Marketing Madness

I’m back with more marketing and press release information, by popular demand.

I recently co-led a class at a Writer’s Conference (with poet Melinda Palacio) on Being Your Own Best Publicist and, since then, I’ve been contacted by writers with questions on back cover copy, loglines, and press releases.

Every time I finish a book, after writing a whopping ~80,000 words, I go back and condense the gist of my novel into far fewer words. I do this for the back cover copy, for a press release, and even for a log line (which is typically under 25 words). These are not easy tasks, but they can be reduced to just the right amount of words to ignite a potential reader’s curiosity.

Here are two of my own log or taglines:

She swore she’d never turn into her P.I. father…but that was before she ran over the body. (MURDER & OTHER UNNATURAL DISASTERS)

A girl, a guy, and a missing body. What could go wrong? (MURDER GONE MISSING)

From Louise Penny’s STILL LIFE: Three Pines–a beautiful place, a brutal murder…

Writing log or taglines requires distilling your novel into a brief sentence or two; enough to whet a reader’s appetite. Make them want to know more! 

To write the back cover copy, I study books that appear similar in genre and tone. Then I work on mine. And work and work some more. A whole lot more!

For my upcoming book, MURDEROUS MEANS, #6 in my Southern California Mystery series, I wrote a 150-200 word back cover copy, then refined it. And put it aside. I rinsed and repeated multiple times.  

For my last release, GAMBLING WITH MURDER, my lovely publisher created this press release (with slight modifications by yours truly):


I changed it around some more, depending on who or what media outlet I was submitting it to. This is what I used for local circulation:

GAMBLING WITH MURDER sell sheet_Updated2023

Once again, the possibilities are endless and so are the press releases that appear online on the websites of other authors. Take a look and educate yourself. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at what you can come up with.

What's in a Press Release?

Do you even need a press release? I do and did, not only for my first book, but for each one of them. Maybe you do, too. A press release serves as a calling card when reaching out to media outlets. Press releases showcase our books, spreading the word about them, and helping expand our audience.

These days, I’m fortunate to have my publisher create my press release, but early on, I was on my own. Studying sell sheets (another name for a press release) from bigger authors was how I learned about the elements to use:

1. Headline: Short and catchy (no more than 20 words), this should grab the reader’s attention and highlight your book. Basics in a headline: Title, logline, or a quote.

2. Contact info – The usual: name, email, phone, website. Simple, right?

3. Publication Date: “For release on [date]” or simply note “For immediate release.”

4. Cover Photo: A high-resolution photo of your book cover can really add some pizazz.

5. In no particular order, this is what is typically in the body content:  Starting point – a short paragraph introducing you and your book in a compelling way. One or two sentences describing your book will do. Or you can be more creative. What do you love about your book? Think about the opening chapter. What did you do to draw your readers right in? The second short paragraph is a detailed description of the book (think: back cover copy). The third brief paragraph may include a quote from a book reviewer or a notable person endorsing the book. The fourth paragraph lists where to buy the book, or launch event details (date, time, location, contact info). Write the press release in 3rd person (no “I” or “We”).

6. Closing/Bio: Finish with a short author bio. 

Don’t take editing for granted! Make sure your press release is polished till it glows in the dark. My most successful press release was one that started out with a description of a secondary character and the inciting incident that started it all. The possibilities are endless!


Things That Amaze Me

I’m amazed by the things that amaze me, especially in my writer’s life. They’re reminders that I need to pause and be grateful, to thoroughly enjoy each moment, and to be sure that I carry with me, and use, good thoughts, good words, and good deeds. 

I can’t possibly list all the amazing things, but here are two recent highlights:

– It was a long haul to drive from my home to the recent Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. Traffic snarls, not quite knowing the way, and parking really tripped me up. By the time I arrived, I was ready to turn around and motor back. I’m glad I didn’t. Even with the holdups, I arrived ten minutes early, which gave me a chance to visit a few booths where I met wonderful people, bought enjoyable books, and relaxed before my book signing.

While signing, many, many lovely humans stopped by to chat. Talented authors surrounded me. It gave me great joy not just to promote my own books, but the books from the writers sitting around me, such as Lark O Jensen and Iris Yamashita. After I left my signing, a gentlemen stopped me and said, “You’re the author. I wish you great book success!” I wasn’t sure if he was mixing me up with someone else, but it at that moment, I was happy to be that author, or any author, for that matter. The day was a success, not only because of my book sales, but because of the kind humans that made my day. Who doesn’t want to be around happy people? A little shift in my mind made a monumental difference.

– A few weeks prior, I had another book event in Morro Bay at Coalesce Bookstore. It was a live reading with other authors where we shared scenes from our books. By shared, I mean we acted out various parts and characters. I channeled my inner Reba for a Southern accent, my inner diva for a demanding, mixed-up lady on vacation, and my inner, fearless PI to play the heroine featured in my series. All of which were way out of my comfort zone… and such a blast! Again, amazing due to a simple change in attitude: I can do this! Sometimes, that’s all it takes.