Lorian Hemingway Release Good Example of How Not to Ask for Publicity

I just got a lengthy email asking me to announce a short story contest. Naturally I wanted to pass the information on to Arkansas writers, but when I started reading the announcement, I found myself wandering in a morass of irrelevant material, looking for information that should have been presented in the first 300 words.

Even fiction writers need to know how to craft a press release.

When it comes to an emailed announcement, brief is good. Most contests, publishing companies, and authors have websites where anyone interested can go for details. All that needs to go into an emailed press release are the 5 Ws and a web address for the How.

The email that prompted this post announces the 2012 Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition. The email is presented in a two-column colored layout. The narrow column on the left is a deep burgundy on which the blue link to the contest website barely shows up. The text of the announcement is in the column at the right. This column has a bright turquoise background and is wider than the left column, but not by much. The word count is an incredible 1,035 words.

The only relevant information in the first 536 words is that the first prize is $1,500 and the second and third prizes are $500 each. Another 244 words are spent in enumerating some of the entry requirements before getting to the fact that contestants are required to pay to enter.

Editors are busy people. If you want them to help you publicize your writing activities, you need to help them by making it easy.

Using the referenced short story announcement as an example, here is all you need to include in a press release for an online publication.

Who: Lorian Hemingway, granddaughter of Ernest Hemingway
What: the 32nd Annual Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition
When: in progress; deadline May 1, 2012
Why: to encourage writers whose fiction has not appeared in a nationally distributed publication with a circulation of 5,000 or more.
How: Submission requirements can be found at the contest website:  http://www.shortstorycompetition.com/Guidelines.php

NOTE: Colored backgrounds, colored ink, and cutesy illustrations are distracting and unprofessional. Take the Dragnet approach: just the facts, Ma’am or Sir.

Phil Slattery writes fiction and publishes thechambermagazine.com and ruralfictionmagazine.wordpress.com.

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