Are Author Interviews Worthwhile?

Interview ShowWhen we first started Indies Unlimited, one of the regular features here was the author interview. Authors love to be interviewed. Unfortunately, not a whole lot of people love to read author interviews. We like to do stuff that moves the needle, so to speak. Once we realized the interview features were not getting a lot of views and did not seem to be moving books for authors, we discontinued the feature.

Not to say interviews don’t work at all or ever, but the return on investment is often quite small for both the interviewer and the subject of the interview.

The day your interview goes live, you post anywhere and everywhere, “I was just interviewed over at Bloggety-Blog.” You are Facebook friends with zippity-zillion other authors. How many came over and left a comment or question on the interview? How many instead just commented on your Facebook status, “Great job,” or “Congrats”? How many just *liked* the Facebook post?

Does it matter if your author friends don’t look at your interview? Probably not. After all, while it is nice to have the moral support of other authors, what you really want is to attract readers. The question is, do author interviews do that?

Here are some things to consider:
I think the unspoken hope is that an interview will make a splash bigger than the pool into which it jumps. While it is theoretically possible for anything to go viral, it is less likely if you are doing an interview with a weekly blogger who has a small following. Small pool = small splash. Unfortunately, big pool β‰  big splash. Blogs with large followings generally post a lot of content. You may not be “on camera” long enough to raise an eyebrow. Worse, when sandwiched between other items, you may end up being overshadowed by the hot breaking stories of the day. Yes, it will be on the day of your interview that Hugh Howey is guest posting there, or Amazon decides to exclude all titles that include the word “Chronicles.”

You are under no compulsion to accept every request to do an interview. Check out the blogs first. Look at how often the posts go up, how many comments the posts generate, the general tone of the blog. Some blogs may not be the best fit for you, even if the blogger is a Facebook friend. Let’s say your friend is a horror author. She mostly posts horror shorts and interviews with other horror authors. If your book is a sweet romance, you may not find a particularly welcoming audience there.

Take a look at the questions. That will give you some sense of the kind of interview you’ll be facing. Personally, when I see a question like, “What’s your favorite color?” my hopes flag. I have never wanted to know this about anyone. Well, maybe if I was going to buy them a sweater. So, if the questions are boring, the interview may be boring too.

Look at some of the other interviews. Yes, I know, other people’s interviews are boring. Just do it. It will teach you something about the interviewer and what you might expect. It is a pet peeve of mine to read an interview wherein the interviewer not only asks the questions, but answers them all as well. The interview should be about the guest, not the interviewer. You’ve probably seen some of these:

Interviewer: What is your favorite color?

Subject: Red, I guess.

Interviewer: That’s interesting. I like red as well. I incorporated several shades of red as a subtextual theme in my latest book, Red is the Morning, which is available here: RedIsTheMorning.com

Try to get a feel for the type of interviews the host generally conducts. Both you and your book need to be in the blogger’s wheelhouse for the interview to work really well. Stuffed shirt + lovable goofball might make a great sitcom, but it’s a disaster waiting to happen where interviews are concerned.

Consider the level and frequency of exposure you want. Don’t just go wherever they’ll have you. Pick your timing and venues. Make sure you have something new or interesting to say. Yes, you want and probably need to be out there, but you also want to avoid brand fatigue. If you are just saying the same things over the course of multiple interviews, people will tune you out.

On a strictly personal note, I no longer do authors interviews at all. I do not like talking about myself, my life, family, pets, and I hate thinking about what kind of tree I’d be if I were a tree. I have not found author interviews to be helpful. That doesn’t mean you won’t. As they say, your mileage may vary.

Will following this advice ensure your success? Of course not. It doesn’t work that way. You take chances and sometimes it pays off. If I’ve been of any help at all, you were probably in worse trouble than you thought.

Author: Stephen Hise

Stephen Hise is the Evil Mastermind and founder of Indies Unlimited. Hise is an independent author and an avid supporter of the indie author movement. Learn more about Stephen at his website or his Amazon author page.

46 thoughts on “Are Author Interviews Worthwhile?”

