Podcasting and Indie Authors: Is Podcasting Right for You?

by | Mar 25, 2015

By Frances Caballo

Everyone seems to be talking about podcasting these days. But is podcasting right for you?

As an Indie author, you’re already busy producing books and handling all of the marketing. Just take it all in for a moment.

  • There’s your website to maintain.
  • Your blog to update regularly.
  • Comments you leave on other blogs.
  • The guest posts you write for other blogs.
  • Your social media accounts that help you build your platform.
  • The blog tours you organize.
  • The endorsements you secure for the back cover of your books.
  • The newsletter you have to publish every month.

The list can be exhausting.

I chose to follow this path because I feel it’s important to integrate as many forms of media as we can into our content marketing strategy.

The Rise of Podcasting

Kevin Roose, writing for Forbes, said, “We’re in a golden age of podcasting.”

Why is it occurring now? Many say it’s because of the widespread use of smartphones and connected cars.

Just as people are increasingly forgoing cable subscriptions for streaming Netflix, people are turning to the intimacy and interruption-free programming of the podcast.

According to WPVirtuoso.com, Apple recently surpassed 1 billion subscriptions to podcasts.

Michael Wolff, also writing for Forbes, wrote that there are nearly 250,000 unique podcasts in existence.

That number may seem high but not when you compare it to the 152 million blogs on the Internet. What this means is that there is far less competition in the podcasting realm than there is on the blogosphere.

It seems that while the public’s interest in podcasting is rising, readership of blogs is declining. When I researched this on Google Trends, I was surprised by the graphs I discovered.

The first graph tracks the rise in podcast listeners.

Rise in podcast listeners

This second graph tracks the declining interest in reading blogs.

Declining interest in blogs

I am not saying that you should stop blogging and start podcasting. I am saying that right now is a good time to get your message heard through podcasting.

Each form of media helps you to reach new audiences. I find that my podcast listeners tend to be people who don’t have time to sit at their computers to read blogs but do have time to listen to podcasts as they travel on subways or prepare dinner.

Content marketing has always been critical to platform building. Your first book was like the first brick to your platform foundation. Blogging and social media provided further support and now there’s a fairly new type of brick available: podcasting.

I say fairly new because podcasting has been around for ten years.

I’ve only had a podcast since January, yet my book sales have already increased. Even a deaf writer discovered my podcast before he’d ever read my blog. In fact, he sent me an email asking whether I had show notes for the podcast. I directed him to my Friday blog posts, which are the scripts for my podcast.

My Journey into Podcasting

My journey began in August when I traveled to Atlanta to attend a workshop with Ellen Britt and Denise Wakeman. It was an intimate workshop, and I came away completely enthused.

Then the hard work began.

First, I defined my audience and the goal for my podcast. I also decided that my podcast would air weekly and that I would keep the episodes to no longer than 15 minutes.

Then, over the next several months I created:

  1. an editorial calendar for my first 25 podcast episodes.
  2. a logo and an episode graphic element.
  3. a template for my scripts.
  4. a template for my show notes.
  5. a landing page for my podcast.
  6. a marketing plan.
  7. my intro and outro copy.
  8. a survey (using Survey Monkey) to find out what topics my audience wanted me to cover in the upcoming episodes.

In addition, I:

  1. purchased equipment, tested the equipment, and then bought new equipment.
  2. purchased my intro and out trial music from Audio Junkie.
  3. purchased and installed Smart Podcast Player on my website to enable me to stream my podcast with my show notes.
  4. learned how to use Audacity for recording and editing my episodes.

The equipment that I finally settled on included the following:

  • Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB Cardioid Dynamic USB/XLR Microphone
  • Tour Grade Tripod mic stand with boom TGMC66 (I purchased this from a local audio store that musicians rely on.)
  • A pop filter (I also purchased this from a local audio store for musicians.)

mic and popNext, I had to select an RSS feed to host my podcast episodes. Some people use Blubrry while others use SoundCloud or Libsyn. After reading a number of blog posts and having several conversations with the folks at Libsyn, that’s the RSS feed I chose to use.

Once I uploaded my episodes to Libsyn, I set up an account with iTunes and applied to Stitcher.

I began marketing my podcast at the beginning of December and my goal was to publish it by January 8, 2015. I think I missed the deadline by a couple of days.

My next challenge was getting reviews. It’s vitally important in the early days after releasing a podcast to secure five reviews. I was able to get them in one weekend.

In the month of February, 600 people downloaded my podcast. Those numbers can’t compare to the popularity of Tim Ferris or Copyblogger’s shows, but I was stoked.

Is podcasting easy? Not at all. I had many frustrating moments. The first mic I purchased, a condenser mic, was horrible.

I initially purchased desktop stands, but they didn’t work for me.

Finding Your Voice through Podcasting

Then there was my voice. I learned that just as writers find their voice through the stories they write, podcasters find their voice through the recordings they make.

