Sunday, June 10, 2007

BEA: Meet National Radio Producers

Susan Feeney (All Things Considered) & Amy Salit (Fresh Air)

Alicia Haywood (Satellite Sisters) & Mary Hardiman (Morning Edition)

On Thursday, May 31, Elizabeth Shreve of Shreve Williams Public Relations moderated "Meet National Radio Producers." Only three producers had been listed in the BEA schedule, but there were five on the panel. From left to right, they were:
  • Shannon Rhoades, Morning Edition (NPR)
  • Susan Feeney, All Things Considered (NPR)
  • Amy Salit, Fresh Air (NPR)
  • Alicia Haywood, Satellite Sisters (ABC)
  • Mary Hardiman, Talk of the Nation (NPR)
There was a sizeable audience of mostly publicists and authors. Shreve, former head of publicity at Holt (she spoke on my "Book Publicity Basics" panel at VaBook Festival in March and at my DC workshop in in April) got the ball rolling by asking what types of books the producers look for.

Rhoades: Morning Edition correspondents like a series of books in one conversation-- Iraq, food books for summer--with a big web build-out.

Feeney: All Things Considered rarely does fiction because it's hard for two people to talk about a story that they know but no one else does.

Salit: Fresh Air does mostly authors. Celebrating our 20th anniversary as a national show--more than 30 years in Philadelphia.

Haywood (sole booker for Satellite Sisters): We don't do pink books about friendship.

Hardiman: What's the question to the listener? The topic has to be experiential. Our main segment is a 40-minute interview; ender is 17 minutes.

Shreve: How do you like to be pitched?

All: EMAIL! We get so many phone pitches, especially 15 minutes before airtime. [Bad! Spank!]

The hardest call is when the person launches into a 5-minute pitch without drawing breath or even asking if I'm interested. Don't send books blind; send an informative email first.

I don't answer phone calls. I've been at the job too long, I'm tired of talking on the phone. Send the book; I don't believe a press release. WE INTERVIEW AUTHORS, NOT BOOKS. Don't have a speech impediment; you must speak English.

Send the book with a note why the book and author are extraordinary. It's hard for us to sort through the junky stuff. DO NOT CALL ON DEADLINE or after 3pm, when we're on the air.

We must get the book. The book matters first and foremost.

NPR has a dibs system--specific shows put dibs on upcoming books. All Things Considered won't do a book unless they can be first. Fresh Air isn't part of the dibs system but they try not to duplicate ATC or Diane Rehm. Can send a book directly to an NPR reporter who covers that topic.

Rhoades: No sloppy seconds! Morning Edition has a bigger audience than all three TV morning shows put together. We trade dibs with other shows. The dibs are based on Publishers Weekly, catalogs and newspapers.

Haywood: We don't do dibs, but Good Morning America Radio leads into our show, so we don't want to have the same book.

Salit: Booking guests is a competitive sport.

All: Hit the pub date! The book must be available when you do the radio interview.

Feeney: Embargoes don't work. NPR won't sign a legal agreement, but we don't break embargoes. We're looking for a new system.

All: We almost never do self-published books.

Audience: How far in advance will we know when the interview will air?

Rhoades: We'll let you know. Morning Edition is constantly changing; the interview could be bumped for news.

Haywood: We're live. The day we book you for is the day we're on air.

Audience: What are the most critical pieces in a press kit?

Salit: Must have a lot about the author. Audio and video tape.

Feeney: Packaging!I hate the gray fluffy stuff in padded envelopes that explodes all over, or if a package is machine-sealed and I can't open it. [Agreement all around.]

Rhoades: I love early PW or Kirkus reviews; a news peg.

Hawyood: Send information about the author, including a Q&A.

Hardiman: We book AUTHORS. We want to know what kind of talker the author is. Send a Q&A. News peg is important.

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