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Anne R. Allen's Blog


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Anne writes funny mysteries and how-to-books for writers. She also writes poetry and short stories on occasion. Oh, yes, and she blogs. She's a contributor to Writer's Digest and the Novel and Short Story Writer's Market for 2016. 

Her bestselling Camilla Randall Mystery Series features perennially down-on-her-luck former socialite Camilla Randall—who is a magnet for murder, mayhem and Mr. Wrong, but always solves the mystery in her quirky, but oh-so-polite way.

Anne lives on the Central Coast of California, near San Luis Obispo, the town Oprah called "The Happiest City in America."

Anne blogs at Anne R. Allen's Blog...with Ruth Harris 
and at Anne R. Allen's Books

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Mastering the Radio Interview: 10 Tips for Authors from a Talk Radio Host

We've got a must-read guest post for you this week. David Congalton, screenwriter and radio superstar here on the Central Coast of California, tells us how to be a good radio guest. 

Radio is still essential to book promotion in the digital age. Most car-commuters still listen to broadcast or satellite radio and the popularity of podcasts is growing. I think Dave is right that radio and books go hand in hand. In fact, while Dave take the reins at the blog today, I'll be listening to the radio and catching up on my reading. 

But soooo many authors are snoozerific on the radio. I've made a faux pas or two my ownself going off on tangents and getting too wordy. 

So I talked Dave into stopping by and telling us how to do it right. 

Dave knows what it's like to be on the other side of the mic, too. He's the author of four books and he wrote the screenplay for Authors Anonymous, one of the funniest films about writers ever made (and he has another film in development.) He was also a long-time director of the Central Coast Writers Conference, where I will be presenting on September 19th-20th. More info below...Anne

Mastering the Radio Interview: What This Talk Show Host Wants You to Know

By David Congalton 

Hosting a radio show for almost 24 years, I've probably read enough books and interviewed enough authors to start my own library. I've been fortunate to be able to chat with authors like Vincent Bugliosi, Jane Smiley, Arianna Huffington, Tim O'Brien, Catherine Ryan Hyde, and Carolyn See. 

I've also made time for the 86-year-old grandma who published her memoir locally and will end up giving away more copies than she will sell. Name a genre, I've probably covered it on the radio at some point.

Radio matters. Whether it's satellite radio, or NPR, or the local AM station like the one that hosts my show. People are still listening, and more importantly, I submit, there is an overlap between people who read books frequently and also listen to the radio. 

We're talking about people who are likely (1) older, (2) smarter, (3) better off (4) and have a real desire for information. 

If you read, you're also likely to listen to the radio. It's been a good marriage over the years and the honeymoon is far from over.

And radio is the perfect forum for conversation. 

Television news will interview you for 20 minutes and air 20 seconds. 

Newspapers and magazines are still widely read, but you run the risk of being misquoted or subject to an unsympathetic/jealous reporter. 

Radio is in the moment, whether live or pre-recorded. You say what you want, how you want, and the back-and-forth is largely unedited. Witness the lovely author conversations by Terry Gross on NPR's "Fresh Air," the current Holy Grail of radio book promotion. Listening to that show is like eavesdropping on a conversation between two friends.

So you want radio to be part of your marketing strategy. The good news is that talk radio, whether in New York or Yuma, Arizona, is always on the hunt for smart, articulate guests who can get to the point and light up those phones.

However, remember that you're competing with a multitude of other authors, also desiring precious air time. 

Even the most supportive radio host can only read so many books, interview so many authors—it becomes survival of the persistent. When I first started my radio show in 1992, I was getting about three to four books a week, mostly from national and regional publishers. Now I receive typically one or two books a week, mostly from local authors who are self-publishing.

Things to Keep in Mind when Pursuing a Radio Interview

1) Listen to the Radio. 

We all know that basic axiom, to be a writer, you have to be a reader. In this case, I'd say that in order to be interviewed on the radio, you first have to be a listener. 

How do you know which hosts to approach if you don't know anything about their programs? This may sound basic, but I can't begin to tell you how many wannabe guests approach me who clearly don't know the first thing about my show. They use key phrases like "My friends tell me I might be a great guest for your program," or they inquire about my time slot. 

I can't hit the delete button fast enough on those emails.

2) The Host Probably Won't Read Your Book. 

Don't be offended, but most radio hosts won't read your book. Oh, we might skim a few pages, but mainly we'll hang on to it like a life preserver during the interview and literally pull questions out of thin air. 

