Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Being Interviewed (Part 8 of 12)

Here are more suggestions on writing interview questions for hosts.

1. Prepare yourself to have hosts sidetrack you with questions not on your list. Even if they start with your questions, they may segue into other areas—often peripheral—and issues you're not interested in answering.

2. When hosts ask questions you consider off topic, here's an easy way to handle that. "You know, that's an interesting question, but first let me say . . ." You go back to your topic you've been discussing. I've done that many times and not once has the host ever returned to the offbeat question.

3. Remind yourself that the hosts are not trying to sell your book. They want to entertain and educate their listeners. They interview you because you have things to say. You sell yourself and that, in turn, sells books (we hope).

4. I want to repeat: You are selling yourself not your product. If you focus on being genuine, readers will feel they know you and want to read your books.

You're not on the program to make a sales pitch. Don't be the type of guest who frequently responds with, "In chapter 19 I answer that question." Even if you go on to reply, the words come across as a blatant ad. Instead, just give the answer. They'll assume it's from your book.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Being Interviewed (Part 7 of 12)

Here are nine of the questions Don Otis included in his press kit for Katariina Rosenblatt's Stolen: The True Story of a Sex Trafficking Survivor.

At the top of the page, Don wrote: "Some say that fewer than 15 percent of human trafficking victims ever escape."

1. Who are the most vulnerable victims of sex trafficking?

2. You write that when love and affection aren't met in healthy ways within a family a person may seek them in other ways. Explain what you mean.

3. You grew up as a survivor of abuse. What happened?

4. Once a girl or boy is targeted, why are they more likely to be targeted again?

5. You say you felt God was with you even in the worst of times. Tell us about that.

6. Why do so few trafficking victims escape the life?

7. Explain what you mean by a "trauma bond."

8. How did you get out of the destructive life?

9. What advice do you give parents about keeping their kids safe?

Everything is on a single page. At the bottom, Don wrote a biographical sketch and provided a photo of Kat.


Katariina Rosenblatt, PhD, is proof of the promise she heard long ago at a Billy Graham crusade that God would never forsake her. Katariina has a PhD in conflict analysis and resolution, an LLM graduate law degree in intercultural human rights, and works closely with law enforcement agencies such as the FBI and Homeland Security to eliminate human slavery. She also founded Stolen Ones—There Is H.O.P.E. for Me, Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to freeing other victims of human trafficking. For more information, visit www.StolenOnes.com

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Being Interviewed (Part 6 of 12)

Focus on the questions for the interview. When I work with other authors, there are a few tips I offer.

1. Don't use yes-or-no questions. Once asked, you mumble the single word and the question is over.

2. Ask open-ended questions. Especially ask the kind that will enable you to tell a brief story. (By brief, I mean about 30 seconds on a story.)

The most obvious questions to elicit stories are:

* Why did you write this book?

* What was the most significant lesson you learned from your experience (or book)?

* What do you want readers to learn from your book?

* How did writing this book change your life?

3. Ask questions that will show your humanity and not only your successes. People identify with writers who fail (even repeatedly) before they finally win.

After writing Aging Is an Attitude, in my questions to the host, one of them was, "Why did you write this book?”

Here's my answer: "I was getting older and I didn’t like it. The ads on TV showed older adults as diseased, constipated, or not very bright. I wanted to discover the good things about getting older. And there are many."

Those last four words usually led the host into following up with, "What are some of the advantages of aging?"

I said I asked 100 people over 50 to give me one positive fact about aging—hoping I'd get at least a dozen responses. Every person responded, often with several good answers.

Did you notice that the why question led to a story and so did the follow-up question? Stories are strong. Use them as much as you can.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Being Interviewed (Part 5 of 12)

Prepare for the interview.

The first thing you need is to write a list of questions for the media. Most publicists will write questions for you—and you'll be able to tweak or correct them.

