According to research recently published by Demand Sage, there are 464.7 million podcast listeners globally as of 2023. If you think the market is saturated by now, think again; estimates indicate there will be around 504.9 million listeners by the end of 2024.
Starting an indie author podcast can be a great way to learn from other authors, experiment with a new medium, and yes, grow your readership by increasing your visibility. If you’ve never dabbled in the art of audio, starting a podcast may seem daunting—but it doesn’t have to be, and that’s what this article is all about.
We’ll peek into the black box of podcasting and share how you can start yours in just 7 simple (though not necessarily easy) steps.
#1: Identify your target audience
The first step is to define the core concept behind your podcast. Start by identifying exactly who it’s for. Who do you want to listen? Other authors, potential readers, aspiring writers stuck in dead-end day jobs?
Be as specific as possible about your answer. As the old adage goes, if you try to please everyone, you will please no one. Don’t try to appeal to all listeners. Instead, aim to make sure the listeners you care about pick your podcast over others. There are thousands of podcasts about books and writing, so focus on what you have to say that’s unique and will inspire listeners to choose yours.
If you notice a gap in the market, it’s fine to start there. Like writing to market, “podcasting to market” is a viable strategy! But consider whether your core concept truly interests you and will motivate you to show up every week, month, year, etc. If you aren’t interested in the subject matter, it will come through in your voice and likely won’t achieve your desired ends anyway, so make sure you can drum up a reasonable amount of enthusiasm for whatever angle you choose.
#2: Plan your episodes
I know—it’s tempting to get stuck on the step of designing your cover art, theme music, brand colors, website, etc. All of that stuff is nice to have, but there’s just one thing that’s essential: actual podcast episodes.
So start there, and start with a plan. Sketch out the first few episodes, creating a rough draft or outline of how you want them to flow. Will you be riffing on a topic, reading something you’ve written, or interviewing others?
Plan at least the first five to ten episodes to get a bit of momentum going. The last thing you want to do is get an episode or two under your belt and then run out of steam. If that happens, it may be that you need to find a different approach.
Yes, things might change once you record a few episodes and get a feeling for what works and what doesn’t. The good news is, you aren’t stuck doing things the same way forever. Things may change—and in fact, they probably will! So don’t get too hung up on the planning stage. Just make sure you have a rough idea of what you want to present and how you’ll structure it.
#3: Hit record
Recording, like writing, can be as simple or as complicated as you make it. You can start with a basic home studio setup, recording in your home office or even at your kitchen table. If you want to take things up a notch, you can insulate a closet with blankets or foam panels to reduce reverb and improve sound quality.
A good-quality USB or XLR microphone will also help with this. Popular brands include Blue Yeti, Audio-Technica, and Samson, but a quick online search will yield reviews galore. Rest assured, you can find a decent microphone setup no matter your price range.
In addition to a mic, you’ll probably want specialized recording software. Again, there is something for every budget here. Audacity is a very popular platform used by podcasters worldwide, and it’s completely free. You can also go the paid route with software like Anchor or Hindenburg Journalist.
Whatever you choose, expect a learning curve. Playing with new software and learning a skill takes time and patience, so if you don’t have a background in audio, plan extra time to create the first several episodes. Eventually, the process will get easier.
#4: Edit and produce
The need for editing is why step #3 mentions recording software vs. simply recording via voice memos. Recording the audio for your episodes is essential, but so is editing them so they’re enjoyable to listen to.
Put yourself in your listeners’ shoes. Would you want to listen to constant throat-clearing, verbal pauses like um and you know, and background noise? Nope. You may or may not have noticed these things in podcasts before—and if you haven’t, it’s not because the podcaster did a flawless job. It’s all thanks to editing and production.
You don’t have to edit like a pro right out of the gate. Just do your best to clean up any background noise, remove dead air, and enhance the sound quality of your recordings. This is also the step where you’ll add intro and outro music to make the listening experience more seamless and catchy.
If you aren’t sure how to edit audio, don’t worry—most recording and editing software has user tutorials to help make the process easy to learn. You can also search for content on how to edit a podcast; audiophiles have created blogs, videos, and tutorials galore about how to do this well. (There’s probably even a podcast about it. Talk about meta!)
#5: Design your cover
Now it’s time to revisit some of those elements we put on hold in step #2—namely, your cover art. Cover art is to a podcast what—well, cover art—is to a book. It’s a visual representation of what a listener will get if they give you a try, and as such, it’s critical to get right! With a few episodes under your belt and your target audience identified, seek out cover art designers to help you create a look and feel for your podcast.
Just as you wouldn’t design a book cover without researching conventions in your genre, make sure to check out the competition in your space before commissioning cover art. Get a feel for what listeners are used to seeing. You may want to break these tropes and stand out, but make sure you understand them first.
#6: Host and publish
Software like Audacity can help you record and edit your podcast, but there’s still one practical step required before you can access the ears of listeners. You’ll need a hosting platform to distribute your content to the major podcasting apps. Podbean and Spreaker are two popular options, but do your research to find the pricing and structure that works best for you.
Hosting platforms will provide you with an RSS feed you can then submit to podcast providers like Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Audible, and Google Podcasts. This is where listeners can search for and find you, so don’t forget to publish your work far and wide!
#7: Promote and grow
Even if your podcast is a labor of love, you still want others to find it. That’s where marketing comes in! Once your podcast is out there, you’ll need to promote it to your target audience so they know it exists.
You’ll notice that many strategies for getting the word out work the same way as for marketing your books. You can use social media, email newsletters, your author platform, cross-promotion, and any other method you can think of. Consider collaborating with other podcasters in your niche or being a guest on other shows to introduce a broader audience to your pod.
Finally (you knew it was coming): encourage listeners to subscribe and leave ratings and reviews, which can help you rank higher in search results and gain visibility.
All in all, creating a podcast is a lot like self-publishing a book. The process takes time, effort, and dedication. But if you’re creating quality content and doing the legwork to help people find it, you can build a genuine community around your show and generate value for your indie author brand.
Have additional podcasting tips to share? Drop them in the comments below?