Podcasting Solo: 20 Months in & 10 Suggestions for New Podcasters

As I approach episode 40 of my AudioTim podcast, I’m burdened by the need to share some observations from my 20 months of podcasting. First off, I started podcasting out of a love for the genre of writing podcasts and how they inspired me to write. After college, I felt an overwhelming sense of insecurity that I didn’t have any interesting stories in my head to write about, and I didn’t write for two years. Halfway through seminary, a roommate asked me to write a book with (see: for) him and it injected the passion to write back into my veins. I haven’t turned back since (2007). Podcasts like Dragon Page Cover to Cover, Dead Robots Society and Adventures in SciFi Publishing became a staple for my commute, my workouts, and my janitorial duties. I couldn’t get enough, and often had to settle for less interesting podcasts to get me by till the next one of my favorites dropped.

Even as I learned about other shows like I Should Be Writing and Writing Excuses, I still felt like there was room for a newbie like me to add my passion to the fold. Thus, in October of 2010, I started AudioTim. One night the show name came to me and I jumped on it immediately, astonished that no one else had registered such a clever domain name. I set out to record myself sharing lessons that I had learned and was learning through my own writing journey. My first episode, “The Fear of the Blank Page,” was my effort to give back immediately to the writing community, hoping to inspire anyone who had similar doubts about their abilities, so that they would not give up like I had.

I’m not sure about download numbers, but my page views were amazing. Within minutes, I had over 80 views, and quickly hit 2k, eventually plateauing at 4k. By episode 6 my numbers were declining a little, but then they declined a lot, dropping a thousand views between that and #7, then another thousand to #8, until I was averaging 130 views.

I’m not sure if it was problems with the hosting platform, Posterous, which had many problems with audio player lag and just plain not uploading my files. It could have been a lack of planning on my part about the show’s execution (I received a few helpful comments from DanDantheArtMan about leveling out my audio better, and I was recording in my car for a few sections–Mur Lafferty might be able to do that, but we don’t all have her leverage). Lastly, I’m not sure if my guest for episode 6, a former pastor, led people to think this was going to be a Christian podcast.

Either way, I never regained the traction I had when I first set out of the gates.

A friend graciously helped me move my podcast over to this site, keeping the iTunes feed the same so I didn’t lose any subscribers, and I set out at the new year to bring consistency of at least two shows a month instead of just one in hopes of building an audience.

My most popular podcast episode has been AudioTim 32: Hugh Howey, Author of Wool Omnibus. It was by pure providence that Lyn from ResAliens pointed me to Hugh, suggesting I interview him. I’d say 90% of my website hits in the past two months have been from Hugh’s fans. I had a blast meeting him, one of the best experiences I’ve had podcasting, as well as reading. Wool Omnibus is an incredible story and worth every click of attention.

Before I get ahead of myself, describing the future of AudioTim, which I’ll do in a second post (maybe Monday), I’ve noticed a couple factors that might benefit new podcasters.

1. Before you buy a domain, record, or go live, brainstorm the show concept and at the very least share practice episodes with friends whom would also be your target audience. Case in point, AudioTim sounded like a great name and concept, but I’ve come to realize it was short sighted. I literally bought the domain the night I came up with the name. I’ll go into more about what is wrong with AudioTim’s brand in the next post.

2. I recommend not going it alone. Podcasting takes a ton of time to do right, and it should have a type of name that people can teamwork under (i.e. not AudioTim, unless I want to add something silly like “AudioTim and the Monkeys,” but what the heck would people think that show is about?).

3. Research cost of equipment, bandwidth, web hosting. You can get a decent mic under or around $100, but I would warn against releasing live episodes until you have quality equipment and an understanding of audio editing. I’ve posted a video tutorial on You Tube on how to get started and editing your podcast. On Facebook, Podcast Community, is a great resource for teaming up and finding answers to this podcasting game.

