THE BLOG
09/09/2013 10:10 pm ET Updated Nov 09, 2013

"Do Not Snort on NPR" and Other Tips for Successful Author Radio Interviews

While most authors fantasize about being on TV whenever we're not dreaming that someday we'll see royalties equal to even half of those earned by that lucky sod, 50 Shades of Grey author E.L. James, we're far more likely to land on the radio. Don't knock it. Radio is a wonderful way to get the word out about your book or events.

It might seem less scary to be on the radio than on television--after all, you don't have to worry about what to wear or the camera adding a hundred pounds (no, that wasn't a typo). However, in some ways television interviews are actually less weird. For one thing, we're accustomed to talking face-to-face with people and reading their body language. For another, you're not subjected to those weird call-in questions or comments on TV. When I published my first book, The Gerbil Farmer's Daughter: A Memoir, I was on NPR when one man called to say he'd loved his pet gerbil so much that he tried to perform CPR on it when it was dying. All I could think was, "Oh, please dear God, don't let me snort on public radio, let me be compassionate and dignified instead of hooting like a howler monkey across the airwaves." I managed, but barely.

Here are a few easy things you can do to prepare for a radio interview that will help you not only get through it, but enjoy it:

Before the radio show, be clear on the details: the name of the radio station, the host's name and the interview time. Use social media to let everyone know when you'll be on air.

Prepare your mind. Some hosts will provide questions before the interview. If not, ask what they might want you to talk about, and write out some answers on note cards to have handy in case you freeze on air.

Move things along. Once you've written the answers out, take another set of note cards and just write phrases on them instead of full sentences. That way, you won't be tempted to read like a robot on air. Practice the answers before the interview. Oh, and keep the answers short. The radio host will want to move you through topics quickly.

Use a land line. Most radio shows will want you to call in on a land line, not a cell phone, about ten minutes before the appointed interview hour. You'll have to listen to the start of the radio show and perhaps some music before the host welcomes you.

Prepare your body. Be sure to take care of all bodily functions beforehand: pee, sip water, eat a snack, blow your nose. Have a glass of water handy in case you start to cough during the interview.

Make the call from the quietest room in your house. Put noisy barking dogs in another room. If you have children, make it clear ahead of time that they're not to interrupt you unless the house is on fire or somebody is unconscious.

Forget about pimping your book. No audience wants to hear that. Think about what topic might be interesting to your audience and provide them with interesting information or entertainment. Nobody will want your book if you sound like a commercial, but if you come across as likeable, they just might. At the very end of the show, you can jump in with your web site or book event, but that's it.

When it's over, it's over. Most importantly, remember that it's one radio interview. If you fall on your face, most people won't remember the interview for long. Or, if they do, it'll be because you were really entertaining, and that's the whole point of radio!

Subscribe to the Culture Shift email.
Get your weekly dose of books, film and culture.