The scoop on Media training

In today’s world, the television, radio, newspaper, and magazine media have a big influence on the sales of most any mainstream consumer product, books included. Books can’t sell unless people hear about them.

While it’s true that word of mouth can sell books, something has to make reader #1 pick up and buy the book to start the ball rolling, and that something is often a review or mention in the mass media.

For the release of Look Me in the Eye, Crown has lined up about fifty interviews with all sorts of media. To maximize my chances of success in these interviews, they also arranged media training for me, yesterday in New York. And those fifty interviews may well lead to a hundred more, so I really need to be ready. It's one thing to tell someone about your book at leisure at a party. Presenting the high points of Look Me in the Eye in a three-minute interview is something else entirely.

At this moment, I’d like to introduce my publicist from Crown, and Melissa Hellen of Clarity Media Group, my media trainer. Crown has really gotten the very best people on Look Me in the Eye, every step of the way. Meet two more of them:

Ava is on the left; Melissa is on the right. We're standing in Melissa's office in Rockefeller Center, a short walk from Crown Publishers, which is in the Random House building on Broadway.

To some people “media training” sounds almost sinister. Rest assured, it’s not. No one tried to make me into anything I’m not. Here’s a brief description of what we did . . .

We started by going over the schedule of interviews and talking about the interview process. Melissa showed me how people sit for TV, and how close they are (hint – it’s a lot closer than you’d expect.) She showed me how the cameras are typically set up, and how to wear the lapel microphones. She told me what to expect for makeup, and why they use it, and we talked about how my clothes will look on camera.

All of that will certainly make me more comfortable when interviewers with cameras come calling next week. I start my television career right at the top, with the Today show. They’ll be taping next week, and the segment will air as soon as my book goes on sale.

Melissa, Ava, and I talked about the questions I’ll be asked. While there’s no way to know all the questions in advance, Melissa was reasonably certain of some “standards” and we talked about them, and how I’ll answer in a clear and concise manner.

Then, we went into a little studio and taped an interview. Playing it back, they pointed out places where I paused, or repeated myself. We looked at places I could use examples from my book in my answers, and we did the interviews over and over with me learning more each time.

After that, we talked about the differences between radio and television interviews, and we covered print interviews as well. Then, it was on to the book tour. We talked about what I’d read on my tour, and she had several good suggestions. In particular, she showed me how reading several short passages from within Look Me in the Eye could be more effective than reading a single chapter.

We taped that too, and looked at the results. I'll be more confident and smoother now, and all of you who come to see me can reap the benefit.

And that, in a few words, is what happens at media training. I am very glad Crown set this up for me. I’ll be a lot more confident now, and I’ll be able to get my points across more effectively. I’m still me, I’ll just do better in interviews now. And the first one starts soon, when I pick up a reporter who’s flying in from London in just a few more hours. So I'm off and running . . . .


Tena Russ said…
Thanks for this fascinating post, John, and keep them coming. Great insights into the "biz" of marketing.
Stephen Parrish said…
Ditto what Tena said. I've read lots of advice about the "biz," but nothing like this.
Drama Mama said…
Very informative post. Wow. The Today Show, eh? No pressure there. I'm sure the training makes you feel much better.
I'm always stunned when I see a famous person, and how transformed they are by the airwaves. They always seem so much taller/shorter/fatter/thinner/whatever in person.
Can't wait to see you in action!
John! Could you have imagined your book would have such an impact on the world? It will be an enormous comfort for the millions of families living with Aspergers to know it's not a disease, shortcoming, or affliction. It's imply another normal.

Sounds as though you have a fantastic team at Random House. Good luck!

John Robison said…
Drama Mama, I know what you mean about seeing famous people . . . years ago, when I was out with KISS, Cher came to one of our shows and she stood with me at teh edge of the stage.

She was like, giant, on television. In real life, next to me, she seemed tiny, pocket-sized.
Polly Kahl said…
Hey John, what interesting information, thanks. Some time ago I did many (over 20) television shows as well as NPR and lots of magazine articles, and I never had any of this training. It would have helped a great deal I am sure. It's good, and financially smart, of the publisher to arrange this for you. Not to mention helping you be more confident, which goes a long way in front of any audience. Congrats for taking another step on your road to helping millions of folks with autism and Asperger's.
John, wow...

As a first time poster, let me wish you good luck. I really hope you have a great time.

As someone who has been the other side frequently — the guy doing the interview — I used to spend a fair bit of time reading and researching the author, looking for something original or thought provoking in his or her background, something other interviewers might have missed. Authors going through the media gauntlet can lose energy quickly, and who can blame them? Answering the same question 50 times has to get old.

And then I would ask that one question, the one that hadn't been asked at any time in the previous three or four weeks, and you would see the author's eyes light up. He or she would engage right before my eyes. And a good interview would become a great one.*

So... I hope every one of those 50 interviewers asks at least one question that brings that shine to your eyes.

And don't sweat it if the interviewer has only read parts of your book. At this time of year — in my experience, anyway — someone on the book beat might have to interview six or seven writers each week during September. Even people who love reading have a hard time keeping up with numbers like that.

* That one question was the reason why I had a number of blurbs on Canadian book covers for awhile, in the '90s. *Sniff*
Unknown said…
Thanks for the inside scoop. Practice sure helps!
Niksmom said…
Wow, John, very interesting stuff. I wish you all the best. I'll have to check your appearances to see if you are coming anywhere near DE!
The Anti-Wife said…
This is so exciting. Thanks for keeping us informed and sharing your experience.
ssas said…
Very interesting.

I have a friend who is a famous sports star and I've seen his two "personas" in action. They are integrated seemlessly--he is an utter pro with the media and the public. The best part about him is that he doesn't actually change who he IS when he greets the public.

I have this feeling that you've got the same quality. I'm glad you've got so much support and I can't wait to see you when you come to DENVER, woot!
Aprilynne Pike said…
Wow, that sounds pretty intense! I hope you feel ready now. I have to tell you, I am so looking forward to your release. I have told everyone I know who knows ANYONE with Asperger's about your book and when it's coming out. I think it is going to be a bridge between the "normal" world and the Asperger's world. I hope you are very, very proud!
very, very cool and informative post. I'd love to get some "media training" someday. I'd love to be on the TODAY show someday, too, but one thing at a time. . .
Anonymous said…
Hi John. Can't wait to see you on TV. You would have been great even without the training because you are you, but your session with the trainer will no doubt make you more comfortable and confident in front of the camera.

You will be great!
Michelle O'Neil said…
This is so exciting!!!

This mom is thrilled for you.

Tell Matt Lauer I said, "Hey."
Lisa said…
November 15th, I'll be at the Tattered Cover!!!! I am so glad you're coming to Denver. As November approaches, please -- and I mean this -- let me know if there's anything I can help you with in advance. Needless to say, I'll be sure to tell all my friends they need to be there :)
Unknown said…
Thank you for taking the time to publish this information very useful! I’m still waiting for some interesting thoughts from your side in your next post thanks!
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