Let me guess. You love listening to podcasts. You consume them before work, after work, and you’ve thought more than once, “why yes, I DO have a radio-worthy voice that’s ready for the airwaves! I should start a podcast to promote my books!”
Podcasting is easy...right? All I need is a phone and a voice, right...?
But you're probably wondering: is podcasting worth my time, especially from an author's perspective?
Read on to find out.
Why I’m Writing About Podcasting
Well, I have a podcast – it’s a narrative young adult fiction podcast called Wingtorn – but that’s not the main reason I'm writing about podcasting today.
Podcast editing is among my suite of talents. It’s something I do professionally, believe it or not. Since late 2016, my corporate clients have sent me their recorded audio and I've stitched it together with music and ads. Since podcasting has seen an explosion in popularity these recent years, I've had ample opportunity and time to develop my podcasting skills: in front of the mic, and behind it.
I know what it takes to make a show, from a technical production and a creative standpoint. The labour. The commitment of time. The frustrations of badly recorded audio. The itch to try something new. The pain of checking your statistics and seeing the low, low numbers.
And – the rush when you see a spike in listens, and the subsequent hunting through your analytics to uncover what caused the high.
So, should you start a podcast to promote your book?
Starting a podcast is a WHOLE project. Sure – you can grab your phone and record yourself and put it out there. Anyone can do that. But to make it in a way that lands with your audience? That sounds professional and makes your heart swell with pride? That takes time. Sweat. Tears.
Here are nine questions you should ask yourself before you start a podcast to promote your books.
What time can I set aside in my schedule to run the show?
Podcasting isn't just the time you spend in front of the microphone. It also requires planning and foresight. Consider the time it takes to:
- Brainstorm, research, and plan episodes. This includes making talking notes or creating scripts, as applicable.
- Find and book guests, as applicable.
- Gather motivation to record and edit the audio. This is especially hard if you're creating a WEEKLY show!
- Review the audio to ensure the session recorded properly.
- Make any re-records, as necessary.
- Create show notes or any other ancillary items required for your podcast. For example, for my narrative fiction podcast, I keep an up-to-date character list for easy reference.
- Gather additional information from guests (as applicable) like their bio, author photo, and any relevant links.
- Promote the episodes on social media (which involves creating media and copy FOR those posts!)
Remember: everything takes LONGER than you think it will! Booking a quality guest that's relevant could involve a 30 minute consultation to see if they're a good fit for your show.
How often am I publishing the podcast?
Once a week? Bi-monthly? Monthly? Or is it a seasonal podcast?
I struggled with this one! Originally, I was going to publish my fictional episodes weekly, but I faltered after a while and decided there was no humanly way I could keep up. After all, I was writing, recording, editing, and publishing half hour fiction each week, without sponsorship or monetization at the time. I decided to switch the format to a seasonal podcast, which suits the conceit of the show far more. It also allows me to better plan the content and publish on a more reasonable schedule.
Do I have the capital to invest in podcasting equipment?
I have my choice in listening material. I certainly do not want to listen to an interview you recorded in a coffee shop. (Sorry, I’m sure the guest was great – but if I have to work to discern the audio? I’m gone). If your audio quality is sub-par, I will turn it off.
But – not everyone is me.
You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on a microphone to have your audio sound listenable. There are lots of affordable microphone options on Amazon. And, you can always upgrade your equipment later once you’ve hit a stride.
If you’re on a budget for your podcast, that's okay!
My BIGGEST pieces of advice for folks on a budget is...
Record in a quiet room.
And, be mindful of the sounds YOU make: hands banging on the table. Your phone buzzing or going off mid-record. Barking dogs outside the room or chirping birds in the tree outside. If you have a guest, ask them to turn off their phones and record in as quiet an environment as possible.
You can have the MOST expensive set-up and make the above mistakes and have your podcast be unlistenable as a result!
Am I willing to learn how to edit audio, if I can’t hire someone?
In an ideal world, in an ideal recording set up? Editing a podcast is a breeze.
But not every recording session is ideal. You’ll make mistakes. A dog will bark at an inopportune time. You’ll discover just how noisy your desktop is when it’s layered in with your audio. You’ll think of a brilliant sentence in add in to your solo episode hours after you’ve turned off the microphone, and you decide to go back in and re-record a section.
Although I hate to say it - editing is optional. Technically. You could record and throw up whatever you have onto your feed.
Or, you could throw your file into a free program like Audacity and listen back to get a feel for how everything landed.
As a general rule of thumb: it takes at least double the episode run time to edit it. I spend up to triple on my edits because I’m picky. Podcast editing will inherently take longer if you’re editing for content AND audio quality. Just like substantive editing takes longer and is more involved than copy editing!
