9 Steps To Successfully Market Your Self Published Book. Lots of people write and self-publish their own books. In the age of electronic publishing, nobody even needs paper never mind ink anymore. But the challenges for authors remains the same and that is this; how to get people be aware of and eventually read their books. Of course there are no guarantees but these 9 steps will certainly not hurt.
Build awareness. You need to build recognition for yourself and your book(s). Think of this as your brand. The best place to start is locally. If you can start to garner recognition in your own backyard you have a chance of garnering some more nationally. Join a local book club and offer to share readings from your work. The same approach can be used with libraries by offering to give a talk about the book. You will not get paid but you can start to build a following.
Write a blog. Writers need to write and this is a way to share your insights with an audience. Blogging platforms are easy to come by and not expensive. The one you are reading is a good example.
If you do not have a twitter account and Facebook page devoted to your writing then start both. The key to success with social media and blogs is to contribute to them regularly.
Make friends with local booksellers. I know the book store is becoming a thing of the past but given where you live there are bound to be some.Once they know you, see if you can do signings, or bring the talk you gave the library and the book club and give it again at the book store.
Find a charity (like a local animal shelter) and arrange a book sale with 100% of the proceeds donated to the charity. It’s another way to start building that recognition as not just a good writer but a socially responsible one too.
Contact the local schools and see if you can base a writing workshop for teachers with the book as the center piece. Schools are strapped for resources and the fresh insight a published author can deliver will be worthwhile and appreciated.
Submit your work to publishers. I do not have to tell you that self-published writers have the most difficult time getting any traction. But to be taken seriously you will have to eventually get published. Yes, you will be turned down a bunch of times. But you only need one ‘yes’.
For signings, workshops, charity events etc. write and send press releases to the local media. Be sure to include a photo of yourself and the book cover along with how to contact you for comment.
Take the publicity you gain from number 8 and post it to your web site. Publicity from a third party will boost your credibility in the eyes of potential customers and publishers.
For anyone who acts on all nine of these or even a few, let me hear from you and how you did.
This topic is a little involved, so please be patient. All of my readers are not seasoned marketers or public relations people. Many are just starting out and this, like most of my blog posts are written with them in mind.
The reason for a business of any type or size to be active on the web is to recruit more customers. If you run a political campaign, more donors and ultimately voters are the goal. For a non-profit charity, you want to recruit more contributors. Regardless of the enterprise, you need customers.
Awareness or Action
I get amused at marketers and promoters who say the goal of their campaign is to “raise awareness”. Let’s say that I am the chief marketer for the local Burger King franchise and my goal is to raise awareness of my restaurant. People driving past the Burger King and having seen my ads will be aware of the fact that we sell hamburgers.
By the measure of my stated goal, I’ve succeeded. But unless those same passersby come in and buy something, my employees and me will be in search of a new situation because we failed to ask for the order, literally. Awareness of our product is not enough, someone will have to take action, come inside and buy something. Awareness is only part of the challenge for marketers, getting someone to take action is the next and most important and that is where the “landing page” comes in. A landing page requires the one who lands to do something.
The Landing Page Simply Defined
Simply stated, a landing page is a web page that stands alone as it is made for a single purpose. A landing page is the first step for self-qualification of new customers as the person who comes to the landing page, wants to learn more about how you can help them accomplish their goals. For you, that purpose is to expand your mailing list and further introduce yourself and your capabilities to a prospect. You can also connect with them later with more promotional opportunities. For the moment, just collect some very basic information from them. Ask for a name and e-mail address. In exchange, the visitor will receive a free brochure, white paper, coupon, e-book or something else of value. For
There are several different types of landing pages. My personal favorite are the ones like the ones described above, that allow the visitor who lands there the opportunity to download a brochure, position paper, newsletter or some other data at no charge. E-books are also good. But like I said, the only thing to ask for in exchange is the name and e-mail address of the person who wants to download, possibly the company name but no more. The more personal data required, the more likely your prospect is to bail. So ask for the minimum. In exchange, the prospect receives something free, but also valuable.
What To Offer
You now have something of value, a lead. Not only a lead, but one where the individual freely self-nominated himself. Better still, you attract a certain type of prospective customer based on what you offer. To stay with our Burger King example, you could offer a percent off coupon, or buy one get one free, introduce a new type of burger, remind prospects that Chicken Fries are back, etc.
