Back to the Future with Story Podcasts

storytelling around a campfireHumanity never tires of hearing a good story.  In ancient times, stories were told around a roaring campfire.  The oral tradition evolved and continues even after the written word had become the dominant way to retain cultural knowledge.   Radio and now podcasts are its modern incarnation. 

The  podcast novel is finding its place in the bibliosphere as a way for indie authors to build an audience when publishers won’t bite.  Some authors have achieved remarkable success telling their stories in the “podiobooks” format.   JC Hutchins is one example.  He has built a highly active Internet community around his work without ever publishing in print form.  He has finally relented and decided to publish one of his novels, 7th Son: Descent, which goes to print iin 2009

iPod podcastSo what is a podiobook?  A podiobook(or podcast novel) is a term coined by Evo Terra to describe serialized audio books which are made available in podcast format.   Innovative authors are evolving podcast novels by adding more production values.  In some sense, it may follow the creative arc of old time radio drama.  Some of these enhancements include:

  • Guest voices on a podcast
  • Sound effects
  • Music to heighten the emotional impact
  • Building community with the podcast audience by posting listener feedback on a blog associated with the podcast

All of these add emotional impact and help the reader better imagine the story.  Creating a podcast movel takes  work, however.  A lot more work than, say, creating and writing a blog.  Some of the considerations you will need to make include:

  • Format – i.e. whether single or multiple voices, other production values, how long each episode should be, etc.
  • Recording equipment and editing software – the tools you use will depend on the requirements of your podcast as well as your comfort level with technology; don’t underestimate the learning curve
  • Time investment – episodes can easily take upwards of 8 hours to fully produce and distribute; longer if you’re adding voices, sound effects and music
  • Costs for hosting, storage and throughput
  • Tracking downloads and getting / responding to feedback from your audience

There are many good references to help you get started.  One of the best I’ve found is Podcasting Bible by Steve Mack and Mark Ratcliffe.  The authors provide a comprehensive overview of the subject and take you through the four stages of a podcast:

  • Planning,
  • Recording and editing
  • Encoding
  • Distribution

One of the things you’ll need to be especially aware of – success has its costs.  Generally, podcast distribution services charge for storage and throughput.  Throughput can be expensive if thousands of fans start downloading your serialized story podcasts.  Be sure to check the terms of your podcast hosting service or distribution network and calculate what a popular podcast might wind up costing you.

Even if you’re writing a work of non-fiction, you can use a podcast to promote your book.  Patrice Anne-Rutledge published an article in Writers Weekly on promoting books with podcasts.  The article is a comprehensive collection of tips and resources that budding podcast authors will find very useful. 

father reading to childrenAs a yonng child, one of my fondest memories was being in school and having the teacher read a story to me and my classmates at the end of the day.  Podcast stories, when done well, let me recaptre that experience.  Podcast novels and poidobooks are just the latest step in the great oral tradition of storytelling.

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