by Patricia Fry
How to Give an Awesome Author Interview
By Patricia L. Fry
When you become a nonfiction author, you are also considered an expert in your field. People want to read what you write and hear what you have to say. You want to promote your book and get personal exposure by writing articles and speaking publicly.
Why not add to your professional credibility by seeking interview opportunities at Web sites and through pod casts, radio talk shows and publications related to the topic of your book.
Interviews and interviewers come in all shapes and flavors. Some want you to respond to questions via email and they post your interview as is at their site or publish it in their magazine. Others prefer to conduct a telephone interview which they will paraphrase in their publication. But the most popular interview processes today are the real time podcast and the online radio show.
Not everyone is comfortable being interviewed. Yet, if you expect your book to reach a high level of popularity—if you hope to sell thousands of copies of your book—you really must learn to handle the interview.
I have been interviewed numerous times in a variety of ways. Personally, I love the email interview where I just respond at my leisure by typing my answers. I like having the time to think about my responses and to reread them before submitting. My worst interview experience occurred when the interviewee, in a real-time interview, began challenging my responses—playing the devil’s advocate. I’m not a debater and I don’t do well under that kind of pressure. I had to work hard so as not to come off sounding defensive. I hope I was able to carry that off. Book sales after that interview were up and that’s always a good indication of a good interview.
You truly never know what to expect from an interview and maybe that’s one reason why the fear of the interview is so prevalent among authors. Recently, I was asked to participate in a podcast interview. I guess I misunderstood the original instructions because I was prepared to have the host ask me some questions. That’s generally what happens when someone interviews you. Just minutes before the show aired, I learned that I was supposed to speak for twenty minutes on my topic, “The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book.” There would be no questions. No one else would speak. I was expected to take charge of the air space all by myself for the first twenty minutes of the show. [Author's Note: Right Way has been retired. See my most recent books in the left column of this page.]
I quickly revised an hour-long speech I’d given recently on the subject and printed it out as a crutch. There’s nothing worse in radio than dead air, I’m told. And I did not want to be at a loss for words. I think it went well. Even though I was simply speaking over the telephone, I imagined myself looking out over the airwaves into the faces of a large audience eager for the information I was imparting. At the end of the 20 minutes, the host stepped in and asked me a few questions before the show ended. Again, book sales were up for a few days after that.
If you would like to be interviewed on the topic of your book, here are some tips and techniques that could help:
- Locate interview opportunities through Web sites and publications related to your topic as well as those that feature general author interviews. If you spend some time exploring the site, you will soon discover whether or not they conduct interviews. If you see no indication of interview opportunities, post an email asking for the opportunity.
- Do a Google search to locate directories of Web sites and publications with general interview opportunities or those related to your expertise.
- Look into Radio-TV Interview Report at www.rtir.com
- Create a succinct, but impressive bio to include with your inquiry. A potential interviewer will want to know that you are articulate (which should show through, at least to some degree, in your writing style), qualified, credible, knowledgeable and interesting. A bio can help to portray this. A good interviewer who conducts live interviews will also want to hear your voice. So give your phone number, as well.
Handle yourself as a professional during any interview. Here are some tips:
- Think like your target audience. What do they want/need to know about your subject? Even if your interviewer gets off track with his line of questions, you can bring the discussion back to the issue at hand. Always keep in mind, “What information and resources can I offer my audience?”
- Don’t be afraid to give. It’s highly unlikely that you could ever give away too much during a 30 or 60 minute interview. Besides, the more you give, the more the listener will want. And it’s that yearning for more that will sell copies of your book.
- Keep it simple. Remember that your time is limited—there’s no room during an interview to teach or share what took you several months to write. Concentrate on a few key points and, no matter what the interviewer asks you, try to bring it all back to the original points. My book, “The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book,” covers writing and publishing a book from start to finish and beyond (including distribution, promotion and so forth). [Author's Note: Right Way has been retired. See my most recent books in the left column of this page.]
During an interview, however, I may focus on the importance of writing a book proposal or the process of self-publishing or some aspect of book promotion. Your book on baking healthy muffins from scratch would be aptly represented by revealing a few of the recipes and describing the health benefits of the ingredients. If your listeners like what you gave them, they’re going to want more.
- Read and listen to other author interviews to get an idea of what works and what doesn’t. Of course, you want to keep your own style of speaking, but there are definite faux pas that you want to avoid. Eliminate filler words such as “ah,” “um” “er” and so forth. Banish habitual phrases from your vocabulary. This might include “Ya know what I mean?” “Right on.” and “You bet.”
- Practice speaking off the cuff. You will definitely need this skill when doing a live interview.
- Join a Toastmasters Club near you and participate often in order to improve your public speaking skills.
As an authority on the subject of your nonfiction book, you will be sought after as a speaker, writer and an interviewee. You’ll also want to seek out interview and speaking opportunities. Prepare yourself now for the challenges ahead.
Patricia Fry is the president of SPAWN (Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network) www.spawn.org and the author of 35 books. See her most recent books in the left column of this page.