An attendee from one of my publishing seminars is writing a book and had a few interview-related questions that you may also have, so let me share a few thoughts here.
(Incidentally, I’m offering three different writing- and publishing-related seminars near Stanford and Santa Cruz, California, in mid-March: see www.gordonburgett.com/seminars.htm.)
One, how to arrange an interview?
Decide first what you are writing about, and if an article, the primary target publication you will query. Then figure out whose words would make that article timely, accurate, and valuable. (Know the question[s] you need answered by the interviewee.) Figure three people quoted per article is a good target, but you may need more. And of course get the email and/or phone numbers of those you wish to quote.
Most folks will talk to you if they know why and that it won’t take much time, so I figure 15 minutes max, and hope for five!
Be ready to go when you dial the phone. I once called Governor Adlai Stevenson, figuring I’d get some aide. The Governor (he had just announced his Presidential candidacy) answered the phone himself, and after hearing my spiel said, “If you’re ready, let’s go!”
The spiel? “Good morning. I’m Gordon Burgett. I’d like to interview the Governor about _____ for ______ magazine. Two questions, at most five minutes, if possible.” Then I let the person on the phone respond or ask me questions. They’d usually provide a call-back time (and the number). With Governor Stevenson, it was right then!
My batting average using this approach? Great for politicians and lesser luminaries, only fair for academics.
If I an’t get the phone number, now I email. The go-ahead ratio is about the same by email (they can check your website or bio before responding), but they usually want to be interviewed by email too–and you’re not always certain it is them responding on the other end.
Another question: do I need an OK from them to use their words? No, I told them it was an interview. Can I use it in other articles or a book. Yes. But you always have to be accurate, which is why a taped interview (even by phone) is best.
Last question. Can you use anything just said in conversation in an article or book? Actually yes, but it can be harder to prove later that it was said. A funny example. I needed just a few words of affirmation from the U.S. Ambassador to Brazil. Very much by chance we were standing side by side at urinals during a break in a reception, and I asked him the question. He laughed and gave me the answer! We washed up, and five minutes later I formally met him in the reception line, to which he said, “It’s good to meet you again, Mr. Burgett–in more salubrious circumstances!”
If this helps, great!
P.S. I talk a lot more about publishing and writing in my free newsletter at www.gordonburgett.com/nl.htm.