Podcasting For Authors - What You Need to Know to Get Started
Thinking about making your own podcast? Check here for tips to help you get started.
Podcasts have exploded in popularity in the last few years, and have become one of the most accessible and popular ways to consume audio content. By moving the conversation from videos or blog posts and into audio, podcasts can garner a wider audience because of the versatility in where they’re enjoyed. They’re easy to listen to on the go in the car, while exercising, hiking in a forest, flying in a plane, anywhere really.
As an author, you probably have a story to tell, some writing experience to share, and a unique perspective to talk about. If you’re good at holding a conversation and willing to devote the time necessary to create and promote a podcast, podcasting can be an excellent way to increase your profile, establish yourself as an expert in your corner of the internet, and result in book sales.
If you’ve ever thought about creating your first podcast, this article will take you step-by-step through the things you need to think about as you go from pondering podcast content to having your own podcast available through all the major podcast hosting platforms.
What is a Podcast?
Ben Hammersley coined the term podcast in February 2004 while writing an article for The Guardian newspaper. It is a portmanteau of the words “broadcast” and “iPod”, the latter being the new audio technology of the day. Despite the name, these spoken articles and audio episodes can be streamed and distributed on a variety of devices and platforms.
Typically, a podcast has a theme or topic of specialized interest. While there is no set format, a podcast is usually a one way conversational lecture, an interview, or a discussion among a group of hosts. Episode lengths can vary wildly. Some podcasts run 10-15 minutes, while others may be sprawling interviews that run over three hours. Most podcasts release an episode every week or two. As it can take a while to build up a following, be sure to pick a podcast topic you’d be happy to talk about for months, or even years.
Benefits of a Podcast
Podcasting is beneficial to both listeners and authors.
To the listener
- Low cost - while some podcasts may require a subscription, free podcasts are the norm, with any monetization coming in the form of podcast advertising.
- No logins or sign ups required
- Available on multiple platforms so no special medium required
- Notifications of new episodes are available to subscribers
- The files are accessible on demand so listeners can consume them at any convenient time
- Past episodes are available, giving listeners the opportunity to start from the beginning or browse for topics of interest
To the podcasters
- Direct and focused contact with an audience
- A way to connect with an audience on a personal level
- Ability to talk about a niche
- Pre-record episodes for launch at any time
- Relatively inexpensive to set up and manage
- No time restrictions
- Increases discoverability online
- Offers networking opportunities with readers, authors, etc.
- Brands often offer sponsorships to established podcasts, as they offer access to targeted audiences, giving the podcaster the opportunity to turn their efforts into an income stream.
Thinking of starting a podcast? The first step is to outline your goals and find your niche. This is similar to writing a book—plotting and planning. Consider asking yourself the following questions:
- What will be your theme/topic/genre?
Are you offering your experience as an author? Interviewing other authors? Focusing on writing, marketing, publishing, inspiration? Tutorials on different aspects of the publishing process? The subject of your podcast will help determine your target audience.
Pro-Tip: For research on what is out there, check out 15 Excellent Podcasts for Authors for examples of podcasts covering writing and publishing.
- What do you offer that sets you apart?
Take some time to decide what it is about you that listeners might be attracted to. What part of the author journey are you most comfortable discussing? What is your passion? You need a unique angle to earn the attention of listeners. By focusing on your love of a topic, that passion will flow through your voice to the audience.
- What do you want listeners to get out of your podcast?
Every podcast offers some value to its audience. It’s why the listeners keep coming back. There has to be more to the podcast than a general discussion on a topic. Consider what insights, tips or tricks you can deliver. It could be something as simple as offering book reviews, to help potential readers find new books.
- What do you want to achieve with your podcast?
Carefully consider what you want out of the podcast for yourself. Is it simply an outlet for you to talk about your journey? Do you want to engage with your readership more? Do you want to connect with new readers or other authors?