  1. I think you’re right in that interview posts don’t bring you a lot of new fans, necessarily. But I don’t think it means they’re not worth doing.

    It can be helpful to be out there. But I wouldn’t expect a direct link to sales unless you get interviewed by a pretty huge site or venue (tv/radio/newspaper).

    1. I think that’s a valid point. It may help to be out there, and even interviews that don’t directly help with finding you new fans will help sharpen your interview skills so you will be ready when the right opportunity does come along. But it certainly is not a magic bullet.

  2. I’m with you on this one, Mr. Evil Mastermind. I’ve never seen a sales bump from doing an interview whether that be a blog, radio, television, or newspaper. I thought I’d hit the big time when I did the morning news in a major city on an ABC affiliate. But… In any case, the latter three are definitely important in the Marketing Rule of 7 and I’ve had some name recognition because of them. But I’ve never had anyone say “hey, I read about you on so-and-so’s blog!” I just find doing blog interviews too stressful and time-consuming because I hate talking about myself. That being said…hey, Oprah? Call me.

  3. I totally think interviews are valid and help link the reader to the author on a more personal level. I use interviews all the time at The Magnolia Blossom Review (which, by the way, is growing into genre specific sites but I digress as that’s not what this is about).

    I think the key to a successful interview is the types of questions posed AND how those questions (once answered) are woven into the reviews so that there is a degree of relevance. For example after the the section dealing with the Title the author answers a question about how they came up with the title. And then after the question on ‘blurb effectiveness’ they are asked to ‘write their book’s hook in 25 words or less’ interestingly – that is one of the hardest for them to answer because they don’t often think in those ‘bite-sized snippets’.

    When asked by an author why I had asked that question (she really curious) I said that we live in such a fast paced world where attention spans are constantly being challenged – as writers, we have to think of our work as a PRODUCT in the eyes of consumers which gives us a VERY narrow window to hook buyers. And then they’re like ‘OH!! I get it!’

    So I think interviews can be great for all involved!

    1. I agree they CAN be good. I don’t think they always are. Your point about the interview questions is well-taken. It is a two-way street, and I think it takes both a good interviewer and good answers to make an interview interesting. Even then, it may not move the needle as far as sales go, but that doesn’t mean it was a complete waste.

  4. I think in many cases you are right but I still like to do a few. As you say, it is a good idea to check the questions and the traffic. And while they may not have a direct impact on sales every new contact may lead to others.

    Avery also makes some good points.

  5. I think interviews are mostly only going to be of interest to people who have read (and liked) the authors books. Who has the time to read about someone they’ve never heard of? And if an author has multiple online interviews but they all say much the same, what’s the point in reading future interviews – you’re unlikely to learn anything new.

    1. That is an important point to remember, Mel. Even if the interviews only keep your current fans engaged, we should bear in mind that if we have nothing new to say, it might be better to pass on the interview than to risk boring the same people.

  6. I think a lot of it depends on the audience of the blogger. What I’ve found is that a lot of times we get stuck in an author-to-author loop and miss out on connecting with readers. My previous publisher used to encourage all of us to interview each other, cross-promote, tweet, share, etc., which is good – but not very helpful if we’re stuck in an author loop and bypassing readers (not that authors don’t also read, but if your priority and purpose in blogging/interviewing, etc., is to sell your book, you probably aren’t too interested in purchasing mine at that time).

    1. This is so true – especially when the author-to-author loop is comprised mainly of authors in other genres than the one you write in. Given most people write in the genre that they read, you can hardly expect them to buy your books if you write in a different genre.

    2. Excellent comment, Melinda. The echo chamber is a big challenge, especially since so many of the bloggers doing interviews are also authors.

      But there is more to consider than just the type or size of the blogger’s audience. Even if it is comprised almost wholly of non-author readers, are they an engaged audience? Are they active lurkers? All of those things make a difference.

