It seems to me there is a fine line between a press release and a promotional item. Wouldn’t you say that a press release is generally promoting something? Maybe the definition of “promoting” is the key.
Can I send press releases to anyone or only to journalists?
A press release is an attempt to get a publication to publish an article about you. It is not an attempt to get the publication to buy your book. Thus, sending a press release to a periodical would not be considered spam…though some journalists might still complain if the “press release” is more promotional than informational.
If you send a press release to anyone other than a publisher/editor, yes, that would definitely be spam.
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