If you’ve ever thought about entering the exciting world of podcasting, and it is exciting, then it’s always good to know what you’re getting into. It may not necessarily be for everyone, and when I was first approached to do one I thought, “Uh, really?” There was some apprehension, but it was something I’d entertained for a while. I think my knowledge of fantasy and SF gave me a leg up and I have been told I’m funny on occasion (people do laugh at me a lot). I figured, “What’s the worst that could happen?”
The anxious side of me peed a little.
When I was young, I was a shy boy. I’m still pretty much the same way, but as an adult I’ve been part of interviews with some heavy-hitters in the SFF community. R.A. Salvatore, Joe Abercrombie, Kameron Hurley, Anthony Ryan, and Steven Erikson to name a few. To say it’s been surreal is the biggest understatement of my life. Here are authors I’ve admired and read, in some cases half of my natural life. I’ve been given a platform to pick the minds of these giants of our genre. This platform is podcasting. In my case, The Grim Tidings Podcast with my broadcasting bro, Rob Matheny.
So what did I know about podcasting before venturing forth into this new realm of media? Nothing. Zilch. Goose egg. As someone with no broadcasting background, I got lucky to pair up with someone like Rob with extensive experience in broadcasting and sound engineering. He’s also the guy that gets all our guests. I’m just the doofus that has been a lover of fantasy and science fiction for years. And if you’re interested in podcasting yourself at all, hell, that’s a good place to start.
How did it all begin? Well, I was approached to start a podcast based on our Facebook group Grimdark Fiction Readers and Writers. There wasn’t a grimdark podcast and we thought it would be good to represent this sub-genre that birthed from the newer fiction that was coming out in the tradition of sword and sorcery. We could talk about our burgeoning interest in grimdark and of course fantasy as a whole. From there, I had to think, “OK, so what I can I contribute?” And that’s the first step to taking the plunge. That icy, icy plunge.
1. Know Something
This seems like a no-brainer. Of course you should know something about the topic you’re going to podcast about. If you love romantic comedies, then it’s a good idea to have watched a ton of them before starting a podcast. In my case, as mentioned above, I’ve been a lifelong fan of SFF. From Star Wars, to Dungeons and Dragons, to the JRPGs of my youth, and most recently board games and card games, SFF has been the one constant thing I’ve always had around me. Having a topic you’re passionate about is a big aspect of podcasting. If you’re knowledgeable and show enthusiasm, that already has you in a good position to keep the party going.
However, do you need to be an expert to start a podcast? No, I don’t think so. You can’t possibly know every single thing about your topic. It does help to be a sponge, though. Listen to other podcasts and hear what others are talking about. Do you want to be similar or do you want to branch out into your own niche? It’s important to give listeners something to grasp onto. This takes us to my next tip.
2. Super Specific or Super Broad?
The Grim Tidings Podcast prides itself on being the first grimdark podcast. We started out trying to find the best voices in the sub-genre and those that capture the aesthetic of grimdark. However, since starting, we’ve branched out into horror, SF, industry topics, and games. The most common thread is that while darker fiction is still our focus, we’re open to bringing on guests who interest us and may interest our listeners. Having a Facebook page (like we do here…) allows more interaction with listeners and the ability to get feedback. It also lets us know what kind of topics the listeners gravitate towards. One of our most popular episodes was with literary agent Mark Gottlieb, showing us that there is a lot of interest from writerly types that listen to the show. They want to hear insight from one of the top agents and how the business end of the industry works. That kind of feedback allows us to branch out organically, but still stay in our wheelhouse.
One of the biggest attributes a podcast should have in my opinion is consistency. This can mean having consistently good guests, nice audio quality, or whatever. I think our main focus is to keep kicking ass. This means have a set schedule and releasing episodes consistently. As anything, we’re competing for people’s time and wanting to stay on their minds. Some of the best comments we’ve gotten are, “I look forward to your podcast every week.” Nothing can beat that. If even a small amount of people are looking forward to your content on a weekly basis, then you’re doing something right. Releasing when you feel like it or having an erratic schedule might give some problems. This is one reason I think people might have trouble maintaining a blog. If they know people are reading on a consistent basis, then that might motivate them to update more. However, if they’re not getting many hits, that might discourage them. The same can happen with a podcast. We also do episodes with just the two of us, but our episodes with guests always do much better. People might like your show, but they might also like the guests. The guests bring them to the show. Figure out what people are coming to your show for and hammer that out. Be consistent.
4. Have Fun!
I’ve had a blast doing this show with Rob and I hope that shows through our interactions with guests and each other. Having a co-host you have chemistry with can go a long way towards keeping the podcast’s momentum. We’re also huge fans of speculative art of all kinds, so we can talk about it in our sleep. Geeking out with each other and our guests has been a huge part of what makes podcasting so enjoyable. If it ever feels like a chore or a pain in the ass to do, then it might not be for you. And podcasting certainly isn’t for everyone. However, if it’s something that’s crossed your mind over and over, give it a try. To me podcasting is sort of like eating squid. When I first moved to Japan I didn’t want to try it. But once I gave it a try I realized, “Hey, it’s not so bad.” While I haven’t grown into a massive eater of squid, I have grown into a gargantuan fan of podcasting. It’s let me have dream conversations I never imagined I’d get to have. Sure, sometimes the nerves show through, but it happens. Having fun shines through as well.
All in all, my experience with podcasting definitely felt like being thrown in the deep end. I had to flail around a bit before I figured out what worked for me personally and for Rob. Both of us have our strengths, and we always try to play to them. That and we always want to be a “loose podcast,” one where creative people can talk about their work, the business, and also geek out some. Your approach might be different, but having an approach period is the first step. Take the first step. You might falter at first, but stick with it and you might just find yourself a new calling.
Hell, I have.
What are your feelings about starting a podcast? Would you give it the old college try? And if you love podcasts, share some of your favorites below!