  7. I have done many interviews and try to tailor each interview to the author and what they write about. No I never asked their favorite color either. I had to do my research and look up their books, their genre’s and so forth. I wanted to keep it about the author and their works. I have interviewed a semi famous person who didn’t want to talk about why they got famous, just about their book. I abliged and did as requested and got the interview. It was fun and helped to get my name out there as well as the authors. for me it was a win-win situation. People knew I was an author but also that I liked to do interviews. So I guess in my case it helped for getting the name out there but no, I can’t say it helped with book sales. But if people don’t even know about you how can you sell a book anyway? And yes, its very difficult to sell to your facebook friends when you are stuck in a bowl cross promoting each other. People will tune you out because you have nothing new to say, you are just promoting other people’s work and its generally the same people. That doesn’t reach the reader.

    1. Good points, Wendy. I think it takes a lot of work to do something other than a cookie-cutter interview. I guess one of my points though, is that even a good interview doesn’t necessarily reach readers, and even if it does reach readers, it may not move books. As Kat said above, she has been interviewed in every media format and market. So a great interview in a large reader-oriented market may not move books.

      I don’t think name recognition is essential to sales success. There have been a few bestsellers by anonymous authors, and most people who found an author whose books they love may read everything that author writes without ever reading one of their interviews. They are fans of the writing, not necessarily the author.

  8. I recently did three author interviews, and was honored to take part in them. I have been invited to provide a few blog posts, and hope to follow up on the opportunity. That said, the point you made about the type of blog-readership is key.
    I don’t have a typical writer’s blog. The Culture and Cuisine Club started many years ago, and it has evolved quite a bit from my original intentions. I love to cook, and am good at it. The original idea of a lifestyle blog, like a famous person might have, is not feasible. I am not famous, unfortunately, and I write most of the content myself.
    What has worked for me is to feature other authors, and their work, through a recipe they cook. For them it is a branding mechanism, and most of the people who go to my blog are NOT writers. Because I am active on Pinterest I post the author features there, and have found that people repost my pins. I have nearly 1,400 followers on Pinterest, and add about ten a day. This type of blog feature works for me because it is a natural part of who I am. It is genuine. My friends, social media and in person, have commented to me on both the recipes and the authors featured. I don’t have huge numbers going to my blog, so when a post is the new Wednesday feature, it is visible for a week.
    Indies Unlimited is a completely different deal. There are many posts featured every day, and the traffic is growing every minute. I read very few of the author interviews posted. IU has evolved into a beacon of help for writers, new and experienced. Featuring a new release by an author is enough for the reader. If they want more information they can read the bio on the Amazon author page.
    Great post.

    1. Thanks, Lois. You have a different hook to your author interviews – quite original, as far as I know.

      As far as IU goes, yes, we like to focus on the book, not the author. πŸ™‚

  9. I personally think the only reason to do an interview is to let prospective readers know more about you as a person. Which is probably why I don’t get many requests for interviews.

      1. I totally agree. In a way it helps readers to become a bit more invested in the author. Think of it this way – if someone interviews Stephen King – we’ll read that interview, right?

        And since I am a firm believer in ‘visualizing success’ I go into everything with the notion that ‘okay, so maybe they won’t read the interview today – BUT – after I sell a few books, who knows? Maybe the person who posted the interview will repost it! Good for me, good for them.

        Besides, I know it makes me feel good when people ask me things like, ‘Hey, Avery, what’s it really feel like to sit down and write?’

        Sometimes, it’s a boost that comes at the perfect time!

  10. I find that true of the interviews I’ve given. People just weren’t interested, but I don’t know that I would turn down a request in the future. I value bloggers in their attempt to get interest.
    Not sure how to get people interested enough to give me and my books a chance, tho.

  11. To add to the above post, my book trailer won the Best Book Trailer in the 2013 International Movie Trailer Festival. The people who ran it sent out press releases to the media here in Tucson. As a result, my son, who made the trailer, and I were interviewed in a local newspaper. I think 4 people on Face Book commented and two were relatives.

    1. Sandra, I think that is an example of my point. What does it take for an interview to have enough relevance for people to become engaged? I just don’t know, and I’m not sure your chances of winning the Powerball jackpot aren’t better.

