There are two different ways to view platform at the same time: One is in the quantifiable reach of an author to a target audience. This is done by measuring the thousands of Twitter followers, book buyers, and adoring fans around the world. The other way of building platform is through the qualitative reach of an author to experts, event directors, editors, publishers, agents, other writers, librarians, book sellers, etc. Both can be built with today's task.
Contact an Expert for an Interview Post
For today's platform-building task, contact an expert for an interview post to be featured on your blog. It's a great way to make connections with other folks in your field while helping establish your expertise. Believe it or not, this is actually easier than it may sound.
Here are steps I take:
- Find an expert on a topic. This is sometimes the hardest part: figuring out who I want to interview. But I never kill myself trying to think of the perfect person, and here's why: I can always ask for more interviews with other experts. It's sometimes more productive to get the ball rolling than come up with excuses for not getting started.
- Locate an e-mail for the expert. This can often be difficult, but a lot of experts have websites that share either e-mail addresses or have online contact forms. Many experts can also be reached via social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc. Or they can be contacted through company websites. And so on.
- Send an e-mail asking for an e-mail interview. Of course, you can do this via an online contact form too. If the expert says no, that's fine. Respond with a "Thank you for considering and maybe we can make it work sometime in the future." In other words, be polite and keep the door open for down the road. If the expert says yes, then it's time to send along the questions.
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How to Handle an E-mail Interview
Once you've secured your expert, it's time to compose some questions. Here are some of my tips:
- Always start off by asking questions about the expert. This might seem obvious to some, but you'd be surprised how many people start off asking "big questions" right out of the gate. Always start off by giving the expert a chance to talk about what he or she is doing, has recently done, etc.
- Limit questions to 10 or fewer. The reason is that you don't want to overwhelm your expert. In fact, I usually ask around eight questions in my e-mail interviews. If I need to, I'll send along some follow-up questions, though I try to limit those as well. I want the expert to have an enjoyable experience. After all, I want the expert to be a connection going forward.
- Try not to get too personal. If experts want to get personal in their answers, that's great. But try to avoid getting too personal in the questions you ask, because you may offend your expert or make them feel uncomfortable. Remember: You're interviewing the expert, not leading an interrogation.
- Request additional information. By additional information, I mean that you should request a head shot and preferred bio--along with any relevant links. To make the interview worth the expert's time, you should afford them an opportunity to promote themselves and their projects in their bios.
And once the interview goes live, link to it on your social networks and give your expert the specific URL so that he or she can share with their tribe.
Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community, which includes editing Writer’s Market and Poet’s Market. He regularly blogs at the Poetic Asides blog and writes a poetry column for Writer’s Digest magazine. He also leads online education, speaks on writing and publishing at events around the country, and does other fun writing-related stuff.
A published poet, he’s the author of Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53) and a former Poet Laureate of the Blogosphere.
Follow him on Twitter @RobertLeeBrewer.