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REVIEW: Buffy the Vampire Slayer ‘Season 8 Motion Comic’

As a long time Buffy The Vampire Slayer fan, I tried reading the original “Buffy” comic book when it hit the stands a few years back, but couldn’t get past the “lifeless” version of Buffy sans the original actors, fun music, and dramatic moments.

Buffy series 8 motion comic
Even though I read a lot of comic books in my youth, the last graphic novel I read was the Frank Miller “Batman/The Dark Knight,” and the only anime I’ve been able to stomach in the past decade would be “Death Note.” When surfing the iTunes store on my iPad couple of months back, I saw the season was available as a “motion comic,” and decided to buy the “season.” I’ve been watching them as released in my “subscription,” and just finished the final episodes this past weekend while on the treadmill (iPad is great for this).

Buffy Season 8Well, it’s not as good as the show, by any stretch of the imagination, and die-hard fans might be insulted by calling this the never to be seen 8th “real” season of the TV series about a teen girl inducted by the Watchers to save humanity from all sorts of evil, but first and foremost those pesky kung-fu capable vampires.

Hard to believe Buffy is thirty (if you count back to the original movie, prior to the series) this month. Wow. I was in my late teens way back when. I won’t bore you with a history of the show, or the actors, or how great the show truly was. Both Buffy and Angel were a bright (or dark) spot on TV when everything else was sitcoms or stale dramas.

For the motion comics, overall my feelings are a bit mixed. I was kind of happy to see Buffy in action, but lamenting the lack of carryover from the show beyond the use of familiar characters, both good and bad. Many of the choices for stories don’t seem to be plausible in the context of the brilliant way the TV show was plotted for the whole season with little nuggets dropped in the first episodes that would blossom into major plot points as the season progressed. This was the right way to do TV, not the “make it up as we go” process used on LOST.

I liked the “episodes” written or storied by Josh Whedon, the actual creator of Buffy, but a few of the motion comic episodes (issues) had some pretty whacky stuff and I’ll try not to throw in many spoilers here, but Dawn being stuck as a giant and fighting a mecha-Godzilla-inspired robot clone, is perhaps a bit beyond anything we’d see on the TV series.

The voice acting is pretty good, and the music is a superb mix of the original series music and other elements. I was actually impressed by the way the motion comic stories were brought to life with clever use of animating the panels, animating pieces of the comic book artwork, and 3-D “particle effects” for things like fire. Sound effects (foley) work helps to make it seem like a radio broadcast with video, and since this was my first foray into any “motion comics,” I actually found it entertaining.

I thought Zander was pretty well done, but his character was often the comic relief in the original series. The villains chew scenery in typical comic book form, but some of the glue of dramatic scenes is lost in favor of the comic book genre’s panel format. Still, the digital artists have done an amazing job of bringing flat art to life, and this works very well for the most part, except in some instances where a small panel was missing detail in the faces.

It works well on the iPad, but not sure I’d find this as watchable on a big-screen TV, although I might try that. If you tend to work and watch TV as a background entertainment versus sitting in rapt attention over each moment in time (as I did rewatching the entire Buffy and Angel series last year again), it would be perfect for the audio performances.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Okay, a couple of spoilers. Buffy has a lesbian relationship, Amy comes back to wreak havoc, and Faith gets her bad girl groove on. Dracula makes an appearance, ninjas make an appearance, and one long-time nemesis of Buffy and Giles bites the big one.

“Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8 Motion Comic” is available on iTunes, Amazon on demand, Blu-ray/DVD combo. Run Time: 275 minutes.

Overall, it’s a charming alternate universe kind of re-visit to the Buffyverse, but falls way short of truly being a new season of the show I loved so much. Still, if you’ve been craving something to sink your teeth into and couldn’t quite wrap your claws around the static comics, the “motion comic” is worth a look. ‘Nuff said.


Article is Copr. © 2011 by Christopher Simmons. All rights reserved. No fee or compensation was paid to the author for composition of this article. Article originally appeared on and a version appeared on Ga-Ga .com / Musewire .com before permanent placement on

Articles Books and Publishing

The Present and Future of e-Books

ARTICLE: For this “roundtable” we’re discussing the future of e-books (electronic books). The question posited to our panel is this: “Do you think e-books will ever catch on, and if so when, and if not, why?” Or, even more simply, “What do you think about the future of E-Books?”

Backgrounder for this Brainstorm:

E-books (or eBooks) have had a long history, yet slow growth as a consumer product. It’s been 10 years since e-books began to show up online in places like AOL, before the dawn of the “world wide web,” and a decade later e-book sales are but a blip in a single NY Times Best Seller’s revenue sheet. According to the Open eBook Forum, a trade group for electronic publishers, sales in the first quarter of 2004 were $3.23 million, a 28 percent jump from the prior year. Over one million units were reported sold in 2003.

The Future of e-BooksArguably the widest “distribution” of e-books is actually facilitated through unauthorized conversion of printed books into electronic format using OCR (optical character recognition) software and a scanner, or Adobe Acrobat’s “capture” feature. Thousands of books are now being circulated without any compensation to the author or publishers, which is evidence of legitimate concern for the need of digital rights management (DRM) technologies before major publishers make e-books a staple of their marketing. And, ironically, as the market continues to present itself, some online book sellers have stopped selling e-books in favor of only offering print-on-demand (POD) versions of small press titles.

