by J. Alexander Greenwood
Self-promotion is one of the most challenging aspects of being a writer. As a writer and public relations consultant, I know it’s tough to get booked on TV, radio, or elsewhere to talk about books. But there is good news: podcasts about writing and books are abundant, and if you find the good ones, you can earn new readers.
There are many places where you can also pitch yourself as a guest. I use Matchmaker.FM, but there are many more such services out there. You can also email the podcasts you already listen to and offer yourself as a guest.
Let’s jump ahead and assume you get booked on a podcast. Congrats, but you're only halfway there. First, you must ensure you're doing everything to help your appearance go smoothly and gain traction with listeners.
Don’t pitch to be a guest (and don’t go into an interview) without sampling a couple of your target podcast’s episodes. It will help you determine if you are suitable, and you’ll get a feel for the tone and rhythm of the show. In addition, listening ahead enables you to tailor your message and speaking style to suit the audience. Besides, you'll flatter the host if you mention her "excellent interview with X," and that's great for building rapport for your interview.
To help shows better inform the audience about who they are listening to, send a 100-word or less introduction before the recording date — even if they don't ask for it. Sending a prepared introduction increases the odds they will introduce you the way you want.
Along with the introduction, send:
Being a great podcast guest isn't just about answering questions, it's about telling stories. So make sure you have at least three relevant stories you can roll out during the show. This is super helpful to the show host or producer, and it makes your interview much more interesting to listeners.
On my shows, we ask guests to share the news that they will appear on our show on their social media channels and newsletters before and after the recording date. Guests who share help podcasts grow, and I guarantee that this will encourage the show to ask you back.
Remember — the guest talks more than the host, and you should sound as good as possible! One of the main reasons people stop listening to a podcast is lousy audio. Most shows don’t expect you to buy a fancy mic to appear — even using the mic/earbuds that come with most smartphones is a huge step up from built-in computer mics and speakers.
Record from a quiet place. My podcasting app tells me when people tune out of an episode, and most of the abandoned shows are the ones with lousy audio. Avoid open windows, sounds of pets or children, typing, fish tank filters, laundry machines, etc. Also, I cannot believe I have to say it: no eating during the interview. A sip of coffee or water? Fine. But no potato chips, sandwiches, or burritos. I mean, honestly. I cannot begin to tell you how many good guests are tuned out by listeners because they record in places with loud ambient noise, excitable pets, or make annoying mouth noises.
If a show is recorded on video, make sure you (and your background) look your best. Sure, this is a no-brainer, but I've seen plenty of video shows with people who looked like they just rolled out of bed or wandered in from the skate park. If that's your image, fine by me, but if it doesn't match what you are talking about, audiences may be less likely to take you (and your books) seriously.
It’s unprofessional not to show up once invited on. Did something unexpected come up? Hey, I get it. It happens. Happy to reschedule down the road. But if you “ghost” a show? That will get you on the naughty list. I’ve had a couple of these over the years — one guest even asked to appear on my show weeks later as if her earlier rudeness had never transpired. Not good.
Many shows record “live to tape,” so they don’t usually offer “do-overs.” If you say something you did not mean to say or zone out, say so and correct the record right there on the show. We’re all human, and the audience will roll with it if you do. Asking podcast producers to go back and edit something in a recording is often doable. Still, it means more work for them — which may not be ideal for getting asked back.
Remember, you're not just sharing information; you're entertaining listeners simultaneously. So roll with it, tell relatable stories, smile, and have fun.
Unless the host asks explicitly, you should be prepared to talk about your book(s) in general—not necessarily give a blow-by-blow plot account. Tease the audience into buying your book—don’t spoon-feed it to them on a podcast.
Remember to share the links to your appearance on your social media channels and newsletters. A thank-you email to the producers or host of the podcast is a nice touch, especially if you tell them you shared the links and offer to come back with new info. Writing a positive review of the show is also welcome (and not done nearly enough by guests).
Being prepared, thoughtful, and easy to work with is most of what it takes to be a good podcast guest. Keep it up, and your confidence “on air” will grow right along with your readership.
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J. Alexander Greenwood is an award-winning writer, public relations consultant, podcaster, speaker, and former journalist and broadcasting executive. He is best known as the author of the John Pilate Mysteries and host/producer of the Mysterious Goings On podcast and the PR After Hours podcast. Mysterious Goings On was named an Apple Podcasts "New & Noteworthy" show in 2016 and was a 2019 People's Choice Podcast Awards nominee. Alex has recorded hundreds of hours of podcasts and made numerous appearances on TV, radio, podcasts, webinars, and conferences. He is the author of the Amazon Top-Selling eBook, The Podcast Option.
