Don't Just Wing It: Prepare For Media Interviews


A common misconception that most authors have is that media interviews mean books sales. This is false. Just because you were successful in obtaining an interview, even if it is an interview on a national television or radio program, does not mean that your interview will automatically lead to book sales. Why is this? The problem most authors face when it comes time for the interview itself is that they are unprepared. You can't just talk about yourself or your book for a few minutes and expect that will lead people to want to buy your book. The good news is that with the right know how you can prepare yourself for an interview that will be successful in drawing the audience in and leave them wanting to know more. Here are six things to keep in mind while preparing for your interview.

  • An interview is not a lecture. For the most part the audience will not have paid to read or see or listen to your interview. If they did pay, it is for a subscription to whatever media program or medium you are interviewing with. They did not pay to see you specifically. This is not like a speaking engagement. Your audience is not a captive one. If they decided that they don't want to listen to you, they don't have to. They have the ability to turn off the TV or radio. They can put down the paper or stop the podcast. Do not use your interview time to teach people.
  • Most interviews last only a few minutes. You will not have time to explain every chapter of your book, or even every main point. You need to be able to explain the value of your book in a few sentences. Michael Hyatt calls this your “elevator pitch.” He says you should imagine that you just got on the elevator at Rockefeller Plaza and you realize that the producer of a major network TV show is in the elevator with you. You only have ten floors to convince the producer that your book could help their audience. What would you say? This is how you should explain your book to an audience during an interview.
  • The host will not have read your book. There may be exceptions to this, but it is safe, nay necessary, to assume that the host will not have read your book. So, if they haven't read the book, how are they supposed to come up with questions about it? The answer is that you are. Yes in an ideal world every host would read and watch and listen to the product of every single one of their guests. But in reality, that is impossible. There are too many guests and too little time. If you want your interview to run smoothly and cover the topics you think are necessary, then you will have to write your own questions. Determine what three or four main points of your book will convey the necessity of your message. Then form questions whose answers include those main points. Make sure the questions are worded in a way that a person could easily bring them up in conversation. Submit these questions in advance of your interview to the producer, and they will be thankful for the work you saved them. Rob Eagar has more advice on how to write your own questions in his book [amazon text=Sell Your Book Like Wildfire&asin=159963421X].
  • Answer the questions in sound bites. People may only tune in at the beginning, middle, or end of your interview. If you are long winded in your answers the audience will be bored and they may not follow your answer, and anyone just tuning in may not understand what you are talking about at all. Think about the best, shortest answer to your questions that you provided, but also consider any questions that the host might pose. Listen to their questions and don't interrupt them. They might ask you a question about a current event or something from your past. Be sure to prepare your answers to these potential questions as well. Never get defensive. Hosts sometimes ask controversial questions because they can often bring in good ratings. Be prepared for this, and steer the conversation the way you want it to go. Don't be intimidated, and don't let a curveball question ruin your interview.
  • Be likeable. We are often unaware of how we look and sound when we are talking about something in a professional manner, especially something that we have rehearsed. You most definitely want to be prepared, but not rehearsed. Audiences want you to seem accessible, and they won't feel that way if you look too serious or even angry. The key to this is to smile. It might feel stupid, especially if you are on the radio, but it will translate to audiences better than a straight face. And remember that you have every right to be at that interview. The host is not your superior; you are equals. Approach your interview as you would a conversation with a peer. If you feel comfortable, you will appear comfortable.
  • Lead audiences back to your book and website. Be sure to mention the title of your book several times, but avoid saying “my book.” This will not help audiences remember the title. It might feel repetitive, but it works. Even though book sales are what you want, most people won't be convinced to buy your book from just a brief interview. If you lead them back to your website they can investigate you more and see that you are the expert you claim to be. But, most hosts won't want you to talk about your website since they need to lead their audience to their sponsors. A good way around this is to offer a free resource. Since the freebie is a part of your overall message, the host will have trouble saying no to it. Having a free resource on your website is also a good way to get the contact info of audience members. Remember, building your contacts list is crucial in selling books and becoming a successful author.

In the end the most important thing to keep in mind while preparing for your media interview is to not be intimidated. Rehearse your questions practice smiling, and then just go to the interview and have fun. Sell your message, but don't take yourself too seriously or doubt yourself. You are an expert, you have knowledge that can help people, make sure that the audience knows this and be confident that you belong there.

How do you prepare for media interviews? Share with us in the comments section below.

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