The downloaded item in this instance compels the prospect to go inside the restaurant and buy something. So more than aware, he/she is now a customer. You can use this concept for any type of business. If you are a hair stylist, offer free coloring, if you own a driving range, offer a free bucket of balls. If you are in the chemical manufacturing industry, offer a sample of your new product or free consultation. The landing page is your catalyst for a longer conversation with a prospective customer.
Of course not all landing pages were created equal. And that leads (no pun intended) to the next thing for you to learn, testing.
Test Your Landing Pages
Use two different pages to see which one draws the best results. Known as A/B testing, the value proposition and free download typically remains the same. The layout and design of the landing page(s) is what differs. Try out different colors, photos, headlines, amount of text, and whatever else you can think of to test. I know there is a temptation to always use the color schemes and design that you like. That is not wrong all by itself, but remember that you are not a prospect. Be as dispassionate as you are able to be. The goal is to attract new prospects, not be “right”. Here is an example or two.
Not The Power Of Rational Decision Making
I quoted a job for redoing a series of brochures and signage for a company. The owner really liked purple and so everything was purple. The type and print, was all done in purple. The frames around photos were purple and he used gradients of, you guessed it, purple, on his brochures and other materials. It was like a purple nightmare.
I suggested he make his materials more reader friendly by using black type on white backgrounds and reserve purple as a highlight and way to add contrast. I further suggested A/B testing, just to make sure that we were on the right track and he would see that the more professionally designed materials would lead to more customers over the power of all that purple. After all, the numbers never lie. Just follow the data and he would of course make a rational choice, right? Not right. My suggestions were ignored and I did not get the job. I feel badly for the poor guy though, somewhere sobbing into a big purple pillow, on the road to ruin. Here is another example.
I was working in a very challenging place where one of the marketing staff members had worked there for 16 years. Let’s call her “Stacie”. She had no marketing education or experience other than what she had always done at this place and was left to pretty much whatever she wanted. Getting a new boss (me) was not welcomed. Neither was the idea of doing anything differently.
I thought that a way to persuade her to a different point of view was to test her ideas against some others. Stacie would then see that there was a different and even better way to do things and rationally decide to change. You can guess the end. Instead of embracing the better way of doing things, all she did was get mad and cling to her ideas with more fervor. Don’t be like Stacie or purple man. Be open to new ideas and test them to see if in addition to being different they might also be better.
There’s this joke that says what other people say about you is none of your business. It’s not terribly funny nor is it true by any stretch. You are a brand. That’s right, you. Whether you are an employee, business owner, wannabe business owner, or fledgling blogger, your reputation on-line will help to make or break your brand. Worse, employers are monitoring what you say or said on line. I am not aware of anyone ever being rewarded for a positive post about an employer. They are not watching to catch you doing something nice.
Similarly, most customers who post reviews on line are not inspired to do so because of overwhelmingly wonderful treatment or service. Our species is wired to focus on the negatives, the failures, goofs and stumbles that should not characterize any of us but will unless we pay attention. If you want the web to paint an accurate portrait of who you really are, it is important that you be aware of what’s out there.
Articles written by or about you, blog posts, social media or on line reviews all combine together and spill out onto the screen as a reputation. Your reputation! And since you cannot control much of what gets said about you online it’s a good idea to monitor and respond to things that are said about you, your products and/or services.
Brand Yourself. I like Brand Yourself (http://brandyourself.com/) and I use it myself. They give me the option of doing things with the tool myself or paying for expertise when needed. It’s easy to use and if nothing else shows what’s out there whether good or bad.
Google Alerts. Enter your name, your company name into Google Alerts (https://www.google.com/alerts) and it will sort, sift, collate and send you what you want and need to know. Just put the name of the company and any other key words and receive e-mail alerts. The best part is that there is no charge for this.
Social Mention. A very cool way to see what’s on line and in social media. Social Mention (http://www.socialmention.com) is a social media search and analysis platform that aggregates user-generated content from across the universe into a single stream of information. It allows you to easily track and measure what people are saying about you, your company, a new product, or any topic across the web’s social media landscape in real-time. Social Mention monitors 100+ social media properties directly including: Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed, YouTube, Digg, Google etc.
