WWJCD? #1: How to promote your podiobook (or podcast) by J.C. Hutchins

WWJCD? is a blog series in which J.C. offers advice on whatever the hell's on his mind. If you have a question for J.C., email him. He may offer sage words of wisdom about your issue (whatever it may be, sweet Christmas) in a future WWJCD?. I distribute my fiction at Podiobooks.com, and receive a daily email digest of discussions from other Podiobooks.com authors. This digest is a lively, eclectic mix of opinions, insights and gripes. Recently, an author asked for some ideas on promoting his podiobook. I obliged with the reply, found below. While the advice is specific to podiobooks, much of it can easily be applied to traditional podcasting, blogging or other creative endeavors.

So, What Would J.C. Do? Read on to find out....

Here are a few suggestions on how podcast novelists can promote their works. This is based solely on my personal experience.

Promoting to mainstream media is out: Don't ping them if you're a newcomer to podcasting, or don't have many listeners. They don't get the niche market of podcasting, and they certainly won't get the nano-niche of podcast fiction. I've found that even if you do have large mainstream media outlets covering your work, it rarely translates into more listeners. (I believe this has to do more with the audience of newspapers than the quality/circulation of the publication.)

Promoting to large blogs is out: Unless you're doing something truly different in the space, save your email clicks. We're at a point where podcasting and podiobooks are on bloggers' radars, but announcing the existence of your content isn't enough. Are you doing something interesting with your audience? Promoting the work in an unusual way? These timely angles are what you need to get coverage. Sadly, just having a podiobook isn't enough.

Promoting to podcasters is in: This is the only sure-fire way to get new listeners. There is a mighty network of new media entertainers out there, many of them with successful podcasts (and large audience sizes). They got there by promoting their work, and playing promos on their podcasts. If you're a fan of podcasting, you're probably familiar with 'casters who play promos. Reach out to them. If you're using podcasting to distribute your novel but *don't* listen to podcasts, get on the frickin' stick and do so. Make the time to learn the space, the influencers, and who might help you.

Send personalized emails to those who might help: Podcasters pour their passion into their projects, and are rarely paid for their efforts. A form email with no personal touch (i.e., making reference to their work, stroking their egos, etc.) gets deleted every time. Be sincere in your praise, and direct in your proposal.

Release your work on your personal site: Podiobooks.com wisely asks authors to not include podcast promos or "intro chatter" in their episodes. Why? Because that timely information gets dated, fast. If you're hungry to go beyond the PB.com website with your exposure, release your episodes on your personal site. (Use Libsyn hosting and the WordPress "PodPress" plugin, or equivalent, to do this. Google this stuff; information is widely available.) Promote your content as being available at both your site and PB.com. The episodes streaming from your site can include bonus material, author chatter and more. This engages the audience. This makes you an entertainer. This creates a connection between you and them, and that's important because....

You must ask your audience to help promote your work: You're one author. There are only so many hours in the day. By creating a product that engages your listeners beyond the story, you can encourage them to assist you with evangelism. Have them vote up your book at Podcast Alley. Ask them to review your novel in iTunes. Have them burn CDs of the book for friends. Ask them to email pals about your great podiobook. Request that they blog about your work, or post a link on their MySpace/Facebook page. Whatever it is, you'll be empowering them to help define the success of your work -- and you'll be building a community of engaged fans.

As your podiobook grows in size and success, consider:

  • Soliciting fan-created artwork, music, videos, etc. inspired by your story. Post them on your website and thank them by name in your podcast.
  • Concocting an online "street team," where you provide evangelical missions for your audience, and provide public recognition (and swag, if budget permits) for their hard work.
  • Creating forums or a Ning community for your audience, so their involvement with your work transcends the podcast.
  • Conceive non-traditional ways to promote your podcast that go beyond the "promo play" model.
  • Creating a "media kit" with noteworthy milestones, a plot synopses, etc.

Shoot passivity in the head. If you want your work to be heard by more people, waiting for them to show up will get you nowhere. Get proactive, don't sit still, and shake your ass. Yeah, I know: You don't have any marketing experience. So what? Nearly all successful podcasters and authors don't, either. The only way to start ... is to start.

Again: Don't count on listeners "finding" you. Create content -- and promotions -- so compelling, that they can't *not* listen to you.

I'm certain that other podcasters and new media entertainers have even more suggestions. Care to share?