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Book Blogging 101 - The Author Interview

The questions have certainly heated up. I could probably run this daily now. LOL. I thought Alisha's question warranted a lenghty answer though, so just one questions today.

Spawned from the Big Sis, Little Blog program, Book Blogging 101 was born. Do you have a question? Leave it in the google docs form and I'll try and answer them in the order they are received.

So, I've been enjoying working on my book blog these past months, and have lots of ideas for content I'd like to add in the future. One of them is author interviews. I've got a "wish list" of authors whose books I've enjoyed and want to highlight...but I'm so intimidated by the notion of asking for an interview! I know the worst that can happen is getting a "no," but I'd love to do my due diligence to not only be granted an interview, but make it interesting for both the author and audience.

So my question is:
How do you suggest one might start out with adding interview content to a terms of: authors to seek out (can a blog be "too small" to interview certain authors); how to approach and ask for an interview; big dos and don'ts of interview questioning (appropriate topics); ..and the like? -- Alisha (MyNeedToRead)

A:  First, let’s squash any false notions. A blog can NEVER be too small to ask an author for an interview. No matter how big or small you are, it is really always up to the author’s personal preference weather they will do an interview. Publicity is publicity for some, and they’ll answer a few questions for anyone no matter how big or small. Or, they have joined the order of TOO BIG TO TALK TO ANYONE authors and just say no to everyone. It all really depends on the author. And how will you know the author’s frame of mind? By asking.

I am currently engaged in a feature that will run here in March (Paranormal Spring Break). So far I have queried a ton of authors and publishers for interviews, guest post and giveaways. You would be surprised at my responses. Really I expected most of them to ignore me. While, my blog might have a large following in the book blogger world - I’m just a gnat compared to other media outlets and their readership. (See the little fish/big pond complex goes all the way up the food chain - I’m sure the only one that is secure in their egotistical rulership of mass following, are magazines in circles such as The New Yorker) And I really have to admit, before earlier events forced my hand I’ve always been a ‘let them come to me’ type of blogger. I didn’t petition, I didn’t query - I just accepted the requests and things that came my way. Rejection is a bitch and my ego remained intact. Silly though, because you end up reading stuff you wouldn’t have chosen for yourself at the store and interviewing authors you have never heard of. Sometimes this is a good thing. I love finding a new author with a great new book. But, the opposite end of this spectrum is blogger burnout - bad book after bad book leading to a dreaded TBR pile instead of a highly anticipated one. It happens...believe me. Not saying that the only people that come to you are authors with bad books - it is just getting the book/author you wanted is sometimes worth the possible rejection. Kind of like getting that date with the guy you've had a crush on...instead of accepting the date from the guy that has been stalking you for a weak. They might both have the same end result (get your mind out of the gutter!) but initial expectations might be higher --- and isn't expectation 50% of the fun?

There is a moral to this story. Don’t be afraid to ask.

So, how do you handle that initial contact?

First, put yourself in a professional frame of mind. This is not your buddy down the street, or your twitter pal. This is a professional, his/her book is their own lifeblood made into print. They have banked their future on it’s sale, treat this initial request as you would approach a potential employer. Formal, yet friendly. Be courteous and ask nicely. I know a lot of you are saying, why do you even have to tell us that? Well, if some of the stories I’ve heard are true...well let’s just say some people have no idea how to write a formal query. Also, there are also a lot of people that have no idea how to send a query letter for a potential employer, so I really shouldn’t be surprised. I could go on and on about some of the whack things people have sent me when I’m hiring.

**This has nothing to do with the topic - but I find myself rambling in this post, bear with me please**

Looking for a job 101 - when sending your online art portfolio to a potential not put in a caption that you painted an image while on LSD. Also, do not start your intro email with “Yo!”

That said, keep a few things in mind when sending a query to an author:
  1. Be Nice, Be Friendly, Be Professional
  2. Introduce yourself, just because all of the book blogging world knows you as THE WESTERN REVIEWER, doesn’t mean this author knows you
  3. Tell them about your blog, give them your “mission statement”
  4. Let them know how much you enjoyed their book and how you would like to spread the word about how great a literary genius they are
  5. Have your questions prepared already and attached in a .txt document or .rtf (this way if they are on a PC or MAC they can easily access it)
  6. State that you have questions attached if they have time
  7. Let them know you have a tentative post date of __ / __ / __ to give them a particular deadline (don’t make this too tight or they will not comply - 1 month or 2 month deadlines are nice
  8. Thank them for their time and sit back and wait

If they are going to participate you should usually hear back within a weak. If you don’t hear back, don’t pester, move on.

Things to think about while writing your interview questions:
  1. Don’t over do it, long drawn out interviews might not be the right way to go. People might not read a HUGE interview and it might just intimidate the author
  2. Keep your questions precise and candid, they need to make sense to be answered
  3. Proof your work, you’ll have egg on your face if the author ‘corrects’ your questions
  4. Make it personal, ask them questions about their characters, their books, their lives -- but of course, know where to draw the line, not too personal.
  5. Try to keep it original. If you are sending out 5 questionnaires to different authors, don’t ask the same questions each time. Boring for your readers.
  6. Don’t push for spoilers
  7. Don’t ask weird stalkeresque questions, like “Where do you like to hang out when you are not writing, please give specifics?” Or “Do you practice out your boudoir scenes with your significant other?” Don’t laugh, I’ve read an author’s blog where they were going on an on about inappropriate interview questions she has been asked.
  8. Think about questions that if you were sitting face to face with an author you would like to ask. If it embarrasses you to speak it, don’t ask it in writing.

