How Do I Promote My Book Using an Author Media Tour?
There are three primary media outlets authors can use to promote their books even before scheduling an author media tour:
- Paid Media—You buy advertising spots on a platform owned by someone else, such as Amazon, Facebook, or radio stations.
- Owned Media—You promote your book to your own email subscribers or podcast listeners.
- Earned Media—You get featured on someone else’s platform without paying for it.
Earned Media vs. Paid Media
Earned media is far more effective than paid media.
You will pay more attention to a book if the author is interviewed on a TV show you’re watching than you will to a commercial for the same book that airs between the show’s segments.
Authors don’t typically pay to be interviewed on TV shows, radio programs, or podcasts.
If people pay more attention to earned media and it’s free for the author, how can an author earn coverage for their media tours?
How can you get that free promotion for your book?
Author Saundra Dalton-Smith knows exactly how. She’s been featured in media outlets such as Prevention, MSNBC, Women’s Day, FOX, Fast Company, Psychology Today, INC, CNN Health, TED.com, and previously on Novel Marketing. She is a Board-Certified internal medicine physician, speaker, and award-winning author who schedules her own media tours.
How to Set Up a Media Tour for Authors
Thomas: We’d like to hear about the first media tour you did as an author. You’re a physician, but you decided to start writing and promoting your books through the media. What was it like to pitch a show for the very first time?
Saundra: My first media tour as an author was scheduled by my publicist ten years ago. Back then, publishing houses helped you promote your book. My publicist set it up, and I just had to show up and talk about my book.
That sounds lovely, but it was a fiasco. I had never been on radio, TV, or podcasts before and had no media training. It was horrible. I had no idea what to talk about or how to convert those opportunities into sales. Those early interviews were a waste of time.
Do publishers offer media training?
Thomas: I’ve never once heard of an author who received media training from their publisher. Publishers just don’t do it.
Media training is the first thing you do if you’re in politics. Your consultant will put you through media training before you make a fool of yourself in front of large crowds. Actors, musicians, and even NASCAR drivers get media training, but authors get thrown to the wolves.
Saundra: That’s certainly how I felt. The first few media interviews I had were horrible. When the interviews were done, I couldn’t even remember what we talked about. Did I even mention my book? It was so bad.
Tips for Author Media Tours
Thomas: You had to learn some lessons the hard way. What are some of the lessons you learned early on?
I imagine you learned to mention the name of your book. New authors without training often come to the end of the interview and realize they never mentioned their book title or website. If the listening audience never hears the title of your book, your interview will not impact sales.
Be Prepared for your Author Media Tour
Saundra: I quickly learned that I needed to know how I wanted the conversation to go. It’s important to have a goal. Don’t just jump into the interview expecting to answer whatever questions the host throws at you. You should have a few main points you want to cover in the interview.
I created a cheat sheet with all my main points on it. When I started, all my interviews were over the phone, so no one could see my notes. Of course, you don’t want to read your answers, but it’s a good idea to have an outline.
Thomas: Preparation is key. The more you prepare and practice, the cleaner each sentence will be.
But you don’t want to read your answers. As an interviewer, I don’t provide questions ahead of time because I don’t want my guests to write out their answers.
As soon as they start writing the answers, it kills the organic feel of the interview. It becomes stale.
But being familiar with what you want to say and saying it naturally and organically can be powerful.
Saundra: Many authors also aspire to be paid speakers at some point. I treat media opportunities like I do my speeches. They’re opportunities for me to get comfortable, think quickly, and not read my responses. I need to become familiar enough with my topic that I can talk about it without any notes.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Thomas: You also need practice. Many authors want to skip interviews with smaller podcasts, and go straight to the biggest podcast on their topic. But guesting on a podcast with a small audience is good practice.
It’s easier to get booked on a smaller podcast. Plus, if you get nervous and mess up, not many people will hear you. You’re able to practice in a safer environment while still being authentic. It’s still a real interview, but if it doesn’t go well, you don’t have to link to it on your website.
Saundra: That is such great advice. Every new book deserves to start with a small interview audience. You don’t know what questions people will have until someone asks about something you haven’t thought about. It’s helpful to have a barrier between you and a larger opportunity.
I tell authors to start by pitching small podcasts for the first few interviews about every new book. You’ll be able to start formulating ideas about what you want to say and how you want to say it.
