Advice for Authors Who Want Positive Press
By Desireé Duffy, Founder of Black Château
As an author, one of your goals for a successful book promotion strategy is securing media interviews. Talking about your book’s message to your potential readers is a vital component of your PR and marketing mix.
While every author hopes for high-profile interviews with top-tiered media outlets, ignoring local media or turning up your nose to small and mid-level opportunities, isn’t advisable.
I recently had a conversation with a fellow public relations professional—perhaps one of the most well-known book publicists in the US—Irwin Zucker, about this topic. Irwin has been doing book PR for many years and has represented some of the biggest authors of our time. He is the founder of the Book Publicists of Southern California and in 1995 the organization named their annual awards after him. Our conversation inspired this article.
I felt it important to give authors insights as to what expert PR professionals like Irwin say about snubbing media interviews.
Should Authors Turn Down Small Media Interviews?
During our conversation, Irwin told me about an author who was “turning up his nose” to radio interviews that he felt weren’t “big” enough. As colleagues, we spoke rather frankly to each other, because of the potential severe ramifications that could result. Whether the author realized it or not, his attitude could have a grave impact on his future publicity efforts.
Irwin explains it this way, “Guesting on a ‘small’ radio show is better than not guesting at all on a ‘big’ station. You simply don’t know who might be listening—and that someone might be very helpful to you, plus the potential for other surprises from that one person.”
Audience Size of a Media Outlet Is Relative
Audience size is completely relative. A podcast that focuses on fantasy with a small audience is more valuable to an author of fantasy books than a show that covers a myriad of topics, but has a larger audience. Think about who your target audience is. And like Irwin suggests, one never knows who might be listening and what surprise results could happen. One listener who picks up your book may be a social media influencer who in turn tweets about your book and opens up your market exponentially.
Today, unlike in the past, media is segmented and more specialized than ever before. There are many shows, podcasts, and outlets for media because of the internet. Because shows can be micro-focused and serve very targeted demographics, they can be far more valuable than media that casts a wide net.
Irwin adds, “Another point I’d like to make: authors should never turn down any interview being offered, no matter what the size of the station might be, because the talk show host at a small station might move on to a bigger station someday. He or she generally won’t forget your kindness in doing their ‘small’ show. And sometimes a radio host at a small station might recommend you as a guest to a buddy at a bigger station. I’ve seen it happen.”
I have seen this happen, too. As a matter of fact, I work with many producers who produce for several different shows. In some cases, they purposefully book a guest on a small show first to see how well the guest does. If they like the guest and feel they are a fit for another show, I will get a request to book the author on it, too. Every show an author goes on can open doors to others.
Authors Burning Media Bridges
I’ve also witnessed authors unnecessarily burning bridges for other reasons. This can happen without the author even knowing what transpired after they turned up their nose to an interview.
About a year ago, a podcaster posted on social media about an author who backed out of a scheduled interview because they didn’t like the subject matter the show focused on sometimes, (metaphysics and the paranormal were among the themes, as well as science and technology). The author didn’t want to be associated with metaphysics, which is certainly their prerogative. Apparently, the way they expressed their feelings was perceived as insulting to the host. Plus, they had already booked the interview and caused the host to have to find a replacement guest at the last minute.
While I can’t say how the situation actually played out, since I only heard one side, it was clearly enough to set off this host. As an author trying to get media interviews, making enemies is never a good idea. My advice to this author’s publicist would’ve been to respectfully decline (ideally prior to confirming the interview) and then find a replacement guest. Instead, something contentious apparently unfolded and that author got roasted on social media.
As an Author, You Are in Control of Which Interviews You Do
Ultimately, whether or not you want to do a particular interview is your call. No one, not your publicist, manager, or publisher, should ever force you. You may find a show to be controversial, or a network to be opposed to your core values. If you feel your personal brand is at odds with a media interview request, my best advice is to politely turn it down. You may one day find yourself with so many interview requests, that you must turn some down due to time restraints. Even then, there is no reason to be rude. And sometimes big name authors granting small interviews can be a form of publicity all by itself, similar to the high school student who landed an interview with the US Defense Secretary.
The world of media is not as wide as you may think. It is like any other industry, and people within that industry talk to one another. If a guest snubs one show, other producers and bookers for other shows could catch wind of that. No one wants to work with someone who may be perceived as high-maintenance or who might be ungrateful for the interview. You don’t want to get a bad reputation and be perceived as un-bookable. The people behind the scenes, the ones booking you and getting you exposure, hold your career in their hands. There is no reason to burn bridges in an industry as tight as media.