The Press Release


Definition – Press Release: An official statement issued to newspapers giving information on a particular matter

In my case, a press release will let people know that my book (or book launch event) is a newsworthy item. It could lead to valuable publicity for little or no cost. I’m liking the sounds of that, for sure.

Getting a press release read by a busy editor would appear to be a herculean task. Apparently, I can expect an editor to look at my press release (the one I literally slaved over) for a maximum of four seconds. I guess it better start off with a bang!

The Bare Essentials of a Well-Crafted Press Release


  • An attention grabbing headline – obviously the most important part of the whole exercise (remember when I said a busy editor would give the press release four seconds of his or her time?)

Paragraph One

  • The unique selling point of my novel.

Paragraph Two

  • I tell the reader why they should care. For this paragraph I want to know what’s currently trending and hook myself to that media bandwagon with a heavy-duty hitch. If it bleeds it leads and all that jazz. (Newspaper lingo Winking smile)

Paragraph Three

  • I support and summarize the information given in the first two paragraphs.

I have read that each paragraph should be a maximum of three sentences. The name of the game seems to be catchy and quick.  On the off-chance that my release does get noticed by a busy editor, I better have proof read the thing within an inch of its journalistic life.

Another important thing to remember (especially for my fellow novelists out there) – the press release is written in a journalistic style with a third-person point-of-view. It is meant to read like a newspaper article. This is not the spot for letting the flowery language flow.

At the end of the tightly composed press release, I could include an About the Author section, but it should be kept brief. Then I would put my contact information at the bottom of the page: full name, phone number, email address, and web address

It sounds pretty straight forward. Easy-breezy, right? We’re only talking nine sentences maximum. I’m not so sure though – I thought I would try to draft up a practice example for this post, but I’m still struggling over it. I’ve written a lot but never in a journalistic style and it’s not as easy as it might sound.

I did pour over my promotion budget thinking that a professionally crafted press release might be a good investment. Attracting the attention of a print media outlet could be a one shot deal with a lot on the line and a poor job of the press release could turn an editor off, not only today but for any future contact as well.

I went so far as to get a quote – $329.00 and that doesn’t include anyone actually reading my book. I would have to draft up the main points of the press release and then a professional would hone it to perfection. Hmmm . . . I will definitely work on doing it myself. The budget is already stretched pretty thin with the cost of getting to this point.

A topical, tightly written press release will be a great promotional tool to put in my tool box. If you don’t hear from me for a while you will all know what I’m doing.



The Book Promotion Tool Box




In part two of my book-promotion-sharing-as-I-learn process, I will be filling a book promotion tool box. I love the analogy of the tool box – everything I need all neatly assembled and divided into handy little sections.

The four sections of the tool box are labeled: print media, broadcast and PR; social media and online promotion; non-traditional channels; and events plus peer to peer interactions.

Let’s have a look at the possible tools I might acquire for each section.

Print media

  • I will store my press release in the print media section of my tool box. I could write a complete post on the intricacies of the press release (heck, I probably will). Suffice to say, the press release is quite important.
  • I may also create an entire press kit – it seems it would be jam packed with all sorts of things and probably expensive.
  • Radio interviews, reviews and articles may all be stored in this section. I’ll write another post soon on the need for reviews.

Social media and online presence

  • Here is the spot where I’ll plunk this blog, along with my Facebook site, my Twitter account, my presence on LinkedIn and Pinterest and Goodreads.
  • An author’s website would be stored here – though I’ve had such excellent results with Word Press, I’m thinking I’ll let my blog do double duty.
  • YouTube promotional videos (gulp – I feel a bit faint. I have to put my head down between my knees for a moment. Oh there – that’s better)
  • This is also the place for online events – blog tours, guest blog spots – I’m sure so much more could go here but I haven’t figured it all out yet.

