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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. Salman says: 06/11/2009 at 12:53 am

    Hi Darren
    Superb post wonderful to know that never to be afraid.

    http://www.tips4blogging.co.cc for blogging tips and hacks.

  2. Wow, talk about inspiration. As a beginner blogger, just under a month, this is just what I need to prepare me to go out searching for interviewees.

    My blog, Indiescreet.com, focuses on indie music so I will be looking for some big names to interview over the coming months.

    Great article,


  3. 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.

    Super Kudos to you for getting yourself out of your comfort zone! I know you’ll have great success. Congrats again. :)

  4. Josh, I fully appreciate the nervousness in asking for the interviews if you are not too well known in the field. I have had similar experience when I decided to do the first interview on my site. Sometimes it helps to start out with email interviews before moving on to personal or phone interviews. I appreciate your sharing your experience and this will help a lot of people who may be in the same situation.

  5. Wow! Seriously inspirational story. A reader of my blog just the other day told me that I should be conducting more interviews, and I had the same fear as you – what if they say no? Your post gave me some great tips for landing my own interviews! Thanks!

  6. I really enjoyed this post. Fear of failure is something everyone should throw out the window. I try to encourage writers to submit their work by publishing any rejection letters I receive on my blog…to show that rejection is just part of the process. Because it is and it doesn’t mean that you have failed. It just means that you haven’t found the best fit yet.

  7. Great information, just as what Frank Kern said in his “bird finger report” – “You need to focus on what you want , not what you fear.”

    And when I started blogging I always fear this and that, such as can I do this or can I write this or can I show this…. and finally I realize fear is just a poisonous sickness that slow the human mindset to move forward.

    And what you had written, really sparks ideal for me, and I think I will had to go look for marketers to interview and even if they say no, I move on to another and another and another until the one say yes…

    Oh… this reminds me of Gary Halberts sales persistence, he said “very simple, I just kept asking…” and he got a “yes” after 17 times of “No”

  8. What a great story! Congrats on being gutsy enough to not start small. Also, a great example of the mutual benefits that come from offering something of value. Being interviewed by you is valuable for them, and you pitched it perfectly!

  9. Very nice. Intruiging and motivational. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Holy cow! This was the kick in the pants that I needed. My blog is about the same age as yours Josh. It’s exciting to know that people are succeeding out there. Time to get off my butt and get over my fears…

  11. Thanks for the kind words everyone. There have been several noteworthy updates since I wrote this a week ago. Lots of lessons in this project–Darren has agreed to let me do a few update articles between now and the book release, so stay tuned.

    Fun fun fun.

  12. Hey Josh,

    You’ve really inspired me here. I also have the irrational fear of rejection, even though there really is nothing to be genuinely afraid of.

    I’m very pleased at your success in the interviewing arena and I’m happy to know you as a blogging peer and friend.

    Really looking forward to reading some of these interviews, the one with Adam Glass was great.

    You run a great blog and it’s obvious it’s really taking off. Great work, I realize how much I’m capable of after reading this post.


  13. Very good info provided here Josh !

    You’ve just given me an idea on how to do those BIG interviews.

    Cool bro :)

  14. Your post has inspired me. And I loved your blog. I’ve added it to my Google reader. I may start mustering up some courage to do the same for my blog…terrified, but I guess the fear never goes away right? I’ll invest in motion sickness pills. -=)


  15. Josh, I love your attitude. It’s true that, if you don’t a-s-k, you don’t stand a chance to g-e-t. That you included one of your request letters will help a lot of people.

    I used to cold call interview subjects when I worked for a daily newspaper. Granted, it’s one thing to be able to introduce yourself as, “I’m So&So with the Daily Examiner” and another to say, “I’m me writing an article for my blog/ebook/etc.”

    I felt as though my affiliation with a respected publication gave me more credibility than my being a blogger. But the times are different now. Thank you for the inspiration.

  16. These are great tips. No one should be afraid of other people. We always have to think that those who made it big once were small and just like us. Never under estimate yourself if you want to be respected for what you do.

  17. @Asswass, that is officially the greatest username I have ever heard of–with the possible exception of AngryHippo over on a strength forum.

    You just made my day in a day that’s already going pretty well.

