author-interviewsOur thanks to media relations expert and award-winning author Christina Hamlett for this guest post! Photo courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. The following year, he formed the first telephone company and even found time to fall in love and get married. Perhaps the only thing he regrets is giving his phone number to the media which proceeded to call him incessantly and ask what he was going to invent next.

All right, that last part isn’t exactly true. Still, there’s no escaping the fact that the phone is an indispensable tool for magazine/newspaper/website interviewers seeking background info about an author’s upcoming book or for podcast/radio show hosts wanting to book a remote guest’s ‘presence’ on their program.

The convenience of being heard but not seen gives both parties the freedom to follow script-notes, look things up and even engage in quiet multi-tasking activities totally unrelated to the call. I once, for instance, finished addressing my Christmas cards when it became apparent that the glacially slow-talking restaurateur I was recording on Line 1was intent on reading aloud the entire dinner menu (even though I reminded him it was posted on the website right in front of me).

Despite some of the advantages of invisibility that a phone call provides, they’re often cancelled out – and usually by the interviewees themselves – when there arises a quirky insistence on inappropriate disclosures. Is it to forge a more personal connection with the party they can’t see or does common sense just get put on hold the more casual the ‘meeting’ environment?

Yes, we live in a world where Hollywood and 24/7 tweeting have collectively made TMI the rule rather than the exception, but would you really want the media’s first impressions of your personality as a published author to be influenced by any of the following:

            “Hold on a sec. I’m just getting off the can.” (combined with audible toilet flushing)

            “Oh, was that today? Wow, I must be drunker than I thought.”

            “Let me go grab a towel. I just got out of the shower.”

            “Can I put you on speaker-phone? I’m changing a stinky diaper.”

            “Sorry I’m kinda loopy. I have no idea what’s in these meds…”

            “Can you hear me okay? I’m sitting in the back of my closet.”

While doofy revelations like these are more likely to occur in the setting of a home-based enterprise – and writers being the ultimate definition of a solopreneur – one of my more unusual phone interviews came in the form of a story I was doing about the vice president of a regional savings and loan. She effusively opened the conversation with the news that it was her first week back at the office following the birth of her second child. “This company has absolutely the greatest maternity leave policies,” she told me, “and don’t even get me started on its fantastic daycare program for employees.”

Following my congratulations about her new little bundle of joy, I proceeded to dive into my questions about the challenges facing today’s first-time home buyers trying to secure financing in a troubled economy.

“Can I put you on hold for just a second?” she asked after a moment.

I assumed she was being interrupted to sign an important document or respond to a time-sensitive question that only someone at her executive level was qualified to address.

“Okay, that’s better,” she said when she came back on the line. “I’m breastfeeding and had to switch to my other boob.”

To be honest, that was quite a lot more than I – or anyone else – really needed to know.

In short, if someone wants to do a phone interview about your new book, there are five simple rules to follow:

  • Dress as you would for an in-person chat. (You really wouldn’t wear ratty sweats and bunny slippers, would you?)
  • Sit up straight and don’t rush your answers.
  • Stay on message. Seriously.
  • For radio/podcast shows, never interrupt the host. Nor should you say, “As I said before” or reference the current date, the reason being that unless the show is live, you don’t know if you’ll be edited or when your segment will air.
  • Most importantly, keep the flow conversational but never treat it like a chatty gabfest with your bestie.

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5 thoughts on “Phoning it In: 5 Simple Rules for an Author Interview!

  • October 13, 2014 at 6:40 pm
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    Thanks all for the lovely comments! Another one of the weird stories I forgot to share was about a media colleague who kept hearing a strange clicking noise during a radio interview. Her technicians determined that it had to be coming from the interviewee’s side. At the commercial break, she asked him if he could possibly identify what was making the sound. He informed her that he was clipping his toenails. “Why are you doing that during the interview?” she asked. “It’s radio,” he nonchalantly replied. “No one can see what I’m doing.”

    As for Marylee’s question, it’s important to stress at the start of the group session that participants should only speak one at a time and not interrupt one another. The very first time this rule is broken, simply speak up and remind them that you’d like to be able to hear from each of them – just not all at once. I’ve found that after the first reminder, they tend to police each other and prevent future interruptions. Let me know if that works.

  • October 13, 2014 at 1:29 pm
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    Great post, Christina. An often overlooked part of an author’s ‘persona’ is how they come across
    on radio. I especially give a tip of the hat to your first point about dressing for success – because it translates across the airwaves to a more confident interview. Voice acting and media training can help tremendously but dressing the part and bringing your ‘ A ‘ game to the microphone will serve you well – every time. Don’t be boring. You can hear a smile.

    It is proven that people retain MORE of what is said in a radio interview vs. TV. Images distract.

    Watch a cartoon or animated movie – voice is everything. (Robin Williams was a master at it!) The VOICE is a powerful and persuasive instrument.

    Practice sound bites or as another Hamlet once said, ‘brevity is the soul of wit.’

  • October 13, 2014 at 1:16 pm
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    Christina,

    Wow! It’s unbelievable the inappropriate things folks will share in a business setting.

    Thanks for reminding us those important rules of giving a telephone interview. My favorite is the first one since it sets the stage for all the rest. The importance of dressing as you would for an in-person chat may seem of little importance, but it definitely influences the way we feel and behave during that phone interview.

  • October 13, 2014 at 12:53 pm
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    Excellent post. Thank you for these tips. I’m hoping that my novel, MONTPELIER TOMORROW, will interest book groups. As with any conference call, I’m anticipating that it might be hard to follow the thread of a conversation. Any tips phone-in strategies for groups?

    • October 13, 2014 at 6:43 pm
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      Marylee – Brava on the new book! If a feature interview with You Read It Here First (http://fromtheauthors.wordpress.com/) would help with the PR shoutout, feel free to drop me a note at authorhamlett@cs.com and let’s start a conversation about it. You Read It Here First reaches a global audience and there’s absolutely no charge for authors to participate. (Plus I like discovering new books!)

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