Don't hate us. In my case, I'm responsible for 20 hours of live radio every week—I want to support authors, but I don't always have the time. Best-selling author Mitch Albom tells the revealing story of being on book tour for Tuesdays With Morrie. He was with one FM host whose first question was, "So, Mitch. Why Tuesdays?" That's all Albom needed.

3) So…Spoon Feed Your Potential Host. 

When you initially contact a host, make it easy for him or her. Hit them with the book, your bio, and most importantly, a list of sample questions. Guarantee them that you LOVE to talk and can carry a conversation. 

Believe me, the less work for the host, the more chance you have of getting a booking.

Key point: Always make it clear that you're available at the last minute should a guest cancel.

4) Nonfiction Always Trumps Fiction. 

Sorry, fiction writers. Nothing personal. A nonfiction writer will always have a better chance of being invited on the radio. 

In truth, to interview a novelist, the host probably has to actually read the book, and, as I've already explained… Also, it's easier to talk about nonfiction and those subjects, particularly history and biography, tend to draw in larger listenership. 

I never give a novelist more than 30 minutes; nonfiction always gets the full hour. 

Today I booked an author who wrote a new book about Jimmy Doolittle's raid over Tokyo during World War II. Why? Because I'm a history buff and I rarely say no to history shows. 

A good example of the nonfiction bias is the syndicated radio segment Something You Should Know with host Mike Carruthers, heard daily on hundreds of radio stations across the country. Every day, Carruthers interviews a nonfiction author for about three minutes, but the segment is widely heard.

5) A Publicist? Hmmmmm.

Should you, or should you not hire a publicist? It depends. A reputable publicist is your guide to large market radio stations and major syndicated shows—you won't get anywhere near National Public Radio without one. 

But. Don't be led astray by the fast-talking, promising-the-moon publicist. 

My favorite are the ones who boast about the thousands of emails they'll send out on behalf of your book to radio stations all over the country. Trust me, those emails are deleted or go to Junk Mail and never get read. (The same is true of publicists who approach bloggers. Ruth and I no longer accept guest bloggers who use publicists because the authors don't have a clue who our audience is...Anne.)

Never, ever, hire a publicist without being told exactly what shows they've booked clients on and what specific shows they have in mind for you.

6) You Have Two Friends at a Radio Station. 

You have two allies as you hatch your strategy.

The first is the station's website, which can be a rich source of information. Most websites offer programming schedules, host biographies ("Oh, she's into animal rescue. She might enjoy my new dog book."), podcasts of previous shows, or upcoming personal appearances. 

Your other friend is the station receptionist, who typically spends day after day taking orders from everyone in the station and would melt for anyone who might take the time to pay attention to him or her. Many a guest has gotten to me by having our receptionist lobby on their behalf.

7) If you're Interviewed on the Phone, do it Right. 

About half the author interviews I do are by telephone, (called "phoners") which is harder because you can't see each other and can't use basic visual cues. 

 On behalf of radio hosts everywhere, I plead with you to remember the basics: 

  • Never use a speakerphone. 
  • Use a landline. An old-fashioned landline telephone is always better than a cell phone. Even Skype is better than a cell phone. 
  • Give the interview 100 percent of your focus, meaning don't be feeding the dogs, or playing with your kids, or cleaning the house while chatting. Find a nice quiet spot and shut out the world. 
  • Remember, the better the guest you are, the longer you get to stay on the radio. I can tell with the first response whether an author is going to be good, or not. Call in on a crappy phone, or from a noisy room, well, that's just one more reason to dump you early.

8) Explore All Your Radio Options. 

Most individual News/Talk radio stations have both talk shows and news programs. They also have weekend programming with specialty shows. So if a radio host passes on your query, don't be afraid to approach these other programs. 

Most people listen to radio in the morning, so five minutes on the local morning news may be better than an hour on the evening show. 

9) Contact us by Email. 

Don't bother calling because most phone messages are ignored. 

You can always call your new friend, the receptionist, and get the name and contact information for the producer of a specific show.

10) One Last Tip. 

Take a couple hours and wander around prx.org, which is the home of podcasts available on public radio. You won't believe the rich diversity of programming and hosts you'll find. Podcasting is becoming more and more viable and prx.org may just lead you to an interviewer interested in your book. (Fascinating website. Do check it out...Anne)

As an author and a writer, I've been on both sides of the microphone. There's nothing like that rush of having the red light go on in the studio, knowing that thousands of people are listening to what you're about to say.

