Editor's Note: This post was written by the amazing Ashley Williams. She is an expert on pitching yourself to podcasts, blogs, you name it. She has kindly taken time out of her busy schedule running an amazing podcast to share her pitching secrets.
Here you are writing your book. You're finally taking your collection of stories, drafts, and dreams and putting them into one exquisite work.
Congratulations because you're doing something so many people aspire to do!
All those other people find stories and excuses and resistance every step of the way that keep them from getting to this point. So you’re already miles ahead of the curb.
Once your book is officially birthed and out in the world (or, better yet, in the months leading up to its release), you'll need to start reaching the masses.
You're going to have to expand beyond your mom, your aunt, and your Facebook friends. You're even going to need to move outside of your own business network, website visitors, and email list if you really want to get your work in the hands of as many people as possible.
And that doesn't mean that you're greedy or getting a big head.
It means that you believe in your work so completely that you know that it's meant to be shared. That it will change people's lives.
And if you don't share it with as many people as possible, you'll be doing a disservice to yourself, your work, and the people who need to hear from you.
Which is why I want to teach you how to pitch yourself for guest blogs and podcast interviews. Because I believe that when you share your story, you will shake the entire world. I can promise you, pitching is easier than you think!
Whenever I talk to people about pitching, here are a few common questions that come up:
1) How do you know where to pitch (even if you’re not business-to-business)?
Knowing where to pitch is a super easy thing that most people think is hard (spoiler: all of this is way easier than people think!). Here are a few ways to figure out where you should be pitching:
Ask your audience.
Even if you're just starting out as an author, you've probably done some market research and found people who want what you're creating.
If you haven't yet found these people - don't do anything else until you identify who the heck you’re trying to reach.
You can stalk them a little bit on Facebook or just ask your ideal readers what sites they read regularly. People love to help, and if you make it a super quick ask of “Hey. what blogs or sites do you visit regularly that relate to X topic?”, you’ll probably get some great answers!
Add those sites into your Pitch Tracking spreadsheet here.
Where are the big names getting featured?
Next you'll want to research other authors in your category. Who else is your ideal reader reading? Who else wrote a book that's going to be recommended on Amazon beside yours?
By far, the easiest way to know where to pitch is to see where your "competition" is being featured.
Now if you're freaking out because you believe Liz Gilbert and Brene Brown are your competitors and OMG, how are you ever gonna get featured where they have!?, take a deep breath because I've got the answer.
You are not Liz and Brene's competition (yet).
Chances are your first few pitches aren't going to land you on Oprah or the Today show. Those shows usually find people through expensive publicists, major publishing houses, or after a groundswell around a book or author has brought her work to the attention of show producers.
Stay focused on creating your own groundswell before you worry about what you'll wear on SuperSoul Sunday!
Back to researching people in your category.
I suggest picking 3 people who are doing similar work to you and start researching where they’ve been featured.
The first person you search should be the biggest name in your industry or genre. It's totally okay to reach for the stars. And chances are she's been featured on some sites or podcasts that aren't as hard to get on as Oprah. Add those places to your pitch list.
Next, search someone in your category that's well-known but not necessarily a household name. Add those sites to your pitch list.
Third, search someone that's just a couple years further along than you are and see where she's been featured. Those will probably be the best places for you to begin your pitching process.
Now I don't just want you to blindly pitch to every single site you found along the way. It’s really obvious when you’re just copy and pasting your pitches and shooting them out into the ether.
By doing your research, you're going to stand out.
Dig a little deeper into those sites or podcasts and see if they're the right fit for you and your work. If you're writing a book about motherhood, a blog about being a single twenty-something living out of a backpack probably isn't your ideal spot to pitch.
Next, look deeper into your top-choice sites, and find blogs or interviews they've run on a similar but not identical topic to yours. Nobody is looking for a reinvented wheel. They're just looking for good, solid content that their audience wants to hear. If they've already successfully run something on your topic, you've taken out some of the guesswork on their end.
The next super easy way you can find places to pitch would be to google “Best Of” or round-up blogs on your topic.
Here are some examples:
Google "Best blogs for moms" or "Best podcasts for gardeners" or "Top websites for empaths."
No matter what your book is about, someone has probably already done a round-up post on your topic. Look through those sites or podcasts, and add the best ones to your pitch-tracking sheet.
2) How to come up with good topics for guest posts & can you write about an interest that is not directly related to your book or business?
You're guest blogging and getting interviewed so you can sell a specific thing, right?
If that’s true for you I would not recommend wasting the eyeballs and ears of a new audience on some random blog about another topic you're interested in.
That's absolutely something you can just do for fun or during the year before you're actually building up to selling your book. (That’s a whole other thing called hobby-blogging, which is not what we’re talking about here.)
Every piece of content you're putting out should be planting a seed and establishing your credibility on the topic of your book. And it should also be getting people excited to hear more from you on that topic.
Especially if you're writing a "How-to" type book, you should absolutely be writing blogs that start dripping out that exact content in small amounts.
Don't worry about giving too much away. When people see how generous you are for free, they know that when they give you their money, you're going to go above and beyond with the quality of your work.
To actually come up with the topics to write about, I'm going to ask again if you've done research on what your ideal readers are struggling with, what are their pain points, and what they're looking for from you.
What problem does your book solve? What miracle does it create for people?
Whatever your ideal reader is struggling with (or the things she’s googling solutions for), those are the topics you should be writing about.
3) How to write posts that will get people to click to your site.
