So You Want to Be on Television

So you want to be on television? What outfit should you select? What should you avoid wearing?

Dangling earrings or studs? And how about that red lipstick?

Recently, I was interviewed on our city’s cable station for an upcoming event that involved a non profit where I volunteer. Before the show was taped, I received some helpful hints from the production staff.

1.  Know Your Material.  Interviewers dislike blank air space. If you struggle with speaking extemporaneously, ask if you can have a list of questions ahead of time. If necessary, offer a list of questions of your own.  Practice your answers. If you are talking about your book, look again at your media kit, because interviewers might not read your book, but probably will glance at your press materials.

2. No Plaids and Stripes. Avoid busy patterns or anything that can detract from the message of what you are saying. Are you considering that botanical print covered in roses, chrysanthemums, and daisies? Save that for your next garden party and choose something else from your closet.

3. No to Pastels. White, ivory and pastel fabrics will wash the color right out of you and reflect too much light. Our city’s production staff did not want me to wear black and white together, either, as it presented a contrast problem for the camera. Best colors: medium to bright solids in blue, brown or green.

4. How about footwear? I have filmed at this location several times. At the first filming, my feet were not visible, so at my next filming, I came in flip flops, unaware that the set had been remodeled. I was glad I hadn’t come in pajama bottoms, thinking only my top half would be visible! I have learned my lesson and  I now come prepared from top to bottom!

5. Professional attire? As the saying goes, dress for success. Simple classic styles are best and a jacket or collared shirt helps hide the microphone. For my recent taping, they requested I wear a shirt from the organization I represented. Thankfully, I had one with a collar.

6. How about those dangling earrings? If the necklace, bracelet or earrings are too noisy or too sparkly, leave them at home. Anything that might reflect the lights should not be worn.

7. That favorite red lipstick? Again, no. Red tends to look like it is bleeding on camera (not the look you are going for). Natural makeup is best, but remember that the lights will wash out complexions, so you can wear more makeup than normal. (Just be cautious. Bozo the clown is not the look you are going for either.) The staff will apply powder, if necessary, to reduce shine for men and for women.

8. Cell phone? Ask if someone can take a photo of you on the set and then turn the phone off until after the filming.

9. Body Posture. When the production staff sent me a recording of a recent taping, I noticed that I had sat too comfortably back in my seat. I was also seated between the interviewer and another guest and had turned my head to the left and right, rather than my entire body. Both of these mannerisms added weight to my face and to my middle. For a slenderizing look, it is best to lean forward slightly and, if possible, to turn your upper body (and not just your head) during the interview.

10. Enjoy yourself. You’ve got this! For authors who are more comfortable with the written word, it can be a bit daunting to speak without notes. Remind yourself that you have a message you want heard and be thankful for an open door to a wider audience.

Lynne Hartke’s first book, Under a Desert Sky, releases on May 2 with Revell/Baker Pub.

Ten Tips for a Satisfying Radio Interview

The Water Cooler is pleased to host guest blogger Cynthia Ruchti. Welcome Cynthia!



The success of a radio interview is as easy to calculate as the number of baby guppies born in the night. Did listeners rush to their local bookstore to purchase or order the book? Were there more than two people listening? Please, God?

Since God is the only one with answers to those questions about numbers and impact, we adjust our expectations toward satisfying radio interviews.

Is there anything we can do to ensure listeners, interviewers, and the author will end a radio interview satisfied with the process and what was communicated?


Oh, you’d like a more detailed answer than that? See midway through the bullet points below.

