SPS-321: The Magic of Audiobook Podcasts – with John Gaspard

Mystery author John Gaspard returns to the show to talk to James about his unique idea for selling audiobooks. Along with his audiobook narrator, John has created a popular podcast that is a cross between DVD extras and an interview show.

Show Notes

  • On the idea of free and whether it’s a good marketing tool
  • Releasing audiobook chapters for free on a regular schedule
  • Getting the podcast algorithms to work for you
  • How much technical expertise is required to host a podcast?
  • Using AI to record non-fiction audiobooks

Resources mentioned in this episode:

PATREON: Self Publishing Formula Show’s Patreon page

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MERCH: Get your SPF hoodies and t-shirts in the SPF Store.


SPS-321: The Magic of Audiobook Podcasts - with John Gaspard
Speaker 1: On this addition of the Self-Publishing Show.

John Gaspard: You're consistent in the release. It's got to be the same day every month, every two weeks, whatever it is. You've got to have that consistency because your listeners got to plan for it.

Speaker 1: Publishing is changing, no more gatekeepers, no more barriers, no one standing between you and your readers. Do you want to make a living from your writing?

Join Indie bestseller, Mark Dawson and first-time author James Blatch as they shine a light on the secrets of self-publishing success. This is the Self-Publishing Show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.

James Blatch: Hello and welcome, it's the Self-Publishing Show with me, James Blatch.

Mark Dawson: And me Mark Dawson. Hello.

James Blatch: How are you Mark Dawson?

Mark Dawson: I'm okay James Blatch, not too bad.

James Blatch: Checking my focus. Yes, good. Okay. Well, let's leave global events to one side, tempting as it is to. This is an oasis, we'll focus on the things that matter to us which is books and selling and publishing. And let me tell you, first of all, that you nay say about my Kindle Monthly Deal. You said, "Oh, I don't know if that'll be worth it James."

Actually had my best month with my book with a Kindle Monthly Deal. So that's the first time Kindle have noticed my book and I got one of those monthly deal things, so they put it to 99 pence in the UK. I only do sales in the UK with that book. It's very UK orientated. And of course, the important thing about that to explain is that if I put it to 99 pence, I would have to tick the box that says 30% royalty so you can't have it at less than 1.99 in the UK. I think 2.99 in the states probably.

However, when they do it, when they put it to 99, you still get your 70% royalty which is quite an important point to all this. So at 99 pence with a 70% royalty and presumably they stuck it out in their emails to people because it was their monthly deal. I ran ads saying 99p for a short time and revamped my sort of ads campaigns.

I sold 678 books in a month, which is equivalent, including the KMP page reads. The KMP actually was very similar average for me. But that was my biggest month, including my launch month, so just by a couple of books and I made a profit about £316 over the month which includes the audiobooks because I'm making about 130 a month on audiobooks, which is great for book one.

So Kindle Monthly Deal actually worked for me in my situation. And of course, and I've repeated ad nauseam when I talk about this. I am trying to get visibility and readers for my book and I'm putting off the profit bit for the future. So in fact, that £300, I will plough into, because I'm building up to launching book two hopefully in May building up to that. So I'll put that profit back in to advertising. So it's going well for me. Thank you teacher for the Facebook ads instruction, which has worked. So I love them. I love doing Facebook Ads now.

Mark Dawson: Yeah. They do tend to work, don't they? So that's interesting. I don't do any KMDs because I've just had... It's unusual to get a result like that in my experience. Obviously it's been a while since I've done them so my knowledge might be a little bit out of date.

KDDs on the other hand, Kindle Daily Deals, I had a few of those last month and a couple of my mid-series books hit the top 10 in the UK on the basis of the attention that they get on that platform, which is great, and I think a thousand copies sold for one book in one day. So I always say yes to those. I never say yes to KMDs, but it's good that it worked for you.

James Blatch: Of course, the other thing that's happened last month is I blew up on TikTok quite a lot. And I can't be certain, I don't know how many of those sales were due to TikTok. And so it's easy for me to think, "Oh, well that was TikTok, it wasn't the Kindle Monthly Deal."

Mark Dawson: Yeah, that's very true actually. Yeah, they may all have been from TikTok.

James Blatch: Well, you don't know.

Mark Dawson: Who knows? You can't say, no.

James Blatch: But the beginning of the month was good, which was just, which was pre sort of my big views on my post. And now it's gone back to full price, 1.99 in the UK and the Kindle Monthly Deal has finished but TikTok will continue and I have seen straightaway a drop down. Actually I'm not running any Facebook ads now because I ran that campaign. It had an end date at the end of February and I haven't gone in there to restart anything yet.