The same way the title of your book is important, your podcast name is a marketing opportunity to draw in the right audience. Consider a title that is search engine friendly, meaning that it is easily searchable, but also distinguishable from other podcasts currently on the market. A title that is catchy versus something more straightforward might set you apart.
Podcast Description / Tagline:
This brief line is an opportunity to showcase the theme and value of your podcast. Similar to the tagline of your book, this one sentence has the potential to attract audiences. Here are some examples:
Writing Excuses: 15 minutes long, because you're in a hurry, and we're not that smart.
Mark Dawson’s Self Publishing Formula: Your weekly dose of inspiration and education.
The Write Now Podcast: A podcast for writers at all stages of your creative journey.
The Writer Files: Writing, Productivity, Creativity and Neuroscience
The Book Marketing Show: Learn what’s working in book marketing for other authors so you can sell more books.
Pro-tip: Make sure the title and tag line are easy to say. You’ll be repeating it each week.
Podcast Cover Art:
No matter where you publish your podcast, an image will be associated with your audio files. Much like a profile picture on social media, an image that represents the tone and content of your podcast is expected. This could be your logo, or your logo combined with another element. The important part is that the podcast artwork stands apart from the other things you promote, so it’s easily recognizable as belonging to the podcast. Need help making a logo? Freelance sites like Upwork and Fiverr have plenty of people you could hire for assistance. Make sure your logo is the right size - many platforms require images to be between 1400 x 1400 and 3000 x 3000 pixels.
Pro-Tip: For helpful tips on branding, check out How to Brand Yourself as an Author.
Some popular podcast formats include an interview style where the podcast host invites a different guest each week for a chat, a scripted narrative much like an online article or lecture, or a discussion between two or more hosts where a topic is delved into. Each format has its own pros and cons, and any can make for a successful podcast. Run with the template that best suits your interests and know how.
Pro: You don’t have to come up with all the content
Con: You have to book a guest or two each week
Pro: You call all the shots, and have complete control over the subject matter
Con: You have to create all the content
Pro: The conversation can flow, easily filling the time. Your co-host can help with preparation, writing show notes, audio editing, and other aspects of production.
Con: You have to do more research and additional editing may be required
Pro: Your listeners are engaged as the shifting voices and opinions keep things fresh
Con: You have more guests and personalities to manage
Pro: Can be broken down into multiple episodes
Con: Unless you’re already an expert on a subject, expect to spend a lot of time with research.
Pro: You do this for a living
Con: It’s a bit like writing another book
The amount of time you want to spend on each episode can help determine what format as well. Interviews tend to take time and might lean towards 30 to 60 minutes of content. Shorter content, like a solo article, might be covered in 10 to 15 minutes.
Although not required, podcast intro and outro music are often considered a sign of a high-quality podcast. Podcast music helps make a good first impression for your podcast, and suggests you take audio quality seriously. With a little internet research, it’s possible to find a number of royalty free music tracks available at little to no cost. If you have a Canva account, there are options in there as well. Try to select music that fits with your author brand. For example, an upbeat banjo solo might not resonate with listeners of a horror podcast.
To grow and maintain an audience, a regular schedule should be adhered to. Loyal listeners will not only subscribe to your podcast, but look forward to their weekly or daily dose of information. Leaving too long a period between podcasts might cause you to lose a portion of your audience. A weekly or biweekly schedule, releasing at the same time on the same day, helps demonstrate consistency.
An essential element of podcast recording is finding a quiet location to record your sessions. The quality of your podcast will be judged by its listeners, and if the environment has distracting background noise, this may turn listeners off and keep them from coming back. Choose a room with minimal glass, preferably something similar to a closet. To dampen the impact of outside noises, consider hanging sound absorbing material in the room such as acoustic panels or fabric. A cheap alternative is blankets, pillows or other cushy materials that can essentially absorb outside noise.
While it is possible to create your podcast with a recording app, a video conferencing program, or a smartphone, having some specialized equipment will improve the quality of your recordings.
Microphone. The most critical piece of recording equipment is a quality USB microphone. Pair it with a pop filter. This small foam disk sits in front of the microphone and reduces the popping sounds of hard consonants, your breath and other noises.
Podcast Editing Software. The value of good software is the ability to adjust the recordings to even out and stabilize the audio. Particularly if you have more than one host, the option to edit out bad sound quality or errors becomes essential. With separate tracks, you can edit each one to adjust things like volume if one host speaks louder than the rest.
Popular editing software options are Adobe Audition, GarageBand, and Audacity. Sign up for a free trial before purchase to help determine which platform is most intuitive for your style and requirements.
If you choose to use a video conference app like Zoom or Skype, you lose the ability to manipulate the sound quality, as all the tracks are blended together.
Pro-tip: You don’t have to do the editing yourself. A professional editing service might be worth the investment. If you batch record episodes, you may be able to get a discount if all files are processed at the same time.
A secondary goal of starting your podcast might have been to sell more of your books. Look for opportunities to promote your back list or upcoming projects. Writing Excuses has a “Book of the Week” selected by one of the hosts. About halfway through the podcast, there is a break, and the chosen host discusses the title they selected, sometimes reading the blurb.
Other solutions include taking a moment to promote a discounted book each week or an exciting new release. When your books fit these categories, you can easily insert them without seeming to try to sell your writing constantly.
Once you've done all the hard work of planning your podcast, setting up your audio recording studio, and recording your first episode, the next step is getting it out on a platform that allows listeners to find you. For this, you will need a podcast hosting service. These services act as the gateway to adding your podcast to all the major platforms easily and quickly.
Where to post your episodes
Apple Podcasts (formerly iTunes)
By far the most well-known place to listen to music and podcasts, Apple serves over 315 million mobile devices. However, you will need to sign up for an apple ID.
A rival of Apple Podcasts and with over 150 million active subscribers, Spotify is the biggest music streaming service worldwide. Audio files are limited to MP3 and there is a file size maximum.
Built for Android smartphone users, this platform boasts 50 million cumulative downloads and growing. Like Apple, signing into an account is required.
This up-and-coming app is designed specifically for podcasts. With no loyalty to the iOS or Android platforms, podcasts are easily accessible.
At 75 million monthly active users, this platform acts more like an online radio streaming service, with podcasts as an additional option. Since users “tune in” for news, weather and sports, having your podcast here might help it find an audience.
Amazon Music & Audible
Why not put your author podcast in the same location millions of people go to listen to their books? Podcasting is new to Amazon, but they are catching up fast. You can use your existing amazon account to access his service.
What was once known only for its music streaming content, iHeartRadio houses a variety of podcasts as well. Popular with older audiences, this platform registered more than 128 million cumulative users. The app offers personal recommendations and chart toppers by genre to help readers find you.
The grand daddy of video is not always video based. Many popular podcasters also upload their episodes onto YouTube as another avenue for listeners to consume their information. One advantage here is cost, as uploading a video is free. Monetization may also be possible if your channel grows large enough to qualify for YouTube’s monetization program.
One way to drive traffic to your website (where all your books are!) is to house your podcasts there. Consider dedicating a page to your podcasts and either posting recommended episodes or the latest episode and point users to their podcast listening service of their choice. Plus, each new episode keeps your website loaded with new content and can help with SEO—Search Engine Optimization.
Once you’ve loaded your podcast onto the platforms you’ve selected, it’s time to find your audience. Catch listeners’ attentions and gain subscribers with these solutions:
Not surprisingly, some presence on the internet is expected, and if a potential listener discovers you, they are likely to search for more information. Add your podcast to your website, tweet about it on Twitter, post your value proposition on Facebook, promote your new logo, title and tag line on Instagram. Some social media ideas are:
- Once a week post a list of upcoming episodes and/or guests
- Take sound bites from your podcast and create reels, stories and posts to showcase or tease listeners.
