A few weeks ago the Evilest Mastermind of them all had a post about author interviews, questioning whether they are worthwhile. One of the things I do away from Indies Unlimited is run a site called The IndieView. For those who haven’t visited, the content consists of three main things. (Watch me subtly plug the site here. I’ll bet no one even notices.) First, a database of indie friendly book review sites for authors in search of potential reviewers. Second, an index of recent reviews from a slew of different sites which readers can visit and scan looking for books that might appeal to them. And last of all (the only thing I would have mentioned were I not sneaking in a plug) interviews with indie authors and reviewers.
Given The IndieView’s interview content, I almost feel obligated to argue against what the EM had to say about author interviews. The reality is, every point he made (okay, make that almost every point to give me a little wiggle room) was right, for him. However, I’m not sure it is right for everyone. Some of my points were probably made in the comments to the original post, but repetition is good, right? So here’s my rebuttal. Hmm. I think I’ll do this using the same style Joe Konrath uses when fisking the spokesmodels of traditional publishing. That’s bound to be fun.
EM: Unfortunately, not a whole lot of people love to read author interviews … Once we realized the interview features were not getting a lot of views … we discontinued the feature.
BigAl: If I’ve learned nothing else from observing recent happenings in the publishing world it is that unsubstantiated claims on the internet aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. We need data to back these claims up. Sure, The EM told us a story about why IU no longer does author interviews and claims this is based on numbers. So show us the numbers. Or not. The profile of the typical IU visitor may be much different than another site. What doesn’t work here, may elsewhere. In contrast, just over two years ago I did a survey where I invited the readers of my review blog to answer some questions. One set of questions was a list of features we were considering adding that asked if our blog readers were interested in seeing us add that kind of content. Over 70% of the survey respondents indicated they wanted us to add author interviews. The last time I checked more than 2/3rds of a population didn’t qualify as “not a whole lot.”
EM: Not to say interviews don’t work at all or ever, but the return on investment is often quite small for both the interviewer and the subject of the interview.
BigAl: Yes, the ROI argument. Again I’ll say it. Show me the numbers. If we’re going to decide what we do and don’t do based strictly on ROI in measurable dollar terms, there are a lot of things most of us wouldn’t be doing. Both my sites generate a few dollars in income, but if I was deciding what to do with my time on that basis I’d be better off getting a part time job at the local McDonald’s. I won’t even mention the ROI of contributing to IU because the major benefit, all the gruel I can eat, as long as it is no more than half a bowl a day, isn’t that great. Especially when I can get gruel almost as good at the local soup kitchen for free. Many things we do are based on more than monetary return.
EM: Authors love to be interviewed.
BigAl: Data? Actually, I think I’ll take the EM’s word for this. (I happen to know the EM doesn’t like interviews, regardless of what he says about authors in general. He even says so at the bottom of his post. Maybe that’s the real issue.) I know I’ve enjoyed the times I’ve been interviewed. Part of that is you get to express your thoughts on a subject near and dear to you knowing that, at a minimum, one person is going to read them. Sure, a captive audience of one blogger isn’t much, but it is guaranteed. I’ve also found that interviews make me think about my motivations and the why I do things the way I do. This sometimes leads to questioning my approach, which can lead to an improvement. A little forced introspection can be a good thing.
EM: I think the unspoken hope is that an interview will make a splash bigger than the pool into which it jumps … Unfortunately, big pool ≠ big splash.
BigAl: In this regard, the EM is probably right, at least about some authors. The same goes for virtually EVERY marketing tool available to an indie author to get their name and book cover out there. With a few exceptions (Bookbub and less than a handful of other places like it), very few things are going to move the sales needle in a big way. To abuse the EM’s analogy, making a splash isn’t what you want. It’s to raise the water level of the pond. A splash gets some water higher for a few seconds, but what you really want to raise the level of the whole pond for a long time. (See, I’ told you I’d torture this analogy.) You do that with the equivalent of dropping little stones in, one at a time. (Gawd, I can’t stand this any longer. I’ll drop it, but keep it in mind while reading the next paragraph.)
In the comments, Lynne Cantwell mentioned that people need to see or hear your name (or, in this case, your book’s title) an average of seven times before pulling the trigger. Until you’ve sold so many books that the Amazon recommendations engines, word of mouth, and a built in fanbase are selling all the books you care to sell, you need to be doing things to get your name out there. An interview, if you enjoy doing them, may be a way to expose your name one more time to some number of people. (I’ll point out here that even if someone just reads the title, “Interview with Author X,” that’s exposure.)
Another things to consider (thanks to commenter Tom Kepler for reminding me) is how interviews help solidify your fanbase. Reading about you, what inspired your latest book, or even your writing process, is something people who have already read and enjoyed your book are going to enjoy and will make them more likely to buy your next one. What? You want data? Okay, I surveyed Tom and myself and 100% of respondents said I was right.
EM (in his Donald-Trump-like voice): BigAl, you’re fired.