You’ve Created Your New Podcast Audio Drama — Now What?
The Hunt for Listeners
You’ve had the idea. You’ve written the scripts and created the show. Now how do you go about getting listeners?
This can be a pretty challenging process.
Please note that we are not the experts. We are simply sharing what we have learned in launching our third audio drama into the world.
First, Find Your Emotional Supports
Every time we release a show, I expect it to be easier. It’s not. There is nothing more terrifying and emotionally draining than releasing a show into the world.
If you can’t sleep or are an emotional wreck as you approach your launch date, you can at least rest a little easier knowing you are anything but alone.
The people who say they are unfazed by the whole process are the ones who worry me.
You have to have confidence in your work, or be able to fake it, in order to promote it. So surround yourself with the most supportive people in your life and bring them ALL on board to help you spread the word.
I recommend getting everyone together in person, if for no other reason, than to raise your spirits by witnessing their excitement and passion for what you have created.
And then it’s time to start pitching the press and reviewers. And we’ll also talk about how to encourage word of mouth and reviews from your friends and any existing fans.
But if our experience has taught us anything, it is this. The best way to get a larger audience is to pitch the people who already have the audience that will love your show. And while we focus on reviewers below, this can and should apply to other shows. But we will save that for another article.
Do Your Pre-Work!
Don’t even think of promoting your show if you haven’t taken the time to create a press kit. The press isn’t going to take you seriously if you don’t take yourself seriously.
There are a lot of things you need to have in place. You’d be smart to pay attention to this post by podcast reviewer Wil Williams:
10 Things I Wish Every Podcast Would Do
Wil Williams Review is still a fairly new site, but I've reviewed quite a few podcasts. If you haven't read my review…
But at a minimum, here are the things you must have before you start pitching people to review or promote your show:
- A press kit (examples: Love and Luck, Alba Salix, and The Big Loop)
- A link to your show logos and artwork. You can host this on your website or set up a folder on Dropbox or Google Drive
- A professional looking website with bios on everyone involved in your show
- Transcripts. Aside from this being the right thing to do for accessibility purposes, why would you expect a reviewer to transcribe the parts of your show they want to write about? Trust me, they are busy enough.
- A rollout plan! Know your pitch!
Do Your Research
Create a list of all of the people that review the type of show you are creating. I recommend a spreadsheet. We organized our by tabs for the different groups of people we would be reaching out to.
We had a tab for the national media and other tabs for local TV, radio and magazines. But let’s be frank. This rarely pays off. The media doesn’t know or care what a podcast is, let alone an audio drama.
So we decided to focus on the audio drama community and all the amazing shows, publications, blogs and newsletters devoted to helping audiences find new shows.
So we started to dig. We collected the names of the people writing audio drama reviews, the publications they write for, the types of shows they love and their preferred methods of being contacted. And then some. Do they take open submissions? Do they have codified rules or guidelines for how to submit a show? Which individuals at the publication were most likely to be interested in our type of show?
We put all of this in our spreadsheet.
The hard part was actually the contact information for the individuals. Many publications make it difficult to find the contact information for how to reach out or submit a new show for consideration. They might ask that everyone use a form on their website or say to reach out via DM on Twitter — only to have Twitter refuse the DM because they don’t yet follow you.
The key is to do your research and get it all down in your spreadsheet so that later you can do your best to respect their preferred method of communication. It’s not THEIR duty to provide for us to contact them. We have to do the work and we can’t do the work if we don’t know how they prefer to be contacted.
Now this final step is hard. Create a final column where you list out the top 5 shows that these individuals have rated the highest to date. Then ask how you stack up against these. Does your show belong in this list?
Now, some of us can be really hard on ourselves. So sometimes it helps to have a friend help you with this step. Let someone a little removed from the creation process help you gauge who is going to be interested in your show. Put these people on your press outreach list.
Your Pitch is About THEM Not You!
It’s really easy to just talk about ourselves and our new show. After all, we are trying to get people as super excited about it as we are.
But this isn’t about us. This is about trying to break into a review cycle that for some of these publications has already surpassed a six month backlog of waiting shows.
So half of the equation is not to waste their time. See the section above. If you don’t have a show that you believe is going to vie for a position in their top five, then maybe they aren’t the right reviewer to be pitching.
When you do get to pitching, make it about them. Do you actually follow and read what they produce? Do you know what they do? What do you really like about what they are doing?