For the average joe or jane, however, e-books are still in need of the comfortable reading device, that’s either affordable, or disposable/recyclable in the form of some type of digital paper with activated ink capsules. With new technologies coming around the corner, the growth of “electronic reading” online, and the proliferation of portable multimedia content devices, e-books have the potential to “take off” finally, but it’s unlikely they will ever replace printed books and the “joy of reading” which is so dear to so many. What then is the future of the e-book?

–Christopher Simmons, Oct. 2004.

About Our Roundtable Panel for This Discussion:

Christopher Laird Simmons is the founder of Neotrope® Press (formerly Mindset Press). He has been a self-publisher since a teenager in the 1970s, and produced his first e-book in the nascent Common Ground format in 1994. He has also written widely on the subject of portable electronic document formats and digital rights management (DRM) for national magazines like Print on Demand Business, and has been interviewed by TrendWatch for reports on the PDF industry.

Beverly West is a best-selling author whose series, Cinematherapy, the Girls Guide to Movies for Every Mood, has spawned six sequels and daily TV show in primetime on WE, Women’s Entertainment, as well as a weekly column in Hampton Jitney Magazine. In addition, Bev’s cookbook, Culinarytherapy, The Girl’s Guide to Food for Every Mood is now a weekly column with Knight Ridder. Bev has also written for many national magazines including Self, Redbook, Body and Soul, and TV Guide.

Michael Archer is the founder of Firebomber Publications, a small press dedicated to providing exciting firefighting fiction to the general public. Fifty percent of the profits from the sale of Firebombers Incorporated books and merchandise go to firefighting relief agencies supporting the families of injured and fallen firefighters.

Ron Pramschufer is one of the founders of RJ Communications; a New York City web based publishing services company which operates at BooksJustBooks .com. Ron has over 30 years experience in the printing and publishing industries. He is the co-author of the book, Publishing basics – A Guide for the Small Press and Independent Self-Publisher and edits the monthly publishing oriented newsletter, Publishing Basics (PublishingBasics .com).

The roundtable:

Bev: I do see a growing market for e-books as the public becomes increasingly accustomed to on-demand entertainment, that doesn’t require them to reach any further than their remote control or their internet screen to acquire the media they are looking for. So the immediacy of e-book is a big selling point, however I also believe that reading online is a very different experience than holding a book and reading in a comfy chair while sipping tea with a cat on your lap.

Chris: Right now I think e-books have their place, but it’s not yet a broad-appeal form of delivering book content. I think it is a great way for first-time authors to put their work out there, and it’s also a great replacement for the traditional “fanzines” which were popular in the 70s and 80s (I published a whole bunch of these in the late 70s). While the “blog” is turning into a catchall for many types of opinion publishing, competent fiction and non-fiction books, and those gorgeous coffee-table books are not in jeopardy from the e-book format.

One great use for e-books, which has only become a recent phenomenon, is for libraries. Some librarians which have PDF-enabled collections now, can “loan” out copies of rare books which could not otherwise be provided to the public.

I also think the Open eBook Forum’s sales figures are a good “indicator,” but are not in any way complete, as they only count those reporting sellers, and don’t (yet) take into account many e-book aggregator sales sites. And they are not taking into account the thousands of home-brew e-books being sold off personal websites with PayPal enabled ecommerce, or the “free” books that solicit donations, that are a notable grassroots movement the media is unaware of.

Ron: Most of those who know me are quite aware that there is very little grey area in my opinion on just about any topic. My opinion on E-Books is no exception. In my opinion E-Books are a waste of time and effort and only detract from the small publishers’ main goal of selling “books.”

Back in the 90s, when the venture capital money was flowing faster than Niagara Falls, the e-book industry “PR Machine” predicted a “Revolution” during which time the printed book would quickly go the way of the dinosaurs. I remember attending various trade shows during this time and seeing huge exhibits of the e-books publishers as well as other e-book suppliers recounting their success stories. While I had never actually seen an e-book, it sure seemed like something I was missing out on.

The way these e-book vendors made it appear, I was the only person in the universe who was not buying books in their format. It was really making me feeling old having let such a dramatic event pass me right by. However, once I left these exhibit halls and re-entered the real world I couldn’t find an e-book anywhere, or even anyone who even knew what one was. The truth about this e-book “revolution” is that is was simply a figment of the imaginations of those in the e-book industry and the “revolution” only existed as long as the venture capital lasted. The venture capital ran out some time ago.

The concept of sitting at a computer, or other similar device, reading a book never made sense to me. Looking something up on the Internet or downloading a sample PDF chapter is one thing, but a whole book? I just don’t see it. And I am not alone.

Chris: As an experiment, I read the first Harry Potter books in “unauthorized” e-book format (I own the hardcover editions as well), on my little HP notebook in Winter 2002/3. It was actually not unpleasant because once I determined the right color scheme (i.e., white text on blue background) and a size that was comfortable, margin width that didn’t hurt my eyes from scanning too far left-right over and over, it wasn’t so bad. Of course, I was doing this curled up on the couch, in front of the fireplace, to complete the experiment. I can’t say it made me want to give up printed books, but I can see my kids (not yet born) finding it to be “normal.” If I had a tablet PC, I would almost find it – dare I say it – comfortable. It was nice to be able to make the typeface larger, as my eyes are not what they were as a youth and I’ve been too stubborn to get contacts or glasses.

Michael: E-books are a great idea for those who don’t work behind a computer all day, or who don’t mind curling up with a good computer in front of the fireplace, but generally, I don’t know that they will ever really catch on. At Firebomber Publications, we tried marketing our first novel, “Firebombers Incorporated,” as an e-book before segueing to paperback and the resultant demand was underwhelming. Once the paperback version came out, many more copies sold in that format than the e-book style.

