In November 2014, I was interviewed by Anthony Sanna on Kootenay Morning about an upcoming indie publishing workshop I was teaching and about the latest book in the Warpworld series. A few weeks after that interview, Anthony emailed and asked if I wanted to “play on the radio” with him every Friday as the new Kootenay Morning co-host. I happily accepted.
In a very short time I’ve learned volumes about the wonderful world of radio. With so much focus on online marketing and promotion for authors, I realized that we often overlook radio as an effective way to reach our potential audience.
I asked my co-host, Anthony, if I could pick his brain about the ins and outs of radio interviews for authors. I’ve been sworn to make it clear that he is by no means a radio expert (all KCR hosts are volunteers), but in his “real life” Anthony knows plenty about marketing and promotion—something many authors struggle with.
Here’s the talk we had about radio interviews for authors…
Kristene: Why should authors bother with radio?
Anthony: I taught a workshop a couple of years ago, talking to business folks about what they could do to market themselves, and the advice I gave them was to start telling stories. Stories are a way to bridge a gap in a relationship, to connect. That’s what radio offers authors—a chance to tell their story, or the story behind the story, and connect with listeners and potential readers.
On air, you’re speaking to the host of the show but you also have an audience out there. When you’re telling your personal story, that helps the audience connect to you, it makes you seem more human.
Kristene: Which could be enough to interest someone in reading your book?
Anthony: Absolutely. It’s also the simplest thing you can do. Being interviewed is the best way to bridge the gap of, “I’m a total stranger and, oh my god, I’m so nervous about being on the radio, and I’ve never met this person before, but I’m going to tell you this interesting story about working with my publisher for the first time, or when the cat peed on my manuscript, or…”. Whatever it is, you’ve got a story to share and that’s a connection.
Kristene: Let’s talk about that first step. How does an author approach a radio station for an interview?
Anthony: Speaking from my experience as a producer at Kootenay Co-Op Radio, I’m always looking for stories and events to highlight in the community. You can send a press release, you can email me, or you can knock on the station door and say, “Hey, I’m an author and I just published this book about _____ (whatever the book is about) and I’m looking to promote it. Is this something your listeners would be interested in?” Or, if you’re a non-fiction author, “Hi, I’m a _______ (subject you’re an expert in) and I’ve written a book about it. Would your listeners be interested in learning about that?” Or, “I’m a quadriplegic and I’ve written a book. Would listeners be interested in my story?”
An interview doesn’t always have to be about the book. What’s the story about writing the story? What’s so exciting about you that it will make people interested in hearing what you have to say?
Kristene: Good point. Your book may not immediately appeal to a wide cross section of the population but the story behind the book, your story, may be exciting and may make people want to read what you’ve written.
Anthony: Bill Moore is a local fellow who I’m working with now. Bill is legally blind. He’s got peripheral vision out of one eye, the other one’s not there, and he wrote a book—Yellow Dog Coming, a psychological thriller. And when Bill knocks on doors to promote his work he’ll say, “Hi, my name is Bill, I’m 70, I’m blind, and I wrote this really scary book! Did I mention I’m blind?” For him, that’s a hook.
Kristene: Find your hook and work it.
Anthony: I’m not suggesting people need to poke out their eye or anything…
Kristene: No! Don’t do that. But I hear what you’re saying. I will often open with, “Hi, I’m Kristene and I’m a former professional stunt performer.” That immediately gets people’s attention. Far more attention than, “Hi, I’m Kristene and I wrote a book.”
Anthony: When I read that of you, the first time you were on the show, I thought, “Gosh, she was a stunt person and she writes? I’ve got to talk to this woman!” Your bio was exciting. As a producer, I believe if I’m really curious about something the listener is going to be just as curious.
Kristene: That’s an important point because we always ask for bios from our guests on the show, as a means to introduce them. Almost everyone struggles with this but a great bio sells.
Anthony: An author bio should make a good first impression. It needs to tell a story and arouse curiosity. Something that prompts the producer (or anyone who reads it), to say, “This person sounds really interesting. Not your average human.” And a bio can be a place to insert a touch of literary muscle.
Kristene: This leads me to what kinds of emails, press releases, or stories will catch a producer’s attention?
Anthony: It depends on which producer you contact and which station. Kootenay Morning is a current affairs show for the Kootenays, so I’m looking for local appeal or local authors.
Kristene: Know your market and do some research first?
Anthony: Yes, do some research on who you want to talk to. That could be as simple as calling the radio and saying, “Hi, my name is Kristene, I’m a local author interested in promoting my book, who is it at the radio station that you think I could talk to? I’m looking for opportunities.”
