“What’s your favorite color?”
“Do you have a pet that inspired you to write your book?”
“Is there a food that you need to eat in order to create?”
These are all actual, real questions that interviewers have asked me. I have a real concern that the interviews posted on sites and social networks are in danger of becoming so mundane and ordinary that the only people reading them will be immediate friends and family of the author. Try reading some interviews and decide for yourself. Compare the answers and you’ll see similarities. Think about sporting events for a moment. You know the interview that the player gives after the game and talks about everyone giving one hundred and ten percent, or, when she or he mentions that although she or he scored the winning goal it was all about the team winning. Those are noble thoughts but they’re sterile. I’m bored of them. I want to know what the player, or author is really thinking. Unfortunately, that has become quite difficult.
There are no shortages of places where authors can procure interviews and promote their work. We’re very fortunate. From this very site – B.R.A.G. to fine sites like Indies Unlimited and the Displaced Nation, there are many folks who are paying it forward and giving us opportunities to talk about ourselves. If we submit enough we can usually find someone who wants to talk to us about either our writing process or our book or perhaps even self-publishing in general. After being accepted by the interviewer we’re often sent a list of questions. Often, the same questions are asked of each author. And, often, the author’s answers to the questions are duplicated because the questions are so generic. Sometimes the interviewer will vary the questions or perhaps even have read the author’s books and ask specific questions about the work, but sometimes this is not the case, and the same questions are asked. So, the author answers question number one but unfortunately question number two begs for the exact same answer. And question number four and seven also begs for the same response. Fortunately, there is a solution to this and it’s quite simple. Writers – Be Creative! We’re writers and we spend our time either creating worlds or reflecting on the world in a creative manner. When we produce our work our goal is to engage the reader. When answering interview questions the same rules should apply.
I’ve purchased books based on the way authors have answered questions in their interviews. They’ve either pulled me in by describing a story I want to read, or more likely, they’ve attracted me with the manner in which they’ve answered questions. I’ve also mentally remembered the names of authors who come across as sullen or egomaniacal. If I’m going to devote several hours of my time and my Kindle’s time I want it to be with someone whose company I enjoy. Interviews are not an opportunity for the world to swoon over us. They are an opportunity for potential readers to feel a connection and find out more. As authors we need to respect the fact that someone has offered to display our words on their website for a period of time. That’s a privilege and should not be taken lightly.
The other concern I have, and you may find this one difficult to believe, is that authors are not sharing the article once it’s published. The goal of course is to post your interview in as many places as you can in the hopes of attracting and connecting with readers. Unfortunately this is not happening consistently. Some authors are not only answering questions in a pedestrian manner; they’re also failing to promote the post. So even though we are constantly on the lookout for opportunities to help us get the word out about our book we sometimes fail to take advantage of these great opportunities. This is unacceptable. Again, it’s a privilege to be featured on someone else’s site and common courtesy should dictate that we promote the article.
I know there is a complaint from some authors that the questions are often uninteresting and that submission requirements often mirror the same requirements agents have during the query process. Unfortunately, there needs to be a vetting process. The sheer volume of self-published authors and work coming on to the market dictates that from time to time we’re going to have to actually read submission requirements, and occasionally we’re going to be faced with questions where we need to utilize our creative talents in order to make the answers interesting. It goes back to two basic points that I write about constantly. First, we must approach our writing career as a business, and in running our business we have to put some effort into the non-creative tasks too. And secondly, we have to honor the relationships that we form and help each other out. I would not have reached the sales levels I’ve been fortunate enough to reach if it were not for the help I’ve received from other authors, reviewers, and website administrators. There’s no quick fix to this problem but I know that if we don’t keep working together and making interviews more appealing we will lose those random readers who stop by our websites. And, as we all know, that’s who we’re writing for.
I agree so much with all you have said! This is a 2 way street- interviewers need to take the time to actually think about each author they interview, making it worth a readers time to read the interview. Authors need to put quality effort into letting the fans know who they are and why their books are worth reading. Then both parties need to share the interview- after all, what’s the point of doing the work if no one sees it? Fans want to know the author is, why they write what they do, how they think and dream. An author needs to help their audience connect with them by sharing a bit of themselves, this is the entire purpose of interviews!
Martin Crosbie is the author of the B.R.A.G.Medallion Honorees: