You’ve made a name for yourself. Your podcast downloads are steady and your audience rates and subscribes on a regular basis. You’re a success story by all measures, but one: income.
For some reason, you’re finding it increasingly difficult to transfer your popularity into cash flow. Don’t worry, this is a situation that befalls hundreds of thousands of podcasters and it’s a problem the solution for which changes all the time. One year the leading source of income may be banner ads, the next it may be ad reads. However, there is one solution that can be found in an older medium: books. No matter the year, your information can always be conveyed through a book for spare cash.
If enlightenment philosophers could make a living off etchings they made while in the bath, you have nothing to fear from turning your podcast into a book with these easy steps.
Step 1 - Determine Your Goal
This may seem straight forward, but it’s often an overlooked step. Be wary of simply saying “I want to make a best seller” or “I want a book to market our podcast.” These are inauthentic and modern audiences can see right through them.
In order to write a successful book, you need a fresh take on a common problem. Put your reader (or listener) at the front and center of your mind. Using your unique skill set, what is a problem that listeners may have that you would be well-placed to solve? What are you good at? What do you talk about all the time? What are some problems in your own life that you’ve solved already?
Step 2 - Collect and Analyze
Continuing the previous point, you need to take stock of the things that you’re good at or qualified to speak on. There are a few different ways to go about this. What sets you apart? What makes you unique? What about your story applies to other people?
When brainstorming your podcast originally, try to remember the “unique selling point” for your show. All the best shows have a quirk that makes them stand out from the crowd and often times that can be the same selling point for a book. You may also want to poll your audience on your show or on Twitter to find out exactly what you could help them with their lives.
Step 3 - Create a Hook
Now that you’ve determined your angle, you need a catchy phrase to draw readers in. This is not the subtitle of your book, it’s a simple sentence that quickly tells a reader what to expect from your book. For example, if I were to write a book on cheap recipes maybe I would call it “Dirty Meals Done Cheap.” The subtitle of the book might be “modern kitchen solutions for a modern budget.” The hook of the book would be in quotations on the front cover as “Helping your checkbook survive every trip to the grocery store.” In this way, I use a simple phrase to cleverly reword the initial mission of the book. If you need more examples, typically most podcasts will begin their episodes by mentioning the title closely followed by the hook. “Welcome to ‘Civictopia’ - the world's one and only civil discourse podcast.”
Step 4 - Write the Book
Now comes the hard part, actually writing the damn thing. There are dozens of methods to do this but once you’ve done the above, they all become much easier. High school English teachers preach outlines for a reason. Take out a piece of paper and, while keeping the above steps in mind, break down the nuances of the problem you're solving into simple sentences. Write as many as you can. Then group those sentences that fit well together. Make subsections when you think of more complex issues within the issues you’ve written. Then rearrange them into an order that best resembles a narrative. Set a daily word count for yourself and try to never miss a day. The goal is to knock out a “bad first draft” as quickly as possible. Critique and editorializing can come later, but you need something committed to paper first.
Step 5 - Hire Pros to Help
No man is an island and no writer is a publisher. It’s okay to hire a pro to help. There are dozens of editorial services available online that will not only help with grammar but with structure. Just be sure to pay attention to what service you are hiring. If you need help expanding your content, it won't be helpful to receive a bill for a spellchecking service.
Step 6 - Promote Like Hell
Congratulations! With the help of some pros, you’ve got yourself a working title. Now you need to get the word out. Find a group, company, or editor whose vision aligns with yours and pitch them on your idea. Anyone can be a collaborator.
Typically most traditional publishers want a following of 100,000 or so before they’ll throw money behind a project so your next goal is to get somewhere in that level. If that seems out of reach, there are plenty of self-publishing services online that have a much lower barrier to entry.
Now that you have these steps, you’re well on your way to becoming the Stephen King of podcasting. Or would it be the Ira Glass of authoring?
Editors Note: Information sourced for this blog article came from Julie Broad, the founder of Book Launchers, during a speaking event at Podcast Movement: Evolutions in Los Angeles in February 2020.
Casey Franco has been producing podcasts for years, with previous experience with iHeartRadio and Stitcher, before becoming the Head of Production for Jam Street Media. He’s a futurist and former podcaster as well.
Contact him by email at Casey@JamStreetMedia.com.