Ratcheting Up for Radio
by Kimberly Edwards
Inspired by people I networked with at last year’s Northern California Publishers and Authors (NCPA) Conference, I decided to collect information about good ways for authors to handle radio interviews, and I zeroed in on three authors with different kinds of books.
Northern California novelist John Takacs—author of The Take-Us (AGE Publishing Company)—hit the ground running in late 2008 when he realized 50 radio shows lay ahead. “Here I had just emerged from many months in my writing cocoon. Then I learned I would be expected to talk about me and my novel’s theme, America’s dependence on oil.
“At first I freaked. Now, after having done radio interviews at truck stops, rest areas, parking lots—one time I even found myself in the middle of a robbery—I know that an author has about 30 seconds to spit out a book blurb. The rest of the time is about you. You’re the expert. In my case, it was oil and energy. On radio, they want to know about you.”
When You’re on the Air
Psychologist Dr. Susan M. Osborn, author of The System Made Me Do It from LifeThread Publications, knows the value of funny lines and/or sound bites “to lighten things up, especially if your topic is on the heavy side.” She always emphasizes one vital point and adds that she also offers “tips that listeners can use so they get something tangible.”
To prepare, Osborn lays out separate sheets of paper carrying different kinds of information she may be asked about. At the top of each sheet, she summarizes in bold what lies on the page to trigger her memory.
Michele Avanti, columnist, multiple blogger, and author of GreeHee: The Journey of Five—Tales of Tamoor, Book One (GreeHee Publishing), winner of the NCPA Best Juvenile Fiction Award, COVR Visionary Fiction Finalist, and USA Book News Visionary Fiction Finalist, says that before an interview, she sends the station a list of her areas of expertise. “When they decide on the topic that best fits their audience, I send them a list of questions to ask.”
Avanti believes this act is appreciated, since most hosts don’t have time to study their guests’ work. She stresses that authors who are asked questions outside their field, “should be honest. If you want to offer an opinion, state that it is just that.”
A veteran of 1,500 radio shows as both guest and emcee, Avanti says that an author new to radio should find someone to role-play with. “Radio requires that you be articulate. No ahs or uhs.” To rise to this level of public-speaking proficiency, Avanti suggests joining a group such as Toastmasters or practicing with a fellow writer.
Airtime requires study, she points out. Authors should listen to talk shows. As the speakers pause, notice how many seconds go by. “Take a deep breath before you speak,” she advises, but be aware of “dead air,” when too many seconds pass without sounds.
Make Your Point
All three authors say that it’s important to be gracious to the host and the audience, yet never forget your purpose. “Keep your eye on the ball,” says Osborn. “Don’t get distracted. I remember having a wonderful time talking with hosts on a program in Texas. Yet the time was up before I could refocus on my book.”
Takacs suggests that authors refer to their books as often as possible: “‘In my book, The Take-us, that’s Take-us, www.thetakeus.com’ . . . Now I’ve said it three times.” He agrees that it’s important to be “concise and pointed” and notes that authors must remember that they are fitting into an interviewer’s agenda. “Always make the hosts look smart. Compliment them.” Even when faced with a tricky question, he responds, “Hey, great question.” Then he regains control by rephrasing the question to make it fit his topic.
Finally, it’s important to maintain the right frame of mind. Osborn stands during radio interviews. “This helps make you feel more authoritative. To get ideas to come readily, I walk while I’m talking.” Takacs follows a ritual. “I call it getting into the zone. I sit on the edge of the chair. I tell myself, here goes. Show time, I say. Then I’m ready. Spontaneous. Genuine. Fresh. Never do I want to be boring. Basically, I’m a carpetbagger on their airtime. I must make the best of it so the interview pays off.”
Kimberly Edwards writes meeting, presentation, marketing, cross-cultural, and travel tips. She serves on the board of directors for the California Writers Club, Sacramento Branch, and belongs to the Northern California Publishers and Authors, whose next conference is April 24, 2010, in Sacramento. She can be contacted at Kimberlyedwards00@comcast.net.