On Thursday, May 29, the second of three "Media Matters" panels moderated by publicist extraordinaire Kim Dower (aka Kim-from-LA), was "Southern California Top Radio Producers." Panelists were:
- Jacob Conrad, editor, Day to Day, National Public Radio
- Lyle Gregory, producer, The Michael Jackson Show, KGIL
- Michelle Kube, producer, The Bill Handel Show, KFI AM
- Terrence McNally, host, Free Forum with Terrence McNally, Pacifica Radio, KPFK
- Mindy Steinman, producer, Airtalk and FilmWeek with Larry Mantle, KPCC
- Marrie Stone, guest host, Writers on Writing with Barbara DeMarco-Barrett, KUCI
- Jesse Thorn, producer & host, The Sound of Young America, podcast & public radio stations
McNally: I believe we [as a nation] can do better, and I want to find out how. That's the focus of my show. Almost always have nonfiction authors.
Conrad: "Day to Day" is news-driven. Listen to the show and get to know the voices of the hosts. [Pitch authors/stories for specific hosts.] We have fiction and nonfiction authors who have stories of their own [and are not just hawking their books].
Steinman: Nonfiction authors, a very few fiction with local interest. "Airtalk" is a two-hour daily news show. The last half-hour is the cultural segment. We get hundreds and hundreds of books a week; our eight producers get hundreds of emails a day. KNOW THE SHOW. No how-to, plastic surgery, celebrity bios. It's off-putting to be pitched what we don't cover.
Thorn: My show is younger-person oriented. I do all in-depth interviews: a lot of funny people, a nonfiction author on something unusual, musicians. No books with numbers in the title, or about John Adams. If Ted Turner wants to talk bison, I'm there.
Stone: We're a weekly show covering the art and craft of writing. All phone interviews. We do literary fiction, noir; no prescriptive nonfiction, how-to or romance. We get hundreds of books a week.
Kube: Bill Handel is a lawyer, he's crazy and has A.D.D. His attention span isn't long. An interview is no more than 15 minutes. KNOW THE SHOW. We're news-oriented, have 12 topics each morning. Our mission is to EDUCATE, INFORM & ENTERTAIN. Fiction must have a news hook. Bill hates how-to, dislikes self-help. We get hundreds of emails a day. Nothing makes me more crazy than getting the wrong pitch. LOOK AT THE WEBSITE.
Gregory: We are producers and hosts. Show is 2 hours a day. I went back on air [after being off for quite a while]. We're having fun with this, the third act of our baby boomer careers. Sometimes we do a thing every 15 minutes, sometimes we do it the whole hour. Thank you all for being here!
Kim: Know the show! Educate, inform and entertain is what it's all about. For broadcast, it's more important to have a great guest than a great book. You must be engaging and a good talker. The producer must know if the guest has a speech impediment. TV is about looks, radio is about voice.
Kube: I do a pre-interview, set up guests for Bill. Sometimes they fall apart. Bill hates it when an author says, "As I said in the book..." or "You have to read the book." [I hate that too! An author who was a college professor pulled that on me. I killed the piece and repurposed another interview I'd done for PW.]
Gregory: If you're plugging your book [on the show], you sound like a used-car salesman. Don't plug your book; Michael will plug it for you.
Kim: On live radio, you have to be a self-contained unit.
McNally: It's about the radio show, not selling the book. If people like the radio show, they'll buy the book.
Kube: We featured HOW TO DUCK A SUCKAH with a former pimp [Big Boom] as a relationship expert.
Kim: You have to talk to the author first [before you pitch him/her to media]. I knew to pitch Big Boom to Bill Handel.
Gregory: Sometimes we need that extra push.
Thorn: A lot of shows look for people who are really exciting. We don't necessarily do that. Scott Simon says, "If you're on tape, you can always wait till they answer some more." [You can't do that live, though. Dead air is...death.] Amy Sedaris is so good, she could come in and talk for an hour about ducks. I would marry her if I could. [You read it here first, folks!] For the interview, get the author to a radio station with an ISDN line. Pitch authors who are experts on topics, not just because they have a book out.
Kim: How do you want to be pitched?
Steinman: When you're pitching, send a copy of the book. Be sure to include author contact information.
McNally: Pitch by email; address on personal website. Send the book. Answer the question: How can we make society better? We can pre-record for Tuesday show.
Conrad: Email with engaging pitch with contact info. Rarely do phone interviews; must be on ISDN line.
Steinman: A one-page email and send the book. Don't call unless you're following up, nor when show is on the air, nor just off the air. Include TITLE, AUTHOR, PUBLISHER, PUB DATE and 2-3 sentences about the book. [Books don't necessarily have to be current.] When Gerald Ford died during Christmas week years ago, we searched Amazon to find an author of a book about him.
Thorn: Galleys are great. Pitch me by email: jesse (at) maximumfun.org. I hate the phone. Feel free to send books, they're like the fruitcakes Pee Wee Herman got on "Pee Wee's Playhouse."
Stone: ARCs are best. We're already booked through August. The earlier you pitch, the better. Follow up with email.
Kube: Pitch by email. I don't check voice mail every day. Pub date is important. If offering times, use Pacific Time. The top or bottom of the hour is no good.
Steinman: Always include the author's tour schedule.
Gregory: Pitch by email. Don't send galleys. We can do cell phone interviews. We book guests anywhere from a minute to a month in advance. The book is a business card.
Kube: The big misconception [among publicists] is "I have to book TV first." It's not always true that the TV audience is bigger than radio.
McNally: TV is background. In the car, radio is foreground.
Question from audience: Will you take pitches from authors?
McNally: An email's an email.
Thorn: It's extremely rare for a publicist to pitch something appropriate for the show. DO NOT SEND ME A BOOK WITH A PINK COVER.
All: Use appropriate language on air! [They don't want the FCC coming down on them for profanity/obscenity.]