I recommend WordPress.org and the Blubrry plugin for podcasting (I don’t think Blubrry works on WordPress.com). Matthew Wayne Selznick’s MWS Media has a hosting service for podcasters. Dead Robots Society loves podHoster. I started with the Zoom H1 Handy recorder, but there are other USB condenser mics under a $100 (Blue Snowball Mic and Samson C03U USB Condenser Microphone – recommended by Peter Seaton-Clark are two examples).

4. Record practice episodes prior to going live. Writing Excuses did this, and said they were glad they did. If I had, I might have tuned out the sound editing bugs so that my first impression wasn’t so amateur. Recording in your car, though convenient, doesn’t sound the best for your audience, especially if you have a loud car… duh self.

5. Listen to all the podcasts you can. A friend recently pointed out that my show doesn’t really bring anything unique to the gambit of writing podcasts. Research what’s out there and make yours fit its own, unique slot. Find out what you like and don’t like about other shows. Do they talk too much before the interview? Do you like that they talk about themselves before the interview? Do you like having promos in the shows you listen to? Can you tag team on a topic they brought up, and bring their guest on for a followup?

6. Aim for your dream guests first. Fantasy-Faction‘s podcast’s first episode was with Joe Abercrombie, and they had something like 6k downloads. While I’m all about supporting indie writers, you aren’t going to help them any having them on your show if you don’t have a large audience, and the way to get a large audience is by bringing in the big guns. It can’t hurt to ask, and most are willing to talk about themselves and their writing; they are writers after all, and you know how much us writers like to talk about ourselves.

7. Pay attention to proper social media etiquette, but don’t be a wall flower. There is a balance between posting a link to your show every hour, or worse, every few minutes. Get out there to make friends, not numbers. One of the best benefits of podcasting is that you create an avenue to meeting fascinating new people. By podcasting an author talking about his story, you give that author a reason to tell more people through your one conversation. But, if your show has twelve followers, it might not be worth it to them, so build a network on top of just the podcast being a network builder.

8. Balance your real goals with the time commitment of podcasting. Are you doing this because you love talking to authors and audio editing, or are you doing this to create a network to help achieve your real goal of becoming a full time author?

9. Consider how much reading and preparation you’ll need to do. It seems the trend for podcasters is to try and read the whole book before interviewing their guest. While this helps create unique questions, you often aren’t going to mention anything beyond the halfway point of the book because you don’t want to spoil it for your audience. The point of the show may be to get people to read this new author, or author’s new book, so consider how much you really need to read before you can accomplish that goal. Sometimes just reading their website’s blurb and some reviews will suffice. Also, read their blog and their about page for unique questions to ask.

*Note, trying to read books for my interviews has led to a dozen books halfway read, and a backlog if I want to continue trying to read before interviews. This is another reason why teamwork podcasting is a good idea, or creating a backlog of episodes ready to drop before you go live. Mix in episodes that you don’t need to read books for, like discussing the industry or a topic you already know about.

10. Research marketing strategies. Ask other podcasters and listen to their shows to see how they market. If you were to ask me about the benefits of giveaways, I’d say they aren’t that helpful. If you have a large enough audience, maybe, but these days free books are bursting out of the floorboards, so it’s not that much of a draw. Create a short 30-60 second promo and throw it up on the Podcast Community page.

Stay tuned for Monday’s blog post about the future of AudioTim.

About Timothy C. Ward

Timothy C. Ward is a former executive producer and Hugo Nominee of Adventures in SciFi Publishing. He has been broke and lost on the other side of the world and now dreams of greater adventures from his keyboard in Des Moines, Iowa. This summer, he released his second Sand Divers book, Scavenger: A.I., where two parents use an ancient technology to fight a reproducing A.I. while trying to resurrect their deceased infant, and a new series that begins with Godsknife: Revolt, an apocalyptic battle for godhood in the rift between Iowa and the Abyss. Sign up for his newsletter for news, sales, giveaways and more: http://www.timothycward.com/newsletter/.

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