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How to be interviewed: 5 tips for authors

How to be interviewed: 5 tips for authors

One of the surprising side-effects of becoming a published author is that you find yourself being interviewed. In fact, sometimes you find yourself being interviewed a lot.

And yes, it’s a surprise, even for someone who is used to being on the other side of questions as an interviewer.

I remember when my first children’s novel, The Mapmaker Chronicles: Race To The End Of The World, was first published that there seemed to be an inordinate number of Q&As to fill out (yes, these count as interviews), radio spots to do, and other bits and pieces to endure.

I say endure, because I quickly realised that I am someone who likes asking questions a lot more than I like answering them.

But, having interviewed people for 20+ years, I was in a better position than many debut authors who are suddenly confronted with having to answer questions about themselves and their book for the first time in their lives.

And for many, it doesn’t get any easier as their careers progress.

 

Both sides of the interview table

I’ve been threatening to write this post for years, and in fact covered some information about how to be interviewed in So You Want To Be A Writer, the book.

But a recent Facebook post by an author friend, a friend who has been published multiple times and been interviewed MANY times, finally galvanised me into action.

My friend was nervous about being interviewed by a national newspaper and desperate for tips on how to get through it without ‘saying the wrong thing’.

So here are my tips, garnered from many years as a freelance journalist, many years as a podcast host and, now, many years of being interviewed for blogs, websites, newspapers, radio and television.

 

How to be interviewed: my top 5 tips for authors

 1. Do some research

Who’s interviewing you? For which blog, website, publication, podcast, station or channel? Who reads this blog, website, publication or listens to/watches this podcast, station or channel?

The audience matters. Your interviewer will tailor their questions to that audience’s interests and you should have them in mind when you provide your answers.

 

2. Think about the why 

If you consider WHY you’re being interviewed, you’ll be able to put together at least a basic outline of the KINDS of questions your interviewer is going to ask you.

That way you can be ready with some answers.

Why are you being interviewed?

Is it because you have a new novel out? Chances are your interviewer will want to know what the book is about (make sure your elevator pitch is strong), they’ll want to investigate any themes in the book (know your hook and be able to expand on it) and where people can find out more and buy it (be ready with your website details!).

Or is it because it’s Book Week and you’re a local author? This is a bigger picture interview, so you’ll need to know the Book Week dates, why it’s important in schools and any other angle you can brain storm. One tip: don’t forget to mention the title of your latest book because your interviewer may not!

Why leads to who, what, where and when

When I’m preparing to interview someone for the So You Want To Be A Writer podcast, I’ve always got my journalism training in the back of my mind.

In every article I’ve ever written, I’ve looked at covering the Who, What, Where, and When in the first few questions, leaving the Why until I get towards the end.

As the person being interviewed, you start with the why, but remember that your interviewer will always need to cover those other basic details. So have them at your fingertips.

 

3. Know what you want to say

This is the most important thing to remember. The interviewer is ready to do their job, getting the story they need to fill whatever bit of space has been allocated to it.

You need to be ready to do your job.

Your job is to get your message across, even as you provide entertainment and information to fill that bit of space.

How do you make sure you do your job?

Create a cheat sheet and write everything down.

Write down the five top things that you want the audience to take away from your interview.

Write that short, pithy statement that says exactly what your book is about.

Write down your answers to the most common questions authors are asked (see tip 5 below).

Most interviews these days are done via phone, Zoom, Skype or even email, so you can keep your cheat sheet handy and no-one will ever know.

And you will be amazed at how easy it is to work in all of the things that you want to say, no matter what questions you are asked.

If in doubt, watch a politician on television. They do it every day.

 

4. Assume your interviewer knows nothing about you

One thing you will very quickly realise is that most interviewers have not read your book. Many may not have even read the media release.

In radio, for instance, where air time needs to be filled and every day is super busy, a producer will read the media release, Google a bit, and then create a list of questions for the presenter to follow (as a side note, many presenters do not follow the questions).

So there are two things to consider here.

First, make sure your website is up to date.

Otherwise, you may find yourself being asked random questions about irrelevant bits of your bio (cue another side note: as an interviewer, I implore you to please ensure you have a lovely, concise, relevant bio prominently placed at the top of your ‘about’ page. Think of me reading it out loud on the So You Want To Be A Writer podcast, and save your love of cats for further down the page.)

