Tuesday, September 15, 2015

How to Do Radio Interviews Right

by James L. Rubart

Want to sell more books when you do a radio interview? I have a few ideas that might help.

Long ago, and not so far away, I was on air at a radio station where I did interviews. So the modicum of wisdom I have to offer comes from having been on both sides of the microphone.

And yeah, you’ve probably heard most of these before, but it never hurts to go over the fundamentals:

  • The interview is NOT about you. This is an easy mistake to make, since you’re the focus of the show. But you’re not the focus of the show. Or at least you shouldn’t be. Who is the star of the interview? The host. It’s their show. They are always the star. Make them look good. Give them the respect they deserve. Follow their lead. If they want to do the Tango, and all you know is the Waltz, don’t stop. Keep dancing and do your utmost to with their flow. Or said more succinctly: You better be ready to go with their style, not expect them to match yours. Mirror, mirror, mirror.
  • The interview is NOT about you part II The only other person the interview is about is the listener. Which leads us to the third point:
  • Don’t bore them or their audience. Bottom line: whether it’s Howard Stern on one side or Rush Limbaugh on the other, good radio show hosts understand they are providing entertainment to their listeners more than anything else. So they want guests who can entertain. 

Here are some specifics on how to be intriguing to listeners:
  • Vary the volume of your voice
  • Vary your pacing
  • Vary your sentences length. (Some of you are saying, “Just like I do in my novels?” Yes, that’s exactly what it’s like)
  • Have some fun, interesting, stories ready to be told
  • Be controversial or,
  • Be funny or,
  • Be encouraging, or,
  • Inspire them!
  • Just don't bore them

Practice! A bad radio interview is far worse than no radio interview at all. I was about to do an interview a number of years ago and there was an author on just before me. She talked in a soft monotone voice and didn’t say anything remotely interesting.  I felt for her because it was obvious she’d never been coached on how to be on air.

People would listen to her and figure if her books were as boring as she was, they weren’t worth picking up. My guess is most of you have first readers, or critique groups for your writing … you need one for your radio interviews too. Ask them to listen and tell you what worked and what didn’t. Get a friend and role play. Go wild (this will be difficult at first) and record yourself in a mock interview. Listen back and do a self-critique. This alone will take your interviewing skills miles ahead.

Elevator Pitches Aren’t Just for Pitching Editors and Agents If you’re doing a ten minute interview, there’s no time to ramble on for two or three minutes each time you answer a question. There isn’t even time for thirty seconds. You have to learn to answer in quick sound bites.

Remember that 25 word pitch for your latest book? Think 25 words for every answer. Now don’t misunderstand. This is a GUIDELINE, not a rule. Sometimes you need a longer amount of time to give a coherent answer. But I hear far more authors go on too long than answer with responses that are too short.  Hosts appreciate a concise answer.

I did one recorded interview where my longest response wasn’t more than fifteen seconds. When we were through, the host said, “Wow, thank you much! It’s rare that we get an author that keeps from talking in long run on sentences and it makes it so hard to cut up the interview.

Have fun. I know, you’re saying, “after all the To Dos you just gave, we’re supposed to have fun?” Yep. Because in the end, most people won’t remember a lot of what you said, but they’ll remember if you had fun, if you laughed, if you were passionate, if you made them think. 

If they remember those things, they’ll probably be sold on you. Which leads to being sold on buying your book.

Is that it? No, there are a number of other points we should talk about. But we’ll save them for another column down the road because I’ve already gone on too long. And I know you are just dying to start practicing. 

James L. Rubart is the best-selling, Christy award winning author of seven novels as well as a professional speaker. During the day he runs Barefoot Marketing which helps authors and publishers make more coin of the realm. He lives with his amazing wife in the Pacific Northwest and loves to dirt bike with his two sons, hike, golf, take photos, and still thinks he's young enough to water ski like a madman. More at www.jameslrubart.com


Ane Mulligan said...

One thing I learned early in radio and TV interviews is be succinct! It's like a person giving their testimony in church. They hit the point of power and should stop there. Notice I said should. But the don't because they don't know how to end. So they ramble on and on. Soon you've forgotten the main impact of their testimony!! It's easy to stop. You simply shut your mouth and say no more. A savvy host will step in immediately. And he'll realize he has a seasoned guest and the fun begins. Right, Jim?

Jim Rubart said...

"You simply shut your mouth and say no more." GOLD, Ane!