If you have a horrible interview on a big stage, you may not want to promote your book anymore, which may cause you to miss future opportunities.
My media coach encouraged me to write in soundbites. It was difficult for me at first. I’m an author. Give me 50,000 words, and I’m good to go. I had difficulty figuring out what I wanted to say in so few words.
But I learned that most of us naturally talk in sound bites. When you listen to some of your old interviews, you can identify those nuggets that the person repeated back to you or tweeted. You can find some of those soundbites naturally.
Understand the Media Outlet
Thomas: It’s important to understand the format of the show you’ll be appearing on.
For example, if you have a three-minute segment on Fox News, every word out of your mouth has to be a soundbite. You may only have 30 seconds to say anything about your topic.
On the other end of the spectrum would be the Joe Rogan podcast, where he’ll let a guest talk for three hours. Between those extremes, there are thirty-minute podcast episodes like this one or ten-minute segments on a radio show.
Speak in Soundbites
Speaking in soundbites requires some practice. You must listen to your interviews and take notes on what you articulated well. If you captured a thought in a tight phrase, write it down and say it again in your next interview.
Start on the smaller, longer podcasts. You don’t want Fox News to be your first interview. I had a friend who was interviewed on Fox News, and it did not go well. He was not ready. He hadn’t done the small-audience interviews leading up to it. Now no one will invite him on CNN or MSNBC. He missed his shot.
Saundra: Start with the small shows, and then you’ll have something to show the midsized shows and then the larger ones. But even with those smaller opportunities, act as if you are on Fox News.
What do podcasters look for in a pitch?
Thomas: Every time I get a legitimate pitch (not a copy-and-paste mass mailing type of pitch), I first visit their website to look at their media kit to see if they’ve done interviews on other shows.
As a podcast host, I’m listening for several things:
- Are they articulate?
- Can they capture what they’re trying to say in succinct sentences?
- Are they well-spoken?
- Do they have a good microphone?
The Right Equipment
If you want to be interviewed on Novel Marketing, you need a real microphone. You must sound like you’re in the studio. When I’m listening to sample interviews on someone’s webpage, I can quickly tell what kind of microphone they’re using. If they use their laptop speaker or a cheap gaming headset, I won’t invite that person to the show.
If you’ve pitched a show and gotten rejected, it may be because of your sound quality and audio gear.
The Topic Fits the Show
I evaluate how well the topic fits my show. As you’re pitching, remember that you’re pitching the topic as much as you’re pitching yourself.
Vague topics like “How I marketed myself as an indie author” are a big turnoff. You’ll never get on this show with that kind of topic. But if you send me a specific pitch like, “Here’s how I used email marketing to grow my list using this specific technique,” that will get you on the show.
Saundra, when I had you on the show last time, you pitched a specific idea about how you used a survey and a quiz to grow your mailing list. That’s the kind of specificity I look for.
Not all shows are looking for that specificity, but you must pitch a topic that catches the host’s attention.
How do I customize my pitch for each show?
Saundra: I’ve been on many different platforms, and I don’t use the same pitch for all of them. If I’m speaking on Fox News, I might talk about work-life integration and how that relates to rest.
If I’m pitching Fast Company, I might talk about how employees are leaving the company because they want a better work-life balance. Both pitches are under the same framework of “rest,” but they are completely different topics.
If I’m pitching Shape Magazine, I may talk about human performance and how rest helps athletes perform better.
You have to figure out how your topic applies to a particular audience so that they benefit from it. When you can convince a producer that you understand their audience and can serve their audience, you’re going to get selected.
Adapt Your Topic to the Show
Thomas: You need to adapt your topic to the particular show. Don’t expect them to do it for you. If you’re pitching me and haven’t adapted your topic for my show, I don’t know that you’re even able to.
Your examples are perfect, Saundra. You’re talking about the same topic of “rest” on each of these shows, but the benefits of rest are different for every audience.
A CEO will benefit from rest in a different way than an athlete.
When you give the time and effort to create customized pitches for each show, you demonstrate to that host that you know how to contextualize your topic for their audience in an engaging way.
How do I contact a podcast?
Saundra: I had to learn how to find the contact person for the show. Sometimes you pitch a producer, and sometimes you contact the show host or a guest coordinator.
The front-line point person’s job is to vet you and determine whether you’re a good fit for the show. Do everything you can to make their job easy and help them vet you quickly. Provide a media kit or send them to a press page on your website.