I decided to send some reader response material out about this and found out some interesting things. First, people were not really enthused about having to read a book on a computer after spending all day at work on a computer. The only exception was one engineer who read the e-book on his work computer during his lunch break, but his reading time was so limited with this approach that he had a hard time remembering all the plot details from week to week.

Ron: I ride the train each morning, to my office in New York, along with about 400,000 other commuters. I made it a point to start observing what people were doing with their time riding to and from the city. The morning trip is dominated by people reading the newspaper or catching up on a little sleep. The seats on Metro North were designed to comfortably seat 2-5 pigmies so you can imagine what the rush hour commute is like. Add to this, the image of all these people trying to read the newspaper.

You would think this would be the perfect setting for the use of a bunch of e-book readers. The commute home is a little different in that many of the morning newspaper readers have turned into book readers and the morning sleepers are reading the newspaper they didn’t read on the trip in. In all the years of riding the train I have only seen one e-book reader. I was so shocked when I saw it, I moved over to the person to ask him about it.

As it turned out, he worked for and had been given the reader at no charge. He told me, in no uncertain terms, that if it were up to him, he would not have it. Years later, the commute is still pretty much the same. A few people are sprinkled here and there watching movies on DVD players or laptops, and a few more talking obnoxiously on their cell phones to who knows who, but there are still no signs of anyone reading an e-book.

Michael: Another problem is that people like to take paperbacks to the beach or on trips and few if any really want to invest in the portable readers to make the e-book truly mobile. Some people like to collect books and aren’t enthused about the prospect of having a signed CD in their collection. In selling my books, I tried including some illustrations with my CD to add features that couldn’t be included with a paperback, but, since people could access these images from my website as well, that incentive went nowhere.

Chris: I think it’s very valid that the must-have e-book reading device does not yet exist. There is no Apple ePod, or iBook that has both the cool factor and usability to take the world by storm (although the new Sony Librie is pretty nice) and I think will succeed where the Rocketbook/Gemstar eBook device failed – the problem with the last Gemstar was that it wasn’t different enough from simply reading a book on your notebook or PDA to warrant the purchase. I think RCA came out with a new iteration under $300, but I’d find this hard to justify versus a PDA.

Certainly some people are now reading the bible on their iPod, but little snippets of wisdom fit well into the tiny window, while a full fledged book would not be practical on such a small device. I’m hoping that the digital paper/ink formats will be the panacea that digital book companies have been awaiting with baited pixels. It’s estimated we’ll see some practical devices in late 2006 (the Sony Librie is somewhat based on this technology, and is available in Japan only), so that’s when I think the next bump will come in electronic books people can “read” versus simply reference.

Michael: When I first decided to try an e-book format, there were a number of booksellers on the web who dealt with practically nothing but e-books. Since that time, I’ve noticed that more and more of these vendors have either gotten out of e-books for the most part, or have required those who market e-books through their web stores to also sign up for Print-On-Demand (POD) programs with limited (and expensive) print runs. I suppose that’s the only way they can make any margin on the less-popular e-book version of the tome.

Chris: I don’t think that e-books will ever replace printed books. Even with the various digital ink solutions, the permanence of organic ink on paper has many attractive features. It’s unlikely a future archeologist will be able to even read the data off a hard disk or optical disc buried in the sands of time, but books, scrolls, and manuscripts have survived hundreds of years. A well printed, well-bound hard cover book can last for much longer than digital media (as far as readability). So, for collectors and those who enjoy reading with a visceral experience, a book is still unique.

On the other hand, I think some forms of published media like newspapers are ultimately doomed because of the time-lag in information delivery, and the inherent temporary nature of the format. A recent study shows newspaper circulations dropping in general. In fact, I cancelled my LA Times subscription because I was not reading it. There was nothing compelling enough for me to keep getting it, and they mangled the Calendar section from a magazine to just another news section. I can get news online or via cable TV “right now” and my morning read online has news from the past hour, not the past evening.

Bev: I definitely see that e-books have an increasing place in the personal libraries of America, I do not think that it will ever replace hard copy completely.

Michael: Until a user-friendly reader is made affordable enough to compete with paperbacks (or even hardcover books), e-books simply won’t go anywhere.

Ron: I have a personal theory on this whole paper vs. E-book thing. I believe it was Freud who said your personality is developed by the time you are two (or something like that). With that in mind, take a look at your children or grandchildren under the age of two. Do you sit down or lay down with them and read them a nice picture book or do you lay down with them and read them a nice e-book? A book is more than just words on paper, especially to a child. The touch and feel, even the smell and, to a one year old, the taste makes a book unique. By the age of two, these children are “book” people and will continue to be book people as long as they are alive. Don’t believe me? Look how many kids under two are set in front of a television to be entertained. Mine were no exceptions. Wee Sing, Sesame Street, Wiggles or the Care Bears have babysat more then one child. Are these kids now TV people? You bet they are.

Chris: It’s funny, though. Ten years ago when I was working to help launch a couple of mail order catalog companies, (MacMall right before the Mosaic “web” browser came out, and then DirectWare) the popular argument was that online shopping would never replace traditional print catalogs, because women would always prefer to curl up by the fireplace and dog-ear fashion catalog pages or circle items. Certainly the online store we launched in 1995 died because it was too far ahead of the curve to succeed against printed catalogs, but now there is a critical mass of people online. This has greatly impacted the publishing world for direct mail and catalogs. I get about 1/10th the holiday catalogs that I did ten years ago even though I and am on more high end customer “lists.” When I was a kid, we’d circle things in the Sears wish-book; now kids have online tools to help them prepare a wish list for santa complete with price comparisons and photos, and where to buy for parents.

