What authors should know about interviews

Caleigh Minshall

The second part to this blog’s title is ‘‘(at least interviews with Caleigh)’’.

There are only a finite number of stories in this world, and they’ve all been told before. There are also a lot of books (and television shows, and movies, and video games) competing for the attention of readers — of, if we’re being completely honest, buyers, which might be the more important fact here. When you’re in an interview, your ultimate goal should always be to shout to the world, ‘‘Hey! This is why you should care enough about my book to invest your time and money!’’ Your interviewer (and maybe someday this will be me!) already knows that your book is worth caring about; they wouldn’t be interviewing you otherwise. But the reasons for why your book is wonderful still need to get written down.

So where do you begin? I’ll try to help out by prompting you with questions, but at some point you need to start providing good answers. If you want to be helpful but you’re still having trouble expressing why your book is worthwhile, sit down with a piece of paper and brainstorm as many reasons as you can think of for why you wrote the book. The first ten, fifteen, even twenty reasons might be really stupid, but that’s okay. Eventually you’ll start getting to reasons that matter — reasons that might matter to other people, too. You don’t need to bring this list to your interview (at least not to an interview with me), but having those reasons in your mind will help guide you through the interview and serve as a jumping-off point for any question that has you stumped.

Also — and this is cheesy advice, but it’s true — try to be yourself. Relax. Your exact words may not even end up being used, depending on the purpose of the interview, but a genuine sense of who’s behind the book will shine through the description in a positive way. Readers like to know that authors are human, so be human: make mistakes, laugh about them and always feel free to say, ‘‘Wait, slow down please. I didn’t mean to say that; let me rephrase!’’ It’s your book, even down to the promotional copy (which is what I’ll ultimately use your interview for), so take ownership of it and say what you think. (And then respectfully defer to your publisher’s greater experience and wisdom when the two of you disagree, of course…)*

Think of anecdotes that could make the book’s creation process more personal. Tell me about where your ideas come from. Tell me about who you imagine will read your book, and what you hope they’ll get out of it. How did you imagine this book would look like when you started, and how did that vision change (or did it)? Why this book, why right now? And, of course, always feel free to tell me about why you’re happy with PQL. These are all details that will help me to tell someone (gracefully) why they should part with their hard-earned cash for the story you have to tell.

These aren’t things you need to worry about while you’re writing your book (although that’s your business, not mine). While you’re writing, focus on the writing — selling only comes after we’ve got a good book to sell.

You might be wondering where all of this promotional information goes. I’ve mentioned tipsheets before, and here’s where I’ll finally explain them. A tipsheet is a 7-12 page document full of information that booksellers might like to know: short and main descriptions of the book (which is where most of my and your effort goes into), author and/or artist biographies, information on previous sales, marketing, bibliographies, unpublished endorsements and even images from the book itself. These tipsheets serve a number of purposes. We present them to the Literary Press Group at their semi-annual seasonal sales conferences, which take place around two months before the ‘sales season’ begins. LPG’s sales representatives use the information in the tipsheet to entice book retailers to place advance orders on each book, which helps us in turn to maximize our production efficiency. All of this takes place around 8-12 months before the release date. The usefulness of the tipsheet doesn’t end there, however. The tipsheet will populate our catalogue listing of the book, and, eventually, the information in the tipsheet will also be inputted into our database. Our database then feeds that information to places like,, Baker & Taylor, the Library of Congress, Barnes & Noble, the University of Toronto Press (which feeds Chapters Indigo), and many others. The tipsheet, you can see, turns into a pretty big deal. So do your interviews.

I hope you find this helpful when thinking about ways to make your story stand out from the crowd. Before I go: Happy New Year! Here’s hoping 2010 is full of good writing, be it physically bound, in an e-book or scratched onto a good ol’ scroll.

*I’m only half kidding.

Caleigh Minshall

About Caleigh

Intern at the Porcupine's Quill.
This entry was posted in Letters from the Porcupette (the Intern's Blog). Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.


The Porcupine's Quill would like to acknowledge the support of the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts for our publishing program. The financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF) is also gratefully acknowledged.