      That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it if you enjoy that sort of thing, but you probably shouldn’t expect it to have any kind of major impact. And, if you don’t enjoy it, you shouldn’t do it. It’s not compulsory.

  12. I’ve done a whole bunch of interviews, many of them with the cookie-cutter questions you’re talking about. (Sometimes I change up my answers for fun. “M&Ms or Skittles? Hmm, depends on the day. Today’s really more of a Heath Bar day.”) But it’s tough to trace sales back to any of them.

    Marketers will tell you that guest blog posts and author interviews aren’t really about moving books — they’re about branding and positioning. It’s that old saw about how people need to hear your name seven times before it becomes familiar to them. Of course, we authors would rather skip the name recognition phase and just sell books. πŸ˜‰

    I’ll probably keep doing interviews, regardless of whether they sell books.

    (My favorite color is turquoise. And today’s a Good & Plenty day. πŸ˜‰ )

  13. As someone who runs a site that has author interviews as an extremely large percentage of its content and, even worse, most of them use standard cookie cutter questions (although not your favorite color) I almost feel obligated to respond with a rebuttal.

    But that would be a waste of hundreds of words in a comment that could instead be used as a post. I’ll get to work on that right away. πŸ™‚

      1. Al, although red is not my favorite color, interviews still are a form of dialogue, and, funnily enough, I happen to have a lot of dialogue in my novel The Stone Dragon. What a coincidence!

        Kidding aside, I’m not sure how many author interviews lead me to buy a book, but I know I’ve read many author interviews given by authors whose books I’ve read and appreciated. That might be something for you to consider in your article about interviews.

        I’ve just recently finished reading again after many years Michael Crichton’s The Eaters of the Dead. I enjoyed and appreciated comments online by Crichton regarding the novel. One of his comments was how he once spent a whole day in the library trying to find the source of one of the novel’s footnotes. He finally realized he’d made that footnote up. Now, that’s interesting!

  14. Author interviews, hmmmm… Personally as a reader I love reading them. An interview is an opportunity for the author to connect with readers. To do this they must get personal and give us a reason to invest in them as a person and an author. Since BigAl just posted above about The Indie View I will use that site as an example. The questions posed there are the same for everyone, they don’t change. I don’t think that is a bad set up, authors know what they are diving into there. So when I see one sentence answers on any of those questions I get angry at the wasted opportunity that the author just missed. (Poor Al has to listen to me rant each and every time.)

    The same thing can be said about the Reviewer interviews and the BookViews at The Indie View, give me something to become invested in. Don’t just slap up a one word or one sentence answer and expect that to fly.

    I would think engaging your readers would help sell books. I think Ms. Lewandowski has found a great hook by involving her interviewees with something personal like the recipes. That is the type of thing I am looking for, a connection with the author whatever it may turn out to be.

    1. That’s an interesting thought, ?wazi. As an author, I find reviewer interviews very interesting. I find it interesting to see the judge out of his or her robe. So, does the same sort of thing apply for a reader wanting to know more about what makes an author tick?

      I think it may, if the reader has heard of the author, has at least some interest in the book or the genre in which the author writes, or is a dedicated follower of the blogger hosting the interview.

      BUT, if the author is someone you never heard of who has written something you never heard of and have no interest in, would you read the interview? I don’t think most people will.

      1. Aren’t all new Indie authors in that boat, Mr. Hise? I may be a strange bird but yes, I would start to read the interview. It is the interviewees job to give me something insightful/humorous/raw to keep me reading. The author’s job is to sell himself/herself to me, if they can do that I will become more invested in their book. I think humor is a personal favorite of mine and your analogy of looking under the robe is exactly what I am after. Strip for me and I will watch… *giggles*

        I have picked up books outside my genre comfort-zone because I had gotten to know the authors on a book blog or FB. Melinda Clayton is one of those authors with her amazing Cedar Hollow series, another was Andre’ Jute’s Iditarod, and I don’t normally read zombie books but thoroughly enjoyed Braineater Jones by Stephen Kozeniewski. Mr. Kozeniewski’s FB campaign for Braineater Jones before the books release had me asking BigAl if the book had been submitted. That was after I had made him promise to not let me read any more zombie books!

