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Tuesday, February 2, 2016


Connie Johnson Hambley at WPWL New York Public Radio
Being invited to give an interview is a great acknowledgment of your book gaining attention. Interviews are a terrific platform for expanding your audience and reaching new readers. Most likely, the interview will be recorded in one session and broadcast unedited. Your shabby appearance or stumbled-over answers will live on in YouTube afterlife forever. You have one shot to get it right. 

1. Be Prepared

I know. Duh. The obvious starting point here is to be prepared by making sure you know who you're talking to (by reviewing their website and bio) and to ask for sample questions. Reviewing past interviews is helpful. 

The less obvious point is to make sure your interviewer is prepared

Providing a bio and book blurb is not enough. Will your host have read your book? If not, offer to provide a detailed synopsis or your own questions. The better prepared your interviewer is, the better interview he or she will conduct. 

2. Be Fresh

You may have lived with your book for the past two years while researching and writing it, and maybe you've done a dozen book clubs and more speaker panels than you can count. A good interviewer will find a new angle into the meat of your story, but most often, the enthusiasm and "Oh, wow!" energy must come from you. If you're bored talking about your book, how do you think the viewers and listeners are going to feel?

3. Be In Command

This does not mean commandeering the interview and being an overbearing jerk. Own the interview by making sure each question is an opportunity to get your message across. I once did an interview where the host clearly had not read my book. Her canned questions focused on the relationship between two characters in such a way my thriller started to sound like tawdry romantic suspense novel. Without being dismissive of her questions, I used them as a foundation to get my message across that relationships within a terrorist network are complicated for a multitude of reasons and jumping in the sack is usually not the first thing on people's minds -- regardless of how hot they are.

4. Be Gracious

A little mutual love goes a long way. Remember, this is your interviewer's moment, too. A thoughtful pause followed by, "I'm so glad you asked me that" creates a warm atmosphere in the interview that carries over to readers and viewers.

5. Be on Point

Author interviews are just that - an interview of an author. Most often, insights into your writing process from the spark of the plot idea through manuscript completion is what your host wants to hear about, not just a play-by-play of what happens in your book or who the quirky characters are. 

Interviews inevitably ask the author to read a short section of the book so the audience can get a sense of writing style and voice. Choosing a passage to read that helps crystallize the message you are trying to impart is essential. My brand of writing is creating whip-smart and tightly-paced stories around real historical facts. The passage in The Troubles I like to read shows how I set up the entire fictional plot on the bones of fact. Staying on point and not wandering off keeps the host, and therefore the audience, engaged.

6. Be Beautiful

If you're recording only voice, be relaxed, put the cat in the other room, and turn off your phone! (I inadvertently turned ON my desktop phone when I thought I had turned it off. The result can be heard about ten minutes into my interview here. Ugh. Lesson learned.)

If you're doing Skype or in a studio, take time to pull yourself together. For Skype or Google Hangouts, set the camera above eye level so you have to look up. Make sure your background is not distracting and you have LOTS of great, indirect lighting. 

Remember, interviews are a fantastic marketing tool. Use each opportunity to present yourself and your book in the best possible light.