I’m hardly an ‘A List’ writer, but from time to time I do get asked to appear on TV or radio. Typically, nowadays, this happens when a producer Googles the topic of his show, and one of my books comes up in the results list.
TV appearances in particular can be a great opportunity to promote yourself and your books to a large audience – so while I do still get a bit nervous before going in front of the cameras, I usually accept any invitations. (Although I did turn down one opportunity recently to discuss obituaries, where I had been asked because I wrote a novelty book about ‘famous last words’ ten years ago.)
Anyway, I thought in this post I’d tell you about my first-ever TV appearance, over twenty years ago, and what I learned from it. It was arranged by the publishers of a book I had written called How to Find Your Ideal Partner. As you may gather, this was a guide for single people on how to find the love of their life – sadly it’s out of print now…
The publisher told me I’d be appearing on a regional evening news programme. Unfortunately it wasn’t in my area but in the East of England. I was promised a rail travel voucher and an overnight stay in a nice hotel, but no fee. Still, hopefully the appearance would give sales of my book a big boost, in East Anglia anyway…
At first, all went well. I arrived at the station mid-afternoon and found my way to the hotel. I had been told a taxi would pick me up at six pm, so I amused myself for an hour or two watching afternoon TV and using the hotel swimming pool and sauna.
The taxi duly came, but instead of taking me to the studio as I expected, I was delivered to a local technical college. ‘This is where they’re filming,’ the taxi driver explained helpfully.
OK, then. I headed for the college reception and explained my business. I was directed to a small room where a trio of bored-looking technicians were drinking coffee from plastic cups. I introduced myself to the one with the most impressive stubble. ‘Oh, you’re the relationships expert, aren’t you?’ I duly accepted this description. ‘They want you up in the library.’
So off I went. I was immediately grabbed by the producer and told to stand by one of the bookshelves while the Glamorous Female Presenter introduced me. He gave me a slip of paper: ‘Here’s what we want you to say.’ It was along the lines, ‘I’ll be telling you everything you need to know on how to meet the man or woman of your dreams.’
And within moments a camera was pointing at me and the GFP began, ‘Tonight I want to introduce you to Nick Daws, our very own Doctor Lurrrve…’ I was so stunned by this, I completely forgot what I was meant to say and instead muttered something like, ‘Hey, there.’ ‘That’ll do,’ the producer said, and off we marched to the next location…
To cut a long story short, instead of the cosy studio discussion I had envisaged, the show in question was a manically paced, ‘zany’ affair. After the library, we invaded a workshop, where the only female student was asked embarrassing questions about whether she fancied any of the men there, and I was asked to pontificate on the attractions (or not) of evening classes for those in search of a mate.
Eventually I got a chance to sit down and the GFP asked me a few more serious questions about the dating game. I answered as best I could, and then suddenly the shoot was over. ‘Thanks, mate,’ one of the techs said as they were leaving. ‘That was good TV.’
It was half-past six and I was left on my own as the crew bundled into their van and headed off to the local pizza house. I realized as they drove off that, in all the frantic excitement, I had completely forgotten to mention my book….
So that was my introduction to the crazy world of television. Here are a few things I learned from it. I pass them on in case any of you find yourselves in the position I was…
* Find out as much as you can beforehand about the show you are appearing on. Don’t trust your publisher to tell you the whole story!
* If it’s a regular show, try to watch it yourself a few times to get a feel for the style and approach.
* If it’s not in your area, ask a friend or relative who does live there to watch and report back (and preferably send you a recording). Nowadays, you may be able to check it out on the Internet as well.
* Remember that the producer and interviewer will have their own agenda and ‘angle’ they want to pursue. Try to find out in advance what this is. If you’re not happy about this, then say so.
* Have your own goal or target as well. If you’re going to promote your book, DON’T forget to mention it! Be sure to take a copy with you, and if at all possible show it to the viewers.
* If you have a good anecdote to impart, tell the researcher beforehand. There is every chance it will be passed on to the interviewer, who will take the opportunity to ask you about it.
* And finally, don’t take any of it too seriously. Try to relax and be yourself. TV is entertainment – it’s not a matter of life or death.
So those are some of the lessons I learned from my first TV appearance – I’m glad to say others I’ve done subsequently have been a little more successful. But what about YOU? If you’ve been on TV or radio to discuss your work, I’d love to hear about your experiences and any tips you’d like to share. Please leave your comment below as usual.
Photo Credit: CC BY-NC by Roo Reynolds
- An earlier version of this article appeared on my old writing blog a few years ago.