So my daily sales have dropped back down sort of average six, which is where they went into it. So we'll see anyway. I mean, it's very difficult in the world of digital marketing and their platforms are all disconnected, Facebook is not Amazon and so on so we talked about benchmarking.

You have to basically have a period of time. And even to the point of sacrificing sales where you stop campaigns for two weeks and then you know more or less what your benchmark is. And then if you start to do something, it's the best possible way of you knowing what that is due to that cause and effect. Yeah, anyway... And my book is off to the editor's, gone to copyedit. I've got the last little bit just to send him, which I'll get finished this week.

I'm at that point now as an author where I'm thinking, is it any good? It's not any good. I've rushed it in the middle. It's wrong. So I'm sort of having doubts about it. When I read it, I sort of think it's good and then when I sit back afterwards, I think that's not as good as the first book. I don't know. It's easy to be full of doubts, isn't it? We'll see what Andrew says when he gets back to me. Hope he's not listening to this. I want him to have a neutral view not contaminated by me thinking it's not good.

Mark Dawson: That's perfectly normal. I don't get that anymore but only because I've written 40 books and I'm fairly confident that they'll be okay. But it's fair. I remember very well thinking that when I was doing my first books, that you get to the end and it's like, "This is rubbish. No one's going to enjoy this, it's terrible effort." And it's quite perfectly normal so I wouldn't worry about that too much.

James Blatch: Now I did get a very funny email yesterday from a guy because at the end of my book, so inspired by you giving away your personnel report of John Milton, your character, I created the two board of inquiries from the 1960s for RAF air crashes. And actually in my second email after it goes out, says, "Oh, they're not real. Don't be tricked," thinking that some people might think they're real.

But I actually got an email yesterday from somebody who worked on aircraft in the 1960s, had an attachment to RAF boss come down, which is pretty much the base he was based at saying to me, "Really enjoyed reading the BOIs, but I'm slightly confused because I can't find the serial numbers of the aircraft in my listings. I know sometimes they're wrong. Also, you refer to RF Westport that I can't find." And then about an hour later, I got an email from going, "LOL, LOL, LOL. I fell for this because-"

Mark Dawson: Oh wow.

James Blatch: So yeah, I did a good job with them. He says he is going to send me a blank bit of paper for a £20 note to do next. But so that's a bit of fun. So just to explain what that is at the end of your book, how do you get somebody who's read your book, who feels invested in you as an author onto your mailing list? And you could just put, "I've got a free book," which is great, or just join my mailing list for more information.

But Mark came up with this idea a little while ago, the kind of behind the scenes sort of thing you used to get on DVDs. And I was inspired by that. So I did a couple of accident reports that pertained to my story and said, "If you want to read the accident reports and the two crashes in this book, download them here." And it works.

I keep an eye on the percentages. It hovers between 8 and 12%. So roughly 10% or I think the number of people who have read the book have then gone through and joined my mailing list, which is not bad. I'm not going to want a thousand people on there now, but yeah anyway, all good ideas. Right. Mark, do we have... Sorry. Again, once again, I've been verbose. Is that the right word? I've been talking a lot.

Mark Dawson: Yes. That's loquacious or verbose, either would work. Yes, you have been and no, we don't have any Patreon support this week. I think you're about to ask me, I don't believe anyway. So if you want to support on Patreon, you go to, what's it James?

James Blatch: So it's me again,

Mark Dawson: Yeah, okay. Right now you can show up again now. What should we mention before we get into the interview? How about the live show? So we're kind of pushing ahead with sales, we've had a good number of sales. So it is going to be a fun event. We've started to announce some speakers. So if you're on the SPF mailing list, you'd have seen some, we've posted them on the Facebook group as well. People like Joanna Penn, Nick Stephenston, Michael Anderle, Caroline Peckham, Susanne Valenti, Rachel McCloud.

James Blatch: McLean.

Mark Dawson: McLean, yeah, not John McCloud but Rachel McLean. Yeah, so going to be really, really good. We still have a few tickets left. And if you want to check out, we've actually got a nice new sales page now as well where John has actually put together some bits and pieces so you can see what it was like when we did it in 2020 and what this one might be like. And that is at You can check that out and grab a ticket.

James Blatch: And we should say that we are having more granular discussions about the seating arrangement. We don't know where we're going to be with the pandemic. I would love to think that by June it's a footnote in history, that's probably not going to be the case.

So there is a very distinct possibility and we'll make a decision soon that we are going to put a cap on the number of people coming in that will be much lower than the capacity to give those people who want a bit of space around them the opportunity. So we'll perhaps try and give you a bit of warning on that, but we're getting close so basically if you want to come, buy a ticket at that URL that Mark just gave. Okay, are you ready for some magic?

Mark Dawson: Well, yes, absolutely. Is Paul Daniels on this week?