Relax. You're going to do just fine.

Okay, Scrivenershave you ever done a radio interview? How did it go? Did you screw it up like I did my last one (never mention a subplot when all you need is a soundbite.) Do you have any questions for Dave? He'll be here on Sunday to answer, but after that he'll be on his way to UCLA for eye surgery, so I'll be replying after that (and we're all wishing you well, Dave!) But I can email him questions for when he's seeing again.

David Congalton is an award-winning author, screenwriter, and radio talk show host based in San Luis Obispo, CA. His popular radio show, now in its 24th year, is heard weekdays from 3 to 7 p.m. on 920 KVEC. Along with Deborah Bayles, he is the co-author of the bestselling ebook The Talk Radio Guest Book: How to be the Perfect Radio Guest. Congalton's screenplay for Authors Anonymous was made into a 2014 feature film comedy starring Kaley Cuoco, Chris Klein, and the late Dennis Farina. Follow him on Twitter: @DaveCongalton and Facebook.


The Talk Radio Guest Book: How to be the Perfect Radio Guest

by David Congalton and Deborah Bayles

For anyone with a product to pitch, a case to win, or a point to make, if you follow the steps in this book, you will be heard and celebrated for who you are and that which is important to you. We all want to be listened to. Read THE TALK RADIO GUEST BOOK and people will look forward to hearing what you have to say...Literary Agent Karen Grencik

Authors Anonymous

A hilarious "mockumentary" about critique groups!

DVD only $8.96--great gift for a writer friend!

In beautiful San Luis Obispo, "America's Happiest Town"!

Anne will lead a workshop on How to Write for the Digital Age and talk about dealing with reviews and she's even doing critiques!  (That link goes to a video with a voice-over from me, if you wonder what I sound like...Anne)


The Ernest Hemingway Flash Fiction Contest. $10 fee Unpublished fiction. 1500 words or less. Simultaneous submissions ARE welcome. All entries will be considered for publication in Fiction Southeast. (a prestigious journal that has published people like Joyce Carol Oates) Winner gets $200 and publication. Deadline: Dec. 1st

The Central Coast Writers Conference. One of the best little Writers Conferences around! You can attend Anne's workshops on How to Write 21st Century Prose and How to Deal with Reviews and even have her critique your work. September 19-20.

Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest $4,000 in prizes. Entry fee $10 per poem. Submit poems in modern and traditional styles, up to 250 lines each. Deadline: September 30.

Real Simple's eighth annual Life Lessons Essay Contest FREE to enter, First prize: $3,000 for an essay of up to 1500 words on: "What Single Decision Changed Your Life?" Would your world now be completely different if, at some point in the past, you hadn't made a seemingly random choice? Deadline Sept 21.

BARTLEBY SNOPES CONTEST   $10 FOR UNLIMITED ENTRIES. Compose a short story entirely of dialogue. Must be under 2,000 words. Your entry cannot use any narration (this includes tag lines such as he said, she said, etc.). These are the only rules. 5 finalists will also appear in Issue 15 of the magazine. Last year they awarded $2,380 in prize money. Deadline: September 15.

Glimmer Train Short Story Award for New Writers  Entry Fee $15. A prize of $1,500, publication in Glimmer Train Stories, and 20 copies of the prize issue is given quarterly for a short story by a writer whose fiction has not been published in a print publication with a circulation over 5,000. Using the online submission system, submit a story of 1,200 to 12,000 words. Deadline: August 31. 

Creative Nonfiction magazine is seeking new essays for an upcoming issue dedicated to MARRIAGE. TRUE STORIES about marriage from any POV: happy spouses, ex-fiancees, wedding planners, divorce attorneys. whoever. Up to 4000 words. $20 Entry fee. $1000 first prize. Deadline: August 31. 


Congrats to Tara Tamburello!  She sold her first piece of fiction thanks to an "Opportunity Alerts" entry back in January. The Vestal Review picked up her Jane Eyre-retelling for their Condensed to Flash: World Classics Anthology."

A number of you have written to thank me after they've won contests or placed short pieces with journals listed in the "OPPORTUNITY ALERTS".  So please let me know if you've had good luck with any of these opportunities and I'll post your name here in the new KUDOS section! (And if you've written to me before, do resend so I can include you. Sorry I didn't think of this before.) 

