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Before I jump into radio, let me say I owe a debt in this section to a superior media trainer in Los Angeles named Joel Roberts. He is a former talk radio co-host on KABC Los Angeles, for the number one show in the number one market in this country. He now trains authors, corporate executives and others how to handle the media. Just to give you an idea of how great this guy is, he trained a 60 year old author of a book on her near-death experience to survive the Howard Stern show. The material in this section is what I primarily learned from him.

Romancing the Radio - How to make the medium work for you
By Theresa Meyers

For years we've heard that it's word of mouth and hand pitching that boosts sales and recognition for authors. But romance writers often pass up the single best media opportunity they have to build word of mouth. It's called radio. And it can change the way you promote yourself forever.

"Radio is the national water cooler. It's where people talk about what is really on their minds. More than any other medium on the planet, radio has a finger on the pulse of the country and that really distinguishes it from other media," explains Joel Roberts, a professional media trainer and former talk show host for KABC in Los Angeles.

One thing best-selling authors who work with professionals publicists have in common is their willingness to do radio shows, according to Ariel Ford, one of the top book publicists in the nation. Many fiction authors avoid radio because they're not familiar with the medium and don't know the powerful possibilities it can unlock.

What kind of opportunities are there for romance fiction authors? Plenty. At any time there are 2,000 to 3,000 radio producers looking for guests to talk about every conceivable subject, Roberts said. Most radio stations will have at least one talk show during the week; many have several each day. Many radio shows, like newspaper columns, are syndicated and reach as many as 350 cities across the country with a single interview.

Getting booked as a guest takes know how and preparation. Keeping them calling you back takes practice. But before you go pitching yourself as a romance writer, Roberts said you need to know one thing. "Writers as writers don't necessarily interest radio shows. Commentators on issues, who happen to be writers, do interest radio shows. Once you've got that hook that gets you in, which is the comment on what ever is going on, then you can talk about whatever you like as things get underway," he said.

Just as a good book requires a good hook, pitching yourself as a media commentator also requires a good hook. "Your hook is the thing that will get you on the air, but it may not be your message," Roberts maintains. "Your message may be how to raise a moral child. Your media hook is, why are teens killing each other and their babies?" Still wondering if a romance author has the qualifications to make a social commentator? "I defy you to tell me anything that's irrelevant to the human heart," Roberts challenges.

In general, radio shows prefer to interview guests by phone because with the flick of a finger they can cut you off and end the interview if you don't seem to be what they are looking for or you can't get their producer's phone to ring. Most authors tend to fall into this category because they don't have a spine, Roberts says. "A lot of people get on the radio and don't articulate their overarching main theme. They'll give you a lot of examples or ribs, but no central, driving comment or spine. You'd be amazed how many people get on the radio and don't know why they're there." Your main theme becomes increasingly important since you won't get the opportunity to discuss your book in depth. However, on the up side, you can reach literally millions of people in just a few hours and, if your message is honed to a fine point, it will come across loud and clear.

To romance radio, first you need to know the rules. Each radio show has its own personality and style. Put together, these items make up the culture of the show. It is critical before you pitch a radio producer that you know what the culture of the show is, Roberts stresses. The following make up the culture of a radio show:

  • Format - Is the show guest or host driven? Who talks most? Howard Stern is a host driven show. It doesn't matter who he has on, he is still the star and the focal point.
  • Demographics - Ask yourself who is their audience? Are they young, old, executives, housewives, men, women?
  • Orientation - What type of programming do they use. Are they music? What type? Are they talk radio featuring business, sports or news?
  • Pace or style - Is the show a rapid fire talk radio or a friendly chat over coffee in the morning to entertain their listeners?
  • Tone - How do the hosts come across? Are they authoritative, friendly or obscene?
  • Do they interview people?
  • What if you're visiting your sister in Topeka and don't have a clue what the radio show is like? Call them. Ask to be put on hold during the show so you can listen, advises Roberts. If you live in the area, tune in. Much of what you need to discover about the culture of a show can be found by listening to it yourself.

In general one thing holds true especially for radio media. They are less like purveyors of truth and more like show business. "Talk radio is not ruled by light or truth, but by heat which is controversy, debate and tension," Roberts says. "If you want a producer to call you back, hook them with an idea for a show that's full of more controversy than they can handle. Don't call a radio show as a romance writer wanting to talk about romance writing. Call a radio show as a commentator on a topical issue. Be a media comment waiting to happen. That's what I train my clients to do."

According to Roberts, radio is a "yeah, but" business. The hosts of a talk show get brownie points when they make the switchboard overload with calls from listeners. If you can help them achieve this, then your well on your way. "Most people don't know that in radio if you bring the women listeners in, the men will follow," Roberts added. "At KFI in Los Angeles, the number one radio station in the number one market in the country, producers and hosts receive bonuses based strictly on the female demographics their shows create, not the male."

The top three strategies to interest radio producers include:

  1. Identify a problem - Americans often confuse sex with romance.
  2. Point to an opportunity - Businesses that sell to women can have an inside edge.
  3. Explode a myth - Romances aren't sex books.
Of these, exploding a myth gets the best response, according to Roberts. Romance is perfect for this. Think of the following myths: romance readers (and writers) don't have a life and are frustrated housewives; romances are just sex books; romances are only read by women; romances aren't serious books in the publishing industry; romances are all formula writing; romances encourage loose morals and fantasy existence; romance isn't true literature.

