by Sophie Perinot
Book blogs are the new “village square” as far as word-of-mouth for books goes. With Amazon and Goodreads reviews anonymous (in many cases) and (sadly) for sale, and with newspaper reviews often non-existent for books debuting in paperback, readers looking for quality fiction are relying more and more on the on-line book community. That makes book bloggers valuable “taste makers.”
As a result, the blog tour is fast becoming a staple of the book launch. What does this mean to the “new mother” of a book—a lot of running and a lot of writing that is not adding word count to your WIP.
There are three basic types of blog-appearances: guest posts, reviews, and interviews. Reviews are low workload but high stress. I suspect that needs no explanation. Guest posts aren’t much different than posting at your personal blog (although a tour host may suggest a topic or at least be looking for a post that fits with the themes and aims of their blog). So today I want to talk about the “Author Interview,” because chances are—unless you were a spokesperson or celebrity at your day-job—you haven’t been interviewed frequently or at length before.
In conjunction with the release of my book-baby, The Sister Queens, I have (to date) been interviewed nearly twenty times. That’s a lot of Q & A mes amis. Here are some lessons and reflections from my blogosphere journey that may help those still awaiting their due-date.
1. Start answering questions early. As a new book parent you are going to be sleep/sanity deprived and pinched for time. You are also likely—at least in the first week or two—to have the attention span of a gnat (“look! Amazon rankings!). So, whether you are lining up your own blog tour or working with a professional tour organizer try to get as many sets of interview questions before the tour even begins. Every interview you complete pre-delivery is a gift to your future new-parent self. True, some interviewers won’t write their questions until they’ve read you’re your book, and yes book bloggers have their own lives, but at the very least arrange to have each set of interview questions one full week in advance of the date they are scheduled to post. You’ll be glad you planned and worked ahead. Trust me.
2. Take a cue from your interviewer and her/his blog. You are an author, you know ALL about voice. Well, blogs and bloggers have voice too. If you are being interviewed for a blog with the voice of Stephen Colbert a certain touch of humor (wry, irreverent humor) might be appropriate in your answers. If you are being interviewed by a blogger with the voice of the Pope . . . not so much. There are lots of ways to convey the same information, so calibrate your tone to your platform—at least a little. OBVIOUSLY you want to be yourself when talking about yourself. Just be yourself tailored to your audience.
3. Be a good guest (or best efforts and professional demeanor). Bloggers don’t have to host you, so make it a good experience for them. Remember, your interviewer took the time to think up questions and is opening a public forum for your use. Courtesy and gratitude demand that you do a thorough job of answering your host’s interview questions. Expound, expand, and entertain. “Yes” or “No” may start your answer but they shouldn’t be your answer. Yes, after a dozen interviews the sight of the question, “what was your inspiration for the novel,” may cause you to break out in hives and bang your head against the nearest wall. But just because you’ve answered a question before DOESN’T mean the blogger addressing it to you has read or heard your answer. Ditto her readers. EVERY interview is a chance to reach new readers and inspire them to pick up your book. Don’t toss an opportunity away by giving an answer that telegraphs “I am bored.”
4. It is okay to make suggestions. If you have something you are dying to share with readers there is NOTHING wrong with suggesting a question on that topic to your interviewer. For example, I really (really) wanted to address some common misconceptions about 13th century women, and one of my blog-hosts was delighted to include a question and answer on that topic at my suggestion. Similarly, you may read a question and think a follow up to one is needed. Or you may feel that two questions are overly similar. As long as you are diplomatic you can certainly suggests cutting, adding or rephrasing material.
5. There is more than one way to skin a cat (answer a question). I owe my husband (BIG) for this little insight. I was wrestling with a question that—by my reading--required a huge information dump. My husband said, “what if you give the question a more surface reading and response?” Bingo. The more interviews I did the more I realized that I could craft answers to highlight information, ideas and themes I wanted to convey to readers—information and themes that portrayed my book as I want it positioned in the market. Answer the interview questions you are given in the manner most likely to attract readers to your book. This does not mean lying or telling readers that your book is something it is not (e.g. The Sister Queens is not literary fiction) it simply means clear, clean branding.
6. You do not have to answer every question. You did not surrender all your personal privacy in the delivery room when your book-baby was born. In “real life” people sometimes ask us questions we decline to answer (is that your real hair color? how much money do you make?). If a blogger asks you a question you are uncomfortable answering, don’t answer. Again, just be polite.
7. Hesitant to talk about yourself? Conquer your scruples. There will come a moment during “blog tour mania” when you may have the following thought: “Oh my god, I am a narcissistic b*tch.” This is a good sign—it likely means you are not (or so I tell myself). Try to remain calm, and remember you are NOT that person at a cocktail party who suddenly starts telling someone about their latest achievement in great detail, without provocation. The information you are providing was solicited. Someone (the interviewer) believes there are readers interested in knowing what you drink while writing or whether or not you wear socks (actually the latter was one of my all-time favorite questions—but then again, I like funny).
Just don’t get addicted to all the attention because, like all exhausting but exhilarating things, your blog tour will come to an end. Pretty soon there will be another author in your place at “book-blogs-are-us blog” answering questions about the view from her writing lair and the inspiration for her novel. Hey, doesn’t anybody want to ask ME something?