Hootesuite (https://hootsuite.com) offers business a way to track mentions on social media in places like Face Book, Twitter, Google Plus, Linked In and others. To leverage all of the tools on here there is a fee, but it is very reasonable.
A more expensive tool, but Trackur (http://www.trackur.com) offers a lot more in terms of value and capability. In addition to monitoring mentions, it has a social analytics dashboard that provides knowing about trends and sentiments as expressed on line.
As the name implies, Reputology (https://www.reputology.com) the study of your reputation. This tool is directed at customer reviews. It monitors and manages online reviews by providing alerts, dashboards, and analytics. In addition, the tool includes a summary report to help you make decisions based on consumer feedback. It integrates with Hootsuite and other social media management tools. It is not free, but certainly valuable.
Do you own a franchise business or work in marketing or management for one? Consider Chatmeter (http://www.chatmeter.com). It provides reviews, social media, listing accuracy and search rankings for multiple stores. Pricing varies for and gets steep for chains with over 20 outlets.
Review Concierge. Are you a medical doctor or do you run a medical practice? With Review Concierge (https://reviewconcierge.com), you can monitor 75 web sites where patients can read reviews by other patients. Doctors go to school a lot, so Review Concierge gives a weekly report card. I think the people who work in a doctors office are the ones who will create the most trouble for a physician. This is a good tool for you, doctor.
Want to know every time someone says something about you? Sure there’s a fee, but Socialdraft (http://socialdraft.com) sends real-time notifications when a business is mentioned on the web or in social media. Monitoring the general social media sites, it also scans niche sites that specialize in restaurants, travel, medical, legal, and real estate industries.
Do you need more to do? Probably not, but this is important. What other people say about you is your business.
Write Good Headlines Nine Ways. It’s true for advertisers, news writers and bloggers. No matter how brilliant the body of your piece may be if it does not have a headline that grabs attention and persuades people to read it, you might as well be writing with invisible ink. The headline of your blog post, article or news release is like the front door of your house. Your “front door” should compel readers to “come inside” and read because it’s more interesting and beneficial here than it is somewhere else.
I’ve read where some writers wait until they are completely finished with an article or post to start on the headline. If that works for the more experienced writers, then great. But if you are just starting out you need some direction, hints, or a kind of a process at least to get started. Here is what I do.
Write a draft title first. Once I settled on the topic to write about a title goes at the top of the page. The draft title for this post is “What’s In A Headline And How To Write Good Ones”. Now look at the top of the page and see how much the title changed or did not change after writing and editing. A draft or working title like this anchors you and your thinking. I know after penning the draft title, hey, I’m writing about how to write a good headline, so think about that. On the other hand of my 1st headline was too broad, it would be hard to focus. If the draft was just “headlines” it would be tougher to figure out the specifics of why this mattered.
Do not overpromise. If you write a headline that says something like “5 guaranteed ways to find customers without even getting out of your chair” you will attract readers. Unfortunately they will only come to visit your blog a single time because you overpromised and under-delivered. Trust is difficult to win on your best day. It is easy to lose, and once trust is lost, it’s gone. Don’t just write “click bait” but instead give your readers real value. Start the relationship with a reasonable, accurate headline.
Be Accurate. This is along the same theme as number 2. Save hyperbole and creative exaggeration for your script-writing project. There are plenty of ways to use language creatively and honor your honesty value.
What is the value proposition? Why or how will the reader benefit from reading your piece? Tell them and be specific. “Raid Kills Bugs Dead” tells you exactly what Raid will do and in very few words. Brilliant.
Use interesting language. Or use combinations of words that do not ordinarily occur together. Strong phrases like “why we hate to eat our vegetables”, “how I earned the label genius”, “local sports team delivers ass kicking” or “kick ass” are acceptable, at least in some forums. If you have a doubt about whether or not a word like “ass” is acceptable or not, it probably is not. I have no issue using it here, but would not use when I write about performances by the symphony orchestra that I play in. “Brazosport Symphony’s Mozart Kicks Major Ass” is more than a little out of place.
