Saturday, June 10, 2006

Getting Cozy with the Media

A large part of being an author, unfortunately, is promotion. I say unfortunately, because at least for me, the business side of publishing drains some of my creative energy. Writing a book is a passionate, thrilling, fulfilling mission, but the promotion side is work, and I wish I could avoid it.

The only two exceptions are book signings, and media interviews. I know there are authors who don’t care for either of these, but I enjoy both.

Book signings get me away from the computer, and into bookstores (which I love), and give me the chance to speak with readers who often share my same interests. I drink coffee, browse books, people watch – lots of fun.

And media interviews allow me to connect with other creative people: writers, journalists, television reporters. For some of these interviews I traveled to the media offices of the individual writing the article or producing the TV program. But there have been a few who wanted to be invited to my home. To see me in my “environment” – LOL.

At first, I felt having people with cameras and prying questions in my home would be an intrusion of my privacy. Besides, I’d have to clean my house! I wasn’t excited to open myself, my home, and my family up to outsiders. But I got over it pretty quickly. Everyone I’ve met has been professional and very respectful of my personal life. I found that having members of the local media in my home created a friendship and bond (admittedly a temporary one) between us. Most stayed at least two hours, and didn’t want to leave. We chatted about so many more thing than just my books. And I ended up with as many questions for them as they had for me.

With each interview, I became more relaxed and more myself. And somewhere along the line, I forgot that I agreed to do this for promotional purposes, and simply enjoyed having a conversation with a person who had similar interests to mine.

So what have I learned that I can pass on to others?

1) Set parameters ahead of time. Which rooms in your house will you allow the interviewer to see and enter? What will you allow them to photograph and what is off limits (many people say their children are off limits so if this is the case, let them know ahead of time).

2) Know the angle of the article or TV spot, and make sure you agree with it, so that the interview does not become a defensive piece.

3) Know what information you want printed. So even if the interviewer does not ask specifically about something you want to share, you will be ready to provide them with something extra. This could be the title of your next book or maybe future book events, your website, etc.

4) Dress well, but comfortably – be yourself. If you feel uptight, you won’t be able to relax and give a good interview.

5) Forget that you are in front of an audience (though not so much that you reveal something you don’t want printed, of course), and focus on the individual conducting the interview. If the exchange is between two people (rather than little you and a huge newspaper), it is usually a much friendlier and fun experience for both.

6) Keep in mind that the interviewer wants you to succeed – to give a good interview. Remember the feelings you had when you wrote your book? All the excitement? Your enthusiasm? Those special scenes that even made you cry, laugh, or left you terrified. Bring all those feelings back and share them as you discuss your book. If you make their job easier, they will remember and be willing to seek you out in the future.

7) Have fun! This is your chance to share your baby with the world.

I’m not a media expert, but these are a few things that have helped me. So there you have it . . . Becoming a Great Interviewee in 7 Easy Steps (couldn’t quite get to 10). Now go give a great interview!


Nancy Herkness said...

Lara, that is such great advice about thinking of an interview as a conversation between you and the reporter. I find that fairly easy to do with print reporters but I still have a hard time when I'm doing a live television or radio interview. I figure the print reporter will do a bit of editing but the live interviews don't allow coverups of any nervous blithering I might do.

One question: you mention finding out the angle of the interview. How do you do it? I've never had much luck getting that information. Sometimes the reporter doesn't know until he/she has interviewed me and sometimes I find that he/she doesn't really want to say. Mostly, I haven't had a problem with the slant but there was one extremely traumatic experience with the New York Post.

Candice Gilmer said...

Thanks for the great post! My first book is coming out this summer, and though I don't know that I'll be doing any live media, (print or radio), it's good to see this stuff before hand.

(Especially the thing about photographing the children... There are so many reasons why I woudln't want my child photographed...)

Thanks! :)

LaraRios said...

You're welcome Candice. Good luck with your first book! It's always exciting when you have a book coming out, but the first is always extra special : )

Nancy, I always ask the reporter what the article will be about so that I can better prepare. One told me she would be writing about women who work out of their home. Another told me they highlight locals and it would be mostly about the book, but would focus on how I'm trying to reach minority readers. I knew from that, that the conversation might wind its way into the immigration problems, so I prepared myself ahead of time, knowing what I would say and wouldn't say about the issue.

And I know what you mean about live TV or radio. I have a more difficult time with this as well.

Allison Brennan said...

Great list, Lara. I had one interview in my house and we sat at my kitchen table because it's bright and airy. I had a photographer who wanted me in the kitchen because of the "mom of five" thing. It was the hook of the article.