Podcasts are the new author credential.
Podcasts have become the latest hunting ground for agents and editors to find new voices. Just as long-form journalism has been a place to prove your voice, your ideas, and your audience, podcasts now fulfill a similar purpose.
Podcasts are a great way to demonstrate the depth and complexity of an idea, and the level of interest/commitment of an audience.
Here are three things to know about using a podcast as a launching pad for your book.
#1. Agents and editors are keeping an ear on podcasts, big time.
Editors like Debra Englander at Post Hill Press find podcasts to be a rich source of authors. Already in 2022, she has signed up two authors who have podcasts among their credentials:
Eddie Bravo and Zack Moore's THE ART OF LOOKING INTO IT: MAKING A BRAZILIAN ART AMERICAN, an account of how Bravo became a cultural figure at the intersection of comedy, podcasting, jujitsu, and global business
Grammy and Emmy award-winning actress, performer, and podcast host Alisha Gaddis and Steph Garcia's PERIODS, PERIOD, a collection of stories with tips, games, and illustrations about the female function
The year is young, but already there are 14 deals with podcast hosts/presenters listed in industry deals sheet Publishers Marketplace for 2022. In 2021 there were about 150 – mostly nonfiction (from humor to business, relationships to politics, memoir to true crime) but some fiction too.
As proof of their commitment to the podcast space, The Gernert Company literary agency now also represents podcasters, both writers moving into the space and creators native to it. Joy Fowlkes is their dedicated podcast agent.
#2. Agents want legs—and elevators.
To break into the book market, podcasters should have a clear idea of what elevates their book from their podcast. Jordana Hawkins, a senior editor at Running Press (Hachette): “A good podcast-based book proposal should tell the podcast’s story, why it exists, and what it is trying to accomplish.” She’s also looking for what a podcaster-turned-author will do to set the material in their book apart from their podcast.
Stephanie Hitchcock, senior editor at Atria Books (Simon & Schuster), agrees. “A straight script from a podcast isn’t that interesting, but how a podcaster or writer decides to treat the material is what makes the difference.”
Brenda Knight, director of editorial acquisition at Mango, has also found success with podcasters such as The Story Behind podcast host Emily Prokop. Knight signed Prokop for the book The Story Behind: The Extraordinary History Behind Ordinary Objects. Knight says she’s looking for podcasts with “legs,” meaning she wants the podcast to be in at least its second year or season and have at least 100,000 downloads.
#3. Connections are everything. Still.
Lewis Howes, host of The School of Greatness podcast and author of a bestselling book of the same name, offers this advice for those who want to turn a podcast into a book.
Writing a book takes a lot of time and energy, if you want to do it right. You want to make sure it communicates your ideas and you’re going to be excited to promote it. Do your research and prepare for how much energy and work it’s going to take to put the book out in a major way.
Above and beyond time and energy, one of the keys to Lewis’s own success was getting to know mega-author Tony Robbins—and connecting with his agent, Stephen Handselman. Recommendations and introductions of that caliber are, as they always have been, priceless.
(Some quotes in this post are from the “From Podcast to Book” article published in Jane Friedman’s The Hot Sheet – a great resource for authors wanting to understand what’s happening in publishing.)
If you need writing or editing assistance for your non-fiction book proposal, please check out the “Services” tab on my website.
Coming in 2022: my new online course on writing book proposals! In the meantime, check out my course (with co-presenter Lari Bishop) How to Write a Successful Nonfiction Book:
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