  18. Great, personal story with bits of wisdom hidden inside. Not to put down any other guest posters, but this is how you do a guest post! I think I’ll come and visit your site now Josh..

  19. Josh,
    Great article. I recently started myself. I never thought about interviews. What a great idea.

    How would you suggest going about getting a blogging mentor?

  20. Awesome! This is truly inspirational; gives me tons of hope for my “baby blog”!

  21. Really great and good tips. The important point is never say no or stop your idea before implement it.

  22. This post comes at a great time for me. I’ve been thinking about asking another blogger for an interview, but I’ve been unsure about it.

    Another thing you mention is finding a mentor. I’d love to see a post on that. Was finding your mentor the result of being in the right place at the right time? How did you position yourself to be in that place and what other action did you take to facilitate that relationship?

  23. Hi Darren,

    That was a nice post to me….you are really top blogger and i really loves this blog because alot of great content.

    If you have much time…please visit my blog http://handokotantra.com and give your comment about my blog. My blog in Indonesian language, but you can suggest about my blog and what i should change or optimized again for my blog.

    Thank you.

    Nice Regards.

  24. Great ideas! Gives me the kick in the pants I’ve been needing!

  25. I think most of it is facing your fears. That one day I decided to take the plunge and ask someone I admired either for an interview, guest post, or whatever, was life-changing day for me. More people are willing to do interviews than one would imagine.

    I am now in close contact with some of the people I had only dreamt of speaking to one day. These are a lot of great tips, and great inspiration for tiny blogs.

  26. Josh,
    I so know where you are coming from. I write romance novels and I often have to contact experts in fields I’m using as background for the relationships I write about. (Anybody want to talk sailing in the Mediterranean? My current project!).

    I break out in a cold sweat before I cold-call someone, and I’m very grateful for email, which makes it easier. But the one thing I’ve found over the past 25 years of writing is that people generally love to talk about what they do and what their passions are — be it sand castle building or bull riding or cosmetology or architecture — and very few people are interested enough to ask.

    That has given me confidence to keep asking. And you’ve now given me confidence to line up some guest interviews on my blog, too. Thank you.

  27. @tiffany. Finding a mentor was a combination of luck, timing, and having some writing ability–to the point where someone said “Hey, you can write!” I will definitely think this over and get a post out later if Darren is interested.

    Mostly dumb luck, though. It all started with a guest post.

  28. Josh:

    Great post with some awesome suggestions to build traffic!! I am fortunate to have done a fair amount of interviews for some of the student newspapers I worked on when I was in school, but haven’t thought of doing any for my young blog.

    I do enjoy your blog and it is good to see someone with brains and brawn in the blogosphere.

  29. yeah… actually asking for interview is kinda scary . LoL.. but, maybe what you said is true.. Rejected by email is easier to handle . :)

  30. Excellent advice. I’ve seen another blog within my niche that has done this and now his website ranks in the top 20k alexa ranks. I’m going to definitely try this out. I mean what could it hurt right?

  31. Thanks, this was an awesome article! It’s one of the things I want to do for my blog.

    You mention mentoring. How does someone get a mentor? That would be cool too!

  32. Recently I was at the US open of Mountain Biking and after the race went up to the winners and said can I ask you a few questions for rideyourbike.us and they agreed. I kept the Q and A short and moved on. I was able to interview Sam Hill World cup MTB Champion and winner of the US Open and his teammate and 3rd place finisher Gee Atherton, as well as Jeff Lenosky Trials Champion who was there performing a trials demo. They were all gracious with their time and thoughtful with their answers. As a small blog I really appreciated it. They are great guys

  33. I love this!
    False Experiences Appearing Real (FEAR) wont get you anywhere. Fight your fears today.

  34. I couldn’t agree more and most certainly appreciate your honesty. I have a ‘small’ blog and have been experiencing the fear of rejection as I go through the process of growing. Your post helped to diminsih my fear and gave me that shot of courage I needed. Thanks & congrats on the interview!!

  35. Wonderful post! I was just thinking about doing this with my own blog. You’ve inspired me to get on the stick and try.

    My husband, who is the editor of “Ukulele Player Magazine” had a great opportunity a few months ago to interview Jake Shimabukuro, a brilliant ukulele player. He did the same as you. He asked. He has kept asking and it has made the online magazine very popular due to all the interviews.

