“Me? Do an Interview? On the Radio?”
D. A. Ratliff
Writing is a solitary endeavor when putting words on paper or a computer screen. However, authors can rarely accomplish the marketing of said writing alone.
The myriad of marketing opportunities can be confusing and, for authors, finding the right platform for promoting a book offers a variety of choices. One thing to remember is that reading is a private experience. The reader and words are all that is necessary. However, communication of a book’s content and its appeal to a reader is essential to getting a book into a reader’s hands.
The writing gurus (there are many) encourage authors to write pithy cover blurbs and create an attractive cover design to attract readers. The problem is that there are only a finite number of customers in brick-and-mortar bookstores or pursuing online booksellers, at any one given time. How does a writer expand the potential audience for their books? While there are several outlets, one of the most effective remains the radio interview.
In this day of digital media, how popular is radio? Radio.co states, “Across all demographics, Nielsen demonstrates that radio is still the most popular form of media in America. Radio reaches 90% of adults aged 18-34, 94% aged 35-49 and 91% aged 50 and older.” The article also states that ‘Nielsen’s data shows that 69% of weekly radio consumption is done outside of the home, primarily in cars and at work. The statistics suggest that radio remains a viable outlet for promotion and one an author should pursue.
Now that you, the author, have decided to do a radio interview, how do you go about finding a radio program to interview you?
First, look at your local radio stations and their local interest or talk show programs. An email to the station, or the show host or producer, can open the door for you. Numerous shows on terrestrial radio across the United States offer author interviews with some shows dedicated to authors. There are also lists that you can subscribe to that are available to radio stations when searching for interview subjects.
Digital radio (a.k.a. internet radio) is the fastest-growing arena that offers authors excellent opportunities to reach a broader audience. With internet access available on smartphones and in most cars, internet radio is accessible to listeners on the go. For internet radio stations, search engines can provide lists of stations and their content focus, and many may have a variety of programs that can accommodate your marketing needs.
A word of caution when selecting a program to contact regarding an interview, the majority of radio programs offer podcasts of their shows, and you should listen to interviews from any host/program that you are interested in appearing on to promote your book. You are a professional, an author, and should present yourself as such. Look for a professional radio station and host as the host’s skill is imperative to how well your book and you, the author, are presented.
There are several things to look for when selecting a host/interviewer to contact.
• Preparation—does the host seem familiar with the author’s work?
• Does the host ask interesting and diverse questions?
• Is the host respectful, providing the guest time to answer and not talk over the guest?
• Does the interview sound conversational and not merely a series of canned questions?
• Is adequate time given to cover what you would want to say about your book?
These are critical issues. As a listener, I have heard many interviews with ill-prepared hosts/interviewers. Seasoned authors, some best-selling authors, have come across as unprofessional when in the hands of an unskilled interviewer. Your reputation as a writer is at stake. Do not put yourself in the hands of an interviewer who does not treat the interview professionally.
Once you have selected the programs which you wish to appear on, the next step is to contact them. While writing a press release is nice, it is not always necessary, as an email will suffice. Many stations will include contact forms or instructions on how to contact them for an interview. Allow adequate time for the station representative to reply.
If you contact a station via email, you should provide your full name, preferred contact information, and a short synopsis of your book, including the publication date. Also, indicate why you feel your book would be compelling as a subject for the show. You may be a first-time author or a best-selling author, but always include links to your online presence. Do your due diligence regarding the station and listen to the host’s interviews. Tell the host why you are impressed with the interviews and why you would like to appear on their show.
When you receive a response and the host has invited you to appear, you must follow the directions given. You are a commodity. You are offering your book to the station’s listeners, hoping they will be interested enough to purchase your book. The station/host/ interviewer is providing you the conduit to accomplish that goal. You have a responsibility to the station to do as they request.
Before the interview:
• Confirm that you have received their instructions and that you understand them.
• If they request that you use a landline and you do not have one, make sure they know you will be using a mobile phone. If service is not stellar in your location, travel to an area where service is good.
• Provide all materials that the station requests. It is not always necessary to send a copy of your book. Hosts may not have time to read all books submitted but provide the links, author bio, or other information requested.
• Please do not ask your host for a list of questions they expect to ask you. In addition to being rude, what could a host possibly ask you about your book that you can’t answer? If you are concerned about the questions, listen to interviews, or search online for lists of authors’ questions in interviews.
• Be prepared. One of the first questions a host might ask is, “What is your book about?” Can you answer that succinctly? If not, look up how to write an elevator pitch and work on it.
• Promote your appearance! You are marketing your book, so market it. Talk about being on the station and provide links on all of your social media sites. Why would you interview if you are not going to promote it? The host and station expect you to advertise your interview in exchange for providing you with the platform to sell your book. If you do not promote it, the likelihood of returning for a second interview on that station is slim.
• Should you have to cancel and, remember, you have an obligation to be available at the agreed-upon time, please provide adequate time for the station to replace you and have a valid reason. The interview will likely take less than an hour. There are only a few reasons that you should not be able to meet your obligation. If you have a serious family or medical emergency, please contact the host as soon as you can to inform them.
During the interview:
• If you are interviewing at the station’s studio, be early or be available to answer the phone when the host or show producer calls or call into the station at the assigned time if instructed. You MUST be on time. Time is valuable on a live radio broadcast.
• Depending on whether you are in-studio or on the phone, watching or listening for cues is essential. The host/producer will instruct you on how the interview will proceed and how much time you have. If live, the time allotted is finite. There is some leeway in a recorded interview but, remember, time is important, and your host’s time is as valuable as yours. That you are prepared and attentive is necessary.
• That said, try not to talk over the host. Dead air is not acceptable on the radio. Pause when you have finished your thought, and the host will likely jump in to ask another question, follow-up, or offer their thoughts. While editing can happen with recorded interviews, excessive editing because you have created issues is not professional.
After the interview:
• Thank your host. It seems simple enough, but it is also an expression of manners lacking in our current society. The host and station have given you free publicity for your book. Even if you paid a nominal fee (and some stations do charge for interviews), you likely paid far less for the exposure you received. It takes less than sixty seconds to send an email, a text, or an IM. Be polite; thank your host.
• If your recorded interview airs at a later date if at all possible, listen to the station when it does. Radio is about listeners. Why should they interview you if you don’t bother to listen to them?
• Marketing doesn’t end with the airing of your interview. Almost all radio stations, terrestrial or internet, produce podcasts of the show or your interview segment; that is gold for an author. Post that podcast on your social media, website, and newsletter, wherever you can add a link.
On a personal note, I have appeared on the radio many times. I can attest to the effectiveness of appearing on programs and talking about an upcoming civic event or a business. Most recently, as an Administrator for a writing group on the Internet, I have appeared on an Internet radio station, Impact Radio USA, and their flagship show, Dr. Paul’s Family Talk. At the time of my first appearance on the show, the writing group had 6600 members. Today, four years and several interviews later, we have 77,700 members and can track our growth to those appearances. Radio works.
So, you, author—do an interview—on the radio!