Riding the Radio Waves
Radio interviews are one of the best publicity opportunities for a self-published author. Radio shows are plentiful and they are often on the lookout for interesting people to talk to. But in order to take advantage, you must pitch your story to the right producers in the right way and know how to talk about your book effectively.
As with any publicity outreach, a little time spent on research will save a lot of time from being wasted in the long run. Pitching your book to someone with an irrelevant media focus wastes both your time and theirs. And even if you do manage to get your book about retirement onto the local teenage dance music station, is anyone who is listening going to buy your book?
Trawl the internet for shows that reach your audience and who regularly run interviews. Sometimes approaching the presenter themselves can work, especially with a smaller station, but ideally you want to talk to a producer or forward planner for the show.
Start with your local radio stations. BBC local stations are obvious and run interviews all of the time, but there will likely be smaller stations in your area that you can talk to as well. Be sure to make the most of all of your “local connections” – if you live in Surrey but grew up in Glasgow and went to school in Wales, pitch yourself as a local author to stations in all of those places.
Radio interviews are one of the best publicity opportunities for a self-published author…
National radio shows are more difficult, but the rewards can be fantastic if you manage to crack them. Again, aim for the shows that are most likely to connect with the content of your book or your background.
Furthermore, when it comes to national radio shows, it is usually not enough to just have an interesting new book. You will have a much better chance if you can make your pitch relevant to something currently happening in the news.
Once you have your carefully chosen targets lined up, email them a press release and a short covering note. State clearly and concisely why you would be a good guest for their show and note any applicable local connections. If you do not get a response within a couple of days, don’t let them off the hook – pick up the phone and ring.
What’s Your Story?
So you have managed to get yourself onto a radio show. So how do you talk about your book? It is important to keep in mind that radio listeners know nothing about you. They were innocently tuning in to their favourite programme when suddenly you appeared and started talking.
While the presenter will introduce you and start you off with a question, you need to be sure that you start the interview by easing into your story. Don’t go into a long, in-depth description of your plot or topic.
Keep it simple to start with and allow the interviewer to ask questions that dig deeper. The presenter is the link between you and the audience and a good presenter will ask the questions that the audience will want to know answers to.
Most radio interviews are relaxed conversations between the presenter and the author – friendly, casual and chatty. Once you get started, you can relax and go where the conversation leads.
However, if your book has a controversial element to it, you need to be ready to defend your position. If things get tense, try to keep the atmosphere friendly and do not take difficult questions personally. If you are well prepared, you will do fine.
Before your interview, work hard on what you are going to say. Boil your book down to a very succinct headline – an elevator pitch that you can say in less than ten seconds, and a more detailed but still basic summary that lasts twenty-thirty seconds. Write them down and practice out loud until the words come naturally.
It also helps to practice with someone who knows as little about your book as possible. Let them ask questions so that you can learn what further information may be needed. A little homework before the interview will go a long way to making your interview more successful.
Turning Publicity into Sales
In an interview, you need to make sure that your book title is mentioned. In most interviews the presenter will say the title both at the beginning and end of your interview, which means you will not need to force your sales pitch into the conversation. If it looks like that is not happening, make sure you get it in there – that is, after all what you are there for.
Make the most of social media’s ability to increase your audience. Before your interview airs, post that it is coming up so that your followers can tune in. After the interview, post a link to it if it is available online (on BBC iPlayer, for example) so that those that missed it can still have a chance to listen. Always mention your book title in these posts and, if possible, include the handle for the show, presenter or station. If they know that you have posted, they will often repost to their followers as well.
Finally, remember that if your interview goes really well you may be called in for your next book as well – or as an expert to talk about your specialist subject when it is in the news. I have worked with several authors who have gone on to have regular radio guest slots as a result of just one really good interview.