Non-Traditional Channels

  • Here is where I can stash all the business deals I might make in order to sell my book – things like getting the North Island Crisis Center to give a copy of my book to all their employees as a Christmas gift (hey, that’s not a bad idea!).
  • I can place all my ideas for alternative retail outlets in this section. For example – would a local tourist place carry my book or a place that sells crafts made on the North Island? (wow – where are these stellar ideas coming from. I must be channelling a marketing guru here.)
  • This is also where my pitch package goes – pretty sketchy on the details of that – I’ll have to get back to you on that one.

Events and Peer-to-Peer Interactions

  • In this section, I will stow book signing events, my table at a book fair or a Conference, a booth at a summer festival, the sale of my book on a cruise ship (Sweet baby Jesus – where do they get these ideas? But think about all those people just captive on a boat. It does have potential. (Note to self: check out how BC Ferries selects the books for the BC authors section, which is available for sale on board all their vessels)
  • This is also the place where I store all the people in my various networks who will be working away to promote my book. (Family, friends, past co-workers – run now, ran hard and fast.)

So – there you have it. A well-laid out tool-box chalk full of promotional tools, all neatly organized into sections. You know that song – Come Fly with Me? The words keep running through my mind, but for some reason I keep wanting to add – over a cliff. But we’re in this together – right?


Entering the World of Book Promotion – Part 1


The title to this blog might more aptly read – Being Dragged Kicking and Screaming into the World of Book Promotion. From what I have seen so far of my book promotion material, (provided for me as part of my Friesen Press publication package) I can’t decide whether to run screaming out of the room or roll on the floor laughing.

But, all kidding aside, the next phase of my self-publishing journey is upon me and though I have been committed to taking each thing as if comes, learning as I go – I admit to trepidation. This stage seems more than a tad intimidating.

Where to start? At the beginning I suppose – self-publishing a book is like starting your own small business. I need to find my target market, get a good understanding of where my future customers hang out, suss out the competition and find out what makes my product unique. Are you still with me? I know I’ve lost all the writers, they have run out of the room and are now hiding in a corner of a cluttered closet under a blanket.

I must answer questions related to my motivation for writing the book in the first place, my personal idea of success, what the purpose of my book might be, and how would I define the obstacles in my way of moving forward with promotion. (I resist scrawling – I’m so afraid – in the blank spaces of the module workbook.) And finally I come to the six million dollar question – What is the unique selling point of my novel (USP for short)? It’s critical for marketing, this USP. It tells people why they should buy my book rather than one of the million other books out there clamouring for their attention. It’s a signature that stays with and becomes synonymous with the title of my book.

No pressure there, right folks?

Here is what I have been working on as USPs ideas for Disappearing in Plain Sight:

  • If you’ve ever felt like life disappeared you, a little or a lot, then this book is for you.
  • If you are a parent, or someone who works with or provides care for young adults, if you were young once yourself and remember the experience – this book is for you.
  • Have you ever had to work at rebuilding your life after the loss of a friend or loved one? You may find that the complex emotions that surround such an effort are reflected in parts of this novel.
  • The novel handles complex and challenging life issues in the authentic voices of both young people and the adults who act and react to them
  • You will be drawn into a unique setting – an isolated lake on Northern Vancouver Island, British Columbia
  • The novel will touch your emotions (people report crying) but also manage to evoke humour (indicative of reality – even people who face very difficult life events have other things going on. They laugh as well as cry.)
  • The novel may give you  a feel good happy ending (but that depends on what you were looking for – no spoilers here), but expect to be challenged in your concepts of right and wrong. When it comes to complicated life choices, Disappearing in Plain Sight provides no black and white answers – only shades of grey.

OK – seriously – reading that USP stuff – I’m not sure whether to pat my back or run as fast as I can. So far – promotion is way harder than writing.

In my next post, I’ll give you an overview of the four major sections of a book promotion toolkit.


I think Jack London would have been the right type of guy to do self-promotion – do or die!

