Radio Tips & Tricks

How to Get Radio Interviews:
Tips and Tricks for Success

By William A. Gordon
You do not have to hire a publicist or advertise through a booking service to promote your books on talk radio. My friend Stephen Schochet and I have been scheduling our own radio appearances for several years. Working independently, we have, between us, logged over 1,000 interviews, and we continue to sell our books, CDs, and audiotapes year in and year out.

Our system may not be right for everyone. After all, we are both pretty good amateur publicists. We know how to dangle bait and reel the stations in, and our schedules are fairly flexible. But if you feel comfortable promoting your products, will work harder for yourself than anyone else will, and are well-organized and disciplined, you may want to take advantage of our experience.

Opening Moves

For starters, we work with a comprehensive database of radio shows撲ne that I research and constantly update紡nd contact the hosts or the producers directly ourselves. Sometimes we call them. Other times we fax, and sometimes we e-mail them. There is no one magical right or wrong initial approach. Each show operates a little differently, and we often like to mix up the routine.

Regardless of how we make the initial contact, we always follow up. We never assume that the show is not interested if we do not get an immediate response. Hosts, after all, are extremely busy people, and on any given day, they are inundated with pitches from available guests from all over the country.

In fact, we often have to follow up several times. Steve once made as many as 15 calls to one show before he finally got booked. He was told (and he has often heard this) that the reason the producer finally called him was precisely because he was so persistent.

Of course, you do not want to become a pest. Again, there are no hard and fast rules about how many times you may have to follow up. My feeling is that if you do not get a response after three or four attempts, just go on to the next show. Be sure to keep good records, though, of when you contacted a particular show and of the names of your contacts there. Chances are that six months or a year from now the host and/or producer will be gone, and you can always try the next host and/or producer.

Materials for a Broader List

When we fax or e-mail, we always provide the hosts with a TV Guide -like capsule description of our books, a list of questions they can ask us, a brief biographical sketch, and information on where the book is available.

I do not want to imply that many talk-show hosts are lazy, but you would be surprised how many times the hosts repeat the information verbatim. Not every host will ask the same questions you provide them, in the exact same order, but many of them will.

We also do not limit ourselves to the top 100 talk shows. Many news shows and drive-time morning shows on oldies, contemporary hits, and even country stations need to fill air space and are looking for interesting guests. These shows are not listed in the more popular media directories, but we have been able to identify them simply by calling the station and talking to the Program Director.

Operating as an Expert

We also get more interviews by positioning ourselves as experts in our fields (in our case, Hollywood) and by offering commentary and anecdotes about topics in the news. For example, even though I promote The Ultimate Hollywood Tour Book outside of California, I rarely pitch myself as an expert on L.A. sightseeing. Instead I offer to talk about breaking news stories like Robert Blake's arrest, or the falsification of George Harrison's death certificate, and tie them in with the other notorious Hollywood scandals and murders that my book covers.

Similarly, after September 11, when talk radio seemed to be "all terrorism, all the time," Steve adapted and continued to get interviews by offering himself as an expert on Hollywood's response to wars and national crises. He also got Valentine's Day bookings by offering to talk about Hollywood romances, and bookings in March by talking about the stories and legends behind the Academy Awards. After a celebrity dies, he gets even more interviews by offering to tell anecdotes about that celebrity.

Once we've done an interview, we always send a "thank you" note to the host or producer. We also call the station's receptionist to provide information about the book because listeners who don't remember or didn't catch your name or your book's title may call the station for additional information. The receptionist is the first and very often the only person the listener will ever reach. You'll want to be sure this radio employee has not only your name and the book title but also your URL and ordering information.

William A. Gordon is the author of "The Ultimate Hollywood Tour Book" ( ) and the editor of "Gordon's Radio List," a list of over 900 locally produced and nationally syndicated radio shows that interview guests. He can be reached at

Reprinted from the PMA (Publishers Marketing Association) Newsletter.


