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!

Are you on the right road?

What did you do for your career today? Every step you take, every choice you make takes you down a particular path. The path you take may look exactly the way you think it should look, but it’s advisable to take a good look at the map. Make sure the path you’re on leads you to the destination you have in mind.

In today’s tumultuous publishing environment, social media is the new avenue of pursuit for marketing success. On the surface, it gives what appears to be almost instant gratification and something that’s relatively hard to come by where promotion is concerned – reasonably measurable results.  But it can also give you unsupported facts and figures that paint a distorted picture sometimes. Here’s an insightful article that talks about the performance anxiety that can cause.

Thousands of authors tweet their titles and post messages on Facebook and beyond, and get good feedback from other authors doing the same. Book reviewers and bloggers chime in and it seems all are making progress in their chosen fields. But when all is said and done, and pencil meets paper, do the numbers add up?  Have you hit your target?

That is certainly a question that needs to be asked and answered if you’re serious about a career as an author. But there’s another question that bears asking – do you even know what your target is?

I often ask authors who seek my help with promotion – what are your goals? Most don’t have a clear cut answer beyond “I’d like to sell more books.” When looking at your goals, make sure they’re measurable. In other words, if asked in question form, is there a definitive answer?

Example:

My goal is to sell more books.

That goal is admirable, but not measurable because it doesn’t tell you how many books.

Better:

My goal is to sell 5,000 books.

Ok, now you have a target you can see.

Even better:

My goal is to sell 5,000 books in the next 6 months.

Great! Now you have the information you need to proceed with significant goal setting. You know how many books you want to sell, and how much time you have to do that. Now you can use that information to guide you in setting short term goals designed to keep you on the path to reach your ultimate goal.

Of course that’s just the beginning and we’ve digressed somewhat from the initial discussion.  But not entirely because those short term goals are where so many get off track. Such as those who put all their eggs in the proverbial basket of social media marketing or any other facet of marketing. Any time all of your promotional efforts are invested in one small area, you’re probably missing a lot of opportunity and not making the wisest and most effective use of your resources.

There are several other areas to which you need to give attention to get the most out of your marketing efforts. These areas don’t replace social media, but they often enhance your social media efforts. They include:

  1. Establishing yourself as an expert. This step is a big one and the one most often overlooked. Many authors are hesitant to promote themselves, but if you want to really sell books, it’s critical. People want to buy books written by someone who is someone. In today’s market more than ever, it’s important for you to be perceived as an expert and not as someone who just tapped out a book on the kitchen

    Tactical consultant, Mike Witzgall

    table between chores (forgive the analogy, I trust you get the drift). But I write fiction, you might say, and I’m not an expert at anything! Then become one. Even the distinction of being a professional writer sets you above the vague someone who writes when time allows.  But almost every fiction writer has particular interests and passions that show up repeatedly in his or her writing. Maybe you did a lot of research for your protagonist’s background or expertise. Maybe you have a passion for geneology or herbal cures or a particular dog breed. It can be anything. But pick one, not several, and go with it. Become known as someone who knows all about that topic. Show up on topic specific blogs and make comments. Write articles for appropriate publications and newsletters, both online and print. Use those articles to schedule radio and television interviews on appropriate programs. Read the article by Brian Jud on pursuit of media here. Design a topic appropriate talk to give at community centers and civic clubs or libraries. Most of these venues will either mention your books in the bio or on the air, or will allow you to sell books after the meeting. Consider joining the local Chamber of Commerce or other civic group. Just remember, the goal of these events is to establish you as an expert and the success is not to be judged by how much it does or doesn’t increase your sales at the time. If you’ll just target one or two of these things each month, you’ll be surprised how quickly they add up and more importantly, how they change the way you think of yourself.

  2. Utilizing niche markets. This goes along with the above, but is listed second because it helps if you first establish yourself as an expert in the chosen field. Then zero in on niche markets that others often overlook. There are literally tens of thousands of industry specific newsletters and groups in this country and most of them are always looking for appropriate material for their publications. Some pay, most don’t, but the compensation comes in the form of the 2 – 3 line bio that first gives you expert credibility and second, mentions the title of your book. Think of it as planting seeds. They don’t grow immediately, but keep planting and sales will come. Be consistent enough and you’ll start getting invitations to speak and write in other related venues without having to seek them out.
  3. Making yourself known in the book industry. This is a tough one. So many who are published by small presses or are self-published   have seemingly given up on finding favor here, but that’s too bad. However difficult it may be, and it has become hard, being favored by local booksellers is worth a lot and you can’t really buy that kind of favor. Whatever your genre, do not forget the independent booksellers. They work very hard in the industry in which we all take part, and they, like many, do it for the love of the book. They’re overworked and underpaid, and generally great folks. Pick 4 or 5 of your favorites to start. Learn the names of the principles. If you can find out, learn their birth dates. Send cards. Put links on your website. Send review copies of your latest title and don’t be offended if they don’t review it or immediately agree to carry it in the store. Be nice. Support them with your own purchases, even if you might save a dollar or two buying elsewhere. I promise you, sooner or later it will pay. And besides that, you’ll make some terrific friends along the way. When a reviewer does review your book, don’t forget to say thank you. You’d be surprised how few do. Join an organization that best fits your writing style and get active. Don’t just join everything and do nothing. There are so many more possibilities that it’s not possible to list them all here, but I think you get the idea.