Disappearing in Plain Sight–Release Date for the novel is in Sight

picasso quote on purpose of art

It won’t be long now Open-mouthed smile 

Disappearing in Plain Sight is due to come out near the beginning of March – I am waiting for Friesen Press to give me a definitive release date. Suffice to say, I am excited and nervous and wracked with various anxieties. The piece of art I created is about to leap into the world and I’m not sure how much dusting of souls it will do. It has certainly whisked over mine a few times.

With the actual release just around the corner – I’m finding it hard to believe I’m seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. You work and work for something and then you wait and wait for it to happen and all of a sudden it does. How will life after a book is out in the world differ from life before?

Here are a few things that I’m looking forward to. Being able to check sales stats (this could become a dread if there’s nothing to check – we’ll have to see how it goes), setting up all the Amazon author perks, getting out on Goodreads, giving copies of the book to friends and family who have been so supportive through this whole process. To say nothing of the joy I hope to feel, when I hold a hardcover copy of my novel in my hands, curl up in a big chair near the fire and read my book with absolutely no thought of changing anything.

Of course, more work hovers on the horizon. Having the book out means moving into the world of self-promotion – I did know that self-publishing would also entail self-promotion. I’ve read a lot of blogs and articles by authors who have published traditionally and they invariably write that they had to self-promote, too. We indie authors have lots of company.

I know balancing the work of promotion with the time needed to get the first draft of the next novel completed will be a challenge. Stephen King writes that the first draft should not take more than one season of dedicated effort to finish – drag it on past that one season and you risk losing momentum. This is a winter book (though not set in winter at all) so I have a bit of time left.

On the up side of balancing, a break can be as a good as a rest. It’s healthy and stimulating to switch gears sometimes.

Look for upcoming posts that will feature the book cover, exact news on the release date, as well as a series I am preparing on the finer details of book promo work.


(Oh to be as self-confident and as beautiful as Audrey Hepburn)

Un-invent: Fight Like Soldiers, Die Like Children


If I could un-invent one thing, it would be the availability of small arms and light weapons. This type of military hardware may be a predictive indicator of the potential for child soldiering. The connection has yet to be definitively proven and it is unlikely that we could ever say one way or the other, but the impact of the use of children as a strategic military tool could be lessened by the absence of such weapons.

Think about it – a child simply does not have the physical strength to cart around a full-sized weapon.


I urge you to visit the Child Soldiers Initiative website.

This organization was founded by retired lieutenant-general and celebrated humanitarian Roméo Dallaire. It is a global partnership committed to ending the use and recruitment of child soldiers worldwide.


There is so much valuable information on this site, including a trailer for Dallaire’s new film, Fight Like Soldiers, Die Like Children, based on his 2010 book of the same name that was launched at the Amsterdam Docs festival.


“Children are used because they are considered expendable, plentiful, cheap to maintain and easily indoctrinated by the adults who recruit them. They are used as a strategic military tool—a weapons system—to advance the interests of persistent human rights violators.” (Daillaire)

Daillarie himself speaks quite eloquently to this issue – check out this YouTube interview he did with Allen Gregg for TV Ontario.

You could also check out this recent (Nov. 2012) op-ed piece in the Toronto StarProtect children from military press gangs.

Dallaire’s voice is invaluable in the initiative to stop the use of child soldiers because he is known as not only a humanitarian, but also as a tried and true veteran of a military conflict where he personally faced a gun pointed at him by a child. He speaks to NGOs, governments and the military in a language they can all understand.


Dallaire being interviewed by George Stroumboulopoulos for the CBC TV program The Hour on the issue of Canadian child soldier Omar Khadr

“For soldiers with any sense of honour at all, fighting children offers a no-win situation. To be defeated by children would almost certainly bring death, derision and disgrace, while to win would carry the taint of having killed mere children.” (Dallaire)

For the complete story of Dallaire’s experiences in Rwanda please read his book – Shake Hands with the Devil.

Bruce and I have seen Dallaire speak and we have read his books. I urge you to give some time to checking into the information available on child soldiers. When you become aware of the breadth and scope of the problem, the human suffering and anguish, I do not believe you will be unmoved.

