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.
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.
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