Am I willing to pay for podcast hosting?
Popular options include Lisbyn, Buzzsprout, Podbean, and Blubrry,
I personally use and recommend Blubrry, as it integrates with my self-hosted WordPress site. I simply upload my new episodes in the backend of my website, along with my show notes and episodes description, and Blubrry handles the rest. I can even see my podcast stats in my dashboard, which I also love.
Podcast hosting costs vary, but be prepared to pay anywhere from $15-$20 USD/month for a starting package, which will get you just enough monthly storage allowance to upload your files once a week.
Am I willing to stick it out until it "takes off?"
This…this is a tough one.
Depending on your topic, you might get lucky and find a listenership. You may have a built-in audience already, and if so, you’re ahead of the pack.
But if you’re starting from zero, with zero audience?
It takes time to build an author brand. I know.
When thinking about ANY project, you can become swept away by the idea of the thing instead of focusing on your long-term goals and marketing strategy. Remember, when you're starting a podcast to promote your books, now you have to also promote the podcast AND the books. That's TWO things to worry about.
Remember, when you're starting a podcast to promote your books, now you have to promote the podcast AND the books. That's TWO things to worry about.
It can take years for your podcast to gain traction - and that's assuming you are building your audience, listening to their needs, reflecting on your content, and pivoting as necessary to serve your listeners and readers.
Sure. You can continue producing whatever you want without feedback or concern for the listener...but that's not going to make you grow as a podcaster. Or, as a person.
What do I have to say that’s fresh or interesting?
People will not show up to consume your content just because you made it. If that were true, you’d already be selling buckets of books, right?
(Maybe you are selling buckets of books - and if so, YAY!)
Having a concrete format for the show that is easy to follow and understand allows your listener to have security in predictability.
Meaning: your listener will show up and know exactly what to expect from you. Maybe that means you have a two minute rundown before you introduce a guest. Or, you always ask your guest the same three bonus questions at the end of the interview. Perhaps you always provide an actionable takeaway in the final minutes of the show.
That doesn't mean you can't hop on a mic and say whatever you want. Casual, conversational podcasts that don't have a "real" theme or topic are popular too and can be a cathartic backdrop at the end of the day.
If that's the conceit of your show, ask yourself the hard question: is this easy listening? Are you and your co-host (or guest, as applicable) carrying a sufficient banter or telling stories that hold the listener's attention?
If not: what changes can you make to your show to improve the quality of the content or your delivery?
Am I willing to give someone else the center stage?
If you have an interview format, understand that the show will not be all about you. You are offering space for a guest to enter your proverbial home and talk about their expertise or creation. You are the guide. It’s your job as host to research the guest, understand their topic enough to ask insightful questions, and establish rapport to facilitate an interesting exchange of ideas.
Oh, is that all? XD
Yes – as stated above, you can have a free-form, casual talk show. You can start a podcast with a co-host and together you can discuss a topic (my first podcast was like this, it was a lot of fun!). But consider your audience and the information or value you want to provide to them.
If you want to have an interview show, repeat after me…
Your interview episode is only as good as the guest.
You can be an excellent speaker, with good equipment, asking the right questions – but if you can’t connect with the guest, if they don’t have something interesting to say, or if their audio quality is straight-up bad…you’ll have to decide whether or not it’s worth airing.
On the flip side: an excellent guest elevates your show, especially a guest who has a larger audience than yours.
So, why SHOULD you start a podcast to promote your books?
Now that you've had a reality check, let's go over some reasons you SHOULD start a podcast to promote your books.
- To get new ears and eyes on your books.
- To expand your audience's understanding of your topic.
- To connect with other creators
- To connect with and form community with your audience
- You genuinely enjoy the audio format and don't mind putting in the effort to create and maintain a high-quality show.
- To learn new skills (interviewing, podcast editing, show planning and management)
A podcast is a long-term investment that, when done thoughtfully, can help you build a platform and reach readers you never would have otherwise.
I still don’t know whether or not I should start a podcast.
For me? I don't like creating X just to serve A. X - the podcast - should have value in and of itself. It's not just a soapbox for you or your friends. If you want it to drive traffic to your work, it should entertain or teach something relevant to your audience and be consistent with your author brand.
If you’re unsure about whether or not to start a podcast, there is ONE thing you can do to promote your book and be involved in podcasting.
Be a GUEST on OTHER PEOPLE’S PODCASTS!
What a revelation! XD
No, it’s not the same as starting your own podcast. But it can give you a taste for the work involved.
But Clare, how do I do that?
Stay tuned for an upcoming article on that very topic.
Let me know in the comments: do you have a podcast to promote your books? Have you ever been on someone else’s podcast to promote your writing? How did it go?