Friday, August 19, 2005

A Face Made for Radio

So I just did my third radio interview in as many days, to promote an event I'm doing in La Crosse, Wisconsin on August 20, and I'm on the fence about the subject.

First things first---I don't have a large ego (500 rejections will do that to you) but I know I'm pretty good at public speaking. Pull the string, and the monkey tells jokes. So I wasn't nervous, and didn't do any preplanning.

The publicist for the event I'm doing set up the interviews, and each radio personality emailed me a few days prior, setting up the time for the taping.

Each interview lasted between 3 and 7 minutes. I knew I had to get three things across in that time:

1. That I'll be at Waldenbooks in Valley View Mall from 11am-4pm, and a portion of the sales will be donated to the Family Resource Center.

2. That the books are about a cop named Jack Daniels.

3. That I need to be the most entertaining person on the planet.

Number 3 might be considered grandiose narcissism, but it isn't. I HAD to keep the hosts laughing. That's what morning shows are all about.

So how did I do?

Radio person #1 called me on my cell while I was at Best Buy, picking up the new Sin City DVD. I wouldn't have been in the store had I known she was calling (she did a morning show and this was late afternoon.) So I did the interview in my parked car.

It was hot (air conditioning made too much noise) but I got out all the necessary info, and had the host laughing like crazy.

Radio personality #2 called in the morning, at the time he'd told me. He talked a lot, and it was tough to get all of my info in without sounding intrusive. Of course, the UPS guy came while we were talking, which sent my dogs into Attack Mode, and when he commented on my barking dogs I said, "Oh, that's just the UPS man, bringing my weekly selection of Adult DVDs."

Before I had a chance to say "I write them off on my taxes as research" the interview was over.
Perhaps the station was more conservative than I'd guessed. Still, I did my info dump, and managed a few jokes.

This morning, I got a call at the designated time from two very fun radio personalities, who hadn't wanted to interview me because neither of them liked to read, but after exchanging some emails they deemed me funny enough to air for a few minutes.

I answered the phone yawning, telling them that a bestselling author like myself usually parties late into the night. Then I asked for a moment to look under the covers and check to see who I woke up next to. After a long, dramatic scream, I informed them that it was my wife. "A guy can hope," I said.

From there, great interview. They were laughing like hell, I said what I needed to while also ripping on the hosts (the book is perfect for you, Kris--no word is over three syllables) and we went for about 7 minutes, all of it a lot of fun.

Now we'll see what power radio has. Will people come out to my signing based on my interviews? It's a small town, and I was on the big three stations. Will that make a difference?

I'm going to ask each person that shows up. If the radio brought them there, I'll hire a publicist to book me on radio shows (which can cost a few grand.)

If the people don't come out in droves, then I'll still do radio when offered, but won't actively seek it out.

What are your opinions of radio? Does it help sell books?


Mark Terry said...

Radio. Beats me if it sells books. Probably does, depending on the radio station. I just did a radio interview this week, too--my second--and I felt like some of it went well and some of it didn't, though I wouldn't say it went badly. The DJ just asked me a question that caught me off guard (a kind of metaphysical question regarding the nature of crime and technology) that was kind of hard to come up with a blithe, glib, entertaining response to at 7:05 in the morning before caffeine.

I think if you got on the right radio shows, you'd do great. WJR in Detroit not only has a giant signal (I can feel my fillings vibrating right now), but they do book and author interviews and the people who are listening to those shows are book buyers. So yeah, that might pull them in. As for Drive Time radio, I kind of have my doubts, although if name recognition is part of the game, having it in everybody's heads wouldn't hurt--especially if your books are available next to the cigarettes and condom racks at your local party store.
Mark Terry

Rob Gregory Browne said...

Okay, so where do I sign up to get some Konrath training? If I'm looking at doing radio to promote my book, I need help.

One thing I think radio will do -- if it doesn't directly sell books -- is that it may WELL get listeners to your website. If I heard you on the morning drive, I'd probably look you up the first chance had. But then I'm not your average reader, so ignore everything I've said.

You did anyway, right?

Jim Winter said...

Radio's odd for me. I actually do public speaking as a hobby (because when you can't shut up, you might as well be productive about it). But two things I hate doing are panel discussions and radio interviews.

The first interview I did was with a station in Utah. The host didn't seem to know anything about the book. (Come on, dude! Over two dozen people not related to me have bought it!) But he had a cohost who did read the book and let her do the interview. He kept the show flowing while we talked. Still, I came off as pretty stiff during the interview.

The next one I did was the same until the host, a guy in upstate New York, mentioned one of his cohosts was from Cleveland (where my books are set and my old hometown). At the end, I finally lit up and talked like I was glad to be there.

My third was a taped interview with a small market station in Ohio. I sounded like I had to get back to work. (Which I did.)

