by James L. Rubart
FYI: This is a re-post of a column from two years back so a few of the details about where I'm at in my publishing history are outdated.
My second novel in the Well Spring series (Memory’s Door) is about to release so I have a bunch of radio interviews lined up over the next month or so. It’s a great time to remind myself (and you) how to interview in a way that sells more books.
Long ago, and not so far away, I was on air at a radio station where I interviewed guests. 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 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
- Be funny
- Inspire 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 pre-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. And if they remember those things, they’ll probably be sold on you. Which leads to being sold on buying your book.
No, there's a few 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're just dying to start practicing.
James L. Rubart is 28 years old, but lives trapped inside an older man's body. He thinks he's still young enough to water ski like a madman and dirt bike with his two grown sons, and loves to send readers on journeys they'll remember months after they finish one of his stories. His novel, The Five Times I Met Myself won the Christy Award 2016 BOOK of the YEAR and his latest novel, The Long Journey to Jake Palmer, just released (which both Publishers Weekly and Library Journal gave a starred review). During the day he runs his branding and marketing company which helps businesses, authors, and publishers make much more coin of the realm. He lives with his amazing wife on a small lake in eastern Washington. More at www.jameslrubart.com