Tuesday, 29 December 2015

So You Want to Host a Podcast: Part 2 - The Nuts and Bolts

Today on Bookaholics we continue with the second part of the excellent article on podcasting by Andrew Chamberlain. I listen to Andrew's podcast on writing - The Creative Writers Toolbelt. I can assure you he knows what he is talking about. The link to the podcast is at the bottom of the page. If you didn't read the first part of the article here is the link

So how do you launch a podcast? In this blog I want to take you through the technical aspects of setting up a podcast, from planning to recording and releasing you work.

1.     Preparing to host a podcast
Once you have thought about why you want to create a podcast and what you want to say, you can move on to the issue of how you are going to make your podcast a reality. Here are some questions to think about:
-       Where are you going to record your podcast, and what equipment will you need? You’ll need to find a quiet space where you won’t be interrupted and you can speak.  Then you’ll need a computer (PC or Mac), some recording software, and a microphone.  For recording software I’d recommend Audacity (www.audacityteam.org). Also, get the best microphone you can because sound quality really does matter with podcasts. For interviews I recommend using Skype, and Free Skype Call recorder software (www.voipcallrecording.com )
-       How will start and end your podcast?  Do you want to use a jingle? If you want to use some music you’ll need to create some or buy the rights to some. At the start of each podcast you should introduce yourself, and say what the podcast is about.

2.     Recording, editing, and saving a podcast

-       Plug your microphone into your PC/Mac and turn it on, ensuring your machine ‘recognises’ the microphone.
-       Open your recording software
-       Make sure the input and output devices are set to whatever you are choosing to use,
-       Press the record button and start speaking! Just a few words to start with.
-       Experiment with your microphone, where it’s placed, how you speak, and sound levels.
-       When you’re all done, record your podcast and then save a copy
-       With that copy you can now start the process of editing, clipping out all of the “ums” and “ahs” as well as any gaps or external noises. In my experience you should allow three to five minutes for each minute of finished podcast material.
-       Once you have your recording polished and as good as you can get it, save it as an MP3 file.

3.     Releasing a podcast

-       Once your podcast is recorded, choose a podcast host. Their main function is to ‘host’ episodes of your podcast on their servers. They will also provide an interface on the internet for people to download and listen to your podcast. I use a company called Podomatic, but there’s also others: Libsyn, Archive.org, Ourmedia.org, and Podbean. They will charge you for this service.
-       You will also need to create some artwork for an image to accompany your podcast. This is a square, 1400 x 1400 pixel image, representing your podcast.
-       Your podcast host will give you a web address for your podcast, and an RSS feed. This is the link that you have to give to a podcast client or pod catcher.  Their primary function is to promote your podcast and allow people to download it. The best example of this is iTunes, but there are others, their service is free and you can link to more than one.
-       Once your podcast is hosted, and the RSS feed is linked to one or more podcast clients, your podcast host should be able to provide you with stats for the number of interactions with your podcast, these could be plays, likes, or downloads.
And there you have it, your podcast is launched and out there!
The most important piece of advice is: podcasting is a marathon not a sprint. Before you start, think carefully about what a sustainable plan looks like for you, both in terms of content and consistency of production.
Good luck!

Andrew Chamberlain (www.andrewjchamberlain.com) is a writer and creative writing tutor. He is the host of “The Creative Writer’s Toolbelt”, a podcast that gives practical, accessible advice as well as occasional interviews with writers, editors, and other artists. You can reach the podcast on iTunes here.

Friday, 25 December 2015

The First Year as a Published Author

It's Christmas day and 2015 is fast coming to an end. This is a time when thoughts turn to the year past and what the new year will bring. Today's blog will be given over to introspection, a review of what has been, and a taste of what is yet to come. 

I cannot believe that a year has gone by since Killer's Countdown was published. Only one year since I put my first book out into the world and waited to see what would happen. Would anyone like the book? Would I find readers? I am told all authors feel like this, not only with the first book, but with subsequent books. I am pleased to report that Killer's Countdown was more than warmly received and is selling well. 

Since the first book came out I have published a further two in the series, Killer's Craft and Killer's Cross. Readers have taken DI Shona McKenzie to their heart and the books are flying off the shelves, in both the physical and digital sense. It has been a whirlwind year of book launches, signings and talks. I consider it a privilege to meet readers and to talk to them about both my books and writing. I have appeared in many guises and there has been a lot of fun and laughter along the way. Signings have taken place in cafes, restaurants, shopping centres, craft shops, fairs, Waterstones bookshops and CLC bookshops. I've given talks in libraries from Dundee to London, at conferences and in village halls. Also at the three book launches in Waterstones Dundee. Again I consider all this to be a privilege and I feel blessed. All three books have been bestsellers on Amazon and in bookstores. As an author I cannot describe the giddy feeling that this brings. I certainly didn't imagine that at the beginning of the year.

So what of 2016. I am looking forward to what the new year will bring. I will be ushering it in with a free book which will be available on my website - http://www.wendyhjones.com and on this blog. For those of you who are fans of Shona you will understand why it is called DI Shona McKenzie's Guide to Killing Your Boss. For those of you who haven't yet met her this is your chance. This will be the only book in the series which will be free, so it is well worth downloading. As a little taste here is the first reveal of the cover.

It seems fitting as a writer to start a new year with a new book. However, the fourth book in the DI Shona McKenzie Mysteries is well on it's way. I am hoping it will be released in April. You will find out more on this blog in due course. I am also working on a book on Marketing and Promotion which will be released in March. It's a busy time, and I couldn't be happier. Knowing that I am writing books that others enjoy is a heady feeling. Being a writer is a blast.

