Podcasting and Promotion: The 21st Century Author

Today we are lucky enough to have a guest post by the Functional Nerds!

Patrick Hester is an author, a blogger and a podcast producer, John Anealio is a musician and blogger who publishes his music online at johnanealio.bandcamp.com.  Together, they host a podcast called The Functional Nerds, delivering interviews with authors, artists, and musicians every Tuesday on their site FunctionalNerds.com.

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Patrick:  First off, we’d like to thank the Inkpunks for inviting us to contribute to the blog.

Second, we thought we’d talk a little bit about podcasting and self promotion.  The 21st century author has far more opportunities for self-promotion and control than ever before.  Technology has put the power squarely in the hands of the author, making it easier to control your content, and reach your audience.

In the past, the path to publishing was paved with letters of rejection.  Your odds of becoming a published author were low, still are.  Depending on who you talk to, some people say it’s even harder to get published today.  But the difference is that you have alternate channels open to you that weren’t around even five years ago–like podcasting and ebook publishing.

John: Coming at this from a musician’s angle, I applaud the collapse of the major record labels.  I’ve been a performing songwriter since I was a teenager, and the idea of chasing a record deal never resonated with me.  It felt like playing the lottery and I’ve always wanted to have more control than that.

Blogging, Twittering, Facebooking and Podcasting have made it possible to truly connect with people in a really natural way.  Through common interests, people can organically share their art.

In regards to The Functional Nerds podcast, our listeners are exposed to a great new author, musician or artist every week.  At the same time, people are getting to know Patrick and I as human beings.  Over time, they’ve grown to care about us and our own creative endeavors.  The key to all of this is to show up every week and just be ourselves.  That’s what people want, authenticity… and cookies.

Patrick: Mmm… Cookies…

The major difference today versus yesterday, is that the author/artist can seek out their audience directly.  You don’t have to create your book, record your song, then deliver it to the publisher or label, hope they know what to do with it, and can find you an audience.  That path still exists, but you can also shop your book around, and if no one is interested in publishing it, you can podcast it.  That’s where you (or someone you know or hire), reads the book chapter by chapter.  People subscribe to the podcast and get a chapter a week, or a month, or however you set it up.  You can also publish the book electronically via Amazon or Smashwords, to name just a couple.

Then, through Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Podcasts and all the other social media out there, you can connect with people and build an audience who just might buy your ebook, or go to Bandcamp and download your new single.

It’s great that John mentions the music industry, because I see a lot of parallels.  The music industry has not weathered the digital distribution model well, and today, the publishing industry is struggling to keep up with changes to how we consume information.  The idea of a ‘gate-keeper’ telling us what we can read, and when, and how, is dying.  The publishing landscape is forever changing, and those changes are coming so quick (at the speed of technology), that they don’t know how to keep up.

John:  Even if you are signed to a major publisher or record company, it is incumbent on the artist to do the majority of their own promotion these days.  So, no matter which path you choose, building a community through social media, blogs and podcasts is only going to help you.  So start now!  Not when your masterpiece is finished; now!

Another benefit of participating in a community and putting your stuff out there, is that it can help you to discover what works and what doesn’t.  Personally, it has helped me to figure out who I am as an artist.  Case in point:

When I started the Sci-Fi Songs blog a few years ago, the idea was to write and record songs based on Sci-Fi/Fantasy novels that would appeal to fans and reviewers of those books.  I never thought that I would have contact with the authors themselves, but that is exactly what happened.  By getting pretty involved in the community, I eventually felt comfortable enough to write a humorous song (George R.R. Martin Is Not Your Bitch).  That tune was by far my biggest success.  Artistically, it also just felt right.  I’ve been following this humorous, geeky, sci-fi path in my music ever since.

If I didn’t just put my stuff out there and actively participate in this community, I would have never stumbled on to this path.

Patrick:  So, to wrap this up-you have lots of opportunities to get your content out to people who want to read it or listen to it.  You just have to do the work (which I know can put people off).

The way people are consuming content is evolving, which presents a lot of opportunities to connect with an audience, you jut have to find the way(s) that work for you.

Any final thoughts John?

John:  To conclude, whatever you do with this, do it because it’s fun.  Don’t put together some big business plan with thoughts of financial success.  To be frank, most of us aren’t going to be able to make a living doing this, so use your art to express yourself, say exactly what you want to say and have fun.  Being artistically satisfied and having a good time will help you to be consistent and to stick with it, which ironically, will give you a greater chance of success.

Thanks again to the Inkpunks for letting us hang out.  Check us out at FunctionalNerds.com every week for new episodes and great posts from our contributing nerds.

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  • John Remy

    As authors, there’s a lot of pressure to succeed via publication in traditional print venues. These major shifts in technology (and their impact on our respective markets) have the potential to make our jobs so much more complex, adding publishing, editing, promotion to our relatively simple role as writer/artist. 

    I think one way to define what 21st century tech has done is to flatten the curve considerably–before, especially in publishing, there was a steep success curve, and few could make it past the gatekeepers to reach audiences. We still have the traditional gatekeepers and it’s hard to make it to the top without them, but there are so many creatives who can reach niche markets and small to mid-sized audiences that were nearly impossible to reach before.

    And maybe DiY punk culture and attitude (thinking of self-published zines and recorded tapes/CDs) were as much a precursor as the technological tools that make it possible for us to reach more readers, viewers, listeners. 

    You are both inspirations and successful examples of what artists and authors can do to promote themselves. John, I especially love your conclusion. Thank you for taking the time to share with us, and looking forward to watch your stars continue to rise! 🙂

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