A fiction podcaster once said to me, “Everything ‘out there’ about podcast promotion doesn’t apply to me. I make audio drama! How am I supposed to promote my dramatic podcast when all the promotion resources are meant for non-fiction podcasters?”  

It sounds like somebody missed the point. All podcasts are companions for the audience, whether they explain how to ask for a raise or show you how a bunch of guys survive a zombie apocalypse. Nonfiction podcasts directly state the value of the content to the audience. Fiction and audio drama podcasts present the story and let the audience find the value for themselves. But first, audio drama podcasters have to make sure the audience can find their shows. 

In the following few paragraphs, I’ll show you five ways you can promote an audio drama or fiction podcast that not only make it easy for your audience to find your podcast’s show but also invest emotionally in your podcast’s story. 

1. What’s In It For Them? 

We all know why thousands of people went to see The Avengers: Infinity War on opening weekend in 2018. Disney spent zillions of dollars promoting the movie, and A-list stars studded the cast. Even if you weren’t a Marvel fan, the movie was unavoidable. But, hardcore fans walked out of cinemas, their cheeks stained with tears, and told their friends, “Okay, so you might not be a superhero-movie person, but you need to see this.” What fueled the word-of-mouth campaign? 

The Avengers: Infinity War’s premise fit neatly with most Western anxieties at the time, especially in the US. What if one person could eradicate most of the planet’s population? What would it feel like to see someone you care about disappear as quickly as ashes? This comic-book-superhero movie made life’s fragility feel visceral. Blockbuster movie fans had art house cinema feelings. 

Let’s get back to your podcast. Think about the story you want to tell. What aspect of the premise can your audience relate to right off the bat? Your characters might not be as widely familiar as Spider-Man, but their challenges can be meaningful. 

Give people a moment that means something to them. This gives them a reason to pay attention and helps them invest emotionally in your show. I’m saying “a moment,” because in the next point, we’ll talk about how to give them that moment, and how much to give. 

2. Tease, but Don’t Spoil The Story. 

You’re probably familiar with audiograms by now. When you get ready to promote your podcast, picking the right scene to make into an audiogram can be tricky.  I’m going to go out on a limb and recommend that you use your episode’s first significant turning point. This is where your protagonist is forced to take a big risk. Maybe they get an offer from a mysterious stranger. Or, maybe they’re in big trouble, and the only way to save themselves or anyone else is to make a huge change and leave everything they’ve known behind. 

Don’t use the climax of the episode. Don’t use an inside joke. Use a moment where your main character is forced to take action. And, make sure it’s a moment where someone completely new to your audio drama podcast can say, “Oh, yeah, I’ve been in that situation.” This gives people something relatable and sets up your story’s “who” and “what,” leaving the audience to wonder why and how. And, of course, they can only find out by downloading your podcast. 

Here’s the tough part. Ready? Choose a moment that is no more than sixty to ninety seconds long. Why? Social media platforms prefer a sixty-second video, but a ninety-second video can fit on Instagram Reels. TikTok disclosed that 50% of its users found videos more than a minute long to be “stressful” and that many users watched videos at higher speeds.  

For example, I made an audiogram for Season 2, Episode 2 of Jarnsaxa Rising.

You have a person who wakes up in unfamiliar surroundings. The person sees their rescuer and says something inappropriate. The rescuer says they’ve had enough, and takes off, expressing anger at ancient Norse gods. The first person desperately follows. 

Most people know what it’s like to wake up feeling disoriented in an unfamiliar place. And, many people know what it’s like to help someone in need, but feel taken advantage of. As we get to the end of the clip, though, it’s clear that the rescuer has superhuman abilities, and the unfamiliar place isn’t part of our world. This should pique the audience’s curiosity, and get them to try to find out more about this story. 

Knock wood. 

3. Captions Matter, Even When You Have a Script

Most audio drama and fiction podcasts use a pre-written script, and producers make transcripts available on request for free. In your promotion, you need to use captions anywhere you can. Your podcast promotion is an introduction, and you don’t want any obstacles. Not all captions are helpful, though. Again, I’ll use the above audiogram as an example to show you a few ways to make yours excellent.