Thomas: We have several episodes on how to create an author press kit.
You can also view Dr. Saundra-Dalton Smith’s press kit. Her press kit is one of the best examples of an author press kit I’ve seen in a long time.
That front-line screening person or guest coordinator doesn’t have the authority to say “yes.” They only have the authority to say “no.” Their job is to say “no” to 80% of the pitches that are the wrong fit. They pass the other 20% up the chain.
Your pitch has to be good enough to convince those screeners to present your case to the decision-makers in the organization.
What if I don’t hear back from the podcast?
Saundra: One of the biggest podcast interviews I’ve had took two years to schedule.
I pitched a top-five health podcast. I emailed back and forth with the guest coordinator several times. She said she would send my pitch on to the host, but I didn’t hear back for a long time.
A few years later, I pitched them again. In the meantime, I did another interview with a large TV station. I sent the podcast a sample of my TV interview, and I was able to get onto the show right away.
If you don’t hear back immediately, you’re not necessarily getting a hard “no.” The show may be booked for the year. The bigger the show, the farther out they’ll be booked. So, unless you get a “no,” just keep trying.
Thomas: They may have already booked someone on a similar topic.
Novel Marketing is the longest-running book marketing podcast in the world. There is almost no topic that we haven’t covered. We’ve already talked about media tours for authors and getting booked on podcasts.
This is a topic I try to hit twice a year. I try to hit other topics, like email marketing every quarter because it’s more important for more authors.
The Timing May Simply be Off
If I had recently published an episode on “getting booked as a podcast guest” or “getting booked for a radio interview,” I might say “not now” to that pitch. If it’s someone I would love to have on the show, I ask them to pitch me again the following year.
Your topic needs to fit the rhythm of the show. It’s common to get a response like, “I wish you had reached out a week ago. We just booked someone on that topic. Maybe we’ll keep you in mind for next year!”
Sometimes they’re not saying no to you or your topic. They’re just saying no for this season. The more familiar you are with each media outlet you’re pitching, the more you’ll know what sorts of topics they feature and when they feature those topics.
If you want to pitch a seasonal topic like a buying guide for Christmas, you’ll need to reach out to that show or magazine at least six months ahead of time.
How do I craft a compelling pitch?
Thomas: Saundra, what other tips do you have for crafting a compelling pitch?
- Personalize your pitch email.
- Don’t just copy and paste your pitch. If it looks generic, nobody will invite you to their show.
- Address the person by name.
- Mention previous episodes of their show and why you think your topic would be a good fit.
Do Your Research
I’m a podcaster myself. I love it when a potential guest mentions a recent episode in their pitch. They might say, “I heard you talk about this topic in June. I have a similar topic, but it’s a little different, and this is how I approach it.”
I’m automatically drawn into that pitch because I know the person did some leg work. They have earned my respect and captured my attention. They’ve given me a reason to go deeper with them.
Thomas: Always listen to an episode before you pitch the show. You need to understand the style of the show.
For example, Fox News isn’t a good fit for most novelists. They host a combative show, where you may be on with four or five other people who have differing viewpoints. You need to be prepared for people to hate you.
It’s a different style than a one-on-one podcast interview between two people who mostly agree. You need to watch or listen to the show so that you understand what makes the show unique.
Tailor Your Pitch to the Unique Angle of the Show
When I receive an email pitch for Novel Marketing, I like to see that the person understands what makes my show unique. One of my goals for the show is to make every episode feel like a session at a writer’s conference. You leave with specific knowledge and actionable steps.
I don’t typically take pitches from authors who want to share how they went from being unpublished to published. That’s a great kind of episode, and I do it occasionally, but it’s not the nature of this show. Half the pitches I receive are from people wanting to share their publishing stories.
Create a Reader Magnet
Saundra: Another tip is to have a reader magnet ready for your interviews. Purchase a custom URL for that lead magnet. You want it to be easy to remember.
People often listen while they drive or exercise. They’re not at a desk or in front of a computer, ready to go to your website, so you want the URL for your lead magnet to be memorable and easy, so they don’t have to write it down.
Do you have a “cookie” for our listeners?
Saundra: I have a list of paid writing opportunities and marketing tips for authors. Go to www.ichoosemybestlife.com/authorsupport to sign up for my mailing list.
Thomas: That’s a clear benefit for people visiting your website. You’re giving authors a reason to visit your site and sign up for your newsletter.
