2013 and 2014 GOLDEN HEART® Finalist

Monday, April 23, 2012

Media Moment- What They'll Ask- What to Say

The good news-- you've scored a tv interview with one or more stations in your area (if you haven't yet, check out this article Getting yourself and your book on TV ).   The bad news-- now you actually have to do it!  No, actually, it’s not bad news at all-- it’s free publicity, a chance to connect with your current (and future!) readers, and it's going to be great.  By the time you get there, you’ll be totally ready.

So, let’s get you ready!  You may be wondering what the news anchor is going to ask you during the interview.  In fact, when you booked it, you might have even asked for a list of questions, and they most likely declined to give you one, assuring you that they won’t ask anything that you don’t know the answer to.  And that's true, because the questions will be all about you and your book-- you're the world's top expert on both subjects! (For more on what to expect when you arrive at the studio, check out this post What to expect from your TV interview ).

But you’d probably rather know the exact questions the interviewer will ask, wouldn’t you?   Well, I can't tell you exactly, positively, absolutely for sure what those questions will be, but as a former news anchor and reporter who's conducted countless live and taped interviews, I can give you a pretty good idea of the questions you’re most likely to be asked.  There are also some things you'll want to be sure to say... whether you're asked about them or not.

First... here are some specific questions to prepare for:

  • What is your book about?  Answer:  This is query letter, book blurb material here- you don't have time to tell the whole story obviously, and you don't want to give a synposis, just the main idea, the hook, a tease to get viewers interested.
  • Why did you choose to write about (your topic)?  What inspired you?
  • Is it based on your own experiences?  Are there characters in the book from your own life?
  • Related question: Where do you get your story ideas?
  • Is it your first book? (If not, feel free to get in a quick plug for your other books)
  • How long have you been writing/when did you know you wanted to be a writer?
  • What was it like trying to get published?  Did it come easily to you?  Did you struggle for years?
  • What’s your life like now that you’re a published author?  Different?  Do you write full time or still have a “day job”?
  • Any more books in the series or new books on the way?
  • Where can people find your book?  (dream question!)

This is a local TV interview, so they're going to want to appeal to viewers with a question or two about your ties to the local area-- Did you grow up around here?  If not, how long have you been here? Did you use any local settings in the book?

If it’s a hot genre like YA, they may ask something along the lines of “Why do you think the genre is so hot right now? Why do you think these books also resonate with adults, like Twilight and Hunger Games? Or why do you write in your genre?  These are golden opportunities to talk about your target audience and why your book will appeal to them.

That will probably cover it. Interviews typically last between two and five minutes, and no doubt it will fly by for you.  Because you may be a little nervous, and because time is so short, plan ahead: there are a few things you need to make sure you get across, whether you're asked specifically about them or not.

 One of them is the NAME OF YOUR BOOK.  Bring your book with you, show that pretty cover, and work the title into your conversation as often as possible. Mention your website a couple times as well (hopefully it's yourname.com, or something along those lines.)  You want to give people a way to find out more about you and your books when that (short) live interview is over.

This is not the time to be shy or modest when talking about yourself.  Most of us, unless we’re completely obnoxious (and we're not, right?), don’t love talking about ourselves, but this is one of those situations where it’s perfectly acceptable to do so, in fact it's expected and absolutely necessary!  And think about it-- you wrote a book!  That's cool!  That's something many, many people wish they could do.  You love your book and other people will too.  You just need to tell them that!  I'm not saying it's time to brag (don't), but for at least these few minutes, the interviewer and the viewers want to hear about you and your writing, so plan ahead, think about the main things you DO want to say about yourself, maybe a quick amusing story about what led you to the writing life, etc., and be prepared.

More preparation pointers:

  • Write down a few “talking points” on an index card to remind yourself of those most important items you want to mention, so that no matter how short the interview or what you’re asked, you get that info in there. Some suggestions: NAME OF YOUR BOOK, hook, target audience and how it will appeal to them, where they can get your book 
  • SMILE-- as much as you can.  People are attracted to people who smile.  They find them interesting and likable, and are much more likely to want to hear what they have to say.
  • Practice the interview ahead of time with a friend, family member or significant other.  It may feel silly, but I promise you-- this will really help.  Even better-- record it on video if possible and watch yourself.  That will tell you so much about what you do and don't want to say and do when it comes time for the real deal.

You may be nervous- that's completely normal.  I've interviewed brain surgeons and major politicians who were literally shaking and sweating through the whole thing.  That's ok.  Just plan ahead a little, practice, and you'll get through it.  You might even enjoy it.  It's worth doing-- it's basically free advertising-- make the most of it!  The shaking doesn't really show on tv, by the way. :)

One more thing:  while you’re watching that practice video of yourself, you might think-- Oh no! Look at me-- I’m so not ready for prime time!  It’s not a fashion show or a beauty contest, but it IS in your best interest to present yourself as well as you possibly can. Next Media Monday, I’ll share some professional tv hair, makeup, and clothing tips.  See you then!

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