October 2023 Will They Use the Questions You Gave Them?
Q: Will they use the questions you gave them?
A: Maybe. No rule says they have to use any of them.
I get this question often from authors.
Over the last few weeks, it feels like about once a week.
And my answer is always the same, and often gives the authors pause.
I say, “They don’t have to use any of the questions we gave them.”
The author’s reaction: Surprise, shock, or complete silence.
This discussion of course is with an author who is anticipating a scheduled interview with a Christian media outlet, and the questions to which they refer are the interview questions in their press kit.
Interview questions are an important element in the press kit materials, which are special documents about an author and his or her book, written in a style that helps the news media do their work.
We’ve spoken here before about the importance of a press kit and those questions.
But back to the news media who may or may not use them.
Why wouldn’t they use them?
Each media professional has something in mind with each interview they do. They may interview someone with a personal memoir about being the parent of an Olympic gymnast but take the interview in a different direction because they are more interested in the challenge of managing a tight family schedule than in the sport.
Perhaps they don’t want to ask the same questions that other journalists will be asking.
Or maybe they pride themselves on doing their own interview preparation and being independent.
So then why do we include the interview questions?
Because some journalists do use them or like to review them and then modify to suit their own show.
In addition, another element that surprises many authors is that most journalists won’t have time to read their book. So the interview questions help provide a kind of cheat sheet to highlight the most important or compelling parts of the book and are a shortcut for the journalist in preparing for the interview.
With that thought in mind, if you are writing your own interview questions, make sure you focus on the key aspects of the book. Know what your main points are about the book, and what you want to share in the interview to share some wisdom but still make people want to buy the book to get the full info.
And don’t get too sidetracked talking about fun or unusual tidbits that don’t serve your main points. Sometimes authors get completely fascinated by their own experience of writing the book that they spend too much time in their questions on those details.
And about those questions.
You do want to prepare for how to answer them, but what exactly does that mean?
If you want to walk through the questions and think about how to formulate your answers to each question, that’s a great idea. Maybe even take some notes, especially if you have a few statistics you want to keep straight.
But a couple of caveats.
Some authors write out the answers and want to memorize those answers.
Others write out the answers and want to take that sheet into the interview with them.
Neither of those things is a good idea.
An interview is intended to be a conversation. The image of a tennis match is a good one, short volleys going back and forth.
You can’t be conversational reading out written answers. And your joint mission with the interviewer is to produce a thoughtful, interesting interview.
So above all, do your best to relax and enjoy the interview. That will make it a delight for the audience to listen to.
Even if the interviewer doesn’t use any of the questions from your press kit.