web address (like Any time you can use an anchor text link, you are better off. The code for this would be <a href =>Text Here</a>.
b.      Avoid linking to blogs as the links tend to change with those. Bad links get penalized by search engines when they calculate your rankings. Anchor text links carry more juice than standard hyperlinks.
2.       Placing a link to your Amazon page will increase the click-throughs to said page. Even if people do not buy it directly through the link, page views for your book are helpful in the formation of recommendations by the Amazon site.
3.       Each release is another page on the internet that discusses you and/or your book. This is the concept of viral marketing. The more you’re out there, the more likely you are to be discovered.
4.       As you build your marketing portfolio, you may find that you have interesting stories to share with the world. It is possible that if you appear enough, members of the media will become interested in you. Media publicity is not only free, it is some of the most effective publicity that you can get.

What are possible subjects of a press release? Here are a few ideas:
1.       Book reviews by known websites and/or publications. Each time your book is reviewed by one of these sources, you should put out a press release. The typical agreement when it comes to reviews is that you can quote any part of it that you want. This means that if you get a good review but there are some negative aspects, you can take what you want and put it in the release and leave the rest out. Just remember though, you typically need to link to the review site as part of the conditions of receiving the review so people can get to the full text of it although most don’t. If you notice, when people quote the New York Times, they typically quote a sentence or two even though the reviews are almost always a lot longer than that.
2.       Major speaking engagements or book signings are another reason. If you are going to be in a high profile area, put out a press release. If you are going to be in a small town independent bookstore, it is probably not newsworthy enough to warrant putting out a release. Of course, if you have a formal speaking engagement, you should definitely put out a press release.
3.       Unique stories about you are great for press releases. These days, writing a book is not news. If there is some aspect of your writing or yourself that is newsworthy (overcoming some type of hardship, etc), that tends to draw the attention of the media. People love that kind of stuff. I can utilize myself as an example. My writing is based on four years of lucid dreams that I had during high school and college. The first radio station I approached with that news invited me on for an interview.
So where do you go to put out a press release? It depends on how much money you have. There are two sites that I’ve used, which I will describe below.
  1. PR Web is an extremely well known Press Release site. Each release is indexed by Google and Yahoo news. There are different packages that can get you additional services including editing and SEO maximizing. More expensive packages also let you post video. The catch of course, is that it is expensive to post a press release here. Unless you feel as though more focused attention will definitely get you more valuable publicity, it may be a waste of your money to use this option. I will say that last year, they had a Black Friday deal where all of their services were half price.
  2. PR Log is a great site. You have a choice between free press releases and paid ones. You can purchase credits and the paid ones are relatively inexpensive for the added benefit of them being sent through the Google and Yahoo news feeds. The free ones are still search engine indexed and you really have no limit as to how many you put out there so have at it.
Press releases are a great way to continue to get the word out about your status as an author and about your book. The more you have going on, the better. The more search engine indexed pages that link back to you and your book, the better. The more you have a presence, the better.


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