I’m handing over the keys today to good friend Lisa Hall-Wilson, an award-winning journalist, passionate writer and blogger who knows the benefit of forging relationships and conducting interviews! Some of you probably know Lisa from her blog and friendly chatter online. If she’s new to you, I highly recommend getting to know her on Facebook, Twitter and WANATribe!
Lisa’s offering us tips on how to ask for an interview, and believe me, knowing how to approach people is important. Last year for The Emotion Thesaurus book release, I approached Industry sponsors for our Random Acts Of Kindness Blitz and managed to secure over $1500 worth of prize donations. It didn’t happen because I ‘knew’ people, or because I was some mega celebrity *snort* or anything else. I simply knew how to ask.
So here’s Lisa! Welcome, welcome!
Thanks so much for having me here!
Stephen King, in his book On Writing, talks about a writer’s toolbox. Being able to ask for and conduct a great interview is one of the most useful research tools a writer can develop. A good interview can lend veracity and authenticity to any story – non-fiction, fiction, blogs, articles, etc.
But how? How do you get the interview?
Sounds overly simple doesn’t it? It’s really that easy. Before you ask though, know what you’re asking them to speak to, and never waste their time. Don’t ask questions they can’t speak to or you could find the answers to on Google. You need a source to give you the details, the insight, the experience, their opinions you can’t find out on your own. Please do your research. Read their website or blog if they have one, read old news clippings, watch their videos on Youtube – whatever is available. All the time I get people asking me – how do I get published? Ummm – look it up! That’s too broad a topic. You’re more likely to get a positive response by asking me to speak to a specific something I know about.
With a cold query – meaning you have no prior connection to this person, you may contact them directly through a website or email. If this person has a busy schedule, or is fairly successful in their field/art, you may need to be approved by a gatekeeper like a personal or administrative assistant, a publicist or personal manager. People with this level of success get a lot of queries and so have built in extra layers to cut down on the “noise” so they can continue to do what they do. Doesn’t mean they’re inaccessible, but it can mean extra work for you. For one celebrity interview I had to go through three publicists *head to desk* Was the interview worth it? *smiles and nods* Oh yeah. Only the most pertinent, interesting, relevant queries will make it through though so know that going in.
5 Tips To Landing That Interview
• Don’t disparage yourself. “I would love to interview you for my blog, but my blog isn’t that big. I don’t really have a lot of traffic so I would understand why you wouldn’t want to do it. But I figured there’s no harm in asking.” Stop whining. You’re not being humble, you’re making yourself easy to dismiss. You’re a writer – chin up, pen out!
• Do tell them how you can help them. Being specific about who your audience is can help. People are always looking for new opportunities to get in front of and grow their audience. Getting mentioned anywhere by an objective third party (that’s you) is publicity gold. They can’t buy that kind of public endorsement with a full-page ad. They’re aware that you have something valuable to offer, this is in your favor. If this is for a fiction novel, most professionals LOVE to talk about their work. Most professionals love the idea of helping a novelist with a story because they all hate it when a writer gets the details wrong.
• Be polite. Using threats, ultimatums, or just plain being rude will not get you very far. An interview source wants assurances that you’re going to do this with integrity. They’re not interested in being miss-quoted, or disparaged publicly. Put your best professional foot forward.
• Be persistent. Be Creative. Aim high, but be realistic. I’m much more likely to get an interview from a local cop than I am the chief of police. I once did a tour of the local fire hall for a novel I was working on. It was the only way I could think of to talk to a firefighter. So, I spent an hour following this guy around, slipping in questions about specific scenes from my novel. Then the Chief walks out. “You still on that tour?” He comes over and the next thing I know every firefighter on duty is standing in the truck bay swapping war stories so the writer ‘can get it right.’ That was pure chance, but writer gold!
• Ask them to recommend another source. On a cold query, I often include a line something to the effect – If you’re unable to help me on this (note – I’m not disparaging myself) can you suggest someone, or would you forward this email to someone who may be able to help. I had an interview request make it all the way to Parliament Hill (that’s Ottawa for those outside of Canada). It’s the whole idea of six degrees of separation. Everyone knows someone further up the chain. People are often very willing to help if you’re polite and professional.
Have you asked for an interview? What’s the hardest part about doing an interview? Do you have a funny interview story?
