The quality of any book is often judged by its introduction. But sometimes, the intensity of promotional rhetoric can be perceived as being inversely proportional to the quality of the art.
Authors are expected (and sometimes contractually obligated by publishers) to promote their own work within their networks. It’s all about creating a buzz. For veteran authors, this is a well-oiled machine that provides guaranteed book sales. Unfortunately, most new and/or self-published authors find themselves in a catch-22 when it comes to building a platform to create that buzz: how are writers to build a network of potential readers who think they are awesome without coming across as a bombastic blowhard by touting their own awesomeness?
While brazen braggadocio is sometimes effective in business, it can backfire with literary pursuits. How many times have you read a glowing book blurb written by the author or publisher only to think, “If this book were really so fantastic, wouldn’t someone else be singing its praises?” Self-promotion is a delicate art form, and using media other than writing can be a great tool to attract readers.
Excellent reviews of a book can be persuasive, but you must first drive traffic to those reviews. The more press your book gets, the more likely it is to sell – but it doesn’t all have to be “ink.” Enter, BlogTalkRadio.
The ability to target listeners by demographic information, like gender and age, has always made radio one of the most effective means of promotion. Like blogs and news sites, the popularity and diversity of broadcasting over the Internet has decentralized the medium, making it is easy to target the exact demographic you seek by posting visible and searchable information about your topic. Internet radio is a hodgepodge of personal blogs in an audio format. Thus, the name of the most popular Internet radio site: BlogTalkRadio. With some strategic planning, BlogTalkRadio can build or expand a writer’s platform, exposing his or her work to readers who would have otherwise likely not discovered it.
To Host or Not to Host
The first major decision an author must make when utilizing BlogTalkRadio is whether to be the host of a show or a guest on someone else’s show. There are benefits to both, but hosting has a greater benefit to nonfiction writers.
Hosts have the ability to target listeners with very specific interests by categorizing a radio broadcast in any of a myriad of narrowly-defined BlogTalkRadio topics. Each episode has great potential to reach listeners (and readers). Perhaps most importantly, hosts have complete creative control of their material. BlogTalkRadio places very few limitations on content. Regardless of topic, the most consistently successful shows are those that provide entertainment, educational, or compelling ideological value to listeners.
Nonfiction writers who don’t have a platform (or even those who do) should definitely choose to host, provided they are willing to make the time commitment. Ostensibly, the nonfiction writer is well-versed in his or her chosen subject. A writer can start a channel and build a series of shows around the topic by either interviewing other experts in the field or sharing detailed information in a “how to” format. With BlogTalkRadio, there is a built-in audience ready and waiting for this podcast to appear. Listeners have either navigated to the author’s chosen topic’s page on BlogTalkRadio, conducted a web search (BlogTalkRadio shows generally rank highly in web searches), or seen the show in a list of highly rated podcasts.
The caveat of being a host is that discussion of one’s own work is blatant self-promotion, which will get the podcast thrown right into the bottom of the editorial pile (the equivalent of the bargain bin). If writers wish to focus solely on their own work as a writer, rather than building a larger platform and enhancing their perceived authority on a topic, they are likely better off as a guest – where self-promotion is expected and encouraged. Fiction writers usually benefit more from being a guest.
While this requires much less of a time commitment than hosting a show – a trade-off for relinquishing control of the content – it gives authors a one-time shot to captivate listeners and recruit some of the people from the host’s platform to their own. Being a guest on someone else’s show hands the reigns to another person, which is not necessarily a bad thing. A host’s invitation is an endorsement that your work interesting enough to devote an episode of their show to it. With someone else at the helm of the interview, anything you say about your own work will come across as far more credible from an editorial standpoint.
Think Inside the Box
Part of using BlogTalkRadio wisely is correctly categorizing the podcast. BlogTalkRadio has 23 main categories from which to choose. Most topics fit within these main categories, with each having several sub-categories to narrow down the subject matter. Broadcasts/podcasts are grouped into Art, Automotive, Business, Education, Entertainment, Family, Food, Health, History, Hobbies, Life, Music, News, Pets, Politics, Religion, Science, Self Help, Spirituality, Sports, Technology, Travel, and Women. Those broadcasting in the arts category (which includes books) have a unique conundrum: most topics fit into two or more categories – one for the medium of art (books), and another for the subject of the book. Fiction is likely best categorized under Books or Writing, but Nonfiction can fall under any of the topics and subtopics.
Thankfully, you aren’t locked into using just one category once you begin broadcasting. My show is part of the Authors on the Air Global Radio Network, which broadcasts through BlogTalkRadio. Most of the hosts in the network categorize their shows in Books or Writing. My show, on the other hand, requires some creative category selecting. The Authentic Woman is unique in that the focus is divided between women in leadership, women in the arts, women’s social issues, and women’s health. My shows are more fitting for Women, Health, Politics, Writing, and sometimes even Comedy!
The best advice I can give for categorizing or choosing a host or category is to know your target audience. Most importantly, offer quality material and the show will likely be featured, either on the main page for that category or BlogTalkRadio’s front page. A good host who is frequently featured as one of “Today’s Best” is the host you want to interview you as a guest, and it is also the host you want to be.
Interesting and Engaging Content is Crucial
BlogTalkRadio’s front page is filled with a list of “Today’s Best” podcasts the editors have chosen from various categories as having excellent content that listeners might want to explore. This status gives both hosts and guests exposure and credibility. BlogTalkRadio editors will give shows a boost by putting them on the front page. If an interview is informative and entertaining, it will rapidly climb to the top of the editorial pile. Those who consistently offer good content will become a featured host, which puts all of that host’s future your shows at the top of the pile from which to choose “Today’s Best.”
Author interviews are nothing new and have always been part of the press strategy of authors and publishers, but with the addition of Internet radio the opportunities for exposure have grown exponentially. Podcasting has a huge market. BlogTalkRadio gives writers an excellent opportunity to build a reputation of quality and build or expand their platforms. This untapped resource has a ready-made targeted audience eagerly awaiting new material. Authors, go give it to them.
Shannon Fisher is a writer, human rights advocate and civic leader. She hosts the radio talk show, The Authentic Woman – Perspectives on the Female Experience in America, on the Authors on the Air network. An ardent women’s rights leader, she also serves on the Board of Directors for UniteWomen.org, a national 501(c)(3) advocacy organization. Shannon co-founded the organization’s Unite Against Rape campaign, for which she enlisted the participation of legislators, celebrities, and everyday men and women. She was named among the “Richmonders of the Year” in 2012 by Style Weekly Magazine for her activism in women’s rights. Shannon received a B.A. from The College of William and Mary and is a graduate of the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership at The University of Virginia. Follow her on Twitter.