The word podcasting was first coined in February 2004. A podcast is an audio show, like radio but, instead of tuning in at a set time, we can download and listen to them at our convenience, via an app on our smartphone, tablet, computer, or smartspeaker.
Just like local and national radio shows, podcasts can be a fantastic promotional tool. With over two million different podcast shows worldwide, there’s one for every readership, no matter how niche.
So why is podcasting useful for writers, and how can we secure an invitation as a guest?
Suspense author Matty Dalrymple has also written The Indy Author’s Guide to Podcasting for Authors and hosts the popular The Indy Author Podcast. She believes podcasting is a brilliant way to engage with the right readers.
‘Guesting on a podcast provides an intimacy of connection that is not possible with written content like guest blog posts,’ she explains. ‘You get a seal of approval by the podcaster being willing to share their platform and their audience with you, which can pave the way to building relationships with their listeners. The benefits you gain from a podcast appearance depend on the benefits you provide to the host and their audience: approaching your appearance professionally and ensuring that your topic and content are good matches for the listeners.’
Securing an invitation means pitching ourselves to potential hosts, but there is an art to producing a great pitch. When Matty began her podcast back in June 2016, she soon realised how important it is for writers to get the pitch right.
‘Do not write a generic pitch and then blast it off to every result that turns up on an online search of podcasts,’ she recommends. ‘I didn’t appreciate what a turnoff this is until I started receiving these myself. If you’re asking a podcast host to take the time to consider your pitch — not to mention the time to actually host you on their show — you owe it to them to spend at least a few minutes reviewing some of their recent episodes and listening to a few minutes of one of them.’
Personalise your pitch. Sell yourself, but sell how what you have to say will interest the podcast’s listeners. Construct your pitch carefully, and always double check it. Not everybody does this, as Matty discovered.
‘Almost worse than a completely generic pitch is one that has been incorrectly “personalised.” I’ve received at least one pitch that was addressed to my email address but referenced someone else’s name and podcast. Another common error is making the host do the work to find out if you’re a good match for their show. Any pitch should include links to information about you and your proposed topic.’
Don’t rush your research. Listen to several shows to get a feel for the host and how they run their show. Check that your subject will really interest the host’s listeners. Maddy finds it easier to take a risk with a guest interviewee, if she feels they understand her podcast and what it’s all about.
‘The more personalised the pitch, the more likely I am to consider it. The more clearly the potential guest describes the benefits my listeners will get from the information they have to share, the more likely I am to extend an invitation. I invited one guest on the podcast primarily because her pitch so exactly complied with a run-down of tips for potential guests that I had just shared in the intro of an episode of The Indy Author Podcast. She demonstrated a familiarity with the podcast, and even referenced specific episodes that had been especially valuable to her, and which tied well with her proposed topic.’
A good pitch will share examples of what you’d like to talk about, along with any podcasting experience you may have. If you’ve never appeared on a podcast before, mention times you’ve appeared on local or national radio and link to the relevant show.
‘It also helps if I can see online examples of the potential guest speaking on their proposed topic,’ says Matty. ‘Some accommodate this by providing links to already-existing online talks, webinars, or classes. However, if you don’t yet have these resources, don’t despair: you can record yourself talking on the topic and include that in their pitch.’
Benedict Brown (https://benedictbrown.net/) is the author of the Lord Edgington and Izzy Palmer mysteries, the first of which is Murder at the Spring Ball. He pitched to be on the Self-Publishing Show podcast because he thought listeners would be interested in his journey, sharing both his success and some of his mistakes.
‘I felt that my story was perfect for the podcast as I’d been through the hoped-for author journey in a short time between publishing my first book and having a hit series — I’m about to publish my sixteenth novel in just under three years. I also feel as though I’ve learnt a lot through the mistakes I made with my first, less successful series and emphasised that learning curve I’d been on in my pitch.’
Appearing on a podcast is unlikely to put your book in your charts the following day. As Benedict explains, there are more benefits to being on a podcast than seeing a boost in book sales.
‘For the most part, podcasts aren’t a gateway to success in themselves. I didn’t see a massive spike in sales for my books after mine, though the fact that I was on a podcast, which is more for writers than readers, probably explains that. However, I have heard from people who have discovered my books thanks to the podcast or contacted me to say that what I revealed was useful for them.’
Benedict also believes podcasts can boost a writer’s confidence.
‘As writers, we tend to spend a lot of time alone in a room doubting ourselves, and so it’s nice to connect with other established figures in our field who know what we’ve achieved and the challenges we’ve been through. I think it helps us put our work in context and even to realise just how far we’ve come. That first podcast has also led to a few more and I’ve enjoyed each in different ways and I also really like the chance to help others with what I’ve learnt.’
Julia Goodfellow-Smith (https://www.juliags.com/writing) is an adventurer, public speaker, and environmentalist. As a public speaker, appearing on podcasts to promote her writing seemed a natural step to take.
‘I start by researching podcasts that might have an interest in what I have to say. For the launch of my book Live Your Bucket List, I approached podcasts interested in personal development, fitness — I use stories from walking the South West Coast Path throughout the book — ; ageing — I am a woman in my 50s — ; and women pushing boundaries. Smaller podcasts are far more likely to say yes and can still reach significant numbers of listeners. I also have a theory that there will be less competition for guest slots on podcasts that broadcast frequently, so I favour those.’
Julia’s found that offering hosts a choice of discussion topics often works best.
‘For each podcast, I identify two different angles that their audiences might be interested in and ask them to choose which would work best for them. In the approach, I include links to radio interviews, and now previous podcasts, so they know that I can speak well. I also include a link to the most relevant book, and if the podcaster is interested in featuring me, I am happy to send them a copy of the book.’
Like Benedict, Julia considers guesting on podcasts as long-term marketing.
‘Don’t expect to see a sales spike immediately when you appear on a podcast. Listeners often come across a podcast and listen to all the back issues. Many won’t listen on the day it is broadcast. Think of it as part of your marketing mix, rather than a specific sales tool.’
When taking part in the podcast, Matty suggests a little investment in some basic technological equipment is worth it.
‘My primary technical advice to guests of The Indy Author Podcast is not to use the computer or phone’s built-in microphone. Almost any inexpensive auxiliary mic will provide better audio than the computer’s. Earbuds further improve sound quality by preventing feedback from other participants’ audio. Beyond the technology, minimise audio and video distractions. Try to isolate yourself from sounds such as traffic noise and barking dogs. Make sure the background of your video presents a professional persona — no dirty laundry hanging over a chair!’
Many of us are now more used to communicating via our computers, which means we can take part in podcast interviews anywhere around the world from the comfort of our own home. So, pitching to podcasts could help us reach a whole new readership.
Business Directory — Pitching Tips
‘Personalise, personalise, personalise! Demonstrate your familiarity with their specific podcast and present a compelling case for how your content will benefit their specific listeners. After the podcast, promote, promote, promote! The host has gone to a lot of trouble to bring you and your message to their listeners — return the favour by enthusiastically spreading the word about their podcast. If your content is evergreen, put a note on your calendar periodically to re-promote the episode.’
‘Find an angle that you can offer that no one else has. Just as you would plan out or have a great idea for a book before writing, you need to construct a narrative for your pitch. In mine, I didn’t only want to tell the story of how I became a writer, but reveal some honest truths about how hard it can be and the effort you have to make to achieve.’
‘Think about how you can contribute. Podcasters are looking for good value content that their listeners will love. Focus on how an interview with you will benefit their audience and the podcaster. If you can, prepare a special offer for listeners to the podcast.’
(c) Simon Whaley