How a podcast got me to read a middle-grade fantasy book--and the marketing lesson it taught me.
It started with a blurb in Vulture: "Launch is essentially StartUp, but for writing a novel." As the daughter of two writers who have been in and out of the publishing world for decades, I was intrigued to hear about all the things that don't get the glamour treatment when it comes to books, namely everything that happens once you have that manuscript fine-tuned on your hard drive. I just didn't think it was going to be a podcast that illuminated this world.
Launch host John August has made a name for himself as a screenwriter (Big Fish is a personal fave!) and he's found a fanbase in his Scriptnotes podcast, also about screenwriting. The premise of Launch pulled me in because it seemed accessible; even though he's already a writer, the podcast was about publishing his first novel, the middle-grade fantasy novel Arlo Finch. I'm not typically one for young-adult content, but it was a smart move on August's part to focus the podcast on the process of publishing in addition to the fantasy angle. He's hooking multiple target audiences in doing so, while avoiding using the podcast as a blatant promotion tool for his book (much like StartUp, the show is more about spinning a narrative about the creative process than about the resulting product, so it feels more genuine than other branded podcast outfits).
August sets the scene when he describes his fit of inspiration in a conference hotel room that led to the first draft of Arlo Finch, but what got me to buy the book on pre-order was not just my need to know the plot. Rather, it was the care he took in exploring the stages of, and people behind, book publishing that we often forget: the actual printing warehouses in Virginia, the jacket design, the choice of font. August's genuine curiosity to follow the trail of his words to the hands of readers helped me feel like he was reaching out to me as well, both as a podcast listener and potential reader, and that I wasn't a commodity worth the 10% royalty he'd make off my sale.
Podcasters and digital marketers alike: do more of this. Treat your audiences like the complex, unique people they are, who are gravitating towards your content because they see something in it that they identify with. I listened to Launch and read Arlo Finch because they enriched me and helped me think about creativity, distribution, and multi-platform storytelling in a new way, not because I'm a fantasy reader (cuz I'm really not, Harry Potter and The Name of the Wind aside).
So when John August popped up in my podcast feed telling me about a new and entirely different Wondery show, Safe For Work, I trusted his recommendation because I got the impression that he had thought (or at least the savvy execs at Wondery did) that his audience might be interested in workplace questions. They were right. And so the cross-pollination of podcasts and other media continues. Marketers, take note!
image credit: Wondery