James Blatch: Paul Daniels is not on this week because he's no longer with us. This is John Gaspard. Now we had John on in the past. He writes the Eli Marks stories, which are mystery stories based around a magician who solves these crimes. And the books go well, he's a filmmaker by trade. And he came up with this idea, which I was very interested in and I said to him, "Right when you've done this, when you've run its course, I want to get you back on the show to talk about it."

What he's basically done is he's done a podcast using his audiobook. So a chapter at a time, gives away free. Obviously you've got to be wide, you can't be exclusive to do this. He gives away a chapter and then he discusses it around that chapter. So I think they have the discussion first in the chapter or the other way around, he'd explained in the interview, I've forgotten.

But what it does of course is it leads to sales to his subsequent audiobooks in particular, but also gets visibility for his theory from his tribe which is people interested in magic who also read books. This is something I was particularly interested for myself Mark because I'm interested in military aviation, which is my tribe who are...

And when I do my Facebook ads, it's military aviation and narrowed down by people who read books at Kindle store interests and so on. So this would actually work really well for me, a podcast where we discuss cold war aviation around a chapter of my book. So I'm very keenly interested to see how this went. So with no further ado, let's hear from John Gaspard.

John Gaspard, hello, welcome back to the Self-Publishing Show, great to have you back.

John Gaspard: It is so cool to be back.

James Blatch: Hey, it's our pleasure. We talked magic, we talked Eli Marks last time, fascinating interview, filmmaker, you've done a lot in your life. But what's caught our eye, I'm always looking for innovative ways of marketing books and getting visibility in an increasingly competitive world is what you've done to do that since we spoke last time.

Before we get onto that though, why don't you just give us a recap of you and your writing career John?

John Gaspard: Sure. I'm the author of the Eli Marks mystery series, which is an eight book series. The first four were traditionally published with a small publisher here in the US. That didn't go as well as either one of us wanted, so I bought back the rights a couple years ago and have since published four more books and have been doing... Not living off of it, but they're more than paying for themselves and more than covering all their costs. And they're doing okay, I'm happy with them.

I also have another series that I'm working on under the pseudonym Bobbie Raymond called the Como Lake Players mystery series, it takes place in community theatre and I have a few standalone books in the fiction thing and then a couple filmmaking books as well. So when I go to look at the online stuff, like what do you mean there's 40 some books? But when you start doing e-books and audiobooks and hardcovers and paperbacks, boom, there's a lot of books there.

James Blatch: It all adds on up. Now your Eli Marks series, which is your sort of, I guess, is your flagship series, certainly from the fiction point of views, what you are known for, you came up with this idea of using podcasting to raise its profile, basically to sell books.

Tell us what your idea was.

John Gaspard: I think the last time we talked, we talked a little bit about the concept of free, which really fascinates me. And because there's now eight books in the series, giving one away for free is not that big a deal. In fact, I woke up this morning and somebody had bought the other seven books, just boom, first thing in the morning, it's like, "Oh, okay. Maybe free does work occasionally."

It occurred to me that I wanted to do some marketing that didn't cost a tonne of money and I wanted to incorporate the idea of free. And all the books up until the last one, haven't done the last one yet, but the first seven books I've recorded as audio books with a friend of mine who was a voice talent here in the Twin Cities who was actually sort of the inspiration for starting the series.

We recorded the audiobooks and they are excellent. He is such a good narrator. It is better experience listening to him read than it is for you to read it because he's so good. And it occurred to me I have these assets, these seven finished audiobooks. I've been hearing someone talking about posting full audiobooks on YouTube. I tried that with the Ambitious Card and got a little traction to that.

But I thought I think we can do more. Because I'm in the US, you're required by law to have a podcast, I don't know if that's caught on over there. But if they come by and you don't have a podcast, you're in trouble. So I wanted to do that, but I wanted to do it a little differently. I wanted to give away the audiobook, there's 24 chapters in the Ambitious Card so that made sense, we'll just do 24 episodes in a year once every two weeks.

But that didn't seem like enough so I thought, "Well, let's just do what we call the DVD extras." Every chapter has something going on in it that's sort of interesting or if there isn't something specific, there's some magic related thing. So I thought, well, I'll just do what I thought would be short interviews, but they turned out to be like 30 minutes each with people who have some connection with the topic in that chapter.

So for example, the very first chapter has a mention of a magician named Max Malini who was very famous in the US and in Europe in the 1920s. And there's a well known magician here in the US named Steve Cohen who has his own big show in New York and he just finished a book about Max Malini. So, boom, that makes sense.

