The Ultimate Guide to Podcasting for Authors and Creatives

By Audra Casino

You want loyal fans who are ravenous for your art. You’re excited about your work, and you want others to get that excited, too.

lonely woman in party hatBut sometimes it feels like you’re at the party by yourself, doesn’t it?

Wanna know why?

It’s because they aren’t getting enough of you, the artist!

Wait, what?

Most of us learned it was bad form to be the center of attention — that humility and hard work would pay off. That we should aspire to “be discovered” while waiting tables rather than intentionally crafting our brand and putting ourselves out there.

But the Internet changed everything. It’s brought artists and fans closer than ever before. And it’s up to us to help each of our fans feel more like a friend and less like a customer.

Think about it: would your friends stick with you if you ignored them? I doubt it. But your BFF is the one you can count on to support you and help you succeed. So why should your fans be any different?

The better they know you, the more they’ll love you!

But how?

There are a lot of ways to engage with your fans and turn them into friends. Some artists blog. Some host a lively email list or kill it on social media.

These are great, but as a smarter artist, you can take it a step further and connect with your fans through an entirely unique and personal experience by podcasting.

What makes audio so powerful?

podcasting for authorsYou can laugh, cry, tell stories, touch hearts with your voice.

Audio is so much more intimate, especially when you’re authentic and honest. Your listeners get a feel for who you are and what you’re like. You can bond and connect with them, which will make them care more about your art.

It’s like sitting down to coffee with them one-on-one.

And not that many artists are doing it yet.

A word of warning: despite what the Internet says, podcasting isn’t as simple as getting a mic and clicking record. Just like any great art, you’ve got to put some thought into it, and hone your craft.

But we’ve got your back. We’ll talk about everything you need to know to get started in just a minute.

But first, let’s take a look at the most important thing: the format for your show.

Here are six different podcast types to help you get started.

Note: The first three types serve the people who love your art, the last three serve other artists like you. Make sure you know who you’re trying to connect with, and pick the right format to catch their interest.

Content Curation

content curation on tablet screenYou’ve heard of content curation on a blog, but did you know you can do the same thing in audio?

You and your fans probably have very similar tastes, and talking about something you’re both into is an easy and effective way to connect with them.

Think about what it’s like to be in a group of your friends discussing something you all enjoy. That type of bonding you experience in real life is something you can re-create in audio.

Take fans of the zombie apocalypse. You know how passionate they are, right? There are podcasts dedicated solely to discussing the events in the The Walking Dead, speculating on the future of the characters and the storyline.

You don’t have to focus on a single topic, either. You can be the expert on what’s trending or popular, or you can be that person who always introduces the newest, coolest thing.

You aren’t limited to books or television shows. You can talk about anything where you ‘geek out.’ Your true people will feel just as giddy as you do, and it’s an incredible chance to bond with them.

Come on, admit it. You always wanted to be that guy who could talk forever about stuff you like. With a podcasting platform, you can be.

Just think about what you and your audience might both enjoy, and start talking!

Artist Interviews

man pulling shirt open reveals cloud of colorsIf you want to take the content curation one step further, you could always reach out to the artists who create the art you love.

You might not be able to land Stephens like King or Spielberg, but don’t let that stop you.

Reach out to your favorite artists, authors, or creatives, and offer to talk about their work. The worst they could say is ‘no.’ But what if they say yes?

If interviews are attractive to you, know this — there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about it.

First and foremost, you need to be a fan. If you’re not interested in your guest, the episode will be painful for everyone.

Invite guests you find fascinating. You should be very familiar with their work, familiar enough to discuss it intelligently. The interview should be relevant for your audience, but also for you as the host.

Second, you need to be brave … and courteous. It’s sometimes terrifying to reach out to someone you admire. To increase your chances of getting a yes, visit their website and search for a contact page or a media request email. Go through the proper channels; they’re there to make sure your request is considered and not lost. Besides, if you ignore their preferences, they’ll probably ignore your email.

ProTip: You can increase your chances of being noticed by engaging with the creator and their fans wherever you can. Social media is a great tool if they use it. Join their communities and be active on their fan sites.

