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How To Land Big Interviews When Your Blog Is Still Small

Posted By Darren Rowse 11th of June 2009 Writing Content 0 Comments

A Guest post by Josh Hanagarne – World’s Strongest Librarian

interviews.jpgIn this article I outline:

  • Why I was scared to ask for big interviews
  • How I got over the fear
  • The results of my efforts, which I couldn’t be happier with

Seven weeks ago, my blog was one day old and I was staring at the keyboard thinking “Oh man…what now?” World’s Strongest Librarian was live on the web and I was faced with the same blank screen and choices every blogger faces when it’s writing time.

I started plugging away, reading Problogger and gaining momentum. A much bigger blog noticed me and I accepted an offer to be mentored by someone who had achieved what I wanted to in my own niche.

I followed his advice and all was well—until I ran into some advice that scared me.

“Interviews can be a great source of traffic. Do some.”

I believed it, but you have to be an established expert to get someone’s attention. Everyone knows that. Right?


Questions to ask yourself if you are scared to ask for interviews

  • What exactly am I afraid of?
  • What if they say no?
  • What is the worst case scenario?

What am I afraid of?

In discussions with bloggers, the following reasons pop up frequently:

  • My material isn’t good enough yet and they’ll say no
  • I don’t have enough traffic yet and they’ll say no
  • They’ll say no…

For your own sanity, choose to believe this right now, today: 1) It’s never going to be the perfect time so stop wringing your hands; 2) Assume they’ll say yes.

What if they say no?

What if they do? Go on like before. Focus on what is working.

What is the worst case scenario if you are rejected?

Will your bed wash out to sea in the night? Will your family be sucked into a black hole? Will Google delete your blog and put you on their list of losers who got turned down for interviews by big names?


Life goes on. If your blog is progressing, you’ve lost nothing.

That’s one of the great things about cyberspace: I handle rejections by email much better than in person. I’d rather delete an email that says “No thanks” than have someone look me in the eye and shake their head. Then you have to gracefully avoid sobbing and getting defensive while you stumble out of their office.

My interview project

Last week I decided to compile an e-book of strength-related interviews for release later this year. The book spans many fitness disciplines: the goal is to interview people who are champions in their own niche while simultaneously showing that we all train for similar reasons, no matter how different the methods.

But who? Who to interview? I ignored my racing heart, opened a Google document, and made a list. Five minutes later I was looking at that list thinking: “You fool. Who do you think you are?”

The list included the following names and target areas

  • Arnold Schwarzenegger (foreword for the book)
  • Dave Draper:bodybuilder, former Mr. Universe)
  • Peter Nestler: 7 time Jump rope champion
  • Dennis Rogers: grandmaster strongman
  • Jim Smith: Strength coach extraordinaire, founder of the Diesel Crew
  • Jedd Johnson: American grip strength champion
  • Dance Dance Revolution champion
  • Pull-up world record holder
  • Dan John: Track and field God, prolific strength coach and author, kettlebell expert
  • Various parkour aces
  • Winner of the Great Divide Bicycle Race
  • Mike Tyson: former boxing champion
  • Randy Couture: former UFC heavyweight champion
  • An upcoming trapeze artist I admire

The list went on and on. I sat there quivering, trying not to have a seizure.

But I had committed to this one thing: I will not shoot small…yet

That was four days ago.

Results to date, surprising connections

Yesterday I got an email back from Laree Draper, Dave Draper’s wife. Dan John and some other experts are going to be in Salt Lake City this very weekend. She invited me to come to dinner with them all and committed them all to interviews.

Assuming they are as willing as she says, I will knock several interviews off my list. I also get to go work out with these guys and pick their brains. Remember this point.

Peter Nestler and Jim Smith committed later that day. Dave Draper committed this morning. Jedd Johnson should later today.

Peter Nestler is a friend of Dennis Rogers (I had no idea). That may open doors.

When I opened that invitation from Laree, I screamed out loud in my office. I’m not sorry. It was worth screaming about.

Why I believe this has worked so far

  • I am a genuine fan of the people I’ve contacted. I aspire to the results they’ve achieved and can gush sincerely. Every email was a fan letter.

