Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Guest Post: Talking Books: Promoting Your Work on Radio

With all of the focus on online marketing and social media, it’s easy for an author with a new book out to overlook the traditional media—especially radio.

I’m not talking about the kind of radio station that plays music all day long. I’m talking about talk shows and current affairs programs. Because the kind of person who listens to intelligent radio programming is also the kind of person who reads. Radio listeners are the types of people who might just buy your book.

So how do you get on a radio program?

First, you need to research what programs there are that are relevant to your book. Is your book a novel, and more suitable to an arts show? Or is it non-fiction, and so might fill well within a show oriented towards science or health or current affairs? In addition to the major radio shows that get national airplay, many regional shows are likely to feature local authors—both regional shows that are affiliated with a major national network, and smaller, independently owned local radio stations.

There are actually numerous radio programs that focus specifically on the arts or on books—here is a list of some of the big national ones:

CBC (Canada)
Writers and Company (weekly)
The Next Chapter (weekly)
Q (daily arts and culture show)

“Fresh Air from WHYY” (daily arts show)
(also CBC’s daily arts show “Q” on PRI as of June 2010)

ABC (Australia)
The Book Show (daily)

Open Book (daily)

Obviously, the bigger the show is, the harder it is to get on. So, if you and your work are not so well known yet, you might want to focus on the smaller regional shows for now. But you also might want to aim high and try for the big ones, too. As long as your pitch is professional, it can’t hurt to get your name out there, can it?

So how do you do that?

1. Research the show that you want to get on. Make sure your book is relevant to what that show is about—otherwise you are wasting your time.

2. Find the name of that show’s producer. Send your book and a professional press release addressed to him or her several weeks before the date that you hope to be interviewed. Make sure your phone number(s) are on the press release (you’ll see why below).

3. Find a “time hook.” The media always want stories that appear to be “timely.” The lead-time to producing a book is so long that you’d have to be pretty darn lucky to have some news event happen to coincide with your book release. So make your “time hook” yourself, by organizing an event. The producer is much more likely to say yes to your pitch if they can wrap up the interview saying “And Jacqueline will be appearing tonight, reading from her new book at the Joe Blow Café…” Suddenly, the “story” is “timely” and they are more likely to want it. (This works for newspaper interviews too).

4. Think of the medium.
Radio is about sound. It’s only partly about the words you wrote in your book (if they ask you to do a reading at all—oftentimes they won’t). And it’s not about how you look. It’s about the sound of your voice, how you put words together. Do you sound confident and interesting and fun? That’s good for radio. Do you sound bored, or do you mumble or stumble over your words? Hmm… that’s not so good for radio. So how do they know this about you? Well, if the pitch you’ve sent them interests them, they are very likely to get back to you by phone—the reason for that is because they are checking you out. They want to see how you sound. And how that phone call goes may be the clincher for them—do you sound good, or not?

5. Feel free to follow up with the producer, a week or so after they have received your package. A gentle “I just want to make sure you received..” email or phone call is fine. But don’t hound them.

OK, so let’s say you’ve got the interview. It’s easy to freak yourself out and get nervous. And that’ll make you stumble and sound bad. So don’t do that.

The radio people will be there in studio to make you feel at ease. They will explain to you how to sit, how far to be from the mic. I find it helps to drink a big glass of water right before I go on, so my throat is nice and clear. Find a comfortable position, so you can maintain a constant distance from the mic (usually leaning forward on the table is best) and so you are not rustling papers or clothing that will make distracting background sounds.

And most of all, don’t think of it as a public speech. Treat it like a private conversation with the host. This will keep you from feeling nervous, and it will also ensure that you come across sounding fluent and natural.

Jacqueline Windh is author or major contributor to four books, including the Canadian best-seller
The Wild Edge. She is also a photographer and a freelance radio broadcaster whose documentaries have played on CBC and ABC. You can find her at www.jacquelinewindh.com.


  1. Yes! I am a radio producer for a financial/economics radio station that just added a weekly arts & entertainment segment. Need someone to talk about the likelihood the Fed will hike the interest rate? I've got you covered. What's the latest cool/funny/interesting book? Yeah, not so much. So I would LOVE if more authors/agents/publishers pitched me.

    I would say about 80% of my regular bookings come from pitches, and, especially now we're starting this new segment, I'm increasingly relying on the publicity folks I know for them to alert me to something I may have missed.

  2. You make it sound so easy. I hope I get the chance to try out your advice.

  3. This is a great post about a severely undervalued resource.

    I can´t speak for the others, but ABC provides fantastic exposure for local authors.

    The ABC also has a TV book programme. First Tuesday Book Club is on , well, I guess you can guess.


    Qantas, the national airline of Australia also has interviews with writers and directors which it plays on its flights.

    I´d love to hear how people go getting promoting their stuff on the radio!

  4. This is a really good article, particularly useful for those of us from more countrified areas who are more likely to find radio stations interested in plugging us as part of local news.

  5. Wonderful article! Thank you!

    But let's not forget the lowly Blog Talk Radio - it's great for getting your feet wet, trying out your "voice," seeing what radio is like and gaining some experience.

    I myself am a host on blog talk radio -- my show is called "Artists and Ascension" and I LOVE having writers on to read their work. We do have a spiritual focus, in that it's recommended that the stories be creative non-fiction and be about some kind of spiritual awakening, or expansion of consciousness or transformative experience.

    But there are plenty of other shows on blog talk radio for authors as well.

    If you are interested in my show, here's the link: http://artists-and-ascension.com/r-y-s-a-day/

    I think any way you can build your platform and reach more people and gain experience reading aloud is great. I also have a nice chat room going and post links to authors/writers sites.

  6. Fantastic advice. And I've purchased great books because of NPR.