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.
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.