By Jacqueline Church Simonds

Here a few ideas about handling radio interviews. I will start with number one:

1. When they call to book you, make sure you get the call sign letters. the city, the name of the show, the hosts's name, what time (and time zone) you will be on, and ask how long you will be on. Also ask if it will possible to get an "Air Check" or MP3file of your interview.

You want the call sign letters so you can feature a link to their website on your website. Same with the title of the show and city.

You will also want to put your interview link (the MP3 file) on your website--unless it's terrible. (If it was terrible, listen to the recording several times to try and learn what NOT to do.)

You will want to write down the host'(s) name so you can say something like, "Thank you for having me on, Mike."

Make sure you know what time zone the show is on. From my experience, you can see that letting others try and figure it out can be a problem. Make sure you and whoever books you know exactly what hour everything will happen.

You need to know how long you will be on so you have enough material to be interesting.

Understand who is calling whom. Are they calling you or you them? Most will initiate the interview call. My rule of thumb is: out-of-country interviews must interview me.

2. Say yes to any time suggested.

Remember, they are doing you a favor. They only have so much time on their sow. If you agree and then say, 'Wow, that is early (late) my time,' they may be able to accommodate you. But don't press the issue if they can't change it.

3. Be flexible.

The interview may change. Be ready to drop everything and do it if they call an hour earlier. Do not complain if they want to move the time to later.

4. Take the interview call on a land line -- do not use a cell phone.

Cell phones can drop calls and get interference. I use a phone that I can connect a headset to. That way my hands are free and I'm not sitting there pressing a phone into my face for a lengthy time. Phone headsets are not expensive.

5. Sit. Stay.

One of my authors tried to an interview on her cell phone while driving through the Sierria mountains. Obviously, it did not go well.

Fifteen minutes before scheduled air time, go into your office, or a room where you can get some quiet. Tell everyone in your house not to bother you for the required period of time and close the door. Review your material. Have a glass of water handy--but remember not to drink until the commercial break (who wants to hear swallowing)?

6. Your mother told you . . .

To sit up straight, and I will too, but for a different reason: you will breathe deeper and speak from your diaphragm, thus enabling you to speak for longer without going hoarse. Also, it will give your voice a bit of depth.

Smile when you say "hello." While a smile is a visual cue, it also tightens the muscles in your face and throat, lifting your voice just a tad. Studies show that people can actually hear that smile. .

If your host tells a joke, chuckle appreciatively. Stay in the moment. This is not all about you. Successful guests interact with the host ()and callers) instead of being relentlessly focused on their message, ignoring what is going on in the show.

7. Content is king.

Most radio and TV hosts are not interested in talking to you about your book (although there have been some notable exceptions). What they want to hear about is the news that your book ties into or expands on, and your take on it. 

You can ask to mention your book in the initial booking conversation. Some will not allow it, some will. What will usually happen is that the interviewer will state your name and your book at the beginning and end of the interview. Some will also state your name and book coming out of, and going into a commercial if you are on longer than 10 minutes. If you feel you can manage it, in response to a question, you might say 'I have a chapter in my book, (INSERT TITLE HERE), devoted to just that idea, [HOST'S NAME],' and then elaborate."

8. Try and find a local angle.

It will be more interesting to the show's listeners if you can give them some sort of local tie-in (and will more likely get you the gig in first place). If the subject is very broad, you can probably come up with something. Do not forget that being born or having lived in a state, county or town counts as "local."

9. In the end, thank the host.

If possible, send him/her an e-mail thanking them afterwards, and extending your hope that you can work together again. One of my interviewers wrote ME a thank you. I'm putting that in my promo file. It will help when I next try to get a radio gig ("Peter Anthony Holder of Montreal's CJAD says . . . "

10. And if they fail to call or cut you off.

Do not call and demand to know why you were dropped or cut off. News is news. If there is a big fire at the mayor's house, that takes precedence over you. Most will let you know that they cannot do the interview---but from my experience, you can see there is a possibility you simply never hear from them. Shrug it off and move on.

