Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Interview Do's And Don'ts


 

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? 

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.

58 comments:

  1. All the yeses, my dear Carrie! I completely agree but you already knew that, LOL! I'm definitely interested in hearing author opinions on this topic. There's always room for us as bloggers to improve.

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    1. Yes! Because we don't want to be interview snobs :-D

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  2. Great list, Carrie! My first book released in October and I was blessed to have several people feature me on their blogs. Even though I'd done interviews for years (community journalism) being on the other side of the microphone (so to speak) was a completely different experience for me. It was fun, but really made me think. One blog host asked how she and her readers could pray for me. I loved that! (My answer was please pray that I never confuse my wishes with His will). I also enjoyed the silly off-beat questions, like "What's the strangest thing you've ever done?" and "What kind of animal would you be?" By the way, I'm thrilled to say that my book is a finalist for the HOLT Medallion in the Best First Book category. I include Seekerville in the acknowledgements section because I've learned sooo much here. Thanks again for a great post.

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    1. Congratulations on your HOLT final! That's a wonderful accomplishment!

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    2. YAY!! Congratulations, Laura!! And that's a great interview question for how they can pray for you :)

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    3. Congratulations, Laura. I just downloaded your book with the Amazon gift card I got for my birthday. I hope to get to it soon.

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    4. Thank you, Sandy! I sure hope you enjoy the book!

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    5. Laura, congratulations!!! We're so excited for you!

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    6. woohoo! Congrats, Laura!! That's fantastic news!

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  3. Carrie, these are some great tips!! And I love the idea of doing some fun and unusual questions (silly or off-topic). That can really personalize an interview.

    I also love the idea to share on social media. And I think it's also important for the author to stop by the blog to chat and answer questions.

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    1. YES! definitely. The interviews I run do a lot better when the author is interactive and shares it in their networks too.

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  4. I love reading author interviews and getting to know them as a person.

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  5. Thanks Carrie! I am doing a few interviews with my book coming out next month and this post was very helpful! I know when I read an author interview my favorite questions are the fun ones - something a little out of the ordinary. Now I'm trying to figure out how to answer those questions in a fun way.

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    1. Cindy! I just read your book (and will review it soon) and I loved it!!!! And yes - meeting fun with fun is even better :-D

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  6. This is a great post, Carrie!

    I especially liked the part about being respectful of the author's time. Sometimes book releases and book deadlines happen at the same time (don't ask me why!) When that happens, the author is already tearing their hair out, and sometimes another interview just isn't going to happen. If they turn down your request for an interview because they're too busy, ask if there's a time that will work better for them. :-)

    BTW - You do the best interviews! They are a lot of fun to fill out.

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    1. aww thank you! I tweaked my questions a lot before I got a final set I was happy with - and that author seem to be happy with too.

      And yes! Why do book releases and deadlines happen at the same time so often? We don't want our fave authors to tear their hair out ;)

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    2. "and that authorS seem to be happy with..." I can't type today lol

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  7. Hi Carrie:

    Wow! This is all very good advice. I wish I had this post as a handout when I was teaching communications. So true.

    I would add one more don't and that is, "Don't ask about other authors they might know unless they bring it up." Doing this is like saying, "You're not that interesting so tell me about what you know about some interesting or better authors."

    Make the interviewee the heroine of the interview!

    Vince

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    1. so true!! The only exception to that I would make is a question about authors who have influenced them. But yes, you're absolutely right. The focus should be on the interviewee for sure!

      and thank you, Vince! :)

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    2. Hi Carrie:

      Yes, I agree 100% that it is fine to ask an author guest what writers have influenced her because she gets to name the authors and the question still centers around her and her writing.

      This can, however, veer off course if the author is then asked, "Have you meet your inspiration in person and can you tell us anything interesting about her that we might not know?"

      Vince

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  8. Thank you! Thank you! Carrie! This was a great post. I really appreciated the reminder about the bazillion questions :-) and I love answering unique questions when readers or interviewers send them my way :-) it's so fun to engage with readers and that's something I really enjoy

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    1. you are one of the BEST at engaging with readers, my dear Pepper <3

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  9. This is an interesting topic! As a reader, I totally agree with your thoughts on the majority wanting to know the author more than the actual story. Yes I’m interested in the novel, but to be completely honest, if I think you’re a kind, awesome human then I’m more likely to pick up your story because I feel more “connected” to you as an individual. Also, Carrie, some of my favorite parts of the interviews you conduct are the lightning questions asking if they’re a dog or cat person, coffee or tea, etc. Those are fun q’s that instantly tell you A LOT about the person. ❤️

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    1. oh thank you, sweet friend! That's what i always hope - and some of the answers to those lightning round questions make me laugh the hardest ;)

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    2. Rachel, thanks for your input as a reader!

