Saturday, May 27, 2006

Interviewing 101

I've done quite a few interviews, both live and through email, and I always make sure I avoid the Common Interview Mistakes.

What are the Common Interview Mistakes? I'm glad you asked.
  1. Being Long Winded. Trust me, you aren't nearly as interesting as you think you are. Keep your answers short and punchy.
  2. Getting Off Track. Stick to the topic and question, and limit the meandering. Focus, get to the point, then conclude.
  3. Reading Cue Cards. It's easy to go on autopilot when you're asked the same question a thousand times. Remember that this may be the first time your audience hears your answer, so make sure you don't sound like you're repeating something you memorized.
  4. No Enthusiasm. Being upbeat and enjoying the process is just as important as anything you have to say. Your answers won't be remembered. Your attitude will.
  5. Being Boring. The best interviews entertain as well as inform. Infodumps are yawn-inducing. But clever banter, jokes, and controversy are always welcome.
  6. Hesitating. In live interviews, using 'uh' and 'um' all the time is unprofessional, and sounds bad. In print interviews, make sure every word counts. You probably don't need many of those modifiers, that back story, or that description. Cut it.
  7. Not Understanding Image. Too many authors don't consider what kind of image they want to portray. This is a lost opportunity, because a carefully cultivated and maintained image goes a long way to helping you establish your brand. I've worked hard to be known as a tireless self-promoter, as an outrageous personality, and as a writer who combines laughs with scares. Everything I do in the public eye is geared toward advancing these images.
  8. Pomposity. No one likes a person who is self-absorbed, superior, dismissive, or ungrateful. Be nice, and be humble. Your shit stinks. Believe it.
  9. Ignoring Time and Space. I'm not talking about physics. I'm talking about time slots and space considerations. If your radio spot is supposed to last for two minutes, don't have ten minutes worth of things to say. If your interview has to be 800 words, don't give them 2000. Stay within the expected duration.

Interviews are tremendous opportunities for writers. Don't waste them.


Bernita said...

Oh, oh, oh!
I love #8 - "your shit stinks. Believe it."
Great advice.
~note to self, need image consultant, maybe voice coach~

Anonymous said...

You wanna make your interviewer love you? Say something quotable. It makes our job so much easier.

If necessary, figure out a few choice lines beforehand and then use them as appropriate.

Erica Orloff said...

Hi Joe:
I've also learned to make sure I make the interviewer's job easier. I've done a number of those "Morning Zoo" type shows, and your "job" is basically to make the DJs look funny--that's their schtick. Feed them lines and they will love you and have you back. I've done AM radio interview shows . . . my job is to make them sound intelligent. I send them 10 interview questions in my press kit. Homework done. They can deviate from them of course, but I've found 99 times out of a hundred, they don't They're too busy. I'm getting ready to film a segment for the CBS Early Morning show . . . and I basically gave the producer the whole visual set-up.


Bernita said...

What are the common questions asked?
Besides "So, what's your book about?"

Aimlesswriter said...

Ok, now tell us HOW not to be boring....

Stacey Cochran said...

Interviews are also an easier sell than short stories -- at least that's been my experience. So don't hesitate to contact your favorite author and ask him/her to do an interview. You'll find they're easier to get published, and they get you in the door and get your name recognized (free advertising) just as much as short stories.


Sandra Ruttan said...

If anybody's boring or pompous when I interview them, I just re-write what they said.

Joking. Every author I've interviewed has been wonderful.

Common questions are specific to authors. Like Rankin being asked again and again about the end of the Rebus series. Or Peter Robinson, about why he doesn't set his books in Toronto, where he lives.

I'd guess Joe is routinely asked why he chose to have a female protagonist.

Mary Stella said...

A couple of other notes that I'd add to yours are:

Develop talking points for yourself so you remember your own message.

Don't forget to say the book's title. Train yourself to use the book title instead of "my book".

If a journalist or interviewer baits you, don't get angry. Stay charming, relaxed and on message.

Jeri said...

Another weirdly timely post. Had my first interview yesterday at Balticon. It was a spur-of-the-moment podcast interview, for which neither I nor the interviewer had prepped. The interviewer was a real pro, considering he knew nothing about me except that I had a book coming out.

The Bad Part: No time to think about what I wanted to emphasize.
The Good Part: No time to get nervous.
The Really Bad Part: In the excitement over the new novel, I nearly forgot to mention the one that's actually already published. Duh.

Joe, do you prefer e-mail or live/phone interviews? I know some authors prefer to hone their answers over e-mail, while others realize that this will take days.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

I thinks it's wise to get a video camera and practice on camera. This will not only work for your on-air interviews -- if you're lucky enough to have any -- but will also help you learn to present yourself better with print interviews.

Melly said...

I think that some of this advice is good for the interviewer as well.

Sandra Ruttan said...

One thing I have to say about brief responses, though. As a fan, searching out interviews with favourite authors, I don't want to see short, clipped answers. It gives me the impression the author doesn't like being interviewed, doesn't want to talk about their work or has nothing to say. Favourite authors, I can read about them for eons.

So, there's a balance between too short and too long. Enough to satisfy curiosity. No need for 10 stories to reinforce the same point.

Jeff Sherratt said...

When I do interviews, I first go to Joe Konrath's Web site and pick up a few quotable tidbits. How can I help but be a smash....