Podcasting Your Writing: A Great Promotional Tool

Written by A Guest Author | July 13, 2017

By Jack B. Rochester, Ruby Fink, and Michael Mavilia

Have you ever wondered what people wearing ear buds are listening to when they’re out jogging? What they’re playing in their cars while stuck in traffic? Or when simply enjoying in those quiet, personal times away from the glare and blare of a TV?

You might be surprised to learn a lot of them aren’t listening to music but rather to audio recordings. Stories and novels by Zadie Smith, Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood, or John Sandford. TED talks. Nonfiction such as Tony Robbins, J.D. Vance’s “Hillbilly Elegy,” Malcolm Gladwell, Tim Ferriss. Public radio shows like “The Serial” (five million downloads!) and just about every NPR.org, PRI.org and PRX.org program ever aired. The list goes on. And on. And on. What were once called “books on tape” are now podcasts, whether a half an hour-long show or a full-length book.

Imagine listening to your own writing, professionally read and recorded! You can reach an entirely new and receptive audience who might never pick up a printed copy or eBook but will happily download your audio recording from the internet. Podcasting is fun and it’s relatively easy to do. You can of course, record and podcast your own works, but you can also get help, often for free. This article explains how you can podcast your written work, whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, and how you can get it posted on internet websites for others to enjoy.

Years ago, before television dominated our living space, people listened to stories on the radio: “The Shadow,” “Gunsmoke,” “Suspense,” “Dimension X.” Perhaps most famous and realistic drama was Orson Welles’ production, “War of the Worlds.” Most had gone away by the 1950s, but the Internet has brought them back, often appearing on YouTube dedicated old-time radio (OTR) sites (Google youtube otr). Their modern incarnations are podcasts. A podcast is a spoken-word recording, fiction or nonfiction, that can be listened to at any time, anywhere there is a digital listening device: an Android or Apple smart phone, an iPod, iPad, Zune, a computer or just about any similar device that plays or streams MP3 files.

Podcasts are easy to produce. If you decide to record your own, all you’ll need is a good microphone, a recording device (commonly a computer, but it could be a smart phone, too) or software, and—this is very important—a quiet room. You can buy a good mike (AKA mic), for as little as $10.99 on Amazon. We don’t recommend using your computer’s built-in mike. Start out with free audio recording software such as Voice Recorder, an integrated Windows 10 audio recording app, or for Mac people, the QuickTime app in OSX. Record and save your podcasts as MP3 files.

Another option is a personal digital recorder; they start at around $30. Some permit using a microSD card for storage; if yours doesn’t, make sure it has an output jack (and you have the cable) for transferring the audio file to your computer.

Practice reading your work aloud before you begin recording. Speak in your normal, natural voice and use inflections, cadences and emphasis to keep it lively and interesting. Take breaks where your material breaks, such as at the end of a section or chapter, and be sure you sound the same when you resume. Understand you’ll make an occasional flub, but simply pause then re-record your mistake; you can fix it later with your audio editing software. If you’re self-conscious or dissatisfied with how you sound—or you simply want your work to sound more professional—Fiverr and Audible Creation Exchange (ACX) are both great resources for finding a voiceover actor, among other things.

Many audio editing programs are available free for the downloading from websites:

  • MP3DirectCut is a multi-talented Windows program
  • GarageBand [Mac/Windows] is also multi-talented and a bit more sophisticated, but with it you can create your own accompanying music
  • Audacity is the most popular freeware, also for both Windows and Mac computers.

Regardless which you choose, be prepared for a bit of a learning curve as you get started, but it will be smooth sailing once you get the hang of it (don’t be shy about querying Google for help).

From simply reading your own work to adding characters and music, the possibilities are endless. Ideas for improving your work abound; listen to podcasts others have made. There is a vast library of free works to sample on Scribl.com and Radiolab.org, two name but two resources. You can find copyright-free sound effects (SFX) at FreeSound or music and sound effects on the YouTube Audio Library. You’ll not only have creative fun mixing these into your work, but they’ll add audio dimensions to your podcasts (in essence, turning them into modern OTR radio shows!) that make them more enjoyable for listeners. But please respect the intellectual property and copyright of other people’s work, and ask for permission to use whenever you’re in doubt.

Where do you publish your podcasts? You can post to your own or other people’s web/blog sites, and dedicated websites, such as Scribl. You can sell your audio version as an Audible book on the same Amazon page as your print and Kindle versions (and with Audible’s Whispersync as a spoken companion). To do so, you work with ACX, Audible/Amazon’s production company, which will upload your finished work to Audible. Some podcast websites require you to create an RSS feed, however SoundCloud and iTunes allow you to create the RSS feed simply and for free.

Where do you listen to podcasts –those you own and those of others? Scott Sigler is quite possibly the Prince of Podcasting. He singlehandedly defined the world of fiction podcasts in 2005 with EarthCore, now a newly re-recorded podcast narrated by Ray Porter, Audible’s “Narrator of the Year.” It debuted as an Audible title, but you can listen to his older works and other people’s free podcasts at (again) Scribl. Two other sites rich with free audiobooks are Librivox and Archive.

Most of us use iTunes for listening, but its utility has been seriously cramped by digital rights management (DRM) issues, rendering it clumsy and often unable to play programming Apple doesn’t sell. A prime example is Audible audiobooks; your best bet is to install the Audible app. While Audible isn’t free, you should seriously consider subscribing because all the best books are there. There are other free podcast-listening apps for smartphones such as Overcast [iPhone] or SoundCloud [Android] where you can also post your own podcasts.

Welcome to this new world of audiobooks. You’ll have fun, you’ll learn a lot, you’ll enjoy hearing your own works and who knows, maybe even earn a bunch of money while you’re at it!


Bios:

Jack B. Rochester is a Boston-based author of twelve nonfiction books, two novels and two novellas (and counting). He is also the founder and podcasting barista at Fictional Café. Ruby Fink heads Faux Fiction Audio, a Los Angeles audio studio devoted to producing authors’ books as fully featured audiobooks. She is the author and producer of the “Mickie McKinney, Boy Detective,” podcast series. Faux Fiction boasts a roster of over a dozen voiceover professionals. Jack and Ruby have published two Audible podiobooks based on his novellas, “The Secret of Cyberspace Farm” and “The Adventures of Oissan Mac Brádaigh” and are beginning work on Anarchy, his latest full-length novel. They are co-presenting a podcasting workshop in August at the Willamette Writers Conference in Portland, OR. Mike Mavilia is the head barista and managing editor at Fictional Café. He and Jack publish stories, novel excerpts, poetry, photography, fine art and podcasts every month on their website, Fictional Café.