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Blogger Sandra Gore said...

Anything that Dave Congalton tells you about radio, you can take to the bank. I've posted my podcasts from his show on my twitter account which has many international followers, some of whom are interviewed themselves on such stalwart outlets such as BBC. Dave gets tons of kudos on his interviewing skills, on how he asks great questions and lets the interviewee talk. Do what the man says, and you're sure to succeed.

August 16, 2015 at 11:01 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Sandra--You've brought up an important point I should have made in my intro. Broadcast interviews usually are podcasted the next day, and you can link to that podcast from your website (or as you did, Twitter account) It's a great promotional tool!

And you're right that Dave knows how to do it right. We won't always get interviewers who have done their homework, so it's good to have some things prepared to say if the interviewer doesn't ask those all-important questions. Thanks for stopping by Sandra!

August 16, 2015 at 11:30 AM  
Blogger CS Perryess said...

Hey Dave & Anne - What a great addition to the Anne R Allen ouvre -- another great post. And someday I'll be needing this information. But first, better go back to the Word Mine & continue revising.

August 16, 2015 at 11:49 AM  
Blogger Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Great tips!
I can't imagine doing something else while trying to do a radio interview. I'd be so distracted.
I don't host guests that go through a publicist either. If I don't know you and deal directly with you, I don't host you.

August 16, 2015 at 12:19 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

CS--Since you have some experience as a radio host yourself, you know the amount of work involved. You played pre-recorded stories, but they needed to be precise in timing and you had to do just the right introduction and recap of each episode. Good radio isn't as easy as it seems. Enjoy your editing!

August 16, 2015 at 12:35 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Alex--I'm glad to hear you've come to the same conclusion about publicists, too. Every experience I've had with them as been difficult. I had to drop an author a few months ago who approached me through a publicist. The publicist had given another blog the same post he gave me. Not cool. From now on, I need to know the guests before I book them

August 16, 2015 at 12:37 PM  
Blogger mindprinter said...

Hey, Anne and Dave. Great post, Dave. Loved it. I read and enjoyed your book, "Talk Radio Guest Book," co-written with Deborah Bayles. Also found the book extremely helpful when doing outreach and promo on writer blogs: much of what you said can be applied to finding the right blog for talking about your latest book and approaching the blogger in a polite, sensible, and well-informed way. Great advice. My best, Paul

August 16, 2015 at 1:04 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Paul--Thanks for your "review" of Dave and Deborah's book. It's so useful! And you're absolutely right that approaching bloggers and talk show hosts can be done in a similar way: a little homework goes a long way!

August 16, 2015 at 1:47 PM  
Blogger Phyllis Humphrey said...

My first published book was non-fiction and I did many phone interviews for radio. Even for my first one, I surmised the host wouldn't have read my book and supplied questions for him to ask me. And I timed my interviews for silence in my house and no distractions. No one told me to do that - I just knew - and it worked great.

August 16, 2015 at 2:23 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Phyllis--I didn't know you'd written nonfiction! Radio is a really great venue for promoting it. Very clever of you to figure out your host wouldn't have read it--and to keep things quiet. Once just before I gave a phone interview, the neighbor started to mow his lawn. I had to run to the most far-away room and use a different phone.

I also once gave an interview where the host HAD read a book by Anne Allen. But it was a different Anne Allen! (There's one in the UK who writes WWII women's fiction) So I learned to always offer a list my books and at least ask if they'd like a copy.

August 16, 2015 at 2:52 PM  
OpenID fornow said...

I've worked a little in radio and TV. He raises great points, some of which you'd think would be obvious. The bit about the receptionist is key. I know a few places where they select or hire after checking with the receptionist on how they were treated.

Also - be prepared with a core message (sound bite or elevator speech) and main points. These would be tied to the questions you invite. You have an opportunity to communicate what's on offer here so make sure thats what you get out there, mixed into the conversation. Of course, it is a conversation, so it can mean waiting for the opportunity to make a point.

And don't be concerned if they throw in a zinger or 2 to stir things up. If you listen to a bit of their work, you'll see how they more commonly handle this. But their goal is to make it interesting and to perhaps express common issues they may hear from listeners.

August 16, 2015 at 3:05 PM  
Blogger Anne Gallagher said...

