Podcasts sell books

I have been helping writers develop their strategies to become guests on podcasts, which has proven to be a very effective way to sell books and grow their platforms. Today I want to talk about why this works, and how you can use the process yourself. Let’s dig in…

Why Podcasts?

Being a guest on some else’s podcast is a great way to make people aware of what you write, why you write it, and forge an authentic connection with your voice. These will often be interviews, where the host spends 20-60 minutes asking you questions and exploring topics together.

Podcasts have all of the ingredients that are necessary for what I call Human-Centered Marketing:

  • Effectively communicating to those you hope to reach. This is not just a quick sales pitch, but a meaningful conversation with another person that listeners get to be a part of.
  • Interviews, especially long-form interviews that podcasts specialize in, can cover a range of emotions, themes, and contexts. It gives you a greater chance to share, but also tap into something that will engage a reader. They are also good at building a sense of trust with your audience.
  • Regardless of the size of the podcast audience, one of the best parts of the podcast experience is the connection you make with the host. This is someone who would likely have spent some time researching your writing or your story, and is coming to the conversation with inspiration and curiosity.

This can happen at any point in your writing career. The most obvious time writers consider this is during a book launch, but you can be a podcast outside of that timeframe, even years before (or after) the launch of a book. Why do this? Because it is not only essential work to understand and connect with your ideal audience, but it allows you to develop your voice and the professional relationships you will need along the way.

If you are wondering, “Isn’t selling my book the entire point?! Why else do this?” I would just say that selling books isn’t like selling inner tubes to someone with a flat tire, a transaction that happens quickly and neatly. Marketing is about growing awareness of your writing, of who you are, and having people connecting with these themes in deeper ways. It is about communication and trust.

If you held a book launch party, would you walk in and yell, “Everyone, buy my book. Okay, goodbye.” and leave? No, you would engage in conversations, share stories, read from the book, do a signing, answer questions, serve food and beverages. You would engage in a range of human emotions. Yes, you want to sell books. But you also want it to be an enjoyable experience where people can find their connection to your writing. That takes time. Being a guest on podcasts is similar.

How to be a Good Podcast Guest

You may be thinking already, “Dan, I’m not an expert on anything, I have almost no platform, and I don’t have a book to promote, I can’t be a podcast guest.” But I disagree. If I consider some of the most engaging podcast episodes I have heard, they aren’t because that person had credentials or was famous. Instead, they are people who have an engaging message, share meaningful stories, or who help or provide inspiration.

I’ve hosted a podcast for years, interviewing dozens and dozens of guests. Some of the most memorable conversations I’ve had were not from the “famous” people I’ve interviewed. In fact, there are conversations that have stuck with me from interviews with people who had the absolute smallest platform. As I consider the guests I want to have in the future, I am focused so much more on who the person is, not what they have accomplished on their resume.

If you are still wondering what on earth you would talk about, consider this:

  1. Get clear on the themes you write about. Identify what do people who write in this same topic or genre love talking about? What readers mention in book reviews? What sessions would they attend at a conference on this theme? What do they talk to authors about at book signings?
  2. Identify stories you have on these themes, and how they may align to who you think your ideal audience is.
  3. Brainstorm everything you could talk about, even if it is way outside of what you write about. For instance, I’ve been a guest on parenting podcasts, and entrepreneurship podcasts, neither of which is a topic I otherwise write about.

When I do this work with writers, we make prioritized lists of ideas, and identify how this expands their possible reach to more podcasts, and of course, potential listeners/readers. It is not uncommon early in the marketing strategy process for a writer to tell me that there are just a handful of places who would possibly talk about their book or interview them. In our work together, we open this up to find dozens and dozens more places where they can possibly reach their ideal readers.

This is why I encourage you to start early in this process. That aligns to my advice in general on when to build your author platform: start now, before you need it. Do it when you aren’t desperate to pitch a book, when every connection you make isn’t overshadowed by the fact that you need for this person to promote something you are selling.

Platform takes time. Build your competence and find your public voice before you need it as part of a launch.

How to Conduct Podcast Research

Once we brainstorm all of the themes and topics a writer can talk about, we begin researching podcasts that may be a good fit. I create and manage a spreadsheet so that we can prioritize and track this process, as well as the pitches themselves.

If you have no idea where to start, then you can go to a search engine, type in the name of a topic, add the word “podcast” and then see what comes up. You can also go to a podcast player and do searches there, such as Apple Podcasts, overcast.fm, listennotes.com, player.fm, castro.fm, podchaser.com, stitcher.com, or many others.

If you already know of at least one podcast or podcaster on a certain topic, you can start there. Look up that podcast in a podcast player, and then see if they recommend similar podcasts, categories this podcast is categorized within, or related podcasts that subscribers also enjoyed.

When you do find potential podcasts that you think may be a fit, read the podcast titles and descriptions to see how they promote each episode. Likewise, listen to an episode or more to get a sense of the focus and style. If you worry you don’t have time for listening, consider using headphones while doing some other task, such as walking or folding laundry (this is when I listen to podcasts!)

Note whether you enjoy the podcast and if the host is someone you would enjoy chatting with. Don’t think of this as a transaction, where you are only drawn to shows that feel popular to you. Focus on the conversation, the kinds of stories, and not only what they would ask you, but what you would ask them. Focus on the experience you want to create for the two of you, and the listeners.

How to Write a Podcast Pitch Email

If you find a podcast that you feel you would be a good fit for, go to their website and see if they have instructions on how to request to be a guest. Often, you can email the host.

Keep the email short and to the point. Make sure that your “ask” is clear — that you would like to be a guest on their podcast, and why you think this would be a good fit. If you are concerned that you somehow don’t have some kind of credential they may be looking for, instead focus on the stories you can share and why they would enjoy a conversation with you. Only ask one thing in the email, don’t make it a menu such as “I could be a guest on your podcast, or we could do a giveaway on social media, or I could write a blog for you, or…”

And of course, share a bit about who you are, and any applicable links.

If you want my help in pursuing this or any other strategy to reach your readers, you can read more about how I work with writers here.