One of my beautiful authors emailed me the other day to report on her latest media events. The reporter interviewing her had obviously not read her book, so she wasn’t fully prepared.
/ rant on: Why on earth would anyone interview someone when they are completely unprepared?? I’d rather eat a rusty razor blade that go into anything unprepared. Gah. /rant off
I felt for my author because she’s like most authors, who doesn’t think of herself as a product or brand, but as, well, a writer. So it’s easy to get caught flat-footed. But the truth is that once you sell that book, you need to put on your business hat and shoes (and matching handbag), and think like a promoter, which includes giving interviews.
My author’s interview interruptus brought back memories of when I faced a reporter many moons ago who was equally ill-prepared, so her questions were mind-bogglingly inane. I became a bit nervous when she looked at me with that deer-in-the-headlights expression that screams, “I have no idea what I’m doing,” so I sorta took control and spoon-fed her information that she could use…and make her look like a star.
My novel is medical fiction with a bit of a twist. When she stumbled, I jumped in and asked her if she’d ever thought about whether her doctor’s belief system could/would impact the way he treated her. Boyo, she stopped cold and really pondered the question. So I segued into Donovan’s Paradigm, and how that question plagues my two main characters, and how they wrestle with the potential and consequences of that idea. From there, it became easier for her to come up with her own questions because she became engaged in the topic.
And that’s the trick. If you draw a reporter in and make them look good, they’ll work with you. Revealing your irritation at their lack of preparation won’t get you squat.
My best advice is to channel the Girl Scouts and BE PREPARED:
- Always have a copy of your book on hand to give to the interviewer. They often have a copy, but if they don’t you can give them yours. It’s just a nice thing to do…even if it ends up on eBay.
- Go into your interview believing they haven’t read your book: That way, you won’t be surprised and will be able to remain calm and centered. When you’re calm and centered, you tend to think better on your feet.
- LISTEN: Too often we’re thinking about what we’re going to say next rather than listening to the reporter’s question and watching their body language. I’ve learned this particular gem from talking to authors during marketing strategy sessions. Even though I have all the promo stuff in front of me, the authors often says something in passing that I pounce on because it encapsulates the essence of their books, and drastically changes the promo strategy. A reporter may say something in all innocence (or ignorance), and it could end up being the igniter for something brilliant that escapes your precious pie hole.
- Pull out your main theme that invites discussion: The idea is to give the reporter something to grasp, so they can get a good interview. Help them out by saying something open-ended:
- “Can we really swipe major emotions under the carpet and not expect them to bite us on the ass at some later date?” Hello LEARNING TO PLAY WITH A LION’S TESTICLES
- “What is like to love someone so deeply and fear that your love has an expiration date?” Hello JAN’S STORY, PULSE OF MY HEART, THE NEXT 15 MINUTES
Interviews are stressful enough without having a case of the sphincter puckers while you watch your interview circle the drain. Give them an opener that they can use as a life line.
Reporters usually have the formulaic open-ended question tucked beneath their bra strap: “Why did you write your book?” If you have a good amount of time to blow on an interview, this question can be lots of fun because it explores you, the author, and gives you a personality. But normally, the reporter has a nanosecond, and this question eats up precious time that doesn’t say anything about your book, which is the purpose of an interview because you’re hoping to grab readers’ attention.
Best way to do that is to be prepared for the disaster.
As for my gorgeous author? Phht. She’s a pro and pulled it off…despite being deathly ill…and threw in interesting elements of her book. That said, I doubt she’ll ever go into another interview without having more tricks up her sleeve. And neither should you. Avoid Interview Interruptus, and go out and rock it.