  • Naming the speakers helps the audience understand what’s happening. 
  • Make sure your punctuation and grammar reflect the speakers’ cadence and attitudes. There’s a big difference between “Let’s eat, Grandma,” and “Let’s eat Grandma.” Commas save lives. 
  • If necessary, stage directions in parentheses can save space and provide clarity. In this case, Eric stammers a lot to show disorientation. Using the stage direction “(startled gasp)” is shorter and easier to understand than “wh- wh- wha- whe- where am I?” 
  • What’s the secret of comedy? Timing! Timing is also the secret of most success. Use Headliner’s captioning system in your audiogram to make sure that the text on-screen matches the audio’s speed as closely as possible. 
  • Putting the captions closer to the top of the screen ensures they’re legible. Most social media platforms put the title and links to like, share, leave a comment, and so on at the bottom of the screen. If your captions overlap the engagement links, you get a squiggly mess, and nobody wants that. 
  • Headliner’s caption system includes animations, or what they call “karaoke style.” When you turn this on, the text changes color to match the speaker’s pace. Some people find this aids accessibility; for others it doesn’t. Do what makes your show clear and memorable. 

Captions should never be an afterthought. They always make your content more accessible for people to invest in emotionally. Always check for accuracy. Even if you’re in a hurry, you don’t want “You honor, he was hit by a truck” to come out as “Donald Ezekiel Duck.” Especially since I don’t think that’s Donald Duck’s middle name. 

4. Make Your Podcast Easy To Find and Understand

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found out about a new audio drama podcast and tried to look it up online, only to discover that its sole internet presence is a Twitter account. When your audience decides whether or not to pay attention to your podcast, they need more than social media posts. 

Some podcasters balk at making a podcast website, because “it’s more work.” But, it doesn’t have to be. What matters is that search engines can index your podcast so people can find it.  You can make a website that offers more ways for your audience to engage with your content. Or, you can make a simple website that updates itself, with a tool like Podpage. Either way, when someone gets a little information about your podcast, you want them to search online and find a lot of your content. 

Including a media kit on your website not only helps your audience learn about your show, but also can help reviewers and journalists write about your podcast. And, when it’s easy for reviewers and journalists to promote your show, that helps you grow your audience. 

5. Newsletters and Lists

When you help audiences find podcasts in general, your reputation improves. Contributing to podcast newsletters and podcast lists are quick, straightforward ways to recommend podcasts like yours. For example: 

  • Subscribe to some podcast newsletters. Read them, and find out what their submission policies are. Most podcast newsletters appear to focus on non-fiction podcasts, but that’s only because there are so many of those shows. The Fiction Podcast Weekly is one of the few that focuses exclusively on audio drama and fiction podcasting. 
  • Tink Media has a database of podcast newsletters. It’s a treasure trove of podcast recommendations and resources. Not all of them will fit your show well, but many will, so give it a read. 
  • Themed lists on Goodpods or Podchaser are an excellent way to amplify your niche and interests. A list on Goodpods starts by introducing your podcast, so you’re automatically promoted. On Podchaser, the list can have any show of your choosing. For example, if you listened to different history or culture shows to research your audio drama podcast, you can make a list of those. Or, promote other audio drama podcasts with similar topics and style to yours. And, speaking of promoting other podcasts…

Bonus Tip: Cross Promotion with Audiogram Swaps

This strategy should be obvious. I don’t know why I don’t see it happen more often. Podcasts sometimes swap trailers and episodes in each other’s RSS feeds. Why not swap audiograms with other podcasts, to share on social media? Tell your followers that this is a show you love and recommend. Include something specific and positive in the description or caption, as long as it’s true. Remember, no spoilers! 

Find What’s Relatable, Highlight, and Clarify it. 

In 1923, Picasso said, “Art is a lie that makes us realize truth.” Sure, your audio drama podcast about unicorns who rob banks may seem like a harder sell than This American Life. But, This American Life’s episode 654, “The Feather Heist,” is no more or less believable than the idea of unicorns robbing banks, once it’s clear what makes those unicorns turn to crime. And, NPR producers bend over backwards to make their podcasts as compelling as fiction. 

Any podcast promotion tool that works for other podcasts will promote your fiction or audio drama podcast. What is it about your audio drama that will resonate with other people? Highlight it and use it to get people to listen. The Podcast Host’s promotion guide can help you put your content in front of more people, And, of course, Headliner has loads of tools to help you show your fiction podcast to the best advantage.