You do not have to hire a publicist or advertise through a booking service to promote your books on talk radio. My friend Stephen Schochet and I have been scheduling our own radio appearances for several years. Working independently, we have, between us, logged over 800 interviews, and we continue to sell our books, CDs, and audiotapes year in and year out.
Our system may not be right for everyone. After all, we are both pretty good amateur publicists. We know how to dangle bait and reel the stations in, and our schedules are fairly flexible. But if you feel comfortable promoting your products, will work harder for yourself than anyone else will, and are well-organized and disciplined, you may want to take advantage of our experience.
For starters, we work with a comprehensive database of radio shows - one that I research and constantly update - and contact the hosts or the producers directly ourselves. Sometimes we call them. Other times we fax, and sometimes we e-mail them. There is no one magical right or wrong initial approach. Each show operates a little differently, and we often like to mix up the routine.
Regardless of how we make the initial contact, we always follow up. We never assume that the show is not interested if we do not get an immediate response. Hosts, after all, are extremely busy people, and on any given day, they are inundated with pitches from available guests from all over the country.
In fact, we often have to follow up several times. Steve once made as many as 15 calls to one show before he finally got booked. He was told that the reason the producer finally called him was precisely because he was so persistent.
Of course, you do not want to become a pest. Again, there are no hard and fast rules about how many times you may have to follow up. My feeling is that if you do not get a response after three or four attempts, just go on to the next show. Be sure to keep good records, though, of when you contacted a particular show and of the names of your contacts there. Chances are that six months or a year from now the host and/or producer will be gone, and you can always try the next host and/or producer.
Materials for a Broader List
When we fax or e-mail, we always provide the hosts with a TV Guide-like capsule description of our books, a list of questions they can ask us, a brief biographical sketch, and information on where the book is available.
I do not want to imply that many talk-show hosts are lazy, but you would be surprised how many times the hosts repeat the information verbatim. Not every host will ask the same questions you provide them, in the exact same order, but many of them will.
We also do not limit ourselves to the top 100 talk shows. Many news shows and drive-time morning shows on oldies, contemporary hits, and even country stations need to fill air space and are looking for interesting guests. These shows are not listed in the more popular media directories, but we have been able to identify them simply by calling the station and talking to the Program Director.
Operating as an Expert
We also get more interviews by positioning ourselves as experts in our fields (in our case, Hollywood) and by offering commentary and anecdotes about topics in the news. For example, even though I promote The Ultimate Hollywood Tour Book outside of California, I rarely pitch myself as an expert on L.A. sightseeing. Instead I offer to talk about breaking news stories like Robert Blake's arrest, or the falsification of George Harrison's death certificate, and tie them in with the other notorious Hollywood scandals and murders that my book covers.
Similarly, after September 11, when talk radio seemed to be "all terrorism, all the time," Steve adapted and continued to get interviews by offering himself as an expert on Hollywood's response to wars and national crises. He also got Valentine's Day bookings by offering to talk about Hollywood romances, and bookings in March by talking about the stories and legends behind the Academy Awards. After a celebrity dies, he gets even more interviews by offering to tell anecdotes about that celebrity.
Once we've done an interview, we always send a "thank you" note to the host or producer. We also call the station's receptionist to provide information about the book because listeners who don't remember or didn't catch your name or your book's title may call the station for additional information. The receptionist is the first and very often the only person the listener will ever reach. You'll want to be sure this radio employee has not only your name and the book title but also your URL and ordering information.