Second, be prepared to fill in the information yourself. Don’t answer questions with a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’, expand to include as much information as you can.

“How are you today?”

Great thanks, just finishing editing my the second book in my new series, The Wolf’s Howl, due out in August this year.

“What is your new novel about?”

“The Fire Star is a middle-grade mystery story set in an ‘almost history’ world, about Reeve, a squire, and Maven, a maid, who meet for the very first time on their first day at Rennart Castle. When a valuable jewel known as The Fire Star goes missing, they are the first suspects because they are the last in the door, so they must band together to find it.”

“Where do books fit in to kids’ lives in this day and age?”

“There are so many calls on kids’ times these days, not just social media and phones, which are often cited as reasons kids don’t read as much, but homework, organised activities, the list goes on. Unfortunately, that’s showing up in the reading and writing results in NAPLAN. The key to getting kids reading is to find books that they will love. I write epic adventure stories, like The Mapmaker Chronicles, because they’re the kinds of stories my own boys love to read.”

You get the picture?

Be ready for the interview to go on tangents you don’t expect, but look for ways to bring those questions back to you and your books.

And keep your answers as short as possible.

 

5. Be prepared to answer the same question over and over in multiple interviews

If you read a lot of author Q&As, or listen or watch authors being interviewed, you’ll start to pick up on the questions that authors are asked over and over again.

“Where do you get your ideas?”

“How long does it take you to write a book?”

“Who inspires you as an author?”

“Who’s your favourite author?”

“What’s your favourite book ever?”

“What are your top three tips for writers?”

Etcetera.

My suggestion is that you prepare an answer for these questions.

Even if you don’t have a favourite author (seriously, who has just one?), prepare an answer that covers that.

Think about tips for other writers (and please, please, please, try to go beyond ‘read widely’ – yes, it’s essential, the number one thing that all aspiring authors should do, but it’s also the most common answer to that question).

Consider the one book you’d take to a desert island and the five other authors you’d invite to a dinner party.

You may think you’ll never be asked these questions, but I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that maybe, just maybe, you will be, and if you’re put on the spot you will suddenly find you can’t remember a single book you’ve ever read or an author whose work you enjoyed.

 

Bonus tip: try to enjoy yourself

Being interviewed is a privilege. It’s an opportunity for you to share your work with someone else’s audience.

Most interviewers are not ‘out to get you’. They are simply working writers or broadcasters or podcasters, just like you, trying to get a few quotes to bring a story together or to fill three minutes of a three-hour radio shift.

So be yourself. The best possible version of yourself.

Always remember that you’re talking to an audience (I say this because some interviewers are so good they can make you forget it’s not just the two of you having a chat)

Do the best possible job you can.

Good luck!

 

Allison Tait How to be interviewedAre you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait and you can find out more about me here and more about my online writing courses here.

Want to know more about promoting your book, building your author profile, or how to manage author publicity? Join Write With Allison Tait, my online writing community.

Every month you’ll be able to join a live on Zoom Q&A with me to ask all your burning questions! More details here. 

WIN a signed copy of THE FIRE STAR

WIN a signed copy of THE FIRE STAR

The three winners for this giveaway are Katie Trethowan (Instagram), Trudy Francis (Twitter), Jessie Boan (Facebook).

Thanks to everyone who entered! If you missed out, you can pre-order from your favourite Australian online bookseller here.

GIVEAWAY CLOSED+++++++

The countdown is on! With four weeks until the official release of The Fire Star (A Maven & Reeve Mystery), I’m offering three signed copies to WIN.

The Fire Star is an upper middle-grade mystery/adventure novel set in a Medieval world and starring Maven, a 15-year-old maid, and Reeve, a 16-year-old squire. On one level it’s a perplexing investigation into the disappearance of a dazzling jewel, but on the other it’s a novel about secrets, friendship and rebellions, large and small. If you love mystery stories, secret societies and intrigue, this one is for you!

I’m giving away one signed copy on each of my social media platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter.