Or you can do some kind of collaboration. For example, a publicist may see ways to promote your book that you hadn't considered. Or you may want to focus on a significant aspect that the professional missed.

In my early days, I prepared 20 to 25 questions and realized that hosts rarely moved past the first dozen, even if they went right down the line with the questions. Half that number is where I now focus. That is, I try to write sharp, significant questions and emphasize the message I want readers to get from my book.

I rarely write questions on books for which I collaborate, because I don't seek interviews for myself. However, Don Otis, a publicist, is setting up interview questions for Stolen: The True Story of a Sex Trafficking Survivor by Katariina Rosenblatt and Cecil Murphey (Revell, 2014). Because I think that's such a powerful book, I'm willing to do interviews. But that's the exception.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Being Interviewed (Part 4 of 12)

Let's say you choose to hire a publicist. How do you find a good one?

Go online or ask your friends. Ask your editor. Your agent will certainly know a few.

After making contact, ask what services they provide, how long you must contract for, and what it will cost. In a previous post, I pointed out the wide diversity of pricing. Paying more money doesn't always mean better service or coverage. It may mean some PR firms charge more because they contract with writers who willingly pay their fees.

Ask their specialty, even though most of them refer to themselves as full-service firms. One PR firm does nothing but radio, which is shrinking. In a town of 250 people, a radio interview might not amount to much coverage. So having 30 small-town radio stations may not be as effective as 12 metro areas. (I write may because it's difficult to quantify.)

Another PR firm does radio and TV (and the TV market is also shrinking).

A few offer blog tours. That is, they help secure interviews online with bloggers. Most of those I know write their own questions for you to respond with the answers and they display them on their blogs.

In case you're wondering, I didn't include book signings. Unless you arrange some special event along with it, you're already well-known, or you have some way to widely promote the event, most signings in bookstores have little effect.

You might hire a publicist.
The good ones can provide marketing opportunities.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Being Interviewed (Part 3 of 12)

The press kit. That's a fancy way of saying you send a copy of the book, a set of questions, and a short bio to media hosts. Don't send too much. Do you want to turn off a host? If so, enclose 35 pages of glowing reports from your friends and relatives that insist you are the best writer in 50 years.

I suggest you produce a brief piece—no more than two paragraphs—to explain the concept of your novel or nonfiction book. If you do that, ask yourself: What's in this for the reader? Why will they care?

Let your brief copy answer those questions.

In a future blog, I'll give you tips on the questions. For now, I want to point out the cost of the press kit. Your publisher will likely give you from 10 to 50 books free. (If you hire a publicist that person will ask for and probably receive a free case of your books from the publisher).

You not only need to figure out who those prospective interviewers are, but you have to mail them your press kit. Printing a set of questions, preferably on one page, won't be expensive. You may want to spend a little extra to have a sharp bio with a color photo of yourself and contact information. It's worth hiring a professional to help you get a first-class bio.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Being Interviewed (Part 2 of 12)

One of the advantages of publishing with a royalty-paying house is not only that you get your book inside the stores, but media hosts are more likely to interview you. Many hosts have a policy against interviewing authors of self-published books. That's a reality, and even though they might make concessions, don't count on it.

If you self-publish, the total burden for marketing is your responsibility. That's why few authors make it big on their own. It's a lot of work and almost a full-time job.

If you're with a traditional house, their promoting your book will be limited in time (possibly three months) and certainly in scope and money. Remind yourself: Whatever they do is never enough. You need to work with publishers, and then do what they don't do, won't do, or say they can't do.

And radio interviews are an easy first step for newly published writers.

If you can afford it, hire a publicist. Their rates vary from about $500 a month upward to $3,000 a month—and some may be even more expensive. They usually contract with you for three to six months. Rarely do they go longer. By then, they have contacted all their resources.

If you can't hire a publicist, you'll have to figure out how to get your press kit to the channels and stations for interviews. (My next blog entry is about press kits.)