As a new-ish author, I’m always looking for ways to improve and up my game when it comes to writing craft, story telling, or knowledge of the publishing industry. Yet there are only so many hours in the day, and as a scientist/author/father/bowhunter, most of those are already spoken for. The only reliable downtime that I can count on is my daily commute, which sucks at least an hour out of my weekday like a time-vampire.
Related side note: they warned me about the traffic here. At the time, I smiled to myself and thought, how bad can it really be? Answer: pretty bad, especially when it rains or snows.
I make up for that “lost time” in my weekdays by listening to podcasts. A quick glance at my iPod tells me that I’ve tried at least 32 podcasts in the past several years, most of them related to writing and/or publishing. I thought I’d take a moment to recommend some that have helped me develop as a sci-fi/fantasy author.
Benefits of Podcasts for Writers
Listening to podcasts — whether in the car, on the train, or while doing mundane tasks — offers a lot of benefits to motivated SF/F writers:
- Low cost. Most podcasts, including all of the ones I recommend below, are free. All you need to listen is an iPod, smartphone, or computer.
- Recapture downtime. I hate the idea of wasting time while I do chores or sit in traffic. Listening to a podcast makes me feel like I’m doing something worthwhile.
- Broadened horizons. I’ve learned a lot about writing, publishing, and even public speaking by listening to podcasts over the years. People tend to speak more openly on a podcast than when writing a blog post/article, so I feel like there’s more honest detail.
- Audio is a powerful format. People tend to skim when they read written content, but there’s no equivalent for listening to a podcast. That forces me to slow down and pay attention.
A Few Recommended Podcasts
There are many worthy podcasts out there that benefit SF/F writers, far more than I can list here. Rather than feeling that I’ve snubbed your favorite fancasts, please use the comments below to share them with others. That way, everybody wins.
1. Writing Excuses
This Hugo Award-winning podcast gets the first mention. I’ve been listening to Writing Excuses for close to ten years as the hosts discuss various elements of genre, writing craft, and publishing.
Each podcast is 15 minutes long, “because you’re in a hurry, and we’re not that smart.” All of the hosts are established, successful authors in the SF/F genre, yet they each have a unique perspective. They don’t know it, but Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard have been my mentors for the past several years. If you can only find time for one writing podcast, this should be it.
Hosts: Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler
Favorite Episode: #11.22, Examining Unconscious Bias
2. Beyond the Trope
This “podcast for nerds” is one of my favorites, and not just because I’ve appeared on it a couple of times. Beyond the Trope is hosted by three friends who are fellow SF/F writers based in Colorado. Most of their podcasts are interviews, though they occasionally workshop someone’s trunk novel or have a roundtable discussion about aspects of craft or the publishing industry.
Hosts: Giles Hash, Michelle Graham, and Emily Singer
Favorite Episode: #104, Pitching Contests with Dan Koboldt
3. The Once & Future Podcast
If you want to hear interviews with rising stars in science fiction and fantasy, this is the podcast for you. Urban fantasy author (and Penguin Random House employee) Anton Strout has interviewed Pat Rothfuss, Gail Carriger, Wes Chu, Victoria Schwab, and many others about “their books, writing, and general geekery” for the Once & Future Podcast.
Host: Anton Strout
Favorite Episode: #117, Interview with Brian Herbert
4. I Should be Writing & Ditch Diggers
Mur Lafferty’s I Should Be Writing podcast is one of the longest-running shows out there. The last time I checked, she was on episode #371. Her podcasts can be long, and have an unusual format. Usually, she starts with an update on her writing and personal life — she writes urban fantasy for Orbit and is a part of the multi-author Bookburners — and then often hosts an interview with an author.
Mur does another podcast called Ditch Diggers with Matt Wallace, a hilarious guy who writes the Sin du Jour series for Tor.com. They discuss the practical, day-to-day challenges of modern authors in traditional publishing. There are many nuggets of good advice, and honestly these two crack me up.
Hosts: Mur Lafferty (both) and Matt Wallace (DD)
Favorite Episode: #30, Networking, with Natalie Metzger
5. The Pub(lishing) Crawl Podcast
Publishing Crawl is a blog maintained by a group of authors and publishing professionals. The blog itself has been around a long time. Many of their former contributors are authors (like Leigh Bardugo and Susan Dennard) who’ve gone on to bigger things. The PubCrawl podcast is a more recent endeavor, but in the past year or so they’ve covered a number of topics of interest to aspiring authors, from querying to submissions to book promotion and sales. It’s somewhat slanted toward the young adult (YA) publishing, but still very informative.
Hosts: Hannah Fergesen and S. Jae-Jones
Favorite Episode: 1/26/17, Being On Submission
6. The Creative Penn
This is one of the first podcasts I subscribed to. Hosted by successful indie author and motivational speaker Joanna Penn, The Creative Penn has interviews and roundtable discussions about how to succeed as an author-entrepreneur. She interviews a wide variety of guests, many of them indie authors but also a number of experts in branding, marketing, creativity, and business development.
Full disclosure: I’m a sucker for a British accent. Joanna lives in England and spent a number of years in Australia, so I’d probably listen to her no matter the topic. But hey, she’s also a New York Times bestselling author, so she’s got some credibility, too.
Host: Joanna Penn
Favorite Episode: #307, How to Balance Art and Business with Tara Gentile
7. The Sell More Books Show
Speaking of indie authors, the Sell More Books Show is a weekly podcast that helps me keep tabs on the publishing industry. Each episode provides three writing/publishing tips and five industry news items collated from various places around the web. The hosts complement one another well: Bryan is an upbeat young guy and usually very positive, whereas Jim plays the role of the old curmudgeon. I enjoy the back-and-forth.
Admittedly, these guys are very pro-indie / anti-trad-pub (they often criticize traditional publishing views as “mahogany desk syndrome”) but their show is pretty informative. In fact, I even garnered a mention once when I posted the results of my Amazon SalesRank experiment.
Hosts: Jim Kukral and Bryan Cohen
Favorite Episode: #114, Amazon Imprints, Powerful Readers, and Truncated E-mails
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