Hey, gang. Welcome back! Following up on my previous post about promoting your books, today’s article is intended to help you gain exposure. The more the world knows your name and what you are striving to achieve with your books, the greater your sales will be. One of the best ways to gain exposure is through interviews.
Let’s start with the value of an interview. In a perfect world, an interview benefits three separate parties – the author, the interviewer, and the audience. From the author’s perspective, generating sales is the intent, but let’s look at each independently of the others before we get into that.
One of the most difficult things to do as an author is to get recognized. While writing a book isn’t easy by any means, being noticed is far more difficult. I like numbers, so why don’t we start with some statistics? Currently, there are over 19,000 living published authors worldwide. That number doesn’t seem too scary until we look at self-published authors. According to Publishers Weekly, nearly two million e-books were published in 2018 alone and the number has been going up exponentially each year.
Imagine logging into your Netflix account and having to pick a movie out of 2 million options! Not an easy task and you’re likely to miss some very good ones in the process. Now, flip that idea around and search for a movie starring an actor that you know and love. We’ll look at two quick examples.
Matthew Paige Damon, known as Matt Damon, has starred in almost one-hundred fantastic movies, but that number is far more manageable than 2 million to sort through. Why do we love him? First, because he is an incredible actor, but also because he appears to be a good man with good intentions. If you’re not familiar with his philanthropic efforts, then check out Water.org. Now, let’s consider Thomas Jeffrey Hanks, better known as Tom Hanks. Again, the number of his blockbuster movies borders one hundred. Why do we love him? He’s very good at his job and he comes off as a nice and conscientious person with good intentions.
Hopefully, you’re beginning to see the trend here. We gravitate toward those with incredible talent who aren’t afraid to share who they are with the world. An author interview is a way to show the world who you are while highlighting your talent.
Whether a social media influencer, a blogger, a podcaster, or a reporter, the interviewer is in it for their own reasons. More content equates to more followers which ultimately equates to more exposure and more money. Try to put yourself in their shoes. Their goal is to provide content that will entertain or educate the followers they have and generate new interest.
Imagine the impact on your career if you had been the first to interview J. K. Rowling before she published Harry Potter or Andy Weir as The Martian was about to be released as a major motion picture!
Keep this perspective in mind as we go on.
Regardless of your industry, the most important factor is your target audience. If you’re trying to sell used cars on a desert island with no roads, you’re out of luck. Likewise, if you’re looking to market your new hate-metal rock album with a live performance at a local church, you’re probably not going to generate any sales.
You might think I’m talking about your target audience, but I’m not! I’m trying to help you to secure an interview to promote yourself and your books. The audience that matters here is not your own, but that of the interviewer. With this in mind, you should take great care in selecting the programs and platforms that you’re willing to be interviewed on. Your interviewer’s audience should resemble your own.
What does the audience get out of an interview? They don’t get fame or fortune, but they do get information about things that they are interested in. In our case, we’re talking about books they might like to read and authors that might like to start following. Keep this in mind as we move forward.
I’ve got it, Dave, but how do I land an interview to promote myself and my books?
I’m glad you asked. Let’s get into it. I’ll share my advice in five simple steps:
Step 1: Know Thyself!
You won’t be able to convince others of who you are and what you are trying to do until you understand for yourself. Dig deep into self-reflection. Why are you a writer? What stories are you trying to tell? What makes you uniquely suited to tell them? When you’ve answered those questions, answer these: Who am I? What am I about? Where did I come from? What is special about my life? What do I value most? What made me the way that I am?
Why all the introspection? Because the audience will want to know the answers to all of those questions. Study yours until you can recite them on demand. If you become a prolific author, then you’ll never know when someone is about to hit you with an unexpected question, and “um” won’t cut it.
Step 2: Research
There are many different forums and platforms in which you can be interviewed from blogs to podcasts to magazines to news broadcasts. You need to make an exhaustive list of good options where your audience would align with the interviewer’s audience. I would recommend using a spreadsheet for this, but do whatever works best for you.
You might not like this part, but you’re going to have to put in a little effort here. You can’t just select interviewers that you like, you need to learn their approach. Read their articles, listen to their blogs, and watch their interviews. This will not only prepare you for your own interview, but it will also give you an idea of what their target audience is expecting to get out of it.
As a final note on research, I’ll say this: If you run into difficulty finding contact information, move on to the next one.
Step 3: The Pitch
Generic requests for an interview are a waste of time. You need to target your pitch to the interviewer and his or her audience. Imagine if you got an email that said, “I see you’re an author. Can you help me?” Would you reply? Probably not. However, if you received an email from a fan who had clearly read your books and purported to be an aspiring author looking for advice, you might read on.
While I can’t provide you with a cookie-cutter example of the perfect query letter for an interview, I can offer some advice on its construction. In the military, I was taught to approach my subordinates with a sandwich – start with a compliment, insert your request, and end with another compliment. I believe that this is a good approach in any endeavor.
Open your message with a personalized greeting to show you know who they are. In the first paragraph, explain why you appreciate their work and what drew you to them. In the next, tell them a little about yourself from Step 1. If you’ve published books or received awards, mention them. If you’ve had work or educational experiences that makes you uniquely qualified to tell your stories, then highlight the fact. In the next paragraph, relate your work to their target audience using examples from some of their previous author interviews that generated attention. In the next, don’t ask for an interview, but let them know that you would be interested in participating in one. For example, you might say something like, “If you think I would be a good fit for an interview, just let me know a date and time.” Close with something complementary like, “Either way, I love what you’re doing and look forward to following you in the future.”
Step 4: The Interview
If you’ve followed the steps above, then I’m confident you will eventually be taken up on your offer to provide an interview. That’s good news, but your job is not done. If you tank the interview, then all your effort will have been for naught. Be prepared!
My advice is to conduct your own mock interview before the event. Ask, and answer, questions that you expect your interviewer to ask. You certainly don’t want to create a script, but it doesn’t hurt to be prepared so that you’re not taken off guard.
Some interviews are conducted through emails while others are over the phone or through video chat. Regardless of the format, relax and take a deep breath before you start. While you may be nervous, there is nothing to worry about. As long as you’re being honest, the words will flow and you’ll be fine.
Step 5: The Aftermath
While it may not seem like it at the time, this is the most important step in the entire process. You’ve just completed a great interview, but if no one sees, hears, or reads it, then it was pointless. Your job now is to get the word out. The good news is that you are not alone in this effort.
The person who interviewed you is going to use everything at their disposal to promote their new content, but that’s not enough. Yes, you might have done your due diligence in marketing and advertising, but this new content has the potential of generating new sales. Take advantage of it.
Flood your social media with links to the interview but be sure to complementarily cite the platform or interviewer, add the snippet to your Author Central and Goodreads Author accounts, and tell your friends. Don’t forget to ask for shares and retweets. You can do this without being intrusive. Something as simple as, “I’m so excited. Please share this with your friends.” would suffice.
Alright, faithful readers, it’s time to get back to my book. I’m currently working on the 5th chapter of the second novel of The Wanderer series and I would like to see it finished sometime in this century. Thanks so much for reading and see you soon.