My co-host and I, who's also my narrator chat for a bit in an episode and then we bring on Steve Cohen and he talks about Max Malini and then we play the first chapter and then we wrap it up and send it on its way. And so that's what we did for 24 episodes, and we're now into season two. We've had some big name guests. We've had Dick Cavett, the talk show host who's a huge fan of magic. He did a couple of episodes.

I don't know if you've heard of the Amazing Kreskin. He's a mentalist. He came on and we've had some of the top magicians in the country. I haven't really gone internationally yet on it but if you were into magic, you go, "Oh my goodness, that person talked to you?" Yeah, we're just as surprised that person talked to us.

After the first year I was just looking at the numbers and thought, now I can't... It's hard to quantify anything in this world, particularly since I went wide with all the books last summer. So that's hard to tell who's doing what where. But audio books on ACX and Findway had gone way up to several hundred dollars a month.

It's like, "Oh, I think what's happening is what I intended," which is that people would listen to the first couple episodes and go, "I'm loving this, but I don't want to wait. I'm going to go buy this book." And they buy the audio book and they keep coming back to the podcast because they can hear the interviews and then they don't want to wait for the next book and so they buy that. I think that's what's happening, but I can't prove it.

James Blatch: Okay. It makes sense. We have to use benchmarking, don't we? If we're going to work out, if nothing else has changed, then you have to assume that some of those sales, at least if not most of them are from this venture. So it sounds like a lot of work. I mean, I know putting a podcast together is a lot of work.

John Gaspard: I listened to your episode last season where you put down how everybody did it and I thought, "Well, it must be nice to have a staff."

James Blatch: Yeah, I was aware of that. A lot of work goes into it and you are seeing those results.

Is it quantifiably worth it? You can't quantify, we just said that. Is it worth it?

John Gaspard: It is for me for a couple reasons. One, it's fun to be able to talk to these people who I've admired and some of whom have inspired me for different characters in the books. That's just fun. And it's because I have my background's in filmmaking and video making and all that, the physical process is not unfun.

The nice thing about each episode is we record each episode every two weeks or so because they come out every two weeks. We don't do anything topical so it's very ever green but all we have to record is the opening and then the reaction to the interview and then the close. And that really unlike what you and Mark do. In fact, I kind of got it from that.

And then I just have these assets that I've assembled, which is the chapter we're doing that month and whatever interview we've already done and then you just slide them in. So there's a bit of editing involved, but it's pretty painless. It's kind of fun because you end up with an hour of you go, "Hey, that's kind of cool. We did an hour there and we got a really good interview and the chapter's pretty good and the response that I'm getting is, 'More please, please send more.'"

James Blatch: And who's listening?

John Gaspard: Well again, hard to quantify. But I'm getting a lot of emails internationally that I wasn't getting before with the books of people in Great Britain, people in Switzerland, Germany. So that's really interesting. And the sales in Germany particularly have gone up over the last year. Now, is that connected or is that connected to me going wide? I don't know, but I'm not going to turn them down.

What's interesting is the algorithms seem to be telling people to get it because one of the guys in Switzerland, I said, "How'd you find out about it?" And he said, "Apple recommended it to me." They said, "Do you like these other podcasts? Bet that you'd like this one." So that's nice.

James Blatch: I did read some stats once about podcasting that the top level status is like there's a gazillion podcasts. But actually as soon as you look down at people who produce more than three, people who've regularly produced them for at least a season or more, people have gone on more year, it narrows and narrows and narrows down. So if you do stick at it, if you are...

You've obviously organised yourself and produced these, you're not trying one or two on a whim and then getting bored and doing something. This is a concerted effort.

You already elevate yourself out of the noise, which is why the algorithm has picked you up because it knows that there's some solidity there.

John Gaspard: I'm glad that people are listening to them now but my goal is that in the future, someone who kind of hooks onto the books and sees the ad in the back for the podcast will go to and all of a sudden, they're into the whole series of however number we do. I know we'll go at least three series so we'll have about 60 episodes. I haven't planned beyond that. But it's sort of an evergreen thing where it'll be its own little marketing wing that continues to promote the books.

James Blatch: And you said 24 episodes, is that 24 chapters in book one, is that done now all?

John Gaspard: That is all done. Season one is done. Actually I think the Ambitious Card had 23 chapters and so we did a bonus episode at the end with a short story. We're doing right now the second book in the series, which is called the Bullet Catch, that I think has 26 chapters so we're banging a couple chapters together to get everything in.

James Blatch: Yeah. And that's I think for your particular writing as well, because I remember thinking when I interviewed you before, it's a quite difficult genre to really quickly identify and sell and market in the traditional way, which is the easiest thing in the world when you're marketing a book, is if it's very definitely a contemporary romance, a thriller. When it falls between genres or it's something slightly different, archaeological or whatever.