- Promote your backlist, chunking it into content divided by topic, listing your previous guests, etc.
- Celebrate milestones: 1 year of podcasts, 100 subscribers, 200th episode, etc.
- Commemorate Holidays. Got a Christmas or Halloween episode? Brag about it.
- Watch trends. If you had an episode featuring something hot in the news, shout it out.
- Remind people where your podcast is available and how to subscribe.
Pro-tip: Where possible, add a link directly to your podcast page on your website to make it easier for new listeners to select the platform they like to listen to podcasts on. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Pinterest make this easy without any follower threshold requirements.
Connect with other podcasters and invite them to come on your show in return for a guest spot on theirs. Reach out to influencers on bookstagram and booktok and ask them to partner with you, or offer to showcase their brand on an episode. Consider featuring the work of non-traditional podcasters like book bloggers or book reviewers in return for a write up on their platforms.
Note that some may not want to participate in a quid pro quo scenario, and someone with a vast following may be uninterested in appearing on a small podcast when you’re just starting out. Expect more people to say “No” than “Yes” early on when you reach out to discuss collaborations. Be respectful of others and don’t take this personally. You don’t want to burn potential bridges.
Don’t limit yourself to reciprocal relationships only. There is value in paying it forward with no expectation of a direct return. By discussing other authors, books, or podcasts on your podcast, you create content for yourself (generally people like to talk about themselves or promote their art) and you benefit from the glow effect. The authors / podcasters you talk about may post on social media about your podcast or mention you in their newsletter. That is a whole new audience you are reaching. And when you have a proven track record of producing content that is helpful to others, others are more likely to want to be helpful to you in return.
Repurpose and recycle each podcast episode as a blog post. This can be as simple as transcribing the podcast itself. Make sure to include a link to the podcast platforms to give your new audience the chance to subscribe to your podcast. This way, they will receive updates each time a new episode is uploaded.
Ask for reviews
You do it for your books, rinse and repeat for your podcast. Ask for a rating, a review, or for new listeners to subscribe to your podcast. Do this at the end of each episode after you’ve demonstrated your unique perspective, in your newsletter and on social media. Reviews, ratings, and subscribers increase the visibility of your podcast, making it easier for others to discover you.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
How do you rise to the top in an online search? Through carefully placed and curated words, phrases, and concepts in all of your promotional material.
Search Engine Optimization, as the name suggests, is taking a piece of content and optimizing it so that search engines like Google, Firefox etc show it at the top of their search results. It’s based on keywords, and the more unique they are, the better odds you have of being found. But be careful. Be too unique and your podcast won’t be found because potential listeners can’t remember the name of your episode or podcast, and might move on to the first option the search engine serves up to them. Or you use terms so niche many people wouldn’t think to search for that in the first place.
Tips and Tricks
- Don’t record one episode and then launch. New podcasts should have a few episodes in the queue, giving you time to avoid rushing production and editing of the next one.
- Put a teaser for the next episode at the end of each recording and include a call to action, such as asking listeners to subscribe to the podcast.
- Take a couple of practice runs to test out the equipment and how things feel. This bonus content can be used in promotions later.
- Give yourself time to record, edit, and promote each episode.
- Don’t go into recording a session cold. Warm up your voice and keep hot liquids close.
- Keep your body still and avoid moving things around while recording, especially when someone else is speaking
- Track episode topics, guests, books mentioned etc. to ensure you don’t repeat subjects too often. This also makes it easier to find older episodes.
- Leave long lead times in booking guests. Send meeting invites immediately after they agree to ensure you are on their calendar.
- Start small. If you have six guests on your first episode, your listening audience will expect the same level of content in the next episode.
Podcasting can be a great way to extend your brand, offer new content to your current audience and promote your writing. While creating a podcast is not as straightforward as recording a conversation on your smartphone, with a little preparation and a plan, this audio platform can be fun, rewarding, and may even help you sell more books.
Podcast Sites Stats: https://riverside.fm/blog/podcast-directories