Podcasting obviously isn’t a good fit for everyone, but writing, branding, and life are not One-Size-Fits-All. I’ve made it my personal mission to not only help writers hone their craft (great books sell better than rambling crappy books), but also to demystify branding.
I GET that most writers are also working a full-time job and already struggling with the whole ‘adulting’ thing. It’s why I hope to give y’all ways to work smarter not harder.
I’ve fallen in love with blogging. It’s been an incredibly good investment of time. It’s taught me to write leaner, meaner, faster and cleaner, and it’s also a form of ‘social media’ that gives back a lot of love. Seriously, two weeks ago I got a 500-word comment off a post I published in 2011! A post with 306 comments and climbing.
If that isn’t bang for the buck (time)? I don’t know what is.
This said, nothing great happens in the comfort zone. There was a good reason ViacomCBS sold off the former publishing GIANT Simon & Schuster to invest in streaming content instead.
Follow the audience and you’ll find the money.
Nothing against writing books. Hey, I’m still writing. Books still sell. We, as authors, simply have to be creative when it comes to cultivating a fanbase willing to part with time and money for our books. To do this, we are wise adjust to audience preferences.
There is an old saying in sales, “Fish where the fish are.” And 21st century fish are schooling on Audible and podcasting apps.
So, as promised, today I present USA Today Best-Selling Author and podcaster extraordinaire, Cait Reynolds, who is here
to talk y’all off the ledge demystify the podcast.
Take it away, Cait!
*eyes Kristen warily*
*tugs on handcuffs*
Meet podcasting. It’s kind of like a blog and a vlog had a one-night stand and actually fell in love. There’s a podcast for everything and for everybody—audiences and creators alike.
Sometimes it seems like everyone and their brother is starting one. But, seems like everyone and their brother is writing a novel and that hasn’t deterred us from being authors. Podcasting is no different. Those who take time to learn how to create riveting content, and who commit to excellence over the long-haul, eventually will break away from the pack of poorly-written and/or abandoned podcasts.
But we’ll get to that in a bit.
First, you might be wondering, “What’s the appeal?” Why should you at least consider podcasting over (or in addition to) blogging? How is podcasting a good fit for a novelist?
It all goes back to hooking the audience long enough to convert them into fans.
Podcasts are appealing namely because audiences can listen to a podcast while driving, cooking, chasing after three dogs—one of whom has my shoe in his mouth as I try writing this and…well, you get the picture.
Kristen mentioned podcasting as a new creative outlet for writers in her last post, “Brave New Writing.” I am here to tell you that, while not every writer is a podcaster, the best podcasters are very often writers.
Like blogs, podcasts are content-hungry creatures. Also, like blogs, podcasts require more time and effort than quick-hit social media like Twitter and Instagram posts. At the same time, they offer a powerful return on investment, unlike the ‘easier’ forms of social media.
Like blogs, podcasts have the potential to have a broader, deeper, and longer lasting impact on a writer’s brand. Unlike the familiar written-essay format of a blog, however, a podcast has technical and performative aspects that can seem intimidating at first. But don’t worry, that’s why I’m here.
*side eye at Kristen*
First of all, back away from the ledge. Podcasting is just a small furry relative of the blog. It can’t smell fear and won’t bite. And, as Kristen points out about blogs, podcasts are attention-whores. The more you love them, the more they will love you back.
Just like books and blogs, podcasts come in an endless variety of lengths and topics. There are five-minute podcasts that serve up daily horoscopes or fitness tips or financial advice…and there are three-hour podcasts that cover the history of the Roman empire. From parenting to politics, comedy to crime, there is a podcast for everyone.
Podcasts are free and easily accessible, ergo the appeal. Audiences can listen on their phones, laptops, or even refrigerators if said appliance has a smart panel with apps. All anyone needs to enjoy a podcast is an app like Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, Audible, etc.
People listen to podcasts while commuting, cleaning, and cooking. Personally, I rely on true crime podcasts to get me through home renovation projects. The Wine and Crime gals got me through packing up our condo and moving cross-country in 2019. During 2020, I binged Ash and Alaina from Morbid because, what is better than Boston gals who talk murder?
The answer is nothing is better.
When we got our puppies, Meadow and Bandit, the only way they would get back to sleep after their 5:00 a.m. potty break was with a podcast episode of “Dateline.”
It seemed like a good idea at the time. I was really, really sleep-deprived, okay? Now, I’m pretty sure the pups are plotting how to kill me in a way that gets me my very own episode.
One of the most fundamental of Lamb’s Laws for Branding is: OWN YOUR CONTENT.
That is the whole point of having a website and blog. It’s content that endures and keeps working long after that TwitFaceGram+ post has been buried in the Mariana Trench of bots and dance videos. While quick hit content like social media posts do serve an important purpose, the cumulative effect—over time—of content we own is far greater.
