Podcasting: A New Publicity Tool for Writers By Charles Hodgson

A few weeks ago I noticed an article in WritersWeekly by Jimmy Moore in which he talked about how blogging was helping him build a market for his book. The piece rang a bell for me because it closely parallels my experience with podcasting. The American Oxford Dictionary declared “podcast” to be its word of the year for 2005. In a little over a year, the technology went from non-existent to hosting thousands of shows (National Public Radio alone puts out 234 podcasts).

I bought my kids iPods last spring to reward them for a great school year. This prompted me to think about the iPod phenomenon, podcasting and what it might be able to do for me as an author. It didn’t take long for the light to go on. Here is a technology that can make people feel like they know you more intimately than even your writing can. Although it’s called podcasting, listeners don’t actually need an iPod. What’s more, podcasting relies on a technology called RSS – standing for Real Simple Syndication – the upshot being that listeners don’t have to keep coming back to your website to get your latest missive, it is delivered directly to their computer (or even their iPod) each time you post new material. I thought that someone who decides they liked hearing my voice on a regular basis will feel like they know me and may be far more likely to buy my book.

I figured this out late on a Thursday afternoon and, by Friday evening when I went out to dinner, I was already a podcaster. My strategy was to produce a short show every day, closely aligned to the genre of my book (but not using the book’s content directly). There are other ways to do it, of course. A fair number of writers who havenít managed to find a publisher are actually reading their work out as podcasts. My first episode went up and it sounded horrible. I used what I had; a $10 microphone and no fancy doo-dads. But it didn’t matter. The point was to get on the radar. I am now approaching the 200th episode and my statistics show that around 2000 people are hearing each one. This gives me an average of about 35,000 downloads per month.

Sounds like an attractive way to build audience doesn’t it? Here are the cautions. It takes a lot of time. Hundreds of podcasters have started up shiny and enthusiastic and then disappeared after only a few episodes. The reason for this is that, just like writing, in podcasting you actually have to have something to say to make it worth saying – or listening to. Another issue is bandwidth. Audio files are huge compared to text. You can’t be a podcaster if you only have a dial-up Internet connection. If your podcast gets popular, the Internet server will be pumping out huge amounts of data and, if you don’t get the right service provider, that can add up to lots of service costs. Fortunately there are several firms specializing in serving podcasters and their rates are very reasonable. Good audio is crucial, too, so I quickly invested in a better microphone and re-recorded my early episodes. This can get pricy if you let it, but audio equipment prices have fallen over recent years and its possible to get very well set up for a few hundred dollars.

My podcast is podictionary, the audio word-a-day so it might be something that, as a writer, you’d like. You can find out at http://www.podictionary.com.

Other helpful websites include:

http://www.podcast411.com – for info on how to become a podcaster

http://www.libsyn.com – is a podcast service provider

http://www.itunes.com – Apple’s iTunes is the premier vehicle for podcast distribution (there are lots of others though)

In September look for CARNAL KNOWLEDGE: A PLAYFUL DICTIONARY OF HUMAN PARTS AND TRIVIA. From A to Z, head to toe, with everything in between, a diverting, delightful tour of our bodies — and the words we’ve used over the centuries to describe them.

Did you know that:

EYE is one of the oldest written words in the English language, dating from around 700 AD. The Dutch version is OOG, from which comes our “ogle.”

NOSTRIL originated in Old English circa 1000 AD from “nose + thirl,” the latter meaning “hole.”

SIDEBURNS are named after U.S. Civil War general, Senator, and Governor Ambrose Burnside. Despite his many accomplishments it was his impressive facial hair (clean-shaven chin, moustache that connected with big bushy side-whiskers) that has earned him a place in the language. “Burnsides” as a term for those whiskers quickly flipped itself into “sideburns.”

Podictionary is a fun, free audio word-a-day that brings you interesting stories about the history of everyday words. Short-n-sweet, podictionary only lasts a couple of minutes but surprises with facts like oxymoron is itself an oxymoron, plus idioms, slang definitions and quotes. See: http://www.podictionary.com.

Charles Hodgson has a checkered history. Engineering, whitewater canoeing, space hardware, skate-skiing, military electronics, environmentalism, dot-com management, writer and logophile. It’s his long time love of words (that’s what logophile means) that led him to write a book and produce a podcast. Charles lives happily ever after in Canada’s capital city with his beautiful wife, even more beautiful children, and the family dog, Klister.