I don't read many blogs anymore, but I spend hours every week listening to podcasts and audiobooks in order to learn more about craft and business. In these days of social media overload and ever-increasing numbers of books and blogs to read, I'm not the only one choosing audio first.
Of course, I have my own show, The Creative Penn podcast, but I'm also a guest on other people's podcasts because I know how fantastic they are for marketing purposes.
A few weeks back, my audio producer Dan Werkhoven shared some specific tips on audio setup if you want to improve audio quality. Today, the fantastic author and podcaster Alexandra Amor shares some tips on how to be an effective podcast guest.
As an independent author, you're probably always looking for opportunities to increase visibility for your books. One way to do this is by approaching podcast hosts who are looking for guests to have on their shows.
The number and quality of podcasts grows each month, and as we increasingly become a culture that has audio available to us all the time via all the devices at our fingertips, the demand for shows – and therefore guests – also grows.
As a podcast host myself, and someone who's always on the lookout for new guests for my show, I've seen that authors sometimes struggle with the idea of being on a podcast. They are either intimidated by the technology, or aren’t familiar with how podcasts work, or are nervous about speaking ‘on the air’.
However, when you’re a skilled and confident podcast guest, it’s a win for everyone: for your host, who wants to have a good show; for readers looking for new books like yours; and for you, the author, who is getting the word out about your books.
Before we talk about how to be an effective guest on a podcast, let’s quickly cover why you might want to embrace this marketing strategy.
Advantages to being a podcast guest
- This is a marketing strategy that is free. (Right?! How amazing is that?) The only cost to you is the time you spend finding shows to approach, hopefully doing a bit of research about the show beforehand (more on this in a moment), and then the time you spend in conversation with the host. You won’t find many other book marketing strategies that don’t cost you a dime.
- You've probably heard Joanna mention on The Creative Penn Podcast how often listeners say that once they discover the show they go back and listen to the entire backlist. What this means for you is that when you’re a guest on a show, it is a nearly evergreen marketing opportunity. Once the show is broadcast it stays available for new listeners to find. And as fiction is also an evergreen product, it doesn’t matter if a listener hears about your books in the week the show is originally broadcast or three years from then. If they listen to the show in three year’s time, your books are still going to be available to them.
- Know, Like and Trust. The marketing concept of know, like and trust is most often discussed in non-fiction circles, but it also applies here. On a podcast, the listeners are going to learn a bit more about you as a writer by hearing your voice and your personality come through during the interview. They might be intrigued by the behind-the-scenes stories you share or by the cool research trip you’ve been on. Those who are already fans of your work will get to know and like you a bit more, which is important when we’re building an audience. People who know, like and trust us will buy our books. Connecting with a reader via a podcast is a great way to build that rapport.
- Podcast audiences are specifically tailored to the topic of the show. This makes being a podcast guest a very concentrated marketing effort. You’ll be speaking directly to a) readers, and b) more specifically, readers of your genre.
Have I got your attention about what a great marketing strategy being podcast guest can be? If you’re convinced, you can begin to research podcasts that are a good fit for you and your books. There are shows dedicated to every fiction genre and non-fiction area of expertise.
Once you’ve done that, or if you’ve been approached to be on a show, here are six tips for how to be an effective podcast guest and increase the visibility of your books.
Tip number one: Embrace your anxiety
Many hosts, including Joanna and myself, conduct the interview in a visual medium like Skype and also record the audio. So you'll have to be concerned both about how you sound and how you look. As if just talking about your books wasn’t enough pressure! 😉
If you're nervous remember that this is completely normal. Being a podcast guest is almost like public speaking; you're having a conversation one on one with the host in the moment, but you’ll be aware that any number of people could eventually listen to what you're saying. Don't put extra pressure on yourself by expecting yourself to not be nervous.
It's okay to be nervous. You're completely normal if you are. Hosts get nervous too!
The thing to remember is that your nerves will be the worst just before the interview starts. Once you settle in and the host is asking their questions and you're providing what you hope are scintillating answers, you'll likely find that your nerves will disappear. Or at least calm down considerably.
Once your brain has something else to focus on, i.e., providing those riveting answers, the energy that was creating the butterfly storm in your stomach will be directed elsewhere.
Bottom line, allow yourself to be nervous and know that it will pass. Try not to let your nerves prevent you from accepting an offer to be on a podcast or from seeking those opportunities.
Bonus Tip: Your anxiety may have the affect of making you feel like you’re talking too much, or the reverse, too little. The most common first question I get from guests after we’ve stopped recording is, “Did I talk too much / little?”
Answering in sound bites is a learned skill, and you will get better if you’re on more than one show. Stay calm and answer the host’s questions succinctly, but do fill in your answers with interesting detail if you can.
Keep in mind that if your answer is too long, the host can likely edit for brevity. But if you answer with just one or two words, there’s little the host can do but ask another question.
