The Secret to Connecting With Authors: The Information Interview

The Informational Interview is a tool developed by Richard Nelson Bolles in his book What Color Is Your Parachute.* It’s a great way to develop relationships in your field and build your Cartel.

The Informational Interview’s Three Easy Steps

Informational interviews can become extremely fun, especially because you’re learning about something you’re extremely passionate about from an expert. Here are the three easy steps to doing it effectively:

1. Email your prospective interviewee and ask to chat over the phone.

First, find another writer who’s further along than you that you can interview. You can ask friends or relatives if they know any authors you can contact, or you can connect with authors in the forums.

Then, email them, telling them you’re a writer trying to learn more about publishing and the writing craft, and ask them for fifteen minutes of their time to chat over the phone or in person about how they got into writing. If they email you back, suggest a date and time. Here’s a script I use.

Hi local author,

My cousin Mary gave me your email address. She said you’ve written several novels and know quite a bit about the publishing industry. I hope it’s okay that I’m reaching out to you.

I’m a writer just getting started. I’ve just finished my first novel and I’m doing research on the best way to move to the next step. I’m sure you’re very busy, but would you be willing to chat for fifteen minutes at your office? I’d love to swing by and ask you a few questions about how you got into publishing. Perhaps sometime late next week? 

Thanks so much, local author.

Joe

Feel free to tweak that as you will!

2. At the interview

Remember to show them you care and be on time. If you’re meeting in person, you should buy them a cup of coffee.

Here are the basic forms of the three questions you should ask:

  • What’s your story? How did you get into writing?
  • If you were in my situation [describe your situation], what would you do?
  • Is there anyone else you think I should talk to?

Make sure you watch your time carefully. Once your fifteen minutes is up, thank them and say something like, “I want to be respectful of your time, but you’ve given me a lot to think about. Thank you so much for this. I really enjoyed it.”

It’s great if you still have more questions. You can continue the conversation by following up later.

3. Follow Up

To follow up, email them or write them a thank you note, thanking them for their time. This is a great time to ask any follow up questions to continue the relationship.

If they’ve given you leads on any new contacts, start the process over again!

Any questions? Have you ever interviewed someone like this?

Ready to try interviewing someone yourself? Check out the next exercise.

*If you purchase the book from this affiliate link, you help support this community just a little bit more. No pressure though!

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  • staci troilo

    It’s funny that you posted this now. Since 2013 started, I asked three people to do guest posts on my blog. One is getting back to me (I’m not holding my breath). One didn’t want to meet, but wrote a beautiful post for me. And one did a great Q&A with me. I think the message here is not to worry about the end result, but just to get over your fear and ask. The worst that can happen is they say “no.” The best is you get a great interview or post out of it and make a new friend and valuable contact in the process.

  • Tiersa Danielle

    No but I definitely want add interviews to my blog so this is helpful.

    • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

      You should do it. Interviews are fun.

  • KathyPooler

    I feature memoir authors on my blog and have done multiple interviews as well as several video interviews. It’s a win-win situation. Getting to know other memoir authors and helping them promote their work has been gratifying and fun. I have reached out to them via Twitter, Facebook and email. Some have reached out to me via the same sources.It’s been an enlightening and enjoyable experience

  • http://www.facebook.com/devinberglund Devin Berglund

    I’ve interviewed people for my blog, but mainly via email. I never thought of the phone thing… and keeping it to 15 minutes and only asking a few questions. But I think that this way would be a great tool. :) I will need to try it. I feel like it’s more personal.

    • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

      Right. This is more about networking and getting information than creating content for your blog. It’s probably not detailed enough for your blog, really.

  • http://www.ipaintiwrite.com/ Pamela Hodges

    I contacted Steven Pressfield by e-mail and interviewed him about “The War of Art.”http://www.ipaintiwrite.com/2013/02/12/waging-the-war-of-art-an-interview-with-steven-pressfield/
    I also contacted Andy Traub by e-mail and did a 30 minute audio interview about his book, “Early to Rise.”http://www.ipaintiwrite.com/2013/02/26/get-up-early-and-change-your-life-an-audio-interview-with-andy-traub/
    I have gained confidence as a writer from doing the interviews.

    • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

      Awesome, Pamela. As I told Devin, this is less about creating content for your blog, and more about networking with potential allies. Interviewing for your blog can be a great way to do BOTH though.

  • http://stacyclaflin.com/ Stacy

    I haven’t interviewed anyone like this before. Last year, I interviewed 8 blogging experts via email. At the beginning of this year, I was interviewed about my experience as a new author on Skype. These “live” type of interviews give me a lot of anxiety, but I know I’ll be glad that I did this.

    • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

      Good for you for doing those email interviews. I bet you gained a lot from those.

      But, yes. I think the “live” factor adds so much. My goal is to get people on the phone as soon as possible. It’s hard to have real relationship until you have that kind of communication.

