33 Radio Interview Tips For Authors

You’ve landed the radio interview and it’s time to get ready to actually do it. Now what? As a book marketing expert and book publicist I have booked my clients on thousands of radio interviews. Here’s a list of tips I give to my clients prior to their interviews. Keep this helpful list of interview tips nearby and you’ll be glad you did!

  1. Go to a quiet room in your home or office; be sure staff and/or family know you are on a radio interview and cannot be interrupted.
  2. Turn off other phones, cell phones and anything else that could create background noise including air conditioners and the radio, etc.
  3. Have a glass of water nearby; there’s nothing worse than dry mouth on a radio interview.
  4. Disable call waiting: dial *70 and then call the studio number. This disables call waiting for the duration of the phone call. As soon as you hang up, it will be reactivated.
  5. Be on time. Call the station exactly at the time they tell you, or be at your phone waiting if the station is going to call you.
  6. Use a land line phone for best quality. Some stations won’t allow a cell phone interview. If it is not possible to reach a land line then use a cell phone in a stationary location and not while you are rolling down the road as the reception could be interrupted mid interview.
  7. Do not use a speaker phone or a headset; again, it’s about good sound quality.
  8. Be self-assured. Remember, you know your topic inside and out. Be confident in your ability.
  9. Smile, smile, smile, whether on radio or TV – SMILE. You’ll feel better, and for TV you’ll look better too.
  10. Put some pizzazz and energy into your voice. Try standing while you speak to liven things up a little.
  11. Research the show and tailor your message accordingly. Just Google the host’s name and station and check out their web site. Is it a national audience or a small town in Ohio? What is their format? Is it News/Talk, NPR or Classic Rock or something else? You need to know.
  12. KNOW exactly how much time you will have on the air as a guest, three minutes or 30 minutes…so you can tailor your answers to the time allotted.
  13. Practice your sound bites—out loud before the interview. Communicate your main points succinctly. Practice this out loud.
  14. Be informative and entertaining without directly pushing your book, product or service. Make the audience “want more.”
  15. A kind word about the host can go a long way. It’s good manners and good business.
  16. A person’s name is sweet music to them so commit to memory or jot down the name of the host and use it throughout the interview. When taking calls, use the names of callers too.
  17. Be prepared for negative comments, from the host or listeners.
  18. Be careful not to slide into techno-babble, jargon or acronyms that few know about.
  19. Never talk down to your audience.
  20. Be respectful of the host because everybody starts someplace. Today they’re interviewing you from a college radio station; in a few years they could be a nationally syndicated host.
  21. Don’t Oversell. Remember you are on the air to provide useful information to the listening audience. If you are an author or selling something, limit yourself to TWO mentions of the book, product or service. You must make it interesting without the commercialism. It takes finesse but you can do it. Often times the host will do this for you and you won’t need to mention it.
  22. Think of a radio interview as an intimate conversation with a friend and not a conversation with thousands.
  23. Radio interviews require verbal answers, not head nodding or uh-huhs. Hand gestures don’t count in radio either.
  24. Radio will often use interviews live and later cut them up for use throughout the day giving you more airplay. So keep your answer to a 10 to 20 second sound bite. You can say a lot in that amount of time and then you don’t sound like you are babbling on. Don’t go on more than a minute without taking a break.
  25. Don’t just answer questions. Tell listeners something you want them to know, something they wouldn’t know unless they were tuned in, with the promise of more of the same when they buy the product or come see you!
  26. Have three key messages. Short, not sermons. Sometimes the host opens the door, other times you have to answer a question and segue to a key message. A compelling message will have the host asking for more. Usually people can get in two key messages; the pros can get three. But even if you get in only one, you get a big return for the time invested.
  27. Lazy hosts open with a lame: “Thanks for being here.” Boom! Give a :15-:20 sec summary message. If the host introduces you with a question, be polite, deliver your summary message, then answer the question. “Thanks, (use name), for the opportunity to talk about….Now, to your question (name)…”
  28. Maintain a Positive Attitude. BE GENUINE OR TRANSPARENT. Don’t fake enthusiasm or sincerity. If you’re in a bad mood cancel the interview. Don’t pretend to know stuff you don’t.
  29. Re-read the press release or pitch that got the booking since the host is going to be using that as a starting point. Often a book publicist such as myself, will tie into a breaking news event that relates to your expertise. Be aware of that tie-in.
  30. After the interview write a thank-you note. Since so few people do this, you’ll really stand out from the crowd. And most importantly, you may get invited back.
  31. Whether the interview is live or taped-live, if you stumble, or flub up just keep going. Often what you perceived as a mistake, the listeners won’t even notice.
  32. Ask for an MP3 of the recording before the interview. Often if you ask ahead of time the producer will record the interview and then you can use it on your web site. Be sure to listen to it later and critique your performance.
  33. Ask for a testimonial. Often that MP3 will arrive with a note from the host saying how much they enjoyed the interview, or that “Scott Lorenz was a great interview, he really kept our audience engaged,” or “the phones rang off the hook when Scott Lorenz was being interviewed.” You can use those testimonials in future pitches and on your web site, blog etc.

As a book marketing firm, we’ll prepare questions for our author clients ahead of time and include those in our press kits emailed to the stations. Oftentimes the radio host will read those questions right in order. Other times they refer to our questions and include some of them. We do this to help the host in case they’ve not had a chance to read the book, which is often the case.

Make sure you know your own material inside and out and are comfortable with everything in it. You are the author of the book, or the press release and they’ll ask you, “What did you mean about this or that?” You need to have the answer. You don’t want any surprises.

The bottom line, RELAX, you’ll do fine. The butterflies you’re feeling are what will drive you to do your best! Just follow these helpful tips and you’ll be a radio interview star!