I know now from my experience of few books, it does become more difficult and you do have to start thinking more imaginatively, right?

John Gaspard: Yeah. The books are all about a magician, a working magician who stumbles into crimes. You would think that magicians would be the primary audience but what I've found is that the same percentage of people who like mysteries in the general population, that percentage works with magicians.

If they like mysteries and they like magic, they'll like it. But by the same token, if they like mysteries, particularly humorous mysteries in the general population they'll also like it. It's just a question of getting them in and going, "It's not quite what you're used to, but once you hit the groove, you're going to like all eight of them."

James Blatch: Is there much of a cost involved in this? Do you pay your voiceover guy to be on the podcast?

John Gaspard: Well, that's the thing, that's the beauty of the whole thing, was we had the audiobooks all done. So that's a half hour of every episode done. My co-host who's my narrator in the audiobooks, we just have a straight 50/50 deal on the audio books because I think he brings so much to it.

James Blatch: Right.

John Gaspard: So he just gets half that and I get half. But I'm really luring him in because he has an interest in magic and it's like, "Okay, this week we're going to talk to John Carney who's one of the best close up magicians in the world, and he's a hero of yours. Let's go do that." So it's easy to get him on.

There's no cost involved, but he's also making money every time an audiobook sells. But there are no costs for me because I already had the microphone and he has a microphone and I have all the editing software because I make movies so everything was there. Yeah, so there's no cost involved.

James Blatch: Very geeky question, what software do you use to edit?

John Gaspard: Well, okay. It's weird. You use what you're used to. And because I edit videos, I used a thing called Final Cut Pro which people will go, "Well, you're doing that just to cut sound." It's like, "Yep."

James Blatch: Yeah, that's fine.

John Gaspard: Because I can do all the different channels I want and then I have to run it through another programme to get it ready to be broadcast. But like I said, I already had Final Cut Pro and I know how to use it, and it's really easy to use.

James Blatch: I'm exactly the same. I edit audio in Final Cut and Premiere Pro, we've moved on to now because I don't like working just with audio. I'm not used to that and it makes no difference. Yeah, good. Okay, well that's interesting. That's a geek question for me and about five other people listening to this who want to know the answer to that.

Remind me about the magic side of this, John. Are you a magician?

John Gaspard: I am not. James, I know one magic trick. It'd be like me saying to you, are you a pilot? But you probably are a pilot.

James Blatch: I have to get my licence, but it's lapsed.

John Gaspard: Yeah, well I'm a lapsed magician.

James Blatch: There you go.

John Gaspard: I know one magic trick and I know how let's say 50% of magic tricks are done. If you sat me down in a magic show and I watched, I wouldn't, but I could tell you how most of the tricks are done or at least the theories behind it. But I am not a magician. However, I know a lot of magicians and that was one of the reasons I got into it, was I had a resource where I could say, "Is this right? Is that right? Is this right? Is that right?" And I could write convincingly so that even a magician audience reading it would not get upset. They'd go, "Yeah, that's right. That's right. Yep, you got that right."

James Blatch: That is similar to me flying. I do have to get a lot of that right. And there's an interest in there which drives that. So yeah, it's funny how that similar crossover.

What's the magic trick you know?

John Gaspard: Well, I would do it for you, but I don't have the stuff here. It's a great little trick. It's called B'Wave, it's by one of the best magicians in the world called Max Maven. It starts out as a kind of a psychic test where we pretend that I have four cards and you pretend to choose one of the... You make one up and you choose one of the four and then I have suddenly four cards in front of me and I spread them out and the one you made up is the only one that's face up in that particular packet and then I flip all the other cards over in they're all blank.

James Blatch: I love the fact that all these magic tricks have these names, which is how you've named your books, right?

John Gaspard: Exactly. B'Wave, is actually a re-do of a much longer, much more complicated trick called Brain Wave. So when he made a shorter version of it, you just call B'Wave. But yeah, that was really one of the first hooks for me, was the titles that they have, the Ambitious Card, the Bullet Catch, the Miser's Dream, the Linking Rings. They're just so poetic already that it... And each one is so different that it helps when structuring the book as I'm structuring it around the trick or using references to the trick.

James Blatch: So this idea you had, which sounds great, and I know that the cogs will be whirring in a few authors minds as they listen to this now.

Is this something you'd seen anybody else doing?

John Gaspard: I had not seen anyone doing the DVD plus features thing that we're doing. People had been posting full books on YouTube, which didn't make sense. I think I did notice there were a couple fiction podcasts where all they were doing was putting out their book chapter by chapter. And that didn't interest me because it seemed kind of boring. But I hadn't seen anybody take what was the topic of the series and try to connect interviews with it throughout a series of podcasts.

