I’ve copied and pasted an example here - sent to a prominent author and television host. I think it boils down to a few things, all of which are important:
Establishing your identity and purpose
Quickly and clearly outlining the request, and the greater context the interviews are in
Demonstrating knowledge of the person, and how it fits in to the context/questions
Providing sample questions
Establishing expectations (what exactly would they be agreeing to? How difficult will this be to fit into their schedule)
I’ve found that this simple philosophy can work to catch people’s attention. Many leaders in their fields receive many interview requests that all aim to pose the same questions, leading to the same rote answers. In my case, i found that establishing my interest in them as hopefully deeper, asking more interesting questions, lead to a higher success rate. It basically boils down to whether they will find the experience interesting, if the interview will add anything to the wealth of interviews out there. Most often, when the subject enjoys the questions and ideas, the end-product is much better.
My name is Duncan Field, and I am a writer from the Toronto area. I’m writing on behalf of the team at www.softcover.ca, a small online arts and culture publication which I founded as a way to enter into the public conversation. Each year we feature interviews with interesting people as part of our Spotlight series. This year, we are focusing on the relationship between art, the artist, and the public, and how we crave and create narratives around existing works. These are the stories behind the stories. How did the Beatles write the White Album? And why does it matter?
I am writing to request an interview with Mr. Ingram, to join our fall line up for Spotlight 2015. Our current guests include Alan Cross (Radio Producer, the Ongoing History of New Music), DT Max (Staff Writer at the New Yorker, author of “Every Love Story is a Ghost Story: A biography of David Foster Wallace), the team at the Impossible Project (last producer of polaroid film), and Carl Glover (Designer, Aleph Studios). I would like to talk to Mr. Ingram about the relationship between narrative and science. I think his experience in broadcasting (Daily Planet) and writing would provide an interesting perspective to our theme. Where narrative surrounding art might be subjective and speculative, narrative around science might be more objective and explanatory. Is objectivity possible in this regard? Is it merely performance? Is science media connected more to our scientific curiosity, or our desire for stories? These are some examples of topics which would be appropriate. Our interviews generally take between 25 and 45 minutes, and can be conducted in person, by phone, or even by correspondence.
We hope you will accept our invitation. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns.