Thursday, November 08, 2007

Writing Blogging Heroes, Part 2 (Questions and Contacts)

(Note: Part 1 of this series is here.)

When I knew I was going to write Blogging Heroes, the first thing that came to me was, “What questions am I going to ask? What should I discuss with bloggers?” Some questions were obvious—simple icebreakers such as, “How long have you been blogging?” and “Why did you get into blogging?” From there the conversation would work into more complex matters, such as getting traffic, ethics, maintaining quality, dealing with difficulties, and more. Gradually, a small list of questions evolved. (I could omit blog statistics; easily accessible sources like Technorati and Alexa would supply those. Why copy material that was readily available for free? Besides, I was more interested in the people behind the blogs than the numbers.)

Other questions would suggest themselves during the course of each interview. In other words, the shape of the interviews would be determined by the interviews themselves.

The next step was to find 30 people to interview. I looked around at who was doing what in the blogosphere. I consulted the Technorati lists, Digg, Alexa, and other resources to get an idea of which blogs were really popular, and which may have simply gamed the system to get on a list. Sifting through the more active and popular blogs, I came up with a list of interesting blogs in several categories. I read the blogs to get an idea of each blogger’s style and background. I also looked for buzz about other popular bloggers and their blogs. Links from some of the blogs I was reading pointed to additional candidates for interviews. Still more were suggested by my editors and the interviewees themselves. And I chose several bloggers because they were different, and not the same old faces from the Top 100 lists.

The interviews would be just the beginning of the process. I would have to do extensive background research (more than simply reading blogs) for the introduction to each blogger. This often resulted in follow-up questions and revisions.

Initial contacts were made via e-mail. I explained the book and my mission, and invited the subject to be in the book. I didn’t always get an answer the first time, even though I was careful to make it clear that I was a legitimate author looking to interview people for a new book.

Sometimes it took two or three tries to get past spam blocks or to just get someone’s attention. When the first message didn’t get a reply and I really wanted to talk to the person, I switched to a more interesting subject header than:
May I interview you for a new book?

Instead, I used the tongue-in-cheek approach and sent messages with subject headers like:
I need to interview a blogger of great skill and cunning.
So-and-so tells me you are a crafty blogger with great powers.

Those usually pulled in replies. Some were entertaining. Like one from the editor of, who replied, “I’ve been too busy blogging to ... well, talk about blogging." But gradually I built up a list of interviewees. Never mind that half of them would disappear and that making connection would be as difficult as herding cats. More on that in the next installment.
Copyright © 2007, Michael A. Banks

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