How to get an interview for your article or book…


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

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!

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

P.S. I talk a lot more about publishing and writing in my free newsletter at

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3 Comments to “How to get an interview for your article or book…”

  1. By Angel B, August 5, 2011 @ 7:04 pm

    If you are the author of the book or article – how do you get someone to interview you without seeming arrogant or too forward, pushy? Please advise – I have strong online presence for my book but no interviews or media coverage yet. No one knows the book is available or who I am. Thank you in advance – All the best,

    Angel Barrino

    • By Admin, September 2, 2011 @ 10:44 am

      This blog is an answer to your question.

      Best wishes,

      Gordon Burgett

    • By Admin, September 29, 2011 @ 10:01 am

      Just send them your best promo material about that book, with all the benefits its contents bring them and their followers, and let them take the initiative to ask you more.

      Best wishes,

      Gordon Burgett