We might get a comment on a blog post that was written two years ago because Google popped it into someone’s search results. But when was the last time someone replied to a two-year-old tweet? When was the last time we could find a two-year-old tweet?
Blogging is a natural fit for writers since sitting at a keyboard staring in despair at a blank screen for hours at a time is what we do. However, creating content you own doesn’t mean it has to be a blog.
*ducks flying projectiles from Texas*
If It Goes, It Flows
Hear me out. Writers create CONTENT, but the medium for DELIVERING that content doesn’t specifically have to be a blog post.
Fun fact: one of the early ‘try-on’ terms for podcasting was AUDIOBLOGGING.
*cue Kristen over in a corner grinding teeth*
For example, I personally struggle with blogging. My anxiety shoots through the roof when I try to pick a topic, and my inner picky b*tch frets over the perfection of everything from phrasing to tags. As a result, I blog about as often as I go to the dentist (every six months).
However, after starting my podcast “Drunk Mythology Gals” back in mid-January, I find myself breezing through two thousand words per episode. I actually can’t keep up with all the ideas I have for topics. We just released episode 37 and have only missed one week since we started, but I was in the hospital that week, so we get a pass.
The point is that I found what clicked for me in terms of being able to leverage my skills as a writer to develop my brand and market my books. I can use each episode release to interact with fans and friends on social media, and our website is easy to update and maintain. And, all the episodes of our show are forever available until we decide otherwise.
While Kristen does flog the blog as the prime example of how writers can build their brand, her point is that creating content we are passionate about (yes, this includes interpretive dance) is the best way to connect with our audience and build a lasting brand.
But, but, but…
Ah, yes, like a chorus of anguished echos from the mountain’s misty side, I can hear the objections now:
- I don’t have time!
- I don’t have money!
- Audio stuff = rocket science!
- I don’t know what to do a podcast about!
Time is relative (thanks, Einstein). We have time for what we want to do, and never enough time for the things we struggle with.
So far, this blog post has taken me about four agonizing hours just to get to this point. I get better at writing blogs the more I do them, but I don’t seem to get any faster. However, I can whip up a script for an episode in an hour-and-a-half. It just comes more naturally for me. It flows. Recording, distribution set-up, and promotion take about two hours.
From draft to social media promo, a podcast episode takes me about four hours, start-to-finish (and I am only getting faster as my skills and the tech improves). Compare that to writing a blog post that will probably end up needing six hours of intense suffering?
It’s clear where my time is better spent, for me at least.
It is absolutely possible to start podcasting without spending a single cent. Yes, really and truly FREE (I go into all that in my classes—LISTED BELOW).
This means that it’s okay to try podcasting. Give it a whirl. Give it seven whirls. Once things ‘click,’ then it’s time to look at investing in the doo-dahs that will take the show to the next level.
Furthermore, it is even slightly easier to make money from podcasting than from publishing. Unlike the giant ball of wibbly wobbly that is the Amazon KDP global fund payout rate, podcasting is similar to radio advertising in terms of how ad rates are calculated.
Today, according to Intelligence Insider, almost 118 million people listen to podcasts monthly. That number is projected to grow to 144 million listeners by 2025.
Podcast advertising spending almost DOUBLED from $701 million in 2019 to $1.33 BILLION in 2021. Money follows the audience, and audiences are multi-tasking to unheard-of levels these days. What is perfect for keeping company during multi-tasking? Audio content in all its forms.
I’m not even including merchandise, subscription memberships, live tours, online shows, Patreon, and all the other ways podcasts make money these days.
This doesn’t mean every podcaster is going to be a millionaire. I said it’s slightly easier to be successful, and just like publishing, quality and persistence are key to success.
Audio stuff = rocket science
When I started looking into how to start a podcast back in 2017, I knew less than nothing about audio stuff. Yes, I will always refer to it as audio ‘stuff’ because audio engineering is a whole big thing…and life is short. All the YouTube videos, blog posts, and even podcasts about starting podcasts were way too technical for me.
True story: I mentioned podcasting to Kristen back then, and she threw holy water at me and ran screaming. Then two days later, she was back with three podcasts I JUST HAD to listen to, wanting to know when were we going to start ours?
Today, however, if you can talk on your smart phone, you can record a podcast.
With built-in post-production, drag and drop editing, and free sounds and music, ‘producing’ a podcast episode is honestly super simple. Setting up distribution for an episode is way easier and far less nerve-wracking than setting up a book for publication.
Worse comes to worst, there are freelancers that will tweak your audio for as little as $5.
Honestly, quality content is THE most important aspect of a podcast. I go back to the first episodes of my favorite podcasts, and woof! The sound was really bad. REALLY BAD. But the content was so riveting or hilarious that I had to keep listening and I didn’t care.
Content is king…and queen…and pretty much the whole royal family.
Even with “Drunk Mythology Gals,” our first eleven episodes were an exercise in how long listeners could handle hearing chalkboard nails while underwater. Once Gen and I decided we were going to stick with it, we paid a freelance audio guy $20 to sit online with us for an hour and walk us through some basics of how to improve our audio.