Emma does Michelangelo


As I witness my granddaughter’s preschool learning curve, I am amazed at the advances in early childhood education. Things have come a long way from when my own kids came home with macaroni pieces glued to the lid of an old box and then spray painted gold.

Emma’s preschool has a curriculum – the kids learn about science, geology, math and art. So far, in the Year Four program, she has studied the work of Emily Carr, George Seurat, Vincent Van Gogh and now, Michelangelo. If Emma is to be any yardstick of learning, what the children take away from their exposure to the artists in question can be summarized in one word – hilarious. OK – maybe more than one word – rolling on the floor laughter.

seurat1[1]None of us will ever forget Emma’s dramatic lecture describing the founder of the school of pointillism – Georges Seurat. Standing by the fridge with a cheese stick in her hand, she explained to us in a very serious voice that all George Seurat did was paint – point by point by point. (I defy you to picture the cheese stick being used to illustrate this message without doubling over in laughter.) But there was more. He didn’t eat and he didn’t sleep and he didn’t even go out and play with his friends – just point, by point, by point. (If you could get through that display without rolling on the floor you are a more poker-faced person than I am.)

Let us fast forward to the month of February. Her class is to study the work of Michelangelo. Emma was having her hair washed in the bathtub the other night when her images[6]mom asked her, “How did you get all this paint behind your ears?” Emma said, “Well (You have to understand how she draws out the word well and then pauses for dramatic effect to really get how funny this sounds) – we aren’t doing George Seurat anymore – now we’re doing Michelangelo.”

(If you haven’t already dissolved into peals of laughter at the imagery provoked by the thought of a group of twenty preschoolers doing Georges Seurat then as I said before – you are in better control of your emotions than I.)


Emma went on to say, “Michelangelo painted ceilings. We went under the tables to paint over our heads.” OK, that explains the paint behind the ears. It was quiet for a moment and then she announced, “Michelangelo was a renaissance man.” (A four-year old in the bathtub saying the words renaissance man – I mean seriously – if you aren’t cracking up yet I’m getting a bit worried about you.)

The other day on the telephone, I thought I would follow up on the whole artist subject – scaffold and reinforce some important learning. I asked Emma to tell me what she knew about Leonardo da Vinci. There was a long pause and then her famous, “Well – I don’t know him. Maybe Papa does. I’ll ask him.” (Because of course her grandfather does know everyone!)

Not to be put off, I said, “I thought you were studying him in school. Didn’t he paint ceilings?” Her response was quick, “Do you mean Michelangelo, Grandma?” Oh silly me – corrected on who painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel by a preschooler. Shades of dementia may be creeping in or it is possible that I have entered an alternative universe.


Emma told me, “He was a sculptor, Grandma. He sculpted hearts and they looked so good you could eat them and he stuck them on the roof and one fell off and hit his dog.” This interesting little tidbit of information sent me running to the computer to do some Michelangelo research of my own. After all, I refuse to be outwitted by a four-year old – even if she is incredibly cute.

Michelangelo did indeed have a dog – an early breed of Pomeranian, this dog apparently watched him paint. I could find no mention of sculpted hearts that looked so good you could eat them or of a dog getting hit by anything falling from the ceiling. I did read that Michelangelo fell of a scaffold. It was unclear as to whether he landed on his dog or not. (Oh please – you have to be rolling on the floor laughing now.)

Emily Carr swirled greens and blues and Georges Seurat was a point by pointer. Vincent Van Gogh was stuck on the colour yellow and awash in stars. I am looking forward to seeing what Emma came up with when she was painting in the style of Michelangelo. But maybe it isn’t a painting at all – maybe it will be a sculpture of a heart that looks good enough to eat.


(all pictures – except for my beautifully pensive granddaughter – are courtesy of Google images)

Flash Fiction: He stopped in the doorway to the hospital room . . .


