Video killed the Radio Star, and Podcasting cremated him. Podcasting, if you didn't know, isn't the future, it's now. And it's something you should be very aware of if you're an Indie Author.
What is podcasting? Really? Okay... imagine that instead of tuning into a radio station, or a TV station you could download audio programs on demand, whenever you wanted, store them on your iPod/Mp3 player or phone to listen to at your leisure. Voila! Podcasts.
Podcasting has been around for several years now, and there are thousands of programs to listen to. Some put out new episodes monthly, weekly, or even daily. There are podcasts on damn near every topic you can think of and several you never would have guessed.
Why so many? Well, I think it's because podcasting is easy. Hold on, don't get your knickers in a kerfluffle. I said podcasting was easy. Good podcasting is significantly harder.
What do I mean? Well, the reigning King of Podcasting is Adam Carolla (if you don't know who that is, shame on you). Mr. Carolla started out on radio long before his MTV, Comedy Central, etc. etc. successes. Back in ealy 2009, Mr. Carolla built a studio and began producing a daily podcast similar to his syndicated radio talk show.
What makes the show so good (aside from the fact it's Adam Carolla) is the fact that it's professionally done. They have engineers, sound guys, actual soundproofing, and of course, real radio hosts. They know what they're doing. You can listen to The Adam Carolla Show (PG-13) daily on iTunes, Podcast One, or through Carolla's own website. (Note, there are a multitude of Carolla shows there, not just the one).
At the other end of the spectrum are folks who produce shows at home, using what I believe are microphones stolen from their children's Barbie sets. Echoes, hiss and the hum of the mothership nearly drown out the host(s). As I am not a cruel person, I won't give you links to any examples. Basically, though, if you listen to a podcast and it sounds like shit, you're at the other end of the spectrum from professional shows like The Adam Carolla Show, Joe Rogan, or even my favorite paranormal band Sunspot (TheOtherSide). Hell, even the Weasel, Pauly Shore, has a podcast.
Somewhere in between these opposing ends of the audio spectrum lie the vast majority of podcasts. My friends run a nifty Geek fest called "PodCulture". It's been around for something like ten years now and has pretty decent sound quality thanks to a home studio--a room in one of the guy's apartment converted over to the purpose.
By this point, you may be getting board by all my links and suggestions. I'll cut to the chase. Podcasts are great because they have listeners. Listeners you can tell about your book. Podcasters often need guests, the same way blogs need content. If you send out some emails, you might get invited to Skype your way to fame, or at least a few sales. The same rules as I've harped about for book marketing apply though: don't try and get your geeky space opera on something like Adam Carolla's Ace on the House home improvement/construction podcast. Don't try and get Joe Rogan to talk about your period piece romantic drama (Unless it features weed).
Once you have a few podcasting appearance under your belt, you might start to think "I can do this myself!" Which is entirely true. Making a staticy, hollow podcast is suprsingly easy and cheap. Finding people to listen to it... that's a little tougher...
Last year, I tried podcasting. My daughter was interested in how it worked, and it dawned on me that if I hosted a podcast, I could give myself free advertising. Of course, I'd need to create a podcast people would listen to...
Enter my eldest daughter. At 15, Sam is a typical fangirl, interested in all things internetty. After some brainstorming, we arrived at a fun Father-daughter podcast: WEIRDOLOGY 101. Basically, I rambled on about the paranormal and supernatural, explaining things that most similar shows discuss taking for granted the audience knows what the Hell they are talking about. It was an intro to the weird and unusual.
Every episode we spun our Wheel of Weird randomly selecting things like the mokele mbembe, tghe Thunderbird and even Champ, the North American Nessie. Sam asked questions, and I gave long-winded fatherly explantions. We covered weird news of the week, then I launched into my even longer-winded main topic. Somewhere duirng the programs, we read a "this episode brought to you by" and cited one of my novels.
Initially, our audience was miniscule, So I began contacting what few well-known persons I had badgered and cyber stalked over the years, getting phone interviews with authors, comic writers and even a movie producer.
Our readers rose to the minute level.
My youngest daughter guest-hosted for a few episodes, as the eldest child began to have less and less time for our podnonsense thanks to school. Eventually, Weirdology shuttered its cyber doors, with no appreciable change in my book sales. And the whole six month experiment cost me less than $100 (domain name and hosting primarily)
If you're interested in podcasting yourself, there are tons of sites out there to tell you how. But I have to throw up the caution flag: producing a podcast, even a Father-daughter, once-a-week show, isn't easy. You don't just sit down and start babbling,. You have to research topics, lay out a basic script/timeline for each episode. Worse, you will have to edit each recording session, removing barking dogs, yelling wives and ringing phones. That is time much better spent writing.
In a nutshell, podcasting is NOT the way to sell more books. It's a diversion from the difficult job of self-publishing. You are far better off using the podcasting time to write and market and appear on other people's podcasts. But don't take my word for it--give it a shot. Heck, you might be more successful podcasting than writing.