5 tips for launching a successful podcast

Happy new year from the BookNet team! We've been saving these tips from the 2018 Hot Docs Podcast Festival's Creators Forum to help you reach your resolution of finally launching that podcast for your publishing house, bookstore, or other bookish reasons this year — and not just getting it out there, but launching it successfully. We know you have a great idea, so here are our favourite tips from the podcast experts who offered their advice:

Tip #1: Figure out what success looks like for you and your podcast

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Not all podcasts are carved from the same stone. Every element of your show — from the frequency, length, and structure, to decisions about monetization, music, and guests — should reflect your overall goals. Do you want to advertise your core business? Engage with your audience? Promote your authors? Repurpose existing content to attract mattress advertisers? Your goals are up to you. Just keep in mind that your podcast doesn't have to be the next Serial or The Next Chapter to be successful. Define your goals and determine the key performance indicators that will help you get there.

Tip #2: Craft a solid pitch

Pitching your idea to podcast studios, media companies, or just your own CEO? All the same tips apply: Having a solid idea is, of course, crucial, but even one that's been done before can be fresh if you offer a new perspective on it, whether that's coming from your own unique take or the voices you're going to be highlighting. At the same time, understand that your idea may evolve as you launch your podcast and that can be a good thing; you don't have to replicate your first episode for time immemorial. And finally, make sure you know who you're pitching to; suggesting a true crime podcast about lumberjacks to a studio that already has one is an obvious but easy-to-miss no-no.

On a more logistical level, take the time to record a sample to go along with your pitch. Nothing demonstrates your great idea and even greater voice better than an actual playable sample. No recording equipment? Maybe your library can help you out.

Tip #3: Don't be shy

Everyone at the forum seemed to agree that the podcasting community is very friendly. And that includes listeners, studios, and other podcasters. So use that to your advantage. Asking other podcasters to be guests on your show, or offering to be a guest on other like-minded shows, is a great way to cross-promote. Their audience could become your audience and visa versa (and there are more than enough listeners to go around).

Some of the big podcasters who spoke also encouraged those trying to break into the space to be courageous when it comes to asking companies and studios for anything from advertising money to podcasting gigs. Think that company would be a great fit as an advertiser? Want to record an episode in someone's storefront? People will say yes more than you think, so ask them!

Tip #4: Respect your audience

Podcasts are a two-way street. Your voice will literally be inside someone's head. And if you're not providing a good experience, you will get ejected before you can say "Audible." With that in mind, invest in good audio, whether that means learning how to use your audio editing program, whatever it may be, or lining your recording studio (read: closet) with felt blankets. That also means asking your listeners for feedback on content, structure, guests, etc. and then responding to it appropriately. Listen to them, and they'll listen to you.

Tip #5: Transcripts, transcripts, transcripts

There are lots of tools available that can help you generate a transcript for your podcast. Making one available for every single episode can make them more accessible to your audience and enhance your SEO for greater discoverability. There is no downside. So, once again: transcripts.

Now go forth and launch your podcast! We'll be listening. In the meantime, you can listen to the monthly BookNet Canada Podcast right here.