What Podcasting Can Do for You
by Gail Z. Martin
Think the radio serial is dead? Think again. One benefit of podcasting—the creation of Web audio in an MP3 format suitable for listening to on an iPod or other device—is that it can give the serialized story new life as it helps publishers and authors build and maintain loyal readerships.
J.C. Hutchins (author of 7th Son) and Scott Sigler (author of Ancestor) are two of the best-known author stars of podcasting. Both were among the first writers to record their own unpublished novels as serialized audios and release them free to attract and build an audience. Their success in attracting tens of thousands of audio subscribers led to traditional publishing contracts with large houses, and they brought their sizeable fan bases with them to promote their printed words.
Hutchins and Sigler may be top podcasting success stories, but many authors, myself included, use podcasting in a variety of ways to snag new readers, preview new releases, build buzz, and keep readers connected between books.
Podcasting is a great medium for sharing author interviews, relevant material not in the published book, or tips for writers. For example, the Grammar Girl podcast, a five-minute daily grammar lesson, is hugely popular (according to CNN, the podcast has generated 1.3 million downloads and been the number two download on iTunes). Similarly, Mur Lafferty’s I Should be Writing podcast, about the things that keep her from writing, has also attracted a large fan base (and a publishing contract).
Primary Podcasting Tools
As a publisher, you can use podcasting to build an audience, or several different audiences, loyal to your imprint or imprints or to your authors, and you don’t have to have access to a full sound studio.
For the most basic sort of podcast, all you need is a subscription to AudioAcrobat.com (the basic package is under $30/month), which will let you record via phone and have the recording automatically converted into a downloadable MP3 file and a Web audio (click and play). AudioAcrobat has a built-in process for uploading your podcast to iTunes via RSS to make sharing easy. (Really Simple Syndication makes a podcast a podcast by letting listeners subscribe to future recordings.)
For even better audio quality, you can use a USB microphone or inexpensive recorders (microphones can cost as little as $20; recorders are available on eBay for under $200). And for even broader exposure, you can upload podcasts free to directory sites like Podcast Pickle and Podcast Alley. These sites offer download links and Web audio links that are easy to embed in a Web site, an e-newsletter, an email, or a blog so that podcasters and the media can share recordings without transferring bulky files.
Many long-time podcasters, such as Rich Sigfrit, use more robust sites such as Liberated Syndication (commonly known as LibSyn.com) that provide one-stop shopping for the creation of both podcasts and iPhone apps for as little as $5 per month. These sites offer enhanced tracking so you can know how many listeners a podcast has garnered, and they also make hosting, audio formatting, and distribution easy.
Niche publishers can use podcasting to build an audience for key topics as well as for authors. Just as Stephen Euin Cobb, host of The Future and You podcast, uses his podcasting platform to interview futurists and science thought leaders all over the world, a publisher who specializes in areas such as health/wellness, psychology, or science can establish or enhance its reputation as a source of expert information by interviewing experts as well as its own authors on podcasts.
And publishers of all sorts—as well as their authors—can sometimes benefit by podcasting entire books, rather than just sample chapters. Podiobooks.com lets you post podcasted books chapter by chapter, like a radio serial, and you can charge episode by episode, or leave it up to readers to decide on a “conscience fee” and pay what they want.
Anecdotal evidence from some of Podiobooks’ most successful authors (who include Hutchins and Lafferty) suggests that readers who like the content they download free often go out and purchase the traditionally printed book it comes from.
Gail Z. Martin, owner of DreamSpinner Communications, is the author of The Thrifty Author’s Guide marketing books for authors and publishers (Comfort Publishing), 30 Days to Social Media Success (Career Press; out this month), The Chronicles of the Necromancer fantasy adventure series (Solaris Books), and The Fallen Kings Cycle (Orbit Books). She hosts the Shared Dreams Marketing podcast and the Ghost in the Machine podcast. To learn more: GailMartinMarketing.com; Twitter.comGailMartinPR; Facebook; or LinkedIn.