In my experience, pitching yourself as a podcast interview subject is very different from pitching your book to a publisher or getting on television, with one exception: you have to do your homework.
Pitching your manuscript to a publisher requires a formal proposal containing certain elements, such as a marketing plan and a competing and complementary books section, in addition to sample chapters. Talk-show hosts like Jay Leno have very specific guidelines for would-be guests, along the lines of “You must use our e-mail submission form and you must send video a particular format.” And, of course, for print media coverage, there’s the traditional press release and its social media variants.
Take a Personal Approach
Because most podcasts are a personal and informal medium, most podcasters are suspicious of marketing-speak and press releases, especially if the pitch looks like something that’s been sent out on a massive scale. Most podcasters have small, vocal audiences, people who think of them as friends and who will let them know in no uncertain terms if they don’t like a show. There’s a strong sense of community among podcasters and listeners, and when it comes to doing interviews, podcasters prefer people who are part of that community to people who aren’t, unless the interviewee is extremely well-known.
Like bloggers (and many podcasters are bloggers), podcasters are as likely to lambast a bad pitch to their listeners as to simply trash it and ignore it. To learn what not to do, take a look at the Bad Pitch Blog.
Picking Podcasts to Pitch
In April 2006, FeedBurner reported that it was publishing 44,000 podcast feeds. That’s good news: it’s a pretty safe bet that whatever you’re writing about, someone is podcasting about it. And no, you won’t have to listen to all 44,000 in order to know which ones to pitch.
Remember the audience profile you had to create when you created your book proposal? You want to find podcasters whose audiences are the same as your ideal reader. These are more likely to be podcasters who talk about the same subjects as your book than “book review” or “literary” podcasts, though you shouldn’t overlook those, either.
To find podcasts on the right subject, check out podcast directories like iTunes and Podcast Alley, which allow listeners to rate and review podcasts. Read the descriptions and the reviews and make a shortlist of the most likely candidates.
And, of course, don’t overlook any podcasts you’re already listening to.
Joining the “In” Group
So what do you do after you’ve gone through and found the highest-rated podcasts on subjects related to your book? First, listen to the podcast. Better yet, subscribe to the podcast and listen to several shows. Read the show notes and the comments. Find out whether interviews are a regular part of the show. (Some shows feature interviews every week, others occasionally, and some not at all.)
Next, start commenting. When you leave a comment on the show’s blog, you can enter the URL for your book instead of your home page for some subtle self-promotion, but the important thing is to respond thoughtfully to something in that episode. Write a paragraph or two that continues the conversation and shows that you know what you’re talking about.
While podcasters don’t necessarily expect people they’ve interviewed to listen to every show from then on, they’ll shy off anyone whose interest seems too self-serving. Just because a podcast has a lot of listeners doesn’t mean that you’ll like the show or the podcaster. If you don’t, don’t try to fake it in order to reach a potential market for your book. Make sure the podcast and its host(s) are a good fit for your personality before you try to line up an interview.
It’s That Simple
You’ll probably have to do this more than once before the podcaster asks to interview you, but if what you say is interesting enough to the listeners (who will usually hear it read out in the next episode as well as having the opportunity to read it on the show blog), the podcaster may contact you immediately. If not, keep listening and commenting for a few shows, and strike up an e-mail correspondence with the podcaster.
Once you’re sure that the podcaster and the listeners know who you are and find your comments interesting, volunteer yourself as an interviewee. And as long as there’s enough time before the interview date, send the podcaster a copy of your book. Even if the interview isn’t about the book itself (and it probably won’t be), having the book in hand helps the podcaster to come up with interview questions.
Keep the Discussion Going
Naturally you’ll want to listen to the episode with your interview in it, but don’t stop there. Check the show notes to see what listeners have to say about the show. Is there anything you can pick up on and respond to?
It’s also a good idea to listen to the next episode for more feedback, and to send in any answers you have to questions which might have come up. Some questions might come directly to you, but many listeners feel more comfortable dealing with the podcast host(s).
If enough listeners want to know more, you might get invited back for another interview.
Some podcasters also review books. Indeed, there are book review podcasts out there, and it doesn’t hurt to search for them. A podcaster who likes your book might also write up a short review on the show blog and include an Amazon affiliate link.
One of the nicest things about podcast interviews, though, is that you can link directly to the episode from your own website without having to worry about how to handle the audio file at your end. (Very often, though, podcasters will give you permission to repost the file on your own site if you wish to do so.)
Best of all, though, you don’t have to go through layers of screening to get access to a podcaster—which is part of why podcasters have such dedicated fans.