How to Write Interviews People Will Actually Read

On Friday I admitted to skimming a lot of blog posts.

The ones that grab my attention and demand I read them in their entirety usually have one of the following:

  • A title that makes me feel like I’ll miss something important if I don’t read the text. Which is why I totally agree with Author Media’s blog post, 6 Magic Words that Always Get Clicks.
  • A highly engaging, highlighted snippet in the body of the text that beckons me to go back and read the entire thing

Today it’s time for another admission:

I almost never read interviews. 

I don’t think I’m alone and here’s why:

Most of us in the blogging world know that if we want our blogs to be read, our posts have to be valuable for the reader.

Yet all too often, we throw that principle out the window when it comes to interviews. 

Let’s step back for a moment and think about Twitter.

When you’re on Twitter, what makes you click on a link?

For me, it’s because something about that tiny teaser makes me a promise.

Something about that tiny teaser whispers, “This will be worth your time.”

I will learn something important or have a satisfying emotional experience.

I don’t think I’ve ever clicked on a link when the teaser is something like, “Get to know so-and-so” or “Check out this interview with such-and-such.”

UNLESS, I’m already a big fan of such-and-such.

Which begs the question:

Why do we do interviews?

If it’s to entertain the interviewee’s pre-established fan base, then okay. No worries. Ask fun, interesting questions to your heart’s content.

But if it’s to grow our readership and grow our interviewee’s fan base, then we need to rethink the way we approach interviews.

Before creating any questions, we should answer these first:

  • Who are we interviewing?
  • Who is our target audience?
  • What is something valuable, important, or emotional this interviewee can give that audience?
Okay, so what happens if we’re the one answering the questions?
We can’t exactly dictate what questions the interviewer will ask us.
But we can control the way we approach our answers.
Before answering any questions, it helps to consider:
  • What value do I have to offer?
  • Is it possible to answer these questions in a way that gives this value to the reader?
Not only will this approach help us grow out readership and fan base, it will make our interviews easier to promote on social media sites. 
Which are you more likely to click on?
A tweet that says:
“Check out this interview with Jane Doe!”
“Learn how to increase your chances of landing a book deal!”
The first feels really self-promotiony (totally a word) and not at all interesting unless I’m already a huge fan of Jane Doe.
The second feels helpful. Valuable. Time worthy.
Let’s Talk: Do you tend to read, skim, or skip interviews? What makes you actually read one?

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19 thoughts on “How to Write Interviews People Will Actually Read

  1. never read them. even when i know the person (usually, i don’t read then b/c i already know them). not even to support them. isn’t that awful? don’t host them, either. but like today, i had christa black guest post on my blog….rather than an interview. if you really want to know all about her, read her book. i wanted info my readership would find helpful, and she agreed to write a special post on eating disorders offering a unique perspective. worked for me!

  2. Katie,

    This is a fabulous post! You’ve made me think. And I too must confess, I’m not a huge fan of interviews. I always learn something here, so thanks for writing great content.

  3. I almost never read interviews, unless it’s as you mentioned, Katie: there’s something in it for me. I love your ideas, especially the idea of having something to offer readers.

    The only thing I might change for me is to avoid writing topics. They get more hits, but from other writers. Readers want a reason to read your work, and I’m not sure a discussion of how to write/publish is necessarily the best way to pull in readers.

  4. Wow, Katie, lots of fodder to ponder here! I found a significant jump in blog hits after I started my author interviews and have gained several new non-writer blog readers, which has been fun. But I also try to keep my interviews short, fun, and offer a giveaway with them. They seem to go through cycles though, too, depending on the author, the time of year (I almost said “time of month”, ha!), how much time I’m able to devote to spreading the word, etc. I’ve given a lot of thought to the format of my questions and how they reflect my brand, appealing to women, etc. I’m not sure all my interviewees connect with the style, but I try to tailor my questions to fit their genre and/or interests if I can.

    That said, I could definitely up my game by focusing my titles better…I’ve gotten stuck in the rut of keeping the same title and just changing the author name (oops!), and I think people are probably starting to skim over it as a result. And I tend to do the canned promos on Facebook and Twitter as well, although I don’t promote blog posts on either place hardly at all because I’ve just felt weird promoting myself in those venues lately. But that’s a whole other topic for another day. 🙂

    As a blog reader, I love an interview that gives me a fresh look at an author–not the typical canned interview that gets copied from one blog to the next as part of a blog tour. But I also know authors’ time is limited, so sometimes it’s all part of survival.

    Goodness, sorry for the long-winded comment today. Can’t wait to chat in person with you later this week! 🙂

    1. Yes, so true, Sarah–the key is not asking the same ol’, same ‘ol questions everyone else does.

      And I’ve noticed things go through cycles based on time of the month, myself. Grin.

