Podcasts are booming. Each month, a quarter of Americans listen to the digital audio programs (often in the form of a series) on their phones or computers, according to the 2018 Infinite Dial report from Edison Research. At the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference in June, it was announced that there are now more than 550,000 active podcasts.
So it’s not surprising that podcasts created by and for authors are growing in numbers and popularity.
Redmond crime fiction author Frank Zafiro launched his podcast, “Wrong Place, Write Crime,” in June 2017. Through conversations with other writers, it explores various aspects of writing and reading (primarily) crime fiction.
“Writing can be a lonely business, so I thought getting to meet and interact with a whole lot of other writers through a podcast seemed awesome,” Zafiro said. “And I’m paying it forward and promoting other authors, because you can probably never pay back the people that helped you early on in your career.”
Despite having no background in digital media, the author didn’t find the logistics of recording and producing his show too difficult. His one splurge was on a $100 microphone to help ensure the sound quality of the interviews.
Episodes are posted to Soundcloud (which also makes them available on the Stitcher and iTunes platforms) around the 15th of each month. Each one is typically 45 to 60 minutes long.
“It’s more time-consuming than difficult,” Zafiro said. “Often, the hardest thing is paring down an hour and a half conversation into 45 or 50 minutes. In the writing world, they teach you to kill your darlings, and I’ve discovered that applies to podcasts, as well.”
Zafiro’s biggest challenges have been finding a sweet spot with the frequency of shows and his interviewing style. Initially he was producing an episode every two weeks, which took up too much of his time, so he and scaled back to once per month in late 2017.
The most well-known author Zafiro has interviewed so far is bestselling mystery novelist Steve Hamilton. Zafiro’s dream interview subjects are crime writers Lawrence Block and Dennis Lehane, and he would also love to interview Stephen King if he had the opportunity.
“Wrong Place, Write Crime” is on summer hiatus and will resume in September with guest author Asa Marie Bradley.
Zafiro’s latest book, “The Getaway List,” was co-authored with Eric Beetner and released on Aug. 6. The fifth novel in his River City series, “The Menace of the Years,” is due to be released Sept. 18.
Spotlight on Northwest authors
When Vikki J. Carter, an aspiring writer of historical and young adult fiction from Longview, Washington, was researching the book publishing process eight months ago, her idea for the “Authors of the Pacific Northwest” podcast was formed.
“I needed information about how to get published and found that the industry had changed so much,” the former librarian said. “I realized the information I was gathering could be very useful for other up-and-coming writers.”
Each Monday, a 35- to 45-minute episode featuring an interview with a Pacific Northwest author is released via Podbean and iTunes. Carter’s guests have ranged from best-selling romance author Susan Wiggs to self-published children’s book author Derek Heinz. Each author discusses his or her journey as a writer, provides tips and insights into the publishing industry and reads from recent work.
Since releasing her first episode in March, Carter faced a steep learning curve that has enabled her to streamline her production process along the way. Now she spends around an hour on each interview and about 30 minutes on post production, instead of the several hours each episode initially took.
“That first episode I was terrified,” Carter said. “It went out by accident a week early because I couldn’t figure out how to schedule it on Podbean. I found out when my phone started blowing up.”
Her conversations with authors have covered such topics as the pros and cons of having an agent, using various tools and techniques to aid in the writing process, cover designs, self-publishing, and pitching to agents and publishers.
Carter’s first novel will be released this year under the pen name Victoria Jay. She plans to launch online learning courses for authors that will use her skills as a research librarian. Her next episode of “Authors of the Pacific Northwest” will feature historical fiction and nonfiction author Lilly Robbins Brock. Authors interested in taking part in a podcast can contact Carter through her website at squishpen.com/podcastinterview.
To help with your selections, there are numerous “best of” lists of writing podcasts online. Also, check the websites of your favorite authors to see if they host or have been featured on a podcast.