Tips for an effective radio interview:

Radio is one of the most cost effective means of book promotion AND it’s incredibly convenient. You can usually do it from home wearing your sweats if you want to. No travel expenses, minimal preparation time. But don’t let the convenience factor fool you. It’s one thing to do an easy radio interview by phone. It’s another thing to do it well.

Probably 40 – 50% of what we do at BreakThrough Promotions is arrange radio and television interviews for our clients. It’s possible for an author to set these up themselves, but many feel uncomfortable making that pitch to the producer or guest scheduler. And actually, when it comes to larger programs with national audiences, it’s probably easier for a publicist to get the ear of the producer than an author pitching him or her self.  We might use the exact same pitch but it sometimes is deemed more credible coming from a professional. Just the nature of the biz. But that’s another subject. For now, let’s assume the interview is already set and it’s time for you to get ready. What do you need to do?

  1. Get prepared for the interview about 15 minutes early. Make sure you’ve disabled Call Waiting on your phone and instructed family/friends not to interrupt or make loud noises if possible. If you have a dog that tends to bark at inopportune moments, maybe secure it in another room. It helps to have a copy of your book close by and a note card with pertinent info on hand (see below). Have a glass or bottle of water on hand and practice breathing deeply. Make sure the room isn’t too warm (you’ll tend to yawn more if it is) or too cool. If you’re unsure about noises on the line have a friend call you and let you know if the line is clear or if there are background noises that might be picked up (fans and TVs are the worst culprits).
  2. Always use a landline for interviews if possible. Cell phones tend to drop calls. If you’re using a landline, turn off the ringer on your cell phone. Otherwise it will surely ring right in the middle of the interview, disrupting your train of thought.
  3. Don’t be nervous. Ok, maybe you can be nervous, but try not to sound like you’re nervous. Smile. You really can tell a difference in someone’s voice when they smile even if you can’t see them. Practice. It should be just like you’re talking to a good friend and most interviewers are good at making you feel at ease.
  4. Don’t talk too fast. Often when an author is nervous and aware that the interview is brief, they’ll talk very fast trying to be sure they get everything said that they want to say. In truth, 60 seconds is longer than you think and most interviews will be around 10 minutes or more. Plenty of time to get your info out there. Speak slowly and distinctly, but don’t talk down to anyone. Once again, practice is your friend.
  5. LISTEN carefully to what the host is saying/asking. It’s very easy to hear the first few words and have your mind run off, thinking of what you’ll say instead of listening carefully to what the host is saying. Take a deep breath and listen before you answer.

Remember the days of high school English class and answer in full sentences when appropriate. For instance:

   Host: What are you trying to convey with the story?

Author (bad answer): …what happens to the whale

Author (better answer): In MOBY DICK, I’d like readers to see the human side of the whale’s character.

Obviously, that’s a loose example, but the point is, say your title as often as possible without being obnoxious (remember repeat  exposure clinches sales) and you have to take every opportunity to say something interesting about the story to tempt listeners to want to buy.

6. Prepare a closing line or two and write it down on an index card. Be sure you include your website URL and a place the book can be bought. You may think “DUH, I don’t need to write that down” but trust me, there will come a time when you wish you had. It’s amazing how the mind can go blank at the most inopportune times. I know this from painful experience. If there’s any doubt about the way to spell your name or something in your URL, spell it out. Make it as easy as possible for listeners to remember and find you. If they’re hearing on the drive home from work, they’re probably not writing it down. If it goes without saying, say it twice.

7. Do not sound like a breathing teleprompter or a robot. Be lively and excited about your product. Bring energy whether radio or tv. It will be remembered. This tip is from one of my favorite hosts of an award-winning, regional radio show. I didn’t get a chance to ask him what prompted it, but apparently he’s had recurring problems with breathers. On the other hand, don’t sound like a cheerleader either. Nuff said.

8. Don’t ask hosts questions, even things like “What do you think?” It may seem like a good way to keep conversation going but will more often catch them off guard and make things awkward. They’re expecting you to answer questions, not ask them. There are probably some exceptions but they’re in the minority. Be careful with that. You’ve only got a few minutes and you’re not there to talk about them.

