Book publicists do a number of things to help authors prepare for their interviews, but sometimes—and especially when there are big national media interviews, like NPR and the morning tv shows, at stake—-we hire media coaches.
These coaches are usually people who have worked extensively in broadcast media, often as television, or radio hosts. As such, they understand the time constraints, end goals, and thought processes behind broadcast media better than anyone else.
Publishing houses hire media coaches to work with authors for blocks of time, anywhere from 3 hours to a full 8 hour day, several weeks before the interviews are set to take place. They have read the book in question and have access to the full press kit the publicist has created. With this background knowledge, coaches sit down with the author and discuss the “Why?” of the book, fleshing out the most important talking points and making the case for why readers should pick it up. In a sense, coaches help authors refamiliarize themselves with the text and examine it as if they had never read the book before.
After establishing the talking points, and these are a list of concise, easy-to-remember ideas, coaches help the author get comfortable talking about them. It’s one thing to be used to talking about your book with your editor or publicist or significant other; it’s a completely different ballgame to discuss your book and its merits with a stranger, let alone before a large audience, whether it’s in-studio or at home.
Coaches have all kinds of tips and tricks to help authors make the most of their interviews, from the importance of repetition (it’s NOT a bad thing to repeat your core ideas and phrases…that’s how you make your message hit home!) to techniques for taking difficult, controversial, or nonsensical questions and answering them in such a way that gets your own point across, regardless of the answer a host may be seeking. One of the ways coaches do this is by having an author take part in multiple mock interviews, answering sample question after sample question in varying formats. Often times, coaches will tape the interviews so that they can watch and critique it with the author afterwards.
While the methods may vary, the end result of media coaching is the same: Authors feel more prepared and more comfortable for their interviews. They have the confidence and the practice to handle curveballs because they know exactly how to talk about their book no matter how the questions may be phrased.
Christina Mamangakis is a publicity manager at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Prior to that, she worked for Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, and W. W. Norton & Company.