Ever thought about starting a podcast? As an author, you may find that you have a lot to say beyond the content of your book, and a podcast can be a great medium for this. This article details the basics of making your own podcast, from soup to nuts.
Podcasting is an ever-changing space, one that’s growing at a rapid rate. As of June 2019, there were more than 750,000 active podcasts and more than 30 million podcast episodes available. (To put that in context, in 2018 there were a reported 525,000 active shows and more than 18.5 million episodes.) Suffice it to say, podcasting is becoming increasingly popular. It is a crowded space, but if you have a great topic in mind that would lend itself well to the medium but don’t know where to start, these important steps and details will help you hit the ground running.
Find a topic and format that speak to you
First things first: You’ll need to come up with a compelling topic for your podcast. What will be the central theme of the show? What questions will it answer? And who is it for? Your podcast can be a natural extension of the topics you discuss in your book or a new subject altogether. If you do decide to expand upon your book, be careful not to cannibalize your book’s content. After all, you may well gain listeners who have also read your book and will be looking for new information rather than recycled material.
Think too about who might be in the room with you when you record. Will you have a co-host? Will you interview guests? Podcast listeners find that the best podcasts feel like listening in on an intimate conversation, so having other people on your show from time to time might add that conversational element.
Consider Build Your Dream Network, a recently launched podcast by PRH author Kelly Hoey. After writing her career networking guide Build Your Dream Network, Hoey realized she had a lot more content to share. Every week on the show, she takes the major themes of her book and expands upon them by adding personal anecdotes, providing practical instructions, and taking listener questions. She also brings in guests from her network of colleagues and friends, and interviews them about the processes and challenges of networking.
Think about equipment and logistics
Once you have solidified the podcast’s subject, you’ll need to think about how to record and edit your episodes. Recording equipment can get expensive, but there are a few economical options you can use to get the best sound possible.
The simplest way to record is to use the Voice Memo feature on your smartphone. Another great resource is Anchor, an app that allows you to record, edit, publish, and distribute a podcast entirely from your phone. It’s free and user-friendly, and will distribute your podcast to all the major platforms (Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, etc.). If you want to purchase a microphone, you have several options at different price points. For more on microphones, check out this in-depth piece from Anchor.
Editing should also be a consideration, even if you don’t plan on including fancy transitions or music. Don’t let this step scare you, though—you don’t have to be a professional audio engineer to put together great material! The Anchor app has basic editing capabilities and allows you to seamlessly add music for transitions. You can also download free editing tools like Audacity, if you’d like to manipulate your audio a bit more than what Anchor allows. Other editing software, like ProTools, is available for purchase. There are also plenty of beginner how-to videos you can check out on YouTube to learn the fundamentals of audio editing.
Recording and publishing
Now that you’ve got a plan for how you’ll record and edit, it’s time to actually start recording an episode. It can definitely help to use an outline or even a script, so you stay on topic. If you are going to interview someone, have a plan for what to ask your guest. Make them feel comfortable and let the conversation flow naturally.
Sound quality can make or break a podcast, so be sure to minimize extraneous noise as much as possible. Aside from just sitting in a quiet room, you may want to find a small space (like a closet) that doesn’t have too much background noise or echo. It also helps to be in a room with a lot of fabric or upholstered items (clothes, carpet, drapes, couches, pillows, etc.), which will limit reverberation. Make sure to speak close to the mic or to your phone so your voice comes in as clearly as possible.
When you’re ready to publish, remember that every podcast requires a description. Your description should be snappy (about 300 words) and should entice people to listen. The show art is also incredibly important—this is the thumbnail image associated with your podcast and is usually the first impression people have of your show.
Share and promote
Once your podcast is out in the world, the final step is to share and promote it so you can get as many listeners as possible. If you’re active on social media, use your platforms to announce the launch of the podcast and share specific episodes as you put them out. You can also add a link on your website or in your social media bios or email signature. There are apps you can download, like Headliner, that overlay audio clips from your podcast onto images—this could be some great bite-sized, shareable content that might attract new listeners by giving them a taste of your show. There are lots of ways to get creative about promotion, so think about where your primary audience is and target them in the way that feels best to you.
Finally, one of the most important ways to spread the word about your podcast is to ask people to rate, review, and subscribe to it. You should do this at the end of your episodes and occasionally when you promote the show online. Higher subscription numbers, ratings, and reviews increase the visibility of your podcast and make it easier for new listeners to find you.
Podcasting may or may not be right for you as an author, but it can be a great way to extend your brand and content onto another platform. If you’re looking to sample a few shows currently available from your fellow PRH authors, try these: Happier with Gretchen Rubin, Family Secrets with Dani Shapiro, Lore, Dear Sugars, Before Breakfast with Laura Vanderkam, Stay Tuned with Preet, and Julie: The Unwinding of the Miracle. And if you are not sure whether podcasting is right for you, feel free to reach out to your publishing team. Creating a podcast is certainly not easy, but it can be extremely rewarding and fun—and it may even help you sell more books!
Neda Dallal is Senior Associate of Marketing, Publishing Development and Author Platforms at Penguin Random House.