By Emma Newman
At the time of writing this, fifteen chapters of my novel have been published on my site as podcasts. I love recording and publishing them now, but it was daunting at the start. I’d like to give you a hand with some of the basics if you are considering taking the podcasting plunge.
Let’s get the scariest bit out of the way first—the technology. I’m going to explain the process I use to podcast, but please note that my initial set up may be different to yours. The process will always be record, format correctly and then publish, and I’ll look at each in turn.
I have my own domain, and my own hosting which runs WordPress. Some of you will have Blogger sites and some of you will have WordPress sites hosted by WordPress (and probably a lot of other blog/website permutations too) so you’ll need to adapt this process to your own situation. Whatever the set up, you’ll need a microphone. I use a microphone headset, nothing fancy, it plugs straight into my USB port. I bought it to use Skype, not to podcast, but it does the job fine.
I use a delicious free piece of software called Audacity. Not only is it free, it’s incredibly simple to use and there are lots of videos on YouTube with step-by-step instructions.
I tweaked the default recording settings to match those required by Podiobooks as I want to publish on their site one day. I record in stereo, with a bit rate of 128 kbps and a sample rate of 44.1 kHz (this doesn’t mean a whole lot to me, I just followed the requirements in their guide).
The recording is created as a .aup file, and so I export it out of Audacity as an MP3 file, then it can be played on most devices. One bit that is important at this stage is correctly entering the ID3 tags. These determine the information that is carried with the file, so that when people save it to their various devices, the device can read what it’s called, who recorded it, what ‘album’ it’s part of etc.
My only criticism with Audacity is that it doesn’t have a ‘podcast’ tag option. To get round this I save as much information as I can (title, album, artist), export as an MP3, then open the file with iTunes. Then I right click on the file in the iTunes window and click on “Get info” to access a series of tabs with editable information on them. I change the genre to ‘podcast’ and I’m done.
Publishing the podcast
I use a WordPress plugin called PowerPress and it has been brilliant. It was a bit fiddly to set up, but they have an excellent, detailed tutorial video that takes you through the process step by step. All I can recommend is patience, a good amount of time to dedicate to it and a place to test your pages that others won’t see!
Before the podcast can be published, the file has to be uploaded to the hosting server. I use a free FTP client called FileZilla but I’m sure you can upload a file via the usual media library method in WordPress admin.
Once the file is uploaded, it’s simply a matter of creating the page in WordPress, scrolling down to the PowerPress section inserted by the plugin and typing in the file name. As everything has already been set up in terms of where it should look for that file, it’s easy.
If, like me, you plan to podcast something you’ve already written, you’re halfway there. Chapters are usually a good length for a single podcast (mine are usually between 15 – 20 minutes long when read aloud). I could never podcast off the cuff; my voice just seizes up, so you might want to outline topics if you are going for something more spontaneous.
Before I recorded my first ever podcast, I was lucky enough to have a coaching session from the marvelous lady behind onlinesoundadvice.com. She has a great free ebook of advice for beginners by the way. That advice, and a significant amount of trial and error on my part, has led to this preparation before I record:
• Make a cup of tea
• Take my inhaler (very important if you’re asthmatic like I am, as the tension of recording can bring on a bit of wheezing)
•Tie my hair back—stray wisps can sound like juggernauts on a sensitive microphone
• Switch off any unnecessary applications on my computer so there are no email or tweet pings in the middle of a scene
• Get a glass of water (for when the tea runs out)
• Tell anyone else in the house that I’m recording
• Shut my office door (I work from home) which improves acoustics
Then I read the chapter through, making mental notes about how to deliver dialogue, put on the headset, positioning the microphone at least 5 cms away and below my mouth, then I click record.
I always record the first draft in one sitting, even if I end up recording three minutes worth of tea drinking, nose blowing and water slurping in between. I’ve also started to edit in the same sitting too, as sometimes a syllable is too harsh and I need to re-record a phrase. If it’s in the same sitting, all of the recording variables are exactly the same, so the new material can be inserted flawlessly.
It can be scary when you start, but believe me, it’s the most rewarding thing in the world when people start to listen to your podcasts and then look forward to them! It creates an intimacy that words on a screen simply cannot. Go for it!
If you have more tips and resources for podcasting, please share in the comments.
Follow Emma Newman’s adventures in podcasting and writing at Post-Apocalyptic Publishing.