But in looking at it, I realised, well, I'm lucky because there's a lot of experts in magic or in entertainment in general, because there, I've talked to other like comedians and other people like that who are connected, there's a lot of resources for that sort of thing. Now, for example, with your book, I imagine there are enough experts out there that you could do something similar where each chapter you could do a deep dive.

James Blatch: I'd love to do that. Although I've only got one book, so I'm not sure if I'm going to give it away just yet, but at some point.

John Gaspard: Well, then there's Patreon. You'll do it that way.

James Blatch: Yeah, there is. I'm thinking about people listening to this who might be romance authors who might have series of 20 books or three series of eight books each and they could do a book like this and they can talk about... I mean, I see this a lot and I see some of our fellow authors on Instagram live for instance in the evening, they have a colleague on and they talk about characters in their stories. Even if it's not their story, someone else's story. There's a lot of scope for drawing readers in and giving them something above and beyond simply the book.

John Gaspard: Yep. And like I said, I think it would work with most books that are around some sort of topic or industry or hobby. I could see even someone who had like a knitting series who could have different people being interviewed.

James Blatch: What other marketing are you doing, John? Are you running any ads at the moment?

John Gaspard: I've run a couple Facebook ads early on, and normally those were just boosted posts that would put out any time a new episode comes out, I've got it's on my Facebook page, it's on my Instagram page, it's on my Twitter pages. I do all that. And I would boost the Facebook post targeting fiction, mystery, cosy mystery and podcast.

I didn't see a lot of bump off of that so I didn't really follow up on that. Normally, I'm just putting up little clips, little soundbites with a nice image on Twitter and Instagram and hashtagging them like crazy. And started looking to TikTok, I just got my email today saying finally your course is available so I'll be jumping into that and seeing how I do on that.

James Blatch: I think TikTok is a good place for magic. I don't know if I have deliberately followed any magic accounts, but I get quite a lot, particularly card trick accounts where although they always follow a pattern, it guides as a brilliant trick and then spends the next five videos having to fight off people saying, "You've used video editing."

And he said, "I haven't, why would I do that? I'm sleight of hand, that's what this is." But anyway yeah, that's how that works on TikTok. Good, I'll look out for you. Now in terms of the technical side of things, I get asked this a lot, but I'm going to ask you this.

How much technical experience and equipment do I need to run a professional podcast?

John Gaspard: I don't think a lot. Common sense has a lot to do with it. You'd want to have a good microphone, you'd want to have a decent programme for recording. I found that Zoom is just fine and was delighted to learn that if I record the Zoom meeting on my desktop, it'll give me an individual track for every person involved, which I haven't had to use that much, but since I do have dogs here, occasionally I need to take myself out.

So technically you don't need that much. Zoom is going to give you a complete audio file of what you've done. Personally, I edit like crazy, I edit a lot and a lot and a lot because I want to keep the episodes short. I know it's almost obsessive compulsive, but I know if I take out a breath and I take out 60 of those, then it's going to be one minute shorter.

I certainly edit things to make... Well, certainly me make me sound better, but also to make the guest sound as coherent and cogent as possible. I did one recently for a really smart magician. He's really, really smart, but every sentence he [started with a lot of ums] and then he'd get into the sentence.

I might have done a thousand edits for his 40 minutes, but it was worth it. And I think it's worth it for the listener. So it's a time consuming thing to do it well. I think if you do edit, you're going to maintain more listeners. It helps to have prerecorded segments so I can work on stuff and just drop them in. I really do try to keep everything under an hour.

But if you have a simple audio editing programme, let's see, what is it that you could... I use a thing called TwistedWave, which is very simple. Like I say, we prefer Final Cut Pro or something like that just because I can add more layers to it and all that. But there isn't that much to it as long as your sound quality is good and your guests' sound quality is good.

I think it's really more important to worry about the content which is why I have enough ideas for 12 shows because if you don't, you're not going to have enough for 24. And you want to make sure that you're consistent in the release. It's got to be same day, every month, every two weeks, whatever it is, you've got to have that consistency because your listeners got to plan for it.

I plan for you guys every Friday. I know I'm going to be getting that, and that's I think what helps build word of mouth because people get excited about the podcast and say, "Oh yeah, I got to tell you. This keeps coming out and you should go listen to it." And that's a great way to do it. Another tip I'd give people, it isn't true with all podcasts, but there are some podcasts that you only listen to depending on the guest.

You guys are pretty good at even when you have a very specific guest, the information's general enough that if you're like me, you want to listen to it, but there are some podcasts where it's only as good as the guest. I've noticed that people, when they produce their podcasts, they will bury the name of the guest well at the end of their opening time title. Might be episode 108, in this episode, we... with President Barack Obama.

