Self-publishing, if you want to be good at it, is a lot of work. A few nights ago I rattled off all the things I’ll need to consider in the coming months if I want to give my book the best chance at being successful. Consistent and engaging blogging (let’s just ignore my mini-hiatus while life kind of took over for a while), consistent and engaging social media (…see above), SEO to ensure that you reach the right audiences, cover design and synopsis-writing, learning about the publishing platform you intend to use, and, of course, actually writing something to publish.
It’s hard to stand out, which is why some writers are turning to other forms of self-promotion. Including me.
The thought does not exactly fill me with joy.
The way I see it, I have two alternatives: YouTube or podcasts. There’s pros and cons to each. (At the end of this post I’m going to link some of my current favourites, which you should definitely check out.)
YouTube is well-known, accessible, and inherently shareable. It’s visual, which means that, for most people, it’s going to be more engaging. It’s much more personal, too, as you kind of have to show your face (unless you go for an audio-narrative style with some fancy graphics, a la my favourite video games reviewer Zero Punctuation) – it’s like holding a one-way conversation, and if you’re anything like me then chances are you might start talking back to them.
Podcasts are YouTube’s older, more sophisticated cousin. There’s much more nuance, as you don’t have the visual cues to support your speech – you really have to slow down and pace yourself correctly. I made my dad a pseudo-podcast for his birthday a few years back – I wrote him a short(ish – 7000-word) story and recorded myself reading it, with musical interludes and all that – and it’s difficult to get it right. With no editing knowledge, I had to read it all in one go rather than try and learn how to effectively cut audio together in an afternoon. Bloody exhausting.
I listen to a few story-telling podcasts and I will admit I’m quite fussy when it comes to audio*, but it’s so off-putting when the speaker has terrible upward inflection? That makes me think I’m missing the point? And it’s incredibly patronising?, or when you can hear them breathing in after every sentence. (For a singing version of that, Matt Bellamy of Muse is the worst offender. Edit that shit out, for god’s sake, so I can actually enjoy your music without the wheezing.)
Things to consider when choosing your medium include:
Target demographic. I write dark, contemporary fiction that teeters on the edge of sci-fi and dystopian themes, so my target demographic is most likely people aged 18 and above who don’t mind feeling just a little bit uncomfortable. If teenagers were reading my stuff, super, though I wouldn’t recommend it (but what do I know – my childhood tastes were weirdly adult, reading the Adrian Mole series from when I was seven years old, playing Grand Theft Auto from around the age of ten, and citing The Day Today as my favourite TV programme). Young Adult writers tend to lean towards YouTube, so I could either separate myself from the pack and choose that medium, or potentially reach my target audience better by doing half-hour podcasts that would be perfect for a commute.
Your personal style. I’m not ugly, but I’m not a fan of seeing myself on camera. Face-to-face, I get sudden, intense flashes of oh-god-I’m-so-uncomfortable and subsequently become nervous and avoid eye contact; I have a feeling talking into a lens may produce the same effect once I get that bolt of self-awareness. I’ve had several compliments about my accent – think 80% generic English with hints of my northern heritage around vowel sounds – which might be distinctive and palatable enough for a podcast, but I also have a tendency to speak quickly, especially when I’m nervous. I fluff my words a lot, too, which again gets worse with nerves. So what you end up with is a babbling, incoherent mess. Nice.
Equipment and skills. Boyfriend works in film so luckily that’s not such an issue for me should I go down the YouTube route. We also have microphones and audio editing software, so again less of a problem, but I would have to learn how to use all of it. I could try and persuade him to edit everything for me, though, which would be handy…
Monetisation. Of course, it’s not about the money, money, money (oh crap, now that’s stuck in my head), but here it’s more of a pleasant side effect than an end result. I’m sure there’s revenue to be gained from both, but the potential is probably more with YouTube – it reaches a wider audience and there’s more potential for sponsored content, if that’s your thing. On the other hand, it’s hard to find a podcast that doesn’t have an and now a word from our sponsor moment. You do tend to find that the same sponsors crop up again and again, which makes me think that the opportunities aren’t as varied or prevalent for podcasts.
And no, I haven’t made up my mind yet. I’m leaning more towards a podcast – possibly in collaboration with Boyfriend, as we’re both in creative industries, and a film/writing podcast could be an interesting twist. Plus, it means I could do it without getting dressed…
Which do you prefer: Someone staring through a screen at you, or helping you to block out that idiot who won’t stop singing on your way to work? Do you think writing particularly lends itself to either medium? And have you got any recommendations for videos or podcasts I should be aware of? Let me know in the comments below.
* I once got a free Audible download, so I downloaded The Psychopath Test, written and read by Jon Ronson. It lasted five minutes before his voice annoyed me so much I had to I turn it off. How he has ever broadcast on radio is a mystery to me. Still, I was then forced to purchase a copy of said book, so in the end I guess he won.
Jenna Moreci – I’ve mentioned her before, but she’s still a favourite. Funny, engaging videos on a range of writing topics.
Kim Chance – Great marketing and writing tips, all with the cheeriest YouTube presence I think I’ve ever seen.
Vivien Reis – Ridiculously soothing, and a variety of tips and hints for writers.
Write Now with Sarah Werner – The most useful podcast for writers I’ve come across, and Sarah is a lovely voice to have whispering in your ear on a packed train.
Lore – A story-telling podcast about folklore from around the world. I find it oddly inspiring, and the episodes are in convenient 20-30 minute bites. The creators of The Walking Dead are turning it into a TV programme soon, apparently.
The No Sleep Podcast – Okay, this is a silly-ish horror story podcast, but the stories are a mixture of the sublime and the ridiculous. Think of it as the B-movie horror of podcasts.
Nocturne – I’m only two episodes in, but this podcast about what happens at night time has, so far, been interesting and made me consider why a lot of my fiction is set during the daytime when the night has so much potential.