Here is one of the emails I sent: (I’ve taken the names out because I want to maintain surprise later)

Hi Mr_____. Thanks for taking the time to read a brief message from a fan.
I’m sure you’re even busier than I think you are. This means a lot to me.

My name is Josh Hanagarne. I’m a librarian in Salt Lake City, UT. I write
a humble little blog called World’s Strongest Librarian, focusing on
kettlebells and knowledge.

I’ve partnered with______, a massive strength website, to
create an e-book of brief interviews with various strength experts and
champions. Currently I have completed interviews with a prominent old-time
strongman and an upcoming Trapeze artist.

I would be honored to add your expertise as a ____ ace to the mix. If
you are interested, here’s how it could work:

Interviews will be between 1-10 questions. You can choose how much or
little you want to share.

Interviews can take place by phone or email, whichever you prefer.

Questions to ask in the interviews will be chosen from fans of World’s
Strongest Librarian on Twitter. You could of course add any questions
you like, and I will add my own if the fan’s questions do not cover everything beneficial.

If all goes well, the e-book will be released in December across a variety
of sites. This will be a great chance to get valuable strength and fitness
information out there to hundreds of thousands of readers.

I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience. If you
can’t participate for any reason, I would be very grateful if you could
suggest anyone else in your field I might contact–but I asked you first. I
only want the best:)

I personalized each email to fit the person.

The email contains:

  • No false flattery
  • Humility, but not begging—it says “I’m confident and my project is going to happen one way or another”
  • Tasteful name dropping
  • It obviously is not a message begging for links

Lessons and suggestions

  • Find a mentor. A little encouragement goes a long way. Whether you’re writing about making money, sewing quilts, or starting the first underwater manatee rodeo, somebody knows more than you and can guide you.
  • Fight that fear. Remember: the worst case scenario is not terrible
  • Have someone proofread your interview requests
  • Be a fan! If you’re sincerely interested and not motivated by links/gain/popularity, it shows.
  • Treat it like a game. This stuff is fun.
  • While you’re waiting for a response, get some work done.

No reward without risk

I’ll admit it—I was nervous to even pitch this post to Darren. I don’t feel especially worthy to be writing for you all. Yet, here we are, on Problogger. This is the purest distillation of the 80/20 principle in action.

Maybe I don’t have any business being here. It doesn’t matter what I think about this. If someone agrees to let you ride their coattails for a while, don’t argue with them. Don’t second guess yourself. Just enjoy it and thank them profusely.

Did I worry about how I would feel if Darren rejected me? Of course. Turns out, I had nothing to worry about.

Just ask.

PS: as the experiment unfolds, I’ll provide more updates assuming I stay in Grandmaster. Rowse’s good graces.

Good luck!

You can visit Josh Hanagarne at World’s Strongest Librarian, flailing away at the universe, one post at a time. The as yet e-book mentioned in this article will be released later this year as a partnership between World’s Strongest Librarian and Straight To The Bar.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. Wow, you should be very proud of yourself, what an accomplishment!! I agree it would be scary to ask for an interview but the world is not going to fall apart if you get rejected. Just be sure to let us know when Gov.Schwarzenegger agrees to do an interview/book foreword. If you can accomplish that, my friend, the world is your oyster.

    good luck..

  2. In that case I wud rather interview Darren … lol

  3. I’ve done quite a few interviews with “big names” in the niche I write and speak in (but don’t blog in). My experience was quite good. Most people were more than willing to give me some time.

  4. As someone who has recently considered picking up the interview microphone, I really appreciated the article. I think what I like about the idea of interviewing someone is that it brings blogs back towards the model that people have responded to for years, namely reporters out there asking questions. It really brings a personal element to writing and helps to put character into big names you see all the time. Thanks for the tips and good luck talking to the Gubernator.

    ~Chris Gammell

  5. This is an awesome and very timely post for me as I am struggling with this exact issue, an interview for my fairly new blog pambrechlin.com. I will definitely work on not be afraid to follow thru and get that interview.

  6. I had a very similar situation where I wrote an email to internet entrepreneur Chris Pirillo, who I am a fan of. I asked if he would be willing to do a 3 question interview for me. Since he does videos on YouTube under the name Lockergnome, I figured he might want to answer the questions in video format for all to see. I couldn’t believe my questions were answered when I saw the topic of the interview “Where Is Technology Headed” on his YouTube channel. I couldn’t be more greatful and it’s true…to get anything in life, you need to be willing to take risks and handle rejection!