Tip number two: Be prepared
Either way, part of your professional responsibility as an author is to make yourself familiar with the program itself. At the very least you should listen to one or two back episodes of the program and make yourself familiar with the tone and the focus of the program.
- How long does the show usually run?
- What kind of questions does the host ask?
- Should you have a paperback copy of your latest book nearby so you can show it to the video audience?
Even if you've got a publicist scouting out shows for you, it behooves you to make yourself familiar with the program. Familiarity will work to your advantage because it will create some rapport with the host.
Keep in mind that your host is trying to make the very best show possible, which will benefit both you, her and the listening audience. Making yourself familiar with the program will work toward this goal. It will also help with your nerves (see point #1 above).
Tip number three: Limit distractions
This tip seems a little obvious but it needs to be said. Ideally you want to avoid this type of situation.
When it's time for the interview make sure you are distraction-free:
- Turn off your phone.
- Turn off the bells, whistles and alerts that might pop up on your computer screen.
- Close the door to the room that you're in, to minimize minimize disruption from others in your household.
- If possible, remove any pets from the room.
Minimizing your distractions, and creating focused attention, will enable you to be as present as possible for the interview and therefore give the best possible impression to the host and her listeners.
Tip number four: Be prepared part 2
What is the one thing you want to remember to promote to the listening audience?
- Do you have a book on permafree that you’d like listeners to download?
- Do you have a reader magnet at your website that listeners can receive in exchange for their email address (therefore building your mailing list)?
- Do you have a new book coming out around the time the show will broadcast?
In the heat of the moment during the interview, with your attention likely focused on being poised and not using too many ‘ums’ and ‘you knows’, you might forget to mention these things. (When I’ve been a guest on other podcasts, I’ve been guilty of this. Lesson learned!)
Write down the one (or two) things you want to be sure to mention during the program. If the host doesn’t ask about them, you can always mention them tacked onto one of your other answers.
Tip number four: Share
Undoubtedly your podcast host has a built-in audience for the show, especially if the show is long-established. And presumably the host will spend time and effort promoting the show via her social media networks etc. once it broadcasts.
You'll only benefit if you do the same.
Joanna often talks about our reach as authors and how important it is, whether we’re traditionally published or independently published, to build our own audiences, whether that's through a newsletter list or social media networks etc. The episode of the podcast that you're going to be on is going to reach people who have never heard of you, which is great.
Sharing that show with your established audience is also important. It exhibits to the host that you're making as much effort to get the word out about their show as they are trying to get the word out about you. It's a reciprocal relationship.
Tip number five: Technology
Most computers these days will pick up your voice and additionally most have a built-in web camera, so it’s likely that you won’t need to buy any fancy equipment to be on a podcast.
Beyond that the only tool you might need to be a podcast guest is a set of earbud headphones. If you wear the headphones and plug them into your computer it blocks out ambient noise in the room where you're located. Other than that all you need is your charming personality.
In order to make the most of your and the host’s time, do a technology check the day before the show. If the host records the show using Skype or Zoom, ask a family member or a friend if they’ll do a test run with you to make sure your equipment is working properly.
Knowing that everything is in proper working order will not only help to ensure things go smoothly when the show is being recorded, it will also help to reduce your anxiety. There will be one less thing for you to worry about.
Bonus Tip: Please don’t let any intimidation you feel about the technology a podcast host uses prevent you from embracing the opportunity to be on a show. I’ve had people decline my invitation to be on my show because they weren’t familiar with Skype. I thought this was such a shame and would have been happy to help them learn how to use the app.
If you’re not familiar with the tech a host proposes to use, ask them for guidance. They’ll likely be very happy to help you out.
Tip number six: Say thank you
Hosting a podcast is a lot of work. There's work involved during the interview, of course, but there’s also a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes; finding guests, producing the show, dealing with the technological issues that go on. It's a big time commitment for anyone who hosts a podcast.
Being polite by saying thank you to the host for having you on the show should be automatic since you’re a grown up. However, know that this small gesture could also result in more opportunities down the road, perhaps to be on the show again.
The tips that I’ve shared here may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many guests don’t think to do them. Those guests who do are the ones that I build a relationship with, and often have back on my program. Once again, this is a win for me, for my audience and for the author, and I love that.
The easier you can make it for a podcast host to have you on her show, the better things will work out for you. And you might just have some fun while getting the word out about your books as well! 😉
Are you planning to use podcasts as part of your book marketing strategy? Please leave your thoughts below and join the conversation.
Alexandra Amor writes mystery novels about love, friendship and the search for truth. She is the host of It’s a Mystery Podcast, a weekly show that introduces mystery readers to authors and books they may not have heard of yet. You can get a free copy of Alexandra’s historical mystery, Charlie Horse, at AlexandraAmor.com.