By Gregg Sullivan
One of the most effective and inexpensive means to garner publicity for your book is through radio or television interviews. While a great number of methods and approaches can be employed, here are some basic steps for you to follow.
The first and most important step is to contact the correct people. In radio and TV, producers and hosts—the people in charge of booking—are always changing positions and jobs. So make sure your contact list is up-to-date. If you don't have a reliable source, simply call the station's main line and verify your contact.
Next, know your audience. If your book covers politics, the standard Howard Stern-type "zoo" radio program is clearly not as appropriate as a topical National Public Radio show. Or, if you've written a small mystery novel, you might try your local TV station rather than banking on a Good Morning America interview. There are great books at the library that list all of the different radio and TV shows around the nation. Use these books for research, create a contact list, and base your promotion efforts around this list.
Once your contacts are selected, this is how to approach them.
Don't just send the producers or hosts a standard press release about the book with a "the author is available for interviews" note. Think about what you can successfully discuss about the catchiest and most appealing aspects of the book. Put together a letter or "interview advisory" with a prominent headline and let the producer know what the author has to offer. A good advisory should explain everything your contact needs to know about you and your book at-a-glance. One effective approach is to use bullet points. Line up information in a sharp and easily accessible way (eliminating the potential loss of key points while a producer "scans" a paragraph). Finally, make sure to prominently display your contact information—let them know how to contact you. If they contact you, be lively and lucid on the phone. This is often a preinterview, a test as to what kind of guest you will be. Remember, they are booking you, not the book.
The next question is when to send. Most broadcast publicity is centered near a book's publication date, but different producers work on different lead times. Keeping these facts in mind, you should always send your advisory as early as possible. In general, mailing four weeks in advance is a good bet. And, if budget allows, it's a good idea to send the book with the press material to TV outlets. The nature of TV requires more preparation, and sending the book can speed up the process.
Finally, you should follow up. Call the producers. Only call the host if there is no producer for that particular show. Ask whether they have received the materials and are interested. Many times, an unforeseen opportunity will arise in this conversation, allowing you to add a piece of information that opens the door to book the interview on the spot. For example, if the author was born in the station's city, the producer will many times have more incentive to book the interview.
Your ability to book a radio interview or TV appearance depends on how well you're able to sell yourself. Leave no stone unturned, but never, never hound your contacts. And don't waste their time! If they don't get back to you after three attempts, write them off and concentrate on your other outlets.