  • Muzzle the dog. Dogs come equipped with radar-like sensitivity for the most inconvenient time to bark or whine-during a live radio interview. Find an enjoyable place for the dog to hang out or a relatively sound-proofed spot for you to conduct your interview.
  • Choose coffee or tea over an iced beverage. Ice cubes clink. Condensation makes a drinking glass slippery. The plastic on bottled waters squeaks and pops at inopportune times. Even if you’re drinking water, opt for a mug with a large, easy-to grip handle.
  • Disable call waiting on your phone. Any blips or burps, even the technology kind, will temporarily disrupt the interview, which is as serious as interrupting a reader’s immersive experience in your book.
  • Keep a careful record of the contact information, date, time (allowing for different time zones), and details like the radio host’s name, number, and whether you or the program producer calls.
  • Compile your notes, reminders, talking points, bonus topics, and Scriptural connections in one easy-access spot. I use a large foam core board for each book currently considered for interviews. Right now I have an interview board for As Waters Gone By and one for Tattered and Mended: The Art of Healing the Wounded Soul. This week I’ll create a board for An Endless Christmas. There I’ll post potential interview questions/answers, quotes from the book, additional bits of research, two or three statements relating to the book’s theme(s) to which I can turn if the discussion derails, etc. The boards slip behind a chair in my office when not in use.
  • Create sample questions that can’t be answered with a simple (and boring for radio interaction) yes or no.
  • Keep a small notebook nearby to jot connecting point thoughts (and use a pen you don’t have to click or uncap during the interview). Call the host/hostess by name sometime during the interview or refer to a profound, heartwarming, or intriguing statement the host made.
  • Fifteen minutes before the interview starts, make one last trip to the bathroom.
  • Stay others-centered. What interchanges will make the interviewer feel great about having you as a guest? What points of interest will make the audience glad they tuned in?
  • Spend time in God’s Word and in prayer prior to the interview. You’ll enter the interview calmer, refreshed, vitalized, and well-prepared.

What’s your favorite interview tip?

This post originally ran on the ACFW blog and is used here with permission.

Cynthia Ruchti tells stories hemmed in hope through her award-winning novels, novellas, devotions, nonfiction, and through speaking events for women. She draws from 33 years writing and producing a 15 minute scripted radio broadcast called The Heartbeat of the Home. She and her plot-tweaking husband live in the heart of Wisconsin. You can connect with her at or

What is a Literary Publicist?

WomanwithBookA publicist is a professional who has both the know-how and the network in place to help bring your name to the public. In the literary world, a publicist is key to the marketing plan, to create consumer appetite for a book title, and to stimulate buzz for the author.

A literary publicist promotes the book title directly to consumers through niche markets with an interest in the storyline or subject matter of the book. The publicist also networks with media by pitching specific interview angles the author can provide—setting up the writer as an expert on certain subjects.

Sometimes publishing houses hire independent PR firms to manage specific book campaigns, or entire lines of books. Other times, they pay half toward an outside campaign, and the author matches that. The third option is for the author to pay all of the expense from their advance, believing that publicity and marketing is what will make or break the overall sales for the book. Publicists also assist with author branding for the career of the author, so the buzz extends beyond the life of one book.

Most PR and communications firms offer a wide array of services. They come alongside of you at any stage in the writing game. They can help expand your platform, branding, and name recognition. Need some help making sure your website is selling you in the best possible light? Ask your publicist. Some will even edit your manuscripts and write your book proposals, query letters and marketing plans. Many customize plans to work with your goals, no matter where you are in the literary process.

After the book contract, your publicist will customize a plan for promoting you and your titles with the goal of maximizing exposure—with hopes that the promotion goes “viral.” This requires multiple reaches to the public, through traditional media presence, online spotlights, and waves of social networking.

Why Hire a Publicist?

1. A publicist has the media contacts and relationships needed to secure interviews/ reviews.
2. A publicist knows how to pitch your book to the media and how each journalist prefers to be contacted.
3. Most writers do not have the time to devote to a publicity campaign. It is a full-time job.
4. When an author pitches his own book to media or consumers, it is sometimes viewed as being too self-promotional. A publicist is seen as a third party. Others are more receptive to discussing book promotion with a publicist rather than the author.
5. When media, retailers, and consumers hear an author has a publicist, they seem to think the author has more “clout.” It legitimizes the expert-status of the author and elevates them to a higher professional standing.
6. An author with a publicity team has “peeps.” It’s that whole “I’ll have my people contact your people” approach.

KathyWillisKathy Carlton Willis spins many plates as writer, speaker, editor, and platform coach. She writes and speaks with a balance of funny and faith—whimsy and wisdom. Kathy discusses the key issues that hold believers back and shines the light on their paths to freedom. Kathy’s passionate about helping audiences have lightbulb moments. All told, nearly a thousand of Kathy’s articles have been published online and in print publications. Speaker to Speaker: The Essential Speaker’s Companion (OakTara) and Grin with Grace (AMG) are set to release in 2014. She serves alongside her pastor husband, Russ Willis, in local church ministry.

Scary Publicity Stories

????????????Like most authors, I have a second job title: Doer of Whatever It Takes to Get My Books in Front of the Public So They Will Sell. Much of the time, it’s a pretty cool job with a lot of variety.

