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You’re On!: Handling Television Appearances Effectively

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Fabulous! You’re booked for your first television appearance. You are excited, and more than a little nervous. Other than being personally gratifying, television is extremely effective in promoting a book, provided the author motivates the audience to actually seek out and purchase their book.

Pre-Show Preparations

Familiarize yourself with the show by watching it. Know the host’s name, the format, their manner of interviewing, and what is expected of you. Make sure you know the name of the producer who booked you and the right contact phone number for the show in case of an emergency.
Know about the show’s audience, i.e., who listens to or watches the show. You’ll want to target your answers to their interests.
Rehearse answering all possible questions that may be asked of you, not just the ones on your tip sheet, but any the interviewer is likely to ask. Keep up on current events that tie in to your book’s subject to build interest and give your book timeliness.
Work on a definition of what your book is about and boil it down to a single brief sentence you can say quickly for short television or radio interviews.
Know in advance the major points you want to make about your book and the messages you want to get across. Practice saying them in short phrases you can slip into the conversation. For example, you can subtly answer a question with: “In my book . . .” or “That’s what (name of book) is all about . . .”
For call-in shows, arrange for two or three friends to call in with prepared questions. This can get things going, save you the embarrassment of a quiet phone line (if people are not calling), and ensure that you get to answer the two or three questions you most wanted to talk about.
When you talk to the producer, ask if he/she would mind announcing upcoming booksignings or putting the information on-screen during your interview.
Before your interview, do a dry run to the television station during the time of day you will be driving. It is extremely important to be on time (if not early) the day of your interview.Set your VCR to tape the show. Many programs require a video of an author before they will even consider booking him or her. Keep this in mind and tape the show for future requests. Have a friend tape the program as well, just in case.
Dress for success; avoid white, cream, or pastel shades. They will wash you out no matter how much powder and blush the make-up person applies to you before the show. Red and burgundy give women a vibrant appearance. If a woman is not comfortable in these shades, navy, cocoa brown, and black are safe colors. Men should stick with a dark gray or black suit with a quiet tie.

Once You’re on the Set

Greet the interviewer warmly and look him or her in the eye.
Keep the interview as cordial and informal as possible. If the set is informal, unbutton your jacket as you sit down. Keep your jacket buttoned while doing a formal interview, such as CNN or CNBC.
Avoid giving confusing answers. If your response is confusing or the issue is complex, the interviewer may try to summarize. Take charge of the interview and summarize it yourself.
Have an extra copy of your book with you and set it on the table in front of you during the interview if the program will not show a still of the cover.
Keep your publisher’s 800 number and mailing address ready in case someone asks how to order the book directly from the publisher.
Remember, your role during the interview is to provide the audience with enough interesting information about your book that they will want to buy a copy of it. No one expects you to be a professional at interviewing. In case you start to tense up, keep some relaxation tips in mind:
o Exhaling deeply releases physical tension.
o Use pauses to gain control over yourself.
o Good posture enhances relaxation.

After the Interview

Send a thank-you note to the host and producer. This is a very thoughtful gesture that just might get you invited back a second time.Good luck! And as they say in show business, break a leg!Katherine Brandenburg is President of Avalon Marketing & Communications, 5611 Abbey Court, Suite 6. Lincoln, NE 68505, 402/466-4531.

Television Appearances: Do’s & Don’ts


  • Interview on your own terms and turf, if possible.
  • Know the media.
  • Maintain friendly eye contact.
  • Tell the truth.
  • Plan your messages; make your points.
  • Anticipate and rehearse to prepare for worst case.
  • Be positive, enthusiastic, and sincere.
  • Relate to issue and audience, not interviewer.
  • Answer questions one at a time to stay focused.
  • Correct false facts or misinformation.
  • Use gestures to punctuate.
  • Try to get to the bottom line in 75 words or less.


  • Say “no comment” or “off the record.”
  • Use technical jargon, personal opinions, or profanity.
  • Accept assumptions or statistics.
  • Speculate or guess if you don’t know the answer.
  • Comment on absent third parties or other companies/organizations.
  • Be overconfident or negative.
  • Forget that the microphone is never “dead.”
  • Ramble.

This article is from thePMA Newsletterfor March, 1998, and is reprinted with permission of Publishers Marketing Association.

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