Wherein Rebeca ponders venturing into the world of podcasting for her platform campaign.
Creating a Podcast for Your Platform
Back in May, I posted Planning Your Platform & Marketing Campaign for Your Novel and it got me thinking that apart from writing essays, blogs, and social media posts that I could be a little more ambitious and venture into the world of…drumroll, please…podcasting.
Why podcasting? The reasons are threefold:
- First, more and more people are tuning into podcasts for a vast number of topics whether it’s the craft of writing to current events. They listen to them while they drive to work, run errands, walk the dog, exercise, or any other activity. I tend to listen to them when I walk the dogs or in the evening while I sketch.
Second, as writers we should be considering other platforms to promote our work. With podcasting, we not only spread the word to a wider audience, we’re also adding a different subset of skills.
Third, updating and learning new skills always makes you more marketable.
With that latter point in mind, take a look at most job listings for writers and you’ll see that employers want us to have skills other than pen to paper or fingertips to keyboard. As much as I hate to burst the bubble for so many writers who have a fear of new platforms and technology, writing in the 21st century has become a multi-disciplinarian vocation. You should have a basic understanding of how search engine optimization works, but also how to market yourself via social media, and create basic websites so you can reach a broader audience (or write for potential clients). In the case of podcasting, you’ll be using many of those skills in addition to learning new technology like audio editing.
After pondering whether I should take this leap, I decided it can’t hurt and it could be fun. But before I actually made the mental investment of moving forward I had several questions on how to start.
I emailed my go to podcaster/consultant buddy Suzy Chase who has taken two passions and turned them into podcasts: The Groove Radio, which is a soul music mix show that features soul grooves from the late 1960s to the 1990s and Cookery by the Book, where she interviews recently published cookbook authors.
According to Suzy, the key to a successful podcast is to have a targeted niche. Although there are a number of foodie podcasts, she drilled it down to a sub-niche that focused solely on cookbooks and interviewing the authors.
Once you’ve determined your targeted niche, the next step is the planning process and there’s quite a bit to consider from the basic tools like a good microphone, the software to edit the recording, the hosting platform, naming your podcast, and the most time-consuming aspect—creating the content. If thinking of that already overwhelms you there are several courses online—free and paid for— that provide a number of resources and templates to help you with the preliminary prep work to get your podcast launched.
Although speaking with Suzy cleared up most of the questions I had, I decided to purchase Kelsey Murphy’s Podcast to Profit: 30 Days to Launch. The four week course, provides a detailed plan and calendar, scripts for intro and outro, a spreadsheet (or Trello boards) that includes daily checklists for four weeks; recommended equipment (mic, headphones, soundproofing material—should you need it); software to edit your recording and recommended podcast platforms.
When I spoke with Suzy she mentioned you don’t need to spend a fortune on all the bells and whistles (Kelsey also says this in her videos). There’s audio editing software like Audacity that’s open source and you can get it for free or if you have a Mac, you can use the pre-installed GarageBand. In terms of recording software, you can use Zoom, Zencastr, or even Skype (you’ll need software to record those Skype calls). As for a microphone, there’s a variety you can choose that can cost anywhere from $40 to $300. I chose the Samson Meteor Mic USB Studio Microphone for $69.99, which was recommended via an Audacity tutorial I found on YouTube.
Once you have the necessary tools, it’s the planning phase of creating your content. Enter Scrivener. Using the blank template, I saved it with the title of the podcast. Because I already have the Google spreadsheet of the daily tasks for all the prep work needed, I simply downloaded it as a .csv file and imported it into the research section. But if you decide to not go through the paid lesson route, you can create a task list by creating a new document and use the checkbox feature that’s found in Project->Project Settings->Custom Metadata. A window will open. On the left-hand side, select custom metadata.
To create the metadata, click on the plus sign and tap in your tasks in the field. In “Type” select checkbox.
The task list will appear in the General Metadata tab in the Inspector:
Another option is to keep a running task list within your document or create one in Excel and import it into the research section as I stated above. In this case, in my humble opinion, I think using the Excel worksheet is the best option. In creating the content, you should have no difficulty how to structure it in Scrivener. It’s up to you whether you want to have a weekly show, twice a month, or once a month. When you've determined the timing, you can create folders in the binder for your content. For example, for my podcast, I'll be airing two shows per month—the first and third Mondays. Each monthly folder will contain two subfolders with that first and third Monday's episode's intro and outro, guest bio, my script, show notes, and the episode's transcript.
My recommendation is if you’ve done so much research on your chosen topic that you’ve become an expert, you might want to do a weekly show and grow your audience (hopefully, that will sell some books).
Once you’ve determined the time schedule of how often you want to broadcast, now you get into the fun part of creating the content and see whether you have enough material that you can stretch it for a season or more. In some cases, you might only have enough material for a few episodes. In Suzy’s case, there seems to be an unlimited amount of cookbooks published so she has a wide selection to choose and highlight on her show for several seasons. For me, I’m focusing on a specific historical period where there’s an abundance of material that I can discuss as well as invite authors for interviews for several seasons.
Both Suzy and Kelsey recommend that you brainstorm ten episodes and create outlines. From there, you’ll want to outline at least three key points of what you want to get across for that episode. Don’t worry if you need extra episodes to cover the topic—especially if it’s one dealing with a time in history that has many twists and turns like the Russian Revolution. Also, determine whether the episode will be just you pontificating or whether you’ll be interviewing an expert on the topic.
If you decide to wing it on your own, I recommend you write a script. You can either write this in the standard writing mode or you can use the Script mode and select transcription. To format a script in Scrivener, select the format you want to use from the Format->Scriptwriting->Submenu. From the submenu, you have a number of choices that include:
- BBC Radio Scene Style
- BBC Taped Drama
- Comic Book (two types you can choose from either Antony Johnson or Alternative)
- Stage Play (UK and US)
Or simply create a new project using one of the templates in the “Scriptwriting” category. Once you’re in scriptwriting mode, the binder icon for that specific document will be tinted yellow with three-hole punches. The footer will display a number of scriptwriting tools unlike the standard word count and characters display found in the normal prose mode for general writing. To learn more about Scriptwriting mode refer to Chapter 19, section 19.1 of the Scrivener Manual found under the Help tab. Finally, If you have a difficult time memorizing the copy (as I do) there are a number of teleprompter apps you can download like Teleprompter Premium from the Mac App Store.
The next big questions is where to host your podcast? If you Google, you’ll find hundreds of hosting platforms that offer free plans with limited features to enterprise plans that are quite expensive but loaded with a number of features. From my research via friends who podcast, their recommended podcast hosts include:
- Libsyn which is currently offering a free two-month trial for their paid versions.
- Anchor offers a number of features and is 100% free.
- Sounder offers a free version with several features and paid versions with more features ranging from $30 and up.
For more tips, Suzy has a column in Medium that you can read and follow, but if podcasting seems like a fun way to create your platform to promote your book I suggest the next time you tune into your favorite podcast take note of the following items:
- Episode length.
- Music breaks as transitions.
- The length of the intro and outro.
- Length of sponsorship announcements or commercial breaks.
- Take a peek at the episode notes and see if a transcription is provided or any links that you can check out.
- Finally, take copious notes and examine what takeaways you get from those listening experiences and how they can help you launch your own successful podcast!
Disclaimer: Literature and Latte is not financially compensated or a sales affliiate of any of the companies or products mentioned throughout this article.