Podcasts are like Marmite: love it or hate it. With an overwhelming the majority of the Western world’s population having a smartphone (and commuting long hours every day), podcasts are once again on the rise. Many of them are produced by self-publishers: but who is the audience? Should you go for fiction or nonfiction? Stay with us to learn more about how self-publishing podcasts help readers, writers and authorpreneurs. Our special guest for today’s post is Tim Lewis, host of the Begin Self-Publishing podcast who has kindly agreed to share some of his insight us.
What are podcasts?
Although podcasts have been around for a few years now and have developed a loyal follower base, there are still millions of people who don’t know what they are missing out on. Podcasts are like a radio show but on demand. Once you sign up, you don’t have to worry about downloading and deleting content, managing your phone’s storage and keeping up-to-date. Your daily news, interviews, analytics and fiction will just magically be on your phone when you get on the bus and realize that you forgot about your book.
Podcasts are a great way to pick up some on-the-go knowledge and information: you are listening to them while you are doing something else! In the car or while doing the dishes, walking to the shop or putting together IKEA furniture. No more wasting time for household chores!
How to get podcasts?
You can either stream them from a website or use a podcast app: it will automatically download the new episode every time it gets published. It is simple. Really. Just watch this video to learn how to.
Once you are hooked up, there is no way back: you will be browsing the library of your podcast app for interesting channels to follow or the internet for feeds you can add. (There are so many great podcasts and so little time.) Currently, Apple products come with a podcast app pre-installed. Android users usually go for Stitcher or Podbean.
Self-publishing podcasts: is it for you?
While not everyone can have a show at NPR, everyone can run a podcast. It is inexpensive and democratic: your podcast will be freely available for everyone. (There are paid services, but big providers like iTunes only work with free podcasts.) While some podcasters do make some money, mostly through sponsors or selling extra content on a separate channel, podcasting is a lot like amateur radio. It is done out of love towards the listeners or the topic itself. So yes, if you have something to say, just do it: people will either like it, or not. If you take it seriously (without taking the fun out of it), self-publishing a podcast is a great way to showcase your creativity and connect with others on your field you have never dreamed of connecting with.
Benefits of running a podcast
And who would you want to connect with? As a writer, you can have two main goals: to connect with your potential readers or to connect with other writers.
There are several ways to connect with your readers: if you are a fiction writer, you could do readings of your work or dramatize them. Before you do this, check out some of the best fiction podcasts currently on air. These podcasts work the best if you adapt your writing to the different medium: just try out different things and see what works!
If you are writing nonfiction, you could run a podcast on your topic of expertise, even invite guest speakers. Don’t be afraid of sharing your secrets: you won’t lose readers by talking about your book, only gain audience. Try not to think of podcasts as a way of promoting your book but as a way of promoting yourself as a brand. If people love your podcast and trust what you do, they are more likely to pay for your book as well.
You could also run a podcast to connect with other self-publishers and authorpreneurs: there is a list of our favourites at the end of this article. While building a self-publishing community does not necessarily lead to increased visibility towards your readers, sharing tips, tricks and experiences could be mutually beneficial.
How to make your podcast stand out?
While the competition is huge, it is still smaller than for ebooks: if you create great content, the chances are good that you will be listened to. There are some things that are essential if you would like your readers to subscribe.
For example, having a good radio voice is definitely on this list. (This is the main reason why I don’t start a podcast myself despite my love for this genre.) This criteria is difficult to define and there are no rules surrounding it. Your voice might be pleasant for somebody and unpleasant for others. Having an accent, however, is something that shouldn’t put you off: there are plenty of great podcasters and vloggers with a foreign English accent.
But even the voice of Stephen Fry couldn’t make listeners listen if the topic is not interesting. The best podcasts have a topic and style they stick to (and an average length). Find the topic that is closest to your heart, the niche you are talking to, and the audience will (hopefully) come.
What do you need to start a podcast?
1. A lot of commitment. Most great podcasts come out once a week or every two weeks: you have to give your listeners a chance to get used to your voice and anticipate listening to you regularly. You will need time for preparation and writing your shows, cutting the audio, for marketing and talking to your fans – it can add up to multiple hours each week. If you are not ready to put in your time and resources into self-publishing a podcast in the hopes of probably never getting anything back (money-wise), then find another way of entertainment.
2. A good microphone. It could be a fairly big investment, especially if you decide to go for an analogue one. To simply start up and try it, using a ‘gamer’ headphone might be sufficient. For tips on how to set up your equipment, check out this blog.
