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Monday, June 6, 2011

Promoting Your Book: The Dos and Don’ts of Being a Great Interviewee

I’ve done a number of interviews over the past few months—both as the interviewee and as the interviewer—and along the way I’ve had a lot of really great experiences…and one really bad one (identifying characteristics are being changed to protect the guilty). Here, then, are some tips to help you be the best interviewee you can.

DO remember to be personable and professional.

First and foremost, remember that anytime you deal with other people, you are networking—probably in hopes of finding outlets to promote your book. The more personable and professional you can be, the better the interviewer (and probably readers) will like you.

DON’T forget that the other person is doing you a favor.

Remember that the individual who is interviewing you or asking you to do a guest post is doing you a favor by providing you with publicity for your book. He is also driving traffic to your website, blog, and social media accounts. Therefore, you want to make everything easy (or even better, fun) for him.

DO expect interview questions to be repetitive.

Coming up with interview questions can be tough, especially if the interviewer hasn’t yet read your book. You can also expect interviewers to be interested in the same types of things, like how you came up with your idea and why your book is important, timely, or unique.

Back when I was in digital media publishing, I got to do an audio interview with a famous author whom I admired. I slaved over the questions, both eager to impress her with my knowledge of her books and enthusiastic to learn more about how she got published. But as she began to answer me, it very became very clear that she’d heard my questions a million times. And that brings me to my next don’t.

DON’T become an answer automaton.

No matter how many times you’ve answered the questions, that interviewer and that audience may be hearing your answers for the first time. The author above lapsed into a bored, obviously well-rehearsed set of answers. While we were able to pull clips from the interview, without talented editing her lack of enthusiasm could have been poisonous.

While it’s easier—especially in written interviews—to use the same text you used last time, you’re better off writing off the top of your head. Nobody wants to interview a robot, and if you’re not tailoring your responses to the nuances of the interviewer’s questions, that’s how you’ll sound. Also, if people are interested in your work, they may seek out multiple interviews. If all those interviews are exactly the same, your readers will be bored. To some, that repetition may even suggest you don’t have time for your fans. Not a good move—those are the people responsible for your sales.

While that does mean finding yet another way to tell the story of why you wrote the book, answering as spontaneously as you can also means that from time to time you’ll come up with a fresh, interesting angle you haven’t yet shared.

DO provide a press kit if you don’t have time for individual interviews.

If you really don’t want to write new answers each time, provide a set of questions with answers as part of your website’s press kit. Then you can simply direct interested parties to that page. Provide 8 to 12 good questions with answers, along with any supplemental materials (see the next DO).

DO include helpful photos and links.

DO provide the interviewer with any information she might need, including a photo of you, a photo of your book, and links to your website, blog, or social networking sites. If you’re doing a guest post and an image of something you’re discussing in the post might be useful to readers, include that as well. DO be sure to attach these things to your email if you’re doing an email interview, even if the material is also available online.

DON’T expect your interviewer to do additional research.

Never ask an interviewer to sort through pages and pages of information in search of pertinent details or answers for your interview. I recently asked a psychologist to do an interview about his controversial books for one my websites. After he’d agreed and I’d written up some questions, he directed me to an online discussion board (which was password protected) and expected me to dig through numerous long posts in search of appropriate questions to my answers.

He immediately followed up that expectation with a digital copy of his latest book and stated that I could draw quotes from the book and he’d say he’d said it. (I’m still confused by that. If he actually wrote the book, didn’t he say it?) Not only was the individual insensitive to my busy schedule, but his lack of helpfulness and downright arrogance left me annoyed, resentful, and—probably needless to say—unwilling to do a damn thing to promote anything he’d written. (Worse, I suppose, he inspired the blog post you’re now reading.)

DO keep a calendar – and use it.

As soon as you commit to doing an interview or guest blog post, give yourself a deadline a week or (at most) two away to get it done. We all have busy lives, and it’s embarrassing to have to apologize because you forgot. (Trust me on this.) I strongly recommend a paper calendar on the wall near your desk, because you can see your deadline approaching. A digital calendar may only remind you a day or two ahead of time, forcing you to scramble to put something together.

What's your experience? Which DOs and DON'Ts would you add?

Carolyn Kaufman, PsyD's book, THE WRITER'S GUIDE TO PSYCHOLOGY: How to Write Accurately About Psychological Disorders, Clinical Treatment, and Human Behavior helps writers avoid common misconceptions and inaccuracies and "get the psych right" in their stories. You can learn more about The Writer's Guide to Psychology, check out Dr. K's blog on Psychology Today, or follow her on Facebook!


Steena Holmes said...

Perfect timing! I'm about to start a blog tour for my new release and just recieved my first 'interview' questions.

Thanks Carolyn!

Anonymous said...

Excellent advice. It's easy to forget how hard it can be for folks on both sides of an interview.

Thanks for sharing :)

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Good advice for both sides of the question. (And I've been on both sides, as interviewer and interviewee.) In one interview I did the interviewee did provide a press it. I appreciated how easy it made my post that time.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post, thank you! As someone who interviews authors as a semi-monthly feature on my blog, I appreciate and concur with your advice.