How to win a signed copy of The Fire Star (A Maven & Reeve Mystery)

If you’d like to win one, all you have to do is:

Follow me on Instagram, like the competition post (online from 5pm (AEST) 3 August 2020), and tag two other people you think might be interested.

OR

Like my Facebook page, then like and share the competition post (online from 5pm (AEST) 3 August 2020). (Let me know in the comments that you’ve shared as they are sometimes not public).

OR

Follow me on Twitter and RT the competition post (online from 5pm (AEST) 3 August 2020).

OR

All three. There’s a signed copy on offer for each platform and you can enter for each one if you like.

Giveaway ends at 5pm (AEST) Friday 7 August 2020, with winners announced on each platform soon after (as well as here on this post).* Good luck!

*T&Cs: This competition is not associated with Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Giveaway opens at 5pm on Monday 3 August 2020. Up for grabs are three signed copies of The Fire Star by A. L. Tait, with one book as prize on each social media platform. Each prize is valued at approx $20AUD including shipping. Open to residents of Australia. Entries must follow entry directions to be eligible. Winners will be drawn after 5pm on 7 August 2020 and announced as soon as practicable after that. 

How to guest post successfully: 6 tips for authors

How to guest post successfully: 6 tips for authors

With publications closing and book review sections of newspapers and magazines getting smaller and smaller, authors need to work very hard to find publicity opportunities for their books these days.

Whether traditionally- or indie-published, authors must seek out new and different ways to get their books in front of readers.

Fortunately, in a world where so much has moved online, authors are lucky enough, by their very nature, to have a hugely effective weapon in their publicity arsenal: words.

Having your own author blog and building an engaged community is one way to use your words effectively (and I’ve written about this herehere and here).

But another approach is simply to borrow someone else’s blog or website.

Guest posting 101 for authors

Guest posting is where you write a post or article for someone else’s blog or website, thereby drawing their audience’s attention to you and your work. Sounds simple, right?

Yes, and no. There are a few hurdles to jump between ‘I’d like to use guest posting as an author marketing strategy’ and ‘oh, look, there’s my post being shared widely on that established blog’.

Firstly, you need to know which blog might be interested in your post.

Secondly, you need to reach out to that blogger and actively pitch your work (it’s a rare occasion where a blogger will contact you and say ‘I see you have a new book out, please publicise it on my blog’)

Thirdly, you need to know what it is you intend to write about AND how this post will help to showcase your new book.

But more about that lately.

Let’s look at the first point.

Where to put your words

There are several ways to find bloggers/websites to pitch for guest posting. You could try the scattergun approach, whereby you just google ‘writing websites’ or ‘author blogs’ and work your way down the list.

Or you could just decide you’ll only target blogs or authors that have minimum 10K followers on Facebook – or some other arbitrary system you come up with.

You could do that. I wouldn’t recommend it, but if you have a lot of time to spare, then go for it.

Instead, look at your own communities. Look at the websites you follow, the authors you like, the Facebook groups you like to be part of, the people you like to engage with.

Who are they? What do they have in common? Are they sharing links from particular websites over and over?

Make a list.

Now look at your list and ask yourself this question: if I write a post for this blog, will the audience be potential readers for my book?

This is a really important question. Lots of new authors will look at guest posting on blogs where they can write about a subject dear to their hearts: writing. Which is great. There’s no doubt you’ll probably come up with a cracking post.

But the people reading that post will be WRITERS.

And while most writers are also readers, what percentage of them will want to read your book after gleaning all they can from your pearls of wisdom about writing?

With that in mind, have another look at your list of potential bloggers/websites.

And then make another list about the kinds of websites/blogs you think the ideal reader of your book* would visit.

That’s your actual list.

You’ll note there’s a * on that description and it’s this: if you are writing for children, for the most part you’ll need to be looking for the ideal buyer or recommender of your book. You’re looking for parents/teachers/librarians and the other adults who putting books into the hands of your ideal reader.

Who are you writing your guest post for?

Guest posting takes work. Sorry, but it’s true. Now that you have your list of potential blogs/websites, it’s time to take a very close look at each of them.

First question, does that blog/website take guest posts? Is there any evidence that other guest posters have paved the way for you?

If yes, then great. If no, chances are that you don’t need to waste your time.

