On Friday I had lunch with author Nick Earls (Bachelor Kisses) and apart from all the hilarious stories (sorry, sworn to secrecy) he told me of life on the publicity trail (which I used to take him on over 10 years ago – during my life before I became an image consultant), he also mentioned that my publicity tour advice legacy lives on. In my day as a publicist at Penguin Books, I worked with lots of great authors (doing the publicity for the book titles listed in brackets), including chef and restauranteur Stephanie Alexander (The Cook’s Companion: The Complete Book of Ingredients and Recipes for the Australian Kitchen), Canadian philosopher John Ralston Saul (The Unconscious Civilization), Crime writers John and Faye Kellerman (Billy Straight, Moon Music ) , Physicist and Templeton Prize winner Paul Davies (The FIFTH MIRACLE: The Search for the Origin and Meaning of Life, mega bestselling novelist Bryce Courtney ( Jessica) and the late, great and most wonderful Malcolm Bradbury (Unsent Letters) amongst many others.
What made me laugh, is that I’d forgotten a lot of the advice I’d imparted to Nick, which he still uses today, and passes on to lots of upcoming authors that he meets either at home in Brisbane, or at literary festivals all over the world, from the practical tour aspects, to the media training. So, to digress from the style theme of my blog, I thought I’d do a post on what I can remember for all you budding authors, who may need this when your fabulous books are published.
1. Read your book – you think that’s unnecessary – you wrote it right and know what’s in it? But it was ages ago you wrote it and edited it, and now you may have forgotten what was in it in detail. Your interviewer will have read it (or parts of it) the night before the interview, you need to be fresh with it’s content, and be able to quickly know what they’re referring to when asking a question. In fact your interviewer may not have read your book at all (maybe just some chapter headings) – they have to interview scores of people every day often, don’t take it as a personal affront, just tell some great anecdotes (see below) and the interviewer will love you and you’ll be classed as great ‘talent’ and asked back again and again.
2. Create some anecdotes around the book and the writing of it – actual not fictional, but have you ever seen the same celebrity interviewed over and over on their tour and they keep spouting exactly the same stories? Having a variety of anecdotes to tell makes the process of the author tour more interesting for both yourself, and your audience, who may see you in more than one place. It can get pretty boring talking about yourself and your work 10 times a day for days on end, when journalists ask the same kinds of questions. Having a variety of answers and anecdotes can make it less dull for both you and the public.
3. Never, ever, say you wrote the book in 3 weeks – even if this is how long it actually took you. The general assumption is that if it only took 3 weeks it must be crap. Great works of art take time, therefore, your work took time. Sure you may only spent 3 weeks sitting down and writing intensively (even though you spent 2 years planning and collecting stories to put into the book and another year editing it), the book took 2/3 years!
4. Don’t be worried that you won’t be able to answer the questions – you are the authority on your work. They’re not going to ask you about the latest industrial relations issue, if that’s not your field of expertise.
5. If you’re on TV, be aware that patterns don’t work well, solid colours are better, and if you’re a woman, most likely they’ll put on a radio microphone, so unless you want some studio hand putting his hand up your dress, wear something with a waistband to attach the battery pack to.
5. Be a politician – politicians don’t answer the question they’re asked, they just tell the interviewer the information they want to get across. Work out how to twist the question to say what you want to say about your work, and say it. Don’t answer questions that make you uncomfortable. The media can be very intrusive, don’t let them be unless you’re prepared for it, you have every right not to answer personal questions.
6. Remember, the best interviews flow like a great conversation. No interviewer wants yes/no answers, they want you to talk, if they ask a personal question, know how to segue the answer back to your work.
7. If you end up on the road a lot, travelling to promote your book (film, work of any sort), have a toiletry bag packed with all the stuff you use at home – a replica – you never have to worry about forgetting your toothbrush when it’s already packed.
8. Don’t spend your tour hauling round huge suitcases of clothes – pack lightly – what I learned about travel and being on the road, which I spent approximately 5-6 months a year for 4 years away from home doing), is contained in my ebook Travelling Light.
9. Make your bio interesting – especially as a novelist, an interesting bio can get you heaps more interviews and coverage. It can also serve as a great talking point for interviewers who haven’t read your book.