  7. Josh–Thank you so much for your candor regarding your nervousness around asking for interviews. This was really Godly timing for me to read this. It’s inspiring to me not only to pursue interviews, but to go after some joint ventures in the near future. I also really appreciate you sharing the letter you sent out to prospective interviewees. I look forward to the follow up posts.

    Darren–Thank you for posting this. Very helpful. I sometimes feel a bit overwhelmed by articles from the “pros” with thousands of readers. It’s very helpful to have posts by guys who seem a bit more in the beginner to up and coming blogger stage. Lastly, I have also really appreciated the recently 31 day blog challenge. Nice concise effective tips. Blessings on all you do.

  8. Nice post, good insights here.

    I took a similar approach with my blog, now 10 months old (still in its fledgling stages). Results are here:

  9. Excellent advice to face fears of asking someone to share their knowledge. What is the worst someone can say – No ok so then move on to someone else.

    A good starting point is to find bloggers that you like in your industry, follow their blogs and leave comments. This starts to open the door as to who you are so that when you are asking them for an interview, they have an unaided recall of who you are and a sense of how you write from the comments.

    It just never hurts to ask and put yourself out there.

  10. Paul Saunders says: 06/12/2009 at 3:07 am

    Josh is not Joshing! Well done mate and hats off to Darren too for giving you this opportunity – like all of your heroes, they all came from a humble beginning and will be flattered that you choose them. Secretly they all crave publicity – why would they say no? Social Media/blogging is the hottest trending topic and the majority of your ‘stars’ are probably simply curious that they have an opportunity for exposure in this medium. I doubt that any of them have their own personal blog so ‘you’ are doing them a favor! As you say mentoring is the way to go – masterminding is so under rated and the key to making yourself accountable, forcing you to get out of your comfort zone. For the majority of start up bloggers the only person limiting their belief is themselves. You have taken the bold step and will not look back. Now take the next step and add some video and/or images of yourself to your posts, this will create an instant rapore, which most readers crave. I am re launching my own blog at present but would love to send you a copy of my ebook “How to get Noticed Fast” using video – not a plug but some hot tech tips to drive traffic. Drop me a line. I would highly recommend you attend Yanik Silver’s Underground 6 seminar next March in D.C .. or invest some time viewing Eben Pagan’s videos re productivity. Good luck Josh.

  11. If you ask someone for an interview I am sure very few would say no. Atleast I wouldn’t. You should have the courage to ask and politely at that.

  12. Genuine flattery always works and one can surely use this to one’s advantage. Best thing about this is that we need to shed our fear and just get on with it. Worst case scenario will leave us no worse off than present status.

  13. Josh-

    Outstanding post! I admire you for stepping out of comfort zones. I will be pursuing interviews much sooner than before thanks to your encouraging story. Great success to you…


  14. I will be bookmarking this post and reading it everyday for much needed inspiration and encouragement! Impossible is nothing – ain’t that right!

  15. That is a good article. I am going to do an interview soon. It will help my blog. I wonder how I could do a proper interview.

  16. GREAT ARTICLE! I so share you’re experience! I’m a Hollywood blogger. When I started I hesitated to ask for celebrity interviews. Then 2 publicist saw my blog and liked my content. They opened doors to their clients and I was given interviews to some of the biggest names and events in the industry. Sam Jackson, Martin Sheen, Gabrielle Union to name a few. So now I ask with confidence. I don’t get a yes every time but I keep asking until I get a yes. Persistence pays off. Thank you for sharing your inspirational experience.

  17. You described me in that post! I have been thinking of trying to get an interview with someone for over 2 months. I have all the contact info sitting right here. What the …. I am going to make contact and do it! Will YOUBE MY MENTOR? I really NEED one and you seem perfect to me. I have tried to get a mentor, but fear has hurt me their as well. That was a great post, good luck on the book!

  18. If you ask someone for an interview I am sure very few would say no. Atleast I wouldn’t. You should have the courage to ask and politely at that.

  19. This is a great article! I felt the same apprehension about contacting people for interviews but have been surprised by how people don’t seem to care about the usual seo and marketing metrics, they just like the idea of a little fame!