Don’t be boring or lazy. I read newspaper headlines that use hackneyed phrases and descriptions. “Pet Fashion Show Goes To The Dogs” is one I saw recently. Yawn. This headline writer was just going through the motions, barely. He had decided that the newspaper industry was dead and his performance could do little to save it. What About, “Pet Fashion Model Shakes, Licks Itself Then Raises Thousands.” Regardless of which you believe is best, the one that gets the readers is best. And mine was the best. Just sayin’.
Numbers and lists. People are drawn to lists and numbers in headlines. I better have a really interesting post to write a headline that does not have a number in it because my experience and that of other bloggers is that without them, you will draw fewer readers.
Shorter is better. When writing headlines, be brief. If you can write a tweet that fits their character constraint, you can do it with a headline too.
Ask friends or co-workers their opinions. Brainstorm with them about what the best headline is. Two heads are always better and three is better still. Your good friends will tell you the truth about a headline. If they will alert you to spinach in your teeth, or toilet paper on your shoe they will help you with a headline. Good friends want you to be successful. If you have them, consider yourself lucky. If you work alone, maybe it’s time to make some friends?
Five Things: Investigate Before Paying for Awards. I have a client who was contacted by a trade magazine about being named to an industrial top 20 list of promising companies like his. Sounds good, right? Everyone likes recognition, especially the positive kind and especially when it will be published in a widely read, respected trade journal. What’s not to like?
The catch was that there was a $3,000.00 “sponsorship” charge associated with this award. When I heard that, my eyebrows went straight up and found myself instinctively clutching my wallet. But being fair minded investigated further, wanting to give everyone involved the benefit of the doubt.
For the sake of protecting the innocent and not getting sued, I have changed all of the details about this story. Here are the things to investigate before paying for an award from a trade magazine or anyone else.
Check the magazines’ circulation numbers. For this particular book, Vocus listed their circulation at 0. That does not necessarily mean that there are no readers; it means they did not report the number of readers to any audit company. Serious trade magazines have their readership numbers audited by an outside 3rd party, like BPA. That way they can justify their ad rates and communicate to advertisers that prospective customers see their ads. Be wary of any trade magazine that does not have an audit statement or lists of subscribers or readers.
How often is the magazine published? 12 is the most often and sometimes there are 24 issues of most magazines. And they supplement with on line issues and podcasts, fine. In this case, the magazines’ web site said they publish “every other month” (which for trade publication is a red flag all by itself) but found other reviews that said they publish 12 issues a year and another that said they published 23. One review said they always publish an issue at the start of the month, but could not say when or if they published one at mid-month. Trade publications run by adults not only publish regularly but they also have an editorial calendar. If you the magazine approaching you does not have an editorial calendar and can’t keep up with the number they intend to publish, run away.
The absence of a significant social media profile. Checking the twitter page for this magazine, I found there were 93 tweets and 613 followers. Another trade magazine that covered the same topic/industry had by contrast has 28,400 tweets and over 120,000 followers. The absence of a significant social media footprint is a bad sign. News sources (like trade magazines) publish news and use twitter to alert those interested about it because it is important or at least noteworthy. My own twitter account has more tweets than this. Beware. And look at the twitter accounts of others who were similarly approached about the same awards.
How many other top 10/20/30 lists do they publish? For this particular trade book, I found 3 dozen top whatever lists. When you are 1 among several hundred others, it does not put you in unique company.
Do your homework. For companies or individuals, it is very hard to hide on line. It is your responsibility to perform due diligence. Some of the clues about “offers” like this are not as obvious as others. No one did anything illegal as far as I can tell. But you have to feel that the overall dubiousness of the award and its price tag are worth noting.
In this case, all the clues were not obvious and that is the real shame. It annoys me considerably to know that honest people are tricked into things like this simply because they do not know the right questions to ask. Now they do. So if someone wants to give you an award and presents you with an invoice, just politely say “no thanks” and move on to the next real opportunity. There are plenty of them and you have lots of interesting things to say.
If you are like me you want to be able to use your blog and/or web presence to promote yourself, your products and services. The only challenge is that you do not have any background or experience with computers, writing code or anything technical to accomplish this. Yes, you can type and send e-mail and post on Face Book but that’s pretty much it. You can spell “SEO” which is short for Search Engine Optimization, and you know that whatever it is you need some. Welcome to my world.
The goal for optimizing your blog is to make it stand out or at least easy to find. That is what SEO does and why it is important.