Just, above all, make sure you treat the interaction with respect. We tend to idolize our authors. When Karen Marie Moning walked into the room at her release party, for me it was like seeing a movie star. They are our stars. I would rather meet Kim Harrison and Holly Black than Brad and Angelina (well I might want to see if they ARE that pretty in real life). Give them the respect they deserve, but understand that they don’t owe you anything. When your readership tops The New Yorker - maybe ;)

Ask your BB101 Questions here...


bibliophile brouhaha said...

Excellent advice, as always. I've only done a few author interviews, but I have conducted them pretty much the way you say to above, and I've been told that they 'appreciate' my professional approach - so, yes! This really is the way to go. Thanks for the helpful how tos!

-Linds, bibliophile brouhaha

Anonymous said...

Great advice. I love author interviews; I always get so excited about it, although I have to admit, I do get slightly more excited when they've contacted me and not the other way round. Had to have a small chuckle at some of the examples in this post; who starts anything that's even remotely professional with "yo!"?

Bethany said...

Thanks! That's really helpful. I've never author interviewed/asked, but I might start soon :)

Chrystal said...

This is such an excellent post. I was always afraid to ask for interviews, but recently I have gotten over my fear and figure they will either say yes or no. Can't hurt to ask. I'm bookmarking this for future reference! :)

Enbrethiliel said...


Thank you so much for writing this post! It's both informative and inspiring. Before I read it, I didn't really think about author interviews because I felt my blog was both too small on the ecosystem and too spread out over several ecosystems. But now you've got me thinking about not just asking an author to answer some questions, but also making my content better so that it's also worth his while to say yes. =)

PS--I want to add that your advice about query letters is definitely something we all need to be reminded of these days now that Facebook has bloated the definition of "Friend." ;-) And not just for bloggers approaching authors, but alos the other way around! I know of a self-published writer who would write stuff like, "my book is gooood y dont u give it a chance" and wondered why she couldn't attract any reviewers.

PPS--I got that e-mail you sent me, but I guess my response didn't go through again. LOL!

Anonymous said...

Great post! I don't read author interviews very often because most are way.too.long.

I prefer it if there are 5 or so questions. Then I'll read it even if I haven't heard of the author. Anymore and I switch off.

So, good advice to keep it short!

Alisha (MyNeedToRead) said...

Flippin'! Thank you so much for the wonderful response and (very!) useful information. It's encouraging, to say the least. I'll definitely keep these pointers in mind going forward.

(Thanks again!!)

Moonlight Gleam said...

Excellent post Rachel!!! I really enjoyed this one! From personal experience I can definitely agree that you must be polite, friendly and professional when contacting an author or a publicist in order to get an interview. Nonetheless, after having developed some terrific relationships with some authors I have come to the point now that we can joke in our e-mails like friends, but you MUST be professional before that relationship develops if it does. What I usually do is attach my review to my first e-mail to the author, explain how much I really enjoyed their book and WHYY.. Don't just say you like their work, point out some specifics.. next, I ask if they would be interested in doing an author interview with me so that I can post it on my blog for my readers, and like Rachel said, describe your blog. Honestly, I have only been blogging for two months and I have already done five author interviews and have more scheduled to come. Don't be afraid!

Man of la Books said...

Great advice.
I noticed that on many ARCs there is an email for a marketing person ("let us know what you think").

If I like the book I always email asking if they'd like to do a giveaway and if there is a date they prefer for me to publish the review to coincide with their marketing.

While not all of my giveaways requests materialize (most do) each and every one has been nice and appreciative of the contact.

I also keep my author interviews short (5-6 questions) and try to focus on social media promotions and cover art - basically things I'm interested in. You can see some of my interviews here:

SusanKMann said...

Excellent advice. I love book blogging 101.

Emily Cross said...

Off topic I know but thought I'd let you know that I've given you a blog award on my blog :)

Tiger Holland said...

Thank you for the practical advice! I've done a few author interviews so far, but it's a nerve-wracking process every single time, trying to come up with tasteful, unique questions. It's nice to hear some professional guidelines. :-)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Those are some good guidelines.
As an author, I can testify that most of us won't say no to an interview or guest post. Sometimes it might be an issue of a time crunch or other appearances, but we try to work with those who ask. (I had five in the past two weeks, so that was some creative juggling.)
But shorter is better! No one has time to read a long Q&A session.

Cheryl said...

Thank you so much for this post. It couldn't have come at a more perfect time! I read Deadbeat by Brian W. Smith, and I absolutely loved the book and want to review it and do an interview with him on my blog. I asked him on facebook and he said he would love to. I wasn't really sure how to go about it. I did an interview with author Daddy Rich over the phone and it was recorded. I typed everything up but it took forever. I wasn't sure if that was how people usually did author interviews. Sending the questions by e-mail and having them respond sounds like such a great idea. I just have to come up with some good questions. Thanks so much!

Marrion said...

Thanks for sharing this to us! This is a big information to share for other fellow bloggers who happens to have plan on author interview but don't know how to start from scratch! Thanks again! :]

Alyssa@Teens Read and Write said...

Great advice! You're creepy stalker questions cracked me up!

Brittany @ Nice Girls Read Books said...

Great advice! I've had the pleasure of interviewing a few authors on my blog (and I only started blogging in September) and so far I have only had ONE author say she unfortunately didn't have time at the moment, but perhaps in the near future.

They are incredibly nice! I particularly suggest emailing the debut authors with upcoming releases, because they are quite thrilled and excited to promote their book and your readers are usually eager to hear more about that release!

I limit my questions to around 5 each, and I rarely ask the same author the same question. If it's a general question (Like I like to ask them what we can expect from them in the future) I word it differently, so each interview is unique and personal!

So, don't be scared to email your favourite writers! You might be surprised that they are in fact normal people, too, and when you read one of their books again afterwards you'll feel as if you have a special connection to the story and the characters as you've had the chance to talk to the mastermind behind it all! It's a great feeling :)

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