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Friday, May 29, 2009

Killer Campaigns: Author Interviews

We've all done them. Some of them turn out okay. Others, we'd sooner forget. We want our interviews to be memorable--in a good way.

The first time anyone asked me for an interview I read the email twice. Who me?

I'm not famous and while my lifestyle may be on the unique side, my writer's story is very much like so many others. What could I possibly say to make me stand out? And when I started to accumulate multiple interviews, what could I say that won't make me sound like a broken record?

I took part of my cue from real celebrities. One week when I was recovering from eye surgery, I had the tv on. I couldn't see it, but my hearing was just fine. As a matter of fact, hearing their interviews without the distraction of what these celebrities looked like was a blessing in disguise.

I listened for what they said and what they didn't say. The dull celebrities were saying the same things about themselves from one tv show to the next. But the more interesting celebs, usually had little anecdotes that they peppered inside their canned speeches. It was the same spiel, only packaged more attractively.

The other thing I learned was that it wasn't so important what the anecdote was about as long as it covered something not generally known about the interviewee and it wasn't too longwinded.

Having interviewed quite a few people for OWW, I can tell you I try to customize my questions to the individual, which means I usually have to do some homework. Bear in mind that most interviewers won't do that for you unless you are a high profile author. The majority of your interview questions will be canned, the same questions they send out to every guest.

That can be a plus if you turn it around and use it to make yourself stand out. For example, in a recent interview at Greta Wheeler's blog, I let Tank, the Wonder Dog answer my questions. I had fun and any animal lover in his right mind would get a kick out of it. I also added a little inside information about me by mentioning Tank's story as a rescue.

Other people let their characters answer questions about you (or them). That can be cute, but unless your series is really well known, it doesn't play too well for me. Your mileage may vary.

You can be funny in an interview. Funny people are always welcomed whether it's the interviewee or the interviewer. JK Coi did an early interview with me and she was hilarious at the way she phrased her questions--and then turned my answers around. That to me is the mark of a very good interviewer. Everybody wins if s/he can make you (and the readers) feel comfortable.

Whether you are approaching your interview with serious intent or a lighthearted look into your tortured soul, here are some tips to carry with you the next time someone asks to interview you.

• The questions may be the same, but the answers don't have to be. The next time someone asks you where you get your ideas for your books, throw them off kilter and say you get them at the men's latrine down the street. Be shocking, irreverent and bold and people will be glued to the page to see what other wacky thing you'll say next.

• It's okay to be imperfect. If you can't spell worth a darn, don't be afraid to admit it---and then reassure your readers (and your editor) that spell check is wetwired to your brain. Readers like to know that you're not omnipotent.

• Easy on the verbiage. We don't have to know your entire life's story. Leave some for next time.

• Ask a question at the end of the interview. I learned this too late. But I learned this trick from Shelley Munro and her very excellent blog. The question does not need to be deep, just something people are likely to respond to.

• Easy on the sales pitch. Another thing I learned late. In the beginning, I followed the example of lots of other writers, but it finally dawned on me that a sales pitch is like dropping your hand in a bucket of pudding. By all means mention your books, but do so gracefully. I am more likely to look up an author's bibliography if he tantalizes me with an interesting story about himself than if he pimped his books as if the circus was in town.

• Link a lot. I love links in interviews. It's like going on a scavenger hunt. You'll never know what you'll find.

• Attach a photo of yourself. I cringe every time I see a photo of myself. (and I really need to post an updated one) but an author photo is important. It lets the reader connect with your story.

• When your interview goes live, make sure to check all the links. Interviews, especially on the internet get very limited exposure, so it pays to check the links as soon as you can.

Good luck on your next interview. Make each one a slice of author pie.

For more Killer Campaign posts go here.

Copyright © 2009 Maria Zannini --

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Shelley Munro said...

Hi Maria - another informative post, and thank you for the compliments on my blog. :)

Maria Zannini said...

You're a goddess, Shelley!