3. A friend. Yes, you can do it all by yourself, but listening to one guy talkingcould be a bit monotone. If you are the only host, get guests and set up some interviews – or simply find a co-host.
If this article was convincing enough and you feel that you are ready to start your own podcast, please turn to the Lifehacker for details on cutting audio and finding the best server to host your feed: the nasty technical details.
Running a podcast as a self-publisher: Tim Lewis
Let’s ask Tim Lewis for some insight. For those of you who don’t know his show: the Begin Self-Publishing Podcast is your one stop guide to how to produce a book that you can sell. They cover eBook, paperback, audiobooks and marketing, inviting experts from each field respectively; the show already has more than 100 episodes, new issues coming out every fortnight. Alongside many cool guests, Tim has also interviewedour CEO, Kinga.
Why did you decide to run a podcast on self-publishing?
I wanted to do a podcast and I thought there was a need for a more introductory show. It’s since turned into anything but an introductory show…
What are some advantages of a podcast over a vlog?
It’s easier to listen to a podcast while doing other things (washing up, walking in the forest, doing the laundry) so there is more time for podcasts than watching videos.
What are the major obstacles you had to overcome?
The biggest issue with podcasting is that it isn’t a great way to grow an audience. While it is great for making a better connection with an audience, it isn’t that easy to be found and listened to as a podcast. The average podcast listener listens to about 6 shows. So to get listened to you either need to replace one of those or bring in new people into listening to podcasts.
How long are you preparing for each episode?
For a 30 minute show it takes me about 2 days. When I did my own editing that was about 3 days.
What are the major costs of podcasting?
Equipment can range from £30 to many hundreds of pounds depending on the quality you want to achieve. Hosting can range from cheap (£5 a month) to expensive, for me transcription also costs about £1 a minute. The biggest cost is time to produce the shows though. I now pay someone $15 a show to edit.
You also run a blog. How does the blog and the podcast relate to each other? Are there any people who are interested only in the blog but not in the podcast?
If you are talking about beginselfpublishing.com then I consider that to be just an extension of the podcast rather than a blog in itself. I haven’t met anyone only interested in the blog element of the show.
Are you a writer yourself? Does having a podcast help promoting your books?
Yes and no. It doesn’t help as they are in the fantasy and sci-fi area. However, for my next non-fiction book, the show will help. In terms of using a podcast to promote a book I wouldn’t recommend it, but there are many good reasons why authors should consider podcasting.
Any tips on marketing? How did you start promoting your podcast?
The best tip is to transfer an audience from somewhere else. Running a live show and then using the audio from that as a podcast is one way, another is to start a podcast off the back of a long-running existing blog or video series where search engine traffic has already created an audience. It’s very hard to get found with just a podcast unless it’s a niche topic where you are the only show and you can spread the word in other relevant venues for promoting that niche.
Who are your audience? More ‘seasoned’ writers or people who are just starting up? Or other podcasters?
Some more seasoned writers, social media marketers, some beginning authors, people interested in self-publishing…
Can you give any advice to somebody who is just thinking about launching a podcast?
For me the biggest benefit of the podcast has been the connections I have made with guests. People very rarely turn down podcast interviews – I’d say 80% of the people I ask have said yes. I value the ability to seek out interviews with people, to learn about things I am interested in personally. The average podcast has about 200 downloads a month for the first month of every episode, so don’t expect huge audiences unless you have created them elsewhere. But you do get a level of credibility and status from having a podcast.
Photography by Ghene Snowdon
Tim Lewis is the host of the Begin Self-Publishing Podcast and has written six books: three time-travel novellas and three fantasy novels. He lives in London and is currently working on his first non-fiction book about social media. You can find out about him at stonehampress.com and the podcast is available at beginselfpublishing.com and on iTunes and all good podcast services.
Best podcasts for self-publishers
So, what should you listen to? Our personal favourites include the aforementioned Begin Self-Publishing and Joanna Penn’s weekly podcast on writing, creativity and publishing options.
The list of great podcasts directed towards writers and self-publishers is endless. Check out the Grammar Girl for biweekly writing advice, Kobo Writing Life for the authors publishing through Kobo (featuring interviews with top influencers of the industry) and Writers Who Don’t Write for weekly interviews with writers who have a story they struggle to write down.
We are always open to try more interesting podcasts (six is just not enough), so please drop us a comment to tell us: what are you listening to?