As a leading book publicist for almost 23 years, I have booked interviews for my clients on literally thousands of radio and podcasts. One thing that was true then, and is true to this day: radio and podcasts sell books. Of course, you as the author have to know how to deliver during that interview and inspire listeners to want to buy your book, which means media training. You have to know how to sell yourself and your book, but NOT in a salesy way. (That should go without saying if you’ve been following me.)
Whether it’s a phoner, Skype audio, or in-studio interview, here are some tips to adhere to that will help make your interviews successful!
Interview Tips for Book Authors
- Be sure you have the exact information: interview date, time (remember to check time zones!) and the length of the interview on your schedule.
- Rehearse your answers based on how long the interview will be. A ten-minute interview is very different than a thirty minute one. Pace, length of answers, stories you can share all are impacted by the amount of time you have.
- Listen to the show. There is no excuse not to listen to other interviews the host has done, so be sure you know the tone and attitude you will be dealing with.
- Prior to the interview, read over the initial pitch or press release that landed you the interview. You can also provide a list of questions and answers or talking points, and basically ensure how the interview will unfold.
- Know what you want to get out of the interview. What do you want to accomplish? Do you want listeners go to Amazon to buy your book? Go to an opt in page and subscribe? Enter a program you’re offering? Attend one of your events? Be sure you’re clear about this.
- Prepare your big idea and three key messages. What is your overall big idea and message? Then ask yourself what are the three most important key messages that you will always deliver in any interview you do? Knowing where you’re going makes it much easier to get there.
- Practice. Practice. Practice. The only time you can “wing it” is when you have burned your key messages into your soul.
- Do mock interviews and time your answers. You can do this with your partner or a friend. You can even do it on your own recording device. Keep in mind: When you hear someone who sounds like a natural, you can bet they’ve practiced a lot!
- Create a distraction-free environment prior to an interview. Close any windows or doors, quiet all your devices, and make sure those close by know you cannot be interrupted. Put a sign on the door: Keep out — unless blood is involved!
- Use a landline and forget the cell. (No speakerphone or headset!) I know. I know. You got rid of the landline ages ago, but if you use a cell and the sound quality is iffy, you’re going to lose the interview. Have you ever been on a cell call and you had trouble hearing our understanding the other person? How do you suppose this sounds to the listener? Best to be prepared. If you don’t have a landline, ask a friend if you can use his or hers, or purchase one for the length of your radio & podcast campaign.
- Warm up your vocal cords before you go on the air. Sing. Drink warm water. Practice. You don’t want to mumble or stumble right off the bat.
- Have plenty of water nearby. Dry mouth can turn a radio interview into a disaster. But be careful when you swallow. Choking will not help you.
- Smile. It comes across in your tone of voice, Plus, it will make you feel happier, more in control, and more confident.
- Steer clear of the classic interview killers: one or two-word responses, rambling incessantly, using jargon, or overselling your book. Also avoid using speech fillers — superfluous and distracting sounds or words, such as “um” and “you know,” and “like.”
- Forget the line, “In my book…” Just forget it. Don’t ever utter those words. It can kill an interview on the spot. (More than one host has told me that when a guest says that, it signals the end.)
- Don’t repeat yourself. Once you repeat a key message (Unless doing so is specifically to stress it and you say so), it signals to the host that the interview is over. You’re going over your same ideas. A real no no.
- Memorize the host’s name and use it throughout the interview. After all, a person’s name is music to his ears, but don’t over do it. Then it sounds like a premeditated technique making you sound inauthentic. You don’t want that.
- Remember an interview is a conversation. Don’t perform — communicate. You’ll be more natural using your usual relaxed language. This can’t be overstated. Speakers in particular are challenged by this. Don’t be guilty of taking over the interview as if it’s a presentation. It’s a conversation. Remember that.
- Listen carefully and respond to the question being asked. Never answer a question other than the one you were asked in an effort to promote yourself. There are plenty of politicians to do that.
- Don’t assume the host understands your technical expertise. At the same time, don’t be patronizing. Stay away from jargon. Speak using simple language that is easy to understand.
- Start with the climax. Forget about warming up to make a point. Start with the conclusion first. Begin with your best message, particularly if it’s controversial. Start with a bang!
- Offer your ideas in sound bites. Sound bites pack a lot of information into just a few words and they’ll make you “sticky,” meaning, easy to remember.
- If you flub a response, casually correct yourself and keep going. What you perceive as a gaffe, most listeners won’t even notice.
- If a host says something that is clearly incorrect, rather than trying to convince him or her otherwise, or call them uninformed or worse, just begin your response with, “Actually…” and go on to tell the truth. Simple.
- Make your messages practical and actionable, not academic or abstract. Bring ideas to life with real-world stories or statistics. Paint pictures in the listeners’ minds.
- Tie your work to hot topics — breaking news, emerging issues or trends, and notable current events. This makes you newsworthy and timely.
- Challenge conventional wisdom. Have a contrary or counter-intuitive viewpoint or debunk popular myths. This approach always captures attention and works well in pitches, in addition to your on-the-air performance.
- Stay fresh and interested in your own material. This is not the first time you’ve discussed your ideas, but it is the first time your listeners have heard them. Remember that.
- Be prepared for negative comments. In any interview there will be an opposing point of view and it’s the host’s job to explore this. It’s what makes it interesting to the listener. Expect it, and be prepared for it with your best answer. By all means, avoid becoming argumentative or defensive. (You won’t win a fight.)
- Debrief after each interview. Ask yourself, “What specifically did I do well?” and “What opportunities did I miss — and why?” Jot down your responses while it’s fresh in your mind. If you get a copy of the interview, wait at least one day to listen back to it. Trust me on this. You will hear it differently.
- Be prepared for a common last question: “Do you have one final thing to say to our audience?” Have a final thing to say! It could be the repeat of your top key message, or something else that is new and memorable.
- If asked where your book is available, be ready to say. Practice it beforehand so that it sounds easy and natural.
- Finally, have fun and enjoy yourself. It’s one more powerful tip to max your radio & podcast interviews.
Remember, if you deliver lots of great information in your interviews, people are going to want to know more about you and learn more in your book. Be confident, have fun, and deliver your best material. People can tell when you’re relaxed and confident.
To your success!
P.S. When it comes to being polished while doing interviews, you need to master four things: Know you key messages, understand how to bridge back when a host takes you off course, be skilled at teeing up the next question, know how to always look and sound your best when a mic is present. Oh, and if your subject is controversial, know how to handle that. Media training can help. Learn about it here.