This is an excerpt of Elizabeth Austen’s Q&A in Everyday Book Marketing, in which she talks about radio interviews. For more book promo information, and to read Elizabeth’s complete Q&A, check out Everyday Book Marketing.
Elizabeth Austen is the author of Every Dress a Decision, a finalist for the Washington State Book Award, and two chapbooks, The Girl Who Goes Alone and Where Currents Meet. Her poems have appeared online (The Writer’s Almanac, Verse Daily), and in journals including Willow Springs, Bellingham Review, the Los Angeles Review, and the Seattle Review, and anthologies including Poets Against the War, A Face to Meet the Faces, and What to Read in the Rain. Elizabeth produces literary programming for KUOW 94.9, a Seattle NPR affiliate.
Q: What are some of the best ways an author can prepare for a live interview?
A: The most important thing is to spend some time beforehand thinking about what you want to say about your work. Imagine the interview is already over: What do you want to have said? What would you regret not saying?
Often, the person interviewing you will not have had time to read your book. So you need to be prepared with a short description of it. What’s your book about? Why did you write it—what drew you to this subject matter? Is it a departure from your previous work, and if so, in what ways? Is there an interesting story about how it got published? Also think about what you want to say about how you got started writing and why you continue to do it.
You’re essentially interviewer-proofing yourself. Hopefully you’ll get an interviewer who is genuinely interested in you and your book, and will talk with you briefly before the interview starts about what he/she wants to discuss, but you can’t depend on that.
Also, choose a couple of short excerpts or a few short poems that you might read aloud. What would provide a good introduction to the book? Practice reading aloud, and practice giving a concise introduction to what you’re going to read.
If you have time, I recommend listening online to an example or two of your interviewer’s program, so that you’ll have a sense of what to expect in terms of tone and approach. Does this interviewer tend to ask more about craft and process, or about the backstory of the book or individual poems? Is the interviewer looking for anecdotes and stories? Does it seem like the interviewer has actually read the book?
I’m a great believer in preparing for anything, and then letting go of the preparation during the interview so you can respond to what’s actually happening in the conversation. The most important thing is to be present. In the moment, approach it like you would any conversation with someone you care about—by listening and responding as honestly and generously as you can.