I started The Creative Penn podcast back in early 2009, before the boom times of audio driven by smartphones and faster internet speed.
The first interview was not exactly professional! I put my landline on speaker phone and held an mp3 recorder next to it. But hey, at least I started!
Now, seven years and hundreds of episodes later, I podcast every Monday to a growing audience and the show is an essential part of my community and my business.
In this article, I'll go through why podcasting is so great and how I plan, record, edit and distribute my podcast.
What is a podcast?
Just in case you're confused …
A podcast is audio that is streamed and distributed over the internet. Podcasts can be talk shows, interviews, lectures, novels or indeed, anything else you fancy producing in audio. This article will be focused more on the interview format as that's what I do on my show, but if you want to podcast your novel, check out Podiobooks.com which has some great resources (and lots of audiobooks).
The advantage of podcasts is that listeners can download the audio whenever they want, instead of radio which is played at a specific time of day. People can discover audio at any time and if they connect with the host, they are likely to download backlist episodes which makes it evergreen content.
As a listener, you can subscribe to a show and then episodes will download automatically to your device. The most common podcast players are iTunes and Stitcher, but there are lots of different ways to listen. I personally love podcasts and listen to a number every week while walking, doing chores or going to the gym. I read books, skim blog posts and social for information, but I deep dive on podcasting!
Why podcast anyway?
Podcasting is a brilliant way to reach people with information, inspiration or entertainment, which pretty much covers all the types of books we write!
Your voice imparts your personality and listeners can get to know you in a more personal way. People need to know, like and trust you in order to buy your books, and listening to your voice every week develops a relationship that is hard to make through text on a page/screen.
It can be a way to stand out as few authors produce a regular podcast, and you can build relationships with influencers in your genre/niche through interviews which promote them through audio.
The Creative Penn podcast now has 260+ episodes. That’s over 150 hours of free audio on writing, publishing, book marketing and creative entrepreneurship based on interviews with experts. I can truly say that podcasting has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.
It's connected me with people from all over the world, both in the audience and as interviewees. It's given me a platform to share the indie movement, help others and also sell my books, products and speaking. It also gives me a (small but growing) direct income stream through sponsorship and Patreon.
If you want to create a podcast, there are heaps of different ways to do it. Here is my process.
Step 1: Plan the podcast
I plan my interviews months in advance by contacting people with interesting books/perspectives and proposing an interview. I usually create a relationship on Twitter first and read their books or blog for a while, or I might find an interesting interview with them on another site and contact them directly.
After arranging a time and date to call (across multiple time-zones), I email a week prior to the interview with a draft intro and questions based around the topic of the interview. I may veer off into other topics when we talk, but it allows them time to prepare and gives me focus in case I get nervous (which I still do even after all these years!).
Demonstrating professionalism through preparation is important to me, and I get antsy if people want to interview me and don't provide a similar level of detail!
Podcasting is an indirect form of marketing, it is more about awareness and I make sure my podcast is always focused on giving listeners actionable tips and information. However, I realize that people want to promote something at the same time, so I always ask the interviewee for their website address and to share more about their books or products. It's got to provide value to everyone involved.
Step 2: Record interview and create the raw audio
I primarily use interviews for my podcast and so Skype is invaluable. It's free to call worldwide to other users and is very cheap for calling phones. You need an add-on piece of software/plug-in for recording.
I record most of my interviews by video skype so I also create a YouTube video version at YouTube/thecreativepenn. I edit this in Screenflow (although you can use the free video editing software on your computer) and then upload to YouTube.
You can also record your own audio straight into the software mentioned in editing below.
I use an AudioTechnica ATR2100 USB microphone with my MacBookPro and the ear buds that come with my iPhone. It's important to use a headset if you can, and get the other person to as well, as this will stop any echoes in the room that you might hear on the recording otherwise.
Podcasts also have an intro and outro with some music and an introduction, with the name of the podcast or the host saying hi. You must use royalty free or creative commons licensed music, or your own if you're that creative! I used Soundsnap to find my intro music loop. To make your intro and outro, record audio directly, overlay the music and save these mini-files to add into each podcast at the beginning and end.
Step 3: Edit audio
Even with the advent of high quality podcasts like Serial, most listeners will forgive a certain amount of amateur production.
After all, podcasts are free and you don’t need effects and fancy stuff unless you want to get that technical. You can just record with a good microphone and then edit the bad bits out.
I leave umms, ahs, and little mistakes in as this humanizes people but I remove what I don’t want you to hear or if there are any technical problems (like lawnmowing noise!)
Both of these are easy enough to use. You just need to highlight and cut segments, drag and drop files. Then save as .aiff (for higher quality) or .mp3.
I save as an aiff file out of Amadeus Pro and then use Auphonic.com to level the sound and produce the metadata, which is basically the description and keywords associated with the episode. It then exports a completed .mp3 file.
Step 4: Distribute podcast
You now have a finished audio file but you need to get it to people's devices. If you just load the audio to your site, people will have to download it manually and transfer it to their device. Whereas if you use a podcast feed, it can be automatically delivered to their mobile device.
I use Amazon S3 to host my finished files so I upload the file there first. This gives listeners good download speed as my number of listeners increases, as well as backing up the files in a secure environment. I also back up video and important files this way. It’s incredibly cheap cloud hosting and the pricing scales based on traffic.
I use the Blubrry Powerpress plugin for WordPress (free) to create the play button and also the download link on the blog post. Blubrry also have a hosting service if you don't want to use Amazon S3.
Just paste in the hosted file URL into the plugin and it does the rest. Easy! Blubrry also has it’s own feed service to iTunes and you can easily follow the steps in the plugin or Blubrry has great help. You get the initial iTunes feed by submitting to iTunes directly. Here's a help page on iTunes for more technical details.
Have more technical questions? Check out The Podcast Answer Man.
Step 5: Create show notes and market the episode
For show notes, I get a transcription done through Speechpad.com. My virtual assistant edits the transcript and creates the show notes. (I did this myself for years but it's great to have help with this now and there are services that specialize specifically in doing this for podcasters.)
The transcript and show notes allow people to skim the highlights if they prefer to read information. It also ensures the post is indexed for SEO (search engine optimization) purposes as audio is currently not indexed.
I then schedule a number of social media posts on Twitter and Facebook, as well as sharing to StumbleUpon, LinkedIn and Pinterest.
Is it worth it?
Podcasting takes a LOT of time (approximately four hours for every 1 hour show) and there are very few podcasters making any money from their shows.
It is not something you do for income.
You do it because you want to learn and help others, and you want to connect with your audience using your voice. If you're going to podcast, then commit for at least six months. If you make it that far, you'll be hooked.
I love my podcast audience and The Creative Penn community is built around it.
There have been times when I've considered giving it up because that time should be spent writing, but every time, I have recommitted to the show because it makes me happy to help others, and I love to learn from the interviewees.
Interested in writing, publishing, book marketing or creative entrepreneurship? Subscribe to The Creative Penn Podcast!
All the back list episodes are listed here.
You can subscribe directly through my podcast feed here.
You can also watch most of the episodes here on YouTube.