Stefanie Hartman In The Press

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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 http://stefaniehartman.com/freereport.html  Enjoy.

All the best,
Stefanie
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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 Podcast.com 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 www.npr.org/programs/fresh-air and practice how you would answer Terry Gross’s questions about your book.

BookTour.com  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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Writing the Perfect Pitch

Posted on 22 Sep 2011 | Author Stefanie | Comments 1 comment | Tags

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Here is the sixth 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! When I put up the first installment there was some great comments including that it could be harder to write how you introduce your book than writing the book itself.

In this installment Kevin breaks down the pitch for you, I like that he includes a sample of a pitch and breaks it down for you. There is an exercise at the bottom for you and when doing this list remember the tip for media I mentioned in the fourth installment.   Enjoy.

All the best,
Stefanie
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Writing the Perfect Pitch

Last week, we went over how you the author will want to feel and act on the day your book is published. Which means that the theoretical part of “How do I promote my book?” is over. Your book has been born. It’s time to take it out into the world and show it around.

The remainder of our series will focus on how to do that. Coming up, we’ll look at how best to use technology and social media, how to give a great interview and how to hold a great book event.

We’ll start today with writing a great pitch.

What is a pitch?

A pitch is a written, formalized way of informing someone you probably don’t know about your book in the hopes of attracting their interest and further action. A pitch to a newspaper/journalist/radio producer is, “This is my book. Perhaps you’d be interested in covering it?” A pitch to a venue (bookstore, library) is, “This is my book. Perhaps you’d be interested in having me, the author, come give a talk?” If your book promotion process is akin to throwing a party, the pitch is the invitation.

But it’s a little more complicated than that. You’re sending out an invitation to someone you’ve never met before who probably has other invitations just like yours. Their space/time/availability for your book, or anyone’s, is, by nature, scarce and limited. That’s why every author wants it.

Knowing that, you need your pitch to do three things: 1) present your book in a compelling manner, 2) demonstrate how your book is both compelling and useful to whomever you’re pitching, and 3) not waste their time.

Whom to pitch:

Last week we talked about beginning your promotional efforts with people you know, then moving outward to small and local media. The same holds true when coming up with a pitch list. Focus first on low fruit and trees that are close by. Our PressFinder tool is a great way to find contact information for members of the media based in your area.

Sample pitch:

Here’s a sample email pitch I’ve cooked up. I’ve borrowed the sample summary from the first installment in our series. I’ve called myself “Jack Mulligan” for reasons I don’t understand.
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To: “Helen Joseph” (Helen.Joseph@mysite.com)
From: “Jack Mulligan” (jmulligan@mysitel.com)
Subject: Pitch regarding your “Mariners Maniacs” series. A novel about Gaylord Perry.
Dear Ms. Joseph,

My name is Jack Mulligan and I’m a novelist based here in Seattle. I’ve been following your series on KUOW Radio about Mariners baseball fans, and thought my debut novel, Ghosts of Gaylord Perry, might be of interest to you.

Ghosts of Gaylord Perry is a mystery novel about a detective named Sally Ann framed for murder when her dog Woof Woof finds the body of her boyfriend, a Seattle Mariners shortstop and the nephew of Mariner Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry, on her front lawn. As Sally attempts to clear her name through an investigation of her own, evidence mounts that the perpetrator might have been the victim’s uncle, the Mariners’ greatest pitcher, who happened to be in town giving a lecture on the art of spitball the weekend of the murder.

I self-published my novel last month. Much of my research came out of my volunteer work as historian of the Seattle Mariners Fan Club. I’ve been writing articles on baseball and baseball history for a variety of small publications since 1995.

I heard on your last broadcast that your Mariners Series will be continuing until December. I’ve enclosed a copy of Ghosts of Gaylord Perry for your enjoyment and in the hopes that you may find it useful for your series.

Keep up the great work.

Best,
Jack Mulligan
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Anatomy of a pitch:

Let’s break this pitch down and see why it works.

First, it is short. Three paragraphs, two hundred words, and gets right to the point. Ms. Joseph is no doubt a busy journalist and there are an awful lot of Seattle Mariners fans (not to mention authors) who would like her attention. Wasting her time will move us right to the back of the line and probably out the door. Which is why the subject line contains the word “Pitch,” what the pitch is for (“Mariners Maniacs series”) and what is being pitched (“novel about Gaylord Perry”). Ms. Joseph knows exactly what this email contains before she even opens it.

