Getting interviewed on podcasts can be an excellent way for Authors to promote their books. But some Authors want to take it one step further and start their own podcasts.
What could be better than interviewing interesting people, having great conversations, and spreading the word about your most exciting ideas?
Plus, podcasts can be great for exposure. They’re a wildly popular form of media. In 2018, the number of podcast listeners in the U.S. reached 75 million, and by 2024, that number is projected to rise to 164 million. Those numbers alone are enough to put stars in Authors’ eyes.
But let’s be clear: podcasting isn’t a cakewalk. It’s hard work, and it’s not right for every Author.
This guide will help you decide whether podcasting is right for you. If it is, you’ll also learn how to start a podcast that will help you meet your biggest goals.
How to Decide if Podcasting Is Right for You
The first step of deciding whether podcasting is right for you is simple. Ask yourself whether podcasting is aligned with what you’re trying to accomplish with your book.
Before you even wrote your book, you should have worked out your book’s positioning. That means that you determined who your audience is, what your book idea is, and what your objectives for publishing the book are.
Those were important pieces in writing your book, but they’re equally important pieces in coming up with a book marketing plan that works.
Is your objective to make money? Find more clients in a niche area? Expand your platform as a public speaker? Gain credibility as a thought leader in your industry? Raise money from investors? Change careers? Start a consulting business?
Whatever your objectives are, be honest with yourself. Does podcasting align with those objectives? Will spending several hours each week making your own podcast help you reach those larger goals?
If not, then I recommend abandoning the idea now. Your time is valuable and better spent promoting your book in other ways.
If you think podcasting does align with your objectives, then you need to answer a second set of questions.
Many people get drawn into the hype of podcasts. They hear about it as a “shiny, new thing” and think it sounds like fun. Or, they think it’s an easy way to build a platform.
But the hype is not reality. Before you decide to buy a microphone or open recording software, ask yourself:
- Am I comfortable making 200 episodes that virtually no one will listen to?
- Will I enjoy the process of making a podcast, even if it doesn’t take off?
- Is this a craft and a medium that I think I’ll love?
If you can honestly answer yes, then a podcast might be right for you.
Here’s why I say this: there are millions of books published every year. As an Author, you probably have an idea of how hard it is to make yours stand out.
Many Authors see podcasts as a quick solution to that problem. But what they aren’t taking into consideration is that there are also millions of podcasts in the world. You might start one and never stand out.
If you want to start a podcast, you have to be willing to completely detach yourself from the results.
Part of the reason Joe Rogan has done so well is that he treats his podcast as a way to hang out with people. They spend hours talking about things they would never have the opportunity to talk about on traditional media. It was a source of personal learning and growth for the creators and guests before it ever became a popular podcast.
Podcasts can be a great medium for people who want to become better conversationalists, develop their interviewing skills, or learn new things.
We recommended starting a podcast to Steve Brown, the Author of The Golden Toilet, which is about how companies spend tons of money on fancy websites without having their brand, story, and other essential elements on point.
The reason a podcast was such a good fit for Steve was that his idea dovetailed well with what his business actually does: connect with business owners and help them avoid bad marketing investments.
Podcasts can also work well for someone who is full-tilt on being a thought leader in a particular niche or someone who wants to dominate every media channel—Google, YouTube, Spotify, Instagram, Twitter, Apple Podcasts, TikTok, etc.—with their brand.
Take, for example, a consultant who makes marketing materials for law firms. If she wants her name to show up on every platform, it might make sense to create a 10-episode show where she teaches the fundamentals of the expertise she can deliver for her clients.
How to Start a Podcast in 13 Steps
1. Choose the Content for Your Podcast Episodes
First things first: what’s your new podcast’s focus?
It doesn’t have to be the exact same topic as your book, but presumably, it will tie into some of the ideas you covered in your book.
Before you leap in, I recommend revisiting the 3 elements you figured out during your book positioning phase. You may need to tweak them slightly for the purpose of the podcast, but you should still consider the following:
- Your objectives: What do you want to achieve with your podcast?
- Your audience: Who are your target podcast listeners?
- Your idea: What is your podcast about?
If you aren’t crystal clear on those 3 questions, take time to sit down and figure them out.
Your listeners will want streamlined content that feels like it was created just for them. You need to deliver on that promise from the very first episode. Taking the time to plan will help you minimize your wasted time and maximize the value you’re providing to listeners.
It may also be useful to come up with a basic template for your show. Are you going to have an introduction portion, followed by a 20-minute interview, followed by a conclusion? Are you going to have any special recurring features, like a book review portion or a “top takeaways” section of the show?