9. Have someone write and ask you five questions that you don’t know beforehand; practice a few times and you will have no problem. Of course it’s most helpful if those asking the questions have read the book, but there are some radio hosts who won’t read the book and will just formulate questions from the cover text. Be ready for anything. Many authors find practicing awkward, but it’s really the best way to improve your performance. If you’re serious about being effective and ultimately being invited to guest on national programs, it’s a must. If you’re looking for television spots, there’s no better coach than watching yourself on a video recording. It can be painful, and comments even from close friends can be hard to take, but if you seriously consider them, they’ll help make your performance better.

10. If the host is open to it, and many are, send along some sample questions prior to the interview. Most will use at least some of the questions and you’ll be a little better prepared with full answers.

11. See if you can get a recorded copy of the interview after it airs. Many will offer that. If they’re good, post them on your website. Whether they’re good or not so good, listen and learn.

12. Most of all, have fun and the audience and the interviewer will follow your lead. An interview that entices listeners and encourages them to seek out your book is one that is fun to listen to and may not have a whole lot to do with the book at all. If they like you, they’ll look for your work. If you bore them, they probably never will no matter how good the book may be.

Radio interviews can be a fabulous way to increase sales all over the country no matter where you’re located. With online sales soaring higher and higher, it’s a no-brainer. And don’t overlook those small town, rural programs that might only have a few hundred or thousand listeners. They also may not have a lot of social activities in the area, many don’t have bookstores or libraries nearby and reading is a favorite pastime. You may sell more from exposure in rural South Dakota than you do in New York City because people aren’t as busy and the competition is much less fierce. Think about it.

Have you run into something while doing interviews that was particularly successful? Offputting? A question? We’d love to hear your comments!

Happy interviewing!

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3 thoughts on “Tips for an effective radio interview:

  1. This is a great post for anyone considering a radio interview. And thank Heavens for landlines.
    Fifteen minutes before my two hour radio interview with MSStation, using BlogTalkRadio, I made a nice pot of tea, set it beside my computer and had my book and notes ready. Then my husband decided to bring me the portable phone. It immediately began to beep, and showed a message that it was too far from the base. We got the other hand set, and had the same message. Two batteries died at the same moment? I moved my tea upstairs to be closer to the other, older base with its portable phone, but it, too began to beep once off the base. The only landline in the house was in my son’s study, so i moved myself and my paraphernalia in there, and one minute before the interview began, I was ready.

    After 30 years of classroom teaching I am accustomed to technical difficulties at predictable times .. the interview went well and no one knew of our last minute re-arrangements! Word to the wise: expect Murphy’s Law and be prepared to go to plan C or D if necessary!

    To hear the interview, you can go to my blog at http://terrysthoughtsandthreads.blogspot.com, and look in the right hand margin for the blogtalk icon. My interview is third on the list: Multiple Sclerosis, an Enigma. You may want to make a pot of tea first.

  2. radine says:

    Great information, PJ. I love radio interviews and have enjoyed all you arranged for me. One host, in California, was born in Hot Springs, AR, where my novel, A TREASURE TO DIE FOR is set. We had a great time talking about Hot Springs landmarks I used in the book that he is familiar with. And, during my second appearance on his program, we swung right into buddyhood when I referred to the Hot Springs connection.

    In fact, there has usually been something I learned about every host that made a connection–something we shared that turned us into on-the-air friends. Watch for those opportunities! Also, be sure you know your interviewer’s name and how it’s pronounced. If at all possible, listen to his/her program before your date to appear. I have picked up some of these when other clients of PJs were on the same program earlier, and gave links to hear their broadcast. That’s a huge help, and might be an idea…perhaps links to other Breakthrough Promotions’ clients on the air could be shared with the entire client list.

    (Disclosure: I was a broadcast journalist for ten years, and had my own fifteen-minute program aired twice a week. I had a head start on feeling totally comfortable with radio interviews.)

  3. jennymilch says:

    Excellent tips! I will make a note of them. I’ve only done one radio interview, but one thing that worked was to line up a couple of callers in advance. In the end, we had enough who called on their own, but it’s good to know there won’t be silence if the host suggests taking calls.

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