Doing Good Radio

By John Gilstrap

A couple of weeks ago, I posted here about my great fortune to score an ongoing talk radio gig on WRNR Radio/TV 10 in Martinsburg, West Virginia. It’s strictly a talk format, with Rob Mario as host, and then two co-hosts, of which I am one a couple of times per week.

It’s interesting sitting on the other side of an interview. Having done more than a few of them over the years as the interviewee, being the interviewer has changed my perspective a bit. In recent weeks, we’ve interviewed a few authors. I thought I’d share some lessons I’ve learned that you might find helpful if you find yourself in the position to promote your book–or to promote anything for that matter.

Know ahead of time what the format will be.

On our show on Eastern Panhandle Talk Radio, all interviews are 22-25 minutes long, free from commercial interruption. That’s unusual in my experience for broadcast radio and television. Normally, the broadcast format runs 7-10 minutes, which requires an entirely different approach.

In shorter interviews, be prepared to deliver the vaunted elevator pitch, where you get right down the details of the book. There likely won’t be a lot of give-and take between you and the host. If there is, that’s great. Just don’t anticipate it.

Longer interviews, on the other hand, are much more conversational. If you launch right into the elevator pitch and stay with it, there won’t be much interaction with the hosts, and you run the risk of leaving little to talk about during the rest of the spot.

Anticipate the common questions and have stories to tell.

You know the low-hanging fruit: Where did the idea come from? What kind of research did you do? Which of your books is your favorite? What authors do you read? Tell us about the story.

The best interviews are with people who tell the stories behind the stories. Keep it light-hearted and entertaining. If you can make your book resonate with current events or current times, that’s always a good thing.

Another trait of great interviews is that they are conversational. Try to forget that YOU’RE ON THE RADIO!!! and concentrate more on having a casual conversation with the person across from you in the studio or on the other end of the phone call.

There’s a good chance that “radio” means TV, too.

In these days of video streaming, many (most?) radios stations also have a live feed to Facebook or other social media sites. Plan accordingly to avoid that awkward jammies and bed-head television exposure.

Send promotional materials ahead of time.

Remember that your interview is but one tiny slot inserted into a busy broadcast. People will not have had time to read your book, certainly on short notice. Be sure to send along a synopsis of the story, along with a short bio.

Suggested questions are always welcome because they give the interviewer a clue about what topics you are most prepared to cover.

In your promotional materials, be sure to include a headshot of you and the cover of your book. If there is a TV/Facebook live element, this is essential. One of the most recent interviews sent along a single image that is a combined cover and author photo. I’m going to steal that idea.

Avoid qualitative assessments of your own work.

This might just be my own bugaboo, but I find it vastly unprofessional for an author to tell the world how funny, inspirational or exciting his own work is.  Just as on the page, show, don’t tell. Let your enthusiasm for the project sell the book for you.

Mention the title. A Lot.

In a standard interview, you’ll be introduced as the author of [Your Book Title], and then again as such at the end of the interview. Remember that every time you refer to your baby as “my book” or “it” you’re missing an opportunity to burn the title into listeners’ and viewers’ brains.

Always close with your contact and social media information.

Rudeness is never okay, but don’t be afraid to be a little aggressive, especially at the end of an interview. Consider:

” . . . Thanks for coming on the show, John.”

“Real quick, please visit my website, John Gilstrap dot com for anything you want to know about me or my books.”

You’re on the show to market a book, so don’t be shy about marketing your book.

What say you, TKZ family? Have I missed anything?

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About John Gilstrap

John Gilstrap is the New York Times bestselling author of Lethal Game, Blue Fire, Stealth Attack, Crimson Phoenix, Hellfire, Total Mayhem, Scorpion Strike, Final Target, Friendly Fire, Nick of Time, Against All Enemies, End Game, Soft Targets, High Treason, Damage Control, Threat Warning, Hostage Zero, No Mercy, Nathan’s Run, At All Costs, Even Steven, Scott Free and Six Minutes to Freedom. Four of his books have been purchased or optioned for the Big Screen. In addition, John has written four screenplays for Hollywood, adapting the works of Nelson DeMille, Norman McLean and Thomas Harris. A frequent speaker at literary events, John also teaches seminars on suspense writing techniques at a wide variety of venues, from local libraries to The Smithsonian Institution. Outside of his writing life, John is a renowned safety expert with extensive knowledge of explosives, weapons systems, hazardous materials, and fire behavior. John lives in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia.

14 thoughts on “Doing Good Radio

  1. Thanks, John. This a great advice. I’m going to print out this one and put it in my Speaking Engagements folder. Good luck with your radio show.

    • There are earphones, and there are earphones. When I’m Zooming from home, I use wired ear buds because they give me a side tone that allows me to hear myself as I’m heard by others. Also, there’s a risk of reverb if you use an external mic and computer audio.

  2. Terrific advice, John. Thanks!

    “The best interviews are with people who tell the stories behind the stories.” – Yes! What people remember the most are the anecdotes and insider info the author shares.

    “Be sure to send along a synopsis of the story, along with a short bio.” – In addition, when promoting an event (author appearance, book talk, conf, etc.), provide the host with a “cheat sheet” of who, what, when, where, why, and how. They can repeat that info through the interview, further reinforcing the message to listeners.

  3. I prep for book events by creating a check list of possible questions for the host, if things bog down. A typical list runs to 2 pages. My 8 favorite questions:

    ⎕ How was the book begun?
    ⎕ How would you sum up your MC in 20 words or fewer?
    ⎕ If you weren’t an author, what would your ideal career be?
    ⎕ For creativity, who or what are your muses?
    ⎕ Insofar as your book has a “message,” what is it?
    ⎕ What’s your favorite story about writers or writing?

  4. Great tips, John. I’ve done a few podcast interviews, and I was advised to keep a bottle of water handy. Also, someone suggested dropping a cough drop into the water.

  5. Wonderful tips, John. Like Kay, I’ve done a few podcast interviews. I agree about having water or tea/coffee nearby. Mentally rehearsing the likely questions is a great idea. I’ll be doing an interesting format in a few weeks at an online convention where myself and another of the Guests of Honor, my friend David D. Levine, will be interviewing each other, so we’ll each get to ask and answer questions.

  6. Great post, John!

    I especially like this: Let your enthusiasm for the project sell the book for you.

    Along with Not Tooting Your Own Horn too much, it occurs to me that if I don’t show that I’m excited about my baby, why should other folks be excited?


    • Broadcast interviews don’t sell books so much as they sell the authors who write them. People think, if the creator is entertaining, then the book must be entertaining, too.

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