Since I use WordPress like over 50 million other people, this article is directed for us. I have read that WordPress is reasonably well optimized but there are still some things that a novice can do.
Keep posting. Writing and posting something interesting and unique as often as you are able to is the best way to get noticed.
Use more images. I am not very good at this, particularly since there are so few images that help communicate “blogging” or “marketing”. But if your blog is about horses, plumbing or go-carts you have a better or at least more reasonable chance of taking or finding good photos.
Give your photos a good name. And by photos I mean image files. Google uses images to calculate relevance. So if your photo is of a red go-cart, name the file “red go cart”.
Exchange backlinks. Backlinks are also known as incoming links, inlinks or inward links. The number of inbound links is significant as it signals how important or popular your site it. Avoid the temptation to use “linkspam”, just putting links to your site everywhere regardless of the context. It’s not the way to attract the right audience. Link farms are another scheme for artificially boosting SEO and page ranks. As programmers become better at seeing which links are the most relevant, the likelihood that you will be punished or even banned by the search engines increases. Honesty is the best policy and hard work is its own reward. You will be rewarded by working hard to write and post something new every day or more if you are able.
Highlight important words, titles and subtitles of an article or important sentences. Use the <strong> command too, but don’t overdue it.
Avoid the use of Flash. It is like invisible ink to search engines.
Plug Ins. Say hello to easy. Use one of the dozens that WordPress makes available like Yoast. There are others you can buy. I’m going to try out 1clickwpseo and see what it does. I will let you know.
Content is king and queen. There are over 200 search criteria for Google alone including things like how old your site it, meta description and use of tags, how active your blog or site is, etc. Follow the instructions o WordPress and get the most out of what is already available and don’t sweat it too much or grow impatient and try “black hat” shortcuts. Keep writing, podcasting and posting. The audience will find you and so will all the Googlebots
Ten Reasons/Ways Using The Web For Business Promotion. I recently had a conversation with a local merchant who did not believe that his business would benefit from a web site. He did not have one and had no plans to start. According to him, his was a local concern and “everyone knows about us.” He was not interested in selling to people outside of his local area. He did not have the skills to set up a web site, and was not keen to hire anyone to do it for him. Granted, he did have an established trade and an excellent location. He also had a good reputation and made a good living. Of course it was his choice to have a web site or not, and who am I to insist that he get one?
What might I say to him that would be helpful?
Would you like to have more money? There is only one right answer. Of course you would. And if you have a good bit of money already, couldn’t you use more?
Everyone does not know you. And even if at some point “everyone” had passed by or even went inside the building, they need reminding about who you are and what you do and how “everyone” could benefit from doing business with you. Smart promoters promote all the time. The reason I can sing the “Classic Chevrolet” radio jingle is because I hear it all the time. Frequency of exposure to your business, cause or candidacy is a key to success. There was a kind of smugness associated with the remark about how “everyone” knew him that put me off. It reminded me of my time in the specialty chemical manufacturing business when I heard the same thing from a product manager. He did not see any benefit to running advertisements in trade magazines and insisted that “everyone knows who we are”. After the first ad ran and there were over 1,100 inquiries, the discussion about how everyone knew us ceased.
The web is a reference tool. In the old days, people went to the Yellow Pages or the local newspaper to do research on local products and services. Now, they go to Google. A local merchant or professional can go to Google Maps, click the link that says, “put your business on Google Maps” and be a couple of clicks away from literally putting your business on the map. Yahoo and Bing also have similar capability. Don’t ignore them. Now that you have established a web presence, you can do a few other things.
Claim credit for the good you do. Plenty of local merchants perform acts of charity. They do not do it for reputation building or credit, but simply because they are generous people who want to give back. Commendable! But there is nothing wrong with asking the local charity, which mentioned you on their web site, and asking for a link back to your site. It does not cost anything. And if you feel embarrassed about taking credit, get over it. Your competitors are doing it and they are taking money away from you and your family and your employees. It’s marketing for goodness sakes.
Ask for reviews. You have regular customers who come inside and buy things all the time. Ask them to go on line and write a review. This is much like “word of mouth” but the reach goes far beyond the circle of acquaintance your customer has.
