Podcasting Considerations for Authors

Updated on January 19, 2018
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Heidi Thorne is a self-publishing expert, nonfiction book editor, author of 21+ books and eBooks, and a former trade newspaper editor.

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In a writer’s community, an author asked about podcasting to supplement and support her novel writing, particularly in terms of earning money. All I did was shake my head.

I certainly don’t want to discourage anyone who has a genuine interest in podcasting. However, I have to wonder what could be gained by doing so for a fiction writer.

So let’s look at how to determine if podcasting is a path for you as an author, regardless of what type of writing you self publish.

As with any self publishing adventure, I have to ask what is your purpose—your why—for podcasting. Here are some possibilities:

  • Promote your books.
  • Build your audience and fan base.
  • Provide a forum to answer fan questions.
  • Offer more information on your topics or stories.
  • Make money??? (By the end of the article, you’ll see why I added question marks to that option.)

While all of those sound like valid goals for doing a podcast, there is one important issue that could make all of the above goals impossible to achieve: Driving traffic to your podcast is a marketing feat in itself.

True, podcasts are very popular because people can listen to them while they’re doing other things such as driving, working out, doing housework, etc. But they have to know that your podcast exists. That’s where the challenge is.

Plus, if your intent is to promote your books, will fans be interested in your podcast after they read them? Realize that listeners will be constantly looking for fresh content from you.

Honestly, podcasts are more suited for news type shows. According to rankings from Stitcher—an app that gives users access to over 65,000+ podcasts—25 percent of the Top 100 shows in 2017 were about news and politics, with the remaining 75 percent being about society and culture, business, comedy, technology, science and medicine, and sports. So you really have to question whether your audience would even be interested in a show about your books and writing. This requires knowing your audience in terms of the content they want and how they wish to consume it.

Pocasting versus Writing

Podcasting is a very different skill from writing. Podcasting is performance! Your content must be suitable for reading aloud. So it’s more akin to script writing. And in terms of content, it would not be an audio edition of your book. That's a completely different audio experience and project.

"But can't I just talk?" Sure, you can do an unscripted podcast. And sometimes that helps you seem more authentic. However, remember that unscripted does not mean unplanned. You need to have an agenda so you don't go off on a babbling tangent that will irritate your audience.

Podcasting Costs

There are a number of podcasting platforms that offer their podcast hosting services for low cost, maybe even free or with a free trial. Note that many platforms may have a completely free version for personal use. However, if you’re using it to promote your books and your business, they will probably steer you into one of their paid programs. Also note that these hosting platforms may not offer tools to help you record and edit your audio files. You’ll have to do that on your own before you start working with them.

The technology to create podcasts can also be costly. Sure, you can just record a raw MP3 file with either your computer or smartphone. But how will you edit it? Some of the editing programs can get pricey. To save on costs, some podcasters turn to free and/or open source editing programs such as Audacity. Actually, I’ve really been impressed with Audacity. However, the learning curve is super steep!

And the use of a good quality microphone is usually required to get the best audio experience for listeners. These can be less than $100 up to hundreds of dollars.

But the bigger costs of podcasting are in time and talent. For example, I’ve spent at least a couple hours editing raw audio files from interviews to create one 30-minute podcast, on top of the actual recording time of maybe up to an hour. And I had to take hours to learn how to use it all. It can be a time sink.

Do You Have Enough Content for a Podcast?

Even though most authors are a fountain of creativity, it can be a stretch to create content for a podcast. Most podcasts run up to 30 minutes, some way longer. That’s a lot of spoken content that needs to be scripted, or at least planned if unscripted.

Now imagine doing that at least once a week or so. That could eat up as much as 10 hours or more (sometimes way more!) a month. Those are hours you could have spent writing more books.

Can You Make Money from Podcasting?

For me, this is probably the biggest deterrent to me investing more heavily in podcasting. In my opinion, making money with podcasting is tougher than blogs or self published books.

First off, if you dream of putting your podcast content on iTunes—the dominant player in podcasting—you will not be paid for listens that you get there. You must offer your podcast for free in order for it to be available on iTunes. So that’s why many podcasters solicit sponsorships from advertisers, and why you might hear something to the effect at the beginning, middle, or end of the show, “We’d like to thank such-and-such for their support of this podcast. Visit their website (buy their stuff, etc.).”

In case you’re curious, Apple does not charge to add your podcast to the iTunes library, although they do have a review process before making it available to listeners. Also, your podcast has to be hosted and created somewhere else. For example, I used Podbean to host my podcast which offers integration with iTunes. And because I was doing this for business, there was a fee to host it there. And, as noted earlier, I had to create my audio content even before I uploaded it to Podbean.