By exploding any one of these myths, you can drawn in the media, who will gladly debate it with you. And while there is debate, we are not talking defensiveness, Roberts warns. "Never ever, ever be defensive. You have nothing to apologize for. You're a purveyor of the greatest selling genre on earth. Walk in there with pride." Remember it isn't the truth you are asserting, Roberts states, but the juice the talk show can get out of it that counts. Radio's goal is to get the phones to ring off the walls. When pitching a producer, in thirty seconds or less you need to hold up the myth and then shoot it down. You can find these producers by looking up the station in the Bacon's Radio or Burelle's at your local library.

Roberts trains his clients, many of them authors, vigorously before they reach their interview. ""The really good media guests are so well-armed when they go in that they are totally relaxed," he explained. "Whenever you go onto an type of program, you have to be better at critiquing yourself than they are. Unlike television and video, radio is strictly verbal so in essence it's strictly storytelling. Media training is about trying stuff on to see if it works. It's about being so anchored in your message that you are compelling involuntarily when you get on the air." A few of the strategies Roberts trains his clients in are the following:

  • Know the culture of the show and be prepared to handle it. Since you know Howard wants to know if you modeled for the cover or practiced the sex scenes in your book, make sure you have an answer for him. "Romance writers should select shows that skew female or softer shows," Roberts suggests. "I think business shows would also be a phenomenal opportunity for someone to represent the romance industry. After all, romance is business, big business. Tell the producer you're talking about an industry that pulls in a billion a year. Explain how any business selling women's products should be reading romance." Should you avoid tougher talk shows? Not necessarily, Roberts says. "Although the right romance writer on Howard Stern would kick butt, they would have to be extensively trained."

  • Verbal Karate - give back as good as you get. It goes something like this. If the host says your book is all about sex, you turn around and say, "Well don't you like sex?" "When you do that you end up making the host look uptight, anti-sexual and anti-romantic. Rather than defending yourself, shoot a question right back at the interviewer," Roberts says. While this works well for people who can handle confrontation, you may not want to take this route if you're not thick-skinned.

  • Verbal Akito - take the power they launch at you and add to it to divert the hit away from you. As an example, Roberts suggests the following. "If somebody says romance is demeaning to women, you respond by saying 'Then why are they buying it to the tune of one billion dollars a year? Are you saying you know better for women than they do? Are you licensed to make judgments for women that you believe they can't make for themselves? Are you telling me we have a billion dollars worth of masochists out there and they are all signing up for humiliation?' It's just as important to ask questions as a guest as it is to answer them. A good rhetorical questions, well placed allows you to control the interview," he said.

  • Play the skeptic - Another strategy Roberts says works well is to become skeptical. Whatever they don't believe, you don't believe more. If the host says, "I can't believe that women read romances for more than the sex!" You reply, "You don't believe it! I don't believe it! It was the first thing I turned to when I picked up my first romance, but then I flipped to the first page and got hooked by the great characters and story, the plot...." And you continue from there.

  • Play the witness - rather than acting as an expert, give your views as someone from the front lines and insist that you don't have the expertise you're just sharing what you've seen or know, Roberts advises. This is where the reader testimonial is invaluable. The host may say, "You're not a relationship expert!" You say, "You're right. I'm not. But there was this letter I received from a lady who said she had just about given up on a 14 year marriage, she said she read her husband one of the confrontation scenes in the book where the woman tells the hero what she wants from a relationship and her husband was shocked. She said that was the turning point for them..."

If you're wary of radio because interviews make you nervous, Roberts offered this advice. "Know your stuff and anticipate the likely objections. That will go a long way towards reducing nervousness. Even more important than that is to get yourself into what Tony Robbins would call your peak state," he said. Which would you dress up for, a phone interview or a studio interview?

Most people are surprised when Roberts says dress for the phone. "It's much more important to dress up for your phone interview than your studio interview. When you're at home you have to que yourself to what makes you feel fantastic and gives you confidence. It comes through in the voice," he stated.

Other things you can do include standing up and smiling when you talk. These actions will also effect your speech. It also helps to get to know your interviewer first. "Chat with someone off the air a few minutes before the interview so you're not hitting the ground cold," Roberts suggests.

What is the single biggest mistake most radio interviewees make? "They talk too much," Roberts answered. "Some of my toughest clients are members of the national speakers association. You can't confuse talk radio with a podium speech. This is not a forum where a monologue works. Once you're on the air, a really good interview guest will interview the interviewer. It needs to be back and forth. A lot of people think they have to be polished instead of human. If you have to error, do it on the human side," he said.

As with all media, the best preparation you can get is from a reliable professional. "Don't cut your teeth on the air especially in a big market," Roberts advises. "If you want to cut your teeth in LA, you may end up with no teeth. Try a smaller market like San Antonio first." Roberts said authors with additional questions can contact him at 310-286-0631. What should you be looking for in a trainer? "Get someone with experience as a host," he suggests. "Too many media trainers have only worked the training side of things and don't have the real world experience to back them up."

Why should you explore radio as a means to build word of mouth? Sum it up in one word--controversy. It's what drives talk radio. Just the mention of romance novels can summon up an opinion from the mousiest individual. Imagine what it could do across the air waves.

Former talk show host Joel Roberts, is available for questions and media training by calling 310-286-0631. Every writer I've talked to who's gone through his training has said it has been more than worth the money.




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