Podcasts; I’m not a fan. Wait, let me clarify: Podcasts for authors: I’m not a fan. They’re the hot, new THANG, and it seems like everyone is jumping on the podcast bandwagon. Twitter and Facebook feeds are now overrun with writing gurus trumpeting “LISTEN TO MY PODCAST!” And if they think that’s any different than an author constantly trumpeting “BUY MY BOOK!” then they’re delusional. Both posts are annoying as hell. I’m not a fan of podcasts aimed toward authors, no matter what information they may impart, and here’s why:
They’re a huge time suck!
It’s kind of ironic that most of the writing gurus producing podcasts don’t worry too much about clarity in said broadcast. The things they tell us not to do in our books are the very things that make their podcasts such a waste of time. Most of them begin with an enormous backstory dump, veer off topic with asides and useless banter, and then wander off every pig trail in Georgia before they finally get to the point. The first point, that is. Usually there are two or three pertinent pieces of information to impart, but they rarely just lay them out (incorporating any relevant backstory into the actual narrative. Ahem.)
Here’s what most podcasts aimed at authors end up as:
“Hello, everyone, and thanks so much for joining us! I’m Sue Blue, award-winning author of I Know How to Write and You Don’t, Brilliant Writing Insights from Sue Blue, and Do it My Way. We’ve got such a great show planned for today, all about how authors can build a smokestack in three easy and affordable steps! This is something every author has to know, whether you’re an indie author or traditionally published. And I’m so honored and excited to welcome my guest, Bob Hobnob, who is the expert on author smokestack-building! Hi, Bob, and welcome to the podcast.”
“Hi, Sue, and hi, listeners. I’m so thrilled to be here, and was so honored that you asked me to come on and discuss this.”
“Oh, I’m the one thrilled! This is such an important topic, and it’s so exciting for me to have the definitive expert on to tell us how to do it! Now, for those who don’t know, Bob is the author of [inserts a plethora of Bob’s books and throw in a few accolades, none of which I care about, because I assume he’s an expert or he wouldn’t be on here.] And, of course, he’s helped so many authors build smokestacks and become best-sellers overnight! Bob has been doing this for fifty-five years, and we’re so lucky he’s sharing his expertise with us today. So, Bob, why do authors need a smokestack?”
“Well, Sue, author smokestacks actually began in 1572 when…” [and here Bob goes explaining the comprehensive history of author smokestacks. That’s not what I tuned in to hear. They promised how to build one in three easy steps. If I wanted history I’d use Google.]
Forty-five minutes later…
“…and that’s when we realized we needed a newer, faster way to build a smokestack.”
“So what, exactly, has changed?”
“Well, back in the dark days before the internet…”
Hearty laughter from host and guest
“Oh, my God, yes! I don’t know how we got anything done then!”
“Right? Research had to be hunted down in books and then printed out on a Xerox machine.”
“Or copied by hand. I went through so many legal pads!”
“No kidding! I’d buy those 3-packs at an office supply store, and then go through all of them in the space of a week!”
“To say nothing of pens running out of ink!”
More hearty laughter. Me:
“Right. Well, authors used to have to fabricate the sheet metal for their smokestacks themselves, because that wasn’t something their publishers were willing to take on. Then, of course,…” [Oh, good grief! More backstory? Get to the freakin’ point, will you?]
“How has all that changed?”
“Well, I’ve laid out three easy steps for authors to build their own smokestacks in my new book, How to Build an Author Smokestack in Three Easy Steps. And the first thing to consider before building a…”
[Wait! This guy has a book that lays out the three easy steps? A book I can read at my own pace and skip over all this unnecessary crap? *logs off podcast and does a quick search on Amazon*]
Now, I’m not sure, but I figure a majority of podcasts, whether they’re author-related or not, are the same way, with uninteresting, unnecessary, and useless filler. If you’re going to tell us how to drive a nail into a wall, tell us how to drive a nail into a wall. Don’t give us the history of nail manufacturing, or explain how you used to do it. Just give us the information we expected when we logged on. YouTube videos aren’t exempt from this, either. Just today I watched a video about how to change out the watchband on my Apple watch, a process the guy said should take “about ten or fifteen seconds.” Then he yapped about watchbands and where to buy them, and the dang instructions didn’t start until the 9:43 mark!
All that unnecessary info crammed into podcasts isn’t the only reason I’m not a fan. I like to have the salient points laid out in black and white where I can read them, highlight the pertinent parts, and go back and refresh my memory on occasion. As someone who made her career in radio broadcasting for decades, I know for a fact that information heard without hard copy to back it up is usually in one ear and out the other unless it’s repetitive. That’s why you hear so many commercials for Harold’s Hotdog Hamlet on your local station. If you just heard one or two you’d probably forget about ol’ Harold’s restaurant when you’re doing the “Where do you want to eat?” “I don’t know, where do you want to eat?” ritual. But a podcast is one-off, unless they archive it, and then you have to make an effort to go back and find it to hear it again.
So, podcasters? Implement some of the rules of writing to your shows. What turns a reader off a book will also turn a listener off a podcast. (Especially if we’re authors. After all, we should be writing—or building a smokestack—instead of wasting our time hearing about the way the ancient Norwegians built smokestacks in 1572.) Get rid of the backstory dump at the beginning and find a way to incorporate it (quickly!) into the interview. Gloss over the history lesson and get to the point! It’s fine to reiterate the point(s), and it’s almost imperative you do so. It’s what the listener tuned in to hear, and you want them to remember it instead of it getting lost in the jumble of blah-blah-blah-I-used-up-so-many-pens-back-then nonsense.
Until the podcast format becomes streamlined I’ll just buy Bob Hobnob’s book so I can skip the dumb stuff and get to the meat. But for now, I’m not a fan of podcasts.