There are two qualities that you need to get your work published: skill as a writer and the ability to generate unique, enthralling subject matter. However, different purposes require varying balances of these attributes. When it comes to selling interviews to publications, the latter is definitely more important than the former, as readers are interested in the person who is being interviewed, not the interviewer. This means that a writer of any ability can succeed in getting work published if he or she can source a good subject to interview, which was how I managed to get paid for providing interviews for the website of alternative arts, news and culture magazine Vice. The site has over 34 million unique visitors per month, meaning it was the perfect platform for me to get my name out there. Being honest, I didn’t achieve this by being a top class writer. It was because the interviews I pitched were both difficult for the average person to obtain, and perfectly tailored to its readership
Before I started writing for Vice, I was a ghost-writer, working on everything from books about oil prospecting to true crime memoirs. Vice magazine focuses heavily upon unconventional characters and people who live their lives on the edge so I decided to ask everybody for whom I had previously written if they knew anyone who fit the bill. I had recently ghost-written a book for a well-known, reformed criminal who was able to point me in the direction of as many people with a story to tell as I was able to shake a hat at, from international jewel thieves to bank robbers. Vice was interested in what I had to offer and knew that it would be difficult for other people to generate similar content. I have been contributing to their site ever since. So what are the best ways to find interviewees for magazines and online publications? Here is a rundown of some approaches that have worked for me:
- Ask pre-existing contacts if they know anybody who would make for a good interviewee. If, for example, you have previously interviewed an expert beekeeper for a beekeeping magazine then it stands to reason that he or she will know other people with interesting beekeeping stories. All of the interviews that I have sold to Vice have been secured using personal contacts.
- Scour newspapers and magazines for suitable interviewees. If a magazine has deemed somebody to be worthwhile writing about then other publications will no doubt also be interested in his or her story. You can use social networking websites to find just about anybody nowadays; just type the person’s name and city into Facebook and send him or her a message.
- Look for experts in a given field. If, for example, you are searching for somebody to interview for a martial arts magazine then find out the names of top martial artists and see which ones have not yet been featured. Locate their websites and ask if you can send them questions via email or, even better, conduct a quick phone interview.
Most magazines and online publications require photos to accompany interviews. You can either take some pics yourself or ask the interviewee to send some over to you. Try and get pictures of your subjects in a range of different locations, as a publisher will not be interested in ten different photos that all look the same.
Always have your interview questions written in advance. Otherwise, interviewees can take you off on tangents. Stick rigidly to the script and avoid getting sidetracked. Interviewing in person or over the phone is the most effective method for getting high quality content. Sending questions via email will not give your readers an accurate representation of your interviewee’s idiolect and character. However, it is fine to send follow up questions via email if they are relatively brief. What are you waiting for? Contact as many potential interviewees as possible and see what they all have to say before deciding upon a suitable candidate.
Nick Chester is a freelance writer from the North of England. He has ghostwritten a variety of different non-fiction titles, the latest being Hotshot by Colin Blaney, and contributes interviews and the occasional article to Vice magazine. When he isn’t putting pen to paper, his hobbies include watching documentaries, listening to music and playing poker.