There are so many facets to promoting your book, from bookshop and festival events, to writing print features, live web chats, radio and television interviews and much much more. Your publicist is there to guide you through all these different opportunities to reach readers and tell them about your book.
One of the most daunting aspects of book publicity can be live interviews – whether television, radio, on stage, webchat – being asked questions live and on the spot and knowing millions of people are listening can be incredibly nerve-wracking, and so I’ve focused this blog on some tips for ways to prepare and approach – and perhaps even enjoy – these media interviews!
PREPARATION, PREPARATION, PREPARATION!
Approach every interview with the idea that ‘Tell Me About Your Book’ will be the first question. Spend time crafting and rehearsing your answer to this question. Keep it short, and really think about the key message you want to get across. Programme formats vary, but you will usually have a very short time to answer. Identify the one thing you want to get across and a couple of additional points you might get an opportunity to share as well.
Remember that at the time you do interviews, no one in the audience will have read your book yet (and you can’t always bank on the interviewer having read it…!) so you can’t presume any prior knowledge; this is your opportunity to present your book to them.
THINK LIKE A JOURNALIST
Think about the audience you are talking to and what they will be most interested to hear about. Are you talking to a literary audience? A predominantly female audience? An older audience? People in a particular geographical location? Prepare examples from your book that the audience will be able to relate to.
Your publicist will make sure you have the full context of the interview in advance:
Who is the presenter? Who else is being interviewed? How long will the item be? Is it live?
DON’T BE AN OSTRICH
Be honest with yourself about areas of questioning that might cause you difficulty. Difficult subjects may be personal details; questions about members of your family; views on topical events if there is some reason why your views might be controversial.
Think about them in advance – don’t ignore it, bury your head in the sand and hope you won’t get asked about it. Prepare to acknowledge the difficult question, and then to move the interview back to the areas you want to talk about. Channel the politician’s on the Today Programme: don’t wait to be asked the ‘right question’ use whatever the journalist asks you as a prompt to say what you want.
It’s easy to get side-tracked into spending your precious interview time discussing something totally off topic – don’t let a presenter spin off away from your book, just keep bringing it back.
Have a definite viewpoint and you’ll be memorable and you’ll make more of an impact on the audience. If that means disagreeing with the interviewer – politely and respectfully of course – that’s ok – better to be clear and firm than evasive or wishy-washy.
REMEMBER TO SMILE!
Even on radio! Enthusiasm will radiate and raise the energy levels in your interview – even on a serious topic – and translate positively to your listener and potential reader.
Bethan Jones is Director of Publicity at Vintage, Penguin Random House. She leads an award-wining team of nine publicists working across literary fiction and non-fiction, poetry, cookery, crime fiction and sport, and is the publicist for authors including Jo Nesbo, Karl Ove Knausgaard, Haruki Murakami, Ruth Ware and Jeanette Winterson. A Bookseller Rising Star, Bethan is a former Chair of the Publishers’ Publicity Circle, was shortlisted for the Kim Scott Walwyn Award, and is the recipient of industry awards including the PPC Awards, BMS Awards and a Future Book Digital Innovation Award.