Ron Pramschufer: You have to think of a press release as an invitation to the media to learn more about what your book is about and possibly do something about it. That doesn’t mean that they’re going to. They make it seem that if you give them anywhere from $200.00 to $500.00 that somehow magically you’re gonna be on the front page of the New York Times, and that’s not realistic.
This is Ron Pramschufer and welcome to Published Basics Radio where weekly we try to help you navigate the self-publishing mine field.
Chris, how ya doing this morning?
Christopher Simmons: I’m doing great.
Ron Pramschufer: Quick question here; may sound a little stupid, but what is a press release?
Christopher Simmons: A press release is a new announcement to the media. It’s not an article. It’s not an advertisement. It’s basically a mechanism for announcing something that’s actually news to someone who works in the media, meaning a TV station, a talk radio show or a print magazine, and now, of course, online with all of the blogs and so forth.
Ron Pramschufer: Okay, now what would you consider the primary goal of a press release?
Christopher Simmons: The primary goal of a press release traditionally has been to get media coverage. Meaning that obviously it’s far more cost effective to send a press release about your new software product or book to a magazine and have them write about you than to buy a full-page ad or a quarter page or whatever.
Ron Pramschufer: Now, what kind of company would a person go to who wants to send out a press release?
Christopher Simmons: Traditionally you would you use a public relations firm, a PR firm. PR stands for public relations, not press release. Or you would go to a newswire service such as Business Wire, PR Newswire, Send To Press, Bacon’s, Burrell, those sort of things. And what those companies do is deliver the news directly to editors based on proprietary distribution lists. The idea being that you’re getting the press release directly into the highly targeted hands of the folks that are interested in it. Meaning you’re not sending cooking news to car magazines, and you’re not sending biotech news to veterinarians unless you happen to be doing some kind of weird things with your animals. (Laughter)
Ron Pramschufer: Okay. You’ve mentioned wire services. How do wire services work? I’ve heard Associate Press, gosh, since I was a kid.
Christopher Simmons: There’s a lot of confusion over the term “wire service.” The term wire service originally came from let’s say the era of World War II when there was a dedicated teletype machine which ran from a phone line – let’s say an Associate Press office – and a daily newspaper might have a teletype machine sitting there. If you watch an old movie you’ll hear the “t t t, t t t t t t, it’s coming over the wire!” And what that mean was that there was a story that was being distributed nationally from a service like Associated Press, United Press International, or let’s say in the U.K., Reuters, that would be coming over a teletype machine to all the different people who had that teletype machine and a phone line would be coming from that news service and because it was coming over a dedicated phone line it was called a wire service. Technically today a true newswire is any news service that has been around, let’s say, longer than ten years and maintains their own proprietary database.
Ron Pramschufer: Okay, now again back with the Associated Press. So, what I’m getting at, you would sent a press release to Associated Press. They would have the option of putting it up as is or rewriting it? They’ve got their own staff writers, right?
Christopher Simmons: Well today a news service like Associated Press, the way they make their money is two-fold. One, they have account news services to be able to access news from the Associated Press system or UPI or Reuters, and what Associated Press and UPI do now, the way they make most of their revenue is they cherry pick or choose the stories that they think are most interesting that they can sell the most copies of. And if they get 100 press releases Monday morning and two of them they find interesting, those two they will actually take and create their own bylined article – bylined meaning the name of the writer. A staff writer of Associated Press will be attributed to that writer and they may do some additional research. They may call the company, whatever. They’ll create an article about it and then they’ll sell the right to use that article for newspapers and to, now, web sites.
Ron Pramschufer: Oh, okay. ’Cause I did a search yesterday at the AP web site under like the keyword “self publishing” which is who we were talking to here today and it was basically no articles, boom. It was none that they at that particular moment. Yet if I entered the same “self publishing” into Google News, okay, I came up with 1,730 listings. Obviously AP is more selective.
Christopher Simmons: Well, AP and UPI, again, they choose their own stories. For example, I can put out a press release about one kind of a book and UPI will have absolutely no interest in it. And then another book the same day – this happened three weeks ago, they picked up one of our press releases for a client – an ebook of all things, but it had an ISBN number and it was available on Print on Demand but initially it was released as an ebook. UPI picked up the story. It ran all over the place which I would have told you even two years ago that that was unlikely.
Ron Pramschufer: You think they picked up ’cause it was an ebook or because the book was about something?
Christopher Simmons: No they picked it up because it was about pod casting.
Ron Pramschufer: Oh, so it was newsworthy –
Christopher Simmons: That was the hot topic that particular day. It was like – there was a lot of buzz about that particular day because it related to Apple’s pending announcement of the video Ipod and so there were – the Nano had come out. So there was a lot of buzz about the whole pod-casting thing.
Ron Pramschufer: Okay. If you were to guess, how many press releases you think go out weekly, daily? Here you are the AP man. You mentioned you get 100 in and maybe you’ll look at two.
