Stefanie Hartman In The Press

Tag Archive | "How to get booked on TV and Radio"

Giving a Great Interview

Posted on 26 Sep 2011 | Author Stefanie | Comments 1 comment | Tags

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Here is the seventh great installment I found on book tours, from a company that is closing their doors soon, so I thought I would pass it on to you guys! Kevin gives 5 great tips for giving a great interview and another resource for you to pick up is a complimentary report I wrote on How to Get Booked as a Guest on TV and Radio  Enjoy.

All the best,
Giving a Great Interview

We’re in the promotion part of our series and with any luck, your book will attract the interest of someone who’d like to interview you. That person may appear on national television, radio or in a prestigious magazine (hooray!), but it’s just as significant if they work for a local paper, an interested blog or run their own podcast show. All book promotion must begin somewhere, and small media can often be stepping stones to greater attention.

So how do you give a good interview when the opportunity arises? And by “good interview” I mean one that succeeds in three ways: 1) a strong representation of what your book is about and why a potential reader would be interested in reading it, 2) compelling programming or coverage for the person interviewing you, and 3) evidence that your book is gaining momentum in the marketplace. A successful interview can have two of three. It cannot have less than that.

All participants in an interview have clear motives. The author wants to get notice for their book and the interviewer wants to create a compelling experience for their audience. The audience wants that compelling experience and to find out about good books. Despite that built-in self interest, every successful interview (meaning successful for everyone involved) is a conversation with give and take at its core. If an interviewer is only out to titillate their audience, you get shock journalism and shrill talk radio. If an author will not budge from answering each question with “as I said in my book,” that author is a parrot, not a creator, and readers don’t buy books by parrots. If an interview seems so private and insular that the audience feels left out, they will ignore the book being discussed because the interviewer and author are doing the same to them.

In each case, somebody loses. Somebody losing is usually bad for your book. Do not be the accomplice to any of them.

What are your responsibilities, then, as the author? Let’s look at them within the framework of a successful interview.

1. Do your homework. A good interview quickly speeds past the built-in artificiality of the situation and becomes about conversation. For this to happen, you want as few surprises as possible. So between when the interview is scheduled and when it happens, get everything cleared up and leave nothing to chance. How long will the interview run? Will it be live or taped? Research old interviews by that journalist. Are they friendly and chatty or aggressive and demanding? The more ready you are, the more the interview will be about your book instead of what you didn’t know about the person and media outlet interviewing you.

On the day off your interview, clear as much time as you’ll feel comfortable with on either end. You NEVER want to arrive late to an interview (it’s says you don’t respect the interviewer’s time) and you don’t want to cut a great conversation short because you have to pick your kids up at school.

2. Answer short. Stay on point. All interviews have their natural limitations: Article length, airtime, life’s other obligations. Which means that no matter how engaging the conversation is, your primary job as the author to answer the questions quickly and accurately. We’ve discussed it before in our series, but rambling answers that don’t hang together make you the author look like a cluttered, disorganized thinker. And sadly, it makes potential readers think the same of your book—and they haven’t even picked it up yet.

If you have trouble answering questions succinctly, practice. Have a friend or family member ask you mock questions and time your answers. Aim for twenty to thirty seconds, one minute at the absolute most. You can expound a bit more if the interview is for a print or online publication or is recorded instead of live. In those situations, the interviewer can edit your answers to a reasonable length. For a live interview, if you don’t answer succinctly, the interviewer will simply cut you off. Then you simultaneously look like a motormouth and haven’t said much of anything.

“Short” does not mean incomplete or shifty. Answer the question you are asked. But answering in a manner that is both true to your book and compelling to the audience is an art that requires practice. Make sure, before you are asked to be interviewed, you know what and can repeat what a great interview sounds like.

(Sidenote: Listening to the NPR show Fresh Air is great practice. The actual conversation on Fresh Air can be several hours, but is edited down to sixty minutes for air. Host Terry Gross and her producers are so skilled at crafting great interviews that authors almost always answer in compelling little chunks of speech without sounding rehearsed or parroty. Practice answering like this.)

3. Maintain your dignity. Sadly, you may have an interviewer who is rude, pushy, or simply out to make you look stupid for entertainment’s sake. The worst thing you can do in this situation is play their game. Getting flustered or outraged, saying, “How dare you?”  is exactly what an offensive question is after. And by giving in to the obnoxious person asking it, you’re no longer an author with a book worth reading. You are a chump who has taken the bait.

No author ever lost points by maintaining their composure and dignity. “I’m afraid I don’t agree” works in almost every uncomfortable situation “I’ve already answered that question. Let’s move on,” does, too. But don’t be a stiff. If the interviewer is playing around, teasing, or clearly bears no hostility, it’s best to play along and demonstrate you have a sense of humor.

All of this can be determined by doing your homework (see point #1).

4. No interview too small. Unless your first four interviews are The Today Show, Charlie Rose, The Colbert Report and The New York Times, you cannot afford to turn an interview down because it seems too “small time” for you and your book. Book promotion is all about momentum and persistence, and the bathtub will not fill up if you don’t keep the water running. So if Nameless wants to interview you and it’s thirty minutes of your time on the phone on Tuesday morning, say yes. An author eager to talk about their book will almost always get more readers than an author snotty about with whom they will talk about their book.

One exception: If a media outlet seems to be asking for something outrageous (“Dear author, “Can you guest write a 3,000 word essay for my blog that fifteen people read?”), say no, politely, and renegotiate (“I’d be happy to be interviewed, guest post a 500 word essay, etc.”)

5. Always follow-up. After your interview is complete, email the interview and whomever approached you initially and thank them for the opportunity to speak with them. A handwritten note is even better, if you’ve got the time and nice stationary. It’s also fine to ask when your interview will run and important to make mention of it on your website and social media platforms. Whoever interviewed you will appreciate the traffic you send their way. Also, interviewers are journalists on deadline with space to fill. If they know you a) are a good interview and b) are a pleasant person to work with, they will very likely call on you again when a story of theirs merits it.

It is tempting but usually not ok to ask to see a transcript of the interview before it runs. Many media outlets have a policy against such things (the argument is that it leads to pre-publication censorship, which I do not dispute), and the ones that don’t will almost always reserve the right to not make changes you request. The social contract you enter into when being interviewed states that what you say is “on the record” unless you say otherwise.

Remember, the interviewer has a job to do, too. If you allow them to participate with you in a compelling conversation, it creates a compelling experience for the audience. This, in turn, heightens interest in the minds of your potential readers.

An old advertising adage says: “Nothing reveals a bad product faster than a good ad” I’d add “Nothing kills a good book faster than a boring conversation about it.” In a good conversation, like a good read, everybody wins.

Exercise: Listen to NPR’s Fresh Air and practice how you would answer Terry Gross’s questions about your book.  launched a ten-part series on Book Promotion called “Everything you Wanted to Know about Book Promotion but were Afraid to Ask” written by CEO Kevin Smokler. Kevin has been advising authors and publishers on marketing and promotion for nearly a decade and has written and lectured on the topic throughout North America.

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