Sometimes, though, it’s almost scary, like…

The bookstore signing

I spend an hour and a half at a table outside a bookstore. The place is mobbed – not with readers frantic to buy my book, but with adults and kids participating in a fun run to benefit the local children’s hospital. It is also the weekend for children to trick-or-treat in the indoor mall. Sitting at my table, I get lots of attention, though. The two most frequent questions I get asked are: “Where is a bathroom?” and “Is there some place around here where we can get something to drink?” Being the helpful person I am, I point people in the direction of the former and offer the others some of my bottled water. And people think being an author isn’t glamorous…

The best part of the gig is watching the costumed revelers go by. I see a pint-sized Dracula in tears, a little Spiderman whose foam-padded muscles are slipping off his shoulders, several princesses, and a standard-sized poodle dressed as a duck. But my day takes on cinematic proportions when two adult Star Wars storm-troopers, fully armed with plastic laser guns, walk down the hall. Oh my gosh! Man the Deathstar! Call the Jedi! Tell Spielberg to get the cameras rolling again!

A mom with her baby in her arms poses next to the storm-troopers while a friend takes a picture with her cell phone. The baby takes one look at the helmeted man and goes to sleep. I know how she feels.

Storm-troopers are so passé.

My first television interview

“You’re not allergic to dogs, are you?” a nice young intern named Kurt asks me before he opens the door to the green room, where I’ll wait for my turn on the show.

“How big are the dogs?” I ask, since I don’t do well with big dogs in open spaces, let alone big dogs in small windowless rooms where they can slobber all over you while you cringe in abject misery on a hard plastic chair.

“They’re little,” he says.

“No, I’m not allergic,” I tell him, and he ushers me into the room.

Kurt’s right, the dogs are little. Really little. They are also dressed up in costumes. One is a shark, one is a pumpkin, and one is a Chihuahua wearing a blonde wig and red dress.

“Who’s the Chihuahua?” I ask.

“Marilyn Monroe,” the handler answers.

I give myself a mental head slap. Of course it’s Marilyn Monroe. What was I thinking?

I’ll tell you what I’m thinking. I’m thinking I’m waiting to be interviewed about my novel with a bunch of dogs dressed up for Halloween. I’m thinking I’m going to fire my publicist, except that I’m my publicist.

Now that’s scary.

Stealth Marketing

Like many writers, I have issues with shameless self-promotion: I really hate blowing my own horn because isn’t that exactly what Christian humility tells us NOT to do?  Like every writer, though, I have to get myself into the marketplace to not only make sales and gain a readership, but also to spread the word that God has given me to share.

What’s a humble Christian to do?

One answer I’ve found is what I call ‘Stealth Marketing’ – marketing that doesn’t feel or look like traditional book selling yet still puts my name and book in front of new audiences I might not otherwise reach. Basically, I do non-profit events.

In particular, I donate books to silent auctions or hold a book signing to benefit a local charity. I’ve found that what I forfeit in cash revenue, I get back many times over in free publicity, good will, new readers, and a personal sense of contribution.

In the past year, I’ve donated books to local, regional, and national silent auction fundraisers. I started with the annual dinner auction at my children’s school, which is usually attended by some 300 people. I wrote up a brief sketch of the book and submitted it along with a photo to be used on the display card at the auction, as well as in the auction booklet. After the event, I had a call from another school parent who told me that she thought the books were such a great item idea, that she was going to buy a set of my books to donate to another group’s auction. I estimated that would double the exposure I’d just gotten from the first auction. Out of curiosity, I checked my website tracking to find that the number of hits clearly rose after the dinner. Good intentions and a book donation can go a long way, I realized.

Deciding I’d found a productive way to publicize my books and generate sales without the self-promotion I dreaded, I began to look for non-profit groups that corresponded with my target market – birdwatchers and mystery readers – to reach new audiences. In the past year, my books were listed in  programs for a variety of fundraisers, including the Raptor Research Foundation’s annual (international) meeting, the national conference of MIA/POW families, a Savannah (GA) Rotary Club, and the International Festival of Owls. After each event, I’ve seen increased traffic to my website.

Closer to home, I really enjoyed the book signing hosted by my favorite local eatery. It was a success for all of us involved: I asked customers to bring items for the local food shelf, and I discounted each book they bought. We collected bags of food to restock the shelves just before the winter holidays, the diner had increased business that morning, and I got free publicity in the bulletins of area churches that support the food shelf, not to mention that warm feeling of doing something good for my community!

Do you practice stealth marketing?

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