Talking to local radio can be a great way to publicise your book. Simon Whaley chats to two writers who’ve taken to the airwaves.
I shall never forget the time when a BBC Radio Shropshire researcher called to ask if I could help them out with an interview. ‘We typed the word dog into our database,’ he said, ‘followed by the town where you live, and your name came up!’
I’m still trying to work out if that was a compliment. Apparently, I live in the most dog-friendly place in Britain, and as the author of One Hundred Ways For A Dog To Train Its Human, they thought I might have something to say on the matter.
When it comes to our writing business, we’re encouraged to promote ourselves on social media. But local radio can also be a fantastic way to share news about our latest work. What better regional news than a local author with a new book to promote?
You can share your latest news by issuing a press release to your local radio station. Do some research first. Target a specific show. It varies from station to station, but book news might be discussed on breakfast shows, during afternoon talk shows, or used to break up the news, travel and weather, during evening DriveTime programmes. Most shows have their own email addresses, which can be found on their website.
However, authors with a good website or social media profile may find local radio stations knocking on their doors. That’s precisely what happened to Anita Faulkner (https://anitafaulkner.co.uk), whose new book, A Colourful Country Escape, is published in June.
‘The first approach was from researcher/presenter Maddie Simpson from BBC Radio Gloucestershire,’ explains Anita. ‘She had found my website and was looking for local creatives to chat to on the radio. At the time, I wasn’t able to announce my book deal with Sphere publicly, but Maddie kindly agreed to wait until I had some news to shout about.’
Often, the first interview can lead to several more, as Anita discovered. ‘When I posted on Facebook about my interview with BBC Radio Gloucestershire, one of my contacts, who’s also in local radio, invited me to chat on the Steve Shepherd show on Bradley Stoke Radio. It’s fantastic how one opportunity can lead to another.’
‘I was approached by the BBC following a recommendation from another local author, who had previous experience working with them,’ she says. ‘They offered me an interview, outlining that it would be part of a series about local craftspeople, artists, and entrepreneurs. This made the process less intimidating, but I do think it can be a good example of how networking can help you.’
Just like Anita, this initial interview led to the BBC getting in touch with her again later.
‘Afterwards,’ she continues, ‘they emailed me again and asked if they could keep me on file for future use. I was approached about six months later for inclusion in a series about diversification under Covid. If you hear about someone you know being interviewed, ask them if they will share the contact details of the team behind the programme. You could approach them with an email suggesting several ideas that your story could be used for.’
With some radio interviews being live, it’s understandable if you’re nervous. But a little preparation can go a long way to ensure we get across the points we want to say.
‘Both presenters gave me a rough list of things they would ask me,’ Anita explains, ‘so I had time to prepare. In typical writer fashion, I made plenty of notes, although I was keen not to read from them for fear of sounding scripted. I kept some multicoloured bullet points on a sheet of paper next to me in case I dried up or completely forgot the name of my novel!’
‘I practised in advance by walking around the house having a chat to myself. You soon get a feel for what doesn’t sound right or what you need to brush up on. I find doing something silly a few minutes beforehand also helps to shake off my nerves. I can recommend a little sing-song or a bit of chair dancing. But don’t get too out of breath!’
Marianne agrees that having notes of the most important points is a sensible approach to take.
‘As it was my first interview, I was rather nervous,’ she says, ‘and I made a few basic notes, to make sure I didn’t fudge critical things. For example, I use a pen name and I wrote that large at the top so that I didn’t in any way forget the role that I was taking during the interview, especially as it occurred when in the middle of a non-writing day. I also wrote simple things out, like the names of my books, the themes I cover and some of the key elements of my website focus, and how I moved from one career into that of writing. I wasn’t sure what I would be asked, so I felt the need to be flexible and yet centred on my topic.’
Where, when, and how?
There are many ways in which you can contribute to a local radio show. This could be live, or it may be pre-recorded for broadcast at a later date. Interviews can take place at the radio station, where you will sit opposite the host, or they may ring you on a landline or mobile phone. Some stations now use services like Zoom.
Anita has experienced a live broadcast and a recorded interview and says both still offered similar levels of excitement.
‘The BBC Radio Gloucestershire interview was live, but the interview with Bradley Stoke Radio was pre-recorded. Being live for my first interview felt scary. As a writer, I always feel I’m not a natural at saying things out loud. I prefer the comfort of being able to write and obsessively edit my words before anybody gets their eyes or ears on them. But being live was exhilarating and definitely helped me face my fear of speaking publicly.’
‘I still felt a similar excitement with the pre-recorded interview,’ she continues, ‘as I knew that if we got it right first time, the presenter wouldn’t have to spend time editing out my waffle! Which, luckily, he didn’t! Both interviews took place over Zoom, which was the safest way during the pandemic. I think that took the pressure off, as I was in the comfort of my own home, and I could sneak a look at my notes if I wanted to.’
Marianne’s first interview was conducted by phone on her mobile. ‘It was nerve-wracking at first as I didn’t know what to expect, and I’m not a radio listener. However, the team behind the DJ was incredible. They told me when they would ring, gave me very clear instructions and left me on the phone to wait. I would advise making sure you are ready well ahead of time, not going to be disturbed, and follow the rule of speak when spoken to.’
‘The DJ was amazing, so good at leading the process and relaxing me. He asked great questions and picked up on the best parts of our conversation to highlight. I had to take my interview during a lunch break at my part-time job, and I was in the car at the time. I’d made sure that I wouldn’t be disturbed, that I had plenty of time, and that I had my prompt sheets with me. One thing I found a little disconcerting was that there was a slight echo on the phone between myself and the DJ. To cope with it, I took a second after each question before replying, spoke slowly, and held the phone a little away from my ear to lessen the impact.’
It’s perfectly natural to worry about the interview afterwards. All I think about is the number of times I stumbled, or said ‘Er…’ or fluffed my words. The reality is often far different.
‘I think the interviews went well,’ says Anita, ‘for a person who was convinced she was dreadful at that sort of thing. I’d been terrified I would say something stupid or completely freeze, but I didn’t. The adrenaline kept me going, and I actually enjoyed myself.’
Marianne was initially concerned, too, but later discovered she needn’t have been.
‘I was a bit swamped afterwards, with a sense of all the things that had been wrong about it, and worried that I’d been boring or dull. But in the weeks following, I was surprised to hear from several local people that they had heard it and really enjoyed it. That gave me some confidence.’
So if you’re looking to make waves with your latest book, don’t forget the airwaves. Local radio could just be the promotional opportunity you need.
Business Directory—Airwaves Advice
Anita Faulkner’s top tips: ‘Shout about your radio stint to your followers as much as possible, both before and after the interview. Share as much as you can on social media, as it helps to raise your profile and can lead to more opportunities. During your interview, don’t forget to plug your book, your mailing list, your social media channels. And give yourself permission to enjoy every moment.’
Marianne Rosen’s top tips: ‘Make enquiries and don’t be dispirited if you don’t get asked straight away. Make several suggestions about how you can offer value to the radio’s listeners. Hold on to the conviction that people are interested in you and that the radio team are professionals who know how to do their job. Speak a little more slowly, as your nerves might be making you rush your answers. Keep it short, sweet and flexible.’
(c) Simon Whaley