When I was asked me to be a guest on a blogtalkradio show, I immediately posted a discussion topic on Facebook, and my writing community there came through for me with some wonderful suggestions. Chuck Collins was especially generous, and he gave me permission to share his wisdom with you. Collins says:
Here I am an expert, no modesty needed. I have been a broadcaster for more than 30 years. There is one simple rule: there is no such thing as a yes or no answer. If you stop reading here, you’ll be fine.
A little physical prep is good. You certainly don’t want to jump off the treadmill and pick up the phone. You want some water nearby (you will get dry-mouth). And you want to make sure the room from where you take the call is totally quiet and you are the only soul present; that includes pets.
Write down the person’s name and city on an index card that you can see almost without looking at it. I don’t care if you are talking to the local swap-meet guy or Larry King, you will forget. Good idea to know the time zone at the destination of your talk. It’s also good to know a little bit about the interviewer, Simple things such as is he or she a parent, of a certain racial or ethnic group. Google him or her!
Be in comfortable clothes, but wear clothes! No sweats or jammies. That will give you a false sense of empathy. A good interviewer will want to throw you off at least a little. Stay sharp.
A bad interviewer will not know where to place the question mark. They will qualify a question to death. Be ready to interject your answer; trust me, he or she will thank you for that.
Have a clock or timer near. I like to use the timer feature on my iPhone. No answer should go longer than 2 minutes. That sounds like a long time, it isn’t. Ideally you want your answers to be in the 90 second range. I am not suggesting you obsess over time, just be aware of it. The interviewer is.
Assume that the interviewer has not read your book and never will. And you don’t care. It is the listener you want to get interested in the story.
Talk about the story or the subject matter. If you get a groupie question such as, “what made you start this project?” Talk about the genesis of the characters and the plot. It really doesn’t matter where your head was at the time. And yes, say the title of the book as often as you can.
One thing to keep in mind: good radio sounds like a conversation but it is not. We know this from composing good fiction. Nearly everyone can write, but few can craft a good novel. Nearly everyone can speak, but few actually sound good on the radio.
You can have a pleasant conversation with a host. Come away feeling good about the segment and not compel a single listener to buy your book.
You must help the host create an atmosphere that is as magnetic as your story. Use your voice to paint a picture that the listener MUST complete by buying the book. In short you need to convey passion, emotion and attraction.
This is not casual. It is quite deliberate. Have you ever heard or seen Garrison Keillor give an interview? There is always something that makes you wonder. It doesn’t matter what you wonder about, but he sticks in your mind long enough to take action, click on Amazon and buy the book. The host talks about the interview after you are gone. If you are lucky even the next day, perhaps replay it, podcasts it on their website! Mr. Keillor is a master of both art forms, but we can certainly learn from him.
The radio interview is a remarkable opportunity. You do not want to become a quivering mass, but you want to serve yourself first.
Generally the people listening to the interview are not interested in us. But we can give them reason to choose our work over the literally millions of options. Convince one person, that is really all you have to do.
If you are on a show about books and authors then you can relax some and just be yourself while still keeping the work central to the discussion. But if you are lucky enough to get on mainstream radio you are expected to perform, not as a radio professional but as an artist. We are supposed to be interesting people, we who have the nerve to create.
As far as selling, there are many ways to do this. The best way is make the product irresistible. No amount of begging can compete with a must-have product. Of course you never want to say, “please read my book,” but you can say “I have reserved a number of books just for your listeners. I will gladly sign them and for the next 24 hours wave all shipping costs.” I don’t believe in discounting the price, that is an insult to those who have already paid full price. But shipping, now there’s a coupon.
There are several ways to get asked back.
Sound like you belong there. This is delicate because you want to remain the “junior partner” in the presentation. In this dance, the host leads.
Remain humble, but not sycophantic. Know your stuff but when possible attribute your knowledge to others the interviewer and her audience may know and admire; maybe even interviewed recently. “You had a great interview with X on your show last month. He is a strong inspiration…” Show that you are a fan of the show, too.
Don’t ask for anything from the show! Arrange to have the show recorded yourself and offer to link the interviewer/program site to yours.
Thank both the host and producer in writing. Let them know how much you enjoyed the opportunity and are available anytime they would like you back…”
Don’t try to be funny. The key word here being TRY. You WILL be funny, don’t worry. You can even prepare a humorous story, but it will come naturally and that is the most engaging and memorable.
Here’s something from the AP Interviewing class: Relate to the audience directly as much as possible. This takes practice. For example. Instead of saying “When I find an author I like…” say “when you find an author you like…” same sentence, same set up. We know that the most magnetic words heard on the radio is one’s own name, short of that is “you.”
Finally you can forget all this and still do great! The worst interviews I ever had were with radio people — Don Imus, Howard Stern, etc. The best were fiction authors who would rather lick a porcupine than talk on the radio. That’s because I admire what they do and was genuinely interested in the craft. You’ll sense that from Rita and other good interviewers and the time will fly by.