Matt stopped in the doorway to the hospital room. He saw Lexie’s long artist fingers, stretched out on the yellow coverlet, reaching beyond the thick white gauze that wrapped her wrist to pull nervously at a thread. She looked up startled and saw him, her face as white as the bandage. Her eyes held his with a silent screaming plea.

He sat down in the chair by the bed and pulled her hand into his. He leaned his head over and rested the side of his face against the cold skin on the back of her hand. The room was quiet. After a few moments he looked up to see tears washing down her face.

“I’m so sorry for putting you through all of this, Matt. You never deserved any of it.”

He shook his head, “Don’t worry about me. I want you to be sorry for putting yourself through this – you don’t deserve this, Lex.”

She shrugged and brushed the tears away with the back of her other hand, her slender arm awkward with the weight of the bandage. The hospital gown’s short sleeve rode up and revealed all the scars that marched in a relentless path up her arm – each cut a tiny rehearsal for the final act. She looked at him and again her eyes held that plea to understand, “You stuck with me through all the crap I pulled on you. No matter what I did, you were still there. I thought that meant something – I went over the edge when I found out it didn’t.”

He pulled Lexie’s hand up to his face and rubbed it slowly along his cheek, “It did mean something, Lex – every minute of it meant something.” He paused to catch her eye, “I love you. I’ve loved you from the start.” He reached across the bed with his free hand to pull the tiny gold cross she always wore around her neck free from the top of the hospital gown. He dangled it on his finger and said, “Since that first day, remember when I asked you if you were a good little Christian girl, or did you like to come out and play.” He smiled at her and saw the merest shadow of one of her grins. “You were the first girl who saw right through all my crap – what did you always call it? Oh ya, I remember – my crazy stud-boy routine.”

He tucked the cross back inside her gown and held her face in the palm of his hand. “You and me, Lex – it was always exclusive – no matter what you thought. It all meant something.” Matt felt the tears running unchecked down her face and across his hand. “Our timing is wrong – that’s all it is. It all meant something – never think it didn’t.”

Matt looked over his shoulder to see the medevac guys in the hall with the stretcher. Lexie clung to his hand and said, “I’ll never forget how you came back for me.”

He looked at her in surprise, remembering the sprint he had done up the four flights of stairs to her apartment, his heart threatening to burst out of his chest with the fear of what he knew had happened. “You remember that?”

She nodded and said, “I felt you holding me; I heard you calling me back from the very edge, Matt – asking me not to go. I’ll never forget that.”

He stood in the doorway of the hospital room and watched as the stretcher disappeared around the corner. He leaned against the door frame for support, dropping his face down into his hand. A quiet chocking sob broke through his fingers and echoed down the walls of the empty hallway.

(the above photo was taken on the grounds of the California State University in Chico)

Let Your Questions Dig Deep into Your Writing


I’m feeling weary but great on this rainy Saturday afternoon. The writing has been going well. I finished the first draft on Book one of The Light Never Lies a week ago. I kept up a decent daily word count on the writing for Book two all of last week. Today I managed to get my detailed outline for Book two completed. For me the outline is very much a back and forth process – I write a bit, outline a bit, go back and write a bit more and then outline some more. The best part of this kind of outlining is that it leaves lots of leeway for new ideas to emerge

This time around I have been using all kinds of outline props – coloured post-it note chapter pages, calendar pages, a story grid. All of these methods are a means to gather a lot of information together in a way that keeps the pertinent points in the forefront of my awareness.

Book two contained some emotional scenes and I found myself writing with tears flowing more than once. My novels attempt to deal authentically with difficult situations that can occur in young people’s lives from the point of view of young people themselves. I also examine the ways that the adults who surround these young people act and react within the contexts of their own life experience and circumstances. Lots of room for emotion.

I’m now looking ahead to the tools I will need when the first draft of The Light Never Lies is complete and I embark on the long and painful process of rewriting. Last night I came across a great article written by C.S. Lakin. Five Key Questions to Ask as You Write Your Novel.  Lakin is an author, copyeditor and writing coach. The questions I’ve summarized below struck me as being exactly what I will need.