Podcasts are little different. Radio is broadcasting—your voice goes out over the air and hits everyone. Podcasting has a very select audience. Instead of broadcasting, it’s “narrow casting”. But podcasts can also have very loyal followers.
Kristene: In other words, before you even send a press release or an email, look at the subject matter of your book, look at your own story, and look at what the markets are.
Anthony: Yes. The idea is to leverage somebody else’s audience. This is a technique many online marketers use. If you’ve written a book about effective time management and productivity and I have a blog with 20,000 followers and a podcast about entrepreneurs, you may not know my audience but you can be fairly sure that your audience lives in my audience.
Radio or podcast, look at it as a joint venture—I have a book that I think your listeners will be interested in. Instead of approaching the radio station or podcaster with, “Hey, I’ve got this book and I want you to help me”, you say, “Hey, I’ve got this cool book and I think your listeners would like to hear about it. How can I help you get this on the air?”
Consider who the end audience is. That’s the way a bigger producer might pay attention to you.
Kristene: If you were going to go after the big fish, then you would really want to know the content of the show, the listeners, and what you could bring of value.
Anthony: Sure, but as to going after the big fish, I’m not sure every author has the guts to do that and I’m not sure it’s something they need to even worry about. Think of it this way, we’re a co-op radio station and we’ve got an audience of…
Anthony: Ha! Well, Nelson is a city of ten thousand people and there are four radio stations here. There’s CBC, which everybody listens to. Then there’s the other two, which people flip back and forth between during commercials. And then there’s us. Somebody’s listening. An audience is an audience.
Plus, let’s say I’m an author and you’re the radio host. You being you, the way I know you, you get all excited about something and suddenly Facebook blows up with, “Oh my god, I just read this cool book that Anthony wrote!” And then everyone else sees it. Word of mouth becomes “world of mouth” by doing simple things, like approaching a small radio station with a small audience.
People who read, that’s your audience. If they’re listening to talk radio, odds are they read.
Kristene: Pretty much every Canadian author I know listens to the CBC or talk radio of some sort.
Anthony: You don’t have to shoot really high for the bigger stations. There was an author I was working with in Vancouver who wrote a book about baseball, about the Yankees. I encouraged him to go to CFAX 1070, which is a very popular talk radio station in Victoria, where he lives. He said, “Why would they want to talk to me? I just wrote about baseball.” I said, “They want to talk to you because you’re an author in Victoria and you wrote this book about the Yankees. Isn’t that cool? Small town boy writes about the Yankees!”
Kristene: Did he do it?
Anthony: He did. He got some notoriety from that and it’s totally possible for him to continue on that train with other small stations. We do phone interviews on our show all the time. You don’t actually have to be across the microphone from somebody in a studio, you can do it through your phone. You can approach stations anywhere.
Kristene: What are some of the don’ts when it comes to approaching radio producers or podcasts?
Anthony: Don’t be a dick.
Kristene: Wheaton’s Law.
Anthony: Check your spelling—you’re a writer. Also, anything you would do when approaching a publicist you would do the same when you approach a radio station or podcaster. You’re approaching a total stranger who has time constraints, so whatever you can do to make their job easier is helpful. Offer a compelling story.
I recently read the press release that came out for Amanda Bath’s book Disaster in Paradise, about the landslide at Johnson’s Landing. The first paragraph? I was crapping my pants thinking, “Oh my god! 320,000 tons of stuff flowing down a hill! Who died?” It was a super cinematic first paragraph; I had to read the rest of the press release. Actually, I just wanted to read the damn book. That’s what it made me do.
This is where an author has the opportunity to be good at what they do in front of a producer.
Kristene: Use your storytelling ability to sell yourself.
Anthony: And do it in a way where you’re putting your best into it. Set your intention: “I really believe this is the right audience for Kristene’s listeners, I’m going to write from that perspective, I’m going to meditate on that, I’m going to send this thing, and I’m not going to have any expectations.”
Conversely, anyone with marketing training will tell you that you need to connect with somebody six times before they’ll pay attention and they’ll listen to you, before you can make a sale. If you approach somebody once and you get no response, you can enquire again, “Hey did you get my email?” Don’t do it the next day. Do it the next week or even a couple of weeks. Or find out what their turn-around time is. Or, “Hey, I’m sending something to you, is it okay that I follow up with you? When would be a good time to do that?”
Kristene: From my experience—both for my own work and with organizations I’ve been involved with—if I throw out a bunch of press releases to various media outlets, a good response will be 25 – 50%. I think you have to be realistic about how many people will actually respond.
