As writers, we can’t help digesting as many author interviews as possible in the hopes of discovering how exactly that bestselling author wrote a blockbuster book. We want to discover the writing secrets that enable people to create unforgettable stories. That’s why I couldn’t resist the opportunity to start an interview series on my blog.
In the months following my decision to interview two writers a month, I learned a lot about what it takes to launch a series people actually want to read. Here is my to-do list for getting popular authors to agree to an interview, plus tips for making a statement with every post.
Think of a Unique Angle
If you’re familiar with reporting lingo, an angle is the spin you put on your story to make it different from what other people have written about the same topic. In other words, why are you writing the story in the first place? Why is what you have to say unique?
Last year, I published a post called “Why We Need Millennial Writers.” I received hundreds of shares on the article. While I revised the post several times since then, I knew early on that the Millennial writer angle was one I wanted to act on because it had been seemingly unexplored. That’s how my #MillennialWriterSeries was born.
Think Branding First
Since my #MillennialWriterSeries was part of my website launch, I had to tackle branding in one fell swoop, which meant that the most important first task was defining the series in a concise way.
Before I approached anyone, I wrote copy for my webpages, created a style guide, and made a quick, 100-word description of my concept. These helped me decide if my series was substantial enough to sustain itself for a minimum of several months. I also had to make sure that my idea wouldn’t be too hard to explain in a quick email.
As part of my branding, I also had to look at my post images. The core of my series didn’t change, but my post images have. Even with months of planning, I still ended up modifying my branding style to make my images more sharable. If you tackle branding early on in the writing process, it will help you when you want to recruit more writers.
Think About What You’ll Ask
While you want all your interviews to read differently, have a few questions that you ask everyone so your posts have a cohesive theme that connects right back to the series name. Consider each question with intention, ask questions that are specific to each writer’s work, and make sure you don’t go overboard by asking too many questions. If you want to have longer interviews, give the writer more lead time to craft his or her responses.
Find People Who Best Represent Your Series
While I only have a handful of interviews on my site at the moment, my goal is to present writers from different genres, backgrounds, and education. When you plan your concept, think about what makes it so compelling and who would best convey that.
The most interesting thing about the word “Millennial” is that it encompasses such a large segment of the population. As I explain on my blog, this includes everyone from a college student to a mid-career professional. When I consider new interviewees, I always examine how they will fit with the other writers I already featured.
Writers are busy people. If you’re interested in interviewing someone, shoot them an email weeks or even months before you plan to post. They may not be able to get their responses to you right away, but writers deal in deadlines and you can be sure they’ll follow through.
Often, the writers I get in touch with request that I send my questions after they’ve completed a book launch, speaking engagement, or other deadline. If you let writers get back to you on their own time, you’re way more likely to get an affirmative response.
Ask Even If You Expect a No
One myth about writers is that they aren’t approachable. In most cases, this is totally false. Writers love to interact with fellow creatives. I like to email writers personally, but if they have a publicist, reach out to them first. If your angle is strong enough, you may be surprised to discover that most writers are willing to do interviews. If the author declines, don’t take it personally. Sometimes it’s just a matter of scheduling that forces them to turn down a great interview.
Since you’re going to interview writers on a regular basis, you need to keep track of your questions, their responses, author bio, and post images. Make a folder for your series and for each person that you’re going to feature. Staying organized will keep you from going crazy.
Initially, I worried that I would wrongly glorify the word “Millennial.” I was reluctant for people to associate me with a word that some people connote with a supposedly entitled, lazy generation. But that’s when I realized that turning the label into an empowering definition is something that I’m passionate about. Plus, as a Millennial writer myself, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to meet like-minded creatives.
Remember the reason why you set out to create your series in the first place, and have fun with your concept. Don’t be afraid to ask for an interview and be excited about it! If you need a little encouragement, find your way back to those author interviews. One day it may be you on the other side of the table.
Kayla Dean is an arts and entertainment writer in Las Vegas, where she has interviewed several celebrities for publications like Vegas Seven. She has several YA stories in the works and blogs about writing and creativity on her personal website, where she also hosts the Millennial Writer Series. She received her BA in English from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and will pursue her Master’s in English Literature this fall. You can find her on Twitter @kayladeanwrites.