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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Killer Campaign: Podcast Interviews

I've generally seen podcasts as audio short stories, but the podcast interview is gaining momentum. Last year, I would have been hard pressed to recommend them because what few I'd listened to were nothing short of painful.

The audio was bad, the editing was uneven and the chemistry between the interviewer and the interviewee felt awkward.

Then I discovered KS Augustin and Radio Free Bliss. At the time, 'Kaz' and I were casual online friends. She being of the techy persuasion, she was my go-to person whenever I floundered in the muck and mire of the cyber world.

I had listened to a few of her past interviews and I loved her relaxed interviewing style and the high quality of her audio.

Eventually, (Read: Finally) she asked me to be a guest on her show. I was too shy to ask to be interviewed. Note: Mistake #1. If you want to be interviewed, don't wait to be asked.

It was supposed to occur last week, but if you read this post, I was otherwise occupied with a relentless alarm system I couldn't shut off. So we rescheduled it for this week.

While we're waiting for that to occur, let's talk about podcast interviews, sometimes called blog talk radio, as a source of FREE promotion.

Podcast interviews are unique in that it allows the visitor a little more insight of the author as a person. In this day of online personas, we sometimes forget that there is flesh and blood behind all the cyber chatter. An audio interview allows us to hear the person behind the book.

Is s/he lively, serious, intelligent-sounding or playful? A good interviewer will bring out the best and most becoming side of his guest.

Like blogs on the internet, a talk blog or podcast must have personality and appeal. Aside from the quality of the audio, you as the guest want to feel welcomed and comfortable.

I once listened to a podcast interview where the interviewer talked more about himself and HIS book than his guest's. He then had the audacity to denigrate the author's genre. He honestly looked the fool for trying to grab the limelight.

The interviewee had the grace and cahonas to stand her ground and redirect the interview back to her book.

There will be times when there is no way to foretell how an interviewer will behave. Your only two options will be to either walk away from the show or salvage what you can.

When planning for a podcast, do your homework.

• Gather a few candidates, podcast shows that would welcome you and your genre

• Listen to several podcast interviews before contacting the show's host and ask yourself:

~ Does the host make the guest feel comfortable?
~ Are the questions phrased clearly?
~ Is the audio of good quality?
~ Is the overall feel of the show positive or fun?

When contacting the show's host, ask about:

• Is he familiar with your genre or work?

• Will the host interview you if you are not traditionally print published? Some will not interview e-pubbed authors, most will not interview self-pubbed authors. Ask to be sure.

• Process. What goes on behind the scenes?

• Will he send you questions so you can prepare ahead of time?

• Turnaround time. How long is it between recording and publishing the podcast?

• Do you have any control over edits?

If you enjoy talking to people, you'll probably like talk radio. Like any other speaking engagement you want to be sure you're in good voice and you are relaxed and prepared.

Tips for during the interview

• Keep a bottle of water with you

• Give yourself plenty of time to chat with the host ahead of time so you both feel comfortable with each other.

• If the show's host has given you questions for the interview, don't read your answers off your cheat sheet. You want to sound natural.

• Lock your children and pets in another room, better yet, another house.

• Schedule your interview for a time when you are freshest. (Ironically, the one I'm doing with KS Augustin had to be scheduled to suit the time difference between us since we live on opposite sides of the globe.)

• Relax and have fun.

While doing my research for this post, I was surprised to find just how much goes on behind the scenes before an interview is ever recorded.

I decided to ask KS Augustin a few questions about what goes into preparing for an interview and what sort of guests she welcomes on the show.

MZ: What qualifications (and equipment) would a potential interviewee need if they wanted to be on your show?

KSA: To be on my show, Radio Free Bliss, you really need a PC, a Skype "handle" (name), a headset/mic, and be a genre author (sf&f/horror/romance), and not vanity published. Oh, and speak English. (That's my own personal deficiency, unfortunately.)

MZ: Audio and video show a slightly different side of the author in that the audience can hear or see the author. In podcasts, do you think the interview is less successful when the interviewee has a poor speaking voice or manner? I know I get a little distracted when I hear a lot of verbal quirks. Does it detract from the overall quality of the show or do you do a lot of editing?

KSA: Oh dear. You've stumbled across my secret. As writers, we're used to putting down words, reading them over, editing them, reading them over again. When you're being interviewed, you just don't have this luxury and, as a result, you lose the comfort of a standard way of operating. In addition, a lot of people find interviews very stressful and that, by itself, can lead to a heightened use of "um"s and "er"s in their speech.

I'll admit I do a lot of editing. My editing time to recording time is often 3 or 4 to 1. So if the final product is, say, 45 minutes long, that means I've often spent two-and-a- half to three hours editing it to normalise the sound levels and get rid of most of the "verbal quirks", as you put it. Other than that, I think people will forgive a lot if you have something interesting to say.

MZ: Is there anything an interviewee can do to come off well on radio?

KSA: A lot of people say to have notes next to you, but I've had that backfire as well, because reading something from a page can change the pacing and tenor of an interviewee's voice. If you're not used to reading out loud, it tends to sound a bit "dead". I tend to give my interviewees a list of questions but then add that there'll also be a 20% improvisation factor, where I'll just throw out some questions related to something interesting they've said. In this way, I try to add a bit of dynamism to the interview, even though the interviewee may be prepared and have notes there beside them.

I don't worry about long pauses between questions or anything like that because I can just edit them out. And I always "over-record". That is, I'll record 45 to 50 minutes of audio for an interview I cut down to about 35 minutes. That gives me some flexibility in cutting out extraneous bits (usually my own cracked observations). Remember, the interview is about the author, not about you, so leave your ego at the door.

***
The verdict?

Podcasts are a good choice if you like to speak in public while still in your pajamas. And the price is right too.

Here are a few to look into.

Radio Free Bliss
Writers in the Sky
Blog Talk Radio (which seems to host many radio shows under one banner)
Reading and Writing Podcast
Writers Cast

Stay tuned for my first podcast interview coming soon.

Hmm…I wonder if I can do the whole interview in my Daffy Duck voice.

For more articles in the Killer Campaign series, go here.

***
Remember that I will choose one winner from this week's comments for a print copy of Touch Of Fire.

Copyright © 2009 Maria Zannini -- http://mariazannini.blogspot.com/.


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3 comments:

Sherri said...

Very interesting post. Like you, what few I've listened to have had bad audio and came across as awkward and stiff. However, I've got some friends who swear by them, having more positive experiences.

Maria Zannini said...

I think they're getting better as a whole, perhaps due to better equipment, but you still have to vet them to make sure there's some chemistry between you and the host.

Jeff said...

Maria,

Thanks for including my Reading and Writing podcast in your list.

I would also recommend that your readers check out the Adventures in Sci-fi Publishing podcast. Sadly, it's on hiatus, but there's more than 60 past episodes featuring a bunch of writer interviews. http://www.adventuresinscifipublishing.com/

Also, I recommend the Books on the Nightstand podcast. Ann and Michael, the hosts, don't do author interviews, but they recommend a ton of great books.
http://www.booksonthenightstand.com/

Cheers,

Jeff Rutherford