        Personally, I enjoy the reviewer interviews the most. I feel like I am still learning the craft and strive to get better at articulating my opinion. Seeing how other reviewers approach reviews has helped me become a more rounded reviewer, I hope.

  15. What people don’t understand about interviews is the same thing many don’t understand about many other promo stunts in the contemporary scenario: they are something you can use, not something that goes out and works for you.

    If you answer the standard slate of questions interviewers send you (and they tend to be just insufferably idiotic, full of “Why do you write” nonsense) and it goes up on some blog, it’s not going to do much for you.
    If you take the interview as a “license to spam” and spread it around, it might do something for you. If it’s interesting enough, it might get a tumble from some new fans in the blog. Especially if you have some sort of call to action, which few do.
    If you control your own interview and use it to do something notable and powerful, you can win some friends and maybe even be link-bait, and maybe convince something like a bigger blog or print magazine that you’re worth the time and space.

    1. Good point, Linton. I remember a similar story. TM teacher Maharishi Mahesh Yogi had just come from the East to the U.S. in the 1950’s and was being interviewed in Hawaii. He was being asked about his robe, his sandals, and such, and he kept answering about meditation, consciousness, and enlightenment. The interviewer finally asked, “Maharishi, why aren’t you answering my questions?” and Maharishi replied, “Because you’re asking the wrong questions.”

      Your comment is like that. The author has the big picture, having written the book. Sometimes an interview can be a learning experience for the author, but it should always be a teaching opportunity. Thanks for the practical advice.

    2. True on so many levels, Lin. The author’s work has only just begun when he has returned the completed interview form. Sitting back and waiting for accolades to roll in isn’t going to produce much.

    3. I agree, Lin. While most advice on giving interviews suggests you should ask open-ended questions which an interviewee should be able to easily use to deliver the message they want to, even a question that seems to beg for a one word or yes/no answer can be used for the same purpose. Watch any politician do a “pivot,” dodging the question the interviewer asked while delivering the message they want the listeners to hear.

  16. I don’t contend that author interviews don’t work. I just think they don’t work all that well as a marketing stratagem. I guess I would have to say the best way to advertise your books is probably to advertise your books. There are a number of book promo websites that do a pretty decent job of producing some results. Of course, it’s harder to get into some of the most effective ones, and it is becoming more expensive.

    I notice James Patterson buys television ads for his (are they his?) books. I have no idea if that works for him or not.

    1. I think is says a lot that even highly successful best-selling authors with already dedicated readers still feel the need to advertise. The problem with the book promo sites is that not only are they becoming more expensive but mostly they appeal to readers looking for free and cheap books (ie $0.99) which denies you the audience of readers who are willing to pay a reasonable price for good quality books (and may well think a cheap price indicates a lesser quality product) and are potentially more likely to buy other books by the same author if they enjoy the first even if they are not on sale. I’m not sure how we can reach these readers in any numbers without a huge advertising budget at our disposal (or a lot of luck!).

      1. Which is exactly one of the problems I have with Amazon. I queried them once about advertising with them and the response I got was that you have to spend $10,000 a month., Really? So guys like us are screwed in other words, but MSP’s can afford to do that and draw readers to their books, hey I sold over 800 copies of one of my titles since July, mostly on Amazon, but that’s not 8000 or 80,000. Now I know I saw that video creatspace and KDP put out there of that woman who sold over a million copies since 2011. But I don’t write romance, sorry it’s not in me. I wish Amazon would come up with some adertising plan that was affordable to self published guys, that would allow us to at least compete

  17. Bless you, Stephen Hise. πŸ™‚ I don’t like talking about myself either, or my work for that matter. Aside from that, a lot of interviewers don’t bother to find out anything about the author before the interview, so it’s the same-old, same-old, the only difference being the name. I’ve never seen a bump in sales from any interview (except one) either.

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