2013 and 2014 GOLDEN HEART® Finalist

Monday, April 16, 2012

Media Moment- What to expect from your TV interview

Because authors are expected to handle a lot of our own publicity and marketing (and the more we can do, the better it is for us) I'm taking what I've learned from my 13 year career as a news anchor/reporter and offering a few posts that might help those who haven't had much experience with local media.  Last week, we looked at booking interviews for yourself with local market television stations, and today I thought I'd focus on what to expect once you've gotten yourself into it! 

First... it's not going to be as bad as you think it will.  Really.  Everyone there wants you to do well, and will do whatever they can to help you.  You'll likely be told to arrive at the station around 30 to 40 minutes before you actually go on.  Some of this is the old hurry-up-and-wait thing-- they want to make sure you're actually THERE when it's time for your segment to go on.  And some of it is that live television is a fluid thing-- stories are dropped, breaking news happens and stories are added-- things happen, and the time you expected to go on will probably not be exact.  Another good reason to arrive early is so you'll have a chance to relax and perhaps chat with the anchor who's going to interview you or the producer in charge of the newscast, who'll give you a few specifics about what's going to happen.

In general, here's what's going to happen when you arrive at the station.  You'll be taken to either the newsroom or a "green room", where you'll wait for your segment and watch the show live on a monitor, giving you plenty of time to get nervous.

Don't.  You know your subject matter--(1) your book (2) yourself.  No one knows these two subjects better, in fact.  So, the interviewer isn't going to ask you anything you don't already know. Well, they probably won't do that.  But if they do, that's not your problem.  You are only responsible for knowing about your book and yourself. If they, for instance, ask you something like "How many books sold in your genre nationwide this year?",  which would be very stupid, but could somewhere-in-the-realm-of- possibilities happen, then don't worry about it.  Again- not your problem.  Just smile, admit, "I really have no idea" and then add something like, "But I do know that YA suspense (or whatever) is gaining popularity" or something like that, and then something about your own book, like who your target audience is.  I'll do a longer post next week on the questions you're most likely to be asked during a tv interview and how to prepare for them. For now, remember-- you know everything there is to know about your own book.

And... they'll almost certainly ask you about yourself. So be prepared and not embarassed to talk about yourself.  Again, in my next post I'll have a list of questions your interviewer is most likely to ask you about yourself personally and as a writer.

When it's time for your segment, someone will take you into the studio-- it will probably be during a commercial break, but if it's not, you'll be cautioned to stay quiet and not walk in front of any cameras (otherwise you might make an unscheduled cameo appearance!)  You'll be seated on the set and "miked up".  You'll have to wear a lavalier microphone for the interview, which will clip onto your clothing. For that reason, it's best to wear a top that buttons up the front or has a v-neck, or even better, some kind of blazer or jacket.  In a later post, I'll detail the best wardrobe choices for your interview and give some tv hair and makeup tips.

You'l probably be surprised when you see the TV studio-- most are smaller than they appear from your living room.  The cameras are likely to seem quite large and close to the set, and they'll have teleprompters (large screens in front of them with words on them that are not for you). It's all a whole lot less glamorous-looking than the finished product that goes out to viewers.

 If you're on a separate "interview set" from the news desk, the anchor is likely to join you there just a minute or two before you go on live. If you're on the newsdesk, off to the side, then you'll already be seated next to the anchor who's going to interview you.  There will usually be two cameras pointed in your direction, sometimes three, so the director can take various shots during the interview keep the picture moving for viewers.  You won't have to worry about cameras, though.  You'll look at and talk to the anchor, just as you would anyone during a normal conversation.  Have your book in your hand, so you can gesture to it as you mention it by name, which you should, as often as it seems natural to do so during the interview.

A camera operator will give the anchor a verbal or visual countdown moments before you go on live, and then a signal to let her/him know you're on.  Then the anchor will introduce you and begin the conversation.  Again-- they want you to do well and feel and look comfortable-- it's much better tv that way, and no one is going to "grill" you or try to trip you up. 

The segment will last anywhere from two to five minutes, usually no longer than that.  That's enough time for a couple questions about you and two or three about your book.  You'll want to keep your answers concise, but not limited to "yes" or "no", even in the unlikely event the interviewer asks you a "yes" or "no" question.  For instance, if they did happen to ask "Did you always want to be a writer?"  you start with "yes" or "no" and then elaborate with some kind of little story. 

SMILE as much as you possibly can (unless your book is about something really serious, where smiling would be inappropriate).   Even then, take advantage of the introduction and wrap up times to smile.  People like people who smile.  When watching television, I'll catch myself smiling with someone who's smiling on tv.  You do want viewers (and potential readers) to like you.

The whole thing will go much faster than you ever thought it would, and make sure someone's recording it for you, because you probably won't remember what you said when it's over.  Then you can go home and smile with yourself  (or cringe-- no, no, think positive!) while watching the playback.

For a tv interview to be an effective marketing tool for you, there are certain things you should make sure you work into your interview.  So what should you say?  And what exactly are they going to ask you?  Next Monday, I'll give you a list of the most likely questions you can expect, and suggest some ways to prepare.

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