As a Book publicist, I’ve booked hundreds, if not thousands, of interviews for authors over the years. Like all book publicists, I have my war stories — you know, the stories about interviews that may seem funny now, but that reduced me to tears at the time.
I really want my clients’ Book Promotion campaigns to succeed, and when authors make rookie mistakes during interviews, it’s tough for me to see (or hear, read, etc.). So, authors, I’m about to share with you some of this book publicist’s advice about mistakes authors make with interviews — and how to avoid them — to maximize your chances of book promotion success.
Don’t prepare for the interview. It’s wonderful when authors are comfortable with the process of book promotion interviews, but there’s such a thing as getting too relaxed. When authors are so at ease with interviews that they don’t prepare for them — that is, don’t bother to find out the interviewer’s name, the media outlet’s demographics, or the media outlet’s geographic range — then that’s getting a little bit too cocky, and that will only lead to unsuccessful interviews.
Rely on the interviewer’s skills. Although it would be easier for authors (not to mention book publicists and publishers) if all interviewers were competent, and that’s not always the case. Sometimes, interviewers haven’t read the book. Other times, the interviewer has no interest in the author or in the topic; the assignment editor, producer, or other media decision maker foisted the author on the interviewer, and that’s just not the recipe for a book promotion success. And it might happen that the interviewer is having a bad day, got too little sleep, isn’t feeling well, is distracted by something, or something else has happened to knock the interviewer off his or her A-game. In any case, sometimes an interviewer can’t be relied upon to lead the author through a terrific interview. When authors rely on every interviewer to handle every interview competently, that can lead to disaster.
Fail to sign off on the book publicist’s pitches and other press materials. Some book publicists find it easier to communicate as little as possible with their clients. It’s easier to just do their jobs — create pitches and set up the interviews — and shrug off any mistakes or misunderstandings. Don’t let that happen to you! Be sure to check, and recheck, each one of your book publicist’s pitches before they use them. Make sure nothing that has your name or your book’s title on it goes out unless you’ve seen it and can take responsibility for it. Love your book publicist’s news hooks and media angles, or stop the pitches before they can get you involved with interviews that will make you feel uncomfortable or might misrepresent you. (And, by the way, try not to work with a book publicist who thinks less communication is better, and would even consider taking shortcuts during your book promotion campaign.)
Lose track of the clock. Know, ahead of time, how long you’ll spend with the interviewer. Be mindful of how much time has elapsed, and how much additional time you’ll have to convey your messages. If the interview is brief, be concise. If your time together is expansive, be ready to fill that time with facts, not fluff.
Interrupt. An interview is a conversation. It’s a dialogue. Don’t try to turn it into a monologue. Listen to the questions, and don’t interject your point until the interviewer lets you know it’s your turn to speak. Note that you don’t have to rush in and take the floor every time the interviewer pauses for breath. Just relax, and remember that interviews are a give and take.
Hawk your book. You’ve been invited to disseminate information and/or entertain readers, listeners, or viewers. You haven’t bought an ad for your book. So don’t mention your book title, the names of coauthors or illustrators, the publisher, or retail outlets where your book is available. The interviewer will ask those questions of you if time and space allows. Wait for that to happen. To do otherwise would be unwelcome, at best, and obnoxious, at worst.
Pull a Cindy Brady. Yes, this book publicist is a huge “Brady Bunch” fan from way (way, way) back. You may not be. In that case, let me get you up to speed. In the “You Can’t Win ’em All” episode (season 4, episode 22), Cindy, the Extraordinarily Bright Kid (that designation wears off after this episode concludes) earns the right to appear on a TV quiz show. She’s cocky and ready to go. However, when the little red light comes on, she freezes. Her stage fright, unexpected as it is, renders her useless, and she doesn’t answer a single question. In a homage to that episode, I’ve termed that phenomenon where authors become scared speechless during their big moment in the limelight “pulling a Cindy Brady.” Don’t let that happen to you. If you need to work on your public speaking skills, do it in advance of your book promotion campaign. Try Toastmasters, the Rotary Club, or your local community theater if you need practice, but don’t wait until you’re about to do an interview to find out you have stage fright and no way to manage it
Go monosyllabic. Just as you don’t want to freeze entirely, you don’t want to turn an interview into a visit to the dentist. The interviewer is there to have a conversation with you, not to pull teeth. When it’s your turn to contribute to the conversation, use your words willingly, and use them freely. Relay your messages. Elaborate on your points, if the interviewer invites you to do so. Don’t make the interviewer drag the words out of you.
Lose your personality and your humor. Your topic may be serious, and you may want to convey authority…but you lose credibility if you show no emotion. This isn’t a Mr. Spock look-alike contest. It’s a book promotion interview. It’s okay to loosen up and be yourself. You can demonstrate your credibility most successfully when you’re relaxed and willing to smile, so lighten up, whatever your interview topic.
If you avoid these interview mistakes, you’ll have the best chance of turning every one of your media interviews into a successful part of your book promotion campaign. And your book publicist will thank you for it, too!
Stacey J. Miller is an independent book publicist. She is the founder of the Massachusetts-based book promotion firm, S. J. Miller Communications. For more articles like this one, click here.
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