Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Podcasting 101

For more than a year, I've been contemplating starting a podcast. But the topic was always my stumbling block. I haven't exactly been great at doing a blog in the last few years, so how could I maintain a podcast?

That all changed last year when I attended Realm Makers. God seemed to tap me on the shoulder and tell me, "You're going to podcast with these two guys." About a month after Realm Makers, I approached my new acquaintances, Josh Hardt, and then Aaron DeMott about starting a podcast together.

That was the easy part.

Over the next several weeks, discussions began on format, how often we were going to meet, what everyone's jobs were going to be, and the all important title. We finally settled all the details, and started recording. We finally released our first round of episodes in January.

There were a lot of things to consider when we started.

First, why were we starting a podcast? Would we be able to contribute something different compared to what's already out on the market? The three of us are all nerds, we're all Christians, and at least Aaron and I are both published authors. After analysis of the market, we determined this was probably an under-served market. There's a lot of geek and fandom-focused podcasts, but there didn't seem to be any that came at things from a Christian worldview, let alone would talk to predominantly Christian (although not necessarily CBA authors.)

Now that we had a target audience, we had to decide on format. Would we do interviews? Do a topical discussion every week or so, or something in between? Initially, we decided to stick to interviews, but have already thrown in a bonus episode discussing Star Wars: The Force Awakens amongst the three of us. With our interviews, we break them into two parts: one for readers and another for writers.

Logistics became interesting, since we're all three spread across the Midwest, and we want to interview speculative fiction authors everywhere. To make things manageable, we use Google Hangouts through YouTube which allows us to record a video session. From there, it's easy to take the recording and strip the audio portion out for editing and polishing. It's a two-step process: first I have to convert the video file to audio (I use MP3 Rocket for this). Once that's done, I use Audacity for the editing--things like coughs and awkwardly long pauses get deleted. Depending on my own schedule and how awkward we got during a recording, it can take me 3 - 4 times the amount of time recorded to complete an edit. (This would probably be far less if I didn't have children interrupting my work time!)

Before we could publish, we also had to find some free-or-almost free music to use as our theme music. There are lots of places where this is available, but you have to read the fine print to make sure it's okay to use in a podcast.

One of the final steps was choosing where we were going to upload to create an RSS feed so our episodes could be found and listened to. After doing some research into several sites (and trying to figure out if it was logistically possible at this stage of the game to self-host), we chose to use Libsyn. Their rates were reasonable, and their FAQ straightforward enough that I could explain it to my slightly-less-technically savvy partners.

So far, our podcast has been well-received from what we can gauge, and we're booking slots into March 2016 for interviews. It's been a lot of fun (and a lot of work as the producer!) and I'm glad we've started it. But I would readily admit it's not for the feint of heart. There's been a few times already I've questioned my sanity, especially as it cuts into time I'd normally be writing or editing.

But I'm still happy that we get to give back to the writing community in this manner.

Lasers, Dragons, and Keyboards launched on January 11, 2016. It's available at their website, as well as through Libsyn, Stitcher, and iTunes.

For further reading, I highly recommend these articles:
How to Start a Podcast by Joanna Penn at the Creative Penn
Your Podcast Website
How to Start Your Own Podcast (from Wikihow)
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