  • http://www.joanhallwrites.com/ Joan

    I’m getting ready to email an author that I met a couple of years ago. She was in my area teaching at a writing school. She had planned to speak to my local writers group, but winter decided to rear its ugly head and we had to cancel the meeting. Later that week, several of us in the writing group had dinner with her. She and I are Facebook friends, so I’m going to connect and she if she’ll agree to a short interview.

    I also have another couple of authors in mind. I’ve always wanted to do this, but just needed a little push. Thanks, Joe!

  • Guest

    I just sent out an email to a local author. I hope she responds!

    • http://www.vozey.wordpress.com/ James Hall

      Good for you! I hope she responds to you.

  • Ian

    Joe, really good suggestion for an introductory chat. Now to select the right candidate to interview.

    • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

      Indeed! Good luck, Ian. :)

  • http://katiehamer.com/ Katie Hamer

    Thanks Joe, for this Informational Interview video. This approach keeps the interview process simple and to the point. It avoids any closed questions, and allows the author to express themselves freely.

    It’s good to hear your point of view, especially as it’s clear that you’ve had a lot of experience of interviewing people.

    • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

      Thanks Katie. I wouldn’t use these questions for an interview you’re going to publish, but they’re a great way to start developing a relationship with a potential contact.

  • http://www.vozey.wordpress.com/ James Hall

    Depending on the type of interview, I would offer them to set the time. If they want to set up for an hour or two, that is always better than them thinking you want to restrict the interview to 15 minutes.

    Otherwise, I found most of the rest of this advice sound and even useful. I didn’t really see too much of the value in things like this until you brought it to my attention.

    If I might make a suggestion, if the interview is longer than 15 minutes, don’t be so uptight with your communication. I’ve seen a lot of interviews where the interviewer only asks questions and the interviewee keeps hinting they just want to talk like a normal person. I think if the interview reaches that informal level, it become more interesting for the interviewer, the interviewee, and the viewers.

    One of these days, maybe I’ll try to interview R.A. Salvatore. That would be awesome. We’ll see.

    • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

      Right. I think there’s definitely a difference between an info interview and a public interview, one you’re going to share with your readers. This is a great way to network with busy, famous writers who are tired of talking to wannabe writers. It’s not great for something you’re going to publish.

  • http://ya-asylum.com/ Kim

    So I lucked out on this one. I work for a YA author who I get to talk to about the publishing process all the time. And for the next exercise I lucked out even more because I got to meet the authors I wanted to interview in person :) (And I decided not to just use the author I worked for).

    • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

      That’s awesome, Kim. I’m jealous!

  • http://www.astridbryce.com/ Astrid Bryce

    Hey Joe, just a bit of feedback. I love this style of lesson presentation. Your video of you speaking, bullet points on the side, and then the full text below is awesome. It definitely appeals to my learning style. I found the content incredibly useful, too. Thanks.

    • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

      Oh good! Thanks for letting me know Astrid.

  • disqus_uw8kXCNacZ

    Joe,

    I just finished my first interview with New York Times Best Selling Author W. Bruce Cameron. I met Bruce on Facebook three years ago as I was promoting
    my book. And have grown our online friendship ever since.

    Bruce began his writing career as a humor columnist for the
    Denver Rocky Mountain News. Sadly, the Rocky went out of business, but he
    says that was not his fault. He is a Benchley award winner for humor and was
    the 2011 NSNC Newspaper Columnist of the Year. He has written for TV (the
    show “8 Simple Rules,” based on his book) and co-wrote the feature film “40
    happens,” which will be released in 2014.

    His novel A Dog’s Purpose spent 48 weeks on the NY Times
    bestseller list. DreamWorks is developing it as a film and he and his writing
    partner, Cathryn Michon, wrote the screenplay. The sequel, A Dog’s Journey,
    was published May 6th, 2012, and was instantly a NY Times bestseller.

    His novel The Dogs of Christmas will be published in the
    Fall of 2013. He is currently unsure if he can even write a book without the
    word “dog” in the title.

    He understands the importance of authors supporting each
    other. He suggested I speak with (and cultivate a friendship as I have with
    him) a mutual Facebook acquaintance Kevin Sessums, author of the New York Times
    Best Seller “Mississippi Sissy”. I’ve confirmed a telephone interview with
    Kevin for 25 November. Kevin will be speaking to me from his office in San
    Fransisco where he is the Editor-in-Chief of 429 magazine and the Editorial
    Director of dot429.com. He has served as executive editor of Interview and as a
    contributing editor of Vanity Fair, Allure, and Parade. His work has also
    appeared in Travel+Leisure, Elle, Out, Marie Claire, and Playboy.

    Watch for more interviews Joe. I think this could be addictive.

  • Elisabeth

    I’ve definitely interviewed people over the phone for my nonfiction articles, but not for my own enrichment as a writer. Sounds like a good daring next step.

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