How do I research podcasts for my author media tour?
Thomas: What advice do you have when it comes to researching potential shows to pitch? How do you find those small podcasts to get started on?
Saundra: Search iTunes, Spotify, or any big podcast website. Type in your topic and peruse the podcasts in the search results.
I search for “health,” “wellness,” or “mental health,” and then I see what shows come up in the search results.
Next, I visit the website of each podcast. On the website, look for a form you can fill out to be a guest on the show. Some sites only have a “contact me” page. I don’t recommend pitching on the contact page. I’ll usually send a quick one-liner through the contact form and ask what their process is for submitting a guest pitch. That way, if they have a form, they can point me in the right direction.
If you’re pitching a large podcast, there may not be any way to contact them on their site. In these cases, I sign up for their newsletter. When you sign up for their newsletter, you receive an email. I reply to that email and ask, “What is the process for submitting a pitch?”
Out of 100 pitches, I’ve only had about five podcasts that didn’t reply. Many of them replied with the name of the guest coordinator and an email address. Some said no, but I still received a reply.
Thomas: That’s a great way to start the conversation.
Tools for Finding Relevant Podcasts
Another tool I like to use is www.listennotes.com. It’s a search engine for podcasts, but it will also tell you how popular that podcast is. ListenNotes will tell you if the podcast ranks in the top 10%, 5%, or 1% of all podcasts. Podcasts are not like a YouTube channel, where you know exactly how many subscribers and views it has.
You can use the Novel Marketing podcast host directory, where you can find an email address for the podcast.
But I think it’s great for your first communication to an inquiry on how to submit a pitch the correct way.
Saundra: If you’re signing up for their email list, you’re now a subscriber. When you reply to that first email, they know you’re already a fan of the show. It already feels more personal. You’re not a stranger who’s just spamming everyone.
Thomas: Another way to get to know a podcast audience quickly is to look for a link in the footer of their website that says, “advertise with us.” That link will often have a PDF with information about the podcast, audience, the number of downloads, demographics, and the cost of advertising. That information can help you tailor your pitch to that podcast.
Saundra: Take the time to tailor your pitch to each show. Make sure your topic is not something they’ve covered recently. If it is, try approaching the topic from a new and different angle.
When I do my media pitches for a new book, I aim to send 20 pitches every week. That’s a lot of pitches, and it often takes me a full eight-hour day.
I try to stick with that pace of pitching for at least two months around my book release. After that, I do 10-20 pitches per month with the goal of consistently having two to three interviews every month for the rest of my life.
If I stop pitching my books and nobody talks about them, I won’t sell any books. That’s just the reality of it. Somebody has to be talking about your book for them to sell. You have to be the first cheerleader to get the word out there.
How and when do you schedule author media tour interviews?
Thomas: Walk us through your process of planning a media tour for an author like yourself. If your book is releasing in nine months, what’s your strategy?
Saundra: I’m in that process right now because I have a book coming out in September.
First, I count back three months from the release day. You can usually get a lot of podcast interviews scheduled three months out.
During those three months, I look at which podcasts I want to pitch and which shows are the best fit. I enter the information into a Google sheet or Excel file so that I can access it again in the future. If I ever write another book on a similar topic, I want to be able to go back and see which shows I pitched. I’ll usually divide the shows into different topic categories.
I log all the information for each pitch in my spreadsheet. I create columns for when I sent the email, whether I received a reply, and scheduled dates.
Sometimes you don’t get a response, not even a “no.” If they don’t respond, you can pitch them again in six months, but if you get a “no,” you can mark them off the list.
When a podcast doesn’t respond to your first pitch, how do you follow up?
Thomas: Do you send them a different pitch or the same pitch?
Saundra: I send a different pitch because I assume something must not have clicked with the first pitch I sent. They didn’t say no, but it wasn’t enough to get a “yes” either. I recommend mixing things up a bit and approaching the topic in a different way.
Don’t reply to the old email. Compose a fresh email and start a new conversation unless they had previously responded and said to check back later. in that case, I might use the same email just to refresh their memory.
Thomas: That’s smart.
After you identify podcasts that would be a good fit and start pitching, what happens next?
Saundra: During that first month, I try to send out at least 20 or more pitches per week. Sometimes I do it all in one day.
