Before You Start a Podcast: 4 Tips for Authors

A microphone in front of a computer screen showing sound recording data

Photo via Visual hunt

Today’s guest post is from Devon Fredericksen, producer of the podcast From the Margins and a production editor at Girl Friday Productions.


In a crowded publishing environment, author-hosted podcasts are a unique and potentially effective marketing tool. But producing a podcast is challenging, and it requires a skill set distinct from writing. At Girl Friday, we just launched our own podcast, From the Margins, which explores behind-the-scenes stories in publishing; we’d like to share our hard-earned podcast production knowledge with these four tips on starting your own author podcast.

1. Understand Your Edge

The obvious goal for any author marketing endeavor is, ultimately, to increase your book sales. But how you do that has everything to do with bringing content of value to your community.

Think first and foremost and always about what your audience will want to hear. What do they struggle with, wonder about, want to know, desire access to? What are they motivated by? Make two word clouds—the first is what your audience wants and needs, the second is what only you can say. The area where they overlap is your content sweet spot.

2. Understand Your Listeners’ Behavior

In the same way that you plan your book marketing efforts—when you think about where your reader goes and how they discover books—it’s wise to map out a day in the life of your podcast listener.

What gender is your ideal listener? How old is he/she? What does he/she read? What does your listener like to read online?

As you produce podcast content, continue to gut-check its value: Will this be interesting to my ideal listener? Will this be valuable? This provides a necessary compass as you consider the content options for each episode.

When it comes time to upload your podcast and get the word out there, you’ll know exactly where to promote your content to ensure that you’re showing up where your listeners are already hanging out.

3. Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew

There are many different podcast formats—they run the spectrum from simple to extremely time-consuming. Two of the most popular formats are:

  • Q&A-style podcasts: the host interviews a variety of guests, such as WTF with Marc Maron
  • Edited narrative podcasts: shows such as Radiolab employ a more journalistic style

You’ll also find advice podcasts, such as Dear Sugar; live storytelling podcasts, such as The Moth; comedy podcasts, such as 2 Dope Queens, and many more.

The higher the production value and the more people involved (if it’s narrative, edited, and/or with several guests), the more time it will take to produce. Narrative formats often employ more sophisticated editing software and sound design. You may want to emulate a style you like to listen to, but be smart about choosing a format that you have the time and resources to pull off week after week.

4. Line Up Your Ducks

Many beginning podcasters use a pretty basic recording and editing setup that might already exist on their computer. But don’t underestimate good sound quality—better sound quality directly impacts the size of your listenership. Choosing the right equipment, both in terms of cost and quality, can be dizzying, so skip straight to these two good resources for beginners:

Learn how to use your equipment and do some test runs before interviewing any actual guests. Draft a production schedule that gives you enough time to research, draft, record, and edit each episode.

Here’s a checklist of other things you need to do:

  • Before podcast launch, have several episodes in the queue, to avoid scrambling to create subsequent episodes on schedule.
  • Use a spreadsheet to keep track of things like which potential guests you’ve reached out to, which interviewed guests have signed voice release forms, and what content you’ve recorded.
  • Find a quiet place to record—small carpeted rooms with curtains are ideal.
  • If an interview can’t be conducted in person, Skype has decent sound quality for remote recordings.
  • If using music, explore stock music sites that offer access to royalty-free songs. (Here’s a resource list of sites to help you start the search.)
  • Design your podcast cover art—this logo will be used as a branding tool for your podcast, so take time to consider how you want to visually represent your brand.

Be sure to check out Girl Friday’s new podcast, From the Margins—a podcast that explores the story behind the story.

Devon Fredericksen, a production editor at Girl Friday Productions, shares hard-earned podcast production knowledge with these four tips on starting your own author podcast.

Posted in Guest Post, Marketing & Promotion and tagged , .
Devon Fredericksen

Devon Fredericksen

Devon Fredericksen is the producer of From the Margins and a production editor at Girl Friday Productions.

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12 Comments on "Before You Start a Podcast: 4 Tips for Authors"

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[…] Podcast producer Devon Fredericksen offers four tips for authors creating podcasts.  […]

Chris Syme

These are great tips Devon. I want to echo the practice of having several podcasts in the cue before you launch. When we launched our podcast, going for a weekly show, we had two months of podcasts done first. It really helps get the ball rolling.

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[…] Before You Start a Podcast: 4 Tips for Authors (Jane Friedman) In a crowded publishing environment, author-hosted podcasts are a unique and potentially effective marketing tool. But producing a podcast is challenging, and it requires a skill set distinct from writing. At Girl Friday, we just launched our own podcast, From the Margins, which explores behind-the-scenes stories in publishing; we’d like to share our hard-earned podcast production knowledge with these four tips on starting your own author podcast. […]

ferris robinson

Very helpful info here, and thanks for including the links!

Sim Carter
I’ve been pod-casting for several weeks now, somehow I’ve chocked up 17 podcasts, one per week, so I guess it’s over 4 months! I’ve been learning via the trial and error–mostly error method. For me it’s just a great way to share my stories, memoir pieces, already published on my website. I’m using Audacity which is very simple to use, and publishing to SoundCloud. My advice is to invest in the best mic you can afford—unfortunately I can’t afford a really good podcasting mic but I’m doing my best with what I have. It’s fun and challenging and while I… Read more »
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[…] social media, Tori Eldridge has Twitter tips for newbies, Devon Fredrickson shares 4 podcast tips for authors, and Jane Friedman lists 5 common blogging mistakes even experienced bloggers […]

Tina Nole

Couldn’t agree more with this thoughtful article! All fantastic points – one thing you left out. You don’t have to do it yourself 🙂 You can hire a producer (like me) I produce podcasts for thought leaders, celebrities and brands – writers are PERFECT for this medium! http://www.larjmedia.com

Dolly

Can you talk about distribution? People seem to upload onto Soundcloud first, but that limits you to those who have internet connection. Seems like finding a distributor who offers downloads would garner more listeners. I, for example, listen to podcasts in the car, so I’m only interested in downnloadable programs. Or should a podcaster offer downloads on their own site?

Jane Friedman

Most podcasters I know use iTunes for distribution, and/or a service such as LibSyn to offer downloads directly from their site in addition to wider distribution.

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[…] “Before You Start a Podcast: 4 Tips for Authors” on Jane Friedman […]