Now, we have Kim who handles all our production (and uses sound effects to troll us because she can). Also, like a lot of other podcasts, we are re-recording the early episodes one by one to bring the sound up to speed (and so our other co-host Jenn can put in her two cents).
I mean, who doesn’t love an industry that is like, “Yeah, mulligans are totally cool.”
I don’t know what to podcast about!
The most important thing about picking a podcast topic is that we have to love it. Really, really, truly love it. That is the secret to choosing a podcasting subject.
Do you write historical fiction? Science fiction? Police/detective stories? Is there a topic you find yourself consistently researching across stories (e.g. forensic psychology, cooking or forensic cooking)? If you can answer a resounding YES to any of these questions, then you have something to podcast about.
I am an absolute history nerd, especially ancient history. Over the course of writing Downcast, I amassed a ton of research in addition to my already pretty-extensive non-fiction library. With all of this material in my brain and at my fingertips, I have enough topics for YEARS of podcast episodes.
Is mythology the most popular genre in podcasting? Obviously not. But are there enough people who enjoy mythology to make up a decent sized audience? Sure. Are there enough who might then also be interested in my book? Absolutely!
A podcast doesn’t necessarily have to draw a direct line to our writing. Remember, Kristen doesn’t say every writer has to blog about writing. She says blog about what you love…and she is passionate about writing, so this is what she LOVES to talk about.
Another way to figure out a podcast topic is to remember that time we were at a party, talking to some people we had just met…and then they mentioned X, and we were like, “OMG, I know all about that! Let me tell you and did you know and this little known fact and hey where are you going it’s-only-duct-tape-and-handcuffs?”
What doesn’t work for kidnapping…er…small talk at a party will probably make for a good podcast that people will listen to…as they chew through the ropes.
I’m baaaack! Thank you Cait for being here! *tosses her key to handcuffs*
For the record, I never ask anyone try or do anything I’ve not tested myself. When Cait first mentioned podcasting, I very literally had a fit. Not my most shining moment. In my defense, this happened during that period of time I really was willing to die on ‘The Hill of Fighting Against Writers Paid in EXPOSURE DOLLARS.’
Once I calmed down, mopped up the holy water and swept away the salt circle, I was at least willing to entertain Cait’s suggestion….and have been down the rabbit hole since. For the record, I was the one who introduced Cait to Wine and Crime and Morbid, as well as the fabulous True Crime Obsessed.
TCO’s Patrick Hinds and Gililan Pensavalle helped me endure TWO ROUNDS of six straight hours of dental work (12 HOURS)….without having a nervous breakdown. I could listen to them and block out the dentist replacing half my teeth (yes, I am a grinder who cannot keep up with a mouth guard so stop judging me).
Like all content I love, I am positively evangelical, and have converted family and friends to TCO fans and Patreon supporters.
Cait and I have even recorded two seasons of our own comedy podcast BFFs: Bad Friends Forever, which we’ll be releasing once I’m comfortable we have a solid base number of episodes. So there’s that ‘won’t make y’all try anything I haven’t’ thing.
It is part of the reason I asked Cait to come teach podcasting. If she can convert someone like me who didn’t need ONE MORE FRIGGIN’ THING TO DO and who isn’t tech savvy enough to organize e-maii?
Trust me, she’s got you.
Thank You For Being HERE!
I know I promised last time to work on posting shorter blogs. But I DID add the caveat, “when I can.” I hope y’all enjoyed this article. Cait put a ton of work into condensing a monster amount of information into a singular post… that’s also fun to read.
What are your thoughts? Questions? Comments? Do you listen to podcasts? Which ones are your favorites and why? Have we helped those who are terrified at least consider that podcasting might not melt the flesh off your bones?
If you scroll down, Cait is offering three classes on podcasting. There are discounts for early registration as well as a podcasting bundle that will save you WAY more than all the discounts combined.
I LOVE hearing from you!
Comments for guests get EXTRA CREDIT. To prove it and show my love, for the month of OCTOBER, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
AND REMEMBER to treat yourself to a class! I don’t reveal all my best intel on my blogs.
Introduction to Podcasting 10/15/21
Register HERE and use New20 for $20 off before October 5th
Writing for Podcasting 10/22/21
Register HERE and use New20 for $20 off before October 15th
How to Make MONEY & The Business of Podcasting 10/26/12
Register HERE and use New20 for $20 off before October 15th
The Pod People Podcasting Bundle: ALL THREE Classes ONE Low Price
Register HERE to get all three classes and save BIG!
Practice Your Pitch: Master the Log-Line 10/14/21
Register HERE and use Pitch10 for $10 off if register by 10/1/21
The Edge: How to Write Mystery, Suspense & Thriller 10/21/21
Register HERE and use Thrill10 for $10 off if you register by 10/14/21