Part One: Planning
Being a podcast guest has turned out to be one of the unexpected pleasures of publishing a book. Through showing up on podcasts, I’ve made new friends with podcast hosts. Recently, I even connected with a second cousin, who listened to a podcast I did!
But aside from being fun, chatting about your book on a podcast can help you reach potential readers and followers. It’s a book marketing strategy.
According to Edison Research, 26 percent of Americans over 12 listen to a podcast at least once a month. More people are starting podcasts, and they’re looking for guests.
Why podcasting is good for authors
Many writers are introverts. Although they are perfectly happy to chat with individuals or small groups about their subjects, the idea of public speaking leaves them cold.
Podcasting is a perfect solution for the introverted author.
- You don’t have to leave the comfort of your own home.
- It feels like an in-depth, one-on-one conversation – exactly the kind of thing you’re good at – while in reality, it’s a one-to-many way to reach people.
- Listeners get a much better feel about you and your book from listening to you speak than they would by simply reading the book description alone.
Setting up and running your own podcast is a significant time commitment. But, lucky for you, there’s a small army of podcasters out there who need guests. That’s where you come in.
Podcasts are a wonderful book marketing strategy – but only if you do them well. Being a good podcast guest requires a little research and preparation.
Since starting on the podcast circuit, I’ve spoken with several of my favorite podcast hosts about what makes a good guest. This three-part blog series shares their advice on how to rise to the top of the guest pile.
Part One: How to find and query the right podcasts
The world of podcasts is huge and growing larger with each passing minute. The first question you might ask is this: where do I start? Where do I find out about podcasts that might have me as a guest?
Do the work.
There are services that will do this research for you, of course, but you can do it yourself. It’s not that hard.
Make a list of potential podcasts
Start by coming up with a list of possible podcasts. These should include:
- Podcasts related to your book’s topic or your area of expertise
- Book-related podcasts for authors in your genre
Remember that this is a book marketing strategy: ideally, the podcast’s audience includes people who might be interested in your book.
To find entries for your list, open up iTunes, select Podcasts, and choose your category. Browse through those. When you choose a podcast on iTunes, find the website link to visit for the next step, shortening the list.
If these results are too overwhelming, try a few other tactics:
- Google “podcast about <your subject>” to find curated lists
- Search out other authors like you and find out what podcasts they’ve done
- Ask people in your core audience about their favorite podcasts
Create a short list
Listening to podcasts take time, so first narrow down your list. Visit the podcast websites, look at past episode descriptions, and use the following questions to eliminate podcasts from your list.
1 – Does it accept guests?
It seems obvious, but it’s worth saying. Eliminate any that don’t regularly have guests. Don’t try to be the exception.
2 – Does the podcast site include a page for potential guests to query?
Some podcasts only invite guests. Others describe precisely what they’re looking for.
If the host has gone through the trouble of putting this information out there, read it and see if you fit.
3 – Would you be a good guest for this audience?
Do you have something to say that this audience would want to hear? Is there an overlap between your readers and these listeners? Look for clues about the listeners of the podcast.
Now it’s time to do your homework.
I know, I know, but it must be done. You can do it on the treadmill at the gym, if necessary.
Pick two or three of the podcast you want to query. Pick a couple episodes that most interest you, with guests similar to you or with high popularity ranking on iTunes. Then listen.
You might listen to one episode in full, and bits and pieces of a few others. Turn up the speed if you want to save time. (Written transcripts are great, but still, listen to an episode to get a sense of its mood and pacing.)
Take notes, paying particular attention to the following:
Beginnings: Most podcast hosts speak directly to their listeners at the start. You may learn something about their general approach and who they think their audience is.
Host questions: The questions are more important to you, right now, than the guests’ answers. How familiar is the host with the topic? What kinds of questions do they ask? Not all interviewers are equal – some want to talk mainly about themselves. Some, however, clearly advocate for their listeners, so pay attention to that.
Endings: Listen to the last two or so minutes of every episode. Does the host have a regular closing question? If so, make a note of it.
Interview length: Is it a 20-minute interview? 60-minutes? Are there commercial breaks? These are things you’ll want to know when constructing your pitch.
Now you’re ready to reach out and ask if you can be a guest. This is like inviting yourself into someone’s home, so be polite.
If you haven’t done a podcast before, consider starting with a smaller podcast and working your way up to the more popular podcasts in your category. You’ll get better at this as you gain experience.
Write a short email to the host (or use the contact form on the podcast page.) Communicate the following:
Who you are: Offer a one-sentence background, framed in a way that is relevant for the podcast listeners. For example, I might use this introduction to a podcaster focused on entrepreneurs: “I’ve written a book about marketing strategies that are fueling successful subscription-based startups.” Include a link to your author web page and/or book.
Potential topics: The podcaster has no incentive to sell your book. Unless this is a book-specific podcast, the topic is almost never “my new book.” Find one or more conversation topics related to the book, for which you can offer valuable, practical information or insight.
What you can offer the podcaster: Offer to help the podcaster in one of two ways:
- Bringing them new listeners (for example, sharing the podcast with your email list or social media following)
- Providing valuable information to their existing listeners (helping them maintain audience loyalty)
If you can do both, you’ll probably be a guest!
Make it easy for the podcast host to say yes, and don’t waste their time with requests that don’t fit their format.
Even if you’re accepted, expect a delay. Popular podcasts schedule up to 90 days in advance.
Before we finish this part, there’s one more topic to cover:
The Unknown Podcast Invitation
If someone invites you to appear on their podcast, you might jump at it. Preparing for and doing the podcast consumes time.
If you get an invitation from a podcaster, do some research to determine if it’s a fit.
Who are the listeners? Does the podcast audience align with your book’s audience?
Can you add value?
There’s nothing more uncomfortable than being on a call and realizing that you and the host are coming from entirely different angles. I’ve been there. Save yourself from that situation.
You’ve got the gig – now read Part Two: Preparing for the Podcast.