I would be scared to death to do a radio interview -- not because I don't like to talk about my books, but because my East Coast accent is sooo bad! Half Ted Kennedy half Jersey Shore. I don't think anyone would understand me. I have enough trouble when I need to speak in front of the PTO. lol

Another great post. Thanks, Anne. Thanks, Dave.

August 16, 2015 at 3:07 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

fornow--You're so right about having that elevator speech perfected before you go on. You need to have a strong take-away message.

And oh, yeah, I've had some of those zingers. I had one guy make disparaging remarks about me being "self-published" (I wasn't) and I had to decide if I should defend self-publishing or my publisher. I ended up talking about self-publishing, since it was more interesting. But I could have strangled the guy right through the phone.

August 16, 2015 at 3:22 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Anne--Your accent sounds as if it's charming! A regional accent can be a nice draw, actually. It can make you more interesting. I love to listen to Scottish accents even though I can't understand a word most of the time. :-)

August 16, 2015 at 3:24 PM  
Blogger Leanne Dyck said...

Very helpful! I will re-read and plan to take detailed notes.

August 16, 2015 at 5:38 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Leanne--I thought the book was very useful indeed. We all need to know what to do when we have a chance to be interviewed.

August 16, 2015 at 7:26 PM  
Blogger Claude Forthomme said...

I was once interviewed on the BBC, scary! That was back in 2000, when I had just got promoted to UN/FAO Director for Europe and was holding a regional conference with some 40 European ministers of agriculture (that included Eastern Europe and a couple from Central Asia) and of course the BBC was keen to interview me because of what was on the conference's agenda: food safety, an item that hasn't yet come up anywhere on the international scene (since then the EU has set up a Food Safety agency - it's located in Parma, Italy). So FAO had given me a very helpful press agent who made me go through the motions, we "played out" the most likely questions and I gave my answers. Of course, when the real interview came up, one question I had prepared for was there but another one wasn't, these BBC guys are clever! I think eveything Dave says is spot on and I would add that if you have someone with whom you can "play out" - like a dialogue on stage - the most likely questions in advance and your answers, it's a real help. When the unexpected comes up, at least you feel better prepared, the angst is under control...

August 17, 2015 at 7:08 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Claude--Thanks for sharing your experience. That's the kind of interview that can be really terrifying. I love your suggestion of rehearsing with a friend. I think that would help a lot.

My very first radio interview was with BBC radio Lincolnshire. I had not prepared anything and we ended up talking about Lincolnshire cheese and sausages the whole time. Not a great way to sell my book!

August 17, 2015 at 11:03 AM  
Blogger Yolanda Renee said...

I used to host a Blog Talk Radio Show and the reason was because I wanted to learn and share everything I could about writing, publishing, and marketing. I loved the fiction writer and did many a good hour long interview. I would send out a list of questions if they didn't have any, and we would follow the script. All my interviews were via the phone. Sometimes the author would give yes and no questions, making it near impossible for a real conversation, but most of the time I had authors who loved talking about their books. David gave great pointers - be prepared and have the key points at your finger tips. Funny thing, it was easier to ask the questions than it was to answer them. :)

August 17, 2015 at 6:03 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Yolanda--I've done several Blog Talk Radio interviews and they were great! My hosts were really well prepared and they actually read my book! I love getting the questions first so I can prepare.

But it must be so frustrating to get those yes/no people. Dead air is not fun for the listener.

August 17, 2015 at 6:36 PM  
Blogger Joylene Nowell Butler said...

I've done a few and find sitting in your best chair is a sure way of remaining relaxed. Sipping water before the interview starts helps with clear throat and voice clarity.

Great post! I would never have thought about the reception. Of course!

August 18, 2015 at 6:31 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Joylene--Great reminder about the water! Always have some water nearby. and I like the idea of sitting in your favorite chair. Thanks!

August 18, 2015 at 6:36 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Everybody--Dave came out of his 5 hours of surgery looking good (He has a jaunty patch over his eye of course.) But he said his experience at the UCLA medical center was great!

Sorry he wasn't able to answer any comments on Sunday. He couldn't get into his Google account.

August 18, 2015 at 6:39 PM  
Blogger Dion McTavish said...

You know, I don't think I've ever listened to a radio interview with chaos erupting in the background. Even with listeners calling in -- never a problem.

August 21, 2015 at 5:13 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Dion--That's probably because most hosts (and even more so, their engineers) are quick to end noisy interviews.

August 21, 2015 at 9:48 AM  

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