How to Prep for Podcasts Like a Pro

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Is it better to be the podcaster or the interviewee? Both can be beneficial to fledgling and seasoned authors alike. Thankfully, neither role necessitates having to forego the other. If you’ve now mastered the basics of creating audio files using voice recording apps like Anchor and Voxer, your pilot episode may in fact be right around the corner. Or perhaps you’re preparing to be the guest on a podcast for the first time. What are those insider tips that most folks don’t discover until months later, but would have been a gamechanger had you’d known them beforehand? Hear Us Roar creator and host Maggie Smith has quite a few to share.

  • What advice do you have for any writer thinking of starting a podcast? And how much work is it really?

Interesting question because I’m doing this right now. I’m in the planning stages for co-hosting a new podcast for the Wisconsin Writer’s Association which will launch this January. My current podcast airs weekly and features debut novelists of women’s fiction. All told, I spend about three hours on each segment: 90 minutes to tape and edit the interview; 30 minutes to write the summary plus upload the recording to the hosting website; then 60 minutes to compose graphics and post on social media, set up the calendar, and correspond with the writers. Women's Fiction Writers Association, the organization that sponsors the podcast, provides me with plenty of interviewees. But most podcasters also have to devote time to finding and vetting appropriate guests. 

My best piece of advice for beginners is to think through who you want to attract as an audience and gear everything you do around that. This includes the name of the podcast; the intro music; the focus of the questions; the type of guests you will invite; the length of the segments (30 minutes seems to be the sweet spot), and your distribution channels. While the podcast will benefit the guests, who are generally there to promote something, your primary focus should be the listenerwhat would benefit them as well as their interests and the value you offer them. 

  • How do you recommend preparing for an interview segment when you're to be a podcast guest?
  1. Listen to 2-3 recent segments of the podcast to get a feel for the format, style, “atmosphere,” and personality of the host. Are they no-nonsense or more laid back? Do they veer off topic or  stick to a standard set of questions? 
  2. Make sure all your equipment is working properly: microphone, camera, internet connection, and lighting. Even take notice of your background in the room (if there will be a video posted along with the audio file). Also familiarize yourself with the program the host will use to record the segment (Zoom, Crowdcast, Skype etc). Being on a podcast can be nerve-racking; don’t make it worse by having technical difficulties. 
  3. Ask the host(s) if they have a loose set of questions she/he/they are likely to ask so you can prep responses ahead of time. For example, I always close by asking the person something quirky about themselves; I tell my guest beforehand to keep them from being thrown off. Definitely avoid reading your responses, but thinking through answers prior to being on air can help you feel more relaxed and self-confident. Hosts will likely also give you time to promote your book, services, or upcoming author appearances. However they’ll likely want to discuss other topics too such as your favorite reads, creative process, writing tips, and contemporary topics that may relate to your book’s themes.
  • Share 3 ways podcasts have helped you reach readers &/or grow your career as a writer.
  1. Knowledge: When my debut published in March 2022, I had been a podcast host for over three years. Thus I had learned what 125 other debut novelists had done that worked well for them (and, as importantly, what hadn’t). I’d heard about small presses I wasn’t familiar with as well as marketing ideas that were unique.  I’d gained insight into the whole querying processall of which helped me be more strategic about my own launch. 
  2. Exposure: During my launch month, I was a guest on 15+ podcasts, several being quite well-known like The Sh*t No One Tells You About Writing; The Rebel Author Podcast, A Mighty Blaze, Corks and Conversation, and Tuffish. These aired throughout the states and in Great Britain so my novel was introduced to readers in a much wider circle than I could reach directly. Likewise, my position as a podcast host has helped me gain stature as an engaged and connected author in the writing community. 
  3. Networking: I’ve vastly expanded my network of contacts through my role as a podcast hostbe it fellow novelists, bookstagrammers, agents, editors, bookstore owners, or PR professionals. This helped give me “street cred” when I approached other authors for blurbs plus formed a promo team to help promote my book. And when I solicited guest spots on panels, at libraries, and at book signings, I was able to approach event organizers via referrals rather than as a cold call. 

Maggie Smith is Managing Editor of “Write City Magazine,” a publication produced by the Chicago Writer’s Association. Her debut women’s fiction novel “Truth and Other Lies” is one of Women’s National Book Association’s Great Group Reads this year, in addition to several other honors from the National Indie Excellence Awards.