Non-iTunes Programs

Aside from sponsorships, podcasters can solicit “tip jar” type donations through some non-iTunes podcast providers. My experience with donation monetization methods has been dismal. Usually, people will consume content and leave, probably popping over to the next free podcast.

Still other podcasters pursue a “premium content” monetization strategy where they will charge a subscription fee. This, too, is extremely challenging, especially in light of all the free podcast content that’s available on iTunes and elsewhere on the web. Plus, you’ll need some type of podcast hosting platform to handle payments and deliver the podcast to your paid subscriber listeners. More money going in the wrong direction!

Some non-iTunes podcast providers may offer advertising revenue sharing programs for podcasters. But the challenge of driving traffic to your podcast still is in your court. See each individual program's terms of service for details.

In all honesty, your podcast may not be a moneymaker. But it could help you make money by using it as a PR and marketing tool. Understand what you want to accomplish from this effort, and whether that's even possible given the nature of your content and your audience.

Are You Going to Have Podcast Guests?

Having guests join you on a podcast can be an entertaining and informative addition to your show. But with that addition comes more administrative and technical issues. How will you recruit guests? Will you have to pay them to participate, either in real dollars or promotional consideration? How will you record the audio conversation?

I’ve found that the biggest challenge with having guests is technical. Recording a conversation requires a service that can record all participants live. I’ve used conference calling and online webinar services. Usually there’s a cost to use these services, although there may be some free or free trial offerings online to consider. And there always seems to be some technical difficulties getting everyone connected and recording. So practice is required for using these services.

I’d recommend only doing podcasts with guests after you’ve become comfortable with podcasting and the technology.

Podcasting: Yes or No for You?

Now that you have an idea of what your investment in podcasting could be, is it for you? Or would you be better off building your author platform and income through other channels... maybe even just by writing more books?

Disclaimer: Both the publisher and author have used their best efforts in preparation of this information. No representations or warranties for its contents, either expressed or implied, are offered or allowed and both parties disclaim any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for your particular purpose. The advice and strategies presented herein may not be suitable for you, your situation or business. Consult with a professional advisor where and when appropriate. Neither the publisher nor author shall be liable for any loss of profit or any other damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential or punitive, arising from or relating to your reliance on this information.

© 2018 Heidi Thorne

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  • heidithorne profile image
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    Heidi Thorne 3 weeks ago from Chicago Area

    Hi Adrienne! Glad you found it helpful. True, podcasting can be quite an investment. Good that you're taking the time to evaluate whether it's right for you. Thanks for stopping by and have a great day!

  • alexadry profile image

    Adrienne Janet Farricelli 4 weeks ago from USA

    I was asked to do podcasts a while back and was a bit tentative about it, not sure if it was really something worth the time. Now that I am reading this, you pointed out some valuable points. Thanks

  • heidithorne profile image
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    Heidi Thorne 4 weeks ago from Chicago Area

    Bill, I think you could easily turn the Mailbag into a podcast one day. There's enough material every week to do one.

    But I can sympathize with having too much to do preventing you from pursuing it. This adventure has quite a learning curve and some investment. So we'll hope you do one when the circumstances are right for you.

    You enjoy the weekend, too!

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

    I have come to the conclusion that I have too much on my plate. I'm afraid a podcast is not in my future although I would love to do a regular one. Anyway, thanks for the tips....enjoy the heck out of your weekend.

  • heidithorne profile image
    Author

    Heidi Thorne 4 weeks ago from Chicago Area

    Mary, a lot of authors and writers consider podcasting, and some of them jump in before realizing the cost and commitment it takes. Glad you found the info helpful. And if you do start a podcast one day, let us know. Thanks for stopping by and have a lovely weekend!

  • heidithorne profile image
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    Heidi Thorne 4 weeks ago from Chicago Area

    Flourish, glad to provide some comfort! :) Actually, I've been doing this pros and cons analysis for myself to determine whether I really want to invest more into it or not. Maybe I was trying to justify my "no" as well. :) Thanks for your support and conversation, as always! Happy Weekend!

  • heidithorne profile image
    Author

    Heidi Thorne 4 weeks ago from Chicago Area

    Linda, because of its high investment, podcasting certainly isn't for everyone. But thank you for stopping by and chiming in anyway. Have a beautiful weekend!

  • aesta1 profile image

    Mary Norton 4 weeks ago from Ontario, Canada

    Thank you. This is so informative. Even if I have no plan to do podcasting, I sometimes wonder about it.

  • FlourishAnyway profile image

    FlourishAnyway 4 weeks ago from USA

    So this will be a no for me and you’ve made me feel good about the choice!

  • AliciaC profile image

    Linda Crampton 4 weeks ago from British Columbia, Canada

    I doubt whether I'll ever create a podcast, but I enjoyed reading your article. As always, your advice sounds great, Heidi.

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