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Roundtable: Podcasting Perspectives

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Compiled by Alexa Schlosser, Managing Editor, IBPA Independent magazine —

4 IBPA members with podcasts share their goals, tips, and tools for the medium.

Tell me about your podcast. When did you start it? What was the goal for creating it?

Carissa Andrews (CA): My podcast is called the Author Revolution podcast (after my online academy), and it was created in September 2019 as a way to deliver information to the author community on what it means to rapid-release books from an indie author perspective. I deliver information on everything from author overwhelm to writing with kids in the house to rapidly release titles—and what that means. My goal is to deliver the best information I have on the rapid-release process and help other authors make the journey of writing and publishing a successful one.

Lawrence Knorr (LK): We created our own “channel” called the BookSpeak Network. The plan was to tap our staff and authors to host various podcasts. We tried a few different shows. Some were short-lived, and others have been ongoing. Our primary goal was to provide more opportunities for our books to be discovered and to build an audience for our authors and the press.

Shannon Jones (SJ): Our podcast is the KeeKee’s Big Adventures Family Travel Podcast. We started it almost a year ago. Our main goal for creating it was to build awareness of KeeKee’s Big Adventures, continuing to expand our offerings as we build the travel entertainment brand, and provide our target demographic—moms who love to travel—with interesting content.

Peter Goodman (PG): The podcast title is “Inside Independent Publishing (with IBPA).” I interview indie publishers, vendors who work with publishers (like designers and logistics specialists), and industry experts and insiders about what they do and about publishing in general. The first episode was released in April 2018. The original goal was, to be honest, to give me an excuse to talk about publishing and find out what other people are thinking and doing. I’m curious about how other people go about solving the issues I face daily. Working alone as I do most of the time, I’m acutely aware of how vital it is to get other people’s perspectives, lest I get trapped in a vortex of my own creation. And from that it turned out to be something that would be useful for IBPA to have under its umbrella as another resource for its members. The podcast is freely available, IBPA member or not.

What software and hardware are you using to produce and publish the podcast?

CA: I use Adobe Audition to record and master the podcast episodes, and LIBSYN to distribute it.

LK: Currently, we are using the cloud service at BlogTalk Radio. The studio is very easy to use and allows for recording directly through the computer or by calling in. The podcast is broadcast live and then available for download on many different platforms.

SJ: We’re using a combination of tools for our podcasts. We use Apple products; however, there are PC alternatives for all the Mac-specific tools we mention.

Recording—We have been using Zoom to record our podcasts. Zoom allows you to record a different track for the host and for the guest. This allows us to get a clean track with just the guest speaking. Also, we have found our interviews to be more comfortable for the guest (and as a host) being able to see each other. But we do not use the video.

As the host, I record myself using Garageband. This way, we have a high-quality local recording of myself. We use an older Yeti USB microphone from Blue. We have it mounted on a boom arm (to prevent vibrations) with a pop filter (to prevent “plosives,” that hard popping sound you can hear with the letter P). When we put the two recordings together, we use the Zoom recording of the guest and the local Garageband recording of me; it creates a more professional sound. A good microphone makes a big difference in the perceived quality of your podcast.

Editing—We have been using Final Cut Pro to edit our podcast recordings. It’s a video editor, which we use for our YouTube animated shorts, but it also has great audio tools. We spend a good amount of time editing our podcasts. We get the sound levels right between the speakers, remove any noise, and add in the audio intro/outro music.

We remove “um”s and pauses from both the guest and the host. We edit out content that may meander too much to keep the topic on focus. Combined, it makes for a tighter, more enjoyable listen. We let guests know that we will edit them and make them sound as good as possible. This helps ease their mind if they’re nervous about being recorded.

Posting and Sharing—We don’t use a podcast service for hosting. We like the idea of having our site be the central point of distribution for our podcasts. Our site is built with WordPress; we have been using the free Castos Podcast Hosting plugin. It has simple settings to categorize podcasts, set categories, publish the feed, and track listens. We upload our finished track to the podcast section of the site, and it automatically adds it to our feed, which is used to feed iTunes Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, and others.

PG: I use Skype because I found a Skype plug-in that made it easy to record both sides of a conversation on separate audio tracks. I then save the audio to a .wav file and send that to the audio engineer, along with additional tracks that I record in Garageband as intro and outro. The music is a stock twangy sound that I purchased and is used at the beginning and end as fades in and out. Intros and outros are mostly done working from a script. The few times I’ve interviewed people face to face, I’ve had to rely on recording into Garageband with USB mics and a splitter. I use a Yeti mic, and that’s the most expensive bit of equipment. The audio engineer processes all the tracks and assembles them into a single mp3 package after cleaning up hisses and doing some edits. I then upload the mp3 on the Simplecast website, where I’m able to add podcast notes, keywords, and titles, and also get social media links for Twitter, Facebook, etc. Simplecast can serve up the podcast to subscribers itself, but it also feeds out to platforms like Apple and Google, where the bulk of the listeners are.

Would you consider the podcast successful? What does success for a podcast look like to you?

CA: I consider the podcast successful in delivering the information. I think it could always do better by getting out there further, but the information and resources are solid. To me, success is showing up each week and diving into topics that will help my fellow authors and students.

LK: At first, listenership was very low. Over time, it has built to the thousands. We now have broad distribution. I would consider it a success except that we have not been able to be as regular with our programming as we had hoped. Most of our shows are done when the hosts have time.

