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The Perils of Radio Promo: A True Tale of Terror

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As I published my Humanure Handbook, I wondered about doing radio interviews. How do you do them? Where do you start? Will they sell any books? Then I ran into the Radio-TV Interview Report people at the PMA Publishing University in Chicago. After a short discussion about the book, they convinced me to send RTIR a copy and have them write up an ad that I would approve

to go into their magazine. They told me that I would be interviewed in my home over the phone. I could be in my underwear if I wanted.

The ad came out, the phone started to ring, and the first call was from Howard Stern! I told my wife, and later my friends, “Oh, by the way, some guy from New York City called me for a radio interview. Some guy named Howard something. Howard Stein or something.” Of course, they’d go crazy and I would continue to act as if I didn’t have a clue. “Howard Stern, you idiot. You mean Howard Stern! You’re going to be on Howard Stern’s show! Oh my god!” they’d exclaim.

How I Suffered at Howard’s Hands

The Humanure Handbook

is about, well, humanure, which is, unfortunately, exactly what it sounds like–a contraction of the words “human” and “manure.” Now maybe you can see why Stern jumped all over it. My interview was scheduled for 8 a.m. Perfect drive-time radio. So, in order to do the interview justice, I sat on the toilet at 8 o’clock in the morning with the cordless phone in my hand.The phone call finally came at 8:30. “Sorry, we have to reschedule you,” the producer informed me. “We had a walk-in transgender show up, and we put him, or her, whatever, in your time slot.”

Long story short: the interview happened the following week and I was subjected to 15 minutes of total and utter humiliation. I got 500 hits on my Web site within the next 24 hours or so, however, and phone calls from old friends from way back in high school. I may even have sold a book or two.
I think I’ve done more than 40 interviews so far, ranging in duration from

five minutes to two hours and including shows on BBC radio, CBC radio, PBS, and others all over the U.S. In fact, the calls from producers came so early in the morning and so often that they started to become annoying.

 

But Worse Was in Store

One day, the home office phone rang around 7 a.m. It was a cold morning; it was winter; we had been up late the night before, and neither my wife nor I wanted to get out of bed and answer it. “Let the answering machine get it,” I mumbled as we both rolled over and snuggled back into our pillows. Then, immediately, the other phone rang, the house phone–a different number. “Who could that be? Must be a neighbor,” my wife muttered. “The answering machine will get it,” I insisted. But the caller just hung up, again leaving no message, and then the first phone rang again. “Someone’s trying to reach us,” my wife insisted. “I’d better get up and answer it.” She hopped out of bed and hurried out of the room.

“…Joe, it’s for you,” she yelled up the stairs a few moments later. “A radio producer or something.”
Dammit,

I thought, rolling over in bed–not another one! I went downstairs, wearing nothing but a T-shirt and grabbed the phone. “Hello?”
“This is Dan the Man, Radio WXYZ, St. Paul, Minnesota. Ever heard of

me?” a pathetically fake-sounding radio voice boomed.
“I have now,” I replied curtly. Who was he trying to impress? Then Dan the Man started asking me lots of questions about my book, more than most producers had done. I was not in the mood to be interrogated; I just wanted to schedule the interview and get it over with. Besides, my stepson was in the kitchen packing his lunch for the workday, and I was standing there practically naked, no doubt affecting his appetite in a negative manner.

So I went upstairs to my private office, then grabbed a pen and a piece of paper in order to write down the scheduling details. But Dan the Man just kept asking me stupid questions. And I kept giving him short answers, sounding, no doubt, quite annoyed.
Then it suddenly dawned on me, like getting hit smack in the face with a gigantic, fat, wet fish. I was already on the air–LIVE! I was in the middle of an actual radio interview that I had completely forgotten about! I glanced at my calendar on the wall and sure enough, there it was! Seven a.m. today. Dan the Man. Oh my god!
Lessons Learned the Hard Way  

 

I did the fastest, smoothest radio segue in history, transforming myself suddenly from the rumpled grump into the knowledgeable, half-naked, author. Inside I had never felt so embarrassed in my life. I still cringe at the thought of it–this felt more embarrassing than the Stern interview. Or was it?

In any case, for those of you who are going to do radio interviews, let this be a warning to you. Here’s my advice: Keep close track of your interview schedule. Don’t let your spouse answer the phone. Be prepared for the unexpected! And wear underwear if at all possible.

Joseph Jenkins began self-publishing books in 1995 and has produced three titles: “The Humanure Handbook” (a unique composting guide), “The Slate Roof Bible” (which won the National Roofing Contractors Association Gold Circle Award), and “Balance Point” (which addresses the global ecological collapse scientists are predicting). For more information: www.jenkinspublishing.com, www.jenkinsslate.com, 814/786-9085, or mail@jenkinspublishing.com.

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