Don't bury the lede, put that right up front. Episode 108, Barack Obama, because people are going to be scanning and there's more and more choices with podcasts these days and you want to be able to have something to grab their attention.

James Blatch: And you've obviously texted this quite easily. We should say you do have a filmmaking background.

Are you still making films, John?

John Gaspard: I haven't done any for a while, but I always have ideas for something in the back of my mind. It has come in handy. There's a couple of the podcasts we've done where we've gone on location. We just did one in a magic shop here in Minneapolis. I brought my camera and did some sort of behind the scenes with our guest who was the owner of the show and he did some magic tricks for us. So having that gear and being able to do that has been nice.

James Blatch: Do you have a video element to the podcast?

John Gaspard: I do and I don't. There's no video element except that you can get them on YouTube if you want. They're all up on the behind the page, the Eli Marks Podcast YouTube channel. But I also post other things there that are of interest. So in every podcast, I might say, check out the show notes, and here's a link to this performer doing this or he gave us a video and we posted it on our page, or there'd be like a supplemental thing where they kind of went off topic. But it's pretty interesting.

Like someone will talk about, "Oh, here's our experience on Penn & Teller's Fool Us." It wasn't really germane to the episode, but it was interesting so I would just post that as a separate thing. And if the video looks okay, I'll use the video, otherwise, it's just sound.

James Blatch: What's next for you? You don't strike me as somebody who wrestled his laurels very much.

John Gaspard: I don't. I'm retired now so I have more time than I ever had before and I seem to have no problem filling it. The podcast takes up its own amount of work, surprisingly, a lot of work. And what I'm trying right now is an experiment with AI voices for audio books because I have a couple filmmaking books.

I don't think it would work with the fiction, but with the nonfiction, it kind of works. It kind of works. I have four filmmaking books too, of which I give away for free. So I'm going to give away audiobooks for free on those once I get them put together.

Again, not an expensive process because I just bought one month subscription to a good online service and I'm going quite crazy downloading all the stuff I need, but surprisingly time consuming. Not as time consuming as working with the old narrators, but you still have to go through and every sentence has to be selected and all that. So I'm going to see how that works, it's sounding interesting so far.

James Blatch: How does that work? I know you can get text to speech in word and so on.

John Gaspard: It's pretty simple. You just take the text, I break it into paragraphs. I have to go through and take out if I'm, for example, one of the books has a lot of interviews in it or interview segments, so I have to take out all the he saids and that sort of thing. It breaks them into paragraphs in an online screen and you through and select a voice for each of the paragraphs.

Now, normally it'll be the same narrator throughout but if I have, for example, a couple of interviews with the film producer, Roger Corman so I've selected a voice that's good for Roger Corman and so it's narrator and then the next paragraph is Corman, you select Corman and then narrator, and then you select Corman and you go through. It's mindless work, but it's still work.

And then when you're done, you hit render and it gives you all those files as MP3s and then you can go ahead and edit them that way. So it's a really interesting process that I will say pretty much works. Is it great? No. Do they hit all the inflexions the way you want? No.

But I've also hired narrators via Fiverr or something like that, and they didn't hit all the inflexions either. So it's not going to put fiction audiobooks out of business because it certainly isn't good for that, but for nonfiction, it seems to be pretty interesting.

James Blatch: It's incredible how much that's moving at the moment. Who knows where we'll be in a couple of years time on that front? Well, look, I think this is a really exciting idea. And I have to say, although I'm probably not in a position to do it with my book at the moment, I love the idea of doing it because frankly I can talk all day long about military aviation. And normally people like me who I would interview are the same so we have to work hard to keep up to an hour.

John Gaspard: Well, it just makes sense. If you have an interest in it, it's the sort of... I feel like sometimes when we're interviewing people like I'm pulling one off here because I'm getting to talk to you under the auspices of this podcast, but I would love to talk to them anyway. So it's a real treat.

James Blatch: Just like this John, for me.

John Gaspard: Just like this, absolutely like this.

James Blatch: Okay. Well look, thank you so much indeed, for dropping by again on our podcast.

We'd love to see you, are you going to come to London this year, do you think?

John Gaspard: I was going to ask you about that. I have got my ticket to come to London. I'm very excited about that. And I don't know if you've done one yet, but if you haven't, you should do an episode talking to someone about a primer about how to go to a book conference.

I've been to one other one here in the states, but having somebody talk in general about it and then specifically what they recommend for you guys would be great for me because I'm not quite sure how do I prepare, what do I expect, what should I plan to get out of it, what do I not want to do? That sort of thing. I would love to hear an expert talk about that before I get there and not after.

