How to Be a Great Podcast Guest: A Guide for Authors

Image: woman on sofa, speaking into microphone while looking at laptop computer.
Photo by Soundtrap on Unsplash

Today’s post is from book marketing coach Sue Campbell (@suecampbell_) of Pages & Platforms, who offers a podcast appearance checklist and a host of free marketing resources when you join her newsletter.

Being on a podcast can be a great way to promote your book, but if it’s your first time on a show, you might not have a clue how to proceed. Even frequent guests may not realize how they can improve their appearances with straightforward preparation and a little bit of strategy.

Guesting on a podcast can raise your visibility by piggybacking on the audience the host has already built. Someone has taken the time and effort to create a community, and now you have the opportunity to interest their listeners in your book and get them subscribed to your newsletter. In other words: the podcast’s audience could become yours.

One of the great things about podcasts is that the interviews don’t take up much of your time. Once you get the hang of it, they take far less time than, say, writing a guest post. But you do need to spend a little time preparing.


  • Double check your call time. Everybody’s in different time zones, so clarify what time the call is scheduled for. I’ve had clients who got the time wrong or the host got it wrong. Put the call on your calendar, set a reminder, and show up a bit early and ready to go.
  • Send your media kit. Your media kit includes pictures of you, your bio, and a description and images of your book. This gives the podcast host all they need to create show notes for the episode and share it on social media. Send it to your host ahead of time to make their life easier. In your kit, include a call to action inviting listeners to sign up for your newsletter (it’s great to offer them a little freebie in exchange), and ask your host to put that in the show notes too.
  • Listen to as many episodes as you can. If you pitched the podcast yourself, then I hope you’ve already listened to the podcast. Either way, once you’re scheduled for the interview, you want to listen more closely to some episodes. Whenever you’re doing the dishes, doing laundry, or going for a walk, listen to that podcast so you become familiar with the host. You will get a feel for what works and what doesn’t for that audience and what questions to expect.
  • Read the podcast’s reviews. Think about how you can best serve that audience. Read the reviews for that particular podcast and you’ll get a sense of that audience and how you can best serve them. What information can you share, what resources can you offer, that will help them? If you manage to intrigue, inform or entertain them, they will seek you out online.
  • Prepare talking points and stories that you are going to tell on the podcast based on the research that you’ve done by listening to episodes, reading reviews and, of course, whatever you said you’d talk about in your pitch. (For more tips on how to talk about your book, see this post.) Most hosts will tee you up to tell their audience where to learn more about you, so be sure to prepare a call to action as well. You want something like, “I have a free gift for your listeners on my website, just visit [website] to get the prequel to my series for free.”

Get the tech right

  • Read through any tech instructions the host gives you. Many podcasts send you a document or email that tells you what to expect and has instructions for how to set up the technology for recording. Some hosts will even send you a microphone. Make sure that you read, understand and follow their instructions.
  • Use a microphone! I don’t know about you, but if I turn on a podcast and the sound quality is abysmal and I can’t understand what is being said, or there’s background noise, I will turn that nonsense off. I once asked a podcaster friend to have someone on their show and he reported back annoyed that the guest I’d recommended didn’t have a microphone and was wandering around their house with tons of background noise while recording. Ouch. Ideally, you want a mic and headphones to prevent feedback during recording. If you’re going to be doing a ton of podcasts you may want to purchase a professional quality microphone. You can get a durable, great sounding mic for around $100, even less. (And you can use it for all your Zoom calls, too.) If you’re just dipping your toe in and don’t want to invest any money yet, the earbuds that came with your phone will work better than nothing.
  • Think about how you’ll make your space quiet. You want to minimize background noise as much as possible. Think about how you’re going to make your space quiet. Bedrooms have lots of sound dampening qualities. Unfortunately, in my house, the bedroom is adjacent to the neighbor dogs who never stop barking. Think about what’s going on in your neighborhood—all of the sounds that you have learned to tune out but other people can hear. It might warrant a conversation with the neighbors or mean hanging a sign on the front door telling people not to knock during a certain time period. You can even buy a portable voice booth isolation box thingy for your desk. You stick your microphone inside it to dampen unwanted sound.
  • Practice your talking points using your tech setup. Of course you should practice your talking points, but I recommend going a step further and practicing using the tech setup that you’re going to be using for the interview. Arrange a call with a friend to rehearse. You could use Zoom or the like. Ask your friend how you sound and how things in your background look while you’re at it. It will also help you get used to seeing yourself on screen if that’s part of the podcast tech. (By the way, many podcasts are simulcast on video these days, so it’s good to assume you’ll be on video—or find out beforehand.)

