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Interviewing American Artists for International Publications
by Lawrence Schimel

Return to International Freelancing · Print/Mobile-Friendly Version

American cultural output is frequently exported and translated for foreign consumption. This gives an advantage to American journalists and writers, who can often do an interview with an author, filmmaker, or musician whose work is about to be released overseas -- long before overseas journalists will be able to get their hands on the work in question or contact its originator. This is especially true in the case of authors, where there is a built-in lag time while the work is being translated. This gives U.S. writers more time to pitch and sell the interview, conduct it, and deliver it in time to coincide with or even precede the foreign publication.

Obviously, it helps to know someone -- preferably many someones -- who is a famous artist or celebrity with an international reputation. Don't let the lack of such personal contact, however, be a deterrent in selling profiles and interviews of American artists to overseas magazines.

The first step is to learn who and what properties will be making their way into the overseas/translation market. This is most easily accomplished by looking within the fields you yourself write in or are otherwise familiar with. One of the genres I write in is science fiction, and I therefore know a lot of writers in the field. Often, news of a foreign sale merits a flurry of phone calls or e-mails to friends -- and always makes a part of my brain take note and double-check as to whether I have any genre magazine contacts in that particular country, or leads on how to find one.

Again, even lacking this personal contact, one can still discover whose work has been sold overseas, or who will be released there in the near future. For example, the science fiction trade magazines Locus and Science Fiction Chronicle regularly announce new foreign rights sales of U.S. science fiction titles. The Locus website also has links to a number of foreign SF magazines, and a little bit of footwork with search engines can turn up others. Foreign magazines with web pages are convenient, because they often list an e-mail contact, making an international query quick and effective.

Many science fiction writers have links to their websites (and often an e-mail link) on the Science Fiction Writers of America website. This makes it easy to drop a polite query to the author of a recently sold book, congratulating him or her on the foreign sale and expressing your interest in pitching an interview to foreign magazines. Most authors are happy for additional publicity -- especially when a journalist has already done the legwork and read the work(s) in question. Working within a field you are familiar with helps you place the work (and your questions) within the proper context, and helps you maintain a personal interest in your subject.

When pitching to overseas markets, it is helpful to offer a photo. Often, authors can provide a photo of themselves; if not, the publicity department of a publisher, record label, or film company can do the same. Science fiction authors regularly make appearances at conventions, and a journalist considering concentrating on this area would be advised to attend a few; they're good places to make contact and conduct face-to-face interviews. Attend with camera in hand and build up a private library of photos. This strategy can be applied to many other genres and media as well. Many magazines prefer to have the actual photo to scan themselves, but if you have access to a quality scanner and can provide digital images, this can cut down on overseas transit time and postage.

Often, foreign magazines will be interested in an interview with someone they hadn't thought to interview. For example, many foreign magazines don't think to interview artists unless they are on tour overseas and happen to be available in person. Take advantage of the artists available to you in person; for example, musicians or authors who are on tour and passing through your home town. The more advance notice you have, the easier it will be to contact the record label or publisher's publicist and try to arrange an interview. This is where having an established network of foreign magazines that you work with is crucial, as you will often need a commitment from an editor in order to arrange an interview. The more famous the artist, the less amenable most publicists are to interviews being done "on spec." (Of course, the more famous the artist, the easier it is to resell the same interview or profile in other countries and languages.)

If you happen to travel, take note of the track record of authors and artists you'd like to interview in the countries you pass through (not to mention possible markets), and when their next work is released, you can jump to offer an interview or profile to international magazines. Thanks to the Internet, you often don't even have to leave home to do this sort of research; a quick visit to an international online bookseller such as Amazon.de in Germany, for instance, will let you know if an author has been published in German -- and will often list their books forthcoming in the next half-year!

Once you train yourself to "predict" who and what will be exported, you will suddenly find yourself with a wide world of possible markets for your writing, and a head start on your international colleagues.

Find Out More...

Crafting the Perfect Profile, by John Rains

Procedures, Perks and Pitfalls of Writing Profiles, by Shirley Byers Lalonde

Writing Mini-Profiles for Maximum Profit, by Lisa Beamer

Copyright © 1999 Lawrence Shimel
This article may not be reprinted without the author's written permission.

Lawrence Schimel makes his living as a full-time author and anthologist. He has published over 47 books in a wide variety of genres and media; his work has appeared in The Writer, ForeWord, The Saturday Evening Post, the Boston Phoenix, Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, and others, including numerous international publications. His writing has been translated into Basque, Catalan, Czech, Dutch, Esperanto, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Slovak, Spanish, and Swedish. For more information, visit http://desayunoencama.livejournal.com/.


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