Tuesday, September 27, 2011

How I interview

Some amazing authors have passed through and sat on the virtual couches here at Points of Claire-ification. I've even had an agent and a publisher stop by and answer my questions. As a sempai blogger (ie, one who's been around longer than some others), I'd like to share my interview process. Now, I'm not saying that anybody has to do it this way. This is just how I do it.

'Hot' contacts

In this case, the word 'cold' refers to doing something with little or no prior preparation. For example, if I stuck a script in your hand, and gave you a minute to read through a page, and then told you to read for the part, that would be a cold reading. You haven't had time to familiarise yourself with the script or get inside the character's head.

I've never heard the word 'hot' used in this context before, but I'm linguist. I make shiz up. By my logic, a 'hot' anything then, is where you've done a decent amount of prior work.

The majority of my interviewees are bloggy-friends. People whose blogs I read every day, and usually comment on. I feel like I know them, and they, at a bare minimum remember my name. 'Hot' contacts are easier, because a writer's time is limited, and they are more likely to grant an interview to someone they 'know.'

Cold contacts

I don't do cold contacts very often. My showcasing books and authors is a very personal thing. If I'm following a blog from back before an author even sells a book, I feel connected (in a totally non-stalkerish way) to that author. And I want to do everything to let the world know they've written something, and to go buy it. Whether or not it's something I'd normally read. Case in point, the hilarious Tawna Fenske and MAKING WAVES.

So I don't make cold contacts willy-nilly.

When do I make cold contacts? If I read a book, and I feel like it's something I've never seen before (FIRELIGHT by Sophie Jordan). Or something I identify strongly with (FAIRY TALE FAIL by Mina Esguerra) . Or it's ouside what I normally read, and I'm shocked to find I like it (CASSASTAR by Alex J. Cavanaugh). Or it totally shakes my foundations so hard (SORTA LIKE A ROCKSTAR by Matthew Quick). And I have to share it.

How I contact

For hot contacts, I've used everything from private messages on Twitter to emails to leaving comments on blogs. If I'm used to bantering with the author on Twitter on their blog, than those routes are fine. If not, I write an email, reminding them who I am, giving them blog stats, and asking them if they'd like to do an interview/giveaway.

For cold contacts, it's got to be a letter. So far, I've only used email, but I'm not opposed to hard copy. Like the cold contact, I give blog stats, and ask if they're interested in an interview/giveaway. And of course, I preface that with an introduction.

I try to ask authors at least a month ahead of when I'd hope to publish an interview. Authors are busy people.

What I ask

One of the reasons I really prefer to contact people I know, is that I like personalising interviews. Like zombie dogs for Carrie Harris, the jam-packed lifestyle of Holly Thompson, historical research for Dianne K. Salerni, HBMs (Hot British Males) for Stephanie Perkins.

I try to acheive a similar personalisation for cold contacts too. Which means cold contacts are a lot of work. Reading their blogs and websites. Looking at the books they've written, and sypnopses, and reviews.

This also means reading the author's books where there are available. Because I like to ask specific (non-spoilery) questions about the book.

Since this blog's audience is mainly aspiring authors, I ask about publication journey, agent, choice to self-pub, etc.

I firmly believe that interviews shouldn't be transposable. I shouldn't be able to use my template for Lisa Descrochers to interview Amy Holder.

I like to think I ask the questions you'd ask if you could talk to the author directly. If there's something that I haven't been asking, but you'd really like to know, then tell me. Because that's the point of the interview: to introduce my readers to an author/book I adore. Many times, I already know the answers (I've been stalking - er - following some of these people for years), so it's definitely not for my benefit.

The mutual benefits of interviews

So you know that you know the HOW, let me just spend a minute telling you WHY.

Firstly, the benefits to authors. I interview authors because I absolutely love them/their work, and I want to spread the word. So the author's getting a free advertisement. Also, I always do a giveaway with an interview, so the author is getting a sale. In an ideal world, the winner of that book is also talking about it to others, and selling more books.

Obviously there's also benefits for me. I think having authors, agents and publishers appear here raises the quality of my blog. I might still be a complete nutmonger, but I'm a nutmonger who spoke to Beth Revis. I think giveaways generate excitement, especially since I'm the only blogger I know who guarantees that if there's a way to ship to your country, from either Amazon or Book Depository, you're elegible to win. (Caveat being unless the writer or their publisher is doing the shipping.)

Any other questions about interviewing? I've done around 15 interviews for this blog, and while that doesn't make me an expert by any stretch of the imagination, I can tell you a thing or two.