Christopher Simmons: The issue that has come about – and this is of course the black side or the dark side of the electronic medium now, is there’s a huge influx of what I refer to as news spam. There’s a lot of news being distributed now through what I don’t refer to as newswire services, but free news sites and folks that basically have spam lists that offer, “We’ll send your press release to10,000 people for $49.00!” and God knows where they’re getting these lists. They can’t be a legitimate source because no legitimate newswire will give out their database. So one of the problems is that someone like the L.A. Times, which used to get 100 legitimate press releases a day, or let’s say a week, let’s say, I think they’re up to getting something like 2,000-3,000 press releases a week now. Ninety percent of it is not legitimate news. It’s something that someone has read a book or gone to a seminar or gone to some predatory web site and been told, “You can promote your _____ web site by putting out a press release.”
Ron Pramschufer: Well, that’s the company line. It’s self publishers. That’s why we’re talkin’ today. Everybody knows to send out a press release, right? And there’s pretty much every one of the publishing services and the POD publishers and the Vanity Presses and whatever, a press release is right at the top of the list. “Send out a press release.” So everybody does it.
Christopher Simmons: Yeah, and quite honestly for a legitimate product it works very well. For something like a book or a tangible product like a retail boxed piece of software, antique flooring for renovating houses to make them look like they’ve got 300‑year‑old hardwood floors rather than plastic veneer, those physical, tangible products do very well in the media today because it’s something that an editor can wrap their head around. They can look at photo and say, “This is a physical book. This is a physical piece of software. This is a physical sculpture of something.” Books with press releases still work very well. Unfortunately, some of the first-time authors that have written their first romance novel, those are really a hard sell to the media because there’s so much romance novels out there and there are so many big companies like Harlequin and all of their offshoots that buy a lot of advertising and then have a lot of brand awareness for that. Technical books do very well. Entertainment books do very well. We recently did some work for a book about a teenage guide – “Teenagers’ Guide to the Beatles.” Got dozens and dozens of radio interviews. Beatles’ websites all over the world covered this. Electronic Musician Magazine requested a review copy. It’s gonna be in there. That – for a very small investment the author of that book got just massive amounts of publicity that they wouldn’t have been able to afford to buy.
Ron Pramschufer: So you think pretty much everyone that publishes a book ought to give it a whirl?
Christopher Simmons: I think it doesn’t hurt. It’s – I think it’s just you have to have realistic expectations. Unfortunately, again, the predatory nature of the internet now and the folks that claim to be in the PR business or “newswire” service business, they make it seem that if you give them your – anywhere from $200.00 to $500.00 that somehow magically you’re gonna be on the front page of New York Times, and that’s not practical. That’s not realistic. You have to think a press release as an invitation to the media to learn more about what your book is about and possibly do something about it. That doesn’t mean that they’re going to.
Ron Pramschufer: Okay now the one thing I found with my own press releases, and oh – ’cause I’ve done some with you and I’ve done some with – I’ve actually tried some out of these other services, the exact ones you’re talking about, free – “Twenty bucks and I’ll send them out to a million places.” Didn’t get any calls from anybody. But what I did find was that you end up – this is the age of the internet. You end up with links all over the place and is that like a saleable byproduct of the press release? The average person probably isn’t gonna get called by CNN, right? But will –?
Christopher Simmons: Well yes and no. It has to go back – you have to go back to the – again if you’re looking to just get your book mentioned on thousands of web sites or dozens of web sites or whatever, that is an acceptable byproduct of doing a press release if you don’t get media response. However, you have to look at the – yeah you can spend $20.00 on a free news site and be mixed in with all of the other “news spam.” No journalist in their right mind is going to sort through 100 pages of _____ ads to find your book release. And no legitimate person in the media, like CNN, is gonna be subscribing to those RSS feeds or pulling those headlines or anything because again so much of it is spam because there’s no editorial guidelines, there’s no checking to say, “We won’t take this because it’s not really news.” The problem with a free news site is it’s a free news site. It’s basically – it’s basically throwing up a content management system and saying “Come here and paste your text, whatever you want, into this box and we’ll post it. And for $20.00 we’ll stick three spots higher than the guy next to you.” That’s not news. That’s basically buying advertisement or a classified. It’s almost like when you’re buying a news classified ad and it can sometimes show up well in search engines but unfortunately it also then shows up on web sites that are not credible.
Ron Pramschufer: What’s the general – for lack of a better word – the life expectancy of a press release?
Christopher Simmons: A legitimate news site takes the approach that something that’s six months old isn’t news, is it?
Ron Pramschufer: Makes sense to me.
Christopher Simmons: So if you’re going to forbes.com and you want to look up something that’s news, say business news, obviously if it’s six months old it’s not news anymore because there’s six months of more recent news there that you might want to be able to look at more quickly. And the same thing with news.google. News.google tends to cycle stuff out the news.google system within 30 days. Sites like Yahoo Financial News, which is actually where they post most of their news stories, unfortunately in a place where most people would never find it, usually expires in about three months. A lot of the online sites that pull news via automated formats, like the L.A. Times might run stories verbatim from a newswire service, or the hollywoodreporter.com is a better example, the news will expire in a week because there’s only a fixed number of spaces on the page to show that, let’s say, the 100 most-recent stories. Once it reaches 100 that’s there it stops. And so anything – when you’re story gets to be Story No. 101 it drops off the page entirely.