List your memberships. If you are a member of the local chamber of commerce, say so and list a link back to their web page. And while you are at it, make sure they have a link to your new web site on their page!
Put your web address on your business card. Some people might think this goes without saying. Does it? Can I see your card? Just checking.
Start a social network for your business. What is it about local merchants who are reluctant to post on Twitter or have a Face Book page for a business? I marvel at the reticence of so many people to tell others about what they do, never mind how much their neighbors will benefit. I patronize locally owned businesses because these folks are my neighbors. I often pay more because I prefer to support local merchants. I’ve got nothing against national chains, but there is something about the small businessman or woman that makes this country great. Give others like me the chance to hand over our money by promoting yourself via social media.
Share your expertise. Another reason to spend time with local business owners is their expertise. I knew a couple of guys who owned a small fishing equipment shop. They were avid anglers and knew everything there was to know about fishing inside and out. People who had bought their equipment somewhere else would come to them for advise. Eventually, they went out of business. Not because of a lack of know how, but because they did not promote their know-how as part of their unique abilities. The web is the place to do this.
Write and post a short story about how you helped someone. You do not have to name anyone by name, just describe the circumstances and how you were able to lend assistance. Write and post enough of these and pretty soon you have a blog.
So if you are a local merchant in a traditional “brick and mortar” building don’t dismiss the web as a place to be seen. Like I said earlier, your competitors are all on line and they are taking money away from you and your children.
Start A Blog To Share Information Freely And Often.
Why should you start a blog? Easy. The more information you can share about you, your company and what it can offer, the more you are seen as an expert. Expertise will command share of mind. And when your blog readers need some of what you have to offer, they will call you. A blog is a way to gain trust and trust is a sure pathway to more customers.
In the not too distant past, blogs and bloggers were granted the same credibility as talk radio callers. No more. Blogs provide information and news to professionals, entrepreneurs, devotees and hobbyists of the even the most narrow interests. You can even get paid to write a blog! Did anyone ever get paid to call a talk show? Doubtful.
Beyond mere opinion and blather, the blog is now an important communications tool. Blogs contribute to public relations, SEO and content marketing efforts. A blog is a way for individuals with expertise to communicate directly to others who are interested and can benefit from their knowledge. Reading a blog is free. There may be blogs that require a subscription, sure. But for me, the best bloggers are the ones who share information with their followers freely and often. The more expertise you can share freely the more credibility you will have. And there is the rub.
Not everyone will share the view that information and know-how need to be shared at no cost. After all, what if the competition reads this? Our competitors will know what we know, won’t they?
Relax. Your competitors already know what you know. They have and have always had a folder marked “competitive information” and no doubt you have one with the same exact title. You cannot deprive your competitors of knowledge about you, your business, products or services. They have a friend who works for your customer who gave them your letter, brochure, presentation, or offer letter. One of the office staff went to your web site and requested a sample, called your help line, and read every word of the FAQ. They went to your presentation at the tradeshow and sat at the table where all your employees were clustered and listened to every word. Keep a secret? Not likely.
When you try and keep your secrets, the people you deprive of your knowledge are those who could potentially become customers. This will seem counterintuitive to some. After all, if we build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to our door, right? Maybe and I don’t know but probably not.
I really dislike the “better mousetrap” analogy. If you build a better mousetrap and refuse to promote it, the only beings that learn about it are the mice that live(d) near where you live. Lacking promotion in the form of a blog about better ways to eliminate them, other luckier mice will continue to live free, tease cats, and snack on cheese. One might even develop super powers.
When I started writing this blog and posting it in places where it would get noticed, I made a commitment. I decided to treat blogging like I would any commitment. I was going to devote time and effort to it. I was going to treat my blog like a job and was going to share everything I knew about promoting businesses, causes and candidates as often as I was able. The returns to me are remarkable. Every bit of effort contributed to this blog is returned 10 times over.
So have no fear of blogging or giving freely. The returns are amazing.
Six Things To Know About Adding A Podcast To Your Blog. As part of the series on filling out the list of blog content techniques we come to podcasting. Hosting a podcast is like owning your radio station or at least having your own show. In my opinion podcasting opens up another channel of communications for you to reach people in your audience. And after all, sharing knowledge and expertise is the best reason to blog. Podcasts are for people who would rather listen in the car, while they are flying across the country, riding a bike or walking the dog. The podcast is perfect for people who are in a place where they are unable to read, or who simply prefer not to.
