Author Interviews: My Thoughts on Types of Interviewers

Recently I was at Digital Book World with my friend Len Edgerly from The Kindle Chronicles podcast. He and I have had an ongoing discussion about what makes a good interview. At Digital Book World (DBW) we talked specifically about interviews with authors.

This came up at DBW because Kathy Doyle from Macmillan Publishers was there and answered an audience question concerning suggestions for authors who who have been approached for an interview. I think she gave some good tips which included listening to other interviews that the interviewer has done to get a feel for what their style is.

Photo of Kathy Doyle, Len Edgerly and David Peach
Kathy Doyle, Len Edgerly, David Peach


That brings us back to types, or styles, of author interviews. I have identified three types that I like for different reasons. As an author looking to do an interview with a podcaster or radio station, I think you should try to figure out what the purpose the interviewer is trying to accomplish by having you on their program.

Tell Me About the Author

Sometimes I am less interested in the book than I am the author and their story. This is the type of interview I enjoy on shows like The Kindle Chronicles. I like hearing the story of how the author got to where they are and what types of books they have written.

This type of interview will certainly talk about the author’s latest book, but I don’t listen to these types of programs to learn about books. I listen for the human interest story of how an author ended up where they are.

Tell Me About the Book

Then there are times when I am much more interested in the book than I am the author. For example, The Art of Manliness podcast does many author interviews. I enjoy these, not because of who the author is, but because of what the book is about.

In this type of interview I am wanting to hear about the content of the book. I want to find out if this is a book that I would be interested in buying.

In this interview type the host of the podcast, or other media outlet, has selected the author and book because it fits with their theme. Therefore, the theme of the book is the greater focus in this type of interview.

Tell Me What the Host Wants Me to Know

The third type of author interview that I enjoy is one where the host directs the questions to get the information out of the author that the host is interested in sharing. Todd Henry at The Accidental Creative podcast is a master at this.

Todd is not asking the author to come on the show to talk generically about their work. Todd has a very targeted topic and he interviews authors for the purpose of getting them to share targeted content for the listeners. He is brilliant at asking questions that pull out the few specific points that he wants to share with his audience.

In this type of interview the author may not have a chance to talk about the book as a whole, but may only cover a few select themes covered in the book. That is perfectly fine since the host has an agenda and a reason for sharing the author with his listeners.

Which Format is Best

There is no single best type of author interview. Each of these three interview types has a specific purpose. It would behoove an author to take the time to listen to a few interviews by the host and find out what the host wants to share with the audience. If you don’t hit the target, or especially if you don’t try, then your time may be wasted and the interview may never be played. I have done my share of interviewing and there are times when an interview never makes it out of the recorder because the guest never really understood what the purpose of the interview was.

If you are an author, take the time to learn why the host wants to talk with you. In the process, you may find new readers because they heard what they were listening for in that show.

Podcasters Who Didn’t Deliver the Norm

Normally I tend to harp on the negative aspects of what podcasters do, but this time I want to applaud two podcasts for doing something different. They each broke out of their normal mode to share content that was appropriate for their audience even though it didn’t fit their expected format. One is a case where a podcast went much longer than normal and the other is a case where they delivered a shorter than normal episode.

Get-It-Done-Guy PodcastLong, But Just Right

I don’t mind long shows as long as they are packed with content and aren’t long for the sake of being long. Stever Robbins at the Get-It-Done Guy podcast released an episode this week that was 20 minutes in length. His shows are normally between 5 and 7 minutes. Though the show was longer and an interview format (he normally does well-scripted monologues) it was appropriate and bursting with great information.

Short, But Appropriate

IPM Partnership Podcast logogThe other show is the IPM Partnership Podcast with Matt Barfield. Bro. Matt’s shows are usually 15 to 20 mintutes in length with him conducting an interview. In the episode I heard the other day he had someone else conduct the interview and the show was less than 8 minutes long. I applaud him for letting someone else take the mic and for not feeling like he had to fill 20 minutes of time when he only had 8 minutes of content.

