Expand Your Reach Through Audio Products
by Becky Lyles / Rebecca Carey Lyles
My husband, Steve, and I started a podcast last year. But we didn't join the podcasting craze just to be trendy. Our audio-engineer son, Toby Lyles, who works with podcasts and audiobooks, advised us to do so. He insisted a podcast would expand my reach into the world of potential readers for my books – and that audio products are the wave of the future.
I balked at the idea because I’m not a professional broadcaster, and I wasn't sure listeners would want to hear me ramble on about, well, any subject. In response, Toby suggested I discuss different aspects of editing because I’m a freelance editor. However, I felt like such a narrow focus would limit my audience. All writers need good editors, but the behind-the-scenes work required to improve a manuscript is not the stuff of Hollywood movies—or interesting podcasts (in my opinion).
With a little arm-twisting, my sweet hubby agreed to join me in a vaguely related podcasting venture – storytelling. Everybody loves a good story, right? Thus, the name: “Let Me Tell You a Story.” We realize all those people who love good stories may not listen to our podcast; however, our intended audience is definitely broader than if I’d gone with the editing idea. (Of course, Toby says I could do both. J)
Many podcast hosts chat about subjects from their field of expertise, or they interview experts, but that’s not our style. We don’t lecture, teach or preach. And, truth be told, we don’t tell stories on “Let Me Tell You a Story”; instead, we read stories.
Thanks to the team approach, our listeners get to hear more than one voice on our podcast. We take turns reading, and we alternate writing styles. So far, we’ve read short stories, book chapters, poetry, essays, vignettes, quotations and jokes. Sometimes, guest authors read their own work, which adds even more variety. (FYI, we always obtain permission before we share other writers’ literary creations with the public.)
So, you ask, what’s involved with producing a podcast? As mentioned above, you need to choose a focus for your audio musings and decide what audience you want to reach. Then you can name the podcast and create a cover graphic for the show (we paid a professional graphic artist a small fee to design ours). Next, you purchase a recorder and a good-quality microphone. As you may guess, such equipment comes in all sizes and shapes…and prices. Toby provides great how-to advice in his free podcast manual, which can be downloaded from his website:
For our first few recording sessions, we plugged a USB microphone into my laptop. Using my computer as a recorder worked great – until the motherboard crashed. Thanks to a separate crazy issue, the computer problems continued, and we stopped podcasting for several months. Finally, with Toby’s guidance, we purchased a small recorder and an XLR microphone. If I remember right, the total cost was around $200. You might spend less, and you might spend more.
What’s the average length of a podcast? Ours tend to run between 25 and 45 minutes. We strive for an average number of stories rather than a certain time limit. Other podcasts are longer than ours, 45 minutes to an hour. You’ll have to find your own comfort zone and what best suits the material you’re presenting.
Toby is the audio engineer for our podcast. Does that mean you need to hire an audio person? No. Many people produce podcasts without involving experts, thanks to free or inexpensive programs like Audacity and Reaper, which enable novices to create quality audio products.
That said, we like the intro our son created for our podcast, something our non-techy selves would not have been able to do. Plus, we like the sound effects he adds when he has time to play around with our stories. Again, I’m sure many of you are able to do the same.
Libsyn serves as our podcast host (fees start at $5/month). From there, the podcast is sent to my website, Stitcher and iTunes to provide easy access for listeners. http://beckylyles.com/podcast
At this point in our short podcasting history, we only record one or two “shows” per month. Toby thinks we should aim for weekly offerings, which is a good idea because the more we record, the easier it becomes. And the more we practice, the better our tongues cooperate. We’ve learned to read each story, poem, etc. out loud at least two times before we push the record button. Preparation and practice help us relax and have fun during our recording sessions.
Has our podcast increased book sales? So far, we don’t see spikes in sales when we release new editions. However, just like with Facebook or Twitter, we’re growing our audience. The main benefit we receive from the podcast right now is that it provides another avenue to get our names “out there.”
Our featured authors also gain exposure when we read their stories on “Let Me Tell You a Story.” We provide their contact and purchase info so readers are able to connect with them and find their books. If you’ve written something you’d like us to read aloud, send me a note. We’re always looking for new material. http://beckylyles.com/contact. To listen to our podcasts, go to http://beckylyles.com/podcast/.
A couple more thoughts regarding audio products –
Audiobooks are becoming more and more popular. Two of my books are now available in audio format. You can hear excerpts at http://alturl.com/hpqqw (Winds of Wyoming) and http://alturl.com/xzgfq (Winds of Freedom). Again, a sound engineer could help you create an audiobook, or you could do it yourself. Audible, an Amazon subsidiary that publishes audiobooks on Amazon and iTunes, walks authors through the process. Check out http://www.acx.com.
Some podcasters are now combining their podcasts to create audiobooks for their audiences. Evidently, the sky’s the limit when it comes to audio these days.
There you have it – everything you always wanted to know about audio products. Well, maybe not everything. Please feel to contact me at http://beckylyles.com/contact or Toby at http://twentyfoursound.com/us with questions.
Rebecca Carey Lyles grew up in Wyoming, the setting for her award-winning Kate Neilson novels, “Winds of Wyoming” and “Winds of Freedom.” (Excerpts from those books can be heard on podcasts 3 and 11 at http://beckylyles.com/podcast) She now lives in Idaho, where she serves as an editor and a mentor for aspiring authors and women transitioning from prison to life on the outside. She recently published a short story collection titled “Passageways” and is writing the third book in the Kate Neilson series, “Winds of Change.” http://www.beckylyles.com