Match the audience and what they want. If they would rather listen than read, provide that opportunity.
More To It Than Most Will Tell You
Podcasting is not easy from a technical point of view, and if you do not have any experience with it, but want to do it anyway, it can be learned. I learned how in the days when podcasts were first becoming popular. Anyone who knows me knows that I am not technical. Putting together microphones, downloading recording software, recording phone calls, and getting it all synced together etc. were not easy. I say this because you should know what you are getting into. So many blogs and articles will tell you that things like this are easy. More often than not, they are selling you something and do not want you to know that it is more involved and will take time to set up and then learn. I’ve done hundreds of podcasts and can tell you from experience that it is challenging. Forewarned is forearmed. Here are other details to consider when contemplating a podcast.
If you are serious about starting a podcast do not rely on the built in microphone that came with your computer. The sound quality is not on a par with anything that will make you proud. Buy the best microphone you can afford. If it is priced under $100.00 then it is probably not the quality you need. As with everything you will get what you pay for, microphones are no different. Other podcasters will have high production values. You are competing with them for listeners. If the quality of your sound is not any good, you will have a difficult time attracting and retaining audience members.
Phone or Skype? I have a separate phone line for making calls to interview people for my podcasts. It requires special phone connections, a USB audio interface and a digital PBX along with the microphone, headphones and recording software. In the early days of podcasting this was the only option. It worked, but was a pain. Even with a land line the sound quality was not always broadcast quality. Thank goodness for Skype. I do not remember how I learned that I could record phone conversations over Skype, but it was a real blessing. The sound is always excellent and the recording feature comes with it. Skype is not free, but it is priced very reasonably. After I started recording interviews with Skype, I spent almost no time editing or making changes to sound quality with my editing software. The main thing I have to monitor are the sound levels, is it too loud or too soft, and that is relatively easy to manage.
Monologue or Interview? Some podcasters are very good at presenting information without anyone else around but most are not. So I recommend getting someone else to talk to while recording, especially if you are new to the practice. There are lots of reasons, but the main one is that you will be tempted to read a script. Bad idea. Reading sounds terrible over the radio or a podcast. You want your content to sound conversational, so to have that tone you may need to get someone to have that conversation with. Ask a friend or even your spouse or significant other to partner with you. If that is not doable for you, book guests to interview. Find experts in the field and invite them to participate in a friendly interview. Take lots of time to practice. Listen to radio talk shows and other podcasts to get a feel for how to do this. Broadcasting is a profession that requires training and practice. No one just sits down in front of a microphone for the first time and spins audio gold.
You will need software to edit and convert your recordings. I use Wavepad. It is relatively simple to use, compared to other software that is really meant for studio professionals. Garage Band, the Apple users will at least have seen on the toolbar, is also a possibility but you cannot save files in MP3 format very easily. The same is true for a software called Audacity. To be honest, I find Wavepad easier to use than Garage Band. Garage Band is really for recording music and different instruments on separate tracks. At most, you will have 2 tracks to edit, you and the person you interview. I’ve tried several and recommend Wavepad. As mentioned above, save your files as MP3’s as that is the format most use to podcasting.
Add the final MP3 to your website. Here is where it gets trickier. For this blog and others I manage, we use WordPress. If you do not use WordPress, then I am not sure what to tell you. But if you are using WordPress, go to your dashboard, and click “Categories” and then add one called “Podcast”. Alternatively, you can wait until you write your first post containing a podcast file and then add it by clicking “Add New Category” on the right of the post area.
Adding your Podcast to iTunes. Once you have created and posted you podcast to your site and published it, you are ready to put it on iTunes. I found this very difficult, though like I said earlier I am not technical. You need your podcast to be on a RSS Feed. “RSS” stands for “really simple syndication” and unless you have this capability, you will not be able to send it to iTunes. I use Feedburner, from Google but there are bound to be other, better platforms. Here is a link to the support in WordPress for podcasting: https://en.support.wordpress.com/audio/podcasting/
If you have the savvy and patience to get through the technical parts or the resources to hire someone to do it for you, the podcast is an excellent communications tool that will compliment your blog content and attract more people to you. To hear a podcast I do, go to iTunes and listen to The Collectors Show. I learned all this the hard way. Remember, forewarned is forearmed.
