The Five Habits of Highly Effective Horror Fiction Podcasts
If you can believe it, podcasts are still a relatively new thing. There was a time when only the early-adopters (Apple cultists, people with raspberry jam on their hands, men called Keith, etc) knew what a podcast was. Now everyone's got a podcast or two on the go. Even my granddad has filled his iPad to bursting point with hours of World War 2 documentaries.
And as the medium continues to flourish at a rate only comparable to the introduction of biscuits in England, so too, does the sub-genre of horror fiction podcasts.
Around three years ago, we dipped our toes into the waters with a podcast called The Other Stories. A weekly show of horror, sci-fi, thriller, and wtf stories. Since then we've had over 3-million downloads, sold a Film/TV option, and have developed a solid platform for newer writers to reach thousands of listeners each and every week. We didn’t plan on it growing into the beast that it is today, but like all good beasts it was born by accident and is now hell-bent on consuming its makers whole.
Honestly, we only started because we found a free way to put our short stories out into the world and, lucky for us, we found an audience ready and waiting. And as far as we can tell the audience for audio fiction is more ravenous than ever. So I have to ask, why not start your own?
I know that everyone and their nan has a podcast these days. But I'm not talking about the standard Skype interview podcast, made famous for making guests sound like dying cats being unplugged from the matrix. I'm talking about podcasts that tell stories.
Sound like something you want to try?
Well, okay then. From the belly of the beast… here are some thoughts:
1. Use What You Have
When we first started The Other Stories, all we had were four writers, a charitable narrator, and free software (Audacity for the curious). And to be perfectly honest, you don’t even need that. A half-decent USB microphone and a human voice are about all it takes to get started. No fancy microphones or named actors are required.
What you do need, however, is permission.
Not from me, or daddy, or the pesky local council. You need to give yourself permission to get started. Permission to try it and fail and potentially make yourself look like an unwanted third nipple, something that people find one day but don’t particularly want or have time for.
I can’t promise you won’t turn out to be a nipple. Nobody can. But I can promise that nothing good ever happened from somebody worrying about what might happen. So don’t worry about it. Just try it. Look at what you have available to you and go out and make something. Maybe grab a couple of friends who write, maybe grab a friend who can read well, download some free software, some royalty free music, and see where it takes you.
They say that a body in motion tends to stay in motion. So use the body that you have. Push it down a hill.
2. Be Consistent
Although we stumbled into our small modicum of success, I do think that our consistency helped steer our clumsy stumblings in the right direction. We’ve published an episode every single Monday since we began. We haven’t missed one. And sure… we’ve cut it close a couple of times. We’ve had a narrator vanish on us the night before. We’ve had odd technical issues where files corrupted before our very eyes, but we’ve pushed through every single time.
It’s worth working through the inconvenience to meet your schedule. For a podcast fan, what could be worse than finding out that your favourite show isn’t releasing a new episode on time? Being stood up by a podcast can ruin your commute or your dog walk or your daily lie down. Be there for your loyal listener. Make sure you show up on time, dressed, and with as good a story as you can give, produced as well as you can produce it. Never ghost your audience.
So you’re showing up every week (two weeks, three, four, whatever your release schedule is), and now it’s time to incrementally improve. Perhaps you can find a second narrator, or another writer, or maybe a kick-ass audio editor to help with the music, or perhaps you can purchase some better microphones. Whatever it is. Be that unrelenting tinkerer and never settle. Even if it’s something as small as the way you promote your stories on social media or the way you introduce the episodes. Tinker until it’s right.
Maybe take some time and think about all the different elements of your show and start to envision how it could be better, be bigger, mightier, and write down what you want to improve. Treat your goals like GPS coordinates. Program them in and get walking.
An oddly strong word to use in this context. A little too physical, perhaps. But the point still stands. It’s all well and good having a growing number of listeners, but much more rewarding to get those listeners talking. Why not create a Facebook Group where they can come in and chat about the episodes, or maybe talk about other horror podcasts, or movies, books, something?
Hands down my favourite thing about our show is our little community of friends we’ve built around it. Having genuine discussions with people about the podcast, how they found it, their favourite episodes, and even the bits they don’t like, warms your cockles like nothing else.
Getting regular feedback is also the best way to improve the show. We’ve made countless little changes throughout our podcast’s life, held more competitions, ran giveaways, produced special episodes, etc, all based the ongoing conversation that is the show.
You need your listeners like an Englishmen needs a constant supply of pies. If you treat them right, they might just keep you fed with social media shares, Patreon support, reviews, downloads, and if you play your cards right… actual pies.
Don’t be shy, child. Bare all. Engage.
Go back to point one. Look at everything you have available to you. You should…. If you’ve been doing everything I’ve been talking about, have a little more than before. Maybe your show only has a few episodes, a listenership of less than ten, some podcast art that looks like something the cat dragged in (actually that might work for a horror podcast). Great! Then you’ve got nothing to complain about. You’re a step ahead of the game! Smile upon your situation and then use it to make a better one.
Like anything, it’s both as simple and as complicated as that. Use what you have. Be consistent. Make better. Engage. Repeat.
There’s nothing to it… other than everything.
Fancy listening to our podcast? You can find us in iTunes, Spotify, or your favourite podcast receptacle. Fancy writing for the show? You can find the submissions details here. Or perhaps you’re an editor looking to get involved? Email Keztheeditor@gmail.com. Come and join the party.
Some handy links:
Royalty-free music: Soundcloud
Audio editing software: Audacity
Find narrators: Audio Drama Auditions
Find horror writers: Open Call: Horror Markets
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