Bill O’Reilly, host of Fox News Channel’s The O’Reilly Report, was quoted in Talkers Magazine about how he cracked the bestseller list.

“In the beginning, we couldn’t get on Good Morning America, or the And so now Show or any of that. Elite newspapers wouldn’t review the book. We had to rely on speak radio,” O’Reily said. “Talk radio has shown a much better return (than our advertising dollars). “

There’s no doubt that speak radio is a good car for authors, because it allows them to give in-depth answers and puts them in direct communication with people who may want to buy their book.

But speak radio isn’t what it used to be.

The hosts of major-market radio speak shows with good audiences used to bring authors into the studio for long chats. An author could knock off a couple of those interviews and send sales on the way to the top. Those days are gone. Unless an author is a truly huge name, the chances of hitting pay dirt with a couple of huge radio interviews are history.

The reasons for this are two-fold. First, there are not as many huge stations that accept speak show guests – many have gone to a music format or no longer accept guests that have a product or service to sell. Secondly, the amount of time an author will probably be on the air has dwindled. Radio speak shows have found that listeners are more likely to stay tuned if they have 3 10-minute guests on a show than one guest for 30 minutes.

So if you want your book to sell, you now have to pound the pavement and knock on mostly all door.

Fortunately, in radio publicity, quantity works. There are hundreds of radio stations, and book authors should not thumb their noses at some of them just because they don’t have a hot host or 5,000 watts. Even with a 1000-watt station, you are still reaching an audience. Look at it this way. If a 1000-watt radio station has only 100 listeners, you might say it isn’t worth the trouble. But what if you could go to an auditorium and speak to 100 people about your book? Would you go? Of course you would. Not only that, but small stations allow you to practice for that huge interview down the road.

A rookie baseball player doesn’t throw his first pitch against the New York Yankees. In print publicity, an author’s first interview is rarely with The New York Times. But an author who has had an interview with a hometown newspaper and a couple of magazines will be more prepared if The New York Times does call.

The Plus Side of Small-Station Bookings

It is the same thing with radio. It takes at least 10 radio interviews before most authors get comfortable behind the microphone. Small power radio stations allow you to practice how to be a good guest.

Some people seem born to be good communicators but an author’s expertise is in the written word, and it is rare to find a good author who is also a good verbal communicator. First time authors are especially prone to stage fright – yes, even on radio.

Typical errors for first time guests include not giving out the Web site address or 1-800 number, or not giving them out frequently enough. It’s also a mistake to mention these too typically and upset the host, who will let you know that the show isn’t an infomercial. Technical authors have a tendency to slide into techno-babble, and even good guests inevitably walk out of their first few interviews knowing they could have been better. When first-time authors make these mistakes (and they will), it is best if big audiences don’t hear the error.

Booking small stations in quantity to get a high number of interviews helps you to get the explanation of your book down to a succinct few words. Talking with multiple interviewers, even though they don’t have big audiences, will enable you to crystallize your thoughts on your book. It may even give you new ideas about your topic that you never realized before the interviews.

Booking small stations might be also an adventure. Be prepared to run into some hosts who are unprofessional, and make sure you confirm an interview at least twice before you will be on the air. Most of these hosts won’t be as prepared as their big-time counterparts (meaning they probably have not read your book), so you’ll have to be ready to walk them through the major topics. Prepare for these interviews as though you’ve just met someone on the street for the first time and you are telling them about your book.

But if the hosts are not as prepared as they should be, you should still be on your toes. Very bright people listen to some very small radio stations; so don’t speak down to your audience.

Sorry; nothing will surely save you from the 1000-watt radio station in Peoria that’s being hosted by a kid right out of broadcast school. But remember, even that small-time interview may prepare you for the huge time.