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.