SJ: Yes! We’ve been continuing to grow our listeners and reach over the last year. During the pandemic, we’ve seen a huge increase in listenership due to the pent-up demand for travel. A podcast is also a great way to connect and network within your industry. One of our guests actually led to our first big partnership that launched in October!

PG: In terms of number of listeners, not really. I don’t think it’s broken out very far beyond the IBPA family. But in terms of content, yes, I’ve been very happy with the quality of guests and conversations, and it’s provided insight into a wide variety of important publishing topics. I like that it’s both nuts and bolts as well as strategy and issue-oriented.

What have you learned in the process of producing a podcast?

CA: It takes dedication to podcast. Every week, I write an outline or script, or find someone to interview. Then there’s recording, mastering the file, and getting it ready to go out. There’s a lot more involved, and it takes time away from other things I could be doing as a writer, too. But in a world where content is king, I find blogging to be almost flat in comparison—besides, I write all day every day, so having the opportunity to share information verbally is kind of a treat.

LK: Most of our podcasts are phone interviews. It is so important to prep your guests and remind them. Issues like time zone differences and the technology can be devastating at the last minute but very easy to fix if dealt with in advance.

SJ: A secondary goal was to build connections in the industry and build credibility within the family travel space. The podcast has been a great way to do it and build out our content. Through the process of having people on and listening to the recordings, I’ve also learned how to improve my approach and the content. Providing a question list in advance so they can come prepared is key.

PG: It’s certainly given me a lot of respect for people who are in the broadcast business! Learning to enunciate, be natural, think on my feet, and keep the conversation flowing is quite challenging. I’ve learned some low-level skills for working with audio files and equipment. I’ve learned a lot, along the way, about how Amazon works, how to better use InDesign, how to manage foreign rights, and how to exhibit at trade shows. I’ve also learned how even broad subject areas are a moving target, so that on just about any topic, after six months, the landscape may be quite different. Keeping things fresh and not resting on past assumptions or conclusions is essential.

What challenges did you face, or do you currently face, in publishing your podcast?

CA: My biggest challenge is time. I would love to get to the point of batching my podcast episodes so that I’m ahead of the game, but because I am writing and publishing books quickly, and I also do client work, it’s hard to get enough time to spring forward with it all.

LK: BlogTalk Radio makes it easy to publish. Our issue was practicing and improving so the quality was good enough for broader distribution. I think we are getting there.

SJ: It’s definitely a time-consuming endeavor. We do it all: find and book guests, host the interviews, write the articles to accompany each episode (this creates more travel content for our website), and edit the episodes to get them exactly where we want them before we go live. Booking guests has also been more challenging than I would have thought, but it’s a fun challenge. And as I mentioned, it’s great to have a reason to approach people you want to network with.

PG: Simplecast makes it really easy. There are other, similar services, and at the entry level they are inexpensive. The main challenge is finding listeners and keeping the podcast fresh so that people want to come back. I’ve had some gaps in release dates. Doing this more or less alone on a regular schedule I find challenging. Finding guests and contacting them and making arrangements and scheduling is also difficult, for me at least, and I’ve had a lot of help from Angela Bole at IBPA in making connections and setting up schedules.

What advice do you have for others considering creating podcasts?

CA: Don’t start a podcast unless you can be consistent. I started last year, and I consistently publish a new podcast each week. Every week, the number of downloads and listens get bigger, and I reach more authors than I used to. But just like with everything else, podcast listeners like to know you’re going to stick around before they give you a chance. So, when you have a back catalogue of episodes, they’re more likely to binge your show.

LK: Make sure the content is fun, entertaining, and/or relevant. Quality is also paramount. We aborted a handful of shows that were underway due to technical issues or quality issues. We rescheduled and did a second take.

SJ: Because we can do the whole process ourselves, the investment is our time. If you can’t do it all yourself, you’ll have to invest in the support to make it happen, so I’d ensure you’re very specific on your goal for creating a podcast. There’s a great service, Messy.FM, I would have used if I was doing it on my own.

PG: In no particular order:

  • Shorter is better (20-30 minutes).
  • Quality matters. Be sure to use a good microphone and do all you can to be sure your guest has a good audio setup, too, with minimal ambient noise. I often call people on their mobile phones, and that sometimes doesn’t work so well. Audiences will forgive the occasional glitch or dropout.
  • Be sure you’ve got a good audio editor if you are not a pro yourself.
  • Ask yourself where your podcast fits in, who is going to listen to it, and what are you offering that is different and compelling. There’s a lot of competition.
  • Plan your program sequences unless you are doing “news” and timely broadcasts.
  • As with books, work on discoverability and promotion and partnerships; it takes time to build an audience.
  • Provide value, and don’t just try and sell your book or product or allow your guest to use it as a big infomercial.
  • IBPA’s support has been invaluable in lending the podcast legitimacy and finding guests; consider finding an association you can “partner” with even if the level of cooperation remains informal.

Experts! Share your insights in an upcoming Roundtable! Are you interested in being featured as a thought leader in an upcoming roundtable for IBPA Independent? We’re looking for your thoughts on a variety of topics, including design and packaging, marketing and PR, and more. Contact IBPA Independent managing editor Alexa Schlosser at alexa@ibpa-online.org.

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