Promoting with Podcasts

by Alan Bailey

I’m a science fiction podcaster. I talk about science fiction, into a microphone, and then I self-publish it.

Podcasters generally have a mixed reputation. Why? I’m not totally sure. Perhaps it’s because the entry fee is low, and anyone with an opinion can put it out there. The sheer number of podcasts doesn’t help either. So, how do you know which are worthwhile? Which should you, as a writer, use to promote your work?

Check the number of subscriptions. Podcasters actually don’t consider subscribers, they consider downloads. This is because you can’t know if a particular subscriber is downloading your show. But downloads are not public information, and unless a podcast agrees to give you that number with proof, you’ll never know. Instead, look at the subscribers. Even then the number is not always accurate, but it should give you a good idea of how big a podcast is. To give you an idea, Lybsin’s podcast The Feed (a podcast by the Libsyn podcast hosting company) will tell you that an episode, with 5000 downloads within the first 45 days of its release, is large enough to have corporate sponsors. If you assume a few extra hundred subscribers, you should be able to estimate how many downloads they get. Doing this will help you decide if the podcast in question has the audience size you are comfortable with.

Do you want to be associated with the podcaster/podcast? Like it or not, you might become linked even if you loudly disagree on the podcast. Many people will never look past the podcast description, which you cannot control. If you’re an actively political writer it may not bother you to argue with others or have your name out on some of these podcasts. If you try to eschew politics in your writing, or if you have a conflict with the political bent of a podcast, then maybe you’d want to avoid it.

Will you enjoy doing it? Will you be too stressed? Are you afraid of microphones? Or do you enjoy a lively conversation? Is there another way you’d rather promote? Do that instead. Podcasts are not a magical promotion tool that will sell every copy of your novel.

Consider who has editorial control. Once someone has recorded you, they have control over the final edit. Yes, there are limitations to audio editing, but your words can be manipulated or deleted. If you aren’t sure about someone on a podcast, follow up with former guests. Ask how they felt about their experience and the final product. Be careful, there are jerks out there.

Does it make sense to your personal brand? Is swashbuckling a focus in your work? Perhaps a podcast about swordsmanship or fencing would make sense for you.

As a podcaster who deals with SFF authors and editors regularly, I know getting promotion is important and, at times, difficult. But it is also important that the promotion does not demean others, and that you feel comfortable in your efforts.


Alan Bailey resides in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Most of his time has been spent teaching and writing curriculum for various organizations and adventuring with his wife, children, and feline sidekick. Alan is a musician that has played in numerous bands including Father Flamethrower, but is most well known as creator, producer, and co-host of Alan & Jeremy VS Science Fiction. Look out for his next podcast featuring former SFWA president and writer extraordinaire Cat Rambo as his co-host.