How to Shine in an Author Interview

At some point in your writing career, you will be asked to give an interview. Whether this event happens in-person at a bookstore or a festival, in print, or on a podcast, there are a few things to keep in mind to help make the experience the best it can be.

Know your audience: Who is the interview for? What will your audience want to know from you? Consider the outlet and look at a couple of examples of the same type of interview online. If unclear on what to expect, ask the interviewer to provide some context, for an idea of the kinds of questions they will be asking, or the list of questions themselves.

The questions: It will largely depend on the audience, but it’s a safe bet that in most cases, questions will be based on a mix of topics from your book to your background, and your writing process. You might be asked what you are working on next, so have an elevator pitch prepared. If you are not ready to publicly discuss your future project, then this is a good time to instead highlight a couple of books you are currently reading and enjoying. Share the spotlight a little—it will be noticed and appreciated!

Flex your storytelling skills: Give expansive answers, something the interviewer can build on. (It can be a challenge to come up with questions that sound original.) A great interview feels like a conversation between the participants, so providing details and keeping to a natural, conversational rhythm (read: not too long or too short answers), creates a sense of comfort and engagement. Always remember that one-word answers are the mood-killer of any interview.

NO SPOILERS: Don’t wreck the reader’s fun by revealing the ending or major surprise plot twists. Ask the interviewer beforehand that they don’t either. Seasoned practitioners will know this, of course, but it never hurts to reiterate. Don’t oversell the book—the audience is already interested otherwise they wouldn’t be there. Instead, describe the larger picture of your work, what you hope the reader experiences, and the “why” at the heart of your book.

Be prepared: Sometimes interview requests spring up at the last minute and the host may not have had time to read and think about your work. Prepare a two-page document that covers the “about the book” overview, pull quotes from reviews, and both short and long biographies, as well as anything else you think is important to know about the book. This will be seen as incredibly thoughtful and help you both shine at the event.

Above all, show RESPECT: Be on time, be gracious, be attentive. Confirm the pronunciations of participant names, and if you are on a panel discussion, get familiar with the other authors’ work beforehand and look at them while they are speaking. Everyone can be nervous, from the interviewer to the audience members asking questions, so cut them all plenty slack. Send the interviewer a note of thanks after the interview. If a publicist arranged this interview, send them a note as well as they have one of the hardest jobs in the industry.

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