Six Steps For Expert Blog Interviews. Nothing will add to your credibility and blog readership like interviewing someone in your field who is already a recognized expert. It’s the opposite of guilt by association, but I don’t know what or even if there is a saying for that. Maybe “smart by association” or “expert in proximity” are those labels. But you want to be thought of and remembered in the same way that those experts are. How do you do that? Where do you go to find someone to interview and once you find them, how do you convince them to talk with you? While there are no guarantees offered here, the steps listed below are the ones I use to book guests for my podcast.
Research via Google News Alerts. I do a podcast called The Collectors Show. Every week I interview someone who is a recognized expert in his or her respective field of collecting. I’ve interviewed people who are regulars on “Antiques Roadshow” along with others who hold records for collecting, authors of price guides, tour guides and some with collections that are non-traditional. I’ve interviewed a man who collects vacuum cleaners, another who collects mustard, one who collects barf bags and another who collects fishing lures. I found them all with Google News Alerts . Google News Alerts provides as much information as I can read about collecting, collectors and collectibles. There is always a local paper or some other media outlet that covers something of interest that will show up on the alert. There is so much news about collecting and collectibles, that I also do a “news from the world of collecting” segment. Find your experts via Google News Alerts.
Send and e-mail invitation. Once you located the person you want to interview, send him/her an email invitation. Introduce yourself and describe what you want to do. Tell them there is no charge for participating and that you are a friendly outlet for their views and opinions. I always say, “ours is friendly program with a friendly audience, this is not 60 Minutes.” More often than not the person you invite will say yes. In fact I have done over 50 shows and only been turned down twice.
Send a list of questions. Whether you intend to record the interview over Skype, for a podcast or a written blog, do the interviewee the courtesy of sending a list of questions in advance. This will result in a better interview because your interviewee will be better prepared with more thoughtful answers. Worried about spontaneity or journalistic integrity? Well, if you are a paid member of the news media that is a reasonable consideration. If you are, on the other hand, someone who blogs because of a love of the topic you blog about, it is not. In addition to better answers, you will save time for yourself and for your interviewee. Most bloggers have real jobs, so making a good use of time is better for you too.
Presume you are already friends. I had the chance to meet and work with a brilliant marketer whose name is Stan Slap (http://www.slapcompany.com/site/) Among the many things that I learned from him was “the presumption of acquaintance” with the audience. It amounts to writing as though you were writing a letter to a friend. It works when writing sales letters, brochures and it also works with interviews. Listen to some of your favorite media hosts or reporters and make note of the tone of the interview. I’m a fan of radio, so I listen to it a lot. And the thing I learned from listening to them is that they always sound like they know the person they are interviewing. Most of the time, they have never met and have never even talked on the phone before the interview starts. But you would never know that from listening. The radio personality I liked the most was a man named Ian Punnet. Ian is not on the air any more but if you go to the Coast-to-Coast web site (coasttocoastam.com), you can find some of his old shows. For a good television example, watch Jimmy Fallon. You would think he knows everyone on his program really well. He doesn’t but you would never know that from watching. If you decide to do a podcast, Blog Talk Radio is the first obvious resource. Webmaster Radio is another one to keep an eye on.
Edit sparingly. For radio, podcasts or video, this used to be called “live to tape” but since no one uses tape any more, it is probably called something different. Heavily edited content looks and reads like it is abbreviated. When I do the podcast interviews I hardly every do any editing of the audio. The only time I do is when the dog barks, I start sneezing or coughing, or there is some other exterior interruption that is out of my control. If you sent the questions to your interviewee for written responses, treat them the same way. If you have to edit answers, make sure the person you interview knows this in advance. You may have to edit because of space or time limits. People understand that and will forgive you, but only if you tell them in advance.
Make interviews a regular addition to your blog. This will help you with unique content for your blog in the form of expert input and provide a nice break for you. If you blog regularly you know that it is hard work and that letting someone else add his or her voice will allow you to learn and re-charge all at once.
Like most everything there is a lot more on this topic and it is freely available via the Internet. These 6 tips are based on my experience. I hope they are useful to you.