We’ve learned so much over the months since we’ve set up Unladylike, we want to share it in case anyone else is thinking of starting a podcast.
So here’s what we did.
First, we workshopped a wishlist of topics and writers who could match the topics. It includes JK Rowling and Ursula Le Guin on magic. We don’t think small. And besides, you never know.
The way we work is to bring a couple of women together in conversation. It’s like programming a world-wide writer’s festival, combining people who could have something to say on a topic, or might spark each other. They might be very different and have never met or be old mates, or even fans. If we can’t get people into conversations for practical reasons, we will do solo interviews, but then we try to have some other kind of dialogue, such as vox pops with readers or other writers on a related topic.
At last count we had a list of 67 possible themes with one or two potential names against them. That’s five years of monthly recordings, without any new ideas which, of course, keep popping up.
We have a spreadsheet for that.
Then we have to figure out who is actually willing and able to talk to us in the near future. Given various world time zones this isn’t always simple. Many writers like to go into deep cover when focused on a project and only pop up for a few months or weeks at a time. So we have to figure out who’s where for upcoming festivals and events, who’s got new books/plays/films coming out on what themes or in what forms, and talk to publishers, agents or event organisers, or to writers directly.
We have a spreadsheet for that, too.
Once we’ve agreed on schedules, we get reading. If we haven’t read a certain writer’s latest work, we need to get up to date. We read articles by and about them, and other interviews so we don’t ask the same questions as everyone else.
Then we figure out what we’d like to know from them, and create questions to help guide the interview.
We keep all our spreadsheets and scripts and artwork in Google Drive, so we can collaborate easily and from anywhere.
Of course your podcast might be on something altogether different, or not have any guests, but it’s still useful to plan topics ahead and script or semi-script rather than just blurting (especially if you’re new to broadcasting).
A year ago, we went to a podcasting workshop at the Emerging Writers Festival, led by the Re-Readers. They suggested, among other useful things, that you launch with six episodes ready to go, so people can get a sense of what the podcast is about from the first day.
That is great advice, and it also meant an awful lot of work in the weeks and months before our chosen launch day, but we made it. Just.
Three months before launch, we prepared our website and social media profiles and released them and the podcast name, so people knew it was coming. We emailed publishers, writing organisations and festivals to tell them about Unladylike. We’ve had so much support on social media since that day – it really has been incredible.
We have resisted the temptation to try to cover every platform, and at this stage just use Twitter, a Facebook page, and Instagram for fun. So far, Twitter is the platform on which we’ve had most direct feedback from listeners, but we’ve had more people share and link to episodes on Facebook. It might be different for podcasts on other topics.
We probably should have done lots more promoting and networking like other people but (and this may seem contrary) we’re both a bit shy. But you should totally do all that.
If possible, we invite writers into the studio to sit together and talk. We have questions printed out, but because it’s a conversation, it might go in all sorts of directions, and that’s all part of the fun. So it’s a semi-scripted podcast: we write our introductions including the biographies of each writer, we plan a whole series of questions, and sometimes we ask them all and sometimes we don’t, but we certainly never ask them in the order we imagined. We like to leave plenty of room for tangents and discussion.
We usually record in the studio at the magnificent Kathleen Syme Library and Community Centre. It’s a fully equipped studio, but because there are only two of us and we are both participating in the conversation, we take our own gear rather than using the mixing desk (so nobody has to sit behind the glass and feel left out). It’s not as cool, and the sound’s not as crystal clear, but it’s cosier. (Also, frankly, the desk is a little scary, with everything else we have going on. But one day we’ll come over all Linda Perry and start mixing. And wearing interesting hats.)
We’re not sound engineers. And we don’t make money from the podcast – in fact, it costs money (of which more later). So we don’t have fancy software or equipment. But we do our best with basic kit and lots of patience.
- A Blue Yeti multi-directional microphone
- Laptops (we are the living embodiment of the Mac/PC argument)
- Audacity software for capture and editing
- Pamela software for recording Skype calls (though we can never quite get it to work properly)
- Sennheiser headphones we always forget to use in the excitement of the moment.
When we’re on the road or at literary events, we use portable digital recorders (we both have a Zoom H1, with tripod and windscreen). We also use that as back-up in the studio in case for some reason the laptop fails to capture the interview properly.
Usually one of us keeps an eye on the sound levels and the other keeps an eye on the questions.
Mysterious technical things
Here is what we use to create and present the episodes. There are other options and lots of resources online about podcasting to help you find solutions that suit you.
- Our website is built in WordPress.com and the theme/template is Motif
- Our audio files are hosted in AudioBoom, and fed from there through to iTunes and Stitcher
- Most other podcasting apps draw a feed from iTunes, so we can relax about them
- We edit in Audacity, a free but very powerful audio editing tool.
These are the things, besides the gear mentioned above, that we had to include in our budget:
- We pay for premium licenses to WordPress and AudioBoom, because we believe in supporting the platforms on which we rely – and also we get more functionality
- We also bought our domain name
- We asked a designer friend to produce artwork, which needed to be in all sorts of specific shapes and sizes for different platforms, and paid her to do it – again, because it’s important to invest in things that matter and we don’t mind working for free but don’t see why anyone else should.
If we had funding or any income at all, we could pay for a sound engineer to edit the recordings and they would sound heaps better. But we don’t. Mind you, we’ve discovered we quite like doing it, so we’ll keep practicing and keep studying and hopefully we’ll get better and faster at it.
So now it’s launched, and we continue to program, record, edit, publish and promote. It takes us both a few hours a week, but it took a lot more than that in the lead-up and there are times, such as writers festivals, when it’s intense.
But it’s a labour of love, we think it’s important to talk about writing with women, and we have a lot of fun.
We hope you do, too.
Adele and Kelly