Ron Pramschufer: Oh okay. ’Cause the one thing that I noticed that once you’d drop off the news – I did like a search yesterday, whatever, on Publishing Basics Radio and I go hot and cold with sending out news releases so – and I haven’t done it in a while. Okay, I had one pop up under news, google.news and that was back from like, oh, October. But yet when I went over to just a regular search it came up like 400 times and it was all the different places. I mean I know like with your service you also post it on your own web site, right? It was like you could still – it didn’t die, die. It died as a news item. But it didn’t die as a link out there on the internetland.
Christopher Simmons: Well again, some of the things now with what are called news aggregation web sites – there are some news aggregation web sites that archive copies of news stories for the purposes of selling advertising. The idea being that if they post a copy of your story on their web site under, let’s say, the publishing category, they may keep it up there for a year. They may keep it up there forever. And the reason they’re doing that is so they can sell advertising on that page and also sell the right for even your competitors to buy an ad on that same page against your content. So there’s some negative to that. But the plus side for you is, of course, that when you type in your company name or a phrase from your original news press it’ll typically show up somewhere in Google for a long time, or Yahoo.
Ron Pramschufer: All right. Now, last thing. I just – again I’m back to being a self-publisher. I got my first book. It’s a – let’s say it’s a book on how to play golf left handed or something. I’m comin’ to you, Chris. What should – what would you suggest that I do as far as what kind of program? How much should I spend as my entry-level into this whole PR thing?
Christopher Simmons: Well one of the things that’s unique about what my company does is because, of course, everyone that works at my company has some connect to the book publishing industry. Our lead writer is a best-selling author. I grew up in a household which was full of book authors and I also have my own book deal now for a book that’s coming out next year. And we are kind of unique in the sense that we take the approach that we don’t have a one-size fit all. The traditional newswire services like Business Wire, PR News Wire, et cetera, tend to want to charge you $700.00 for a national press release because that’s what they do for Proctor and Gamble. The little no‑name sites that have popped in the recent years, in some cases folk that are reselling someone else’s service.
It’s almost like an insurance agency. They’re reselling the insurance company’s services but they’re not actually the insurance company themselves. There’s a lot of news services out there that claim to be newswires but if you were to look a little deeper you would see that all they do is resell somebody else’s services. We’re kind of unique in it’s sometimes a little bit more confusing to order our services. Which I will grant you is that we have several tiers of service. We have a level of service that is fairly inexpensive for a book author, let’s say $150.00, that gives the benefit of our 23‑year‑old database of being able to send news directly to editors, but also keyword placement in search engine placement in things like Yahoo news blogs, news.google with a book cover of your book jacket and syndication all over the web. A site like Bookcatcher grabs our news. Things like that.
Ron Pramschufer: That sounds pretty reasonable. And then of course you more expensive options I assume.
Christopher Simmons: Right, more expensive options when we want to roll in some of the things like placement in Reuters and so forth.
Ron Pramschufer: But you can make – oh, not to interrupt you, but you make the judgment though. If I’m coming in and you know whether – especially if you’re doing books and you do a lot of books, you know whether I’m like qualified to write this took that I’ve written. You don’t, as far as, overselling people. I mean if just won the U.S. Open and I just published a book on golf my guess is you’d try to get me into the higher end stuff.
Christopher Simmons: Exactly. Again it goes back to the thing like for a romance novel we would steer you to the less expensive plan if you are someone – like one of our recent clients, Susan Powter, who has come back from nowhere out of retirement, the woman who was doing the “Stop the Insanity” stuff, because she’s got already some awareness of her name and her background. For her book it made more sense to do the more expensive plan because when it goes into a system like Reuters or Lexus Nexus or Comtex or whatever, people are already going, “Oh, Susan Powter. I know that name.”
Ron Pramschufer: “I know that name.”
Christopher Simmons: And there’s more of an entertainment opportunity there for her book because she’s already got some brand awareness if you will.
Ron Pramschufer: All right. And Chris, the name of your company is sendtopress.com?
Christopher Simmons: Sendtopress.com, it’s actually legally called Send To Press Newswire and it was originally called Mind Set Net Wire and it’s a spin off of our company that’s been around since January of 1983 and –
Ron Pramschufer: All right. Well I tell you what; it’s been really nice talking to you today, Chris.
Christopher Simmons: My pleasure.
Ron Pramschufer: And hopefully all our listeners out there’ll be clicking on that sendtopress.com and I’ll send you some business.
Christopher Simmons: Great, look forward to it.
Ron Pramschufer: Take care now.
Christopher Simmons: Okay.
Ron Pramschufer: For Publishing Basics Radio this is Ron Pramschufer. See you next week.
Announcer: This program is produced by Jack Street Media and sponsored by Publishing Basics Radio. Thanks for listening.
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