The most recent, however, was fantastic. I was interviewed for on Writers, Authors, and More with Megan Willingham. Megan put me at ease (despite a couple of technical glitches). She had read the book and took copious notes. It was like reading NORTHCOAST SHAKEDOWN for the first time as she noticed themes I hadn't.

How well did it work?

My flagging Amazon rank* spiked the very next morning.

One thing I learned from Megan is one should always have practiced reading a passage from the work in question before going on the air. In a long interview format like Megan's show, you might be asked to share a passage.

*Yes, I'll cop to checking my rank, even though a lot of times, it's meaningless.

Bret said...

Depends on what radio station you're on. Stations have target audiences, just like TV shows. Rock station listeners are mainly men (men that don't read books). If you're really tring to sell product in the mystery genre, I'd suggest targeting stations that have large women demos in larger cities. (25-54 year-old women.)
The morning shows I worked with were mainly of the Top-40 or Hip Hop variety. Fiction authors were rarely invited for an interview. Usually it was self-help or celebrity/comedy authors that were featured. Many of them had 800 numbers and/or websites for people to order their product. Some sold quite a few books, others did not.
What can't hurt is for the host to like you so much, he/she tells listeners to go out and buy your book immediately. (or talk about your book again later that morning or later in the week.) Only a small percentage of the listening audience will catch your short 5-7 minute interview.
So yes, radio can work. But it works better with numerous mentions. (or "frequency," ha-ha.) And if you can grab an interview on a nationally syndicated show? That should help tremendously.


JA Konrath said...

Well, my Amazon numbers just went up. Because of the radio bit this morning? Or because of soemthing else I did? Or because someone found them while browsing?

Maddening, this business. There oughta be laws.

Kim H said...

Interesting experiment! I hope you'll blog about the results at the signing. I'm thinking it's going to be a big crowd. Who can resist the Joe-man?

mapletree7 said...

Please report back.

You seem to be a pretty media-savvy guy - why not pitch yourself to radio stations, rather than shelling out for a publicist?

Julie K said...

Well, as a member of the target demographic (female, 25-54 years old -- the lower end of the range, by the way) I'd have to agree with Bret that stations geared toward that crowd would seem to be your best bet. Personally, I rarely listen to the radio, but almost all of my female co-workers do. Same demographic, all readers. An interview during the morning commute is good as long as you can convince the host to talk up your book later in the day, too. And if you can get them to mention your web address between 8am-5pm -- when their listeners are already plunked in front of a computer and looking for a distraction -- then you're half way there.

So, of the 40+ books that I read each year, what makes me buy? The following suggestions apply equally to known and unknown authors:

1) Websites. In my estimation, these can't be over-rated. Get your web address out there, write it on the walls of gas station bathrooms during your book tour if you have to. And, for crying out loud, keep it updated! You already do a great job of that, but many authors don't. I don't want to look at the "events" tab and see your next signing is January 2004.

2) Linked with your website - and possibly more important in terms of reaching the max audience - is a mailing list. Set up a list and invite anyone with an e-mail address to join it. It keeps potential readers from hunting through the various author websites, because that's a drag, and they usually won't do it. Put the info in front of me, and I'll read it. Include links to your site's various pages (events, latest book, upcoming publications, etc.) Don't send it out every week (those get deleted before they're read), but once a month is a workable frequency, at least from the recipient's point of view.

3) I don't shop Amazon, because I've never been very happy with their prices or shipping rates. Barnes & Noble has a good website, and their member prices - coupled with free shipping over $25 - reel me in every time. I've purchased many a book because it was blurbed on one of their featured pages.

4) A "featured" listing on is good. I only listen to non-fiction (I like to read fiction the old-fashioned way), so I frequently use Audible's featured pages to make hardcover fiction purchases.

5) Anything in print that mentions your book. The first Writer's Digest story you did made me want a copy of Whiskey Sour ASAP. You're going after readers, target stuff they read.

And keep those great stories coming!


Rob Gregory Browne said...

Great post, Julie. Lots of good advice.

And Joe, it's my understanding that the Amazon numbers aren't really an indication of much. Have I been misinformed?


Jon The Crime Spree Guy said...

The only time I listen to the radio is usually in the morning to get me out of bed and moving around. I listen to the local rock station and the guys there are reasonably funny.

A few weeks ago they had a "Local Author" on the show. I perked right up. After the break they introduced him and I was sitting on the bed side listening at attention.

And then they mentioned his publisher..... Authorhouse.

I got out of bed all right, I got out of bed and turnedoff the radio and ended up late for work.

Fucking Author house....

NPR on the other hand, they seem to get real authors!

JA Konrath said...

Some good advice here. Thanks!

Rob--Amazon numbers are very low, but an upward trend at Amazon mirrors an upward trend elsewhere.

Amazon has only sold a few hundred books of mine. But I use it to see if marketing and promotion are working. If my sales numbers spike, it might only mean two or three sales, but hopefully that trend is repeated in other stores.

mapletree7 said...

So, what happened? Any spike from the shows?