Next, read through the last eight to ten blog posts/articles on the site. Even if you’re a regular visitor, don’t rely on your memory. The tone and flavour of blogs can change from month to month as the blogger’s circumstances or focus changes, so a guest post idea that might have worked three months ago may not work now.

As you read through, make a note of the tone or flavour of the posts. Try to get an idea of who the blogger is writing for – what’s their audience?

Have a look at any associated social media – what kinds of things is the blogger sharing on Facebook? What kinds of comments are they getting? What posts are really working for them on Instagram? Who’s engaging?

Once you’ve got a clear picture, it’s time to brain storm some ideas for THAT blog. Pitching is precise.

The key to a successful guest post

A successful guest post is one that provides the blog or website host with valuable content, while ALSO promoting the author’s book in a meaningful way.

You can write about similar subject matter for five different blogs or websites, but the ANGLE of each post/article needs to be honed differently for each blog or site you’re pitching.

As an example, say I was going to write a post about how to keep 13-year-old boys interested in reading, because my next book is an adventure story for 13-year-old boys. I might pitch three different stories thus:

  1. 15 exciting adventure stories 13-year-old boys will love
  2. The secret to getting tween boys back into reading
  3. The reason 13-year-old boys give up on books (and it’s not what you think)

These are obviously all ideas for blogs or websites that have an adult audience.

If I was pitching the same idea for a website that caters TO 13-year-old boys, I might go with something like:

The 10 best books you’ve never read

“But where is your book in all this Allison?” I hear you ask.

Oh, my book is in there. If it’s a book list, my book is on that list. If it’s a blog post aimed at adults about why boys don’t read, it’s got all of my experiences with my own sons and why they inform the brand-new exciting adventure story I’ve written.

In fact, that’s a tip for new guest posters – do NOT forget to put your book in to the text. Don’t just rely on the bio at the end, because readers may not get that far. Instead, start with “When I was writing [my book], with its themes of action and adventure, it reminded me of 10 classic adventure stories that kids today will love… As with [my book], these are books with [insert characteristics] etc etc”

Get your book upfront! And in the middle! And at the end!

But in a natural way.

Now for the pitch

Once you’ve brainstormed all of your ideas and worked out which is the best fit for each particular blog or website, it’s time to reach out via email.

Keep your pitch concise, covering who you are, the guest post topic you are proposing, how it fits into their site (if they have different series or post types, flag which one you are targeting), whether you can supply images (hint, bloggers really like it if you can) and when you’d be able to get them the post.

If they don’t have guest posts regularly, with a standard template for credits, let them know what kind of info/links you will supply along with the main article (eg, I’ll send links to my website and book info, along with a 100 word bio and a book cover), to show them your expectations around crediting. You might as well be upfront about this, otherwise you might end up writing an 800-word article for one link buried deep in the middle of the text.

Then cross your fingers.

Be warned that popular bloggers and websites are often inundated with guest post pitches, and you may not even hear back from them unless they’re keen to take up your pitch. Wait a week or two, then send a polite follow up.

As someone who receives a lot of pitches myself, I can tell you that the ones that really spark my interest are the ones where its clear the author has really thought about my audience. If you can tell me quite clearly what’s in your guest post for me, I’m much more likely to look closely at it.

As a hint, proposing that I do a Q&A with you about your book is probably not going to get you over the line.

After your guest post is published

I’ve got one word for you: share. Share. Share. Share.

Yes, you’ve written the post to effectively borrow someone else’s various platforms, but extend the reach of that post by sharing on your own as well.

Some of you are probably thinking ‘but, of course’, but, and trust me on this, I’ve seen many instances where it hasn’t happened.

Guest posting, as with most things on the internet, is best if it’s a two-way street. And, remember, if your guest post does well, your relationship with that blogger is strengthened – and chances are, you’re going to have more books to promote down the track!

When to start guest posting

As with most things to do with book promotion and marketing, the answer to this is NOW.

Even if your book is not out for six months, start researching potential blogs and websites now. Begin establishing connections, start to make a big list of potential ideas. You could even write some posts that will start to build your name in that blogger’s community.

Six weeks out from publication, start pitching, giving the blogger a time frame for the post. “My book is out on 1 August 2020, so ideally this post would run that week.”