I think there will ultimately be some form of electronic book that works – like for technical information that changes every six months. I recently started using a product called Cakewalk Sonar XL in the summer of 2003. At the end of 2003 it went to version 3.0, and now in October of 2004, it’s at 4.0. I bought a couple of “expert books” for the program, but they were out of date in as few as five months! An e-book and an inkjet printer output would make more sense to me today, then recycle the paper when a new “book” comes out. With a decent e-reader device, you could have a hundred books “online” in his or her hand.

Spending $30 for a book that is obsolete in six to eight months makes no sense. This has also been a problem for people who buy books for topics like learning Macromedia Flash, which went through three versions with substantial changes in about the same timeframe as Sonar. I have two $35 Flash MX books on my shelf, which don’t have the information on MX2004 which came out a few months after MX. I won’t buy these kinds of books ever again! I would buy the ebook for $15 because I can print the chapters I need, or look something up, the dispose of it when the new “edition” comes out. This makes a lot of sense to me.

For research e-books are the clear winner, since they can be searched internally, can be searched via the web (Google searches and archives Acrobat PDF content), and support bookmarks, and note taking in the document.

So, for me, this means that currently the ideal type of book that can work for the format is likely technical or time-sensitive, and not the great American novel, or latest socio-political thriller.

With the eventual arrival of digital paper and ink, e-books and such content will become more viable. Other future tech that will make e-books more popular will be better voice synthesis and the ability to have smart media in your car or portable phone, which can read the contents of a book out loud in an audio-book fashion.

Ron: e-book people are still touting e-books. A recent article proclaims that “Record E-book Sales Recorded in First Quarter of 2004.” Sounds like the “revolution” is alive and well until you figure that the 1st Quarter “record” of 421,955 copies for the entire e-book publishing industry is just about equal to what the “Swift Boat” guys sold of their printed book in a couple days. While better than a “poker in the eye,” it’s a long way from the predicted “revolution.” I guess only time will tell.

Remember, it took a while for the laser disc to morph into the DVD. Keep your eye on those one year olds. The day you don’t see any printed books on their bookshelves and their parents reading stories to them from a computer, it is time to jump on the e-book bandwagon. Until then, my money is on the printed book.

* * *

Additional comments on this subject by Doug Powles, CEO of Colligo Corp.

The article is aimed the average Joe or Jane. But let’s Include Sally, who is blind, Ken who has severe dyslexia, Ramon, who grew up using English as a second language and Fred who cannot read past a grade 5 level.

Take all the Sallys, Kens, Freds and Ramons and you are talking over one third of our population….so there is no average.

Nothing Gives You a Greater Life than a Book.
But a printed book is not accessible to these folks.
26 states have passed the accessible textbook act, giving the content in accessible format or e-books.

With available software, these people can now enjoy what the average Joe or Jane enjoys.

But the publishers are dragging their heels and will not come into the 21st century.

However, new laws, the copyright law of 1996, Fair Use Act, Sec. 508 and others will drive the antiquated publishers out of business. These laws mandate that all information be available to all people in an accessible manner…an e-book is that manner. This pertains to any agency talking public funds, from libraries to schools, court houses and more. Further, the 26 states will not buy from publishers who do not supply accessible formats.

The publishers just don’t get it, why don’t they compromise and put a CD in the back of their books — it’s a win win for everybody. They seem to forget that their next generation of readers is the kids who are the computer generation and more and more schools are going completely digital.

eBook Resources:

(A more detailed list can be found in our “Resources” center.)

Open eBook Forum
Industry Trade Group, has e-book “best seller” list.

Adobe Digital Media Store
Digital books in PDF formats.

ebookwise (fictionwise)
Offers $99 ebook reader (rebranded GEB1150) with $20 content credit. 7,500 titles priced about the same as printed books. – the digital bookstore
20,000 titles in 50 categories.

uBook Reader
Simple, lean FREE ebook reader for Windows and Pocket PCs that can read HTML, TXT, RTF, PDB, and PRC (not secure) formats.

University of Virginia Library
1,800 publicly-available ebooks from the UVL Etext Center in MS Reader and PALM format.

OverDrive(R) ReaderWorks
Free eBook authoring and conversion tools for creating MS Reader format eBooks from MS Word documents.
Acrobat PDF resources online publication from Ziff-Davis.

BiblePlayer(tm) for iPod

Important Note: The above list was prepared Fall of 2004 and may be obsolete by the time you read this, due to the fast-paced changes in the field and the World Wide Web.

This article and all content is Copr. © 2004 by Christopher Laird Simmons. All Rights Reserved. Originally appeared on

Articles Books and Publishing Interviews

Interview: A Vision of Hope with Archbishop Desmond Tutu

INTERVIEW: An interview with Nobel Peace Prize winner, human rights activist and world renowned author and lecturer Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who shares a few thoughts on his book “God Has a Dream: A Vision of Hope for Our Time” (Doubleday, 2004, Audio Book by Maui Media).

First of all, can you tell us a little bit about God’s Dream, and your vision of hope for our troubled times?

God’s dream is that you and I and all of us will realize that we are family, that we are made for togetherness, for goodness, and for compassion. In God’s family, there are no outsiders, no enemies. Black and white, rich and poor, gay and straight, Jew and Arab, Muslim and Christian, Hindu and Buddhist–all belong. When we start to live as brothers and sisters and to recognize our interdependence, we become fully human. God’s love is too great to be confined to any one side of a conflict or to any one religion.