There’s an added bonus, too, even if you don’t land every interview you pitch. In the process of being a great fan, adding value, and interacting with other fans, you’ll make friends in the  process, who very well may appreciate your art. Just don’t be that spammy dude who only drops by to shout “Read my book” and then disappears for weeks.

Add to the conversation and fit in. In short, be the kind of fan YOU would want.  And if it’s not a natural fit, consider whether it’s an audience or a creator you *want* to connect with?

Share Your Art

If you already have existing fans who are hungry for your art, a great option is to create a podcast that discusses your work.

For example, you can talk about your inspirations for writing a story, share deeper themes the reader may have missed, or help them find easter eggs to reward them for reading and listening.

Be careful with this type of podcast though; if you aren’t careful, it can come across as self-important. If it’s something your audience is asking for, you should be safe.

If you’re sharing your actual art, try creating art that is specifically created for audio. This can be tricky if you’ve never worked in the medium, but with a little practice and honest feedback, you can create something that will translate very well.

If you’re a writer, think about how books are adapted into movies. Think about how TV shows are constructed as a series. Read your stories out loud and listen for pacing and the feel of your language.

ProTip: the podcasting landscape is always improving, and with fiction in particular, producers are taking huge leaps forward in quality. In fact, they’re hiring actors, adding sound effects, and making what amounts to movies for audio.

You don’t have to be big-budget, but your content needs to be very compelling.

Industry Content Curation

clap board and popcornIf your goal is to sell services, software, or educational products, the audience you need to support aren’t necessarily your fans — they’re people with a problem that needs a solution.

You’re looking for people like you who need help achieving the success you’ve achieved, or people who are looking for a brave role model to follow as they figure it out.

In short, podcasting can help you become an authority in your space. You create goodwill by offering free, valuable information, and your listeners can more easily be converted to customers because, like with your fans, you treat them like friends.

You can also curate content, but instead of focusing on common interests in art, books, TV, or movies, you will hone in on information that matters to you and the people you want to connect with.

For authors, this can revolve around business issues like changes in Amazon policies or studies of craft. Just look for anything that would be helpful to creatives like you and share it.

The great part about this type of podcast is you don’t have to spend as much time creating content. It’s already been done. You just need to take it and re-package it with your own unique spin.

You also don’t have to keep coming up with new topics. Just stay up-to-date on news and things of interest in your space, and the podcast virtually creates itself.

Expert Interviews

man smoking pipe at typewriterWouldn’t you love twenty minutes to pick your favorite creator’s brain?

If you ask for just that, you probably won’t have a lot of success. But if you ask them to be a guest on your podcast, your chances improve and it becomes a win/win/win.

They get to promote their work, you get to pick their brain, and your audience gets to learn from an expert.

While this type of podcast sounds similar to artist interviews for fans, there’s an important distinction to make. Your questions will focus more on how they create instead of what they create.

Most likely, you’ll be a fan of this person’s work, so some of the discussion will focus on the work itself, but always remember: you provide value to other creators by helping them become better at their art. Stay on track with that, and you’ll feel the love from the experts and your listeners alike.

You aren’t limited to artists, either. For example, if you’re an author, you can have an editor as a guest.

Wouldn’t it be amazing to get the inside scoop on what’s hot right now, or even what to look for in a good editor? You can also get publishing experts, either traditional or indie, or you could talk to agents from the various online platforms.

And what do you find yourself researching online? Chances are your audience searches for the same things, so find an authority on the subject and invite them to be your interviewee.

The bigger your audience, the more likely you’ll be to get bigger names, but don’t let a small audience stop you from reaching for the stars. You might be pleasantly surprised at who says yes.

ProTip: As with any interview, go through the proper channels, be prepared, and make your guest’s experience as delightful as possible.

Coordinate with them on what questions you’ll be asking and what they’d like you to promote. And win bonus points by providing them pre-written Facebook posts or tweets, so it’s easy for them to sharing the podcast with their audience.

Finally, always, always, always follow up with a heartfelt thank you!

Thought Leadership

The final type of podcast is in the field of thought leadership.

