A Quick Guide to Making Quality Podcasts (for Free!)

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I fell in love with podcasts about fifteen years ago. One of the first big hits of the podcasting world was The Ricky Gervais Show. 30 minutes of Ricky Gervais, Steve Merchant and Karl Pilkington chatting absolute nonsense, and it was brilliant. I’ve never laughed so much in my life and for that, I’ll always have a soft spot for the podcast.

For a time the podcast seemed to have died off, but of late it’s exploded. Statistics released this year revealed that 51% of the US population have listened to a podcast at least once in their lives and 32% listen at least once per month. 22% listen weekly. To put that lower figure in perspective, that’s 71,984,000 people.

The market is huge! And it’s growing. People are busy and looking for new ways to absorb information. 49% of podcast listening is done at home, 22% listen while driving. There are opportunities here for the writer to reach a new and growing audience. But it’s a crowded market. It’s estimated there are about 750,000 podcasts out on the web with a whopping 30 million episodes between them.

But you haven’t given it a go yet. You haven’t revealed your original spin on things to the world. So don’t let numbers put you off. Because what I’ve come to learn is that podcasting is not only fun but worthwhile. I genuinely get excited when JM Williams and I come to record our episodes of A Fantasy Writers’ Toolshed. We’ve reached new audiences and engaged with listeners who’ve gone on to follow us as writers.  

Making a podcast has never been more accessible. In the guide below I’ll talk you through the steps. The only thing you’ll need to buy is a microphone, and you can pick one up pretty cheaply (recommendations below). And we’ll finish off with a few ways of promoting your podcast once you’ve released it.

 

Getting Started

If you’re keen on making a podcast then chances are you have an idea what you want to talk about. What if you want to give it a go but aren’t so sure? Well, if you’re in both camps, a helpful starting point would be to sit down and make a schedule. List all the ideas you want to discuss, structure them into episodes, and decide how often you want to release an episode.

Everyone can structure a podcast in their own way. There’s no set format. Do what feels right for you. When we were in the planning phase, JM and I decided to try and keep the episodes to 30 minutes. We focus on one big topic each episode and tackle it in detail. Around that we answer listener questions, discuss the latest news, and down the line, we hope to get some guests on to talk about tips, experiences and their own books and stories.

Like I said, there are no hard and fasts rules, but if you’re unsure, go to podcast stores, select the genre you want to slot into and look at the top podcasts. How do they structure theirs? What features do they have? What sticks out about their branding, their profiles, their descriptions? Market research, baby.

 

Microphone

For the sake of achieving a good-quality recording, you want to invest in a half-decent mic. The cheap one that comes with your laptop isn’t going to cut the biscuit I’m afraid. Trust me, I’ve tried and I sounded like I was trapped in an aquarium.

I’ve scouted about the web, reviewed a few suggestions for recording podcasts specifically, and these seem to be the more popular choices of mic.


USB Microphone

This will do a solid job for you for $20. And it can plug straight into PC via the USB port. Simples. 

Blue Snowball iCE Condenser Mic

This is the bad boy I used. JM uses one too. Both of us are more than happy with how we sound, and we’re yet to have a complaint about the sound quality! Plugs in via USB so right into your PC. You can pick one up for about $30-$40. 

HEiL sound PR-40 Dynamic Studio Microphone

If you’ve got a spare $300 lying about and want yourself a golden mic, this guy’s for you. The sound quality is said to be excellent, which is no less than you’d expect for such an investment. This one requires an XLR lead so you’ll have to buy an adapter for your PC too.


It’s up to you how much you want to invest. Obviously the more you spend the better the sound quality. Do your research and see which one tickles your fancy most.

Have you dabbled with mics before? What would you recommend?  Please comment below.

 

Recording the Thing

Recording the podcast is pretty damn easy. Both Skype and Zoom now have a ‘record’ function for calls. You should see the option on the menu when you’re in a call. It works when calling other people or when you’re on your own. Simply hit the record button, start talking and when you’re done hit the stop button, close down the window and the recording will automatically save. Job done.

 

Editing

I’m not going to lie, editing is a bastard. It takes the longest amount of time by far but the good news is, the more you do it, the less time it takes. The best free programme to use is Audacity. It’s simple if not a little clunky, but it’s effective. And importantly free! We’re working on a budget here.

Now I’m not the best when it comes to using Audacity, but these guys seem to know what they’re doing and from them I’ve learned a lot. If you don’t like their style, then you can find scores more tutorials on Youtube.

And if worst comes to the worst, you can pay somebody else to do it on sites like Fiverr.

 

Publishing

Podcast edited, the next thing you want to do is publish the bastard. When it comes to publishing podcasts, you essentially upload each episode to a host website. This host website then automatically distributes your podcast to all of the directories you connect to it, such as Spotify and iTunes.

When I first looked into podcasting, a lot of the hosts you had to pay for. There are, however, some free options, though if you wanted to monetize your podcast, then you’d have to switch to a paid plan.

The best host site I’ve come across is Podbean. It’s free, easy to use, and distributes episodes quickly (though the time it takes is often dependent on the directory itself. Pssst, iTunes is the slowest!).

Before you upload an episode, spend some time developing your podcast brand. You’ll need a small logo. Something eye-catching that’ll grab potential listener’s attention. Think of a snappy description too. Let your listeners know what they can expect. If you’re no good at making logos, worry not. Head over to Fiverr or a similar site, advertise your job, set your budget, and pick the best person for you.

The next thing you’ll want to do is to replicate this brand profile you’ve created on all of the different podcast hosts you’ll list with, the top ones being:

Spotify

iTunes

Google Podcasts

Youtube

Stitcher

TuneIn

Spreaker

Blubrry

Podcastpedia

Create your profile on each of these sites, link in your RSS feed. You can find your Podcast RSS feed URL in your Podbean account under “Settings”, then “Feed/iTunes” page. It’ll look something like this: https://feed.podbean.com/thefantasywriterstoolshed/feed.xml

Do you know of any other podcast directories? Please share them in the comments.

 

Promoting

This is on par with editing for its bastardly nature. Promoting your podcast once it’s done can be a laborious and fruitless pursuit. The trick I’ve found is to try your very best to target your specific market. They’re the ones who are going to appreciate it more than any other. Blanket, thoughtless market ain’t gonna cut it.

So as a case study, our podcast is about writing and fantasy fiction. When I come to market each episode, I look for places writers and fantasy fans congregate—forums, Facebook groups, Reddit, Twitter, Insta—there are probably more but I focus on these. I spend some time developing a catchy few lines to tease people in (what’s in store, what they might enjoy. Curious details, intriguing details). I include tidy links (by this I mean shortened links using sites like Bitly) to as many different directories as possible. Some people never go on Spotify but live on iTunes, and vice versa. Then I share it as far and wide as possible.

Check out my list of Online Writing Groups if you’re looking for somewhere to get started.

If you blog, write about your podcast. If you’ve been blogging a while, hopefully, you’ve built up a list of email subscribers. Email them about it!

After that first day blitz, give it a day or two, and then share again. Rinse and repeat. Chances are some people missed it first time round. This time, you’ll catch them.

Do you know of any other effective promotion techniques? Please share in the comments!


So there are a few tips to get you going on the podcasting front. I hope it works out for you! If you enjoyed this post why not stay in touch by joining my writing community? Everybody who joins receives a free eBook on the craft of writing, lists of publishers of short and long fiction, a list of book reviewers, and a nice little collection of free short fiction. Simply fill out the form below!

 

 

 

 

 

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