(Side note: Most pitches come through email these days. Pitching via written note or fax, unless specifically requested, makes you look like a fuddy duddy).

Now let’s look a piece at a time

My name is Jack Mulligan and I’m a novelist based here in Seattle. I’ve been following your series on KUOW Radio about Mariners baseball fans, and thought my debut novel, Ghosts of Gaylord Perry, might be of interest to you.

First paragraphs are all about who you are and why you are contacting them. Think of it like ringing someone’s doorbell. Get to why you are standing there immediately. Beginning with “My name is” is nice because it speaks of honesty and directness. And since you’re pitching a book, better mention that early on, too, and don’t forget the title.

The most important line here, though, is “following your series on KUOW.” A successful pitch is always tailored to the specific needs of whom you are pitching. Saying, “I listen to KUOW. Your radio station should cover my book” says, 1) I couldn’t be bothered to do the research and find out where my book belongs in your radio programming, and 2) because I’m not being specific, I sound dishonest when I say, “I listen to KUOW.”

Avoid seeming dishonest and lazy. Read/listen/watch whomever you are pitching. See what kinds of books they cover and how. Then craft your pitch to their needs.

Ghosts of Gaylord Perry is a mystery novel, etc…

Refer back to Part I of our series and how to describe your book in a single sentence. Every line should drive the plot forward yet leave a bit to the imagination. Avoid the temptation to over-explain. I know you think everything in your book is gold. It very well may be, but excessive details say to the Helen Josephs of the world that you can’t keep your thoughts straight and therefore probably aren’t worth paying attention to as an author either.

I self-published my novel last month. Much of my research came out of my volunteer work as historian of the Seattle Mariners Fan Club. I’ve been writing articles on baseball and baseball history for a variety of small publications since 1995.

Most likely, neither media nor venues will want to feature a book that’s more than a year old. Explaining how long it’s been in the marketplace is just you 1) being helpful and 2) saying its publication is topical and therefore relevant. Stating your qualifications in a line or two clarifies that you’re versed in what your book contains and Ms. Joseph won’t waste her time featuring a novel about the Mariners from someone who doesn’t know anything about the Mariners.

I heard on your last broadcast that your Mariners Series will be continuing until December. I’ve enclosed a copy of Ghosts of Gaylord Perry for your enjoyment and in the hopes that you may find it useful for your series.

Say what you want, say it quickly, show how it’s useful to them, then leave it alone. Don’t beg. Don’t brownnose. Be a courteous, polished professional. Because, should they say yes, you’d like them to cover your book in the same way, right?

Is a pitch a press release?

A press release is a cousin of the pitch. It makes a more general announcement about the arrival of a book meant to fit a variety of media outlets instead of one specifically.

Press releases for books are usually only effective when the book is written by a well-known person whose actions are newsworthy. For our purposes, a few targeted watering attempts will bear more flowers than seeding the clouds for downpour.

What if I have a publicist?

Let them do the pitching. Here’s why.  That publicist is a paid professional. Their job is to develop ongoing relationships with members of the media, relationships meant to benefit the books they represent, like yours. As the author, you and your work are the beneficiary of their experience.

Let them do their job. Going behind your publicist’s back and contacting members of the media is like dining at a restaurant then walking into the kitchen to make your own dessert. Why have a publicist if you’re just going to do their work for them?

Publicist are paid professionals for a reason. Let them do their job. Work with them, not around them.

Different for venues:

The formula for pitching a venue to do an event follows many of the same rules but not all. You want to research what kind of events that venue hosts, any openings in their upcoming calendar and suggest what your program will be. Again, tailor these to the needs of the venue. Don’t suggest an hour’s worth of reading if the venue only schedules authors for twenty-minute blocks.

How is it different? A venue has both time and space to fill. A media outlet just has space. So if a venue puts on an ill-planned, poorly organized event, it not only costs them money (because they had to be open, have the lights on and pay employees during the event) but may cost them future customers (who come to the lousy event and vow never to return). If a media outlet covers a book that a reader doesn’t end up liking, the reader will probably blame the author more than they will blame the media who covered the author.

All of which means, it is absolutely imperative that you do not only do thorough research on the venue itself but tailor your event to what that venue typically features in a visiting author.

We’ll be talking more about planning the perfect event later in our series but for now…

Exercise: Put together a list of six to ten members of the local media or nearby venues you think would be good matches for your book. Use PressFinder www.booktour.com/pressfinder/search for suggestions. Then create a sample pitch letter.

BookTour.com 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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