And finally, what are you offering them?
They know what you want. Trust me, they aren’t sitting around wishing someone would give them something to write about. They are DROWNING in shows they want to review and promote.
And suddenly, here we are, wanting them to add our show to their never-ending list.
Make your pitch about them. But how do we do this?
I have some starting points for what you can offer them:
- A pre-release candidate of your first episode
- Special show artwork
- Behind the scenes content
- Money (see next section)
I want to talk about the first one. These people are working super hard to build an audience. Week after week they have delivered content that is valuable to their readers and listeners. Many are recognized members of the growing Audio Drama community.
So why are we only now starting to treat them as equals to the more traditional forms of media? By the time the traditional media figures out what an audio drama is, some of these individuals are going to be the next Oprah or Ellen. So we’d best start building relationships with them now and treating them with the respect they deserve.
We chose to offer a pre-release candidate for episode 1 of our new show. We also paid attention when we were prodded to provide a banner image by one publication. It turns out that this is how they choose their featured new show launch.
We created fun banners and provided links to a press kit, a press release and other artwork.
And we did our best to show respect and honour how each individual asked to be contacted or communicated with.
Not everyone is going to agree to review your show. And not everyone is going to love what you create. But by focusing on the reviewers who we felt were a match for our show, we secured over five reviews (and climbing) at the writing of this article, not to mention many positive mentions and opportunities.
And we achieved our highest first week download numbers in the history of Alba Salix.
But more importantly, for the first time, we felt connected to a community of people who are working so hard to improve and grow the audiences for what we create. And that is the best feeling in the world.
Sponsorship Should Be In Your Budget
I believe we need to start putting some money on the table as show creators. I get that money is tight. But show launches don’t come around all that often.
So it’s a pretty big deal for us as creators and when most of the sponsorship opportunities are in the $10 to $50 range, we really have to ask why more shows aren’t taking advantage.
I find it hard to believe that most shows can’t afford to at least one $10 opportunity.
If we don’t start supporting these publications, I’ll tell you who will — the big players like Gimlet and Panoply. And then us indie creators won’t be able to pay to play or potentially even get listed on merit. The time to support these hardworking reviewers is now.
But let me be really clear on one point.
Do not offer money to a reviewer in hopes that they will write about your show. If you want to send them money to thank them for all they do, that is fine.
This is not about bribing a reviewer to do a review. (I can’t believe I even wrote those words.)
In our spreadsheet, we made note of any publications that offers sponsorship or advertising opportunities. And regardless of whether we were reviewed in their publication, if their audience looked like a match, we considered spending a small amount to promote our new show.
In our case, we chose to do an inexpensive sponsorship with the Bello Collective and we also found a stunningly produced Dungeon World roleplaying zine called Plundergounds that we are now supporters of.
We get that money is tight. We don’t have a lot of money either, but we are more than happy to support where we can. And if more of us step up, it will only make this community healthier for everyone.
Where to Start
Below are three great reviewers of audio dramas. Follow all three. Pay attention to what they look for in a show. Then pay attention to who they promote and speak with online. Your job is not to spam people with your show, but rather to build real relationships with the people who enjoy and review your type of show.
Do your pre-work and please don’t spam these people. They are working so very hard, all in their free time, to grow the audio drama community we all belong to. They are creators just like you. Show them the respect they deserve.
These should get you started. Here are a few other publications to check out:
The goal of the Bello Collective is to bring together writers, journalists, and other voices who share a passion for…
Promote the Podcasts
The Last Ovation Review This podcast is hosted by Melissa and is about the lives and deaths of famous celebrities. It…
Get Help From Your Family, Friends and Fans
Every audio drama needs reviews. These help to get your show to appear in Apple’s New and Noteworthy. Reviews can also help new listeners feel more confidence in taking a chance to download a new show.
We ran a contest with our closest fans. Everyone who left us an iTunes review within the first week was entered to win an Alba Salix t-shirt. We use the amazing podrover.com to find and notify us of iTunes reviews left anywhere in the world.
Then we took these reviews and created little cards that combined a review on iTunes with one of the press reviews we had managed to get in our press campaign. We share this on social media to help promote the show.
And finally, be sure to ask your listeners to share the show with a friend and even to use a hashtag on social media so you can follow along and see when word of mouth is happening.