Successful Author Interview Tips: Don’t Put Your Foot in Your Mouth
Author interviews are a key way to get attention for your book. Some basic dos and don’ts of being interviewed can help you make a good impression and sell more books. Both before and during the interview, there are things you can do and say to make an interview successful.
Once authors publish their books, they need to be prepared to talk about them. For many authors, being interviewed can be nerve-wracking as well as exciting. You want to sound polished, not talk too much or too little, and not stick your foot in your mouth. Here are a few tips so you can prepare for and enjoy an effective interview.
BEFORE THE INTERVIEW
Prepare questions beforehand. When the interview is arranged, ask the host whether you should provide some talking points or interview questions beforehand. Most hosts will appreciate having prepared questions because they probably won’t have time to read your book and they are often pressed for time to prepare. That said, don’t send questions without asking for permission—some hosts may not appreciate your telling them what to ask. Also, be prepared for the host to deviate from the questions you send, depending on the natural flow of conversation and the host’s own interests in your topic. Even if the host does not want talking points, take the time to write some out—you can guess basically what you will be asked and be prepared for it, and even if the questions aren’t quite what you expected, you can move the conversation toward what makes you comfortable.
Listen and learn from other interviews. Many author interviews are now posted online. A couple of great places to go are www.AuthorsAccess.com and www.InsideScoopLive.com to find authors talking about their books. Find authors who have written books similar to yours. Listen and learn from them what to say and what not to say.
Don’t be nervous. Everyone will tell you not to be nervous. You’ll be nervous anyway. Don’t let being nervous make you nervous. It’s natural. Accept your nervousness. Try not to think about it and instead focus on being excited that you get to be interviewed.
Remember to breathe. If you are nervous, take time to breathe. Don’t be afraid to make a pause before answering a question. If possible, inhale deeply through your nose and just try not to exhale into the microphone. Some deep breathing prior to the interview will help to calm you considerably.
Be enthusiastic. Be excited about your book. Readers won’t get excited if you aren’t excited. Instead of dreading the interview, be excited about the opportunity to share your triumph of writing a book with others. Get in an excited, anticipatory mood before the interview begins.
Dress comfortably. Whether you’re on TV or radio, dress comfortably. Remember Henry David Thoreau’s warning not to wear new clothes the first time you do anything.
Eliminate background noise. If you’re being interviewed on the radio, you’ll probably get to do the interview from home on your phone. In that case, disconnect other phones, appliances, anything that might make noise. Close the windows, turn off the loud air-conditioning unit. Let people know not to call you at that time—even call waiting can distract you from the interview. If necessary, put a sign on your front door telling people not to disturb you. And be sure to call on a landline, not a cell phone, so you’re less likely to be cut off.
Have a glass of water beside you. Just be careful not to spill during the interview.
Remember your listeners want you to succeed. No one wants you to fail. They want to be entertained. They want to enjoy listening to you. They want you to do well. So you have no reason to be afraid of them. Think of the audience as a group of willing listeners, of friends.
DURING THE INTERVIEW
Don’t talk over the host. Be sure always to wait for the interviewer to finish the question before you answer him or her. Don’t be a rude guest and interrupt. You’re probably just nervous, but remember to be patient for the question to finish being asked.
Maintain back and forth flow. Keep your answers short. A few sentences or a paragraph or two. Don’t speak more than a minute or two. Listeners have short attention spans and the interviewer also needs to maintain control and keep the show interesting.
Be generous in your responses. Nothing is more of a turn off than authors who, rather than answering questions, say, “I don’t want to give away too much. You’ll have to buy the book to find out.” Most likely, you’re not giving away enough. The more you talk about the book, the more details you give, the more interested the listeners will be and the more likely to buy your book. The only things not to say are how your novel ends, who committed the murder in your mystery, or the final step in your “How to” book. Everything else is free to be talked about.
Don’t try to impress anyone. One of the worst mistakes authors make is to try to impress people with how smart or witty they are. Don’t practice jokes ahead of time. Just be yourself. Don’t worry about sounding intelligent. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. They will like you better if you are real and you remind them of themselves.
Have fun. Why would you agree to be interviewed if it’s not going to be fun? Rather than worry about the preparation, don’t forget you are supposed to enjoy this moment. This is your chance to shine. Go for it with all you’ve got!
AFTER THE INTERVIEW
Thank the host. Remember to thank the host for having you as a guest. Be polite. You might get invited back again.
Ask for a copy of the interview. Be sure to listen to your interview. Learn from your mistakes. Repeat in future interviews information the host found interesting or where you received a positive reaction.
Celebrate. You’re a seasoned professional now. Pat yourself on the back. You did it! And the next interview will be even easier.
Irene Watson is the Managing Editor of Review The Book, where authors and reviewers meet. Her team provides reviews of recently published books that are posted on the site as well as at least ten other sites.