  5. Yep, I skip/skim over interviews too. I also tend to skip over blog posts that are really long without a lot of white space between words. It’s just too hard to follow.
    I quit doing interviews on my blog for this very reason. They are fun for the blog hoster, but not so much for everyone else.
    The only interviews that I read all the way through are with authors whom I consider myself a HUGE fan of. 🙂

  6. As a writer who aspires to accomplish what you have achieved, I like to read interviews about you because it gives me some insight into what this crazy journey to publication involves. It also gives me hope that my dream is possible. But I have to say, the posts that are “just interviews” and don’t offer me any new info or a prize…or if I’m reading the interview after I already own the book, I’m more likely to skim. I thought the big interview you did with Beth V. and Dani P. through Relz Reviews was awesome. Forgive me for leaving out the other authors, but that was marketed as something unique. As readers, seemed like a great opportunity to get to know you sort of up close and personal. I’m sure that was a big undertaking but it was exciting. I think social media provides tons of ways for all of us as writers and readers to connect and if you want to garner attention, you have to be polished and offer something that the audience might not already have. That’s my two cents, anyway.

  7. Good morning, Katie,

    Interesting post. I do read interviews. Maybe it’s because I’m still trying to find my way in this industry and any help I can get from those who’ve gone before me is important to me.

    Perhaps a way to make interviews more attractive is to combine the two headings you exampled above. Instead of just “Interview with Jane Doe” title it “Interview: How Jane Doe Got Her Game On!”

    I think maybe it just depends on where each person is in the journey. I like learning interesting things about authors I love – I got to know you through interviews! Our personal blogs are great but we get to pick and choose what we want people to learn about us. With an interview, often there are questions asked that we might not have considered ourselves. Interviews helps me know how to pray, they help me understand some of the inner workings of the industry, and they really help make the names on the covers of the books on the shelves come alive.

    Good tips, but I hope people aren’t discouraged about doing or giving interviews – I think they can be quite valuable.

    Blessings my friend,

  8. I’m totally guilty of doing lots of interviews! But I do find that people read my interviews if I post the interviewee’s name first, esp. if they’re a known quantity. AND if there’s a book giveaway!

    I try to stick to 5-6 questions, but I try to have substance when I’m steering those questions. Since I like to help other writers, I ask questions about the publishing/finding agents process. That’s fascinating stuff to me!

    I could definitely get things shorter, but I love interviewing people sooo much, it’s hard!

    Again, I think it all depends on how you’ve setup your blog. If you love short snippets of helpful hints and you’ve done that consistently, stick with that. If you’re geared more toward longer, more detailed posts, stick with that.

    I regularly read longer blogposts, if it’s at a site I know and trust–in other words, I know the writing is going to be worth my time and will inform me in some way (sites like deCompose or Women Living Well). Substance is key. If you can get the substance w/short posts, do that. But if you want to dig deeper w/a longer post, do that.

    I’m so sad that people aren’t reading interviews! I read lots of author interviews just so I can get those rare glimpses into that next stage of the writing world.

    Ah, well. You’ve rocked my bloggy world today, Katie! Will ponder this stuff!

  9. Great thoughts as I plan my next blog tour. I’ve been thinking hard on this already. How to make a blog tour/interviews different enough that people will be interested. I have some ideas. We’ll see if it works. Thanks for reaffirming what I’ve already been thinking about.

  10. If we’re agreed that we almost never read them, why spend valuable writing time doing them and/or hosting them? Perhaps there’s a better way? Because I have a feeling that even if the Twitter or FB post entices us to click, once we notice it’s an interview, don’t we close it anyway? Again, why bother?

    1. GOOD question, Donna!

      This is where I think the format is KEY!

      First, We need a hook-worthy title. Not something that says “Interivew with….” It needs to be a title that promises VALUE to the reader.

      Second, we need a killer introduction that ALSO promises value to the reader. I think all too often, our introduction (and I’m totally totally guilty of each of these things) is introducing the interviewee instead of enticing readers with the value that lies ahead.

      And third, 3 questions are ideal. FIVE maximum.

      What do you think? Would more people read interviews if this were the case?

      1. Thanks for the tips, Katie! I honestly believe I was asking myself those questions, but believe on some level we share them, as well. I rarely read interviews yet just spent tons of hours and a good chunk of change for prizes to promote the release of my new Bible study a month ago.

        I guess it’s the proverbial conundrum: “Don’t do the same thing over and over expecting different results.”

        After reading the comments to your post, I’m re-thinking how to do it better next time. Perhaps only one post with a really incredible prize basket rather than a blog tour that tires out our consistent readership with endless promoting. I think we’ve all been there. Again, I guess I’m just thinking out loud. Always dangerous!!

  11. *sheepishly raises hand*

    I almost never read interviews. I thought perhaps I was the only one, since it seems such a popular blogging technique, thus I’ve had a bit of guilt complex about it. (Maybe I’m too self-absorbed?) So I appreciate your candidness. 🙂

  12. Wow. Consider me guilty. I hardly ever read those interviews and yet, I’m considering posting a few in the near future in my quest to draw readers to my site.
    You have good points for all of us to think about. It’s all about the hook!
    Thanks for a great post on this dreary(for us)Monday.

  13. Excellent tips! I may read one, but when every blog I read has an interview within a week with the same person, I admit to either skimming or passing it by. But at the same time, blog tours are important.

  14. So agree. I rarely (if ever) read interviews. I think I’m more likely to if the answers are short instead of those long blocks of text following each question.

  15. Not gonna lie. I don’t read them. Almost never. I almost hate to admit that.

  16. What a valuable post, Katie. You’ve given some great tips. I’ll be keeping them in mind when I’m interviewed or when I offer to host a guest.


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