    I think interviews are a really cool way to build a blog or site and can help to gain new readers. After seeing this article I know I’ll be checking out World’s Strongest Librarian in the future and keeping up to date with Josh’s post. I would love to see an Arnie interview

    Thanks for more excellent tips guys

  20. You must have heard the old saying “You are the captain of your ship, you are the master of your faith”. Further the life of a hero and the life of a zero is equally valuable. Thus we shouldn’t estimate ourselves or our blogs as small or weak. Indeed a great article by Josh Hanagarne.



  21. I clicked on this post thinking that it was about how to get interviewed, but I received value all the same. I haven’t thought of doing interviews for others yet but it might be something I will consider in the future. Thanks for the great post Josh!

  22. I just wanted to say that I think a post on mentoring would be
    a very good post, since you’ve already done what you can in the comments section.

  23. This is beneficial because I can ask the successful blogger about my niche and hence their answers can be helpful for my readers.

    But before going it for this I think your blog should have strong roots in your visitors.

  24. Hi Josh,
    Fantastic post–I really appreciate the details about how you did it.

    I have been writing a lot about what I call “the minnow mindset”–a fear that you are too small to accomplish a big, lofty goal. Your post demonstrates exactly HOW to break the minnow mindset.

    Thank you and best of luck!

  25. Hi Josh,

    Good ideas .and wonderful post. will save it and learn the details you done it.

  26. An inspiring story. It’s great to see you were able to set your goals and see them through even though you may have felt daunted…..a great letter by the way. I think most people would have responded to that.

  27. You’ll be surprised my blogs alexa ranking is 400,000 and I’ve landed interviews with people with 35,000 alexa rankings. It is wonderful!

  28. wow.. i wish I had of found this ages ago. great.. thank you
    I have started asking for interviews, and was turned down with my first.
    was a gut wrenching experience. I have picked myself up and am learning all the time. I possible aimed high? it was an editor of a HUGE magazine, and here I am a country Vic mum in a very competitive industry. She may have thought I would not be good for her image?

    anyway… am off to try again.. I am not put off… yet!!
    Thank you… a very inspiring read

  29. Josh, congrats for your success so far. What a great idea, I asked for my first interview yesterday.

  30. In my opinion, it never hurts to ask!

    Congratulations on your project! You are well underway it seems and I’m sure you’re going to rock it out…

  31. Denese Bottrell says: 06/16/2009 at 2:40 pm

    Josh, thanks for being willing to share your insecurity. the comments have proven you’re not alone… and, you have some really helpful tips. thanks for the courage to reach out to Darren and good luck with the book (a great topic by the way).

  32. Excellent advice to face fears of asking someone to share their knowledge. What is the worst someone can say – No ok so then move on to someone else.
    See how i implement your advices here: http://www.theblogismine.com

  33. Reading this post and all the comments makes me wonder if most bloggers are introverts and therefore find asking for interviews more difficult than some writers might. I know it’s true for me….

  34. Wow! I cannot tell you how great it was to read this blog. It meant a lot and is coming at just the right time.

  35. Wow! Thank you Josh, and thanks for Darren, too.

    These days I’m realizing more about the real nature of the social media, but this post was something more general.

    As Perry Belcher describes, it’s more like a party. And if you get into a party, you try to connect with others, and being cool. That requires to purge all the fears, believing in what you want in a such way that any block would be just an excuse.

    I gotta do some interviews with my blogs especially the http://www.7income.com which is as baby as your blog in early 2009.

    To thank you, I want to share some tips:
    * Ask people to speak for your webinars
    * Make videos with other guys, at least you can ask them to combine a video together

  36. Great Post…This has been on my mind lately..I have a blog in dev and it would have alot of interviews on it..

  37. I like your writing style. I will have to get the courage to ask for interviews. It may be a while.

  38. Wow. This was a really inspirational post. You really gave some real strategies and great examples for approaching folks who we may think are out of our reach.

    I noticed that you mentioned having a very strong mentor — that is such a key thing. The problem is – is that most leaders on the web want you to pay handsomely for the privilege. Something most new bloggers/entrepreneurs are not in the position to do. It took me a while to find one. I wish the same for all the other folks flailing around as well:-)

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