Measure response and capture readers

  • Check your stats (sales, subscribers, website). Just before the episode airs, check all of your stats. See how many subscribers you have and how many books you’ve sold. See how many website visitors you have had. These numbers will give you a snapshot of where you are before the episode. Check again afterwards to gauge the impact of being on this podcast.
  • Extra credit: Set up a landing page. You get bonus points from the marketing fairies if you set up a landing page specifically for listeners of the podcast that will deliver your reader magnet (your free thing you give to new subscribers). This allows you to keep stats so you know how many people actually sought you out as a result of hearing you on the podcast. You also want to look at how many people actually subscribed versus only visited the page. You’re aiming for about 30% of the total visitors subscribing to your reader magnet. If you’re not hitting that, look at the language on your landing page. Maybe you need to tweak your reader magnet. There are a lot of things to consider, but a dedicated landing page will give you the data to start making some informed decisions.

During recording

A podcast is really just a conversation. Concentrate on connecting with the interviewer and you can’t go wrong, but here are some things it can be helpful to think about while recording.

Side note: You definitely want to eat something that agrees with you and pee before you are on a podcast! You don’t want low blood sugar—fainting while recording is not recommended. Eliminate potential bodily distractions so you can focus on having a pleasant conversation with someone.

  • Be yourself. What got you on the podcast in the first place is you, your book and your unique perspective. So be yourself. Of course, you’re likely to have a few butterflies in your esophagus (mine are never in my stomach) and that’s perfectly fine.
  • Redirect questions if needed. If you get asked a question you’re not sure how to answer, just redirect. Buy some time while you collect your thoughts. You can use answers such as, “That’s a great question. You know who you should ask about that…” Or answer with what you wish you had been asked.
  • Understand that nobody is perfect. No one is perfect on a podcast! Even if you feel like you’re rambling, you’re probably not as much as you think you are, so just keep rolling. If there’s a huge mistake or interruption, you can stop and ask the host to start that section over.
  • Pretend you’re only talking to the podcaster. Especially if you’re an introvert, it helps to pretend you’re just talking to that one person. Don’t psych yourself out by thinking about the thousands or millions of people in the audience.
  • Deliver your call to action. If you want to stick the landing, you need to deliver your call to action at the end. You don’t want to go through all of this work of research, pitching and preparation and then not tell them how to find you and your book. Write your call to action on a piece of paper and put it right in front of you so you don’t flub at the end.

After the show

Now that it’s over, resist the urge to dwell on any small missteps and do these things instead:

  • Thank the host! I grew up in Minnesota where the thought of not thanking someone is absolutely abhorrent. Mind your manners and send a thank you either by snail mail (for a nice touch) or a quick email of appreciation.
  • Promote the episode. When the episode comes out, you want to promote it on social media and to your email list so it’s not just about getting exposure for you, it’s also about bringing your audience to the podcast.
  • Recommend other guests. Hosts are always trying to fill their roster with engaging guests. If you think of someone who would be a great fit for that podcast, share that.
  • Ask the host for referrals to other influencers. You can also ask the host for referrals to other podcasts or for the names of other influencers who might be interested in you and your book. You might be surprised at how often they will think of someone you didn’t know about.
  • Ask someone honest for feedback. If you’re not used to being on the podcast circuit, ask for feedback from someone in your life who you know is going to give you an honest assessment. You want to know any annoying quirks you may have (ums, ahs, repeat phrases). You’re probably not going to nail it your first time out and that’s okay. You’re also not necessarily the best judge of your performance, so if you can get another set of eyes on that (or ears, in this case), it can help you improve going forward.

Check your stats

Check your stats again to see what impact being on that podcast had. You can determine if this is the kind of audience who really appreciates what you bring.

Oftentimes we want to focus on the big podcasts because we assume they can move the needle the most, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes smaller podcasts have a more engaged following and you can get a bigger spike in traffic and increase in subscribers.

Stats will help you get a feel for what kind of podcasts do well for you and what topics work to build your audience.

Send another pitch!

Finally, send another pitch as quickly after your guest spot as you can. You don’t want to think of any one podcast as a golden ticket that means you don’t have to do this anymore. On the flipside, if it was a disaster, you needn’t think “Now I’m doomed to failure and can never do this again.” Just keep pitching.

Follow these tips and you will be more than prepared to guest on any podcast. You will relax, enjoy the conversation and grow your audience.

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