The Book Publicity Blog

News, Tips, Trends and Miscellany for Book Publicists

Interviewing tips

About a week ago I accompanied an author to a national cable talk show and while my author was being made up, I watched another author tussle not very successfully with the host.  In the green room afterwards I said to the producer, “Well, at least he knew what he was getting into,” to which the producer replied, “Actually, he said he’d never seen the show!”

Then, this past weekend I was listening to an NPR interview online, and without a doubt, this was one of the worst author interviews I have ever heard: author Jane Doe was sullen and prone to monosyllabic answers.  Doe actually answered questions (three of them — yours truly counted) with one word: “Yeah.”  This in a world where book publicists do back flips to book national NPR shows.

Which leads me to say that there are a few things all authors should keep in mind:

1. Sound interested and engaged (or have the courtesy to pretend to).

2. Familiarize yourself with the show (or at least the type of show — many morning drive time shows are similar, as are NPR programs, as are Sunday morning public affairs talk shows).  Publicists should provide brief descriptions of shows and  websites.  If they don’t, ask.

3. An answer doesn’t have to be the answer.  Sometimes hosts ask loopy questions — answer it or don’t answer it, but say something (interesting, preferably).

4. TV interviews are generally shorter than radio interviews, which can vary anywhere from 10 minutes to two hours.  Not surprisingly, the length of one’s answer should be relative to the length of the interview segment.

5. Radio phone interviews should be done on land lines, if at all possible, in quiet areas.  Most authors do this automatically (although I did once have a producer complain he had to cut short an interview because the author was talking from Starbucks while drinking coffee and eating.  That one really kinda blew me away).

As publicists, it’s our responsibility to brief authors on shows / interviews.  It may not be feasible to go into detail for each and every interview, but a couple sentences and a URL can go a long way.


May 27, 2008 - Posted by | Media Coaching |


  1. I checked the pre and post interview Amazon rankings for the book by Sullen Author and this is the only book for which the post-interview Amazon ranking DROPPED after the interview! (It went from 200+ a couple days before to almost 1,000 after.) Coincidence? I think not! Lemme guess — people hated the interviewee so much they returned the book afterwards??

    Comment by Yen | May 28, 2008 | Reply

  2. Yen,

    I like your list of things people should remember when doing radio. I’d add that not only should your phone be a land line, but that it should not have call waiting. Imagine how angry the host would be if a guest interrupted an interview to take a call, or just had that nasty clunking sound in the background.

    If you are using a cordless phone you should also make sure that it is fully charged. You don’t want to have to run around the house trying to find another phone to use if the battery runs out mid-interview.

    There are a lot more tips about talk radio that I wrote on my blog over a year ago. The first post is designed for callers to understand the unwritten rules of the medium, and the second posts is for when you are a guest.

    You might find some helpful information for your clients.


    BTW, I heard about one horror story from a radio host whose remote guest was washing the dishes as they spoke on their phone. Talk about showing disrespect for your host.

    Comment by L.C. McCabe | May 31, 2008 | Reply

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