Authors, Take Control of the Interview

Happy Mother’s Day to all who celebrate in the U.S. and all moms around the world! You have the toughest job, no doubt, and you are amazing (even when you aren’t feeling it!) xoxo!!

I was listening to a podcast the other day with a fairly well known host interviewing an author on the expertise within her book. The interview was 20 minutes long, which is a good amount of time to share important key messages, but the problem was this: The host asked a lot of questions unrelated to why she was there. Rather than asking her questions about productivity, which is her area of expertise, he was talking to her about the news of the day. It was quite entertaining, but what they discussed had very little to do with her book.

Then suddenly the interview was over.


They did not talk about her book. I felt for the author.

Here is the problem:

When asked an off-topic question, the author didn’t have any idea about bridging the topic back to one of her key messages, and she simply didn’t know how to take control of the interview.

Now by the word “control,” I’m not suggesting that she be an aggressive bully and just run her own agenda. We see politicians do that all the time, but that would be off topic to discuss here.

Here is the solution:

The kind of control I’m speaking of is very elegant, resourceful, and almost magical in the way it can take an off-topic question and bring it back to the key message the author wants to deliver. And the best part is no one will ever notice how skillfully it was done. It will appear seamless.

When this happens, the author is delighted because their time and expertise was well spent. All the important key messages in the book were covered.


This is a skill. It’s not something an author just knows how to do.

Many authors or guests are very nice people and answer the questions the host asks, hoping the host will ask the right ones. However, “Hope don’t float” as I heard in a movie once, so you have to be an active participant during the interview. This isn’t a passive activity. If a host asks you irrelevant questions, you must do something. Otherwise, you will reach the end of the interview, realize you never talked about your book, and face the disappointment of a huge missed opportunity.

No media person will ever tell you this, but I will.


Are you ready?

You are in charge of the interview. Really.

True, the interviewer can end an interview, which is the ultimate in taking control. It is their show afterall, but you are the one who can direct where you’re going. You have control of your answers and how to move things in a new direction, but it takes a little finesse to know how to do this well. It doesn’t just happen. No one is born with it. It is a skill that must be learned.

And learn it…you can.

Two of the biggest mistakes you can make:

1. Show up for an interview and simply be on the receiving end, hoping the host will ask you the right questions.

2. Believing that they read your book.

We’ll start with #2: Believing they read your book. Nine out of ten times they will have NOT read your book. There are two different kinds of interviews: Informed and uninformed.

An uninformed interview is fabulous because it is a clean slate. They haven’t read your book. As long as you are aware of the need to take charge (more on that soon), you will most likely be able to share all of your key messages. It is almost like an ad, although you don’t want it to sound that way. You get to share what you want to share.

An informed interview is very different. This is when the interviewer has done their homework, knows about the topic, has read the book and perhaps other books with different perspectives, and is prepared to ask you about them. This is the kind of interview where the host might say, “On page fifty four of your book you say…” in which case you must be very familiar with your book. This can be challenging if you’re already writing your next book, so prior to the interview, be sure to review your own press kit and book on the topic you’re being interviewed about.

Regarding the first point, it isn’t enough to hope the host will ask you the right questions. The first thing you must do is have your key messages burned into your brain. You need to know them so well that it’s automatic to cover them in an interview. When you are asked an off-topic question, you want to begin to answer the question, but at the same time your brain should be considering how to bridge back to one of your actual key messages. This is one of the important techniques for keeping an interview on track. It isn’t the only one, but when you can skillfully use it to go where you want to go without any disruption or clunkiness in the conversation, that is when you’re becoming a master.

Stephanie Chandler, who created and runs the Nonfiction Authors Association knows the importance of media training first hand. Back when she wrote her first book, it made all the difference to know HOW to deliver important messages so that people are compelled to buy your book.

I am delighted that she has invited me back to teach a three-week media training course through the association. Here is what Stephanie is sharing with her networks:

“Last year we held the first Media Training for Authors, led by publicist Joanne McCall. It was such a hit with attendees, we decided to bring it back.

This interactive workshop lasts three weeks, starting May 23rd at 10am PT / 1pm ET. If you want to feel confident and prepared for media interviews, this is an essential course you don’t want to miss.

I personally went through professional media training over a decade ago. It was one of the best investments I ever made in my career. Professional media training typically costs thousands of dollars, but this special workshop is just $397 (and members get 33% off!).

Learn about the media training course here or read on for details.

I promise, this is a powerful career investment you will be so glad you made!”


Thanks, Stephanie! Working with authors has been my job and privilege for over twenty years now. Things keep changing and we have to change too. We’ll cover the latest on how to do great interviews, and will even put a few daring people on the hot seat for some one-on-one coaching. You can sign up here, and I hope to see you on May 23rd! (There will be a recording if you can’t make it live.)


P.S. It’s time to Roar!








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