Friday, May 30, 2008

Do Radio Interviews Help Sell Books?

copyright 2008, Francine Silverman

The jury is out on whether radio interviews help sell books. On the one hand, you read about how, before they became household names, Wayne Dyer and Scott Peck started out as authors. When Dyer’s first book, Your Erroneous Zones, was published, he filled his station wagon with copies and headed west to do as many radio shows as possible. The book ultimately became a best seller.

Peck also began by doing three radio shows a day to help sell his first book, The Road Less Traveled. That book was on the best seller list for 12 years.

On the other hand, unknown authors express a mixed bag about radio interviews.

As an on-line publicist who has gotten clients booked on radio programs, I decided to ask those authors who have done numerous radio interviews about their experiences.

A liberal politico, Walter Brasch is invited on many political shows. “Generally, I see a spike in Amazon rankings after a radio interview,” says Walter, whose latest book is Sinking the Ship of State: The Presidency of George W. Bush (BookSurge Publishing 2007). “However, because of so many online sources to buy books, as well as brick-and-mortar stores, it's often hard to determine the complete effect of a radio interview. Also, many people might buy the book days later. Sometimes, I even find that the rankings don't do anything after I think I gave a dynamite interview on a well-listened show. I have NO idea why. I'm sure there's marketing people who spent all day in front of computers and can analyze 40 bits of data from every sale, and relate it to how to move 3 more books in a 7 day period in West Podunk, Iowa. I just do my interviews, hope I have been informative, entertaining, and persuasive, and didn't waste the listeners' time, whether 5 minutes or an hour. “One thing I do note--podcast radio interviews still don't have the sales power of over-the-air radio. Not all pods, but a number. But, I usually don't turn down any radio shows. I like to do them. It keeps me mentally alert--especially since most talk shows have a conservative base.” http://

David Spero is a registered nurse and the award-winning author of The Art of Getting Well: Maximizing Health When You Have a Chronic Illness (Hunter House 2002) and Diabetes: Sugar-Coated Crisis: Who gets it, who profits, and how to stop it (New Society Publishers Sept. 2006). “I think it depends on the book and how well-tailored your message is to the particular audience on that show,” he says. “With The Art of Getting Well, I did radio shows on small NPR outlets that sold hundreds of books. I could tell by Amazon rankings, and my web site traffic increased significantly. I'm sure I could have sold more if I had gotten on larger markets. People responded to the self-care message I had. With Diabetes: Sugar-coated Crisis, I spent thousands of dollars getting radio all over the country and on the web, and have noticed very little sales or web traffic response. The message of this book isn't the kind that people will hear on radio and say ‘I want that.’

“So it depends, but if you have a good product, radio is great. One problem is that you can't always tell what the audience for a particular show is. You should look the show up on the Web if you can and get information about the host and the audience, or talk to the staff when you're getting booked, to find out if it's worthwhile. If the show appeals mostly to seniors and your book is about surfing, it probably doesn't make much sense to go on there.”

“I can't say that sales have definitively increased as a result of the radio shows,” says Shoshanna Katzman, a Tai Chi/Qigong professional and author of Qigong for Staying Young: A Simple 20 Minute Workout to Cultivate Your Vital Energy (Avery Penguin Group 2003), and Feeling Light—The Holistic Solution to Permanent Weight Loss and Wellness (Avon Books 1997).

Saul Fathi agrees. “Unfortunately most radio interviews have been disappointing in terms of book sales,” he says. Author of a memoir, Full Circle: Escape from Baghdad and the return (Xlibris 2006), Saul attributes it to five reasons:

1. The interviewer does not have a broad enough listening audience.
2. Few or none of the interviewer's audience read books.
3. The interviewer does not mention the book source often enough.
4. The listeners are on the move, driving, having no opportunity to write down anything.
5. The subject is of no interest to the interviewer's audience.

“Best results I obtained was when I was asked to mention my website address, and I carefully spelled it letter by letter. The second most productive way is to mention my lectures and ask the audience to write me for my scheduled lectures.”

John Klar’s experience falls somewhere in the middle.

“I have had regular feedback from my interviews, largely via e-mails from people referred to my web site,” says the author of Christian Words, Unchristian Actions: George W. Bush and the Desecration of Christianity in Modern America (WinePress Publishing 2006). “I am sure that some books have been sold also, but I have two problems assessing how well: first, there is a time-lag in my sales reports, so I never know how many books a particular interview may have sold. Second, I often cover many issues which my book addresses, and my book is rather intellectual – thus, I may undermine my own sales (even while I encourage debate and interest, attracting more call-ins and e-mail contacts) by outlining too many of the book’s arguments. Other authors might more effectively promote sales with a book addressing a lighter topic, or by leaving listeners wanting to learn more…”

So, despite the fact that these authors write about radio-ready subjects – health and politics – it’s hard to quantify exactly how radio interviews affect book sales.

However, it seems to me that if non-authors, like Adam Gilbert, can sign up two clients two weeks after a radio interview, authors have a better shot given the relatively low price of books. But Adam recognizes the power of radio, be you author, business person or health professional. “Radio is a very powerful medium because it gives you an opportunity to present your ideas in a non-commercial way. It allows your passion and genuineness to come through. If you are passionate and genuine then I highly recommend making radio interviews part of your PR plan.”

Well, fellow authors, perhaps if we do three radio spots a day like Scott Peck, our book sales will soar.


Francine Silverman’s latest book is TALK RADIO FOR AUTHORS - GETTING INTERVIEWS ACROSS THE U.S. AND CANADA(Infinity Publishing 2007). Her next book with the working title RADIO WANTS YOU: An Intimate Portrait of 700 Radio Shows that Welcome Guests, will be published by McFarland & Co., a large, well-respected reference and academic publisher, whose major markets are libraries.


Donna Sundblad said...

Excellent article. I appreciate it. Learning from the personal experience of others is most helpful.

Marta Stephens said...

Hi Francine, great article. I found it very interesting to read about the varying experiences of other authors.

I had an Internet readio interview shortly after my debut was release last spring. Did it improve my sales? I can't say. It certainly didn't hurt them. On the upside, it did attract an enourmous number of visitors to my web site. Would I do another interview? You bet!

Thanks so much for posting on MB4. Look forward to seeing you here again!

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Fran, very interesting take from your clients. Their response mirrored my constant pursuit of trying to match promotional events with sales. It's SO hard! I guess all we can ask is that our readership continues to grow, and hope each event fosters that growth! Thanks for joining us here and come back soon!

Kim Smith said...

Fran-- thanks so much for being with us on MB4. I have just recently become a fan of internet radio, and talk shows in general. I found no matter what the subject matter you can illuminate it with radio shows.

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

I'm posting this for Shoshanna, due to blogger problems. ;o)

Hi, I'm Shoshanna Katzman, author of Qigong for Staying Young: A 20 Minute Workout to Cultivate Your Vital Energy and I was quoted in this article. I want to add that even though I can't definitely say that a radio show sells books - it certainly has many other positive results. It's a great thing to post on my website and many people have listened to it from there and bought my book and DVD as a result. I have also found that the host of the talk show gets so excited about Qigong due to the interview and having the opportunity to read my book and watch the DVD ahead of time that they not only begin practicing Qigong but they also share it with others. I also feel that whether it is one or a hundred plus that are listening to the show - the experience of listening to my interview creates energetic awareness, spurs healing change, and enhances lives. This for me is worth more than actual book sales.