As a leading book publicist for over 25 years, I have booked my clients on literally thousands of radio interviews. Today, I know one thing for sure: radio sells books. First, however, an author must be ready and able to maximize the opportunity. Whether a “phoner” or in-studio interview, I ask my clients to use these 27 foolproof tips.

  1. Be clear on the exact interview date, time, and length.
  2. Take the length to heart as you plan and rehearse. A three-minute interview is very different than a half-hour interview, particularly pertaining to pace.
  3. Study the show or network’s listening audience and the on-air personality of the host.
  4. Revisit the press release or pitch that led to the booking. You can also provide a Q&A document to the host prior to the interview. (One of my clients swears by them.)
  5. Know your main objectives for the interview — what you most want to accomplish.
  6. Prepare your big idea and three key messages.
  7. Practice. Practice. Practice. (Comic legend Jack Benny claimed his best ad-libs were the ones he rehearsed the most.)
  8. Create a distraction-free environment. Close any windows or doors, quiet all your devices, and make sure those close by know you cannot be interrupted.
  9. Use a landline if at all possible. (No speakerphone or headset!) If you must use a cell phone, stay in one spot with a strong signal.
  10. Warm up your vocal cords before you go on the air. You don’t want to mumble or stumble right off the bat.
  11. Have plenty of water nearby. (Dry mouth can turn a radio interview into a disaster.)
  12. Smile. It’ll make you feel happier and more in control or confident.
  13. Steer clear of the classic interview killers: giving one- or two-word responses; rambling incessantly; using jargon; or overselling your book. Also avoid using speech fillers — superfluous and distracting sounds or words, such as “um” and “you know.”
  14. A person’s name is music to his ears. Memorize the host’s name and use it throughout the interview.
  15. Remember an interview is a conversation. Don’t perform — communicate. You’ll be more natural using your usual relaxed language.
  16. Listen carefully and respond to the question being asked. Never answer a question other than the one you were asked in an effort to promote yourself.
  17. Don’t assume the host understands your technical expertise. At the same time, don’t be patronizing.
  18. Be sure not to bury the lead. Use an “inverted pyramid” format — conclusion first.
  19. Offer your ideas in sound bites — verbal bullet points that are crisp and clear. You’ll make the host and listeners’ jobs easy.
  20. If you flub a response, casually correct yourself and keep going. What you perceive as a gaffe, most listeners won’t even notice.
  21. Make your messages practical and actionable, not academic or abstract. Bring ideas to life with real-world stories or statistics.
  22. Tie your work to hot topics — breaking news, emerging issues or trends, and notable current events.
  23. Challenge conventional wisdom. Have a contrary or counterintuitive viewpoint or debunk popular myths.
  24. Stay fresh and fervent. It’s not the first time you’ve discussed your ideas, but it is the first time your listeners have heard them.
  25. Be prepared for negative comments and, by all means, avoid becoming argumentative or defensive. (You won’t win a fight.)
  26. Debrief after each interview. Ask yourself, “What specifically did I do well?” and “What opportunities did I miss — and why?”
  27. Send a handwritten or e-mailed “thanks” to the host. You’ll definitely stand out.

Finally, have fun and enjoy yourself. It’s one more foolproof way to max your radio interviews — and sell more books.