I rerecorded my initial eight episodes at least four times. It took me a while to discover my tempo, learn to communicate my enthusiasm and get accustomed to the technology while recording.

You see, I didn’t have a team. I couldn’t just make a recording and hand it off to a sound specialist. I couldn’t just ask a graphic artist to develop my logo and do the marketing for me.

As an Indie author, I had to learn every aspect of it. I had to execute every step I took.

Finally, there was another obstacle for me to surmount. This one was deeply personal one.

Stuttering and Podcasting

As a child, I had a horrific stuttering problem. I could not utter one sentence without stuttering several words.

Consequently, I was a quiet child. I was happiest when I was curled up in a chair reading books all day. After all, it wasn’t much fun having to talk and listen to people make fun of me.

It was especially embarrassing when people would finish my words and sentences for me. You can’t imagine the humiliation when people try to speak for you.

So podcasting became another speech challenge for me. I rarely stutter or stammer now – only occasionally when I am utterly exhausted or extremely nervous – but it can crop up on rare occasions and the fear is always there.

So this is how I decided to handle the stuttering and stammering problem.

In my very first episode, I told my listeners about my stuttering problem, and I warned them that they might hear me stammer in some of my episodes.

At the end of the first episode, I prided myself on not having stammered in a lighthearted way. Now, whenever I stammer, I don’t stop recording or erase those parts of the broadcast. Instead, I might giggle a little and make fun of myself and then move on. After all, it is kind of funny when people try to say two or three words in a certain order but then reverse them instead.

It provides for comical moment.

What I discovered through podcasting is that we can’t constantly be correcting ourselves or redoing everything until are broadcasts are without a single flaw. None of my episodes are perfect, but my listeners don’t seem to mind.

If I had a crew helping me, then perfection might be a realistic goal. But I’m an Indie author and you know how that goes.

If you want to venture into the world of podcasting, have fun with it. You may not buy the right mic the first time, but that’s okay. You might go through one or two pop filters until you find the perfect one, but that’s okay. You might stammer a bit as you record your initial episodes, but that’s okay too.

You’ll find that your audience is forgiving. They know you’re human, and they know you’re trying and that’s all any of us can do.

Podcasts Topics for Authors

So what should you podcast about? Well, that depends on how you answer these questions:

  • Who are you trying to reach?
  • What is the demographics of your readership?
  • What is the goal of your podcast?

If you write nonfiction books, then deciding your focus for the podcast is fairly easy. Emphasize your podcast on educating your readership and your listeners on the niche you write about.

If you write young adult and new adult books, you’re in luck. Half of all podcast listeners are between the ages of 12 and 34 years of age. (Source: wpvirtuoso.com) You might want to focus your podcast on storytelling – both the stories you write and stories your colleagues write.

Say that your novels are always about vampires. Maybe you want your podcast to focus on vampires, vampire lore, and other writers who include vampires in their novels.

Maybe you want to help other writers improve their craft. You could interview editors, agents and other experts in the field to provide you and your listeners with information about writing.

How you decide to focus your podcast will depend on your readership, your interests, your passion, and your niche. Choose your topic carefully, query your audience, test the waters and go for it.

social mediaFrances Caballo is a Contributing Writer for The Book Designer. She is also an author and social media strategist and manager for writers. Click here to receive a free copy of her book Twitter Just for Writers.

You can learn more about how to connect with Frances, including how to subscribe to her podcast, here.

 
Photo: bigstockphoto.com.

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14 Comments

  1. Denise Wakeman

    Outstanding article, Frances. Love the level of detail. All types of marketing, whether it’s a podcast or blog or social media, takes time, effort and commitment. Choose your tools and stick with it. Thanks for the mention!

    Reply
    • Frances Caballo

      Denise: Thanks for stopping by to leave a comment. What I neglected to say in this post is that I never would’ve gotten my podcast off the ground without your support. Thank you so much for your help.

      Reply
  2. Cheri Fields

    Thanks for this.
    I started to feel led into podcasting myself after being thankful for what listening to them had done to my chore time for years.
    It’s a big task getting started and putting a show together even though my outfit and schedule is way simpler than the one shared here. But, I’m not even considering throwing in the towel because of the reasons I started:

    Many people in my target audience don’t enjoy reading.

    I want them to get the message I have to share in a format they will enjoy and benefit from.
    It’s also something I’m doing for my own family: giving my kids a chance to experience speaking in a formal setting from their youth. Indeed, I’m using it a part of their school assignments.
    Plus, I’ve always felt more connected to people I’ve listened to and want that sense of connection with my audience.

    Reply
    • Frances Caballo

      Cheri: You raise an excellent point. Ellen Britt maintains that through podcasting – and enabling others to hear your voice in their earbuds – we create an intimate connection with our audience. I think it’s great how you are incorporating your family into podcasting. Kudos to you.