Anthony: One of the things I learned through sales training and reading over the years is that sales really is a numbers game. For every 20 people you talk to, 1 person is going to say yes. So when the first person says “No”, you say “YES!” because that means you only have 19 more people to go. And when the next person says “No” you say “YES!” because you’re that much closer to a sale. It’s total psychological BS that sales trainers put you through to motivate you to keep talking and to know that not everybody’s going to say yes, but eventually somebody will say yes.
It’s just knocking on that door, knocking on that door, don’t be a dick but…
Kristene: Keep knocking on that door.
So I’m an author, I’ve emailed you my press release or interview request and, wow, you said yes! I’m going to come in for my interview and I’ve never done this before. How can I prepare? How can I come in feeling confident?
Anthony: Nerves are a big problem for lots of guests. When someone comes in and sits down in front of that microphone, they might as well be standing on a stage in front of 300 people…
Kristene: With a firing squad in front of them.
Anthony: And with their pants on fire. All that at once. They’re scared. But the thing I say to them is that they’re the expert. They know more about their subject than anybody else in the room. So, even if they’re nervous, they just need to stay on topic. Authors just need to talk about what they know, which is absolutely everything to do with their story and the process of writing their book.
Practice your networking soft skills. I find if I make the effort to act almost like a superhero, to act like I really know what I’m talking about, if I start “up”, with lots of energy, then things go well from there.
Kristene: Yes, come in to the interview with energy. That makes a big difference.
Anthony: We’ve had guests that come in “down”, which means we have to lift the energy a thousand times more and carry it through the show.
Don’t come in tired. Don’t come in hungover. Make that good first impression. When you’ve got that microphone in front of you and the host says, “How are you doing today?” don’t give a tiny church mouse response. Say, “Great, Kristene! I’m a little nervous, but I’m here!” Put some life in your voice.
Kristene: Remember the listeners.
Anthony: The listeners are out there. The energy needs to carry out. That first impression is going to give people so much information. As long as you have some life in your tone, people will listen. But if you’re a soggy diaper right out of the gate, they’re going change the channel.
Kristene: Something else I’ve noticed from my time here is that often the people who come with a ton of notes have the least interesting interviews because they’re so focused on the notes. The people who come with a few notes for reference but who know their subject and come to have a conversation and talk to us and interact with us, that makes a big difference.
Anthony: Yes. I once interviewed a woman who was so nervous you could literally hear the paper shaking over the air. With every question I asked her, I could see her eyes scanning the page, looking for the answer. I did not give her that question in advance. I don’t give anybody questions in advance. But she was looking for the answer because she was so nervous and so uncomfortable in her own skin.
What makes a difference is the soft skills of how you interact before the interview, the high energy you keep during the interview, and the realization that the only person you’re talking to, literally, is the person in front of you. You’re not talking to “thousands of people”, you’re talking to Kristene.
Kristene: The other thing I’ve noticed is that we tend to plan very open ended questions. Our hope is always that the person we’re talking to will take the ball and run with it. So a radio interview is one of the few places you really don’t have to worry about being a chatterbox because we want you to talk. A simple question can lead to a much bigger answer, we just open the door. That would be one of my pieces of advice, just GO! Talk!
Anthony: Bad radio is when you listen and it’s 80/20. That means 80% of the time the interviewer is talking and 20% of the time the guest talking. Know that while you’re there you might as well be the queen. Everyone is there to make you the star. Go in knowing that you’ll get a lot of “So what was that like for you?” and then the interviewer will shut up. In fact, that’s one of the most common questions you’ll get. The interviewer(s) want you to talk.
Kristene: Yes, unless they’re giving you the “hand slicing across the throat” signal, talk, talk, talk!
Anthony: There will always be time constraints but trust that you’re in capable hands and the interviewer is going to help to get the best of you out on front of people. It will be the best conversation you’ve ever had.
Kristene: And you might just win over a few new readers!
Thanks to Anthony for sharing his thoughts on radio and marketing for authors. If you have any questions, feel free to drop them in the comments. I’d also love to hear any of your radio/podcast tips!
What do you get when you mix the 5th born dyslexic son of Sardinian immigrants with a wicked sense of humour and lousy math skills? You get Anthony Sanna, the producer and host of Kootenay Morning, Fridays on Kootenay Co-Op Radio.
Anthony is also an online marketing smarty pants specializing in YouTube video production, email marketing for business, web development strategy, social media community management, radio program production, audio editing, digital photography, copy-writing, and more.
In his spare time, Anthony likes to wear nice sweaters.