Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Perfecting The Author Q & A

What can an author say in an online interview that would help sell their book?  That is the exact question all authors should answer when responding to a Q&A with a journalist or blogger. To merely give typical or expected answers is to play it safe, but when you want people to know who you are and to be given a reason to buy your book you’ll need to give an exceptional interview.  Anything less will not move the meter.

Here are some helpful hints to answering interview questions:

1.      Read through all of the questions before answering any of them.

2.      Do not give an answer that sounds defensive, protective, or flat.  Make bold statements – make predictions, support a cause, be colorful and descriptive.  Throw in some good, SAT words to sound smart but reference contemporary examples to sound relevant.

3.      Depending on your topic, be controversial, but not necessarily cruelly critical or aggressively bullying.

4.      Challenge current wisdom or the status quo.  At least raise a question if you don’t want to adamantly take an extreme position on a sensitive topic.

5.      Use about 125-150 words to answer a question.  Anything less lacks substance; anything more loses the reader’s interest.

6.      Don’t repeat any part of an answer for another question and don’t confuse two questions to be asking the same exact thing.  Chances are the questioner had something in mind that influenced exactly how the questions were crafted.

7.      Never attack or criticize the interviewer directly.

8.      If possible, reference the popular themes, pet peeves, or favorite things that the interviewer has commented on in the past so you can tie into a readership that is predisposed to accepting such a message.

9.      Read through all of your answers proof them, and have a second pair of eyes edit them before sending them back.  Do not assume the interviewer will edit anything out or clean up embarrassing answers.

10.  Don’t feel obligated to answer the questions truthfully but that doesn’t mean you should lie.  For instance, if someone asks you why you chose to write about aliens having sex with humans, don’t say: “My agent told me he could sell anything about aliens,” or “I wrote this just to entertain myself, never thinking there’d be a market for this crap.”  But you can say “I’ve always been fascinated with the idea aliens could exist and I wondered what the sex would be like, so, I just let my imagination flow wildly from there.  I don’t think we’re alone on Earth.”
11.  Reference things that buy you good will in a passing way, such as your family life, pets, hobbies, charitable work, connections to famous people, and things that you like.

12.  Sprinkle your answers with thought-provoking ideas or questions.

13.  Inject humor into your answers.

14.  Avoid issues that divide – religion, sex and politics – unless your book connects to them.

15.  Express values that most people would admire, helping to show you think like them and that you understand them.  You need to be humanized.  People buy from those they trust and like.

16.  Try not to give the same answers to similar questions asked by others.  Vary your words and sentences and keep each interview unique and fresh.  Most of all have fun being interviewed.

Always respond on time. If no deadline is given, ask for one.  Once the interview posts, share it with your peeps via Twitter, Facebook, etc. and let the interviewer know you circulated it.  If you can return the favor, interview the interviewer for your blog.

Lastly, keep these things in mind when being interviewed by a blogger:

1.      The blogger may possess special knowledge -- or at least a passion -- in the area he or she writes in, but not necessarily special training as a writer or as a journalist. The blogger does not necessarily adhere to the same standards as a professional member of the media.

2.      Some bloggers will send you 10 or more interview questions -- but only use half of them. This means you need to answer each question as best as you can and not rely on the answer to one question to carry you through the others.

3.      Realize the interview will live forever online so be mindful of what you say.

4.      Bloggers want great quotes from you, interesting stories, and good ideas shared. But they also want you to state facts, so double check whatever you say for accuracy.

5.      Bloggers don't want you to come across as overly commercial and promotional but they do welcome you offering something of substance or value for free to their readers.

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.

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