To Transcribe or Not To Transcribe Interviews?

11 Secrets from an Experienced Interviewer

One of the unwritten rules of writing a book, an article, or any sort of material that requires the writer to interview experts or people "in the know" is to tape record the conversation. Whether the recording occurs via phone or in person is irrelevant. This rule is a good one.

This leads to the following questions:

* Do you transcribe every tape?

* Who owns the transcription?

The answer to these questions does have an "it depends" so let me explain. It depends on your state's or countries laws on the tape recording issue. It depends on the how much you're getting paid for the project. It depends on whether you can use the interview notes more than once. It depends whether you are using interviewing as an escape -- a procrastination technique because you enjoy that interview process more than the writing.

Okay, we got the "it depends" listed and out of the way. Let me present a few of my secrets -- the things I have learned as a writer and teacher over the last many years.

Secret 1: Just because you tape recorded the conversation doesn't mean you have to transcribe the tape. The tape is a great safety net for reviews.

Secret 2: You don't need to transcribe the whole tape. Many times all you need are the important parts.

Secret 3: Tapes are cheap, buy plenty instead of reusing, and keep them for a few years.

Secret 4: Create a tape master finding system. Microsoft Excel is a great way to track with a numbering system. Include the year somewhere in the numbering. Color coding adds visual effectiveness. Large colored dots are available at most office supply stores.

Secret 5: The storage container and where you store the tapes is important as to how long they last. Heat and moisture destroys the quality. Find small, thin, plastic containers with a tight seal with a one-layer depth.

Secret 6: Don't place a magnet anywhere near them. So keep the paperclip magnet and the phone (many have magnets in them) away from the tapes. Palm Pilots too.

Secret 7: Use rubber bands to consolidate tapes for a similar project or topic but be careful not to wrap them vertically over the open part of the tape. Wrap horizontally. After a few years rubber bands dry out and become brittle.

Secret 8: Delegate the task, it always cheaper either in dollars or patience. Place an ad at the local college and offer $30 to $45 per tape. I have found several through the Business Centers at high schools and community centers. If the interview is rare or precious, hire a professional service and pay the higher rate. Have at least 10 ways you can get a tape transcribed reasonably and fast at your disposal. Start with the Yellow Pages. Rate them on fastest and quickest. Consider using FedEx to deliver and pick up the tapes, for safety, and to save time. I never recommend sending the tape out of your country to save money.

Secret 9: Don't sign a contract, ever, if they have a clause in it, "All notes, tapes, materials and transcripts must be turned over to the publisher." Cross it out and don't agree to this. If the publisher is paying for the transcription and your time separately for the interview, they are yours.

Secret 10: Prepare the questions ahead of time and stick to them. Preparation saves time all around. If you are not sure what questions to ask, ask the publisher what questions do they want to have answered when they give you the assignment. It is a good procedure to provide the questions before hand to the interviewee. This helps them prepare. If they read from their typed notes then ask questions differently or drift with one question then return. They will usually stop reading, think, and not return to their notes.

Secret 11: If you are a fast typist you will most likely be able to type and capture 75% of the conversation. Learn to leave out repetitious information and use a keyboard shorthand. After the call, review the notes immediately and expand the shorthand. If you use a common shortcut, use "find and replace" in your word processor as a time saver. Also explain that you will be typing their response so that the sound of the keyboard doesn't distract from the conversation. If you prefer, you can even ask for permission: "I hope you don't mind, I'm a fast typist so I prefer to type my notes as we talk." It's like asking for permission but not quite.

(C) Copyright 2005, Catherine Franz. All rights reserved.

Catherine Franz is a writer and author of over 1800 published articles, books, and on various subjects. For more:

In The News:

pen paper and inkwell

cat break through

How to Create Incredible Characters Easily

Creating incredible characters can be easy if you know of... Read More

How to Build A Success Freelance Career (Part 1)

In the current job market, many editorial workers have turned... Read More

How I Became a Syndicated Columnist -- And You Can Too!

Real Estate has "Location, location, location," and writing has "Clips,... Read More

If The Viewpoint Character Is A Secondary Character, Have You Established Who He is?

Creative Writing Tips ?I have said above that if a... Read More

For Beginners: Ten Ways To Prepare To Get Published

(Skip directly to ten for the fastest shortcut!)Like any field,... Read More

The Top Five Writing Mistakes Professionals Make

Yes, you know your subject. You also need to think... Read More

Four Act Stories and Beyond

There are various forms of structure, including frameworks, work processes... Read More

Every Result is an Asset

Not long ago, I went to an Internet Marketing Seminar.... Read More

What Does It Take To Make Your Memories Into Publishable Memoirs?

Why should you consider creating a memoir of your personal... Read More

Know Your Editing Choices

Each author has special editing needs. To save yourself time... Read More

How Three Publishing Myths Kill the Author

Agents and publishing houses have their best interests at heart,... Read More

Writing Personal Statements - Top Tips


Unusual Points of View

Most writers are familiar with first and third points of... Read More

How To Write A Newsletter

In order to be successful with a newsletter, specialize in... Read More

Getting Published Is Different For Everyone: Two Paths Among Many

One obvious question that can get overlooked in the process... Read More

Learn to Talk on Paper: The Art of Effective Business Writing

Rudolf Flesch, a specialist in writing skills, ran classes... Read More

Nonfiction Idea Generators

The hardest part of nonfiction writing is finding a subject... Read More

Write Your Story, Put It On A Website, Sell Millions of Copies

Although he has his own website, John Grisham probably does... Read More

Publication Road

The journey to having my first novel for children published... Read More

Pairs/Groups Of Words Often Confused - Part 2 of 6

BAITED, BATEDBaited usually refers to traps or snares. When the... Read More

Memories Dont Fade Like Hair Does: Memoir Writing Help for You, Our Elders, to Tell Your Story

~~~Old age, to the unlearned, is winter; to the learned,... Read More

Weaving Your Personal Statement Together


Becoming A Successful Author: The Price!

So you want to be a successful author? You want... Read More

Tips for First Time Authors : 2 Easy Steps to Make Your First Book a Success

Congratulations on writing your first book. That is quite an... Read More

How To Avoid Viewpoint Slips

Sit back, and imagine what it feels like to be... Read More

First Priority

No matter what you are writing, the first priority is... Read More

The Writing Club

Typically when falling asleep in bed at night great thoughts... Read More

How To Co-Publish For Profits!

The Benefits of Co-Publishing There are a number of publishers,... Read More

A Book Note Vs a Book Report

IntroductionSince our early days of elementary education we have been... Read More

If You Want to Succeed As a Writer, Dont Just Think It, Do It

It never ceases to amaze me when a prospective writer... Read More

Are You a Freelance Writer? - Then You Need a Website

As a freelance writer, it is important to present yourself... Read More

Writing Internal Newsletters: How to Build Your Network and Your Reputation

To help build your profile and reputation within a large... Read More

Writing For The Web: Where To Get Article Ideas

A friend and I were talking the other day about... Read More