Podcast Audio Dramas: What Fiction Authors Need to Consider
I got a great question from one of my loyal readers, who asked if podcast audio dramas, comparable to radio dramas, are being done.
Podcasts aren’t all just news and talk. Podcast audio dramas are growing in popularity and very similar to what people had before television: Radio shows featuring drama, soap operas, comedies, adventures, and science fiction. Instead of being on broadcast radio, they are now on the likes of iTunes. With the rise of audio devices and smart speakers in our homes and cars, an old entertainment option is experiencing a resurgence.
These podcasts represent an opportunity for self-published fiction authors. However, here’s what you need to know about creating them to avoid creating more drama for your life and work!
(Note: Traditionally published authors will need to contact their publishers about rights and limitations before creating podcasts or audiobooks based on published works.)
The Performance Factor
Today’s podcast audio dramas are serialized and continuing stories, just as their radio forbears and television shows. The story and the presentation of it must be gripping enough to encourage listeners to subscribe to the show and anxiously await the next episode. It can’t be a dry reading of text!
The author/podcast host himself must be good at the storytelling art, or be willing to hire someone who is. Alternatively, it could be a dramatic performance of a story. This would be more akin to scriptwriting and may require additional vocal performers.
So authors need to assess their own vocal talents to determine if they are capable of performing for their fiction genre. If additional performance talent is needed, that could up the cost in both time and money. Coordinating recording for multiple vocal actors or narrators can lengthen the time and complicate the logistics to produce each episode. Editing recordings with multiple voices and tracks can also be challenging and is usually beyond the capabilities of beginning podcasters, requiring the hiring of a good audio editor. All of this means more money to produce.
Podcast Audio Drama or Audiobook?
Is a podcast audio drama the same as an audiobook? No, and self-published fiction book authors should give serious consideration to creating an audiobook over a fiction podcast for several reasons.
Again, the following discussion applies only to self-published authors. Traditionally published authors will need to work with their publishers on any works based on published books.
Although there can be podcasts that charge to listen, many are free. If you want to charge for your podcast audio drama, you need to choose a podcast host platform that allows for payments.
But you have to remember that many people are used to listening to free podcasts. So your fiction podcast could be passed over in favor of other free shows. Doing an audiobook, for which you will definitely get paid, might be the better option.
Authors may reason that doing the podcast for free could help build fans who would then be interested in buying the audiobook, or even the print or eBook edition. While there may be some validity to that, if listeners have heard the book all the way through, it’s a spoiler, making it less likely they’ll buy.
Use a podcast to promote! Give them a sample, but not the whole thing.
Another reason why an audiobook should be considered over a podcast is the future continuity of the story. An audiobook has a definite beginning and end, even if there will be more books in a series (which would each have a beginning and end). Audiences for radio and television shows have expectations for continuity for a long period of time, often measured in years.
A prime example would be the soap opera, The Guiding Light, noted as the longest-running drama broadcast. It started on radio in 1937 and continued there until 1956. In 1952, it started on television and ran until 2009. That’s over 70 years! While most dramas and sitcoms don’t run that long (if they get 3 to 5 years or seasons, it’s a miracle), does your fiction have enough story and appeal to fuel years’ worth of episodes?
Add to that the necessity to broadcast a podcast audio drama on a regular basis, typically weekly. Weekly podcasting, even for news and information, is challenging enough! Either you need to be very adept at churning out the next stage of the story every few days, or you have to have several months' worth of episodes ready to broadcast in advance of launching.
Are You Able to Switch From Novel Writing to Scriptwriting?
Fiction writing and scriptwriting are two very different skills, even though both are storytellers. Podcast audio dramas require more of the scriptwriting art, requiring the writer to move the story along primarily with dialogue unless there’s a narrator character to fill in the gaps. This could be difficult for novel authors who are used to setting the scene and the action with description.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2018 Heidi Thorne