    I may visit your blog someday to let you know I did it. Thanks for your email copy. It’s a great example of elegance. :-)

  36. marlon sr says: 06/11/2009 at 6:03 am

    i am the greatest mc of all time you can read it in my rhymes yet they dont reply y maybe cuz i was high at the tyme but still im ill n better than will jada n acting n da 1 rap n now whos axe n like dat ciaria video 12 step well u dumb fools bet i wont be rich 1 day look back on this o dang damn so jam witout da peanut butter i bust n her then afterwards pee n her.

  37. Congrats Josh! A perfect example of what can happen when you overcome your fears. Rejection is a biggy for a lot of people too. Very inspirational and also generous of you to provide so much information to everyone.

  38. I always tell myself that things are NEVER as bad as you create them to be in your mind. A person can drive themselves crazy sitting in a room pondering negatives…but typically if you put yourself out there, eventually you see that much of what you get back is positive, something completely different than the scenario you had created in your mind.

    Congrats on the success!

  39. Thank you all for so much encouragement. As I said, it’s not a done deal until those interviews are signed, sealed, and delivered, but there’s no reason yet to think it won’t happen.

  40. Congrats to Josh. I found this article very inspiring for new bloggers like myself.

    Wishing you much success!
    Patty Reiser

  41. Josh, as a peer (my blog is also 7 weeks old or thereabouts), I was interested and also inspired by your gutsy approach…good luck!

  42. Ha, this is exactly what my Physics professor said (not everything else related to blogging) but know what he told us in the final exam?
    He said: ” If you don’t understand something on your exam, just ASK. The worse thing I can do to you is say NO.”
    It’s that simple. Believe me, I asked a lot of questions in that final exam. He said no two times but answer it 6 times. Sorry, physics is a bit confusing.

  43. I have my first interview coming up. A bit nervous.

  44. Very Nice post Darren, interesting tips, nice insight’s.

    Thanks for sharing , usefull ideas …

  45. I have a personal blog in Spanish (my first language) and I want to interview some big bloggers, including that guy who is called Darren :)

    There is not many sites in Spanish with the thoughts of these big bloggers and I think is a great idea if I can release them on my site for my people in Latin America. I will make the translations from English to Spanish.

    This post has given me confidence to request the interviews. Thank you Josh!

    So Darren, Can I send you a few questions about blogging as a business for my people in Latin America? :)

    My personal blog in Spanish is: http://www.eltiempoyelviento.com

  46. I’ve interviewed Darren, Shoemoney, Yaro Starak and Skellie Wagfor my blog last year. And my blog is an Indonesian blog. Non-English blog. No matter your language, you can still got a big interview if you know how to do it.

  47. @guy On the mentoring question: find someone who can do what you want to and ask them to mentor you. My experience wasn’t that formal–I wrote a guest post for someone and they realized that I could offer them something and spare them some writing effort occasionally. then we hit it off. I’ll think on this and see if I write it up better in the near future.

  48. Josh, thanks for the answer about how you found your mentor. You said it was partly “dumb luck”, but after reading Darren’s thought-provoking posts on luck, I wonder what you did to make the “dumb luck” happen. I’d love to see a post from you on this topic.

  49. Very nice post and funny enough I’ve been thinking on asking around for a little spotlight since I’m starting out and I really need all the traffic I can get. At first I felt paralyzed each time I clicked on that “contact us” icon but I’m starting to ease up and just ask! In the end, I have nothing to lose and they can either say “yes, sure why not” or no. In the end, I’m sure I’ll have a few requests denied before I start getting replies :)
    Thanks Darren for all you do! :)

  50. Josh you are an inspiration and a confirmation that I am moving in the right direction. I recently have begun asking other more well known bloggers to do guest posts on my blog and just this week I asked a well known blogger and author for an interview. I can’t tell you how shocked I was when SHE actually turned around and asked ME for an interview for her blog as well!! (Talk about nervous!)

    Like you, I ask myself if I am worthy or what I could possibly have to offer that would meet up to the quality offered on her blog.

    But, I take comfort in your words “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.”

    Thanks to you Josh, and also to you, Darren for posting this. You have sparked and inspired many newer bloggers to do more and be more!

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