      Reply
  3. Marquita Herald

    Very well written and lots of great information. That said, I’m beginning to form a vision of all these people little little lemmings rushing along to join the “podcast movement.” I will admit I’ve always been a bit of a rebel but I just don’t believe in the one-size-fits-all approach to … well, anything I guess. Point in case – I’ve been following the awesome Copyblogger website for years. They also believe in the podcast trend – so much they’ve gone 100% to their new radio show not even giving followers an option how to consume their content. I’m a reader and not a fan of podcasts so it was a sad moment after all these years to unsubscribe from Copyblogger and dump them from my Feedly list. I’m all for trying new things so if podcasting works for someone that’s great, I just think authors in particular should take the time to evaluate it before jumping in to join the next great thing.

    Reply
    • Frances Caballo

      Marquita: I also agree that authors need to stop and evaluate whether podcasting is right for them and whether they have the time and energy to invest in this type of endeavor. It’s not easy to start a podcast but once you have one, it’s pretty easy to keep it going. It’s very similar to blogging. At first you don’t know what you want to focus on and then you have to set it up, but once those decisions are made, it’s fairly easy to keep going. I know that on the East Coast people like to listen to podcasts as they travel on trains to and from work. I have a follower who likes to listen to my podcasts as she’s cooking dinner at night. I like to listen to podcasts when I’m at the gym or taking a break from reading my computer screen. Podcasts are just another medium to continue my learning curve.

      Reply
  4. Matt Syverson

    Podcasting sounds easy, but it is a ton of work. I’ve been doing one about a year and a half now. And unless it’s about writing or publishing, you will more than likely struggle in finding an audience. Of course, those statements apply to blogging, as well. I have heard the average podcast lasts seven episodes. It is fun and can be rewarding, but don’t think just because podcasts are popular that finding an audience is easy, because it is far from it. I have a background in recording, and it takes me roughly about six hours of work per one hour of podcast. Best of luck to any of you who do start a podcast. I’m not trying to discourage you, just trying to enlighten you to the realities.

    Reply
    • Frances Caballo

      Matt: Yes, there are hurdles to podcasting, which is why there is so much opportunity for authors. The hurdles aren’t any more insurmountable than they are for publishing and selling books. Podcasting offers a new medium to expand one’s audience. I find that I have new followers who prefer to listen to podcasts then read my blog posts. Of course, one needs to invest in marketing to make a podcast successful. But I believe that Indie authors, who must also take control of the marketing for their books, are in a great position to accomplish this. One can look at podcasting as “just one more thing to do” or they can look at podcasting as another vehicle to reach an audience they otherwise wouldn’t have reached. But as Indie authors, we have to decide how much energy we have. Maybe we don’t have time to add podcasting to our marketing strategy. But if we can fit it in, I think it is a powerful medium to reach new readers. Also, podcasts don’t need to be an hour in length. My podcasts are no longer than 15 minutes. Grammar Girl gained her fame with 10 minute podcasts. I think everyone needs to decide where they want to invest their energy and whether adding more forms of media to an author’s platform is worth the investment of time. For me, this was the right time to venture into podcasting. You didn’t mention the name of your podcast. I would love to know so I can listen to it. I wish you continued success in your own podcast and your writing.

      Reply
  5. Frances Caballo

    Judith: You make a good point about the graphs. I will retrace my research and be sure to get back to you.

    Reply
  6. susan troccolo

    Hi Frances, As an Indie author, I really appreciated this article. I’m in the process of deciding where to put my marketing energies as I get ready to launch an ebook promo and a print and ebook for the end of 2015. I think I would really enjoy doing podcasts, but what you’ve done here is clarify—for me—some of the issues around the task. Thank you for a terrific article!

    Reply
    • Frances Caballo

      Susan: I am so glad that you found this post helpful. I tried my best to explain the steps that I took so that other authors would know what steps they would need to take. Best wishes to you!

      Reply
  7. Judith Briles

    Hello Frances. I’m a firm believer in podcasting. I’ve watched my show, AuthorU-Your Guide to Book Publishing, grow from less than a handful to over 200,000 downloads a month in a three year span and now I’m gearing up to launch a new portal for just authors and podcasting that will debut in a few months.

    The graphs got my attention buy don’t say anything … I see years … but what are the measurements besides an increase in podcasts and decrease in blog reading? What are the units so I know what I’m looking at?

    Reply
    • Frances Caballo

      Judith: When I looked back at Google Trends, the graph didn’t have any units. It was merely a representation of the growth in listenership over time. The graph did not include the number of podcast listeners. The same was true for the blogging graph. I know that must be frustrating for you but I was looking for trends and that’s what I found. For some reason, Google Trends did not include units in their graph.

      Reply
      • Judith Briles

        Well… a slap on the cyber hand to Google! Thanks Frances

        Reply

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