Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Preparing for your Radio Interview: The Twelve Step Program


Dora Machado

So you've written this wonderful, powerful, marvelous book. Against all odds, it's now published, available on Amazon and ready to garner some well-deserved readers. You are in promo mode. Through your publicist's hard work—or perhaps through your own agency—you're booked to talk about your novel on a radio show.  You now have the opportunity to engage hundreds, perhaps thousands of people in a conversation about your work.

Are you ready?

Talking about our novels is not always easy for most authors. We spend the majority of our time writing our books, not talking about them. Many of us are introverts by nature and not used to the limelight. However, we all understand the need to promote our work. After all, nobody knows more about our novels, characters and storylines than we do. Publishers want and expect authors who are willing and able to promote their work. Readers want to hear from us.

I'm no expert, but after promoting four books, I've learned that preparation is key. Whether you are doing a live interview at your local radio station or a Web radio interview—also known as a podcast— here are a few simple things that any author can do to get ready:

1. Confirm the date and time a few days before the interview.

Sounds simple, right? Wrong!

When you agree to do a radio interview, most hosts will e-mail you instructions on how to go about it. In this e-mail, he or she will specify the date and time for the interview. Make sure that you clarify the interviewer's time zone. Otherwise, your timing might be off. In our global society, your radio host can be anywhere in the world, and most radio interviews, especially those on blog radio, are conducted live. If you are late or absent, your radio host will have to scramble. The worst interviews are those that don't happen.

2. Get clear directions prior to the day of the interview.

If you don't get instructions prior to the show, feel free to ask. Don't wait until the last minute. If you are driving to a radio station, confirm driving directions and think ahead. Allow yourself some extra time, just in case you get lost or hit traffic. If you are on Web radio, make sure you have the right phone number or Skype address to connect to. It's never a good idea to keep your host—and your audience—waiting.

3. Focus on your message.

What do you want to achieve by doing this radio interview? Are you promoting a new release? Are you looking for reviews? Are you promoting a personal appearance, a book launch or a particular aspect of your writing?

I like to make notes, usually a page or two that includes all the information I might need, including Websites, e-mail addresses, blogs, events, giveaways, dates. Notes can come in quite handy when your brain freezes mid-sentence. The website address you've given out millions of times before can suddenly evaporate from your mind when you are on air, along with your firstborn's name and your date of birth. Notes can help us snap back into the conversation, avoid awkward pauses and maintain focus.

Avoid mind freezes with handy notes prepared before the radio show

4. Verify the show's subject.

Most shows' Websites will post a blurb about your upcoming interview. Go to the Website and verify the details, especially if you have written more than one book. Not too long ago, prior to doing a recent interview, I went to the Website and noticed that the headline announced my latest release, but the cover picture and the synopsis belonged to a different book. I was momentarily confused. I contacted the host and the problem was quickly corrected. Verifying the interview subject and checking the promo on the Website helped to avoid on-air confusion.

5. Be prepared to tell your story.

Most radio hosts will ask you about how you became a writer and why. Be prepared to share yourself as part of the story. Be ready to explain what your novel is about. I don't mean for you to read the blurb on the back of the book. I mean conversationally. Become an oral storyteller if you can, brief and to the point, but compelling. Practice if you'd like. It might help you to become more fluid and natural.

6. Know your radio host.

Who is your interviewer? What matters to him? What kind of questions does she like to ask? A little bit of research goes a long way. Many radio interviewers are writers themselves. Visit your host's Website. A radio interview is about the host as much as it is about you. If you can engage the host, if you can find common ground and get her excited about your book, odds are your interview will be more engaging to the listeners and you'll come across better and more interesting to the audience.

7. Listen to the program.

Hosts love it when you are a regular listener of their shows. If you are not a regular listener, become one. If you can't, then try to listen to as many shows as you can prior to going on the show. Most radio shows have easily accessible archives posted on their websites.

8. Identify the show's format and trends.

Listening will give you a sense for the show's style, speed, cadence and format. Most shows have a standard format: a pre-recorded introduction, a live introduction, a greeting, the interview and a conclusion. Listening will give you a clear idea of the show's specific structure and how long each sections tends to run. Most radio hosts will give you a few minutes at the end of your segment to say anything you want. This is an important opportunity for you to address the listeners and convey your message.

9. Pinpoint the host's style.

Listening to the shows will also give you a sense for the host. What's her interview style? Is she formal and deep? Is he light and funny? Does she talk a lot during the interview or does he prefer to let you do most of the talking? Is there a lot of laughter and bantering or is the tone of the interview more subdued? Fitting in with the host's style is important. You want to achieve some sort of chemistry. Remember, the chemistry between you and the interviewer will set the mood for the listeners and engage them—or not—in your discussion.

10. Recognize the questions likely to be asked.

Listening to earlier shows will also help you establish the kind of questions that the host likes to ask. Some hosts will always ask the same questions. If that's the case, you can actually plan your answers. But even if the questions are not always the same, hosts have patterns that you can easily identify when you listen to their shows.

Make sure you have copies of your books handy prior to beginning the radio interview
Be prepared!

11. Consider the “where.”

Where will you be during the interview? Will you be at home, at the office or at a hotel? I'm not kidding. This is important stuff. Recently, I did a radio interview while staying at a seaside resort. My room had an enviable view of the beach, the pool, and the nine-thirty AM water aerobics class, where the instructor shouted directions over a cranked-up microphone that echoed in my room and rattled my bed.

The bathroom ended up providing an alternative, sound-proof solution, but I learned my lesson. Make sure you are in a place where you can have a measure of privacy. You don't want the dog barking and the kids barging in. When stuff like that happens—oh, yes, if you do enough radio interviews, it will happen—you have to laugh about it. But if you can, select the right place for your interview and avoid the grief.

12. Consider the “how.” 

Will you be doing your interview over Skype, on a landline or on your cell phone? These are important decisions and best made in advance. Technological failures are the number-one problem that most authors face when doing radio interviews. Connection failures are common. The Internet can work arbitrarily in places and batteries conk out in the middle of interviews all the time. 

Select your technology in advance. Make sure you have a good connection. An equipment test run is always a good idea. Watch the weather. Violent thunderstorms throw everything off. You can't control nature's fury, but you can make sure that your batteries are fully charged, your chargers and power cords are nearby, and you have a backup plan, just in case.

"Be prepared" is the scout's enduring motto. As we authors contemplate our next radio interview, it should be ours too! 


Do you have some author radio interviews you'd like to share? Post the link in the comment box. Good or bad, it doesn't matter. Let's have fun! D.

Here are some of my latest radio interviews:


Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Dora, I love this. Wonderful advice, all of it SO important. A few years back I wrote an article based on my own mistakes and mishaps on radio shows. There are some more menial suggestions that might help our readers, too. Here it is to add to your already lovely summary!

Mayra Calvani said...

Wonderful article, Dora! Full of useful, practical tips. Shared on FB and Twitter.


Unknown said...

Thanks, Aaron and Mayra. Aaron, that was a great post on radio shows! I bet you and Mayra have both done your share of radio interviews. Question is . . . how many?

Kim Smith said...

And don't forget about my radio show,Writer Groupie over on Blogtalkradio!. It's for writers and their books! Booking for 2014 soon!