I owe the fact that I’ve writing consistently for six years to the encouragement and training writing podcasts have given me. I went to college to be a writer and professor, and while the writing classes I took gave me some experience, they weren’t geared toward speculative fiction writing, and as soon as I graduated, I felt unprepared to continue writing on my own. I stopped writing for about three years until I heard The Secrets Podcast, where New York Times Bestselling author, Michael Stackpole, provided a step by step method to preparing to write a novel. College did not give me anywhere near that kind of instruction.
At the time I was a janitor, and filled my work day listening to podcasts like Dead Robots’ Society, Dragon Page Cover to Cover, and I Should Be Writing, all of which shared the theme of aspiring authors on their journey to being published. Listening to them encouraged me to pursue my dreams at the same time. They also gave helpful advice for where they struggled or were struggling. Dragon Page interviewed authors with success stories, and I ate them up, day dreaming while wiping toilets about how I could make my own success story.
Writing is a lonely profession. Without these daily listens, I might have given up a long time ago.
Dragon Page is on hiatus, but has over four hundred episodes in their archives. Dead Robots Society recently had their main host, Justin Macumber, step down, but is still going on with Scott Roche, Terry Mixon, and Paul E. Cooley. It has been nice to hear Justin’s journey from unpublished to having sold four books, even if I am a little jealous. I Should Be Writing’s host, Mur Lafferty, recently released her first book through a Big 6 publisher, Orbit, with the book, The Shambling Guide to New York City, and she also won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.
I have no doubt these authors involvement in podcasting had a strong influence in their success.
In 2010, I was invited onto one of the first episodes of the Galley Table podcast, hosted by the above mentioned, Scott Roche. I was a nervous wreck. I was afraid to interrupt anyone else, and when I started talking, I felt like I was hanging from a rooftop by my shoelaces. I don’t think any of my comments were significant, and I wasn’t surprised when I wasn’t invited back on. But, the seed had been planted, and I soon started my own podcast, AudioTim.
I wish I could go back and redo my beginning expedition into podcasting.
The first couple things I didn’t realize was the audience reach when you first start out and how difficult it is to get those numbers back after you’ve lost them. My first episodes, even with my very limited social media outreach, garnered thousands of downloads. Thousands! All to listen to me recording on my portable mic as I drove to work, talking about what I learned or worked on that week. It makes me cringe just thinking about what I was presenting to the public, especially with how little I knew about audio editing—one listener, thank you Dan Absalonson, took the time to point out and help me level out the combined audio clips so that they didn’t drastically increase in volume from piece to piece (check out free Levelator program).
Even though I feel like I improved as a podcaster, I never came close to matching the numbers of my first six episodes.
I spent a couple years as AudioTim, interviewing authors and making friends, learning the craft with my own personal teachers to interview, but struggling with a small audience of only a few hundred downloads. While I started to get the experience firsthand, I also wanted to create a show that really exposed the interviewee to a large audience. I was on the verge of quitting in order to focus more time on writing, when one of my favorite podcasts, Adventures in SciFi Publishing, asked me to be their new executive producer.
AISFP had become my favorite podcast over the years, providing the perfect mix of industry news and author success stories to fill my ears while jogging and daydreaming about story problems or just my dream of being successful. To get the chance to run the show was amazing and a little daunting. I put the years in working on the interviewing and audio editing craft and then was promoted to a much larger audience. The numbers have fluctuated, though, and my dreams of being famous have been tempered. I won’t deny I’m podcasting as a form of building an audience for when I publish my first novel, but I’m also podcasting to tell as many people as I can about the authors I’m interviewing.
Aside from podcasting to reach a large audience, probably the best benefit of podcasting has been the one on one instruction I’ve received from successful authors and publishers.
Writers love to procrastinate. Add to that temptation the chance to talk about their work and you have an easy in to chatting with very talented and knowledgeable authors. Providing a format that allows many people to hear them adds to the appeal of their joining your podcast. The flood of writing podcasts and interview/blogging demands on authors’ time makes some authors unreachable, but I’ve still had plenty who have helped me immensely.
I’d like to go through some of the interviews I’ve done and mention specific advice that really helped me.
AudioTim 33: Indie Publishing with Hugh Howey and Robin Sullivan. Hugh is the author of the bestselling, WOOL, and Robin is the head of Ridan Publishing and wife of Michael J. Sullivan, bestselling author of the Riyria Revelations series. A common theme to their advice was that neither of their success stories happened overnight. Many novels were written before one hit it big. Hugh wrote the novelette, “Wool,” and without doing any real promotion, watched it take off. He then wrote four other parts to make the first novel, Wool Omnibus, on his way to quitting his day job and signing a six figure deal (print only!) with Simon and Schuster.
Hugh’s success with Wool was clearly a matter of having developed his craft over seven or so books, encouraging me that if I just kept writing, I could get there too.
Robin’s husband Michael wrote ten novels before putting writing aside to focus on another career. While doing that, he plotted out in his head a Fantasy series he would eventually break down and write for his young teen daughter. This book, now called Theft of Swords, went from small publisher to indie published, and then as the series took off, to a deal with Orbit Books.
In all this success, the advice was simple, just keep writing. Enjoy the process because it may be a few books before you start making any money. Robin even said after you publish your first book, the ratio of writing to marketing should heavily favor writing. This really helped give me patience as well as not put pressure on myself to make the first book only a success if it sells enough to allow me to quit my job.
AISFP #220, Michael J. Sullivan, Part Two, Hybrid Author, had some incredible advice. The topics we covered, in summary: how to choose between traditional publishing, small publishing, and indie publishing; an optimal path to becoming a full-time author; hybrid authorship; and how to know you’re ready to publish. What I took from this chat was to do everything I can in the books I write to make them the best story I’d want to read. Coming from someone who wrote ten books trying to imitate other authors’ style, this meant a lot. As I plot out my new book, instead of thinking about whether people will like the idea or not, I’m more interested in whether I will love the idea. Michael has given me confidence to write the story I most want to read, and by focusing on that instead of sales or how large an audience it will work for, I can enjoy the process. After all I’ve learned, this is a long process, and the authors who have sold well did so writing the books they wanted to write.
Timothy C. Ward has been podcasting since 2010, first as AudioTim, and now with AISFP. His first publication, Cornhusker: Demon Gene (A Short Story), is available on Kindle for $.99. He just turned in his novel to his editor, Joshua Essoe. Kaimerus is described as “Firefly crashes on Avatar and wakes up 28 Days Later.” He also reviews books at SF Signal.
Adventures in SciFi Publishing is a podcast started by Shaun Farrell in 2006 with the goal of bringing fans of Science Fiction and Fantasy real life stories from their favorite authors. The writing advice and inspirational success stories from top authors in this field have fueled the dreams of many aspiring authors, including the new host, Timothy C. Ward. Welcome to our community, and enjoy the weekly podcasts, book reviews, giveaways, publishing news and articles about speculative fiction.