10 Tips to Master an Interview
All self-publishing authors should be well-prepared to give interviews, especially within local media
circles, whether it be local radio stations, local newscasts, or local newspapers (yes, they still exist!).
Regardless of if your author interview occurs in writing (email/blog interviews), over the phone, or in-
person in front of a microphone, camera, or journalist, the ability to speak articulately about you and your
book pays endless dividends. These tips will help.
1. Anything you say during an interview can be recorded, so choose your words wisely. Off-color jokes
may be entertaining in context, but taken out of context can shed a negative light on your image. Try
to ensure nothing you say can be misinterpreted.
2. There is no “off the record.” Even if the interviewer or journalist honors that particular disclaimer,
things you say “off the record” still paint a particular “picture” for the interviewer, which will reveal
itself within the slant of the piece or from other questions when the “record” is turned back on.
3. Don’t use acronyms, confusing terminology, or jargon. Your book may be very complex or scientific,
but that doesn’t mean you have to be. Demonstrate your intelligence and proficiency in your subject
matter by “translating” those confusing terms and concepts so the lay-man can understand it, too. If
you absolutely must use a term that few people will understand, be sure to define/describe it.
4. Identify three key points you want to convey during the course of the interview. Prioritize them like
this: The most important point falls at the end of the interview, the second most important point falls
at the start of the interview, and the third most important point falls somewhere in the middle.
5. A popular writing adage is “Show, don’t tell.” Show the interviewer (and the subsequent audience)
how your book will entertain/educate them through a personal story or analogy. This is much more
effective than telling them to simply buy your book. Providing items on your show (like posters of your
book cover, or giveaway copies of your book itself) can reward listeners and will add to their interest
level and to the over-all value you bring to the program, which may result in an invitation for an encore
6. Write down ten potential interview questions. Make the questions a part of your media kit, your book
club kit, your virtual book club kit. Many interviewers may just ask your questions verbatim (less work
for them), or may ask a slightly paraphrased version of them. There’s nothing quite as comforting as
answering an interview question you wrote yourself. Some examples include: “What motivated you
to write this book?” “What are the names of some authors or books that have inspired you?” “What
did you find to be the most challenging part of writing the book?” “What can readers expect to take
away from the book?”
7. If you’re preparing for a local interview on-camera, ask the producer in advance what to wear. He or
she will have recommendations that prevent you from “disappearing” into the background, and
avoiding that “shimmering/blinking” effect if you accidently wear plaid. Ask if you can offer a free
signed copy or copies of the book to their viewers and if they have the logistic capability of delivery or
if you’d have to handle that yourself. Bring additional copies as “props” while on the set. The producer
may recommend an appropriate amount.
8. If you’re preparing for a local interview on a local radio broadcast, be familiar with the personality of
the show beforehand by listening to the program first. Be aware of the personality of the DJ’s. Being
prepared for an interview on NPR would be drastically different than preparing for an interview with
Howard Stern. Again, ask the producer about the possibility of offering a signed copy or two as
9. Many interviews with journalists nowadays occur either via email or telephone. Preparing for an
emailed interview is easy – just be sure to beat your deadline, but at least you have time to word
everything perfectly (you’re a writer, after all). Telephone interviews take a bit more tact because the
words out of your voice and the inflection of your voice is all the interviewee has to draw a picture of
you and your book. Make sure your words resonate and your voice sings. And in all cases, emphasize
your status as a local author if you’re at a local media outlet.
10. No matter where/how your interview takes place, know your subject like the back of your hand and
then practice, practice, practice. Practice answering those ten questions in front of a mirror. And then
practice answering those questions in front of a friend or family member. Try to avoid reading your
answers. Have them memorized. As the Roman philosopher Seneca reminds us: “Luck is what happens
when preparation meets opportunity.”