The first time I was asked to do an interview on BlogTalkRadio, I turned it down because I was leery about the host and not impressed with the quality of the production. Then I felt guilty and wondered if I’d missed a great opportunity.
Recently, I was invited do an audio podcast with another host, so of course I said yes. Why not? It’s more exposure—another opportunity to get my name and book titles out there to the public. Every time a reader hears your name, you’re one step closer to a sale. But then I started to wonder: How much time would it take? How much exposure would I get? Podcasters likely keep stats, but what do those numbers really mean?
I’ve been invited through various venues to listen to other author’s audio podcasts, and the sad truth is that I rarely participate. I try to be as give and take as I can. I want people to buy and read my book, so I buy and read theirs. I want people to read and comment on my blog, so I read and comment on other blogs. So I have tuned in to a few podcasts, but they usually don’t hold my interest for more than a few minutes. I think it’s partly because I’m not someone who normally listens to the radio. People talking without having a face or expressions to focus on don’t seem to grab my interest. Watching a video podcast is a different—and better— experience, but few podcasters who are interviewing authors are doing those.
What I want to know is: How many readers/internet users regularly listen to audio podcasts? What do you like to hear about from an author? Personal stories or information about his/her books? Has a podcast ever motivated you to buy an author’s book? Have you done a podcast and what did you get out of it?
There are many people out there who listen to podcasts. Let me remind you of what it did for one writer.
I think podcasts as a promotion tool for writers has great potential. However, it depends on quality and content. I don’t understand why more authors aren’t giving or selling downloadable chapter reads. Seems like a no-brainer given the popularity of audio books. I think this tool is especially useful to appeal to young people who do utilize modern gadgetry.
For that matter, why aren’t publisher websites hooking readers through chapter podcasts?
disclaimer is that I am podcasting my novel, so I may be biased. Podcasting is an excellent way to promote yourself and build an audience. It’s not a magic bullet – nothing is.
The podcast fiction phenomenon is only about 3 years old. Given the long cycles involved in publishing, that makes it difficult to evaluate yet. However, I can cite numerous examples of authors who were unable to find a publisher, released their novel as a free podcast, and then got multiple book deals as a result, including the work(s) that were actually podcast. Scott Sigler, Seth Harwood, J.C. Hutchins (his first print book out in 2009) all got major publishers. Mur Lafferty and Matthew Wayne Selznick got smaller publishers. There are others as well.
So if you’ve submitted multiple books to 50 or 100 agents and gotten nowhere, of course you need to take a hard look at how good your stuff is. But given how many eventually successful authors get rejected over and over and over, poor work is not by any means a given if one gets rejected. At a minimum, if you’re not sure how good your work is, this is a real world way to get a sense of how much people will like it.
Releasing a podcast builds an audience, and they tend to be loyal, because podcasting is more interactive. They hear your voice and your commentary and if you’re smart you give them opportunities to interact with you via web site and other means. Podcasting fiction is still a tiny field and as such other podcasters are more than willing to cross-promote. All the names I mentioned above – the “stars” of podcast fiction – were willing to play a promo for my work at the end of one of their episodes, despite not knowing me from Adam.
The old model of jealously guarding intellectual property is changing. I’m happy to give away my audio because I know that if my work is good enough listeners will both come back for more and be willing to pay for hard copies when they are published. Pioneers in podcast fiction have proven that it works.
You still have to be good. very good. And no one’s should just podcast their book for four months and realistically expect 5 or 10,000 listeners out of the blue. You have to do multiple books, put in a lot of work.
If you’re interested in hearing the people who’ve been successful talk some hard reality about it, you couldn’t do any better than to listen to Mur Lafferty’s “I should be writing” podcast, Episode 99. It’s available at
How many readers/internet users regularly listen to audio podcasts?
I get a lot more downloads of my podcast than I do reads of my blog, so that’s one thing.
What do you like to hear about from an author? Personal stories or information about his/her books?
During an interview? Hints/tips/anecdotes are all good. That’s why I liked King’s “On Writing”, it was a good mix.
Has a podcast ever motivated you to buy an author’s book?
Yup. I’ve bought Scott Sigler’s Infected, Tee Morris’s Pitcher’s Pendant and Phillipa Ballantine’s Digital Magic all on the strength of their podcasts and without the podcasts I would likely never have heard of the last two since they’re with a small press. Sigler is with Crown now, but still his cast is what hooked me.
Have you done a podcast and what did you get out of it?
I do my own podcast novel and an interview I did on another podcast netted me new listeners.
It’s certainly an interesting concept. I haven’t heard a podcast but will look into it. Because I’ve interviewed so many writers as a photojournalist, I’m always interested in both the writer’s background as well as why and how they write their books.
I agree with Dani that publisher websites should take advantage of the technology.
Thank you for posting such specific information! This is exactly what I was looking for.
Over the last 2 years I have listened to many podcast novels (aka podiobooks). Pretty much every book I’ve bought in that time has been the print version of a podcast novel. I now do my own podcast on which I interview podcast authors and try to get them more exposure.
Exposure varies from author to author. Some authors work hard to push their books, others don’t. Either way, in todays high-internet society, podcasts are an increasingly effective way of promoting your book.
If you look at the early podcast authors such as Scott Sigler and Tee Morris. Both have large listener bases and a percentage of this listener base does go out and buy the book. Scott has somewhere in the region of 30,000 regular listeners. Each book he has podcast has sold more copies than the last, you could argue that as your listener base gets larger and more attached to an author (over time) they feel they know the author better and are more inclined to buy the book.
There are also plenty of new authors, like Scott Roche, Chris Lester, etc. Some of them have yet to release a print version of their novel but there is no doubt that without their podcasts a very small number of people would have ever heard of them.
Even if your books are good it can still be very hard to reach an audience and get your name out there. You could look at advertising campaigns for new authors that cost huge amounts of money as buying a potential audience. Whilst podcasting your book doesn’t guarantee sales, it does help people to discover you.
I would never have heard of Scott Sigler in 2006 without his podcasts. Even now, when he is with a big publisher, it might be hard to spot his books in a store. Podcasting offers you a way to not only get people to know your name but also to get to know you. Especially if you go the free route, like podiobooks.com , more people will at least give a few chapters a listen just because it’s free. I think this is a big factor, as all you need is a chance to get them hooked on your story so the more people who listen the more potential fans you can create. I don’t think pay per chapter works very well because with the internet the way it is, people are attracted to what they can get for free. Rightly or wrongly there is a culture online of getting things free. Whilst people may illegally download music and movies. You are much less likely to get people bothering to steal a chapter of an ‘unknown’ author’s book. You’ll probably end up with a few people paying but most never even giving you a chance to share your work with them.
Even if you only want to do interviews on other podcasts, some shows have very solid listener bases so thats some extra exposure for no real cost on your part.
Hope I’ve said something useful there… 🙂
I’ve co-hosted a lot of podcasts and been a guest on a lot of others, but to my knowledge I’ve never sold a single book because of it.By contrast, working my blog to get the traffic up and develop a regular following/readership HAS increased my book sales. Again, as some of the other commenters have written, it probably depends on the content and popularity of the podcast and the podcaster.
This is a fascinating discussion. I was talking mostly about an author interview, but clearly, there is support for podcasting an entire novel. I have much to think about.