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    3. I love Rachel right now, because the lightning rounds are the most fun for me, too.

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  10. Interesting post, Carrie. I have never been interviewed, but when I read an interview I often try to imagine what I would say if it were me. I think I would need to work on being a good interviewee.

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    1. I'll have to do another post for the interviewees sometime, too :)

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  11. Thanks for the great tips. I am going to be interviewing our local high school teachers for brief inserts into their online newspaper and this will be helpful even if I’m not interviewing authors.

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    1. Mindy, that's a great idea to use this info for teacher interviews!

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    2. oh nice! yes, that should translate nicely - and what fun!

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  12. I love this so much.... it's like a course for bloggers and reviewers and it's not because authors are Jerk-a-sauruses.... but so many of us have outside jobs, write books, have families and church obligations or opportunities and then add in LIFE.... so when someone hands me Eleven Gazillionty questions, I think to myself: Would You Have Done This to Karen White Way Back When???

    The answer is a resounding "no". Because she was busy and I was/am a total fan-girl so respecting her time was like a Cool Thing To Do!

    :)

    BUT conversely, I love, love, love hearing from readers via my e-mail and facebook and Twitter....When they chat with me, it's wonderful.

    Carrie, thanks for a great reminder!

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    1. well-said, dear Ruthy! Life is just BUSY for everyone. For the authors (who don't want to answer eleventy gazillion questions). For the bloggers (who really don't want to format eleventy gazillion questions, even if they've asked them). For the readers (who don't have time to read them all either). But we still love chatting & interacting so keeping it short and sweet and fun accomplishes that without stressing everyone out :D

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  13. Ah, Dear Heart, I love this so much.

    As an author, I enjoy doing the blog interviews, especially if there is something unique, fun, easy, and where I can't get the wrong answer and cause conflict!

    I love finding places where readers and I have commonalities and we can form a little bond!

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    1. oo i didn't think about that - answering 'wrong' and causing conflict. Yikes. Yes. another DO - do avoid landmine questions LOL

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  14. I adore silly questions. After a while, a lot of interview questions feel the same as the last three you did, so being able to throw in something different is such a relief as an author. I'm sure the ones who read all the interviews I do are happy to learn something different, too.
    I always end my interviews of other authors by asking them to tell something very few people know. I have gotten some interesting answers, for sure.
    And my favorite Backstreet boy was Nick. ;-)

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    1. hahaha mine was Brian because I went to youth group with him in high school LOL (and yes I had some girls ask for MY autograph in college when that tidbit came up in conversation lol)

      this is fabulous input, Amy - thank you! I love that ending question. No two people are going to answer that one the same.

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    2. What!? You were in youth group with a Backstreet boy! No way! That's amazing.

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  15. Carrie, thanks for a great blog post! I loved everything you said. Wonderful!

    As an author, I like to pick and choose which questions to answer. Some questions might not mean much to me, others might be very important. Getting to add and discard makes me very happy.

    BTW, your interviews are always delightful!

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    1. "As an author, I like to pick and choose which questions to answer. Some questions might not mean much to me, others might be very important. Getting to add and discard makes me very happy." - that's very valuable insight, Debby. Thank you!

      (and yay! thanks! I like delightful interviews)

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  16. This is fantastic guidance for authors when answering interview questions. So timely. I understand better the reason for asking unusual questions and have a different perspective. It was fun to respond to the ones you asked in your interview of me recently. As an interviewee I enjoy engaging with the commenters. Keep up the good work, Carrie.

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    1. thanks, Pat! I've found the more "fun" the interview - even if asking serious questions too - the more comments I get from readers for the author to interact with. A lot of it is trial and error in this blogging biz lol.

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  17. Every blogger needs to read this. Such words of wisdom �� personally, I love going for the quirky questions. I mean, why not!?

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    1. aww thanks, Jessica - and YES quirky is always a good choice :D

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  18. Carrie, I enjoy reading your author interviews! I miss ZuZu's interviews.

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    1. oh thank you, Caryl - I miss her too :)

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  19. Carrie, this is GREAT advice! Thank you!!

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    1. thanks, Sharee! I hope it's helpful to you :)

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  20. Excellent post, Carrie! Loads of good advice.

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  21. Thanks Carrie, I consider you a master of interviews. Thanks for sharing!

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  22. oh goodness i wouldn't go that far. LOL. I'm just muddling along, learning some things the hard way and trying to figure out the rest :)

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