If they drop you after a few minutes of a planned 1/2 an hour interview, you may need to work on your skills. Were you being shy? Did you get confused? Did you somehow offend the host (which on some stations is a good thing, but not on all of them)? After the interview, think carefully about how it went--was it something you said?

Most of all, have fun!

J. C. Simonds heads Beagle Bay Books ( ) and Creative Minds Press ( ). This article is reprinted with permission.


By Bonnie Harris

Radio is still a great way to get your message heard. This month I booked more than 50 interviews for Karin Winegar, the author of SAVED Rescued Animals and the Lives They Transform - driving the book into the Amazon topseller list in its niche. Commercial radio stations are facing a terrible downturn in advertising - that means they have a lot more space to fill. And THAT means more opportunity for authors to get in front of listeners.

It’s can be hard to pitch radio - which is why there are entire PR agencies focused solely on this medium. But anyone can get on air once they know how to do it.

1. Pitch the producers and program managers, NOT the hosts, unless it’s a smaller market. If you’re not sure just call the station and ask who books the interviews for that particular show.

2. Use a pitch that is filled with CONTENT not an ad for your service. Show that your listeners will learn something from having you on - and you’ll get your plug in for your book or product don’t worry. The best guests don’t sell they INFORM.

3. Get to the point right away in your pitch. Write it in 200 words or less if you can. Use BOLD to highlight the important stuff. If you can, offer a couple books or product samples as giveaways.

4. Don’t call them - they don’t have time. Everyone in broadcast is short-staffed but radio is the worst right now. No one has time to listen to a pitch even if it’s jus t five minutes.

5. Make sure your email subject line has no SPAM words. These folks get 100’s of emails a day and many go into junk. Don’t be afraid to re-send if you think it might not have gone through either. Lots of times they just don’t see your email.

6. Pitch about a week ahead of time for commercial drivetime segments. Pitch 2-3 weeks for talk shows and interview-based programs. Some drivetime books the day before - we often get most of our interviews a couple days before the campaign starts.

7. Be available and respond IMMEDIATELY to a request. Radio folks are notoriously last minute. If you wait a day or even a couple hours you are likely to lose the spot. Answer the phone or email the MINUTE you receive it and book it right away. No “I will check my schedule and get back to you” This person is offering you GOLD so grab it and run.

8. Send a confirmation email right away with numbers, backup numbers and all the details. Once you’re confirmed, send a product sample or book, sample questions and backgrounders right away.

9. Don’t you dare be late. 30 seconds in radio is a lifetime. You’ll miss the spot and risk getting blackballed by that station and possibly others. Remember THEY ALL TALK TO EACH OTHER, especially if it’s ClearChannel.

10. Follow up with a thank you to your contact, and stay in touch to let that person know what’s happening with the book. Interviewers and producers tend to “adopt” new authors they like and can be extremely helpful. Cultivate your media connections like a new set of friends.

Another note - don’t get snotty about which station you’ll be on. Many smaller stations communicate with bigger ones. If they hear you’re a great guest they’ll suggest you. If they hear you were bad or20wouldn’t do it, they’ll communicate that too. Dan Buettner, author of NYT bestseller The Blue Zones is always incredibly gracious whether he’s on CNN or doing a talk show in Vidalia, GA. That’s part of the reason why his book is doing so well. He booked with a smaller talk show host recently, who subsequently signed a 60-city syndicated deal. Point is, YOU NEVER KNOW who these hosts know or where they’ll be in a year or two. DO EVERY INTERVIEW.

And don’t turn up your nose at Internet radio either. Dan also did Inez Bracy’s online radio program on BlogTalk Radio. Guess what - the program became featured that day on the network and Dan got tons of hits for the book and his website.
To book radio you need to think like a producer, not like somebody with something to sell. Provide real content, respond immediately and be a prompt, entertaining guest (more on that later) Radio can be the springboard to bigger things - more importantly it has an incredible reach all on its own.

Bonnie Harris is the president of Wax Marketing. Her web site is



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