One of the many approaches I’m trying in order to build an audience for my novel, The Vampire Kitty-cat Chronicles, is doing the whole novel as free podcasts, one per chapter, 26 in all. Here’s how I I’m going about it, and the tools I use. The first podcast in the series is at the end of this post.

For music, I signed the Grateful Dead

Well, not really. But I wanted to introduce and conclude each podcast with a snippet from the song Dire Wolf by the Grateful Dead—the lyric “Don’t murder me” works wonderfully well with my story. But how do you get permission to use a famous band’s work?

I knew that I had to contact the publisher, so I Googled and found that Ice Nine is the publisher for the Dead’s songs. I wrote a letter and asked permission, offering in return credits on the podcasts, the video book trailer, the audio book, and on the website. I wrote that my nanopublishing effort was like a garage band—no money. I hoped that the free publicity would be enough compensation.

They went for it! With the caveat of seeing the book before granting permission, they agreed. And then they told me I was only halfway there. I needed permission from the recording company as well, and they gave me contact information. The recording company granted me a license to use the music gratis for a year.

Fun side note: the publisher thought I might not succeed with the recording company for The Grateful Dead, so they told me about another band that had covered the song which might be easier to get. Although it turned out that I didn’t need them, and they never replied to my letter, that band’s name was even more perfect for my purposes than The Grateful Dead—they were called Stiff Dead Cat. Honest.

Tools

The first thing I bought was a book, Podcasting for Dummies. It provided me with everything I really needed to know to create and record my podcasts, and to get it into distribution and on the Internet. From it I learned about the hardware needed, and about free software.

Hardware

I searched Amazon.com for podcasting microphones and found a microphone kit by Samson with a stand and everything, and it comes in a cool metal case. I chose this one because it plugs directly into my computer via a USB cable for recording. Very handy.

I found that I needed a “pop filter,” which cuts down on the plosive “p” sound and sibilance. It clamps to the mic stand and is positioned in front of the mic to intercept the sounds and air blasts.

I also bought a pair of good headphones. They enable you to hear every aspect of the recorded sound. I used them for the first couple of edits, but have switched to just using my computer’s speakers, which produce a pretty good sound—I just don’t like wearing headphones.

Software

For PC users, which includes me, the Dummies book suggested the free Audacity program. I downloaded it, and it works fine. For Mac users, there’s GarageBand, which I believe is included in a Mac’s initial software bundle. I used Audacity to edit the music track as well as to record and edit the voice track.

Another free program that I use is Levelator. When recording, the levels of my voice rise and fall somewhat. While there are tools in Audacity to adjust levels, it’s time-consuming. With Levelator, you can export the edited voice track as a .wav file, drag it into the Levelator, and it produces a new .wav file with all the levels evened out.

Recording

You need a quiet place. I thought I had one in my home office, but it turned out that my house, an older home, has an electrical system that creates something called a ground loop that puts an annoying hum in the track. With the USB mic, I could go anywhere and use my laptop.

I ended up using my workplace computer after hours and on weekends. To cut down on the background noise of the air conditioning/heating system, I made a “booth” that I could take down and put up easily from pieces of foam rubber that were 3 inches thick and 22 by 32 inches in size (they just happened to have those dimensions). Using wooden braces I made, I set up two vertical “walls” on my desktop, one on either side of the computer monitor, and lay a third piece across the top.

I read the text from the computer monitor as that seems easiest to me, but you could also work with a printout.

Your reading

Go slow. E-nun-ci-ate as clearly as possible. Leave space between sentences so a listener’s mind can keep up with what you’re describing. I also try to leave a little extra space for laughs at funny spots.

What about your voice? Just be as objective as possible. Many people hate the sound of their own voice or don’t think it sounds like them because they’re accustomed to only hearing it from inside their heads, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good. If you’re in doubt about whether your reading is professional enough, have a trusted acquaintance listen. Interestingly, my wife (and first listener) said my voice didn’t sound like me. I don’t know what to do with that.

Editing

I learned that I needed to do the first edit immediately upon finishing the recording of a chapter—in listening to playback, inevitably there were slurred words or readings that didn’t sound very good. If I do it immediately, then the sound quality matches when I re-record to fix a goof. I stop the playback and record the piece until it sounds right, then cut and paste to replace the bad part and then move on. It takes me at least an hour for a 15-minute chapter.

Then I use Audacity to add the Grateful Dead intro and outro to the voice track, run it through the Levelator, and use Audacity to export the file as an MP3, which is the standard file format you need for uploading to the Internet.

Getting it out into the world

Guided by my Dummies book, I learned that the most essential step in getting my podcast to ears other than mine is a site called PodOmatic. It’s free, is the gatekeeper for getting your podcasts listed in iTunes, and provides a place for getting the podcast out there. Note that there is an approval process; I guess it’s possible to not be okayed, depending on your content. I’m also going to post the episodes on Podiobooks. My PodOmatic page, with all the episodes so far uploaded, is here.

You can upload not only your MP3 files to PodOmatic but your book’s cover art as well. Once you’re approved, it’s possible to go to iTunes and sign up there—they also have an approval stage. Once you’re on both PodOmatic and iTunes, every time you upload a new episode to PodOmatic it’s automatically added to the iTunes list.

Embedding the podcast here and there

PodOmatic provides excellent tools for publishing your podcast on the Internet with its Promote feature. Once the episode is up on PodOmatic, you can get the code for embedding the podcast on a web page or blog post, just copy and paste—that’s where the code required for including it in this Writer Unboxed post came from. PodOmatic also has automated tools for putting the podcast on Facebook, Blogger, Typepad, and other blog platform and social media sites.

Lastly, I’ll assemble the recorded chapters into a single audiobook. I can distribute it through Podiobooks. The ideal place for selling audiobooks is Audible.com, a part of Amazon.com, but they have fairly strict requirements about being a publisher with several works to publish that I’m not sure I can satisfy.

Will it work?

Who knows? Fellow WU contributor J.C. Hutchins put out podcasts of his novel for two years and finally landed a publishing contract. I suspect that patience is a key to ultimately achieving success in this kind of audio venture.

Lastly, I’ll assemble the recorded chapters into a single audiobook. I can distribute it through Podiobooks. The ideal place for selling audiobooks is Audible.com, a part of Amazon.com, but they have fairly strict requirements about being a publisher with several works to publish that I’m not sure I can satisfy.

Take a listen, and let me know what you think.

For what it’s worth.

About Ray Rhamey

Ray Rhamey is the author of five novels and one craft book, Flogging the Quill, Crafting a Novel that Sells. He's also an editor who has recently expanded his creative services to include book cover and interior design. His website, crrreative.com, offers an a la carte menu of creative services for self-publishers and Indie authors. Learn more about Ray's fiction at rayrhamey.com.