Media Room

Interview Tips from the Self-Publishing Trenches

Interviews come in lots of flavors these days. Traditional print, radio and TV are still around, but you might also find yourself on an Internet

Interviews 101: Be positive, upbeat & courteous

Interviews 101: Be positive, upbeat & courteous

radio show, or being interviewed by Skype, or part of a teleconference. Some book bloggers like to ask questions over the phone; others prefer to email their questions.

No matter the medium, your core messages should remain intact. You must be able to explain your book, why you wrote it, and the big takeaways in a few short, engaging sentences.

At the same time, you should tailor your answers to suit your audience. While some crowds are most interested in plot, others want to know more about your writing process. When do you write? What do you do when you feel blocked?

A few tips to help you get organized:

– Interview the interviewer. Ask who reads the blog, watches on TV or listens to the show.

– Mine the comments. Most blogs and shows welcome comments. See which interviews drew the most interaction for clues about what interests the audience.

– Try for a second date. That is, your goal is a long-term relationship, so don’t treat the interview as a one-night stand. Make sure to talk about what’s on their mind as well as your top interests.

– Anticipate and be proactive. Especially when it comes to bloggers, be ready with materials they’re likely to want, like: photos, a well-written bio, links to trailers and social media pages, and press releases.

There’s more. Always be courteous and prompt. Watch your tone and body language. Don’t be dismissive. Learn to pivot. If you get a negative question, use a phrase like, That’s interesting, but what’s really important to me is … and get back to something you’d rather discuss. Don’t forget that you’re speaking through the interviewer to reach your real audience.

Last, always be positive and enthusiastic. You’ve probably talked about your book a thousand times. It may be getting hard to sound excited. You may even be getting bored with yourself. If that comes through in an interview, you’re sunk. Stay focused. Stay up. The cliché is true; the next interviewer hasn’t met you before, and you won’t get a second chance to make a first impression.

What else have you learned on the interview trail?

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Trayvon Verdict, Obama Remarks Stir Echoes

The Trayvon Martin verdict and President Obama’s remarks about race in America took me back to my early reporting days in Central Florida, and some stories chessabout the difficulty of change in towns where the old ways die hard.  Please check out the post and weigh in with any thoughts or questions.

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Has Your College Degree Paid Off?

What's the ROI for your college degree?

What’s the ROI for your college degree?

Statistically speaking, the return on my journalism degree is pretty low. But there’s more to life than statistics. Click here to read more.


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Free Webinar Tuesday: Honing in on Those Distinctive Details

Free writing webinar Tuesday

Free writing webinar Tuesday

What separates great and average writing? A sharp eye and the ability to turn important details into compelling storytelling. As legendary basketball coach John Wooden said, “Little things make big things happen.” Dial up this webinar and be prepared for a deep dive into the small details that will make your writing unique and original. The sign-up sheet is here.


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Former Facebook Exec Prescribes Digital Detox

Don't wreck the night. Get off your phone.

Don’t wreck the night. Get off your phone.

There’s some irony in Randi Zuckerberg, former marketing director for Facebook, advising us on how to untangle our personal and online lives. Do we really need a book to tell us to put the phone away at dinner? Read what she has to say, and please weigh in yourselves, in my latest News for Thought column.



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Podcast Explores Choices We Make in the Dark

Author Steve Piacente

Choices in the Dark: A Podcast

A woman nicks a car with her shopping cart. No one sees. A ninth-grader struggling with an algebra exam glances up and sees another kid’s answers. The teacher isn’t paying attention. A commanding officer witnesses a friendly fire death in the chaos of battle. There are three witnesses who will do as he says.

The choices we make in such situations say a lot about our moral compass. Truth is, there’s always someone watching.

More in my new JenningsWire Podcast: Choices in the Dark.


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Improve Your Blog Posts: Free Webinar Tuesday!

Author Steve Piacente with Bootlicker poster

Come blog with me …

Cover the 5 C’s, and you’ll be blogging with more confidence and capturing the attention of more readers. Come learn and try a few exercises in my free webinar on Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The sign-up sheet is here. Hope to see you Tuesday!

To subscribe to Steve’s Back Story blog, please click the green or orange icon on the blog homepage.

Defeat Writer’s Block: Free Webinar

Bust through writer's block

It’s time to break through writer’s block.

You pace. You change rooms. You turn on music, get coffee, and put up laundry. Nothing works; the words simply will not come. The answer isn’t trying to stare down the screen. The answer lies in unclogging the creative channels that produce the ideas and prose hiding within. Join me Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. for a free webinar focused on tactics and exercises that will help you vanquish dreaded writer’s block. The sign-up sheet is here.

First Rule of Book Fairs: Read the Body Language

Sometimes it's best to let your work speak for itself.

Sometimes it’s best to let your work speak for itself.

When someone approaches your booth at a book fair, do you?

Read the cues, enjoy the sales.

Read the cues, enjoy the sales.

A: Greet them and back off.

B: Load them up with book cards, candy or other tchotchkes (defined by Urban Dictionary as “something a burglar wouldn’t steal.”)

C: Quickly engage them in conversation that leads to a sales pitch.

Okay, it’s a trick question, in that the smart strategy is to observe a moment of silence and quickly assess body language. Some browsers want to read your signs and posters. Some want to test the heft of your book. And some want to shake your hand, look in your eyes, and hear the pitch right away.

Your visitors will come in all sizes, so it’s silly to think you can tailor one approach that fits all. A few observations:

Dial It Back, Pal: I once saw an author post himself in front of a booth and nearly accost every person who walked by. “May I give you a bookmark?” he’d say like Forrest Gump. If the kind person accepted, he took it as a green light to pitch his book. Other nearby authors at this book fair wanted to vote him off the island.

Takeaway: Leave the hard sell to those who peddle mattresses and used cars. Readers expect and deserve a more thoughtful approach.

Opposite Bookends: At a recent book fair, I found myself between a woman with a wondrous way of turning new friends into new readers, and the most subdued author I’ve ever seen in public. This guy had good stuff on his table, but he sat behind his table for hours, rarely smiled, and didn’t say a word unless someone spoke to him first.

Takeaway: Think about the negative cues you may be sending to thousands of potential readers who can stop and talk or keep walking. Show some energy.

Time and Space: A guy stopped by my booth. No smile, no hello. He picked up my book, looked over the cover and read the back. I stayed quiet. He thumbed through the pages, looked at me, and then back at the book. “Anything I can tell you about the story?” I offered after a couple of minutes. He said no, reached for his money, and gave me a warm handshake before walking off.

Takeaway: As much as you may want to share the story of your story, sometimes people want to be left alone. Give them their time and space.

Anyone else have a booth story to share? Oh, and here are some pix from a recent festival.

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For Mom, the First Writing Instructor

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.


(To follow Steve’s Back Story blog, please click the green or orange icon on the blog homepage.)