Having a consistent structure will help you streamline your content (and it will likely make for easier editing down the line, too).
2. Create a Podcast Name and Podcast Cover Art
Every successful podcast needs a great name. Your podcast name should have 5 main attributes. It should be:
- Informative (it should give some idea of what the show’s about)
- Easy to say
- Not embarrassing or problematic
You also want the name to be easily discoverable by search engines. If you choose something generic like “Raining Cats and Dogs” or “By the Book,” you’ll need to gain a serious following before your podcast starts turning up on the first page of search engine results.
If you have any keywords that you want to be known for, consider including those in the title. For example, Scribe Author Will Leach coined the term “mindstates” for his book Marketing to Mindstates, and now he’s widely associated with the concept.
Coming up with the perfect podcast title isn’t that different from coming up with a book title. If you need help finding the perfect title, you can find some helpful tips here.
You’ll also want to create the perfect podcast cover art to attract listeners when they’re browsing podcast apps. Many of the same rules that applied to designing your book cover also apply to your podcast cover.
If you want more information on what makes a great cover, how to find a designer, and how to work with a designer, you can check out this post.
3. Decide on Your Format
What’s the format of your show? Are you the only person speaking? Will you have a co-host? Will you interview guests?
Variety is the best way to catch and hold listeners’ attention, so for most nonfiction Authors, I recommend going with the simplest format and setup:
Have a conversation with guests over Zoom, Skype, or Zencastr and record it.
Yes, there is such a thing as a video podcast, but don’t get overly ambitious. Video setups can get really complex really fast, so unless you already have a studio setup and experience, start with audio-only.
4. Choose Your Microphone
A podcast requires good audio quality. No one wants to listen to background noise, fuzz, or echoes. Bad sound quality will make you sound unprofessional.
That means you should invest in good recording equipment, like a USB microphone and a pop filter (the foam on a microphone that reduces the popping sounds of your breath and other noises).
Most beginners tend to go overboard when they buy podcast equipment. You need good equipment, but that doesn’t mean you need the top-of-the-line Shure SM7B that Joe Rogan uses (and that Michael Jackson used to record Thriller).
If you’re just starting out, spending $600-800 on a microphone is overkill. Just get a standard USB microphone. Don’t spend more than $150.
Many people like the Blue Yeti, but personally, I find that it has a lot of reverb. If you put it on a desk and start touching the desk lightly, the mic will pick up those ambient sounds.
My personal favorite is the Audio-Technica ATR2100 (or something similar).
5. Prepare Your Podcast Hosting “Studio”
For the best sound quality, choose a recording room with minimal glass. You’d be better off sitting in your closet than recording in a beautiful, brightly lit office with floor-to-ceiling windows.
Having a good mic will help with sound quality, but ideally, you’d also glue or tape some foam to the walls. Sound bounces around rooms, so you have to catch as many of those waves as possible.
In the absence of foam, blankets, pillows, and other cushiony materials can also help improve your audio quality.
Remember, podcasts are an audio medium, so it doesn’t matter what your environment looks like. All that matters is that the end result has high-quality audio with no background noise.
6. Choose Your Audio Recording & Audio Editing Software
For audio recording, I like Zencastr because it records tracks separately.
So, if one person’s mic is terrible during one part of an interview and the other person’s mic is fine, you can edit the terrible part pretty easily.
With programs like Zoom or Skype, the tracks are blended together, so one person’s bad sound quality could ruin an entire portion of the program. You’ll have to work with what you’ve got.
Some of the most popular podcast editing software includes Adobe Audition, GarageBand, and Audacity. Most of these offer a free trial, so you can find which platform is most intuitive for your needs.
That said, editing software (and editing itself) can come with a steep learning curve. In light of that fact, you may consider using a professional editing service, which I’ll describe more in the next step.
7. Consider a Professional Editing Service
It’s entirely possible to go the DIY route with your post-production audio editing. But be forewarned that there’s a learning curve if you’ve never done it—and even if you have, it can still be time-consuming.
If you have the money, it may be a good investment to send your podcast directly to a professional editing service (and skip buying your own audio editing software). If you’re doing a high-volume show with 8 episodes a month, I would definitely recommend hiring a professional editor.
If you do want to use a professional editor, I recommend We Edit Podcasts, a white-label editing service. Uploading the unedited files into Dropbox is all it takes.
They’ll send back the edited audio files, a complete transcript, and show notes (show notes are the written description of what’s in that particular episode).
8. Create Your Sound Branding
Your podcast doesn’t just need episodic content. It also needs a consistent sound brand in its intro and outro.
If you’re on a budget, you can find free music (and royalty-free music) online. But if you want a sound that’s unique to your specific brand and podcast, it’s probably worth investing in some custom sound branding.
