Media Interview Tips for Authors

Carol Moseley Braun on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
For media interviews and appearances, authors should know the show and its audience. Scott Gries / Getty Images Entertainment

How do you ace an interview on television, radio or Internet video? For an author, a media interview can be a great opportunity to become known to a wider audience of readers and to spread the word about your book. And the first step to a successful media interview is planning.

The goals of the media interview

Print and broadcast media interviews are a balancing act between:

  1. Giving reporter or the show's host (and the readers/audience) something that satisfies their need or desire for information and/or entertainment and...
  1. Selling your book.

Ideally, if you do both of these things well, you'll make your host happy (and maybe get asked back for your next book!), and you'll make yourself and your publisher happy — by getting readers to go out and buy your book.

Here's how to best prepare strategically to both "give good interview" and promote your work.

Before the media interview: Know what the host wants

As a good subject for a media interview, it's your duty to give the reporter, the television host or the disk jockey what he or she wants. They chose you / booked you for a reason, and if you want to ace the interview or appearance, you want to meet or exceed their expectations for a guest. In order to do this, you'll need to…

Ask the interviewer or producer

Likely a reporter who reaches out to you or your publicist will tell you about the article he or she is writing; the producer will give you an idea what to expect from the segment.

And this is most often straightforward, for example:

  • You're a cookbook author and the producer has asked you to do a recipe demonstration.
  • You've written a book on adolescent behavior and you've been asked to comment on a tragic school shooting.
  • Your self-published romance novel has hit the New York Times best-seller list and you've been invited on a major morning show to talk about the book and your experience.
  • You are a diet book author and you've been asked to appear in a television segment about a celebrity whose weight struggles have recently been in the news.

In each of the above examples, the goal of the interview seems clear and you know what you're supposed to deliver. But to be absolutely sure you should also…

Research the publication or show

With the Internet, it's nearly always possible to read, watch or listen and get an idea of what the show or publication is about and what type of readers, viewers or listeners it attracts.

Be aware that there might bemedia opportunities where you are asked to venture into uncomfortable territory, as happened to the diet book author in the example above. Upon researching the show, she understood that the host courted controversy and she went prepared. Despite the host's attempts to goad her into being judgmental and indelicate, the author delivered some well-prepared and sensitive thoughts on women's weight issues. Again, research to make sure you understand what the interviewer wants from you and be prepared.

Note too that the author's sensitive preparation didn't stop the Twitter-verse from slamming her for her responses — after all, controversy (whether real or not) sells newspapers — and gets clicks, page views, and YouTube eyeballs.

When considering giving an interview where you feel controversy is desired or inevitable, be prepared for the backlash.

During the media interview: Know how to sell your book and yourself

Whether you've agreed to a print interview or are appearing on camera, chances are you'll only have a short amount of time to get your message across — and, to quote Roger Ailes, you are the message — at least in part.

With broadcast media especially, where the audience hears and/or sees you, you're relying on your "like-ability" as much as your topic or your writing ability to get to your ultimate goal: book sales. Following are some hints on how to sell yourself in a media interview.

Be energetic and engaged. Get your energy up and be fully present with your interviewer. If a reporter has you on the phone, do not try to multi-task.

Look good. Try to look good for the camera.

Utilize the ice-breaker. Media interviews go by in a flash, so every second counts. Use the first few casual how-do-you-do's can establish a rapport with the host and the audience. Be upbeat and friendly, maybe share a quick, fun anecdote. It's great if you can relate the anecdote back to the book, but the most important thing is the rapport.

Know your book's three main sales hooks. You don't have to recount the entire plot of your novel or go through the table of contents of your self-help book point-by-point. But backwards and forwards, you should know the sales "soundbites" that will cut to the heart of the audience and make them want to buy the book. What makes it unique? Relevant? Entertaining?

Anticipate the good, the bad and the ugly. You know your book inside and out, and you should be prepared to answer any questions that might arise about your book — even unpleasant ones. Stay upbeat and polite, no matter what.

By being prepped appropriately for the show and to showcase your book, you're doing yourself and your book a great service.


And now that you know how to ace the broadcast interview, you can learn how to ace your in-person author appearances.