Reaching for the Limelight - Part 2

On Air and On the Page

In part one, we talked about the ins and outs of pitching your book for television and radio coverage. In part two, we’ll look at best practices for those interviews. 

Prepping for the Interview

Congrats on nailing your pitch! The hard part is over, and now it’s time to prepare to go from book to broadcast. Here are some tips to make sure you’re prepped when it comes to the content of the interview.

  • Learn from other authors. Tune in to NPR or your favorite TV/radio program that routinely hosts authors and take notes on both the interviewer and the interviewee. What tough questions did the host ask? How did the author highlight the most salient points of their book? Learn from the successes and foibles of the writers who have come before you.
  • Get to know the interviewer. You may not have a chance to meet in person, but you can watch or listen to the host you’ll be working with ahead of time. Hopefully you’re already acquainted with the show, but even if you’re not, you can still dig in to get to know the host’s style. Look for points of shared interests that you guys can bond over before and during your segment.
  • Know your time frame. Most interviews are short, maybe two or three minutes—five if you’re lucky. Have a friend do a mock interview ahead of time so you know you can use those minutes wisely. And if you are on a longer format show, be sure to think about how you will cover different elements of your book in each segment.
  • Remember your hook. We talked about the importance of a hook when it comes to pitching, and it’s just as important when it comes to the interview. Your hook—your elevator speech—is going to be what people remember. Make sure to weave that hook in with your answers.

General Best Practices
Whether you’re on TV or the radio, these best practices will help you nail your interview.

  • Review talking points ahead of time. Most interviewers will chat with you before the interview starts. Use this time to go over the general questions you’ll be asked so you can start thinking about your responses.
  • Enunciate. Contrary to popular belief, talking fast is fine as long as folks can understand you. (I’m definitely a fast talker, so this one hits home for me!) You don’t want to sound like an auctioneer, but don’t worry if you get nervous and your words come out a bit more quickly than you expect. Just be sure to speak clearly.
  • Avoid yes and no answers. Nothing stalls an interview like a single-syllable response. Unless you can’t think of any way to elaborate on a question, go beyond the simple “yes” or “no” like you would in a normal conversation.
  • End with a call to action. Before the interview wraps up, be sure to tell viewers or listeners where to find you and how to get your book. This is as simple as “Go to myname.com and click the preorder button!” (Note: make sure your website or other point of contact is easy to understand. It’s okay to spell a complicated word out loud if you need to!)

When You’re On the Radio or a Podcast

The time has come! You’re about to be on the radio. If you’re following the steps above, you’re just about ready to go. Here are three more tips to make sure your performance is flawless.

  • Talk in your normal register. It happens to all of us—our voices go up and octave when we’re answering the phone, talking to a stranger, or being interviewed on the radio. Be diligent about using your normal voice during your radio interview, and you won’t end up sounding like a chipmunk.
  • Get up close and personal with the microphone. If you’ve never been on air before, you’ll be surprised by how close you get to the mic. The host will help you determine the right distance, but go in knowing that you’re going to be leaning in. (Note: If you find yourself getting louder as you tell a story or bursting into laughter, be sure to pull back a bit so you don’t make listeners jump!)
  • Paint a picture with your words. Listeners can’t see you during a radio interview, so if you are describing something, make sure to use vivid language to set the scene. As an author, this will probably come naturally! Also remember that nodding or shaking your head won’t work either, so be sure to answer all questions verbally.

When You’re on Television

For many people, a TV appearance can be much more daunting than a radio interview. Yes, the pressure is on a bit more when the cameras are pointed at you—especially if the show is live—but that doesn’t mean you have to sweat it!

  • Ignore the camera. Seems strange, but it’s true. In most interviews, only the host/reporter will be looking at the camera. You’ll be looking at the host as though the two of you are having a conversation. The great part about not having to look into the lens is that you can pretend the camera isn’t even there. Just focus on the conversation, and you’ll be great.
  • Maintain eye contact. This one is always hard for me. In a normal conversation, we look away from each other because it feels awkward, or even rude, to stare into another person’s eyes for too long. But when you’re on camera, you’ll be looking right at the host for most of the segment. It’s okay to look at your book or your surroundings from time to time, but your eyes are moving too much, you can come across as nervous or even a bit shifty. Practice eye contact with a friend—it’s tough at first, but you’ll get the hang of it!
  • Smile! It’s as simple as that. In 99% of author interview situations, smiling a little extra will be the way to go. You’ll appear friendly and warm, which will make viewers connect with you. If you’re talking about a more serious subject and smiling doesn’t feel appropriate, make sure you’re still projecting
  • Dress for the occasion. You want to look your best on TV, and you likely know some of the outfits that make you feel confident and that compliment your appearance. Three quick recommendations: 1) Avoid patterned/busy tops as they don’t reproduce well on screen. 2) Know what your background will be (on the set or on the shooting location) so you don’t blend in or clash. 3) Wear an outfit that’s appropriate for the program and for what you’ll be doing (sitting, walking, etc.).
  • Be yourself…with more energy. They say the camera adds 10 pounds, but it also brings down your energy by about 10%. If you’ve ever watched a TV broadcast in person, you’ll notice how reporters or TV personalities pump up their energy when the camera is on. Give your energy an extra little boost before you go on air.

For more tips on acing your interviews, check out the sidebar!


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Jillian Bergsma Manning is a contributing editor for Independent Publisher. She loves reading and writing but not arithmetic. Follow her on Twitter at @LillianJaine or on her blog at www.editorsays.com.