One of the things I work on with writers and creators do is help them get booked as a guest on a podcasts. Today I want to talk about why that is is a viable source for marketing your book or other creative work, and why it can also become a meaningful process of what it means to live the life of a writer. Let’s dig in…
For one, podcasts sell books. Think about it this way: what is a podcast? It is a host who has a deep connection with their listeners. They have developed an audience of people who listen to this host in their ears for potentially hours at a time. That voice in their head can become the basis for a strong connection. Through that comes a sense of trust.
When an author is a guest, they are welcomed in, and for the better part of that hour, the author is in the ears of the listener as well. The host (someone the listener knows and likes) is asking deep questions, laughing with the guest, and exploring the work of that writer.
As a listener, this is compelling. It is not just validation for the writer, but the best way to learn about a book. Which do you trust more:
- A random guy on a street corner yelling, “The new book by Will Smith is amazing. You should read it!”
- Or a friend or colleague or someone you trust, who says, “I’ve been reading the new Will Smith book. It blew me away. Honestly, it’s not just that I’m learning more about him, it’s actually given me a sense of motivation I haven’t had in months. Can I tell you more about what this meant to me?”
Likely, you are more swayed by the person you know and trust. I see authors I know on podcasts all the time. Jessica Lahey was just on the Tim Ferriss Show. Amanda Montell was just a guest on The Minimalists Podcast.
I connected with Jessica this week and asked about the impact her appearance on the show had on her book and platform. She said that it was early to tell exact numbers, but that the epsiode definitely had an impact. Book sales data will come later on, but it likely had some kind of bump in sales. She also mentioned that she accepts most podcast invitations she receives, because they all lead to momentum. That includes reaching a new audience, getting more podcast invitations, fueling mentions on social media, and more.
Podcasts are not just for nonfiction authors, there are countless examples of memoir, fiction, and other creators reaching their ideal readers through podcasts.
I know that many writers pine for the days before the internet, when book marketing didn’t seem to fall on the author’s lap. If that is the case, I would encourage you to think of a podcast as similar to how we shared books years ago: in a literary salon, at cafes, at book readings, in book clubs, in organizations, and of course, in conversations between friends. Podcasts share a similarity to all of these things.
Some things never change, which is why I call my process Human-Centered Marketing. It focuses on the universal aspects of how people act, not just the trendy tech channels of the moment. Today books are shared through trusting relationships, just as they always have. This is why podcasters, Bookstagrammers (people who talk about books on Instagram), Booktockers (people who talk about books on TikTok) and other influencers develop a rapport with their audience, and through this comes deep trust. These influencers aren’t usually interested in just promoting things, they are creating an experience with their communities: a conversation, a learning, a deep connection. That is why a conversation on a podcast helps share your book.
Think of a podcast like a book club. Even a podcast with a small listenership brings you into a tiny but close community, hosted by someone that listeners really trust and like.
The System of Pitching
In some ways, pitching yourself as a guest on a podcast would be considered publicity. Especially if this is being done for you by a publicist. But I find that this is a skill you can develop yourself. Many aspects of this process align to marketing as well. In the end, the focus is the same: to connect with like-minded people to share the themes of what you write and why.
When I work with an author on this, I am occupying dual roles:
- I am guiding them through my system to identify what they can talk about on a podcast, providing ideas and brainstorming. Doing deep research to identify which podcasts to pitch that speak directly to their ideal readers. And of course: what that pitch looks like, by using tried and true scripts, but then customizing them for each author. I give them a step-by-step process that we work through together. I never pitch a podcast for someone, but I am there every step of the way to prepare them for it, and work through it.
- I am also working to teach the author each step so that they can have a natural sense of how this works, and then a repeatable process that they can use far into the future.
This is a literacy that you develop. How to know what to talk about, where in the marketplace you will find your ideal audience, and how to make that connection with a podcaster. That is so much of what it means to share your work or get good at marketing in general. Considering how podcasts can help you reach your audience will teach you so much about what it means to find readers in general.
When to be a Podcast Guest?
I would encourage you to build this capacity early. Way before you think you need it. I’ve long said that it is best to begin working on marketing long before your book is published. Why? Because it takes time to develop your messaging, to learn how to share, to understand where to find your ideal audience, and what engages them. Give yourself that gift of time. As I said, this is a literacy you are developing. Once you have it, it will always be there for you.
The idea of pitching yourself on a podcast is a transferable skill. Because it means you will now know how to pitch yourself to a literary festival, as a guest blogger, or ask for a blurb, or do so much else as you share your work later on.
Start now. Start small. Take it one step at a time. Develop a system that works for you that you can reuse again and again.
What to Talk About on a Podcast
Many people want to wait until their book is out to pitch themselves on podcasts. There is a logic to that. But many podcasters don’t want to talk about a book. Sure, they will mention it, and some portion of the interview will be about it. But what they really want is a really interesting conversation. One that touches upon themes you care most about.
For topics you can talk about: outline the themes of your book, even if it won’t come out for 1+ years. Then, identify themes that are common in all of your writing, across books, essays, etc. Write down any other topics you can speak to in general. For instance, I’ve been invited as a guest on some parenting podcasts. I never would have thought that I have any expertise here. But, the people who invited me were curious of how I manage being a parenting and running a small business. They were wonderful conversations, and introduced me to some new audiences.
To figure this out, you can create a mindmap. Just go from topic to topic from your creative work, or your entire life’s experience. You may be surprised at how many topics you find you can talk about. You don’t have to be an “expert” with a long list of credentials. You simply have to have a message to share, and a fun conversation that a host may appreciate.
Finding Podcasts and Making the Pitch
If you are unfamiliar with podcasts, start by simply listening. Choose a podcast platform (Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, etc) and look at some of the lists of top podcasts. Just familiarize yourself with the common practices, the length, and where any of the conversations align with your creative vision. Don’t know where to start? Begin with my podcast, The Creative Shift. Or the wonderful #amwriting Podcast. Or the Write-Minded Podcast.
When you find a podcast you like, look at other podcasts that are recommended by the podcast service. For instance, on Apple Podcasts, they have a section on each podcast page of “You Might Also Like.” You can see an example of it on the bottom of the Apple Podcasts page for my podcast.
Does this seem overwhelming? Then schedule 1/2 hour a week to do this research. Give yourself a month or two to slowly understand the ecosystem of podcasts and find a few that resonate with you, and where you feel you may find your ideal audience.
You can also discover podcasts on Podchaser.com. Here you can look up the name of an author who has recently released a book and see what podcasts they have been on. That’s a great way to discover relevant podcasts, especially if that author’s work is similar to yours.
Track what you learn as you do this research. Make a spreadsheet, and then begin to identify some smaller podcasts that you feel align with your message. Considering writing a simple pitch to become a guest. Make it short, make it clear that you would like to be a guest, and explain what you would talk about and why their listeners may find it compelling.
If you want help in this process, you can learn more about how I work with writers and creators here.