Media Training for Authors: 6 Ways to Become a Go-To Expert | Jane Friedman

Media Training for Authors: 6 Ways to Become a Go-To Expert | Jane Friedman

and portable light are trained on a woman who’s being interviewed.” class=”wp-image-64666″ srcset=”https://janefriedman.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/09/rizzo_media_expert-blogpost-1000×667.png 1000w, https://janefriedman.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/09/rizzo_media_expert-blogpost-450×300.png 450w, https://janefriedman.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/09/rizzo_media_expert-blogpost-768×512.png 768w, https://janefriedman.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/09/rizzo_media_expert-blogpost.png 1200w” sizes=”(max-width: 1000px) 100vw, 1000px”/>Photo by Sam McGhee on Unsplash

Today’s post is by author and media trainer Paula Rizzo.

Authors will often say, “I’ll do media when my book comes out!” and I always inform them—it’s too late. In fact, you need to start before you even have a book.

I know, I know—but it’s true! Don’t panic.

I started a blog at ListProducer.com about list making, how to be more organized and less stressed in April 2011. I knew if anyone was going to take me seriously as an expert, I needed to be seen in the media. So I pursued media attention. Lots.

Why is doing media so important? Well, nothing gives an author or her book a boost like a media mention. It might not always equal book sales, but being recognized in the media is one of the best ways to get people excited about you and your book. and if you’re earlier in the process, it helps to sell your book proposal too. My publisher was impressed that I could get the media’s attention when they signed with me.

I know this from both sides. I spent nearly two decades booking authors for TV appearances. In my career as a journalist and an Emmy Award–winning senior television producer, I noticed something about the authors and experts who made the cut versus the ones who never made it past the pitch. The authors who are chosen for segments already had media under their belts—usually. Television moves quickly and producers can’t be bothered testing out people who are terrified to be on camera. Now as a media trainer I’m able to help my clients get a “yes” from the media.

Now, you might be wondering—how can I begin doing media appearances for the very first time and get the ball rolling?

1. Start before you’re ready.

In fact, it’s imperative for you to start before you feel fully “ready.” You’ll probably never feel totally ready, and that’s okay. Once you get started, each experience will add to your confidence. and by the time you’re doing media for your book, you’ll feel right at home. You should also be creating your own content and talking about topics that you care about even if the media doesn’t come knocking right away. 

2. Get your feet wet.

Don’t be a snob! No opportunity is too small—and in fact, it can actually be better to start with smaller audiences and build up from there. Very few people start with top-tier media. Choose some local outlets to pitch and practice with. Every media experience gives you more name recognition and will move you towards your next gig.

Media begets media. Once you do one interview, you can use that to pitch others. and where do you think producers and editors are looking for experts? Other media! But you have to be there to be found.

3. Get used to rejection.

Rejection is more than okay. It’s good, because it means you’re putting yourself out there. Pitching yourself as an author and expert means you’ll deal with a lot of rejection, and it’s something you have to get used to. Try not to get discouraged or take it personally. It just means you weren’t the right fit or it wasn’t the right time. Make sure you follow up—sometimes that’s even more important than the first attempt.

4. Make friends with reporters and producers.

As you begin to pitch yourself and start doing media, always maintain friendly relationships with reporters and producers. Whether you book the segment or not, keep in touch so that they remember you for next time. You never know when they’ll need someone with exactly your perspective or expertise!

Then make sure to say yes when they do ask you for a comment. It breaks my heart when authors say they passed on a media interview because they didn’t feel ready. This is why I’m encouraging you to start sooner rather than later: so this doesn’t happen to you! In a producer’s eyes, the expert who doesn’t say yes isn’t serious and they move on to the next—and may never call you again.

5. Remember, TV still matters.

Of all the things I’ve done in my career, people were most excited when they saw me appear on television giving an interview. I’ve won an Emmy Award as a television news producer, published two books (Listful Thinking and Listful Living), given keynote speeches and more. But not one of those accomplishments garnered me the social cache and excitement of being featured on television. Does it sell books? I have no idea. Probably not. But it boosted my visibility and contributed to my credibility. (In my experience, podcasts sell books more than other forms of media. Do lots of them! They are great practice too for bigger opportunities.)

6. Get up to speed on what to do before, during, and after a media appearance.

Practice what you’re going to say. You don’t want to sound stiff and rehearsed, but you should have an idea of what you’re going to talk about. The more you practice, the easier it’ll be to speak articulately and naturally. Watch episodes of the show you’re appearing on or check out the journalist’s previous work to get a better sense of the questions you might be asked. Sometimes they will share this information in advance, but not always. Practice out loud for television interviews. Trust me on this. You’ll feel strange, but it’s really important that you rehearse how certain words will sound when you say them.

I created a list of the top 10 media questions every author needs to be able to answer in an interview, at a book event or anywhere else! You can grab it here.

Use the Accordion Method. This is a concept I developed for my media-training clients. This means having a short, medium, and long answer to the questions you’re preparing for. That way, you can easily pick how you want to respond based on the amount of time you have. Speaking in soundbites is an essential skill for any author whether you’re doing media, pitching your book, speaking at book events or on stages. It’s something I teach in depth in my online training course Media-Ready Author.

Planning is key. Plan out what you’re going to wear, how you’ll do your makeup and what technology you’ll use if you’re appearing via video call. That way, none of the logistical elements will stress you out on the day of.

Promote it. Tell everyone that it’s happening! You want to create buzz around your media opportunities.

Be in the moment. You want to respond to what your interviewers are actually asking, even if their framing is a little different than what you practiced. You should have talking points and know the messages you want to get across but make sure you’re truly listening and go with the flow. All that practice will set you up to be able to improvise when the situation calls for it.

Always assume you’re on camera. You never want to be caught off guard making a funny face or fixing your hair on camera. Once you’re connected on Zoom or in the studio with the interviewer, assume they could broadcast at all times.

Make eye contact. As a producer, I learned this skill early on, and it’s something I do to this day whenever I speak to someone. When you’re in person with someone, pick one eye and stare into it the whole time you’re having a conversation. That way you don’t have to decide where to look and feel awkward. Just pick one eye and stick with it! If you’re on a video call, look into the camera’s lens, not at yourself on the screen.

Afterward, say thank you! Don’t forget your manners. It’s always polite to thank the reporter or producer in the moment as well as in a follow-up email. Connect with them on LinkedIn and follow them on social media. Get to know what they cover and also what they like personally. This helps to build and maintain relationships that can be fruitful down the line.

I can count on one hand the number of thank-you notes I received during my nearly 20 years as a television producer. Sending one will help you stand out and be remembered.

Repurpose all the content. This content isn’t just for the producer or reporter to use—it’s for you! Make the most of the content by sharing it with your audience online and repurposing it for blogs and social media.

Stay in touch and get asked back. Keep an open line of communication with reporters and producers who you’ve worked with. They already know you, so they’re more likely to work with you again. Leverage those relationships—if they enjoyed working with you once, it makes their job easier to book you again because they know you’ll do well.

When you cultivate these relationships before you have a book, it will be much easier for you to get the media’s attention when your book does come out. The trick is to start right now.

Paula Rizzo

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