Archbishop Desmond TutuPeople are shocked when I say that George Bush and Saddam Hussein are brothers, that Yasser Arafat and Ariel Sharon are brothers, but God says, “All are my children.” It is shocking. It is radical. But it is true. If we can keep this in our minds and hearts, our individual and global suffering can be transformed into joy and redemption.

Why did you want to write this particular book at this particular time in history?

I wrote these words because we all experience sadness, we all come at times to despair, and we all lose hope that the suffering in our lives and in our world will ever end.

We are overwhelmed by so much conflict—or nearly overwhelmed. And one needed to say that God has not finished with God’s work. Creation is a work in progress. Evil is not going to have the last word. God has us as God’s collaborators, fellow-workers, and ultimately good—and those who strive for it—will prevail.

While your book obviously reflects your Christian beliefs, do you feel that your book has a message for people of all faiths?

I believe so very much. Because love is universal. I mean, you don’t have to tell somebody that loving is better than hating. You do not have to believe in God to know that stealing is bad. And we are trying to remind them that all of us are fundamentally good. The aberration is the bad person. God is not upset that Gandhi was not a Christian, because God is not a Christian. All of God’s children and their different faiths help us to realize the immensity of God. No faith contains the whole truth about God. And certainly Christians don’t have a corner on God. All of us belong to God.

How is this book different from your earlier books, and how is it the same?

This book is a cumulative expression of my life’s work and many of the ideas and beliefs presented here have been developed and delivered in earlier sermons, speeches, and writings.

For those who have followed my work, there will be much that is familiar. This is inevitable since, while my thinking has evolved, my core beliefs have remained the same over the years. With the help of my friend and collaborator Doug Abrams, I have tried to offer my understanding of what I have learned from the marvelous life with which I have been gifted and the extraordinary people I have met along the way. It is their faith and their courage that give me so much hope in the nobility of the human spirit.

What do you hope that your readers and or listeners will take away from your book?

We tend to suffer from a sense of insecurity and inadequacy in our lives because our culture sets such a high store on success. People forget that God loves them as they are. God marvelously, miraculously cares about each and every one of us. The Bible has this incredible image of you, of me, of all of us, each one, held as something precious, fragile in the palms of God’s hands. And God says to you, “I love you. You are precious in your fragility and your vulnerability. Your being is a gift.” I hope readers, whatever their religion, will have a new faith in themselves and realize just how beautiful they are, how precious they are, how much they truly matter.

So you would like readers to come away with a sense of optimism about their own future, and the future of the world?

Optimism relies on appearances and very quickly turns into pessimism when the appearances change. I see myself as a realist, and the vision of hope I want to offer in this book is based on reality—the reality I have seen and lived. God says to us all, I have a dream.

Please help me to realize it. It is a dream of a world whose ugliness and squalor and poverty, this war and hostility, its greed and harsh competitiveness, its alienation and disharmony are changed into their glorious counterparts.

When there will be more laughter, joy, and peace, where there will be justice and goodness and compassion and love and caring and sharing, I have a dream that my children will know that they are members of one family, the human family, God’s family, my family.

More Information:
For more information on God Has a Dream: A Vision of Hope for Our Time, please visit .

A version of this interview appeared on in July 2004 and on in Aug. 2006, and is Copr. © 2004, 2006 Christopher Simmons – all rights reserved. Image of Desmond Tutu is Copr. © 2004 Maui Media and Desmond Tutu and is used with permission.

Articles Books and Publishing Public Relations (PR)

Using PR to Market Your Book – How to Write a Press Release

ARTICLE: One of the most cost-effective ways to “get the word out” about your new product or service is to use a press release. Basically, this is a brief announcement directed to the media (magazines, newspapers, TV, and online sites), which describes something which is newsworthy. Obviously a new book is a newsworthy event, and a press release is a valuable component to letting the world know the book is available, has been published, has won an award, or anything else that would be considered news about the book and/or author.

A press release is not an article, or an advertisement, and must be written to catch the interest of somebody reading it for potential use in a news outlet, where it may eventually be seen by the public.

write a book press releaseSome of the most important things to know when developing a press release to send to the media is proper formatting, the required elements such as “attribution,” and making sure the right information is included.

The Right Length

The common optimum length for a press release is 400-800 words, with 400-600 words being a good target length. In many cases a 400-500 word release is “just right” because it ensures you get to the point in what you’re announcing. Length will vary, and run longer, when there is mandatory “boiler plate” information typically found in releases for publicly traded companies or with partnership announcements.

Write for brevity when possible and make every word count, but you don’t need to be obsessive about it — it’s important to remember you’re writing a news announcement and not the “great American novel.” Be matter-of-fact but also attempt to engage the reader with information that draws the interest of the person who might read it. Be aware that some major media outlets like the Los Angeles Times receive as many as 3,000 press releases per week from around the world, so your “hook” can be very important.

With product announcements your headline can be more general, as simple as “BigBear Publishing Announces Latest Version of BearMarket, the Leading Bear Tracking Guide.” With general editorial — sometimes called feature stories — you need to be more creative.

The release should be written to reflect the actual news announcement in specifics, which are clearly stated. Avoid hyperbole like “the greatest application ever written,” and similar statements. Vague or projected content will not interest the receiving media targets (editors, assistant editors, etc.). Use good grammar, and strong action words like “will” versus “may” and “does” versus “might.”

Be aware that most news services that send releases to the media electronically have word length limits (length of the entire release in words, not characters). Words are calculated “absolutely” using the word count feature in a word processor, and not the old-fashioned line/character counting method once used for book manuscripts.