Bravo to these two podcasts! And thank you both for being good examples of when it is appropriate to make a show longer and when to make one shorter.

Podcasting Thoughts — Introduction

Recently a listener to Missionary Talks contacted me and said that he was interested in doing a similar podcast. He asked if I had any advice for him. I do, and am glad he asked.

What you will read in the next few posts is a compilation of what I wrote to him and others who have asked similar questions.

Intro to the Intro

This is kind of an introductory post for several things I would like to talk about over a series of 3 or 4 posts. Mostly my thoughts on podcasting relates to recording an interview-type show like Missionary Talks. There have been a few other missionary interview podcasts that I know about and will probably point out through these posts.

I don’t intend to get into the nitty gritty of actually putting together a podcast website and posting episodes. Those are topics best covered by people like Dave Jackson at the School of Podcasting and Daniel J. Lewis at The Audacity to Podcast. There are several other podcasts about podcasting, but those are my two favorites. Though if you only have time for one, I would start with Daniel’s show because he has such good show-notes. You are able to skim through his archives and see the details of what he covers before you listen to a whole show.

As with any technology related topic, I recommend you listen to the most recent shows and work your way backwards instead of starting at number 1 and coming forward. There are things that have changed since Daniel and Dave started recording their podcasts. It is best to learn the current right way of doing things instead of hearing old information first that will just confuse you later.

Missionary Talks

Though I haven’t recorded a Missionary Talks interview in a couple of years, I still keep all the interviews available for anyone to listen to and enjoy. I have grand hopes of starting to record interviews again. But until then, I am pleased with the number of interviews that are available and I am glad for some of the decisions I made about the podcast early on. One of the biggest choices I made was to not date the interviews. Obviously they have a date for when they were posted to the website, but if you were to just listen to an interview, you would not know if it were recorded last week or 8 years ago.

Though listener numbers have dropped off significantly since I haven’t put up a new episode in almost 3 years, there are still over 1,000 interview downloads a month for the various episodes. When I was reading some of the stuff I previously wrote about Missionary Talks, it got me interested in going back and listening to a few episodes that I haven’t heard in years. That, in and of itself, may get me even more fired up about recording new interviews.

Interview Recording

I have done a couple of posts specifically about the topic of recording interviews. I will cover some of that material again, but I will also include links back to other posts that I’ve done that cover a particular topic in-depth. In some cases those links will take you to articles I’ve written on other sites.

Learn How to Interview

I certainly don’t have a degree in recording interviews. However, I do have my own thoughts on what makes a good interview. I encourage anyone who is planning to do an interview podcast to do some studying on the subject.

Learn how to ask questions and how to shut up. The shutting up part is hard to do, but makes an interview much better. I know you got interested in podcasting because you like listening to your own voice and you feel like you have something to share that will benefit others. But, an interview should be about the other person, not about the host.


In this series I also want to talk about editing. Not so much about how to go through the process, but more about what you will and won’t say. Or, learning to censor yourself and put aside your pet topics for the greater good. This doesn’t apply to every type of podcast. For me though, I chose to interview some missionaries because of the type of ministry they were doing—not just because I agreed with everything they did or the way they went about it. That meant I recorded some interviews with missionaries I would not feel comfortable working with on a day-to-day basis.

To do that, I chose not to pick fights where there was no need. This will need to be an intentional choice on your part.

So, there are some of the big topics I plan to cover. I have written these same types of things in emails to other podcasters who have asked me about recording an interview-style podcast. Hopefully, this will be a help to others who want to get my thoughts but may not feel comfortable asking. Also this will help me have a place that I can point to when others ask the same questions in the future. This is not because I don’t want to answer questions, but because if I can get you to read this first, then you can ask more specific questions where I can give more helpful answers.