Even though you don’t want to copy and paste your pitch, you can have a template with some of the same general information. You don’t have to rewrite the whole thing every time, but the first part of the pitch needs to be customized to fit the show you’re pitching.
How do you organize your author media tour schedule?
Saundra: One of the mistakes I see authors make is not keeping track of the responses they get. They get excited about the pitching process, but when they start getting yeses, they don’t have a system in place to deal with the replies.
If a podcast agrees to interview you, you must be ready to schedule an interview on their calendar. You need to send them your media kit with your bio, headshots, social media accounts, and sample questions. If you don’t have those things ready to go, you will quickly get overwhelmed.
Your life will be simplified if you already have a media kit and a templated email reply. You have to be organized. You don’t want to be the person who doesn’t show up to an interview because it wasn’t on your calendar.
Using a Digital Calendar for Your Author Media Tour
Thomas: The first step to getting organized is to take that paper calendar you’ve been using since high school and throw it away. You need to move to a digital calendar. There are so many benefits.
First, set up the calendar so that it sends alerts to your phone and reminds you to show up for interviews. If you don’t show up for an interview, they’ll never have you back on the show, especially if it is a live show.
Digital Calendar Tools
I use Google calendar. Other options are Outlook or Apple calendars. Add everything you do in your life to that calendar. If you have a standing meeting on Tuesdays at 10:00 AM, put it in your calendar, and set it to repeat every Tuesday at 10:00 AM.
Once you have your whole life captured in a digital calendar, you can use the magical tool called Calendly. Calendly is a scheduling software that syncs with your digital calendar.
Most podcast hosts will already have a Calendly link ready to send you. Click on the link and schedule an interview time. If you have a digital calendar, Calendly will overlap with your calendar and show you when you’re both free. If the host doesn’t send you their Calendly link, you can send them yours.
Don’t get stuck emailing back and forth a hundred times, trying to find a date that suits you both. Nobody’s got time for that. But services like Calendly are only magical if you’ve already adopted digital calendaring and laid your paper calendar to rest.
Saundra: I live by my Google calendar. If it weren’t for that calendar, I would not accomplish anything. My life is laid out on that calendar. It’s absolutely necessary.
Thomas: Okay, so you’ve done your pitching, you’re getting rejections and invitations, and you’re scheduling interviews. What now?
How do you prepare for media interviews?
Thomas: If you have five interviews scheduled in one week, how do you prepare for those interviews?
Saundra: First, I make sure I have a lead magnet that would be helpful to the audience of that show.
Then, I listen to past interviews to get a feel for the host. You’ll have better conversations if you feel like you have some kind of affinity with them.
If you’re nervous about talking to the host, listening to past podcasts can help you grow accustomed to the host and will make you more comfortable in the interview. You start to feel like you already know the person.
Thomas: The key is to know the tone of the show beforehand. If the show is combative and argumentative, feel free to play the devil’s advocate. But if the show is about hugs and encouragement, don’t stir things up in your interview.
What advice about media tours would you give authors?
Saundra: Enjoy it! I was so scared of saying the wrong thing, messing up, and forgetting what my book was about. When I go back and listen, I can hear my fear in the conversation.
There was no laughter or fun. It was monotone, and it wasn’t fun to listen to.
I’d tell younger self, “Enjoy the process! Have fun with it. You poured your life into this book! Now share it with people.”
Not everyone has to do PR, but if you choose to, then act like you enjoy it. It’s a privilege.
Thomas: Not every author has to do a media tour. Media tours are effective, but if the idea of talking into a microphone terrifies you, you’re not disqualified.
ven on the radio, listeners can hear your smile. If you’re grimacing or angry, they can hear it. But if you’re having a good time, you’re inviting the listener to have a good time with you. When you, the host, and the audience, have a good time, you’ll very likely be invited back.
To learn more about Saundra Dalton-Smith, visit her at www.ichoosemybestlife.com.
Podcast guesting gives you:
- a high-credibility way to reach new audiences
- the influence of a podcast without the work of starting your own
- access to influencers you couldn’t reach any other way
You don’t need to hire a PR firm for $3000 to schedule your podcast interviews. You just need to know the secrets of pitching podcasts yourself. Once you start nailing interviews, other podcasters will start reaching out to you to invite you to their shows.
With this course, you will learn how to become a sought-after podcast guest with access to thought leaders and readers.
If you are ready to get your book the attention it deserves, this course is for you.
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