    Maryelizabeth Hart and Terry Gilman of Mysterious Galaxy

    Maryelizabeth Hart and Terry Gilman of Mysterious Galaxy

Constant blog tours, tweeting, FBing and general online presence may not all be enjoyable – I’m not saying it isn’t work. But I am saying in most cases it’s fairly easy, readily accessible, and usually inside your comfort zone. And that’s fine if you want to be average. If you want to excel, though, you’re going to need to go outside that comfort zone to soar. Continue to do those things – they do reach potential readers. But don’t ONLY do those things. Make a schedule for yourself and include the other items that you know will take you to the results you want most. For things you feel you need to do that just seem impossible, or you know you’re not good at – staff your weakness. Barter with someone who’s better at it than you are. Hire a local student. Or someone like me. Don’t just not do it. You deserve the best efforts for promoting something that takes as much talent and investment as writing a book does.

Oh, one more thing. Don’t forget to schedule time for yourself. As with any career or job, you need to punch out and go home sometimes. Do that. I’m going right now to blow bubbles with my granddaughter. She’ll only be two years old for a little while.  Talk to you soon!

Book promotion – it’s not rocket science

In promotion, do the facts speak for themselves? Perhaps. But do they say what you want people to hear? There’s always a spin. Sometimes there’s more truth in what you don’t say, or in how you say it.

One of the reasons authors are discouraged when they send out mass quantities of press releases and see few, if any, results, is because the release itself is generic. It probably contains accurate facts about the author and the book (its release date, etc.) but unless the author’s name is newsworthy in and of itself (which is rarely the case) it will probably go straight into the circular file. Effective publicity has to be written to the market. It helps to aim at the target you’re trying to hit.

Here’s an example I used frequently when I taught Creative Writing at the Dallas County Community College District:

I did not say he beat his wife.

One sentence containing eight words. But watch what happens when you shift emphasis from one word to the next:

I did not say he beat his wife.

 I did not say he beat his wife.

 I did not say he beat his wife.

 I did not say he beat his wife.

 I did not say he beat his wife.

 I did not say he beat his wife.

 I did not say he beat his wife.

 See how emphasis changes the meaning? Or the implication? It’s all about focus.

For instance, right now, I’m working to schedule some print and broadcast attention for Avery Aames whose latest Cheese Shop Mystery  – Clobbered by Camembert – comes out February 7th. You might think pitching a mystery about a cheese shop is pretty narrow in focus already, but there are still adjustments I need to make if I want to have a good response from the markets I talk with. One host we work with fairly often has a long established program with listeners who love cooking. So of course, when approaching him, I lead with the recipes and understand that he really doesn’t care if there’s a mystery involved or not.

Another program has a regular spot each week for author interviews, but the host rarely talks about the book at all. In fact, she prides herself on going “behind the scenes” to talk about the authors and their backgrounds rather than the books, although of course the books are mentioned on the air. She’s pretty selective about her guests so I know when I call her, I need to be ready with some interesting, but little known, facts and topics the author feels comfortable discussing. Again, what’s in the book has little to do with how I pitch the author. Two totally different approaches to scheduling, yet both achieve the same thing – a large, pre-qualified market of potential book buyers.

How’s an author to know these things? Research. Lots of it. Promoting a book is time consuming, even on the best of days, but taking time to know the market you’ll be pitching will increase your success rate exponentially. There are no effective shortcuts other than hiring someone to do that research for you. Even the high dollar media database services don’t give you some of the information that will help you most. That comes from getting to know the person responsible for scheduling the guests. Experience. In lieu of that, it can come from avoiding a standard pitch and knowing how to ask the right questions.

Always remember to approach a new market from the standpoint of what you can do for them rather than what they can do for you. They really don’t care about helping you sell more books. They care about guests who can help them attract new listeners and viewers, and help them entertain the regular audience they already have. So while your goal may be to increase sales of your book or to increase your own name recognition, the way to reach that goal, in this case, is to determine how you can best help them reach their goals.

Don’t be afraid to ask, “What kind of guests do you prefer?” Better than that, take time to visit the program archives of broadcasts or transcripts to see what their program is actually like if you’re not in an area where you can listen to it live. It doesn’t usually take a long time to figure out if the host has preferences and pet peeves that would be good to know ahead of time.

You also need to be ready to overcome objections. If your book is fiction, particularly genre fiction as so many of my clients write, one of the primary objections I come across is the standard line: We don’t do fiction. I have to be ready to show them, very quickly, why the case I’m pitching might be the one exception. Since so many of them only take calls during commercial time when they’re on the air, I have to think – and talk – fast. I better be ready for it before I even dial the number.

Bottom line – I don’t do a lot of things for my clients that they couldn’t do for themselves, and that’s not a slap against me. The primary difference between me (and any other publicist) and an author just starting out is that I’ve been doing little else for the past 14 years and I have all that experience and a database full of contacts that I’ve built relationships with over the years. I can’t be everyone’s publicist, but I like to help those who are trying to find their way through the maze of book promotions. That’s why I started the biz in the first place.

So feel free to come here and ask questions and make comments. I’ll post more as we go along and hopefully give you information that will get you where you’re going.

Happy promoting!