We’ve talked about leveraging influencers, and podcasts certainly fall under this category. A few years ago, podcasts were one of the remaining platforms that unknown personalities could break into. Now anyone can have a podcast, and only the most talented or renowned rise above the noise and make it big.
Podcasts are popular. People who avoid the radio will listen to them. If you find the right fit and don’t mind talking to strangers, you can reach a much larger audience of potential readers than you could on your own.
On the other hand, if you choose an off-brand podcast (if you’re a children’s book author, don’t go on The Howard Stern Show) and get really weird during the interview (unless being weird is your literary calling card as well), you may put a dent in your reputation. Choose wisely, and don’t be discouraged if a few people tell you no.
According to Oblero, there were 850,000 active podcasts and more than 30 million podcast episodes as of January 2020. That means there are a lot of podcasts out there that don’t have many listeners, so check reviews and audience sizes before applying.
More impressively from a marketing standpoint, 51% of all consumers over the age of 12 listen to a podcast, and the number is steadily climbing.
Unless you luck out and land a spot on a podcast that features book reviews, your best bet is aiming for a topic related to your book. When you talk about a topic you love, people pick up on your enthusiasm, and that is a very good thing.
Because podcast listeners tune in to learn more about one of their interests, they’re already looking to consume more content about the topic. If you’ve created a better way to go birding, talking about your favorite topic on a popular birding podcast is a great match.
Unless you’re writing a book about writing books, don’t volunteer to go on a writing podcast. Although those of us who write do read a lot, you’re diluting your audience by targeting people who may not be interested in your genre.
Googling "top [insert topic] podcasts of [current year]" can be helpful, but make sure you’re getting a list from a non-partial source. Many companies with podcasts or podcasters publish lists, and they’re prone to promoting affiliated podcasts that may not have a decent following.
Start with a top podcast list and visit their channel pages to look at reviews. Check out their websites and social media pages to determine the number of followers. Most importantly, listen to at least one full episode. If they make a habit of roasting their guests, think twice about applying.
The big trick is figuring out how to contact a podcast. Smaller podcasts will have contact information listed on their websites, mid-sized podcasts may answer your direct messages on social media, and large podcasts will require looking up their IMDb profile and hoping for an agent’s email address.
If you write to a podcast producer merely introducing yourself and your book, you’re unlikely to hear back.
If you use copy/paste the same email and do not customize the content to make it obvious you’ve done your homework, you’re unlikely to hear back.
A concise pitch about why you will be a great addition to their show is the only way you’re getting air time.
Those of you who were traditionally published are familiar with pitches. You need to grab the reader’s attention with each sentence and inspire them to read the next. The point of the pitch is a sale, and in this case, you’re selling yourself.
To sell yourself as a guest, you’ll need to come up with a list of compelling podcast ideas, highlight your credentials, and sell them on why their audience will love the show.
Try to aim for podcast topics that are timely, unusual, and interesting. Practice the topics on friends and at parties. If people perk up and ask more about a topic, you have a winner. If they stare at their drink or wander off to the snack table, go back to the drawing board.
Listing your credentials should be easy for non-fiction writers. You’ve immersed yourself in a topic in order to write a book. If you weren’t already an expert in the field, you’re well on your way to becoming one.
Fiction writers need to get a little more creative.
For example, horror writers pitching to a horror movie podcast could offer podcasts ideas around The Haunting of Hill House and The Haunting of Bly Manor versus their original inspirations. To be clear, you should be more specific. The message of grief personified in_ The Haunting of Hill House_, how Mike Flanagan brought Shirley Jackson’s original message to light.
If you can offer proof of your stage presence, send examples. For instance, recordings of speaking engagements, conference panels, or group presentations are all a plus.
For specific examples of pitches, see the section labeled "Pitching" in this article.
To present your best self on a podcast, you will need:
The number one thing that will detract listeners is poor audio quality. Invest in an external microphone and increase your odds of being invited to a second episode. The Yeti is one of the most popular microphone models, but it is possible to find an effective microphone for less than $100 USD. A little research will go a long way.
Humans tend to forget about ambient noises they’ve gotten used to. Spend a few seconds each day listening to your surroundings. If you have a dog that tends to bark, get them a chew toy or peanut butter kong. If you have young kids, bribe someone to watch them. Know your garbage pickup schedule and pay attention to construction in the area.
A high-quality directional microphone will not pick up some noise, but no one will miss a toilet flushing. Ensure that you’re sitting in a professional, quiet environment and take care of bio business before the recording starts.
Don’t forget a warm beverage to keep your voice fresh and a comfortable seat so you can stay focused on the topic at hand.
Talking over your host or monopolizing the conversation is a big no-no, but it is wise to keep a list of interesting points to work into your conversation. Jotting down years and specifics can keep you out of trouble with your audience. You’ll aggravate experts listening in if you butcher the specifics.
While this is a marketing opportunity for you, it’s not the time to read segments from your book or monopolize the air time selling your content. The exception is if the host asks you before your interview to prepare a few things. Typically, you’ll want to make any mentions of your book meaningful but keep them to a minimum. "When I was researching The Biggest Bantha…" is a fine lead-in, but don’t cave into temptation and go on an unrelated tangent.
As soon as you sign up, start drafting a thank you email. Make a couple of light observations, state how much you enjoyed the show, and end it on a high note.
After your episode airs, be sure to promote it in as many ways as possible. They may not need the extra listeners, but your engagement shows you cared about being on the show. Plus, a podcast episode adds credibility to your brand.
If you’ve found the perfect podcast with the ideal listener audience, but they aren’t responding to your pitches, you might want to consider purchasing an advertising spot on the podcast. While it’s not the same as letting people get to know you on a more personal level, it is a more direct way to promote your book.
A hard sell can put people off, so think carefully about your script and bounce it off some readers to get their reaction before you make the investment. Outsourcing opinions always results in a more objective assessment than if you try to develop everything on your own.