As a book lover, one of the greatest jewels of Rhode Island to me is Robin Kall’s Reading with Robin. When I first arrived in this state Robin Kall hosted a weekly radio show of author interviews. A prolific reader, Robin asks THE BEST QUESTIONS! I always learn so much, and the insights into the authors’ experiences and motivations created additional enjoyment when I read the book afterwards, with insights I would not have had without Reading with Robin.
Since its inception, Reading with Robin has hosted many amazing author panels in beautiful venues throughout Rhode Island. Particularly memorable is Robin’s event with novelist Jane Green on the publication of her first cookbook, GOOD TASTE, where Jane treated us to the story of how she cooked a private dinner for Hugh Grant while interviewing him for People Magazine and we enjoyed a catered lunch with the absolutely divine recipes from the book! (check out the pumpkin gingerbread trifle!). Location: The ballroom of the Roger Williams Park Casino, a colonial revival built in 1896. Or several “Summer with Robin” panels at a beautiful club on the beach in Narragansett. Or a panel where it turned out that all three panelists had been students or mentees of the beloved author and teacher Frank McCourt (Angela’s Ashes) and recounted touching stories about him. In addition to asking the juiciest questions, Robin’s interviews are packed with serendipity, lots of laughter, inspiration and a bit of fairy dust.
And one thing that I’ve admired about Robin is her flexibility in meeting readers where they hang out, something that’s changed dramatically over the years. I’ve enjoyed Robin interviewing authors on Facebook, Zoom, Crowdcast and Instagram, in addition to live events and radio. After viewing Robin’s Instagram videos/interviews the other day, I had so many questions for her! I’m still trying to figure out Instagram for authors and I know many of my readers are too!
So, let’s learn from Robin!
Instagram for Authors Tweet This
Lisa: You’ve been interviewing authors for two decades now! Would you say that today it’s easier for authors to reach their readers or is it more challenging with so many people vying for readers’ attention?
Robin: OMG two decades! When you say it like that…While there are so many books out there and authors looking to get the readers’ attention, a savvy author will figure out where to find their readers and how best to collaborate with other authors and book influencers to reach an even wider audience. There are many examples of clever book campaigns, surprising collaborations while remaining authentic which is key.
Lisa: In the past year you’ve been interviewing authors on Instagram–during the pandemic, two authors a day! Now you’re moving toward 2-4 a week, in addition to all the other interviews you’ve been doing–online and in person. How do those Instagram interviews differ from your author events on Zoom or your Facebook live interviews?
Robin: “Tell Me About Your Book” is the Instagram live segment I am hosting and, like the title would suggest, I invite authors on to tell me about their book. Some of these books I’ve read, some I have not but as I am hosting authors pretty much in their on-sale week we don’t want to give anything away. We’ve had so many fun stories come from these chats, met lots of authors’ cats and dogs and you know me, Lisa, you never know what might pop into my head! The interviews are all archived and available on my Instagram under “IGTV.”
Lisa: What do authors need to know about Instagram as a platform? Any mistakes to avoid? Or differences in the platform that we need to be mindful of?
Robin: Instagram “lives” need to be done on the phone, in a good wifi area with the most updated Instagram app. Super important for all online chats is lighting and camera angle. You can easily figure this out by taking a few moments to test it out. If you are looking at yourself and it’s dark, only the top of your head can be seen, and the picture is bouncing around–that’s what the viewers will see. Obvious but worth mentioning, they will not watch for long. Also please, please put your phone on ‘do not disturb’ because nothing will say ’this interview is over’ like being interrupted by a phone call.
Lisa: What do you especially like about Instagram for Authors?
Robin: It’s easily available. When the author goes live all of their followers are notified as well as my followers so there is opportunity for an even wider audience. Win Win!
Engaging with your Instagram audience
Lisa: How would you suggest authors engage with their audience on Instagram?
Robin: Like all social media, I believe the formula is 80% social and 20% media or some such math. Readers enjoy getting a peek into an authors’ life, routine, pets so make sure to include those moments in your posts. Videos and reels do particularly well. It’s more work, but what isn’t?
Hashtags on Instagram
Lisa: What are some especially fruitful hashtags for authors on Instagram to use and how do you use them?
Robin: I’m not sure that hashtags are as important as they once were. Just to be safe I always include the usual suspects: #amreading, #bookclubsofinstagram, #readersareleaders , and of course #readingwithrobin
Best Questions to ask in an Instagram Interview
Lisa: I’ve heard that, while asking questions of your Instagram community can be engaging, it’s important to ask simple questions that are easy to answer. People don’t have time to write long answers or think too hard. Would you agree? What kind of questions work well (as captions)?
Robin: I would totally agree and yet I am often blown away by the thoughtful and plentiful answers. I wish I had time to respond in kind but alas that time would be pulled from somewhere else. I like questions that should supply the desired few-word answer. “What are you looking forward to reading this weekend?” “Which book would you love to see made into a Netflix series?”
Do’s and Don’ts for an Author Interview on Instagram Tweet This
Lisa: As someone who has interviewed hundreds of authors, you’ve seen the best and the worst! What are some of your tips for do’s and don’ts in an author interview?
Robin: Do be enthusiastic during the interview. Just about anything off-topic becomes another discussion and thus interesting to me. I can’t tell you how much I enjoy the buzz of an unexpected tangent. The audience wants to learn about the author so bring your personality. This isn’t AP English 🙂 Do help to promote the interview, don’t assume it’s all on the interviewer. That’s good manners and being a polite guest in my opinion. Remember to tag the host who’ll be interviewing you. That stuff is noticed and appreciated for sure.
Lisa: Can you share one of your favorite Instagram author interview moments with us?
Robin: There have been so many, which I realize is a lame answer. I can feel when they’re going to happen and I can even see it in my eyes as it’s happening. A thought pops into my head or the author says something that triggers a memory or that I feel so connected to and it’s magical. Some of the best moments have come with debut authors and some with authors I’ve known for many years, so there’s a familiarity and memory is one of my super powers. Ok so you asked me to pick one lol…
One of my biggest author tips pertains to publicity. Do not assume your publicist has followed your ‘wish list’ for interviews. Do the work, follow up, did I mention do not assume? This book is your baby so there’s that.
Read my other interviews with Robin Kall:
About Robin Kall
What first began back in 2002 as an AM radio program on Saturday mornings has since blossomed into a bookish and philanthropic empire. Robin Kall blended her passion for a good book and natural curiosity to create The Reading With Robin Show, where she spoke with authors, readers, and literacy-adjacent professionals on a weekly basis. The show was the first of its kind, giving readers unprecedented access to the authors they love and Robin continues to cultivate this community through online events and interviews. In 2016, with the assistance of her cohort and daughter Emily, Robin added to her literary tale as they launched the award-winning monthly author series The Cardigan Connection. Robin lives in Rhode Island with her family. Connect with Robin through Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.