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BLOG DESCRIPTION: E-publishing basics, social media marketing, search engine optimization, and blogging to sell your books.
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This blog is of interest not only to prospective authors but also to their prospective readers as well. Check it out!
Tips For Interviewing Authors
One of the perks of running a blog is that it gives you a place to post author interviews.
Whether you’re a book blogger or you’re a writer yourself, if you’ve spent time building up your site (i.e. getting folks to find it and follow it), you might have the perfect place for authors to “visit.” And an interview is a great excuse to interrogate question your favorite writers. You can ask them about their books, themselves, their plans to take over the world with words, and other fun stuff.
But how do you approach an author? How many blog readers do you need to entice someone to take the time to answer questions? What should you ask if you do get an author to agree to an interview?
I can’t speak for all authors, but I’ll attempt to answer some of these questions.
How do you approach an author for an interview?
In this day and age, most authors have websites, and many will have blogs where they post regularly. If you surf around the site, you’ll probably find an email address or a contact form.
It can be harder with authors who got their start in the pre-internet age. Some of those guys jumped right on board and learned about promoting on the web, but others may never have gotten that involved with the internet and social media. You can always try getting in touch with these folks through their publisher. You might check Facebook and Twitter, too, since authors who aren’t sure about the ins and outs of buying a domain name and building a website might settle for a Facebook page.
Will popular authors agree to interviews on blogs?
One of the truths of being an author is that emails asking questions or requesting help increase as an author becomes well known. I’m a small fry, and even I’ve experienced this more of late. I can only imagine how it is for a bestselling author.
These folks may not have the time to do interviews, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. You never know. You might catch them on a slow day, or something about the theme of your questions (more on that further down) might pique their interest.
An alternative way to snag the popular guys is to find out what their conference/convention schedule is for the year (many SF/F authors in particular are active with conventions) and see if they have a few minutes to answer questions at a local event (make sure to take a recording device — you can transcribe the answer for your blog later or you can simply post the audio file). I’ve seen podcasters in my genre have a lot of luck getting bestselling authors to sit down and answer questions.
Remember, the more popular your blog, the more enticing it’s going to be for an author to appear there, so keep working on building it up and increasing traffic.
How popular does your blog need to be, anyway?
This is going to depend on the person. Some new authors just want to be interviewed and will agree to appear anywhere, but you’ll probably want to wait until you’ve built up a readership and are getting regular blog comments before approaching people.
If you have a fairly popular blog, use that as a selling point when you ask for an interview. Don’t be afraid to say, “I have 5,000 mystery readers who stop by each month and a newsletter with 500 subscribers” or whatever the case may be. If you install something like Google Analytics, you can share exact numbers and even some demographic information about your visitors.
If you don’t have many readers yet, don’t mention that. Some authors don’t really know how to figure that stuff out, so you might get lucky!
What interview questions should you ask authors?
There aren’t any rules here, but you may want to avoid some of the common questions that writers get asked all the time. Authors get a lot of “tell us about yourself” and “what first made you decide to become a writer?” There’s nothing wrong with these questions, but they aren’t always that interesting for the author to answer, and readers who aren’t familiar with the author probably won’t care.
Think of questions that might reward current readers and entice new ones. For example, I recently had a lot of fun answering questions that weren’t about me at all. They were about one of my core characters. The interview was about my assassin, Sicarius, and is up at a reader’s blog. I think the questions are fun for readers of my series, but they might also intrigue someone who hasn’t read the books (authors are always hoping to find new readers!).
Interviews with a theme can be a nice draw as well. If you share the interview on Twitter and Facebook, you need it to grab folks with nothing more than the title. What sounds more interesting to you? Interview with Jane Doe? or Jane Doe Offers Tips on Writing Psychopaths, Serial Killers, and Assassins?
If you have a writing blog instead of a book blog, it may make more sense to pick a theme that will appeal to other authors (i.e. an interview about writing or publishing or book promotion) as opposed to something that talks about the author’s books. Any extra visibility is good visibility for an author, and you’ll probably find that folks are willing to answer questions on a variety of topics related to their work.
Is there any sort of interviewer etiquette you need to keep in mind?
My first tip would be to respect the author’s time. It can take an hour or two to answer questions, especially if they’re thoughtful ones.
When I’m doing interviews, I usually only send five or six questions myself. I’d recommend you send no more than ten and make sure some of those ten are on the type where the response can be on the shorter side. Authors like to write, yes, but they’re busy working on the next book too!
Next, make sure to customize your questions for that author. I’ve had folks send me thirty generic questions and ask me to pick ten that I wanted to answer. Granted, that was early on and for a book blog tour where the blogger hadn’t read my stuff, but I definitely had an “Uhmmm, okay….” response.
If an author agrees to an interview for your site, he or she is probably doing it for book promotion purposes. It’ll be very much appreciated if you include links to the author’s website as well as their most recent book. That way readers can easily click through for more information or to download ebook sample chapters without having to head over to Google.
Many bloggers will schedule the interviews to post on a certain day. It’s good if you can let the author know the day in advance, but do yourself a favor and remind him or her when the post goes online (you’ll need to wait until it’s actually up to send the link anyway). That way, the author can help you with promotion. Social-media-savvy writers will post links on Twitter and Facebook so their fans can check out the interview.
That’s it for my suggestions on interviewing authors. If you have any comments or tips to add, please let us know below!
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