Lisa Hall-Wilson is an award-winning freelance writer for the faith-based market specializing in interviews, profiles, social justice initiatives, Facebook administration, press releases, print and web marketing copy. She writes dark fantasy novels, blogs Through The Fire, and is a social media instructor for WANA International. She’s interviewed best-selling authors, JUNO-winning musicians, comedians, drug addicts, former prostitutes, police officers, firefighters, pastors, and people with a great story to tell.
Angela is a writing coach, international speaker, and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also is a founder of One Stop For Writers, a portal to powerful, innovative tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.
The tricky part for me, twice, was getting an interview and then seeing they had my name misspelled. Maybe it’s time for a nom de plume!
Janet Hartman says
Good point about asking if they can recommend someone else. I haven’t been doing that.
Martina at Adventures in YA Publishing says
Great post, and great tips. Thank you, Lisa. It’s amazing how happy people generally are to help, but being prepared with the right questions makes them happy to continue the relationship.
Traci Kenworth says
This is gold!! Thanks!!
Becca Puglisi says
This is great stuff, Lisa. I’ve found that people generally like to talk about what they know, and most people I’ve asked to interview have been more than happy to comply. Thanks for being here, Lisa!
Thanks for the great advice! I especially like what you said about disparaging yourself. Over the years I’ve learned that often what a person thinks is self deprecating translates into insecurity. Great reminder.
Lisa Hall-Wilson says
Thanks for having me, Angela. Writing profiles and doing interviews is a real passion of mine. Lots of great suggestions. Of course – there’s lots more to a successful interview once you’ve landed it 😀
Laurel Garver says
I just love your firefighter story. Awesome. I tend to start with my close networks, and have them help me get to the experts I need. That introduction can tear down walls very quickly.
One other tip I’d add–be flattering. I always get farthest when I tell a source I consider them an expert, and would love it if they could share their expertise. People LOVE that. Who wouldn’t?
Karen McFarland says
All excellent suggestions Lisa. It always amazes me that people don’t like to ask. I guess it is the fear of rejection. But how bad can it get. All they can say is No. By the way, asking is how Bob Mayer was my guest last year. As I like to say, never say never. And just ask. You may be pleasantly surprised when they say yes! 🙂
Lisa Gail Green says
It never hurts to ask!! I’ve found most people in the writing world are very kind and professional about it, even if they have to say no. And a lot of them do say YES. 😀
Natalie Aguirre says
Thanks for the great tips. I interview debut authors for my blog. Once my stats got good for followers and comments on my interviews, I started including them It’s helped me get interviews and ARCs through their publicists for giveaways.
Great post and advice! Thanks for writing it. 🙂
Great tips, Lisa! I definitely believe in the research one. I was able to interview NYTBS author Karen Abbott because I researched her and made a comment about a particular interview she had on YouTube. We chatted for awhile and she agreed to do the interview and a book giveaway!
My other tip. Get to know them on Twitter! Interacting in friendly conversation introduces them to you you, and you may find more things in common. That could be a great way to build up courage to ask.
Angela Ackerman says
Coleen, I will admit, I was terrified at first when I decided I wanted to see if I could find sponsors for my event, because at the time, there was still a lot of negativity toward self publishing, especially from the agent and editor community. So asking people like Writers Digest, Querytracker, Etc was really intimidating. But I presented my idea individually to each entity, and tailored why my idea was a perfect fit for their brand, and everyone I approached said yes. It gave me a lot of confidence that has helped me since, and so for that alone, I think people should go through the process of securing an interview or asking a big blogger for help.
We are in a great community of helpers, and people in it are wonderful to work with. Speaking of, THANK YOU LISA for visiting today!
*waves* Hi Marcy! Nice to see you here, too!
Lisa Hall-Wilson says
Thanks! That’s one of the many tips I’ll be sharing in the course. Just as a caveat though – for anyone reading this – recording a phone conversation can be a tricky thing because the laws around it vary from state to state, country to country. To be on the safe side, always ask permission to record the interview, and capture the permission on the recording.
Great post, Lisa! On the practical side, the hardest part about doing an interview is the note taking, so I recommend getting permission to record the interview whenever possible. Not everyone will agree, but it can be a lifesaver later.
And as someone who’s co-written articles and fiction with Lisa before, I highly recommend her class. She’ll give you the inside scoop on making an interview worth your time.
Lisa Hall-Wilson says
Just do it! If you write a great post, even the big bloggers are willing to host you because you’re adding value to their fans and saving them time. It’s a great way to get better exposure.
Coleen Patrick says
Great advice. The biggest hurdle for me? Asking!