Press Releases are useless. Except during the next two weeks.

Most likely, your press release will be DOA. In fact, it begins having heart palpitations before you hit the send button. A little known fact, a news station in a big news market like Dallas/Fort Worth (where I live) gets 2,500 press releases A DAY. But there is a way to skip to the front of the line and almost guarantee your press release will be read and turn into a few minutes in front of a camera (aka a FREE COMMERCIAL FOR YOUR BOOK) Interested in thousands of dollars in free advertising? Then please read on.

Before I gave my presentation to the Grapevine Chamber of Commerce yesterday, a guy by the name of Jeff Crilley, who happens to own his own PR firm here in Dallas, gave a presentation on how to get free publicity from local news stations. And, as a former local FOX news reporter for 25 years or so, Jeff knows a little something about the subject. In fact, he wrote a book entitled Free Publicity, and gave copies to those of us in attendance.

The book is chock full of useful tips on getting free publicity, but perhaps the greatest advice Jeff had is extremely timely (i.e. it has a very short expiration date) He said that news stations are STARVING  for news over the last two weeks in December. News that would normally be looked over in a matter of seconds on a normal news day at a normal time of year becomes gold to the desperate reporter who drew the short straw and is left stuck in the newsroom rubbing his Santa hat for luck.

Jeff’s advice was to basically do a little research and find out if who’s been covering stories on topics that are similar to the ones in your book. Your novel about ghosts? A local reporter probably has done a recent story about a haunted house/building/forest (you have to go back no further than Halloween time for something like that) Is your book about a historic district in town? News reporters are always doing stories about saving historical places in the face of Big Development and their menacing cranes. Now, here’s where Jeff gets very specific. CALL, do not email or write the reporter that’s been covering those stories. This is, after all, your sales pitch to run your story. You need to talk to a person, you need to make a connection. So call the reporter. Chat up the angle that you’ve seen their story on the historic building that was nearly torn down. You have just published a book on an entire historic district in town that has a history of not just one but several buildings being reduced to splinters. Maybe there’s a group that fights tooth and nail to save it every time someone wants to change it. Maybe something happened there around this time of year in the district’s heyday (making it timely). See where I’m going with this? 

Tell the reporter that you are emailing him your press release as you’re speaking to him. Tell him you are available at his convenience to do an interview. If you have a book signing coming up, it’d be great to have a camera crew come out. Make it as easy on the reporter as possible to cover the story. Chances are they’re up against a deadline. If they can do your story and still have time for lunch, they’ll be grateful.

So there you go. You get some free press that’s worth A LOT of greenbacks. They get some news to fill an otherwise giant hole that is the holiday news cycle. Win-win. No go start writing your release and your phone call script so on Monday you’re ready to punch those digits and sell your story! 


Mark’s latest novel, The Brink, was selected for Barnes and Noble’s Special Collection for a second time! Check it out at

Still looking for a unique Christmas gift? Mark will be signing copies of The Brink from 2pm to 4pm at the Colleyville, Texas Borders bookstore tomorrow (Saturday Dec 18)

Top 5 ways to make the most of your speaking gig

We’re talking speaking engagements today, people. Why? Because I just did one at today at the Grapevine, Texas Chamber of Commerce, and while things are fresh in my mind, we can chat about how to make the most of the speaking engagement. In fact, let’s run through the top 5 ways to make the most of your speaking engagement:

1. Be Prepared. If you need to borrow a laptop projector, make plans with your contact weeks beforehand. Then confirm days before the meeting. Have a hard copy of your presentation ready just in case your laptop or their projector is on the fritz. Take a bottle of water with you.  Have a “listeners’ kit” ready for everyone there including: info about buying the book today, info about becoming a part of your email list, bookmark and business card. Make sure you know where you’re going. Get there early. Just basically channel your inner Boy Scout and you’ll be fine.

2. Speak to the Group. Don’t talk about the minutiae of story plotting and character development to a chamber group of realtors or bankers. In other words, have a couple different presentations ready to go. Don’t give the writer’s/book club presentation to the chamber/Lion’s Club members. Have a more middle of the road presentation ready for that. First talk about your background. Then move into your current book. Is it a financial thriller that uses the recent economic meltdown? Talk about recent financial information that should make us all be crapping our pants. Follow that with talk about the state of the publishing industry (see crapping pants from previous sentence) Cover those topics and you’ll have blown past 30 minutes and will be ready for the Q&A, then a little time to sign some books and you’re out the door.

3. Be Witty and Interactive. Let’s go back to the chamber meeting for this one. At the opening, ask, “So has anyone ever toyed with the idea of writing a book?” Several hands will probably go up. If not, make the case for those people that need to write a book. If it’s a chamber meeting, you’re probably going to have at least one realtor there. “Jerry with ReMax can publish an ebook on “How to Sell Your House in less than 5 Days” through Amazon’s Digital Text Platform for free and even make it a free download on his website (as a .PDF) to attract more eyeballs.” Boom, those people are now the “characters” in your presentation. If folks are writing/toying with the idea of writing a book, ask a couple of them about their book, their ideas for the story, etc. As you go through your presentation, come back to these folks again and again. “In Susan’s case for example, she can create a blog about and for women lawyers. It will give her an audience with women lawyers and tie in nicely with her legal thriller.” Any tools that you are talking about that people can use to promote/sell books, use Jerry’s made up book on selling a house as an example. Thrown in a few jokes. If you connect with your audience, and can make them laugh, they’ll like you. If they like you, the more likely they’ll buy a book at the end of your presentation.  

4. Pass Out Books To Everyone There – I’m not saying be Oprah here. (You get a book! You get a book!…) Pass about ten out at the beginning of the meeting. No one will buy a car unless they’ve test driven it. Turn the meeting space into a makeshift bookstore. As they sit there, let them touch, smell, get into your book, maybe even read a few pages. You’ll get more sales at the end of the meeting.

5. Send a Written Thank You Card – Like Mom always said, good manners matter. MAIL a thank you card to everyone responsible for hosting you. No email or text will do. Suck up the 45 cents for the stamp and make sure to use your best handwriting and thank your hosts, and mail it out promptly following your meeting. Remember the Law of 250 (on average, everyone knows 250 people) – your host could be at a Christmas party and say something like, “We had this local author at our year end chamber meeting the other day, a great guy, really funny and interesting. His book is called The Brink, it’s a suspense thriller. I simply can’t put it down. You need to read it.” 

Thank you, thank you card. You just gave us another sale.

Questions? Comments? To the keyboards!


Mark’s latest novel, The Brink, was selected for Barnes and Noble’s Special Collection for a second time! Check it out at