In December, we hosted a webinar on media speaking engagements with Craig Burke, Director and VP of Publicity for Berkley. He answered frequently asked questions about preparing for media speaking engagements of all kinds.
Over the lifetime of the publishing process, authors often find themselves with the task of promoting their books in their own words, whether it’s at a bookstore event or as a guest on a blog, magazine, podcast, or even television or radio show.
First, why do authors need to give interviews?
“Interviews are an effective way to let people know about your book in your own words,” explained Burke in the recent author webinar.
Though television and radio offer the best opportunities to reach a wide audience, he noted there are many avenues for you to give your best “elevator pitch” to a large number of readers and book buyers. Interviews give potential readers a chance to learn why you wrote the book, find out who you are as an author, and get a sense of your tone, humor, and personality.
What are the goals of a media appearance?
While the most obvious goal might be to increase your book sales, there are plenty of other benefits to keep in mind:
- To generate new interest in and conversation about you and your book.
- To share enough of your book to entice the audience and make them want to buy it.
- To have a successful piece of media that your publicist can use to help you secure more coverage.
The last piece is important, according to Burke, because a good interview is a great tool that your publicist can show to other news outlets and blogs to get you bookings elsewhere.
How should I work with my publicist?
Your publicist will have a wealth of knowledge and experience in working with the media, and it’s good to start by setting clear goals and expectations together. Share your personal anecdotes, your elevator pitch, any key scenes that would be good fodder for interviews, and come up with a plan to promote you and your book.
Take a look at your plan and ask yourself honestly: can you achieve these goals, or will you need further media training? Throughout the process, it’s important to be honest with yourself and your publicist to give you the best shot at having a good experience in your media speaking engagement.
What details do I need to know about my interview?
It’s best to be over-prepared for any media engagement. Take note of the following information:
- Format of the interview (blog, podcast, radio, television)
- Length of segment (word count or time on air)
- Feedback from other authors who have had similar bookings
- Timing, including what time you need to arrive if the engagement is in-person
- The focus or the topic up front
How do I prepare to give the interview?
Research the interviewer. If it’s a blogger, see what he or she has asked in other interviews, taking note of the length of responses and how personal the stories tend to be. If it’s a live interview, watch or listen to previous author interviews to build an understanding of the format of the segment: Does the host have a particular style? Does she lead the conversation or let the guests take over? Is he prone to interrupting? And are there topics or hot buttons to avoid?
As with any bit of media, train yourself to describe your book in two or three sentences at most. If it’s been some time since you’ve last read your book, reacquaint yourself with its content so you can give quick, thoughtful answers. Also, prepare a few great stories and key points associated with your book that will dazzle, entertain, or captivate the host and audience.
What should I do leading up to the interview?
The night before, make sure you get a good night’s rest, and eat something before the appearance. Go over your stories and talking points. Before you go on, take a moment to center yourself and focus your thoughts. Take a deep breath—you’ve got this!
While you’re in the interview, listen to the interviewer’s questions and answer them, but make sure you steer the conversation toward the talking points you want to cover. Don’t be too concerned with plugging your books—the producers and host will have you covered. And, as always, don’t forget to thank the host, producer, and any other staff on the way out.
Phil Stamper-Halpin is Manager, Publishing Development & Author Platforms for Penguin Random House.
Craig Burke is the Vice President, Executive Director of Publicity for Penguin Random House’s Berkley division, and has worked with authors including Nora Roberts, J. R. Ward, Jennifer Lopez, and Joan Rivers.