This format is for established and successful creatives who are on the cutting edge and blazing new trails. Thought leadership is also a great place for people who aren’t creators, but help facilitate artists.

For example, if you’re an editor, a story doctor, or a publishing agent, you can provide incredible content to educate writers on how to become successful authors.

One important factor in your success is the ability to stay ahead of the curve in terms of knowledge and information, as well as the ability to critically think about the future of whatever field you’re in. It is called Leadership, after all!

You will need to provide a steady stream of fresh, engaging content, and it needs to be thoughtful and value-packed. You’ll spend a lot of time prepping for this type of podcast, but if you do it right, you will reap some awesome rewards.

Podcasting for Authors: Getting Started

Want to know single most important thing you should remember when creating your podcast?

Your audience informs every single thing you do. From your branding to positioning, content to guests, everything needs to be custom-made for the people you serve.

There are a few simple steps you can take to ensure your podcast’s success.

Set a clear goal

The best thing you can do is set a clear, specific goal in the beginning. Then figure out what kind of audience will help you achieve that goal, and find them.

For example, your goal might be be: I will curate and discuss popular fantasy content for young adult fantasy readers, and in doing so, grow an audience for my own fantasy books.

The more specific you can be, the better.

Find your listeners

group of people talking around drinks at a tableNext, you need to find where those people currently hang out.

The easiest place to begin your search is online. When starting a new podcast, one of the things I do is pop open iTunes and see if there are any similar podcasts that are successful.

If there are, then I know there’s a market for this type of content. If there aren’t, I need to dig a little deeper. It could be because the audience is underserved in terms of content. But it could also mean there isn’t an audience for that market.

If you find your potential audience, go where they are – communities, social media, forums, clubs – and become a member of the community. Learn who your audience is instead of trying to guess.

ProTip: Remember, you aren’t going there to outright promote yourself. Instead, you should be providing value to the community. Your contributions will do much of the promotion for you.

Listen to your people

As you’re learning who your audience is and what they want or need, begin an idea list of episode topics. Some you’ll use and some you won’t, but there are no rules at this stage. Just ideas.

One thing to consider is how much time your audience actually has free. This way you’ll have a much better idea of the frequency and length of your episodes.

Do your ideal fans like long-form content, or would they prefer bite-sized pieces of information more frequently? You can get great ideas from successful podcasts that are similar to yours, too. It’s working for them, so it’s a great starting point for you.

Hopefully, you’ve managed to find your audience. If not, you might want to reconsider what you’re planning to do. If you’ve been testing the waters, you’ve probably found other ideas that can work. Don’t give up! Podcasting is an amazing medium because you aren’t limited by anything except your imagination.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Now comes the fun part – creating podcasts. I’ll warn you now: your first few episodes are probably going to suck. That’s okay.

notebook says Practice makes progressIt’s perfectly normal to suck when you’re learning something new.

So why not get the bad ones out of your system and use them as a learning opportunity? Whenever I create a podcast from scratch, here’s the process I follow:

Make an outline

First, take a look at the list of topics you brainstormed. (You did that, right?) Choose the one you’re most excited about. Next, make a bulleted outline of the points you plan to discuss. Make sure each one is tight and relevant, and allows for a smooth transition from point to point.

Riff. Or write some more.

Are you a planner or a pantser??

From here, you have a few options. You can hit record and riff on the bullet points, you can grow the outline to include sub-points, or you can script the entire episode.

Unless you’re really comfortable behind a mic or are gifted with the ability to speak extemporaneously, I’d recommend scripting your first episode. It’ll help you wrap your head around the structure of the podcast, and to get comfortable with being behind the mic. But try each method a few times to see what ends up feeling the most comfortable.

Keep talking

You’ll probably hate listening to yourself at first. Again, totally normal.

Try to be as objective as you can; you aren’t there to judge yourself, you’re there to judge the quality of the product.

Ask yourself: How long is the podcast? Do you sound meek, or like you’re reading a news report? Do you get gabby and veer off topic? How can you improve?

Answer those questions, and then record it again. And again. Do it until it’s the best you can do.

Then record the next few.

ProTip: Give yourself permission to delete them without feeling bad about it. After 20 years working with audio, I still delete half of what I do.

