ONE: Your publisher or your publicist will need to send a query letter to the producer of the radio program.
It’s much better to have someone else query for radio interviews on your behalf. But doing most of the work to assist your publisher or publicist in booking radio interviews will increase your chances significantly. And if you are a nonfiction writer, there is a chance a good query letter will lead to a booking. You want to book radio interviews for the month before release and the six months to a year after a book has been released.
Your query letter should contain four paragraphs. One, why you think you’d make a good guest on their show. This first paragraph means you need to do your homework on the radio program and host and audience to demonstrate you believe there is a good fit. Two, the premise of your book and the pitch for an interview. This second paragraph is short but the most important. It’s your Hollywood spiel, your elevator speech, your hook. The third paragraph is about why you and who cares and so what. The fourth paragraph includes your specs. Your book, title, subject/subgenre, publisher, availability of an Advance Review Copy and press packet, and your availability to be interviewed with contact information.
I can’t say enough about the hook. That second paragraph needs to be tight. Convince the reader of the query that the story is current, timely, compelling. Anniversaries, current debates, related news. The fact that you have a new book published is not a hook. Why do the listeners care? Answer two questions: who cares and so what. You need a point. A big idea. Convince the reader of your query letter you have a story.
TWO: If the producer responds to your query in the affirmative, provide the information they request and offer to send the Advanced Review Copy to their immediate attention.
Don’t give your own copies of your book away free in the interest of publicity. Tell the journalist or radio host you will get your publisher to send them an Advanced Review Copy or a NetGalley link.
Respond in a timely fashion. Provide all of the necessary information in one email with attachments as necessary. Mail the book or have it delivered promptly. Include your press packet. What goes into a press packet? Your bio and headshot and the book cover image. A description of the book and ordering information. Blurbs or endorsements or early reviews. Depending on your book and its audience, you might include other items such as photographs for marketing and promotion purposes, a short excerpt from the book, a “flyer” (about the book, about the author, ordering info), bookmark, business card, or other collateral.
THREE Arrange a time and a place for the radio interview. Work with the producer to set up the schedule and discuss the format and style. Test the technology in advance of the recording if you are doing a remote interview and not recording in a studio.
Working with the radio producer to make the interview a good one is in your best interest. If you can’t hear what the host asks you, or the host can’t hear your responses, then the interview will not go well. Focus first on the mechanics and calendar arrangements.
FOUR: Prepare for an interview to the extent you would like the interviewer to prepare to discuss your book.
Prepare for your interview by listening to some of the previous programs done with the host and on the program where you will be heard. Become more familiar with the host and the audiences for the program. Connect through social media with the producer, host, and radio station which will air your interview. They will expect you to follow and connect with their social media platforms and to help promote your interview with your followers.
Prepare for your interview by coming up with a list of questions you expect to be asked. Expect. Those standard interview questions for authors used regardless of what their book is about. Write out your answers and make them as succinct as possible and memorize them.
Prepare by make a list of things you can share with listeners. Tell them something they don’t already know. Or convince them of something which has never occurred to them before.
Prepare for your interview by coming up with a list of questions you wish you would be asked. And write out your answers in anticipation.
Finally, prepare for the worst. What don’t you want to be asked? Well, be prepared for those questions. Think about how you will handle those questions.
Now that you know what you might be asked, practice an interview with several friends of colleagues to get comfortable with your answers. You don’t want to stumble over your words or ramble incoherently on air. It’s best to be prepared.
It is good to have one or two goals for the interview. What one or two points do you want to communicate about your book to this audience? Yes, you want them to buy your book, but why?
FIVE: Arrive at the interview, prepared. Thank the host, introduce yourself, be gracious.
Whether you are doing the interview in your pajamas in your living room or recording in a professional sound studio, arrive at the interview prepared. Find a short passage you’d like to read out loud. Practice ahead of time. Nothing longer than three minutes. Read it again. Slow down. Read it again. Bring your copy of your book with you. Offer to sign the Advanced Review Copy. If they don’t have it with them, you know they aren’t going to dive deep into details and may not have even read it. You can ask what they plan to ask you or at least the first question. Then you can relax.
SIX: Your vocal chords need you to be calm. Don’t talk too fast. Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know.”
Your voice should be at normal speaking tones and when you are stressed it can tighten your vocal chords and make you sound odd. Resist the urge to fill the sound space. Let the interviewer pull the information out of you. Don’t go on too long about things that you think are less important than what you had hoped to share with the audience. Remember what one or two goals you had for communicating and stay on point. If you don’t know the answer, say so. If you haven’t given the question any thought, that’s okay. Take a moment to think it through before you answer. And admit you hadn’t thought of that question. Interviewers like that. And you should, too. Good interviewers will have read the book and have some challenging questions for you. Don’t be afraid of a question that seems hostile. Thank the host for reading so carefully and start on common ground. Often times they are giving you a set-up so you can make your point more directly. It’s a conversation, not a confrontation.
SEVEN: Talk to your audience, not the host.
It is about the listener. Talk to the audience. Kiss the microphone and speak softly and slowly. Remember this isn’t a lecture hall so no academic buzzwords. Assume your listeners are smart and heard what you said the first time. Having a conversation with the audience moderated by the host is your goal. When the host asks a question, respond with the audience in mind.
If it is a call-in show, thank the caller for listening and engaging in the conversation even if you disagree. People who call in to radio programs want to be heard. When you listen to them and affirm you have heard what they have to contribute to the conversation, you will leave the door open to offering your perspective as the guest. Be civil and trust the hosts will moderate the calls. Be positive. Be enthusiastic about your book. Be genuine.
EIGHT: Ask how you can help promote the interview. Request a link to the archived podcast. Share it on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. and be sure to tag the host, show, station when you do.
Good interview guests help promote good radio as much as they promote the guests’ books. Call it a quid pro quo in the best practices department of book marketing, but if a radio program airs an interview with you about your book, it’s in your best interest to promote their interview with you on their radio station. Those who follow you are now part of the reach of the radio station and vice versa. Thank the host and producer at the conclusion of your interview.
NINE: Share the interview and post it on your website with links.
Archive your link to the radio interview by posting them on your website. Share them on your social media sites. Share it with your publisher and publicist. And remember to tag and thank your host, program, and station for their good works. The follow through on this step AFTER your interview is almost as important as all the steps which lead up to this point.
TEN: Thank your publisher and/or publicist for promoting your book.
Six or seven years ago my advice to aspiring authors of nonfiction books was to build an audience platform by blogging. An example of how critical blogging could be to securing a publishing contract can be found in the case of Ann Marie Ackermann, author of Death of an Assassin: The True Story of the German Murderer Who Died Defending Robert E. Lee. After an initial assessment of her manuscript, I had recommended she start a historical true-crime blog, and she did. In fact, the editor of the ideal book series at Kent State University Press became a fan ofRead more…