Your author media materials need to include Suggested Interview Questions and an Author Q&A. In this article, you’ll learn what they are, what the media expects from them, and how to create your own. I’ll cover what these questions should focus on, why your interviewer will thank you, and what kinds of questions to AVOID. There will also be some examples and a few key points.

This is Part 3 of a 10-part series on creating your author media kit:

Part 1 - The Ultimate Guide to Creating an Author Media Kit
Part 2 - Author Bios
Part 3 - [You Are Here] – Suggested Interview Questions and Author Q&A

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Early in my career, I was freelance writing for music magazines while a college intern at a St. Louis-market radio station. Once, when I went in for some production work, the on-air talent grabbed me as I came in the door and explained I was about to do a phone interview with a recording artist.

After all, he reasoned, I do interviews all the time for the magazines, right?

He rushed me into a production studio to set up for a phone interview. Within a matter of minutes, I was recording a cold interview with a man I’d never met about an album I’d never heard.

Somehow, we muddled through. It helped that I was familiar with the artist and owned some of his earlier albums. But the experience was still unnerving.

Now, the interview would have gone more smoothly if I’d been given time to prepare. It would also have been helpful to have been presented with a set of media materials. (Not unlike the materials we’re discussing in this series.)

Know what would have helped the most? A set of suggested interview questions relevant to this artist and what he wanted to discuss. That way, I’d have been on stronger footing as the interview, and my guest would be able to trust that we’d hit on the points that were important to him.

In this article, we’ll look at creating your own “Suggested Interview Questions,” and the related “Author Q&A.” These are two of the most important pieces you can include in your media materials.

SUGGESTED INTERVIEW QUESTIONS

In most cases, an interviewer hasn’t read your book. Don’t take it personally—it’s impossible for that person to read every book of every guest. (Get over it.) What’s important is that this person thinks you’re interesting enough to share with the audience. That’s great!

A set of suggested interview questions leads to a conversation that makes them look smart and makes you look smart. It also helps you control the conversation, so that it is more likely to hit on the points that you want. These questions allow the interviewer to intelligently discuss your topic, what you can share with the audience, and why you know what you’re talking about.

You want these questions to pique the audience’s interest in your book. However, the best way to do that is to not discuss the book itself. Instead, you want to share the ideas in the book, what people can learn from or enjoy about the book, or about the experience readers get from your book.

AUTHOR Q&A

The Author Q&A is a version of the questions where you’ve already answered them. The media can use the Q&A in several ways.

They may use it to help them prepare for an interview, or to complement their interview after the fact. For some media, this Q&A may be all they need. They may copy-and-paste straight out of this document to quote it, remix it, repurpose it, or run it as-is for their readers.

HOW TO CREATE YOUR QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Think up 10-20 questions that would make for an interesting conversation on your topic of expertise. They can touch on your book, but they shouldn’t be about your book. The Author Q&A document can include the same questions, except now you’ve keyed in your answers, too.

You can create both documents in a text program. Use a standard font like Calibri. Bold the questions. Make sure the documents include your name, website address, and a way to contact you.

Save them as PDFs. This is a universal format that should work the same on any computer.

IDEAS FOR NONFICTION AUTHORS

If you’re a subject matter expert, the questions should revolve around the topic in your book or that your author platform represents. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Why this topic is important to the average person
  • Why this topic is important to you, personally
  • How reading your book will change the minds/hearts/lives of readers
  • The experiences/research/expertise that led to your book
  • Key takeaways you hope readers find in your book

IDEAS FOR FICTION AUTHORS

If you write fiction, the questions can revolve around a general discussion of your genre, or around nonfiction topics related to your book. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Why this genre is important to you, personally
  • Universal themes in your fiction to which anyone can relate—these can include ideas that are psychological, religious, social, political, emotional, or philosophical
  • The challenges of touching on these themes in your fiction
  • An interesting question about a type of character in your genre—heroes, villains, side characters, etc.
  • Your unique spin on normal expectations for your genre

EXAMPLES

Suggested Interview Questions

Suggested Interview Questions provide a great safety net—and a great conversation starter. If I want to interview this author, I can print out these questions and we can go live. I might use these questions directly, they may spark ideas for new questions, or maybe other questions will come to mind once the interview is in progress.

05 If people read your book and start making their own sandwiches, won’t that put you out of business?

06 Everyone loves a good sandwich—what is it about sandwiches that are so universally loved?

07 Your book Make Your Own Sandwich is more than just a list of instructions—what inspired you to write it as part-memoir, part-life manual?

Author Q&A

There are several reasons it’s smart to offer an Author Q&A. As the media, perhaps all I need is a quote, or maybe I want to run the whole thing.

05 If people read your book and start making their own sandwiches, won’t that put you out of business?
“One of the hallmarks of the Sam Shoe Sandwich Truck experience is that we are always pushing the boundaries. We’re on the front line, trying new flavor combinations. Our customers come to us to see how it’s done—and then go home to try it for themselves. As long as the Sam Shoe Sandwich Truck keeps pushing ahead, leading the way, they will always be back for new sandwiches—and new ideas.”

This example is from the media page on my website. I provide both a set of “Interview Topics” (general topics an interviewer might want to discuss) and “Suggested Interview Questions.” When I was a guest at one online summit, the host asked for suggested questions, and I gave them a list like this.


KEY POINTS

Be conversational. These questions should dig deeper into your category or your story or this topic. The Q&A answers should sound conversational and work as standalone quotes that can be cherry-picked. Make sure that your answers aren’t “writerly.” Try to sound like yourself as if you were talking.

Some ideas to help your answers sound conversational:

  1. Write out your answers to these questions, read them out loud, and edit them to sound more natural.
  2. Record your answers into a free program like Audacity (download here), then play it back to hear what it sounds like. Make a transcript.
  3. Team up with another author. Interview each other through email or record your conversation through a program like RINGR. (Free 30-day trial here.) Edit your email answers or transcribe the recording.

Focus on the ideas in your book. Avoid creating questions or answers about your book, how you write, or how you publish. Instead, you want to lead to a conversation about your topic of expertise, or the interesting ideas that come out of your book. Show that you’re an authority in your space, a storyteller, expert, teacher, or philosopher.

Focus on your art, not your craft. Don’t offer generic questions about how you write, your publishing experiences, or how do you come up with ideas. Sure, some interviewers may ask you these kinds of questions—but they don't need your help coming up with these questions. They need your help with asking intelligent questions about your topic.

Don't overwhelm them. It’s appropriate to offer anywhere from 5-20 questions. Don't go crazy and send a six-page catalogue of possible questions. The interviewer should be able to print out a single sheet of questions and start having a conversation with you.

NEXT: Your Feature Article

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