Don’t overcommit yourself – remember you have to write all the posts you’re pitching and you need to do a quality job on each and every one of them. You’re better to send out six highly strategic and well-thought-out guest posts than 13 that you’ve dashed off for anyone who will have you.

Good luck!

Writing outside my comfort zone

Writing outside my comfort zone

Action. Adventure. History. Mystery.

When you think of an A.L. Tait story, are these the kinds of words that come to mind? They are for me.

Hilarious? Rib-cracking? Not so much. (Though Book Boy’s review of the first draft of the first Mapmaker Chronicles manuscript as ‘a little bit funny’ remains one of my favourite reviews ever.)

The truth is that I love a ‘voice’ with humour. My characters are fond of a quip, a wisecrack, a pithy observation. I confess I find myself laughing on the inside as I write some of their dialogue.

But I had never, ever set out to write a ‘funny’ story until Adrian Beck and Sally Rippin sent me an email earlier this year, the gist of which was this:

“Will you write a 2000-word funny story for kids for Total Quack Up Again?”

“Um…” I responded. “Let me just see if I can.”

So, feeling like a complete and utter beginner (which, let’s face it, I am when it comes to this particular type of story), I sat down and blasted out the first draft of ‘How (Not) To Be Funny’, just before the boys (15 and 12) got home from school.

Nervously, I handed it to them, enduring their howls of laughter (at me) when I told them that I needed them to tell me if it was funny.

Then I waited, pacing, listening to the clock tick and the pages turn, as they each read it.

“Well?” I asked, hands on hips.

“It’s funny,” was the verdict, and I was so relieved I even forgave them the hint of surprise in their voices that Mum had it in her.

“I’m in,” I emailed to Adrian and Sally.

And then I wrote three other little stories in the same world. Just for fun.

Just because you haven’t…

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know that I became a children’s author almost by accident. Because I had an idea that simply could not be ignored. That idea went on to become The Mapmaker Chronicles, a four-book series.

At the time, I wrote and spoke a lot about the fact that I was writing commercial women’s fiction because ‘it made sense’ – it was what I knew. I knew nothing about writing novels for children, and most certainly not one thing about writing a series of novels for children.

But, in the end, I simply had to give it a go – mostly because the idea wouldn’t leave me alone.

And I discovered, way out there beyond my comfort zone, something really special.

Is my story in Total Quack Up Again really special? Maybe, maybe not. But pushing myself back out there, into writing something I hadn’t tried before, was a revelation. To me.

Just because you haven’t written it before is no reason not to try writing it now.

So if you’ve got an idea for something different, something well outside your comfort zone, give it a try.

If nothing else, it might just be a lot of fun.

Total Quack Up Again is on sale now!

Edited by Sally Rippin and Adrian Beck, it’s an anthology of funny stories by 12 Australian authors – Nat Amoore, Belinda Murrell, Felice Arena, Belinda Murrell, Michael Wagner, Adrian Beck, Adam Cece, Shelley Ware, Tim Harris, Nova Weetman, Kim Kane – as well as one by nine-year-old Coby Sanchez (that’s him in the main image) who won a national competition in order to have his story included.

Each story is illustrated by Jules Faber, and all royalties go to Dymocks Children’s Charities

NEWS: New novel on the way

NEWS: New novel on the way

I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve signed a contract with Penguin Random House Australia for a new novel.

Frustratingly, that’s as much information as I can give you right now!

But I’m excited and can’t wait to share more details as they come to hand.

In other book news, today marks the fifth anniversary of the day Race To The End Of The World, the first book in The Mapmaker Chronicles series (and my debut children’s novel), was launched.

With six children’s novels now published, and a new one on the way, I can honestly say that five years has both passed in the blink of an eye – and felt like an age.

If you and/or your children have bought, borrowed, read, reviewed, talked about or otherwise engaged with any of my books over those five years, thank you for your wonderful support. It is so much appreciated.

I look forward to sharing the new book with you in due course.

Are you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait, aka A.L. Tait, and I’m the author of two epic middle-grade adventure series, The Mapmaker Chronicles and The Ateban Cipher.

You can find out more about me here, and more about my books here.

 

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