Career Authors

How to Prepare for a TV Interview: Making Sure You’re Must-See TV

It’s the good news and the bad news, right? You’ve been asked to appear on TV.

Hurray—your platform’s been recognized and about to get stronger. What’s better than TV?

But—oh no. You have to sound perfect and look perfect. What’s worse than TV?

As an investigative reporter for the last 40 (yes) years and crime fiction author for 10, I’ve been on both sides of the microphone. Here’s the secret: If you’re prepared and savvy—that’s the ball game.

And, just as in journalism, you need the five Ws to hit it out of the park.

First, ask what

What kind of show is it? Do they want to interview you from your home? Have a conversation on a news set with a host or anchor?

Then ask, well, what

And equally important: Will it be live? Or edited and used as part of a bigger story? If you’re live, whatever comes out of your mouth instantly goes on the air. If it’s taped, it may be “live-to-tape,” in which case they run the whole thing without editing. If they’re doing a long taped interview as part of a bigger piece, they’ll choose the soundbites they want.

And here’s the time to ask how long. If you don’t know exactly what they need, you’ll have no idea how to prepare and how to make sure you present your important points.

Why

What’s this interview about? What do they want to know? What do they care about? Is it a fun show on summer reads? Or is it about your book in particular? About how you became a writer? Or your opinions on a current event that relates to your writing? If you know why, you can come equipped with the perfect answers.

Where

If you’re asked to come to a TV station to appear a show—where is the interview being shot? On a set? In a conference room? If it’s for an ongoing show, like a talk show or the news, preview it. See what chairs or stools they use. Will you be behind a desk? Or will your whole body show? You don’t want to wind up wearing a short skirt on a high stool. Unless the interview is about your thighs.

And where should you look? Here’s the secret—forget there’s a camera. Look at the interviewer. The camera person will take care of everything else .

(And—wear)

No white. No patterns—including stripes and florals. No shiny jewelry. No clanky necklaces or jangly bracelets—they’ll interfere with the sound. Wear something substantial enough to support a clip-on mic—that gorgeous silk blouse is not going to look so great if one side is drooping. A jacket or blazer is always reliable. And leave the swoopy scarves at home. They’re pretty, but always look overdone. (If you have to fuss, forget it.) And no green! It may interfere with computer-generated graphics.

And unless it is big time network TV, there will not be a makeup person. Two little words: wear makeup. (Or else you will look washed out and invisible.) Men? At least powder. Ask the person who invited you for advice.

Who

Is doing the interviews? They might not have read your book! (Sad but true.) So no matter what they ask, tuck in the main points about you and your book! They’ll be grateful if you make them look smart.

When

Two whens: when will the interview take place, of course. If you’re going to the TV station, be early but not too early. You’ll just sit in the lobby.

And—when will it be on? Can you get a link? This is when you put in your promo cap—first to drum up viewers, and then to plunk that lovely video right on your website.

Oh, look at the time! More to come about interviews soon—watch this space! Let me know on our Facebook page if you have any questions.

But now—get back to writing.