Getting Started

The first line of a press release should be all capital letters, and will sometimes be “PRESS RELEASE” but more commonly should be “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE.” We recommend the latter. (Neither version is included in word count limits for the majority of wire services like Send2Press Newswire). Commonly, “PRESS RELEASE” is used for news announcements which are not being distributed on a specific day, such as those which might be included in a media kit or posted on a Web site.

There are two accepted locations for the placement of contact information: either at the top of the release, or at the bottom. If you choose to place the information at top, it should be below “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE” and before the body of the release. If you choose to place the contact information at bottom, it should be after the body of the release. The contact information should be the name of the contact person by name, PR firm (if any) or company where contact person works; then phone number, and e-mail address. Each item should be on a separate line by itself.

Although it has become common practice to put contact information at top, a brief survey of 100 journalists conducted by Send2Press Newswire in 1999 discovered that working writers preferred to see the “meat” of the release (the headline announcement) first, with contact info at bottom, when receiving news by e-mail. Most wire services such as Send2Press put the contact information at the bottom, which is the preferred placement for electronic news distribution. An exception would be a formatted release printed in a media kit, and sent by mail; or a faxed release, where it is preferable to have the contact information at the top.

Next, the market segment identifier is used to identify to who your press release will be of interest. This can be in the form of listing a specific market such as “Business/E-Commerce/Fashion” or it can be directed at editors in the form of “Business Editors/High-Tech Writers.” Each method is correct, with one stating a market and the other identifying which editor at a general interest publication the release should be directed to. Generally, only one of the forms is used, however you can mix the approaches as necessary. Although not every PR firm uses an identifier line, we’ve found that it helps identify the relevance of the announcement to the receiving party, and may help it be read/used. It is recommended. Most wire services will use their own market identifiers, such as “Attention Travel Editors” and you can include them for guidance on your target audience, but they will be changed by the specific wire service to their methodology. These are not counted in “word length limits” used by all legitimate wire services.

Below the “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE” and the contact information (if you choose to place contact information at top) you must put your news “headline information.”

This should be one of the two most carefully crafted aspects of your release (along with the first paragraph), and must be both attention getting and describe a genuine newsworthy event. It doesn’t need to be a cure for cancer, but must clearly state what you intend to announce in the body of your release. Did you get a book published, did you sign with a literary agency, did you win an award, or launch a new product/service? Spell it out.

It needs to be compelling enough for the editor reading it to not dismiss the entire release and then immediately “round file” it in the trash. The better your headline, the better your chance of an editor reading the rest of your announcement — but, again, it doesn’t have to be ground breaking, merely succinct and spell out clearly what it is you’re announcing.

As a rule, your headline should be 30 words or less (or two lines on an 80-character width page). Long headlines may be chopped into a headline plus a sub-headline. Note that some online news outlets that pick up feeds from wire services may not always capture the sub-head, so be certain the sub-head is not critical to your announcement (media receiving your news announcement by e-mail will still see the sub-head).

So, for example, the top of your release might look like this:

Of interest to editors and journalists covering: Consumer electronics, telecom/telephony, automobile products, and general business

New Innovative And Economical Hands-Free Companion For Cell Phone Users Makes Driving Safe And Legal

From Boulevard to Boardroom, Cell Users Can Converse Easier Than Ever Before

Also note that the headline and sub-headline should be title-case (first letter of words capitalized). Wire services like Send2Press and PR Newswire send releases with title-case. Online news sources that pick up wire feeds may convert headlines to all-caps, depending on their formatting standards. For printed releases being sent by fax, postal mail, or placed into a media kit, all-cap headlines are still considered acceptable.

A Good Body

Next, we get to the “body” of the release. This is the story you want to tell and should be everything a potential editor/writer at a media outlet needs to know to decide to consider your story for possible use. Some smaller newspapers (and most online news outlets) print elements from the first paragraph in summary format, so the first paragraph should be direct and to the point.

Remember that your news is not being read by your audience/customer in most cases, so you must avoid phrases like “come on down to Bob’s house of pancakes for the best deal you’ll ever get…” because it’s not an advertisement, and you must be careful to avoid the appearance of an “advertorial” as those of us in the publishing business call them. So-called “advertorials” will be dismissed immediately, unread. A press release is a news announcement, and must actually announce something considered “newsworthy.” It’s not a classified advertisement or a flier announcing your services. It is also not an “article” which is automatically published in a newspaper or magazine.

The first sentence of the first paragraph of the release must contain the city in all caps and then the state abbreviation (i.e., Calif.), unless it is a major market like “NEW YORK” or “LOS ANGELES” which are unique. This method is per Associated Press (AP) formatting and is followed by wire services like Send2Press and PR Newswire. The wire service will modify this as needed, but you should always include the city and state, as this indicates where you’re located regionally. If you are in a suburb or outlying area in a major city/county, you may wish to skew this to the major city. For example, if you were located in Redondo Beach, California, you would likely put “LOS ANGELES” instead, unless there was some compelling reason to include your small city (in this example, perhaps beach-related news).

You also need to include the date of the news announcement, which will always be the date the news is being distributed. You can abbreviate the month (i.e., “Jan.” in place of January). Some wire services will remove the year (since with a wire service it is self-evident which year it is), but others will include it, so you should as well.

So, for example, the first part of the first paragraph of the body of your release might read:

REDONDO BEACH, Calif. – Dec. 16, 2002 /Send2Press Newswire/ — Neotrope (, a leader in brand identity services, announced today that….