For example, we worked with Chad Michael Snavely to create the sound brand for the Author Hour podcast. We were able to give him information, like, “We want the intro to sound like you’re tuning into NPR, and we want the outro to be consistent on every new episode.”
Then, he put together a folder of potential options, and we were able to create a distinctive sound brand for the show.
When you choose your podcast’s music, consider how it fits with your Author brand. What’s the tone of your content? Who’s the audience, and what kinds of audio will appeal to them?
9. Choose Your Podcast Distribution Platform
Once you’ve created your podcast, the next step is getting it out into the world. For that, you’ll need a podcast distribution platform.
Here’s my biggest piece of advice. Do not use Libsyn, even though everyone uses it.
Use anchor.fm instead. They make getting your podcast onto all the major platforms as easy as possible. Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Overcast, I Heart Radio, Google Podcasts—you can upload your show to all those outlets in 5-10 minutes.
I can’t overstate how much I love Anchor’s interface. It’s beautiful on both mobile and desktop, although you’ll mostly use it on desktop. They give you fantastic analytics and make distribution, scheduling, and uploading a snap.
10. Create Your Podcast Promotion Strategy
You’ve made your podcast and put it out there. Now what do you do with it?
There are tons of podcasts on the market, so your next task is catching new listeners’ attention and gaining subscribers. That’s the key to any successful podcast.
One effective promotion strategy is finding ways to use your guests’ reach to increase your own. Reach out to influencers, other podcasters, or bloggers in your area of interest. Invite them to come on the show. Ideally, they’ll promote your show to their followers.
Be aware, though: they may not promote your show, so don’t be purely mercenary about your invitations. Influencers get inauthentic requests all the time. Only invite people that you sincerely think you’ll be able to connect with, learn from, and share ideas with.
The more easy and fun the experience is for the guest, the more likely they are to spread the word.
For the Author Hour podcast, we send every guest beautiful cover art, and many of them share it. It’s professionally designed. It makes them look cool.
People won’t automatically promote the link to your episode. You have to give them an asset that incentivizes them to spread the word.
11. Use Your Content for More Promotion
Promotion takes a lot of time, so your best mantra is “Work smarter, not harder.”
One of the best promotional tools at your disposal is your content itself. Find innovative ways to use your existing content to drum up interest in your podcast.
If you’re a self-published author, you have a whole world of content at your fingertips. And if you’ve got an edited podcast episode in the bag, you have even more content at your disposal. And not just any content—great soundbites.
You can also repurpose your podcast content in other ways. You have the transcript, so why not turn it into an article or a blog post? Nothing’s stopping you from pitching your content to digital or print outlets like Fast Company or Forbes.
The more content you’re creating, the better your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) will be as well. Let’s say that you create a podcast episode/article about scaling a business. When people go to a search engine and look for information about business growth, they may find your article. After reading your article, they may track down your podcast.
People will find your book, podcast, website, and, ultimately, your products and services more easily once you’ve built up an ecosystem around your brand and ideas.
12. Promote Your Backlist
What’s your game plan to promote your episodes beyond the week they come out?
If you want to keep growing your subscriber list and keep people interested, you also need to promote your backlist. Bring back your great content.
Different topics will appeal to different listeners, so make the most of the wide variety of topics and guests you have at your disposal.
The best example of successful long-term promotion I’ve seen is Chase Jarvis. He will consistently post snippets from episodes he’s done in the past. He does it in a regular cadence, like every 3 months. He’ll take the best minute or two of each episode and boost their signal across multiple platforms.
Also consider promoting older content that seems especially relevant. Maybe it touches on a topic that’s currently in the news, an upcoming holiday, a specific person who’s making headlines, or a current event.
13. Create Killer Promos
There are better and worse ways to tease your content. If you want to create killer promos, you must include the best parts.
I know that there can be a temptation to save the best part for the people who listen to the full episode but don’t do it. Your best hook to attract new listeners is to lead with your best foot forward.
Here’s a good example. During the GameStop stock frenzy, I came across a financial podcast that posted a 2-minute clip on Twitter. The clip included the overview of the episode (“In this episode, we’ll talk about…”), but right before it got into the actual meat of the topic, the clip cut off.
That may seem like a logical way to frame your episode—but it’s not the most effective way to catch attention.
It would have been better if they had selected the very best part of the episode and then said, “If you want to listen to the rest of this episode, go here.” For example, they could have posted a clip of Elon Musk grilling the RobinHood CEO. It’s sensational enough to get people to click through.
Think of your promos like a great film trailer. It may include the best parts of the film, but you still want to watch it anyway.