Two Favorite Podcasters Meet: Kindle Chronicles and Grammar Girl

At the recent New Media Expo in Las Vegas, several podcasters got to interview one another and do some cross-promotion. Two of my favorite podcasters bumped into one another; Len Edgerly from The Kindle Chronicles met Mignon Fogarty, a.k.a. Grammar Girl.

Grammar GirlGrammar Girl’s podcasts are all scripted which adds a little stiffness to her speech, but has the wonderful benefit of packing a ton of information into a short podcast–something I absolutely love. I have heard Mignon speak without notes before and love the honesty and wonder you can hear in her voice. A highlight for me was when she called me in Argentina and interviewed me for one of her podcasts: Behind the Grammar.

In the episode of The Kindle Chronicles in which Len interviews several people from New Media Expo, he has a short conversation with Grammar Girl. I think this conversation captures their personalities well. The conversation with Mignon starts at 27 minutes and 52 seconds into the recording. Though, if you have the time, really everything from 18:38 with Cliff Ravenscraft until the end of the episode is worth listening to.

Len and I met at South By Southwest a couple of years ago (when I also met the eBook Ninjas). I was already a fan of the podcast, but being able to sit and eat breakfast with him was a great opportunity.

Why I Finally Unsubscribed to Buzz Out Loud

Buzz Out Loud has been one of my favorite podcasts I listen to for various reasons through the years. However, there have been times when I have been frustrated with the show. Today I finally pulled the plug on them.

I became aware of the show when Molly Wood first appeared on TWiT with Leo Laporte in March of 2006. She has an amazing ability to rise to the top of the IQ scale based on who she is in the room with. She easily proves she is the smartest person in the room when she is on TWiT with Leo and the gang. When I found out she was part of a daily tech podcast, I immediately went and subscribed to Buzz Out Loud.

Buzz Out Loud is a technology news program. Their tagline is that they are a “show of indeterminate length.” This comes from the days that they were trying to keep the show to just a few minutes a day. When I started listening, the show was between 15 and 25 minutes consistently. Like most podcasts, the length started getting out of hand. While I did not like the move to 30 minute shows, I stuck with them. I knew that would eventually be part of the reason I would drop the show. With shows now being 45+ minutes, 5 days a week, I can’t keep up with them and still enjoy all the other shows I want to listen to.

While I did not start listening to BOL because of Tom Merritt, I certainly grew to like his thoughts and commentary. I was sad to hear him leaving to join Leo at TWiT full time. Breaking up Tom and Molly from BOL was another nail in the coffin for my continued listening.

Though Molly has been an on-again/off-again host the last couple of years, she has been there enough to keep me listening to BOL. She easily displays her ability to be the smartest person in the room. However, her IQ also drops to just above the level of everyone else. Therefore, if her co-hosts are not very high quality, neither is Molly.

BOL has changed in the 5 years I have been listening (5 years to the month). I know things rarely stay the same. This show is almost nothing like what I started listening to BOL for back then. I wanted tech news that gave me the facts with a little bit of commentary to put it all in perspective. Through the years it has changed to being a few facts about tech news and a lot of commentary. Much more than I want out of a news show.

Then, there is Brian Tong. Everyone has their own personality. I don’t begrudge Brian of that. His just grates on me. And, Molly’s incredible ability to rise or fall to the IQ level necessary to stay just one step above her co-hosts means that BOL is a show that now has more appeal to a 14-year-old listener than one who is 40.

There is too much singing and dancing. Too many sexual innuendos, if not outright bedroom talk, that I no longer feel comfortable listening to the show. The level of goofing around and swearing on the show has gone up tremendously. They are no longer competing to bring the best of the daily tech news. It seems they are trying to appeal to an audience who wants to be entertained. I am not looking for entertainment, I am looking for technology news. That is what I came to expect out of BOL. The entertainment factor has superseded the useful information I am getting from the show.

It is time to close the door on 5 years of Buzz Out Loud. It is hard to believe that a show which has provided so much good information to me through the years has now become irrelevant to me.