You don’t need to include the wire service identifier, sometimes placed as /WireName/ or (WireName), as the specific wire service or news distribution company will add their identifier to match their system formatting. If distributing the news yourself, you need not put any identifier.

The first paragraph is also where you should include your website URL or stock symbol (as appropriate). In the example first paragraph above, you can see the web URL follows the company name. This is important because many online news sites that take wire service feeds will automatically convert that URL into a hyperlink when used as ( ). If you work for a publicly traded company, your stock symbol will automatically attach to stock price look-ups that pick-up news feeds from major wires.

An important caveat about using publicly traded company stock symbols is that their usage must be “material” to the news announcement. You cannot use another company stock symbol without permission, or unless it’s material to your news (such as winning a lawsuit against that company). The news distribution company and/or wire service may delay your news release for verification if you use another firm’s stock symbol in your release. In legal matters, you may need to include a copy of a court document.

Other paragraphs within the release should describe what your new product actually does (as in the case of a software product), or with a book, describe what it’s about. At least one paragraph must describe the general feature/benefit of what you are announcing beyond the headline and first paragraph. The next paragraph(s) should be quotations from a company representative or visionary who describes what he/she feels the product/service adds to the target market. This brings a human feel to the announcement, and puts a face on the story. It also provides a quotation from someone at the company that can be used in a news item.

If the announcement is a partnership or merger, it is important to get quotes from someone at each company. A quote from an industry professional, or “opinion-leader,” is also valuable. The main guideline is that you must always attribute the quote to an actual person. You cannot state, “A valued customer called our product the best thing since sliced bread.” A non-assigned quote is worthless in a press release. A journalist can state “An unnamed source called it the best thing since sliced bread.” You cannot.

Other ways to bolster the value of a news announcement is by using supporting research. For example, if you are announcing the launch of a new product, there is likely a reason you believe there is a need in the marketplace for your product. If you’ve done market research, this may include data and statistics related to growth in your product segment, or industry trends. You can find this kind of information online, if you don’t have it.

For example, for a release I wrote for a client launching a new regional real estate website, I found the following supporting data on the use of web-based resources by home buyers:

According to a study commissioned by the California Association of REALTORS® (CAR), home buyers using the Internet invest significant time investigating the housing market and financing options before contacting a real estate agent. 49% think the Internet helped them better understand the purchase process, 92% use the Internet much like a screening process to narrow choices, and 78% of Internet home buyers find their real estate agent on the Internet.

As you can see, this can be of great benefit in illustrating there is actually a need in the marketplace, or a value to the readers of a particular news outlet, for the news being announced in the release.

Finally, it’s important to use good formatting. Clearly separate paragraphs of information to make it easy to “scan” quickly. Large overlong paragraphs should be broken into two or more chunks, where each chunk contains your information.

Attribution Rules

Most newswire services now require proper “attribution” for a release, which simply means that you must include the news “source” (which is the name of the person, company, or group announcing the news) in either the headline or first paragraph. This is to clearly identify WHO is announcing the news.

Taken together, the headline and first paragraph should clearly show WHO is announcing WHAT. The rest of the release won’t be read if these two elements are not clear and to the point.

The Final Touches

The final paragraph(s) should describe the company. This is the “about the company” paragraph (or “about the author” for a book release), and if there is more than one company mentioned in the release, each should have its own paragraph. Explain the history, year founded, market approach, and the like. Repeat the public stock symbol if applicable (don’t litter your release with stock symbols, however).

The reason this short paragraph can be valuable is in demonstrating an expertise in the area of the news you’re announcing, a history of past accomplishments in your market segment, industry awards, or the like. This can help to establish your bona fides — the fact your company is a legitimate professional entity. With a book author, you can demonstrate you’re qualified to be writing about a particular topic, which is valuable with technical and non-fiction topics.

For modern Internet-enabled companies, a last line either by itself (or last sentence of “about the company”) should state: “Company website: www.yourdomain .xyz” in the event the writer/editor chooses to pursue more information about your company without contacting you directly.

Below this, you may also want to state that a product photo is available online and provide the URL directly to a sample image or your company logo (where appropriate). This is called a “true note to editors,” and is not intended for publication. Some wire services like Send2Press may also allow you to attach a photo, logo and/or video to your announcement.

With the body of the release done, you would now place your contact information at the bottom (unless you place it up top). You must include a contact person by name, their company (i.e., your PR firm) if they don’t work at the same company mentioned in the release, a phone number, and e-mail address. All wire services will indicate the contact person as being from the company submitting the release (the company in the release), unless indicated otherwise.

Finally, you need to close the release with three hash marks, like so “# # #”. This indicates the end of the release.

Check and Review

If you’ve used a word processor, you should definitely use any spell-checking utilities on your release to find common spelling mistakes and/or typos. You should print your release out on a printer and read it in paper form to see how it reads, to ensure that it’s clear and to the point. You may also wish to read it out loud to yourself and listen for the flow and whether it sounds interesting.

It’s wise to have a dictionary handy to look up any words you’re not 100% sure are spelled correctly and check for common mistakes like “it’s” versus “its.”

Are you actually announcing something? If it just sounds like a bunch of nonsense, go back and edit it until it sounds like you’re telling somebody an interesting story for general news, and be matter of fact for product announcements.

If you intend to submit your release through a PR service like Send2Press(R) Newswire, you should first open it in a text-only software application like NotePad (on the PC), or SimpleText (on the Mac). The reason to check the release in a regular text-editor is because certain word processing applications use special characters, which do not translate to standard ASCII (or “plain text”) format. An example might be a long dash, bullet, or “curly” quotation marks.