I hope you my Bookaholic friends have had a fabulous Christmas and that your stockings were stuffed with lots of lovely books. May your new year bring you joy, peace and happiness. If you are a writer I wish you all the very best with your writing and your books. Thank you all for spending the last year with me and supporting me every step of the way. I look forward to spending the next year with you on a myriad of adventures. 

Monday, 21 December 2015

So you Want to Host a Podcast: Part 1 - Lessons Learned

By Andrew Chamberlain

Just over two years ago I realised that there was a gap in the range of podcasts available to writers. There were some great podcasts out there, like “Writing Excuses” and “The Creative Penn”, but I couldn’t find anything that offered practical, applicable advice.

So I decided to start a podcast myself. I reasoned that if I was going to find out more about the craft for myself, I might as well share it with others.

And so “The Creative Writer’s Toolbelt” (CWT) was born. The podcast is a mix of short, fifteen minute episodes that explore different facets of creative writing, and longer interviews with writers and editors. Two years and fifty episodes later I’m still producing one podcast a fortnight, but I’ve also learnt some lessons.

First, I have realised that there are three essential “C’s” to podcasting, these are:

- Content

- Consistency, and

- Capturing an audience

You’ll notice that none of these directly relate to the technical challenges of podcasting. Those challenges are real, but you can overcome them. The real key to podcasting success is to get those “C’s” right. Here’s how I try to do that.


I’ve learnt that if you want to host a podcast, you have to work out why you want to say something before you work out what you want to say. I wanted to create the kind of podcast that I’d find helpful as a writer. I had to work that out first before I decided what I was going to say.

I’ve also learnt that I need to present the best content possible. That means doing the research, thinking for the audience, and presenting the material in an engaging and clear fashion so that they’ll keep coming back for more.


From the beginning I realised that I needed to keep up a regular output of material. I chose to create one episode every fortnight. On one occasion I decided to give myself a fortnight off, but when I came back after a month with a new episode my download figures had slumped. It can sometimes be hard work but consistent output is essential.

Consistency also applies to the sound quality of your work. I am sure that I lost some listeners in the early days because they were not satisfied with the sound quality. Fortunately, some of them liked the content enough that they were prepared to tell me they weren’t satisfied – bless them! That’s when I invested in a new podcasting microphone.

Capturing an audience
We all know that it’s not enough to write a book, as the author we have to invest in marketing and selling it. The same thing is true with a podcast. The challenge with podcast marketing is that there are so many ways to do this. Here are some of the things I’d recommend:

- Give each podcast a snappy and compelling title, it does attract more downloads

- If you have a website, set up a page on it to tell people about your podcast. If you don’t have a website, consider setting up a blog on something like Blogpress, or blogger.

- Start a Facebook page and a Google+ page for your podcast and link episodes to it regularly

- Start a group on Goodreads (goodreads.com)and invite people to join this

- Start a twitter account and comment on your episodes when they come out

Finally, remember that podcasting is a marathon not a sprint. Focus on the three C’s, and try to maintain the standard of what you are doing in terms of the audio quality and content. Good luck!

Andrew Chamberlain (www.andrewjchamberlain.com) is a writer and creative writing tutor. He is the host of “The Creative Writer’s Toolbelt”, a podcast that gives practical, accessible advice as well as occasional interviews with writers, editors, and other artists. You can reach the podcast on iTunes here.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Book Review: A Very Private Grave

After a hectic few on this I have actually been able to breathe again and do some reading. What to pick when you need a new book.min my case it is usually a mystery. So today I bring you ne which is a mixture of contemporary and historical. 

I have had this book on my kindle for some time but, as I say, have only just got around to reading it. I really wish I had read it sooner. This is the first in one of Donna Fletcher Crow's series and introduces the reader to Felicity and Anthony. A beloved priest, father Dominic, is found bludgeoned to death. Following this felicity and Anthony have to flee from the monastery in order to protect themselves. This leads to a chase throughout the UK whilst they investigate the murder. Without giving too much away ecclesiastical history forms a large part of the story. The historical research in the book is sound and I found this aspect fascinating. The sense of place in this book is also excellent. I learnt so much about different areas of the UK, including Scotland, where I live. This is a first class book with a strong plot and likeable characters. 

I am looking forward to learning more bout the characters in future books. It is always both interesting and fun to see how characters develop in a series.

There we have it for another day my bookaholic friends. I will be back soon, but until then, keep reading. 

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Rest and Recreation for Writers

Good evening my Bookaholic friends. Apologies that this blog has been neglected for a few weeks. I have been manic, chasing around the country doing book signings and generally enjoying my life as a writer. The third book in the DI Shona McKenzie Mysteries was released three weeks ago and since then my feet haven't touched the ground. The book was launched in Waterstones, Dundee and a great time was had by all. I gave a talk on hanging, as you do, and somehow or other it turned out to be funny. The audience obviously thought so as you can see from the photograph below. 

It's a wild life being an author and I love every minute of it. However, often it can be difficult to take time out to relax. Rest and recreation is important for a number of reasons. The main one is so that I can recharge my batteries. A bit like the energiser bunny I just keep going and going. However, if I, or any other writer, keeps going at this pace I will eventually run out of steam. The second is to allow the brain and the mind to recover. It is difficult to come up with new plots and think of saying things in different ways if life is being led at a hundred miles an hour. The brain needs to relax and recuperate as well. 

Things have calmed down a bit now and I will be taking it a bit easier on the lead up to Christmas. I will be having a break between Christmas and New Year. I intend reading all those lovely books I know I will be getting fro Christmas. If you are an author think about what you can do to treat yourself well and to take time to recharge your batteries. Look after yourself.

So there we have it Bookaholics. See you all back here soon for another reading and writing update. You can buy the books, including Killer's Cross, but clicking on the book covers on the right.