1. Where does this scene take place? All you might need here is a whisper of information to drop the reader into the setting or there could be room for bringing in the various senses with richly textured description. You have to make sure the reader can get into the setting with your characters.

2. How much time has gone by since the last scene? Scenes need to string together in a cohesive fashion. If you jump forward or back you need to provide the reader with enough information so they can make the jump with you.

3. What does the point-of-view character think and feel as the action of the scene unfolds? Characters are revealed in the way they react to situations. This can’t always be told only through dialogue. Characters react viscerally, emotionally, physically and finally intellectually. Sometimes the scene requires that we allow the reader into the point-of-view characters head.

4. What is the point of the scene? If there is no point, it shouldn’t be in the novel at all. Every scene must either reveal character or move plot along or do both at the same time. And every single scene should be building toward that high moment in the story arc.

5. What is your protagonist’s goal in the book? You really should reveal this to the reader as soon as possible. This goal needs to be the driving force through every single scene you write.

Lakin recommends that a writer get in the habit of asking questions of their work at every stage of the writing process. I think this is one of the most useful suggestions I have come across.

This morning I started off my writing time by reading over what I wrote yesterday. Then I imagined I was a beta reader of my own novel. I wrote down about five questions – things I would wonder about or worry about or need clarified if I wasn’t the writer of this novel. Then I went back and tried to answer those questions. In the act of answering, I realized what made sense and what didn’t. I could see where to write more, where to cut and where to change direction.

So – here is my tip of the day – come up with a few question with which to explore your current writing. Questions allow us to dig in, poke around a bit and shake things up. There is no such thing as a stupid question and nothing so perfect that it can’t be questioned. Give it a try and let me know how it goes.

(the above picture is a photograph of a painting that hangs in our living room – it is an oil on canvas entitled The Secret Garden by Mangus – it is a piece worthy of pondering, poking around in and settling down for a good think.)

Romance or Reality: Bleeding for that Happy Ending

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Today is Valentine’s Day and the blogosphere has been filled with all kinds of posts about romance and peppered with some pretty funny anti-romance rants.

Ernest Hemingway said it well (and succinctly, I might add) “If two people love each other there can be no happy end to it.”

Is romance promoted so much (in the media and everywhere else it seems – at least for today) because it strays so far from most people’s reality? Are we perpetually attracted to that which we can never seem to have?

And where does that chasm leave us as writers? Are we part of the hearts and flowers romance promoters or the rain on the parade anti-romantic ranters?

A lot of people say they watch TV, or see a movie, or read a book to get away from reality. We’re not likely to be too popular if we go out of our way to shoot cupid down with our own reality spiked barbs of bitterness.

Everyone loves a happy ending, right? I know I do, but as a writer, I want so much more for my characters. On the way to letting them have what they want, I need to throw enough of life’s tried and true obstacles in their way so that if and when they arrive at happiness, they’ve had to fight the good fight, they’ve grown, they’ve learned something of value about themselves and about how the world works. If I’m lucky enough to get my book into the hands of the right readers – they too will come away with an insight.

Think about any of the great stories that you treasure. The ones we really invest ourselves in and remember are the ones where the main characters suffered along the way. They struggled and battled the dragons and in the end made it to a place where we felt their happy ending was well deserved.

Heck, even the Disney Princesses have to struggle – Ariel risks her very identity for love, Mulan must go away to war to save the dignity of her entire family, even Cinderella had it tough before the whole fairy-godmother-glass-slipper business.

If you are a writer – regardless of whether you felt romantic today or not – think about this: no one will remember your story unless your characters drip a little blood down the road to their happy ending. Or maybe this quote by Orson Welles is more apt. “If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop the story.”

Helplessness–Featured on the Story Shack Today




Isn’t this a gorgeous piece of art? Grace Gao created this drawing especially for a short story I wrote entitled Helplessness. Grace’s drawing along with my story will be featured on the Story Shack today. I hope you can pop over to that site and check out our great collaboration.