Podcasts give authors greater reach and more time
Podcasts have become a tremendous resource when publishing a book, to the point where they might be described as an author’s best friend. I find this true for two reasons. The first has to do with changes in media that have reshaped the publishing landscape in recent years. The second with how an author learns to speak about a new book.
Unless you’re a celebrity who gets invited on big shows like Today or Morning Joe, podcasts have become an important and accessible way to publicize a book. They have certainly been my key means for publicizing Rising Together, which debuted in February. Yes, I’ve done articles and some print and tv interviews, as well as a fair number of virtual events. But much of my time has been consumed with podcasts.
This development is fairly recent. In 2018, when my previous book, How Women Rise was released, I did a few podcasts a month. But publicity efforts were still primarily focused on radio, tv, and print media, as well as bookstore signings across the country. But I quickly learned that these were no longer drawing much of an audience unless the bookstore had partnered with a local group such as the Chamber of Commerce.
As recently as 10 years before, bookstore tours were still a big deal, and people tended to turn out in droves for author events. But attendance began to decline as people became busier and more connected to apps. Going to a bookstore in the evening to chat with an author became ever-less of a pull.
Of course, social media is the prime means for publicizing pretty much anything. But you can’t just keep posting about how great your book is. You need to provide updated content that expands upon your ideas and offers fresh contexts. Podcasts are ideal for this. And podcasters are always eager to get the word out to their followers, so it becomes a kind of virtuous circle whereby you and the host support one another.
Perhaps the best thing about podcasts is that there are so many of them, which means you can continue doing them for months and even years after your book comes out. This is the polar opposite of the situation authors used to find themselves in, where you were pretty much dead in the water if you didn’t get a bite from a major media company within the first month or so of publication. There simply weren’t as many outlets, so there weren’t a lot of ways to get the word out, especially when you were no longer the latest thing on the market. Now, there are untold thousands of podcasts, which gives authors the opportunity to build their readership over time.
Of course, all podcasts are not created equal. Some have experienced hosts, professional tech and marketing support, along with well-developed and dedicated audiences. Others are still finding their way, figuring out who their audiences are and trying to grab their attention. As an author, you naturally want to do the high visibility podcasts because they give you a lot of exposure, and because a skillful host is likely to push you to expand your thinking. It’s also gratifying to do podcasts that appeal to specialized audiences– independent bookkeepers, academic fundraisers, construction project supervisors– because they help you understand how your book can be relevant to groups you might not otherwise have thought of.
But I also find doing the lesser-known podcasts to be valuable, in part because they help you get comfortable talking about your subject. Earlier in my writing career (it’s been a long one), it would take me 6 months or more to learn how to talk about a new book well and succinctly. When you write a book, you have time to develop your ideas: I usually figure out what I’m trying to say by working my way through successive drafts. By contrast, doing an interview or sketching out talking points for a keynote requires you to know exactly what you’re going to say and how to say it.
I recall years ago being invited onto my first national TV show to talk about The Female Advantage. The host quite predictably started by asking, “Tell us what your book is about.” My response: “Well, it’s complicated to explain.”
She smiled, nodded, and wisely went straight to a commercial break. It took more floundering before I was able to be articulate right off the bat.
But today’s rich podcast environment gives you the chance to get up to speed much more quickly. Talking about your book over and over, often multiple times a day, enables you to become fluid in a reasonable time frame of 6-8 weeks. And to continue to become more so over time.
For all these reasons, I believe that podcasts have created a new golden age for authors and for books. And for that, I am grateful to podcasters the world over.
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