James Blatch: That's a good idea, we'll do that. And all you need to do is prepare for me to give you a big British fist pump. Actually, it's a British handshake, we'll have a formal handshake and then a beer which won't be warm.

John Gaspard: I'm really looking forward to meeting you guys. And my wife and I have gone to London every year for 20 years maybe, but don't hang out on the South Bank as much as elsewhere. So I looked online and went, "Oh, I know there. We walked by that building a number of times and I certainly have seen it across the river a number of times." So it'll be fun to be hanging out on that side of the river for once.

James Blatch: Cool. Well, I look forward to it. Excellent. Bring your magic trick as well. John, thank you so much indeed. Good luck. We'll catch up with you again, I'm sure.

John Gaspard: Nice, James.

James Blatch: There you go. By the way, nice clean audio because John's a professional filmmaker and he sent me his audio afterwards, which was really good. Yeah, I like that idea. We're always on the lookout, aren't we? For things that are different. I remember when Lindsay Buroker told me on an interview on this show that she uploads her audiobooks to YouTube and gets the advertising revenue from that and how that goes. And this is John actually I think referenced that, and here's John thinking about how to do things a little bit differently. I thought it was a good idea.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, it is a good idea. I've heard a few people trying things like this before. There was old pod bay, I think it was called a Podbean. This is a while ago. You take a story, chop into bits and put it out as a podcast. And that worked quite well. Name of the author who did that, it alludes me now, it might come back to me. So that is a possibility.

I'm working with the team at House who do my English audio books, that's my ideas with regards to how we could use podcasts to promote the audio books. So we'll see how that goes. And it is people are starting to get a stage where actually, if you do a deal, you might find that they ask for podcast rights.

I've seen in a film and TV option that I signed a year or two ago. They were very keen to get the rights to actually do a podcast based on the content. So it is definitely something that the industry is moving towards now as a possible way to promote other content, not necessarily making money on the podcast, but using that as something to drive traffic to a TV show or a film or something else. So yeah, definitely something.

Also other ways podcast now are becoming more interesting, it's a really, really good, I really recommend this. Rami Malek who did... Well, he is in Mr. Robot, most memory and a Bond villain. He did a podcast and I think it's called Blackout or something like that, but I might be wrong on the title, but it's definitely worth looking up because it's really well put together, very, very high production values and a really interesting story about an EMP pulse takes out all of the communications or at least we think it is in that part of America and his town is cut off and it's a really interesting mystery, but very, very well done.

So starting to see that as a way to tell stories as well, apart from as original content. And we actually might have something, might be doing something on that this year potentially working with a script writer to take an idea I've got for something and see if we can do it in a different way.

James Blatch: And these all flow different ways, these ideas. I mean, there are certainly, I can't think of any examples, but I'm certain there are now feature films or series that have been licenced from the original podcast. So remember Serial a few years ago. Adnan, I think his name was, accused of murdering his girlfriend and it was a gripping series. And that spawned a lot of similar podcasts.

I think maybe Making a Murderer started as a podcast and as a big Netflix series as well, and they'll be feature films. But up of course, what John Gaspard's doing is doing it the other way around and having a book that's for sale and then back engineering that to get the podcast crowd interested in it.

I always think something often to remember is that Top Gun, the film, I mean, obviously one of the highest grossing films of the '80s was a magazine article that was licenced. So they just read this magazine article that basically talked about these fighter jocks in a sports-like environment and locker room banter. They loved it and they said, "This could be a film."

And so they bought it for $25,000, something like that, the licence for the magazine article. And that strange way of thinking and that became the film which was virtually a documentary it's so realistic about arial combat. Good. I think that's it.

Mark Dawson: Very good.

James Blatch: Good discussions this week, Mark. I think if anyone on the YouTube channel says, "Banter finishes it, 17 minutes," they don't know what they're talking about because that was a good, I think, focused discussion on novel marketing methods and experiences of selling books, which is what this show is all about.

Mark Dawson: Absolutely. And you very skillfully shoehorned in two references to aviation. Yeah, so there you go. There's no escape, there's always going to be something about aeroplanes in this podcast.

James Blatch: Did I tell you I saw B-52 over my house yesterday?

Mark Dawson: You did tell me yes. But we promised we wouldn't bring in any kind of real world nonsense into the podcast so we'll leave that for now.

James Blatch: Let's do that. Okay. Yes, be safe wherever you are. We probably have listeners in places, parts of the world where things are not great at the moment so my thoughts are with you. Okay, right. That is it. Thank you very much indeed Mark. Thanks to the backroom team, everybody who puts this show together and thank you to our guest John Gaspard this week. We'll be back next week. Until then, all that remains for me to say is it's a goodbye from him.

Mark Dawson: And a goodbye from me. Goodbye.

James Blatch: Goodbye.

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