Book marketing is a necessity in this digital age. With millions of titles competing for readers, one of the quickest ways for fiction writers to reach their target audience is to appear on a podcast or radio talk show.
As a former publicist, I've gained lots of experience, working with the news media. That's why I know that securing an interview with a small town newspaper is much easier than securing an interview on a talk show.
However, don't let this knowledge daunt you. Broadcasters need warm bodies to interview, and you might get lucky.
For instance, I once got called at the last minute by a talk show host. Apparently, the celebrity guest had cancelled, and the host was desperate to find a replacement for a show that went live in two hours.
In this post, which is part one of a two part-series, I'll share strategies to help you land a broadcast interview.
Research the Show's Target Audience
The quickest way to get ignored by a talk show host is to demonstrate your ignorance of his audience. Do your research. For example, if you're writing a Cozy Mystery, you'll want to appear on podcasts that have a history of interviewing Mystery writers.
Alternatively, you could hunt for shows with a female listening audience. These women should be between the ages of 35 and 65. According to a survey, published by Mystery Writers of America, older female readers are likely to buy small-town murder mysteries.
Don't waste your time—or the podcaster's—by requesting an interview on a broadcast that caters to Millennials, or that focuses on topics like politics, finance, or global warming.
Book Marketing for Podcasts: The Pitch Letter
Unless your phone's ringing off the hook with invitations to interview, you must initiate contact with the podcaster or his assistant. The accepted protocol is to write a pitch letter (or email,) which is similar to the query letter that is normally written to literary agents and book editors.
Your pitch letter should cover the following topics.
1) Prove that You’ve Done Your Market Research
Prove that you know what the show's general focus is, what the host’s interests are, and how your book is relevant.
2) Demonstrate that You Have Something Interesting to Say
The fact that you've written a novel doesn’t make you newsworthy. You need to figure out what does. Ask yourself, "What benefits can I offer to the host's listeners?" Think in terms of "why" the host should interview you. Offer him content that is entertaining, interesting, inspirational, or topical.
3) Show that You’re a Good Communicator
Writers are often perceived as introverts. To increase your odds of being interviewed, you need to show the podcaster that you're able to hold the attention of his listeners.
For instance, if you’re comfortable in front of a microphone, be sure to tell the host. Describe your history of keynote speeches or how you've lectured in large auditoriums.
If you previously appeared on a podcast, you will gain instant credibility. Include an audio link to that interview in your pitch letter.
4) Prove that Your Book Is Interesting
If you want to secure an interview on a podcast or a radio talk show, you must establish your credibility as an author. Send the host your media kit, complete with your bio, photo, cover art, book description, writing achievements, and professional reviews.
Don’t forget to include links to your blog. That way, the host can learn more about you, and decide for himself whether you would appeal to his listeners.
Before you mail your media kit, insert a list of “Talking Points.” This list should consist of bulleted, 1-line sentences that highlight interesting facts about your book and your writing career.
Essentially, by providing these Talking Points, you've done the host's research for him. More importantly, you are steering him toward topics that you want to discuss, so he's less likely to blindside you with questions that make you uncomfortable.
Prepping for the Interview:
1) Request Sample Interview Questions
Securing a sample list of questions is a coup: it will let you rehearse your answers before you're on the air. However, few broadcasters will accommodate your request. They're too busy to dream up interview questions in advance.
By the way, if a podcaster does send you his questions, don't be surprised if he deviates from the list.
If you decide to ask for sample questions, be gracious and flexible. If you position yourself as a pushy Diva, the host may cancel your interview—or worse, set out to embarrass you on the air.
Remember: your job, in any interview situation, is to be thoroughly prepared to answer any question that's related to your book(s) and your writing career.
However, you are not required to answer off-topic questions (example: "So what's your position on abortion?") If the host asks you off-topic questions, steer the conversation back to your book.
2) Rehearse with a Recording Device
Do you squeak and giggle when you’re nervous? Do you punctuate every sentence with “you know” or “um?” Do you repeat yourself—a lot?
Cure these poor speaking habits before you go on the air.
3) Prepare for a Surprise Audition
Broadcasters are notorious for calling a potential guest, without warning, for an impromptu audition. Many times, the broadcaster will tell you that he has a question about your media kit.
Assume that you’re being auditioned—even if the broadcaster assures you otherwise.
Broadcasters need to determine if you speak well enough to engage the show's listeners. Keep your Talking Points handy, on your cell phone, so you can refer to them during a surprise audition.
If you're able to speak to the broadcaster, do so immediately. Broadcasters work on deadline, and they're hard to reach with a return phone call.
However, if you absolutely cannot talk to the broadcaster (maybe you're walking into an IRS audit,) you will need to call him back. Handle the call this way:
"I'm so glad you called! And I really do want to answer your questions. Can I call you back in 5 minutes? I'm (driving on the freeway; getting blood drawn at my doctor's office, etc.)" This stall tactic gives you time to gather your thoughts.
Now take a deep breath. Jot down some Talking Points. However, don't procrastinate. Be sure to honor your five-minute deadline.
Hanging up on a podcaster is risky. He may not answer your return call—mainly because he already filled his coveted guest spot with somebody else.
Next week, I'll share tips for a successful broadcast interview. Don't miss part-two of Book Marketing on the Air.