Here’s another topic that we’re all totally overcomplicating: getting clicks to your site.
Once again, I like to keep things simple.
Stop and think about what gets you to click over to someone’s site. It's probably something as simple as you loved the story they shared and are dying for more. This is where targeting your pitches to sites or podcasts that are filled with your ideal readers is going to give you a leg up.
Beyond that here is my best tip: Ask the editor if you're allowed to have a direct call to action at the end of your post or in your bio.
If you're not corresponding with an editor directly, check out their submission guidelines and/or look at past guest blogs and see what sort of info others have been allowed to share at the end of their guest blog.
Best-case scenario is that you'll be able to give a very direct call to action to readers.
Here’s an example of what that would look like, using the author Dr. Shefali Tsabary as an example. She's been blowing up in the Oprah world lately after writing her book, Conscious Parenting.
Here's what a direct call to action to visit her site would look like at the end of a post:
Loved my advice on coping with disapproving grandparents in a conscious way? Get even more support from my blog "Setting Boundaries For Your Family" (make the title of the blog a clickable link).
If your goal is getting opt-ins to your list you could include that call to action in your bio like this:
Dr. Shefali is the author of Conscious Parenting and Oprah's go-to guide for parents everywhere. Get her 7 step process for handling parent guilt here (make the word "here" a link to your landing page).
If you're not allowed to blatantly link back to your own site (a lot of blogs have cracked down on this in the past couple years), you'll need to get creative. Which is awesome because you're a creative writer so you're totally gonna rock this!
The workaround here is to be subtle and mention something on your site in the article (this is even easier if you're doing a podcast interview).
So let's say Dr. Shefali wants people to click over to her site and opt in to that free guide on handing parent guilt. She may not be able to link directly to it, but she can work it into her blog post with something like:
"In my research, I've found parents, especially mothers, are often overwhelmed with guilt about doing the right things for their kids. Are they eating the best food? Do they have a full social life? No matter what they do, parents still feel like they're doing something wrong. That's why I created a simple step-by-step process for handling this overwhelming guilt and offer it for free on my site. This is a parenting crisis, and I don't want anyone to be left behind if they don't have the time or resources to buy my book or attend one of my workshops."
I know personally I've stopped reading a blog midway through and immediately clicked over to someone's site if she mentioned something that I'm extremely interested in. Again, this is where knowing your audience's pain points is going to be key.
4) What are specific ways to get a "yes" from your pitch?
I suggest having 3 topics that you're pitching at any one time. These topics can be tweaked and changed depending on what it is you want to promote at any time.
One topic you will always pitch will be your personal story. Your heroine's journey or transformational story. Of course you'll want to tell this as a way to inform and inspire others, not just rattle on about yourself.
Ex: How conscious parenting saved me from repeating a legacy of abuse.
Next you'll include one signature topic that relates to your overarching work.
Keeping with the Dr. Shefali example, she would always pitch:
What is conscious parenting, and how can it change the lives of families
Your third topic you could pitch could either be:
A secondary, more niched topic that relates to your work:
Ex: Is it too late to practice conscious parenting for teenagers?
You can pitch a response piece to someone else's article. Here's an example of a response to a blog extolling the virtues of helicopter parenting:
Ex: Why helicopter parents are ruining your kids, and the conscious way to raise amazing kids.
You'd write about a current event and put a spin on it that relates back to your topic:
Ex: How conscious parenting could have prevented the Orlando shooting.
I go in depth in how to write a killer pitch in my free webinar called Authentic Pitching (see what I did there!?), but some other pro-tips to make it really easy for the editor, blogger or host to say yes to you are:
Keep it short .
Everyone is busy and long, rambling emails will get deleted
It's not about you.
Skim your pitch e-mail and see how many sentences begin with "I." Use your killer writing skills to make sure you're coming from a place of giving, not just asking for them to give you a big break because you have such an interesting topic.
Leave white space.
People skim. Make your e-mails skimmable!
Do your research.
Reference a past blog or podcast episode or something else that blogger/host is working on right now to show that you're not just randomly sending pitches to everyone with a platform!
Tell them the next step.
If you're pitching for interviews, create a ScheduleOnce or a Calendly link with time slots for interviews. End your email with something like "I'm happy to work with your schedule or to keep things super easy, use this link to find a time on my schedule."
If you're writing a post, suggest a deadline for when you'll send them your blog (just like I did with this post!).
Make sure to check the site's guidelines for when it's all right to follow up. If none are laid out, wait a full week before sending a very brief follow-up. Follow up once more a week later if you don't hear back. After that point, assume they're not interested (right now), but don't rule them out for down the road if you have a new topic to share or want to comment on a timely world event.
So in case you haven’t noticed, I’ve got some pretty strong opinions on the ins and outs of pitching. As the host of my own podcast, Green Is the New Black, I’ve gotten some really terrible pitches and some amazing ones that literally make me yell “OMG YES!” when they land in my inbox.
My desire for you is to get that "omg yes" response as often as possible. But like anything else, it’s going to take some practice. If you’re in the process of writing your book right now, I’d highly recommend you start dipping your toe in the pitching waters.
Start with some low-stakes websites or podcasts. Who in your network would be willing to feature you? Start there, be generous with your knowledge, and go pitch the heck outta your work!
There are people out there waiting to hear from you.
Ashley Williams is a Coach, Podcast Host and activist who believes sharing your story is the fastest way to change the world. Watch her masterclass in authentic pitching here.