Top photo by Christina Morillo from Pexels
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Alex, welcome to Writers in the Storm. And what a fabulous post. I'm storing this information for current and future use. Although, relaxing for this introvert is easier said than done. It really helps when the host is as easy to talk to as you are.
Thank you so much! The secret is to be prepared, take care of the technical stuff, and be ready to chat. My job is to ensure that's all in place so we can focus our discussion on you and your work. You're a great guest!
What a great post! Thanks for coming to WITS.
I have heard that podcasts are a good way to promote books, especially since they are a little more accessible when approached in a thoughtful manner.
These suggestions will help when I get to this stage in the not too distant future. Thanks for the actionable steps and welcome to WITS.
Hi Kris! Thanks for the kind words. Let me further reinforce about podcasts: my little show (Mysterious Goings On) gets pitches from Big 5 publishers and tons of publicists to book their authors. That's proof positive of the value of podcast appearances--otherwise, why would the bestselling writers bother? A podcast staking out a space in the book niche is just the place. Good luck on your podcast tours!
This is fantastic information! I have a bunch of people I can't wait to share it with. I hadn't heard of Matchmaker.FM, but I'm going to go study more about them immediately! Thank you! And welcome to WITS!
Hi Lisa! Yes, Matchmaker is great to pitch yourself as a guest. Many options and lots of great places to look into. Good luck!
enjoyed the post and helpful hints.
Demise, thank you. I hope you can put some of these tips to use in your writing career.
Denise, NOT "Demise" sorry--typing on half a cup of coffee here! 😉
I love everything about this post! And I needed it for my LinkedIn coaching business. I'd never heard of Matchmaker.FM either and it's an amazing resource. Thanks so much for sharing it, and welcome to WITS. I hope you come back. 🙂
Hi Jenny--it is my pleasure to share what I have learned over many years of trial and error. I have more tips...who knows, maybe I will be back! 😉
Hi Alex! This is a fantastic post.
The points you make are helpful.
I have been on podcasts a few times. For me, the ones that are audio only and may be edited are the least stressful. I find the live video podcasts a bit unnerving. Maybe it gets easier with practice.
Being prepared and relaxed makes a big difference.
Welcome to WITS!
Ellen--I totally agree with you about audio only. I find those easier to appear on and to host. Best wishes to you!
Thank you for sharing so much interesting and worthwhile information. While I've never been asked to be a podcast guest, I do a lot of public speaking, so who knows when I may have this opportunity to share about my books?!
Cool to read this. As a serious podcaster and writer, I have a lot of thoughts on this.
There is power in podcasting, the appeal is broad, I’ve sold lots of pre-roll ads to book publishers in alignment with my subject (I have a history show for kids and families). It is a valuable space and one that is growing each year in terms of listenership, awareness, and reach. It is highly diversified space and there are lots of great shows that would be appropriate for many authors.
But I will also share a common complaint (the most common complaint, probably) I hear from many podcasting friends -- and one I echo. Every single week, it is usual to get a several solicitations from authors, and 99% of the time it is clear that they have no idea what my show is about, the format of the show, nor anything else pertinent to them being on the show (I actually don't even have guests!). So I heartily agree with the author's advice to listen to the show first. Those emails are generally a daily joke among my group of podcasters. “What did you get propositioned with today?” —No joke, last week I got someone who wanted to talk about a new book about NFTs for kids and families. I usually don’t even respond but I couldn’t help telling that dude to jump in a lake.
Anyway, I recommend a basic understanding of audio equipment too, if someone is going to make this a usual thing. Any equipment also works in the case of radio interviews that are done remotely, so it can be worth it. With a cheap USB microphone and free recording software (like garage band, that comes standard on a Mac) a guest can record their half of the conversation remotely and then email that file to the producer/podcaster. The audio quality will sound immensely better — even professional — compared to zoom or other similar platforms.
Lastly, if someone is striking out on getting podcasts to get back, it's worth considering offering a little money for a pre-roll ad. Podcasters are trying to figure out how to monetize, and there are plenty of shows with smaller but dedicated audiences who might happily pre-roll a simple ad for a fair price. Might even open up an invitation to come for an interview.
Mick--I agree completely! I have several weird pitches a week--even from folks who find my shows on Matchmaker. They evidently don't read the profile or the pitch rules I clearly set out. so yep, authors, save yourself (and podcasters) time by being sure about the show you pitch to!
Great tips here, Alex, and I'm sharing this widely. Thank you!
I saved this post. I'd have printed it but that isn't possible. A lot of good advice. I will consult it later if I book a podcast.
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