Help! What Do I Say??? (3 Podcast Tips for the Nervous Author)

So, you’ve landed that big podcast interview you’ve always wanted. Hundreds (maybe thousands?) of people are going to hear your voice on that show. They’re going to listen to what you have to say. Maybe, they’re going to go and buy your book(s) afterwards.

And now you’re nervous, and stressed out, and you have no idea what you are going to do.

Maybe you’re a natural introvert. Maybe you’re shy, or you don’t like talking in front of people. You’re nervous that all your words are going to be recorded. Perhaps you have that little bit of knowledge in the back of your mind that other people are going to be listening to your conversation later on, so you’d better say all the right things now and not make a fool of yourself.

I’ve been there. And I’ve come out the other side. So today I thought I’d give you a couple of helpful tips that I’ve learned along the way. Not all of these tips will work for everyone, but hopefully some of them will be useful to you.

Here we go:

1. Don’t try to wing it.

I honestly don’t remember who told me, but one of the first pieces of advice I received when I told people I was going to be on a podcast was, “You’d better not write anything down. Just wing it. It has to sound natural.”

No disrespect to whoever gave me that advice (seriously, I do not remember at all), but it really messed me up. It sounds really smart, right? You certainly don’t want to sound like you’re reading from prompt cards. But by not writing anything down at all, and trying to just wing it, I ended up in a complete emotional breakdown while I was in the recording session with the interviewer. I felt physically incapable of responding to the questions at all. I couldn’t think of a single thing to say. Not pleasant. Not at all. Thankfully, she was gracious enough to let me try again at a later date, but I still felt like a fool.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There are certainly people out there who can wing just about anything and come away with a brilliant interview. There are people who are stifled or hampered by outlines or written out answers. This is definitely not a hard-and-fast rule of any kind. If you are comfortable with winging your interview, go ahead. But at least study the questions ahead of time, and maybe mentally work out the basics of what you are going to say. My interviewer, Pam Barnhill, sent me a list of questions way before the recording date so that I could study them and figure out just what I was going to say. As I said, the first time around I forgot everything I had so carefully worked out in my head and was unable to do the interview at all. So I went back and took my time and wrote down an answer to every question, even if it was just a few lines. We didn’t end up using all of the questions in the podcast, but at least I felt secure knowing that I had a response if one was needed. I even went ‘off script’ a couple of times.

Even if you don’t write out your full answer to every question, it’s probably best to jot down a couple of bullet points of what you’d like to touch on. A sparse outline is better than no outline at all. A quick glance at your notes should remind you of what you wanted to say if you forget in the middle of the interview.

2. Do ask for do-overs.

The nice thing about podcasts is that they are recorded and edited before anyone else gets to hear them. It isn’t like being on live radio or TV, where if you mess up you don’t get a second chance. If you get off track or flub your words, you have every right to ask the interviewer for a do-over. You can say the line again (hopefully correctly this time) and the interviewer or whoever does their editing can easily go back and edit out the mistake. You aren’t live. Everybody messes up sometimes. Even the interviewer may have to do over their lines at some point. Don’t hesitate to ask for a quick second try if you need one.

3. Do stay on topic.

Podcasts are great for getting your name and maybe your work in front of others, but they shouldn’t act as a platform for you to talk endlessly about your book or make some kind of big sales pitch. If the interviewer wants to talk about your book(s), go ahead and talk about them. But if the topic of the podcast is, I don’t know… dogs or something (stupid example, but bear with me), then trying to make a big sales pitch in the middle of your interview isn’t really going to work. If people listen to this hypothetical podcast to hear about other people’s opinions on dogs, then they aren’t going to want to hear your big speech about how amazing your book is instead.

Now, hopefully the topic of your podcast relates a bit more to your writing or your area of expertise than dogs probably does (unless you do happen to write about/be an expert on dogs), but that doesn’t mean that you can still go ahead and make a big sales pitch the focus of your interview. As I said a few minutes ago, people don’t listen to podcasts to hear authors brag about/try to sell their books. You are a guest chosen to speak about topic X, so you’d better talk about topic X, and if the interviewer also wants to talk about your book(s), that’s great. But selling something should not be your main focus. Your main focus should be to say something interesting about the topic, and to entertain people.

I hope you enjoyed this little article! I’m glad I have some advice to share in this area, and I hope you find them helpful. SHAMELESS ADVERTISEMENT: If you’re interested in my podcast interview with Pam Barnhill, you can find that right here.

Thank you so much for reading. I’ll see you again soon!

Podcast Tips


My head hurts. It always hurts. I’m stressed out and sick and sick of worrying. But they just want more. Always more. Always demanding new content. I am pressured to throw more and more into the grinding internet machine, to keep tossing in more work, more content, more words on more pages, more tweets, more Facebook posts, more and more. I haven’t been tossing in anything recently, because I’m out of stuff to toss. Every idea comes with its own set of flags: what will people think about this? What will they say? Will they throw hate at me, or laugh at me, or refuse to take me seriously? Is this trendy? Is it searchable? SEO optimized? Will it bring me the clicks?

And I’m out of stuff that fills that ever growing list of criteria. I’m out. Done. Finished. The internet has run me into the ground. My head hurts, and all I can feel is the burnout.

Okay. Sob story over. Real talk.

Creating content takes time. And work. And more time. And stress and more stress. We, the Internet, myself included in some cases, just want more. We don’t see what happens behind the scenes, how fast the burnout hits you in the brain, how fast you can become sick and tired of the rat race. It is a constant battle to keep afloat, to get content and get that content out there, to get people to notice, and to care. And I’m losing that battle.

I love to write. Don’t get me wrong. I love a nice writing session when I can just sit down and write my heart out for an hour or so and get my story on the page. This is not that kind of writing. This is publicity, PR, clicks, follows, whatever. I used to enjoy writing stuff for my blog, back when I had ideas and I wasn’t scared of clicking that ‘publish’ button. Back when the burnout hadn’t filled my brain and dragged me down. After that initial wave of enjoyment passed, I began writing for the search trends and the SEO; aggressively publishing that 30 day drawing challenge that happened back in September. At first, it was fun. At first, I was seeing those clicks and visitors and stats I wanted to see. I felt good. And then it just dropped off. And I got the burnout in my brain and I was sick and tired of doing those stupid drawings every day, but I kept going because I thought maybe those stats would come back if I just kept on trying.

They didn’t.

Of course they didn’t. By that time, people were tired of me, probably, tired of all my amateur drawings filling up their inboxes or feeds every day. I tried to feed the internet machine, but it wasn’t hungry for that anymore. It must have something new.

New. New. New. That is the cry of the internet machine. That is the cry of the burnout as it eats your brain and all your ideas, and tires you out before you even sit down at the computer to write. I tried feeding the internet machine, and it didn’t work. So I stopped. And that didn’t work either, because unless you’ve got a team of people churning out more and more every day, you’re doomed.

Social media hasn’t consumed my time. What’s consumed my time is worrying about that social media. ‘Your 58 followers haven’t heard from you in a while,’ proclaims a notification on my Facebook feed, ‘Write a new post!’ But I have nothing to say. And the internet machine goes on asking and asking for something new, but I don’t have anything to give. I am losing the battle. I can’t stop worrying that I’m not optimizing my time or my social media accounts for those elusive ‘best results’; more followers, more likes, more people who will (maybe???) buy my book. And the internet machine keeps on eating and eating and eating, and I keep worrying and worrying.

And I’m stuck.

Again. Always. Stuck in that awful place, stuck in the burnout, with no more ideas to give.