Using Interviews to Write Books

Bold Kitty

Bold Kitty in playful, predator mode over the Thanksgiving holiday.

Boy, am I tired today! I’ve been basically awake since 2:30 in the morning because my body decided to wake up at that time. And then as I was trying to get back to sleep, my delightful, cuddly cat decided that it was time to play. So he curls up with me and then starts touching my face with his paw. That’s his way of saying, “Play with me!” Then he turns into what I call Mr. Bitey, and starts biting (gently, of course) my arm, fingers, etc.

I love him, but 2:30 in the morning is not playtime.

Anyway, today I want to talk about using interviews in your books.

Weekday Wisdom with Carma Spence, Episode 3

The reason why I want to talk about this topic is, in part, because I’m working on my new book, Public Speaking Super Powers, which I’m hoping to have out by August. And for that book, I interviewed 89 people, although only 87 of those interviews are actually going to be used, because one person requested not to be included, and another person didn’t answer any of the questions I asked. Instead, he turned each answer into a promo for his book. So, I can’t use that interview.

Anyway, I’ve noticed that a lot of people seem to be thinking that my forthcoming book is just going to be a bunch transcripts of these interviews. However, I asked all of my interviewees the same four questions. You would think that would had given people a clue that if I just did transcripts, it would be the world’s most boring book.

Now, there are books that are written this way. You interview someone — or several someones — and then you use that interview to massage into a chapter. Usually, this method is used because that person has specific piece of information, they’re talking about that specific topic. You’re basically using them as coauthors.

But that’s not what Public Speaking Super Powers is about. The way I’m using the interviews in my book is more of a traditional way of using interviews to write a book. This is where you interview people to gain information, as research. And then you take that information and you write a book from scratch.

One of the questions I asked was, “Do you think public speaking is a learned skill? Or something you were born being able to do?” In other words a talent. I took the answers these 87 people gave me and compiled the data, creating this chart

Skill vs talent in public speaking, pie chart

Only 3 percent of those interviewed believed public speaking to be a talent. Everyone else agreed that it was at least partially a learned skill.

Right now, I’m working on the introduction to the book, in which I discuss skills versus talent in public speaking. To write it, I’ve taken the data that I collected from the interviews and then done a lot of additional research on the topic.

ASIDE: It’s really interesting because it turns out that although talent can exist, we can’t prove it exists. Skills we can prove exist.

Anyway, what I’m talking about here is using interviews to write a book.

There are several ways you can use interviews to write a book.

1. You interview several people for research.
You use the information that these interviews give you as basic research to create your book. You’re the author.

2. You interview someone (or several someones) and use their interviews as individual chapters.
With this method, you use the transcript of the interview, almost verbatim, as a chapter. Basically, you’re making that person a co-author.

3. Do something that’s in-between.
Each chapter is kind of a transcript, but not really. It is a co-creation between the interview and your writing/editing talents. This method creates true co-authorship because both you and that person are co-creating this chapter.

Using interviews to write a book can make it easier or harder for you. Why? Because time, and possibly money, are involved in getting those interviews transcribed. There is the time you take to interview people. But there is also time (and the money if you hire a transcriber) that goes into transcribing the audio recordings, which has been my biggest issue. Fortunately there’s a new service available, Trint.com. You upload your audio file. It transcribes it within minutes and then gives you a really nice interface for correcting and verifying that transcript. I’m totally sold on this service. As with any transcription service, it is not perfect, but I’ve found it to be on par with human transcribers, but a lot more cost and time effective. I highly recommend it.

Of course, once your interviews are transcribed, there’s the puling all that raw information into something that’s readable. And ultimately, at the end of the day, that’s what you want your book to be — readable.

Regardless of how you use interviews in your books, you need to make your book readable. However, that is a totally different conversation.

In Summary

Yes, interviews are a great way to jump-start your book. But, be strategic about how you go about using them in the first place. Otherwise, you may end up with a project that’s way bigger than you had initially planned. Interviews are helpful in writing books, but don’t let them overwhelm you.

That’s today’s Weekday Wisdom. It’s Friday, so I won’t see you until Monday. Hope you have a wonderful weekend! And remember

Don’t box yourself in.
Spread your wings and fly.
You are capable of more than you know.

I would love to hear from you!

Please post a comment belowWhat would you like me to talk about in future episodes of Weekday Wisdom? What questions do you have about discovering your awesome, creating products, vanquishing mind goblins and growth mindset, online marketing, planning your business (or life), goal setting/achieving, or public speaking? I want to create episodes that meet your needs, so please post your suggestions and questions below.

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About the author

Carma Spence is an international best selling author and award-winning speaker who helps women, introverts and shy people vanquish Mind Goblins, unleash their content creation superpowers and communicate their message with confidence so that they can create meaningful and fulfilling legacies.

You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.