By viewing your release in a normal text editor, you can confirm that none of the characters in your release have changed to garbage characters. If you use Microsoft Office 2001 or newer, you can also “save-as” your Word document as a text-only file (.txt) and then view the formatting of the text-only version prior to submitting it for distribution. With newer versions of MS Office you can also automatically convert things like reg. trademark symbols from ® to (R).

Things to Remember

Some of the things I’ve seen companies forget to include are product pricing, ISBN number for books, UPC/EAN numbers for music/CDs; and whether the product is available through a major distributor, nationally, regionally, or only through a Web site.

For book releases, it’s often wise to post a “book summary” at the end of the release comprising the name of the publisher, the author, the book title, the ISBNs and related format (such as hardcover, 250pp), and publication date.

Remember that an editor/journalist needs to see the facts about your product or service, to understand the value of an event or other news announcement, and why they should consider writing about you and your news.

It’s also important to not be too obsessive about your press release, as a single release will neither make nor break your company. In addition to press releases, you should be exploring other promotion methods such as advertising, direct mail, and word of mouth, among other strategies.

By following the guidelines in this article, you should be able to compose and submit a proper release, which fits the criteria of what editors are looking for. This will ensure your best chance of getting the invaluable free publicity, which only the print and electronic media outlets can provide.

Example Press Release:


Of interest to editors and journalists covering:
Books, Publishing, Libraries, Museums, History, Religion

New Book Deciphers Meaning of Parthenon Sculptures

Purpose of Athena’s Temple in Athens Understood for First Time in More Than 2,000 Years – Noah Depicted in Ancient Greek Art

ANNAPOLIS, MD – June 23, 2004 /Send2Press Newswire/ — Visitors to the Parthenon in Athens and to the British Museum in London, where most of the Parthenon sculptures are displayed, can now do more than “ooh” and “aah” at what they see: they can actually understand what the Greeks were telling us about themselves and their history. The newly-released book from Solving Light Books, “The Parthenon Code: Mankind’s History in Marble,” by Robert Bowie Johnson, Jr. deciphers the meaning of the sculptures of Athena’s temple, relating their messages to the early events described in Genesis.

According to the book, an authentic ancient Greek artists’ code, designed to portray their religious history simply and clearly, reached its highest and most straightforward form with the sculptures of the Parthenon, the national monument of Greece.

The author writes that Greek myth/art tells the same story as Genesis except from the standpoint that the serpent enlightened Adam and Eve in Eden rather than deluding them. “Greek art depicts the myth; Greek myth explains the art. Together, Greek myth/art takes us back through the Flood to a woman, a serpent, and a tree in an ancient paradise,” Mr. Johnson said.

The Parthenon Code reveals that the ancient Greeks rejected the Creator God of Noah in favor of “man as the measure of all things.” Thus, the Parthenon sculptures celebrated the re-emergence of the way of Kain (Cain) after the Flood. The Greeks called Noah Nereus, the “Wet One,” and dated the beginning of their religious outlook from the latter years of his life, depicting the patriarch’s image on many vases, seventeen of which appear in the book.

Mr. Johnson’s work contradicts the writings of the late popular mythologist, Joseph Campbell, who wrote that the ancient myths were merely subjective metaphors and expressions of the unconscious mind. “The Greeks created the living basis of our culture,” Mr. Johnson said, “Let’s give them credit for knowing where they came from and what they believed, and especially for knowing how to vividly express that crucial historical information to posterity.”

Reviewer Ron Pramschufer of puts Mr. Johnson’s new book into a contemporary perspective: “While The DaVinci Code is fictional and The Bible Code is bogus, The Parthenon Code presents a genuine artists’ code which opens the door to long-hidden truths about the origins of mankind.”

The Parthenon Code features 251 black-and-white illustrations including Parthenon sculptures restored by computer artist Holmes Bryant.

Robert Bowie Johnson, Jr. has been studying the Scriptures, Greek myth, Greek art, and the Parthenon since 1984. He is a graduate of West Point and an airborne ranger infantry veteran of Viet Nam. He previous two books are “Athena and Eden: The Hidden Meaning of the Parthenon’s East Façade,” and “Athena and Kain: The True Meaning of Greek Myth.”

Table of Contents, sample chapters, and Flash presentation of Parthenon Sculptures restored in color: www.solvinglight .com

Title: The Parthenon Code: Mankind’s History in Marble
Author: Robert Bowie Johnson, Jr.
Publisher: Solving Light Books
ISBN: 0-9705438-3-2
7×10 hardcover, 288 pp., 251 b&w illustrations, $29.95

The book is available to retail outlets through Biblio, a division of the National Book Network, 1-800-462-6420, or

The Parthenon Code is available now at: http://www.solvinglight .com

*(Photo 72dpi: )

Robert Bowie Johnson, Jr.
of Solving Light Books

/Editor Note: Review copies and interviews arranged on request./

# # #

Article Copr. © 1999, 2004 Christopher Laird Simmons — All Rights Reserved. Originally appeared in one version on, later, and has also been syndicated on the Books Just Books/Publishing Basics portal(s).

Christopher Simmons is a member of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), as well as ASCAP and the National Writers Union, and has written for over a dozen national magazines covering technology, imaging, and entertainment. He is an award winning art director, photographer, musician, and has composed theme music for two cable TV programs. He is the founder of Neotrope®, a brand identity and marketing firm, as well as Send2Press® Newswire (

Note: this version appeared on in 2004.