You’ll get better and better as time goes by. You’ll find a way to prep your show and the rhythm to deliver it, and it’ll become second nature.

Sound PRO

man listening to music with headphonesI love audio and the freedom of the podcasting format. That said, my biggest pet peeve is when people record podcasts on subpar microphones in rooms that have no acoustic treatment.

My second biggest pet peeve is when a podcast’s branding, or lack thereof, suggests right away that the host is an amateur and I probably shouldn’t take the podcast seriously.

Fortunately, these are easy, inexpensive fixes.

The Mic

Let’s talk recording quality first. With the advent of USB condenser mics came the opportunity for anyone to have a professional sounding studio.

For lower budgets, I recommend the Blue Yeti. It’s cheap, yet good enough to give you a quality sound.

If you have a midrange budget, then the AudioTechnica AT2020 USB Plus is a fantastic option. It’s what I take when I’m on the road.

Higher end budgets open up possibilities like AKG, Rode, and Neumann, but for most podcasters, that’s overkill. The AT2020 or Yeti will suit your needs.

The Room

Next, let’s talk about one of the most overlooked things: room echo. Sound bounces off of anything that is flat and/or shiny. This includes hardwood or tile floors, windows, walls, dressers, desks, and more. And it sounds bad. Really really bad.

For an example of this, check out SPP episodes 216 or 217 right after Sean moved. His new office had nothing soft in it, and sound bounced off of every surface in the room. The resulting Grimace Affair is his most notably hysterical attempt to solve the problem, which really must be watched (starting around three minutes in) to be fully appreciated.

You don’t have to embarrass yourself like Sean did. There are actually a few simple, quick solutions you can try.

You could move to a room that has carpet, drapes, art on the walls, and plenty of furniture. If that isn’t an option, you can put rugs down where you are, hang pictures on the wall (preferably on canvas), and close the drapes.

If your mic is on a smooth surface like a table or desk, you can also spread a towel out under it. These little things can make a huge difference.

girl writing in blanket fort with flashlightIf you’ve tried these things and you’re still getting echo, or moving/changing your environment simply isn’t an option, you’ve got two other things you can try.

You can invest in some professional acoustic treatment, in the form of sound absorption panels and bass traps.

Or you could build a blanket fort.

(I’m not kidding! Before I moved, I had a tiny house, and my computer was adjacent to the kitchen, which was little more than an echo chamber with fridge hum. So when I needed to record, I grabbed my husband’s two ladders and draped a comforter and sleeping bag across them.)

Problem solved! It’s not like anyone is actually going to SEE how ridiculous you look.

In the end, experiment, and do what works for you. And don’t forget to turn off the air conditioner or heater when you’re recording!

The Software

As far as software goes, I use Adobe Audition and have for years. It’s got almost every bell and whistle I need, but it’s also very simple to start using. There are a wealth of tutorials online that will teach you how to make edits, and how to use the multitracker to mix your show. Make use of them!

The Wrapping Paper

man's hand with glowing lightbulb and the word BRANDFinally, let’s talk branding. In podcasting, this is a little different from what you might think of — it’s the audio intro, outro, and possibly bumpers, that will set the tone of your podcast.

While you CAN choose a piece of music and talk over it as your intro, you’d be better served to hire a pro to create your intro branding, complete with a professional voiceover.

It’s a one-time expense and well worth the cost to make a fantastic first impression.

There are several places to find audio professionals, including Voices.com. While it’s primarily voice overs, many of the voice actors also do audio production.

You’ve Got This!!!

We’ve just scratched the surface of what’s possible with podcasting. There aren’t any hard and fast rules, so you can let your imagination run wild.

Just remember: your audience informs every decision you make.

From the top to the bottom, your podcast is a piece of art meant for them to enjoy. Review your original goal from time to time to make sure you’re still on track.

Finally, if there’s one thing I would stress, it’s this: treat your fans like friends, and they’ll grow to love you. They are the ones who will ensure you achieve that goal.

Do you have a podcast, or have you been thinking about starting one?

What type do you think fits you (and your audience) best, and what’s holding you back from starting?

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