Today I want to talk about a reader connection strategy that is perfect for what all writers want: deep conversations around the themes they write about.
This is what happens when you are a guest on someone’s podcast. When you are able to have a long conversation with the host about the themes you write about, your creative process, and so much else. It’s a powerful way to help you establish and grow your author platform, reach potential readers, and make a meaningful connection with a like-minded creator — the podcast host.
Let’s dig in…
Why Podcasts Matter
Podcasts have been having an amazing renaissance the past few years. They are widely listened to, there are many options, and more than that: they move books.
Again and again, I hear from authors how they would get an appearance on a major TV morning show, and saw barely a blip in book sales. But that a podcast appearance would cause a huge ripple effect in their book sales. (Just listen to the amazing Jessica Lahey discuss this on a recent episode of the #amwriting podcast.)
Podcasts are thriving in places where blogs may be languishing, Facebook Groups feel overcrowded, and traditional media feels distracted by the news of the day. What’s more, podcasts are a clear way to connect with niche audiences.
If you are unfamiliar with podcasts, many of them offer deep one-on-one conversations that draw the listener in. These conversations can be 15 minutes long, but many are 45 minutes, an hour, or even 2+ hours.
What do people talk about? Sometimes it is a specific topic, teaching, or story, but a good interview may do all three.
Podcast hosts have developed a trusting relationship with their listeners. This is an amazing opportunity for writers. It’s akin to showing up to dinner with a book club that has met every week for years. These are people who know and care about each other. Trust is just oozing from the room. I mean, isn’t that the kind of place you want to have conversations around what you write and why?
For the listener, this is a very intimate platform. You are in their ear for 20 minutes or more. That is a powerful place to be as a writer who is passionate about the topic or genre they care about.
Create a Podcast Strategy
When should you consider being a guest on someone else’s podcast? Start way before you think you need to. If you wait to pitch podcasts until your book is out, it may be too late. At that point, you are just learning how to pitch, just learning the landscape of podcasts, and just learning how to be an amazing guest interview.
Keep in mind, that many hosts don’t want to talk specifically about your book. Instead, they want to chat with you about ideas, stories, themes that may be within your book, but also extend beyond it.
The first thing I would encourage you to consider is to brainstorm anything you could talk about on any topic. Yes, this can center around your writing, your creative process, and inspiration, but it can also extend beyond that. Write down anything that you could talk about that feels central to who you are.
You can listen to other podcasts to study what people talk about. I think you will find that many interviews cover a wide range of topics and types of stories. You don’t have to be an expert on a topic in order to pitch yourself to a podcast. You simply have to have a story to tell that engages the host. Don’t worry about credentials or accolades. The host wants to make a great show, not fill in a resume.
As with all aspects of your author platform, the foundation is trust and communication. Work on that now. Way before you think you absolutely need to. Trust and communication take time. Give it the time it deserves. This doesn’t just better serve your book, but your career overall, and also your sense of fulfillment as a writer in the marketplace.
A Step-by-Step Process:
Okay, here is a step-by-step process to begin learning about podcasts and how you can consider being a guest:
- Buy wireless headphones and familiarize yourself with podcasts by listening to them. Don’t have time? Neither does anyone else—which is exactly what makes podcasts so popular. Listen while folding laundry, doing the dishes, driving, jogging, or doing yard work.
- To find podcasts you may like go to your podcast player of choice. Some ideas of where to start: Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Listen Notes, Stitcher, Podchaser, Overcast, Player.fm — there are so many! All are good, just pick one and search the names of authors you know or like. Search for topics that interest you. Don’t worry about finding podcasts that are 100 percent aligned to exactly what you write. Start with your passion in order to find joy in listening.
- Search for the names of comparable authors — these are the authors whose books will be shelved next to yours in a bookstore. See were writers are showing up and what they talk about.
- When you find a podcast you like, see what else is recommended on that page. Most podcast apps will have sections with suggestions such as: “Listeners who listened to this also like…” as well as links to other podcasts in the same category.
- Don’t just focus on the most successful podcasts, pay attention to those with a smaller audience as well. A small podcast with a single host focused on meaningful conversations could turn out to be your favorite. Chances are, your research will start off with very popular podcasts that would be difficult for you to successfully pitch. Use the suggestions of similar podcasts, or other podcasts within that category, to find small and mid-sized podcasts that you could more effectively reach.
- As you listen, make a note of what types of podcasts you prefer, what types of guests, what the hosts tend to focus on. This is all critical marketplace research to help you understand how you can not only be a guest on podcasts, but consider them as part of a larger strategy to later promote your writing and books. Look at the way the podcast episode titles and descriptions are written to get a sense of how you may pitch that podcast.
- Brainstorm what you can talk about. As I mentioned earlier, yes you can focus on your writing, but it can also extend beyond it. Consider what your ideal audience loves talking about. This is one of the big lessons that social media has taught us: people want to engage with real people. Those who have interests, hobbies, and a voice. Use yours. Don’t treat a podcast pitch as just a promotional vehicle. Consider it as you would show up to a dinner party, book club, or writing retreat.
- Do sample interviews to build your confidence. Repetition will build comfort with the process, and open up new ideas for what you can share.
- Pitch yourself! Keep the email ridiculously simple. Ask if you can be on their show. Tell them what you love about their show. Share a line or two of what stories you can tell, and what you could talk about that would interest them and their listeners.
- Of course, if you do have a book to promote, absolutely work to identify podcasts that focus on related genres or topics. Turn your book into a powerful conversation, and consider how podcast interviews can become a robust part of a book tour.
- Create a spreadsheet or keep a notebook to keep track of podcasts you’ve approached, wish lists for the future, and insights you pick up along the way.
Even if you are reticent to consider pitching yourself on a podcast, what I like about this process is that it forces you to ask deeper strategic questions about who your ideal readers are, where they show up, and what they like to talk about. And you are able to consider how you fit into this ecoystem.
If you want a place to start, well, you can check out my podcast! This will give you a sense of how the work I do translates to interviews with writers and artists. It’s called “The Creative Shift with Dan Blank.”
P.S.: A version of this essay was published over at Career Authors recently. That community is great resource!