One of the most important elements in book promotion is the ability to offer great author interviews, both as the author being featured and as someone interviewing another author. Great interviews are the foundation of a successful blog tour. Many authors, as talented as they are at writing, do not have a journalism or PR background. This becomes apparent in the poor quality of most author interviews.
My Biggest Pet Peeve—The Abuse of the Q&A Format
Probably due to it being relatively easy, the majority of author interviews are presented as a Q&A. This is a huge mistake. When a list of questions is provided, it is meant as a fishing expedition to bring forth the best and most interesting responses from the person being interviewed. Reporters actually customize their questions to every person that they interview, based on their unique background and expertise, as well as the article's intended audience. It's a fine art.
Preparing questions is the first step of the article writing process. In my PR experience, only five percent of the time is the actual Q&A printed word-for-word. It's very rare and for good reason. Most Q&A interviews are deadly boring, since very few of the questions will result in compelling answers.
A good journalist will cull the cream of the crop and use the best answers/quotes to direct the final article's flow along with some background research rounding out the content. Often the quotes are manipulated—shortened, punctuation added, or perhaps, grammar corrected. The goal is the present the person interviewed in the very best light.
There is the implicit understanding that the person granting an interview is accommodating this request, sharing their knowledge or experience, in return for the marketing and PR exposure. Website links for their company and/or products will be included and every effort will be made to showcase the person being interviewed.
Many of the author interviews that I see posted on blogs using the Q&A format are unreadable. They are data dumps, often using the same exact questions for every author and not edited in any fashion. This does not promote the author featured nor the writing skills of the person interviewing the author.
How to do it RIGHT
There are great Q&A interviews—some of the best can be found in the pages of Playboy magazine (yeah, I only read it for the great Q&A articles), but it is a special skill. Don't assume that these Q&As are not carefully researched and edited pieces. I recommend checking out ZenCherry's amazing WLC blog which has transformed the Q&A into comedy improv. I actually begged to be interviewed by ZenCherry (I was her first interview posted on the site), because I loved the humor and originality of her interview style. No joke.
ZenCherry, unlike many people interviewing authors, does her homework; she actually reads your book, first. She is then able to ask very direct questions about what motivates you as an author and to intelligently discuss your characters, plots, etc.
During the process of our interview, the Q&A went through three or four edits between the two of us. ZenCherry is very aware of the intended goal of the post, which is to expose an author to new readers. Her interviews are endorsements. It was a delightful experience being interviewed by her.
As an author you must be proactive. Read author interviews often and frequently, then query those people who write great author interviews. It's very similar to asking for book reviews. Feel free to turn down interviews that won't promote your books.
Making the Best of a Bad Format
OK, what else can an author do when faced with an interview in the Q&A format? I suggest that you control the interview by only submitting answers to those questions that will generate reader interest. Or better yet, try to come up with fresh and exciting answers to the standard questions. An example would be that old chestnut—what is your favorite food? It seems that every Chick Lit author loves chocolate.
If you're a Chick Lit author, please, please, provide any food selection other than chocolate or, at least, spice it up—say you love Mexican hot chocolate whipped to a froth. Just look at all the author profiles on Twitter that mention chocolate as a vice—try not to provide the same worn out answers in your interviews.
As the person preparing the questions, consider doing what Van Heerling did in a recent interview series on his blog. I was lucky enough to be one of the featured authors. He presented me with eight questions and I could then select the three that I most wanted to answer. A brilliant and simple way to use the Q&A format.
Another tip, research the author's book, bio, blog and website, before composing custom questions. Once you receive the answers, edit, edit, and edit. Then send the edited Q&A to the author for their approval and/or corrections. Their approved/edited version should be the final draft to be posted online. Yes, this all takes more time, but the results will promote both of the authors involved in the interview!
Author PR 101 Blogger: Carrie Green
Carrie provides marketing and PR services in the technology field. Her media hits include BusinessWeek, CFO, CIO, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun Times, Computerworld, Crain's Chicago Business, Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, Industry Standard, USA Today and the Wall Street Journal, among many others. Projects have ranged from PR to digital content marketing along with the promotion of traditionally published business books from McGraw-Hill, Jossey-Bass (Wiley), and Edward Elgar Publishing. She is the bestselling horror author of Roses Are Red, Violets Are Blue and Sugar Is Sweet.
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