Happy Wednesday, dear Seekerville!
As a blogger, I have the privilege of interviewing authors on a weekly basis. Sometimes the tables are turned and I'm the one being interviewed. Either way, it's always an honor and something I don't want to take for granted. I also want to be respectful of the authors I interview - respectful of their time, their privacy, and their work.
Lately, I've been observing some common feedback from authors and some pet peeves of my own and, to help all of our interviews be the best they can be, I thought I'd suggest a list of do's and don'ts for interviewing people in the book biz.
DO keep it short and sweet.
A good rule of thumb is no more than 10 questions the interviewee needs to answer.
Authors are busy people (I'm sure I'm not telling y'all anything new here. YOU are the busy authors of which I speak), and we need to respect their time as well as the people who will later read that interview. I know, for myself, when I am reading an interview - or answering interview questions - I zone out after about 10 questions/answers.
DO offer options.
This is a good workaround on the 10 questions thing. If you want to send more than 10 questions, fine, but somehow have the interviewee pick which questions they want to answer.
This can be done in more than one way. For my own standard set of questions, I send 6 numbered questions (another way to look at them would be 'sections') - and all but one of those allows the author to pick the question they prefer to answer from that section. Other bloggers (such as our own Beth Erin) just send one list of several questions and allow the author to pick 10 or so from that list. There's no right way or wrong way to do this, as long as you are keeping the 10 question maximum in mind and somehow allowing the author to choose the questions they prefer.
DO keep it fun & be creative.
You never want to bore people - not the people who are reading the interview nor the people you are interviewing!
I've found that readers respond best when they can get to know the AUTHOR not just the BOOK. Certainly, asking questions about the book they are promoting is key but so also are questions that really bring out the author's personality and what makes them unique. If readers can find something that they share in common with the author, or at least can identify with, they are more likely to a) buy the books and b) champion the author on social media.
DO ask at least one question unique to your own brand.
You are of course spotlighting the brand of the author you're interviewing, but that doesn't mean you have to abandon your own brand in the process.
Again, this can be done in many different ways. It could be a specific type of questions you ask or questions along a theme that fits your brand. For instance, on my own blog ReadingIsMySuperPower I have one specific question that I ask every interviewee the first time they are on my blog - and it's related to my blog name. This not only provides consistency in every interview but it also helps people remember who is interviewing them, in case they want to tailor their answers to better relate to your audience, etc.
DO be a good listener.
If you are conducting the interview on a podcast or radio program, etc. it's important to not be in so much of a rush that you end up talking over them.
Melony Teague suggests that you let them talk and wait for them to process the question and the words they want to say. Part of this includes always working to put them at ease, to dispel any anxiety they may be feeling about a 'live' interview. You may even need to rephrase the same question in different ways until you get the information you're looking for.
DON'T ask eleventy-bazillion questions.
I know I mentioned this in the DO section but it's because I want to doubly emphasize it.
Ain't nobody got time to answer eleventy-bazillion questions, and asking them to do so will only irritate them and make them sooooo less likely to agree to another interview with you. Do all God's children a favor and limit your list to TEN questions (however you choose to do that - whether just a straight set of ten or a longer list from which the author can choose the questions they want to answer.
DON'T be an interview snob.
We all want to be unique and have exclusive rights to an interview but ....
It's also okay on occasion to use an already prepared Q&A from the publisher - I've even seen some authors do this right before a new release. This goes back to the DON'T I mentioned above. As an interviewer you should always strive to make the interview as easy for the interviewee as possible. If that means that they don't have time to do 40 different interviews during the launch of a new book, then graciously accepting the prepared questions & answers is the right thing to do! AND if that means they don't have time to do an interview at all, graciously accept that answer and don't keep asking.
DON'T be afraid to be silly or off-topic.
This is related to 'keep it fun' from the DO list, but sometimes we all just need to loosen up!
It's okay to ask completely non-bookish questions, questions that may seem silly (are you more a golden retriever or a chihuahua? ) or have nothing to do with anything (who's your favorite Backstreet Boy?). Maybe do a section pitting classic TV shows against each other. Or a version of the Rip It Or Ship It craze on YouTube (you match a hero from one book or movie with a heroine from another and ask if the interviewee would rip that story up or 'ship it', meaning they can see that relationship working). Ask them for their bookish confessions - have they ever written a report on a book they've never read? do they hate a book or author that everyone else loves? Questions like this (while not suggested for the entire interview) help readers identify with the author you're interviewing and, as I said earlier, help that author find new diehard fans.
DON'T ask questions with one-word answers.
Unless this is a specific category of questions where you WANT one-word answers, try to phrase your questions for maximum answer-ability.
A good tip here is to ask 'Why?' whenever you think a question may lend itself to a very brief answer. This encourages the interviewee to give a deeper, more thoughtful answer to that question instead and may even spark their own creativity to give you an answer that is truly fabulous and insightful. For instance, instead of asking 'Who is your favorite character in the book?' ask this 'Which of your characters in this book most spoke to you and why?' or 'Which character would you most like to hang out with in real life, and what would you most like to tell them?'
DON'T forget to share it.
Algorithms are not our friends.
Gone are the days when you can publish a post on your blog and get hundreds or thousands of views without doing anything else. You can't even just post it to your FB page and expect anyone to see it. For maximum exposure of the interview post (which most benefits both you and the interviewee) you must share it in as many beneficial places as possible. Use the stats from your blog/website/social media page to determine where your traffic is coming from and then focus on that. DON'T waste time on social media that your audience isn't using. DO tag the author in your social media posts to a) notify them that you've posted and b) engage their audience. Share in various FB groups and join (and post to) group boards on Pinterest. Research the most effective hashtags on Twitter & Instagram. And DON'T forget to include the author's bio and social media/website links in your interview post.
What about you?
What do you like most and/or least about being interviewed?
Do you have some fave tips that work for you?
Do you have some fave tips that work for you?
Let us know in the comments!
Carrie Schmidt is an avid reader, book reviewer, story addict, KissingBooks fan, book boyfriend collector, and cool aunt. She also loves Jesus and THE Story a whole lot. Co-founder of the Christian Fiction Readers' Retreat and JustRead Publicity Tours, Carrie lives in Kentucky with her husband Eric. She can be found lurking at various blogs and websites (because she can't stop talking about books) but her main home is the blog she started in 2015 - ReadingIsMySuperPower.org. You can also connect with Carrie on Facebook @ meezcarriereads and everywhere else social at @meezcarrie.