Episode 150: December 26, 2008
Grammar Girl here.
This is a podcast that talks about writing, but today we're going to turn that order around and talk about podcasting that writing of yours.
Whether you write fiction or non-fiction, children’s stories or tales for adults, podcasting your work is a great way to share it with the world. If you want to get your work out there, you don’t have to wait for a publishing deal, and you don’t have to find a print-on-demand service. Podcast it, and you instantly make it available to a global audience of the estimated one billion people who access the Internet.
Some authors have had success podcasting their work. I wouldn't have been able to write a New York Times bestseller without first podcasting my work. Author J.C. Hutchins’ free podcast novels landed him a publishing deal with St. Martin’s Press, and he'll have two action-adventure books out in 2009. And you may have heard me talk about Scott Sigler, who podcasted his way to a five-book deal with Crown Publishing. Scott’s second book, Contagious, is available now. So yes, this does work, and it can happen, but it’s not easy. In this episode, Scott graciously provided ten steps that can put you on the road to creating a successful podcast for your book.
So here are Scott's tips for how to podcast your book:
Step 1: Finish Your Book
There is a great temptation to podcast your book as you write it. Unless you are a seasoned writer with four or five books under your belt, I'd advise against that. Once you post an episode, that’s it -- you can’t go back and change a plot point. If Uncle Ralphie died in episode two, and you decide he needs to be alive in episode four, you’re out of luck. Finish the book, make sure your plot points and your factual references line up, and then worry about podcasting it.
Step 2: Edit Your Book
There's an even greater temptation to podcast your book as soon as you finish it. Again, bad call. Start editing. Get through one full edit, really tear it up. If you are in a hurry to start podcasting, get a couple of friends who will give honest feedback and have them proof it. You may have missed simple plot points or created character inconsistencies. And trust me, your listeners will not miss these problems. You'll get email messages and blog comments about these mistakes. Scott describes his podcasting process as having 10,000 editors, so take the time to make the book as tight as it can be before you start. You only get one chance to make a first impression.
Step 3: Record an Entire Test Episode
Create your show intro and outro, practice talking to the audience, and record a first 15-to-20-minute episode. Put all those things together so you have a finished, polished episode. Then, find podcast novelists to listen to and review your work. Be prepared – he or she will probably have criticism. This criticism will improve your work; use it to modify your recording process. Better to make the mistakes in a test episode than have your first few real episodes full of simple errors and bad sound. Throw that test episode away, and then start over. This also gives you practice editing your audio recordings, which will benefit you in the long run.
Step 4: Record the Entire Book First
This is a major task, but it leads into Step 5, which is podcast every week. Life will mess with your schedule no matter how carefully you plan. Your best bet is to record the entire book, one chapter at a time, and finish the whole thing before you begin podcasting. That way, no matter what happens in your life, you'll probably be able to put out an episode every week. If you record as you go, it’s guaranteed you’re going to miss weeks.
Step 5: Be Consistent: Podcast Every Week
That’s part of why you want to finish your book in Step 1, and why you record the whole thing in Step 4. You build audience numbers by providing consistent content. What the online world teaches us is that there are many different tastes out there -- what you think is horrible writing, someone else thinks is excellent, informative, and entertaining. There's an audience for everyone, but to get that audience, you need to provide consistent content. If people know they'll hear your work every Sunday, for example, you become a part of their weekly entertainment. Miss an episode, and the audience starts to fade away. Even if you have to post a short episode of 10 to 15 minutes, that's far better than missing a whole week.
Step 6: Post Four Episodes Before Promoting
If you know about Scott’s tireless promotional efforts, this may sound strange, but he’s learned this step from his work and from helping others with theirs. Don’t lift a finger to promote your podcast until you have four episodes up on your site. When people hear about you from another podcaster, or hear your promo (see Step 8 below), they'll go to your site. When they get there, they want to listen to the book -- they don’t want to look at your website, read endorsement blurbs, or hear how awesome your book is going to be. They want to start listening. Posting four episodes means they have a lot of free content to consume before they decide they don’t like your book. If you have just one episode up, they might not be hooked on the story, and might not come back. After four episodes, they're either hooked, or you're just not their thing.
Step 7: Promote, Promote, Promote!
If you want to build audience, you have to let people know your book is available. In the early days of podcasting books, you could get lucky and land coverage in a magazine or a newspaper. Those days are gone. You will have to budget time to promote your work online. I know, you’re writing, you have a job, and maybe kids or a dog. When are you going to find time to promote? That’s the hurdle every author faces, and if you want to be successful, you just have to get it done.
Step 8: Create an Audio Promo
This is your calling card to existing podcast audiences. Create a 30-second and 60-second promo for your work. Think of how they advertise movies or do 30-second commercials -- tell people what your book is about, and where they can listen to it. I’ll put a link to Scott’s promo for his book Contagious at the end of this transcript as an example.
Okay, you’ve got your promo, now start sending email messages to other people with similar podcasts, and ask them to play it. Don’t be shy, the podcasting community is very supportive. If you have an action-adventure story, you’re better off asking Scott to play your promo than asking, say, me. Find podcasts that have an audience who would like your stuff. It’s really just that simple. The best way to land new podcast listeners is to find people who already listen to podcasts.
Step 9: Promote with Social Media
This is too extensive to go into details here, but start playing with MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter. These are three simple online tools you can use to create a presence for your book. You're an author, so make sure your profiles on these sites reflect that fact. Start adding friends and participating in the online conversation. The more you play in this space, the more people know about your work. Eventually, this becomes an exponential increase in exposure as those people tell other people, and so on. Yes, it takes time, but it’s also a lot of fun.
Step 10: Keep Writing and Podcasting
Unfortunately, one book isn't enough. You need to find a way to keep providing content in your podcast feed for years to come. It doesn’t have to be another book, but it should be similar content to your book. If you generate an audience with a detective novel, don’t think that audience wants to consistently hear your views on politics. The longer you provide consistent content, the larger your audience will grow.