The following is the full transcript of Remarkable Episode 16: Mur Lafferty on Being Vulnerable and Doing Work That Matters
In this week’s episode of Remarkable I speak with an award winning podcaster who was inducted into the Academy of Podcasters Hall of Fame in 2015, and who started podcasting 11 years earlier, in December, 2004. She has produced a number of her own podcasts, and has hosted other shows for the likes of Tor.com, the on-demand publisher Lulu, and Angry Robot Books.
She’s also a successful science fiction author and a 2013 recipient of the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, which has also been awarded to authors such as George R. R. Martin and Cory Doctorow.
In this episode, she shares what it was like to start podcasting in the early days, how podcasting has impacted her writing career, and the benefits of being open and vulnerable with your audience.
You’ll learn the negative side of focusing on download numbers and comments, why she no longer accepts sponsorships for her show, and the pros and cons of listening to common advice doing a solo show.
She’s the author of The Shambling Guide to New York City and its sequel, Ghost Train to New Orleans. She’s co-host of the podcast Ditch Diggers, and host of the podcast, I Should Be Writing, which is one of the longest running podcasts in existence today, without further ado, here’s Mur Lafferty.
Dave: So Mur, welcome to the Remarkable Podcast.
Mur: Thanks for having me on.
Dave: Yeah, thanks for your time today. Looking forward to getting to know you and learning more about your writing and your podcasting. So we got connected through a mutual friend of ours, Jay Posey, who’s a good friend.
Dave: And he suggested that I check out what you’re doing. He is a big fan of yours, so I am looking forward to hearing more about what all you’ve got going on, but the thing that I am most fascinated about, I guess, is that you’ve been podcasting, I think, since December of 2004?
Mur: Yep, been awhile.
Dave: Let’s go back in time a little bit. How did you get into podcasting back then?
Mur: I was just chatting with a friend online and I asked him what he’d been up to and he said he was really getting into this new podcasting thing and I asked him, “What’s that?”
He told me and I thought it sounded awesome, so that was October. So I took some time to try to figure it out.
Mur: Way back in the day, we didn’t have really easy creation of RSS and iTunes didn’t support it at all. So the learning curve was a little steeper.
Garage Band didn’t have a podcast output thing. Audacity was buggy as hell. Up hill both ways – all that kind of stuff.
Dave: So did you have some technical background that helped you? How did you manage to kind of wade through all that?
Mur: I was pretty much self-taught. I mean, I don’t have a huge technical background. I was doing web design in the ‘90s, so I had that going for me.
And I’ve been blogging since the ‘90s, so I wasn’t completely ignorant, but I didn’t have a whole lot of sound experience, so I had to kind of figure that out
Dave: Cool, and how did you decide on what to podcast about?
Mur: Well, I’d been writing sort of. My first show was called Geek Fu Action Grip and I’d been writing about – sort of like non-fiction essays on being a woman and being a geek and being a parent.
No one seemed to want to buy those kinds of things back then. You couldn’t sell that kind of essay to NPR.
So I figured I was writing them and having fun so I might as well just, I figured I would do a 5-10 minute audio blog and then read an essay of mine.
And that’s how it got started. About eight months later, Mike Stackpole, the science fiction and fantasy author, had been doing, I’m thinking, the first writing podcast.
It was called The Secrets.
Mur: And he was generally repurposing his newsletter that he did for people, only reading it into the podcast.
And I said, “You know, that’s great having somebody from your point of view give expert advice, but no one is really doing something specifically for beginners and addressing problems that beginners have”.
Beginners problems don’t have to do with craft and characterization and conflict.
Beginners problems are, ”How do I find time to write?” ”I got rejected and therefore my life is over.” ”I got rejected and now I clearly am on a blacklist that the editor has on their wall of people who suck at writing and we’ll never ever buy from”.
These are the problems beginners have and I was at a point in my career where I still hadn’t sold anything, but I was hearing a lot of people talk about stuff that were just plain wrong.
People who would get easily discouraged by rejection, stuff like that. People who said that they couldn’t find time to write, although, “Have you seen the new Survivor?” That kind of thing.
Dave: Yeah, right.
Mur: I figured I was at a beginner/intermediate level enough to tell other people that, “Look, things are tough yeah, but you know if we just keep going it’ll be ok.”
And so, that’s how I started, I Should Be Writing” in August 2005.
Dave: And did you end the other show or did you do both of them?
Mur: No, I did both of them for awhile and then after a couple of years, I was just so excited about podcasting, I kind of took on too much.
And when my daughter went into kindergarten I got a day job. So I was doing a whole bunch of podcasts and a day job and parenting and that’s when I realized that I had to cut something.
I had to trim down my responsibilities and “I should be writing” was carrying me further and was helpful to people and frankly less work than the other one because I didn’t have to write a full essay for the I Should be Writing.”
So that was how I chose which one to keep.
Dave: Yeah, and how did you go about distributing your podcasts? Where did you post it and how did you get listeners at that point?
Mur: Well, back in that day there were fewer than 1,000 podcasts so we were all hungry for content, so hungry.
I mean, NPR wasn’t podcasting. None of the big corporate podcasts, none of the big celebrity podcasts you see now, none of those were up there.
Mur: So everybody was really hungry for content.
If you could get on Adam Curry’s radar and be mentioned on his show, or you could be featured on Podcast Ally, which was the first place you could go to list your podcasts and people could rate and it was ‘vote everyday’.
Mur: And that really sucked because every podcast you listened to would remind you to go and vote everyday for their show!
So it was mainly Podcast Ally, if you could get on the radar of somebody who had a couple thousand listeners that was helpful.
Dave: So were you actively trying to connect with other podcasters and interview each other and things like that?
Mur: Maybe not at the beginning. I was just trying to listen and – I can’t even remember.
I just remember I contacted Adam Curry and he put my little 20 second audio clip on his show and that was cool.
Mur: I guess other people searched for interesting things on Podcast Ally and found my stuff, so at first I built an audience just because there were lots of people wanting content.
I’d like to think that quality kept the audience where they were, but really back then people were listening to everything because there was almost nothing to listen to.
Dave: Yeah. So did you have any sense of how many people were listening and engaging with you early on?
Or was it you just knew that that’s what you wanted to do so you kept going for years and years until you realized that you had a fanbase or something like that?
Mur: Well, it gradually grew. I don’t try to worry about my numbers right now or my downloaders because if I do that it’ll just – I’ll just get obsessed with it.
Mur: I know people who are just like, “Oh well, I posted this one thing on Twitter and lost three followers.”
I’m like, “How can you focus on that?” That would depress me everyday. I would think about everything I post as like, am I going to lose a follower because of this?
And, you know, I got a lot of listeners at the beginning and then it plateaued – and then it gradually grew and then it plateaued and I realized I was focusing too much on that.
So I just decided, I’m just going to make the stuff and you know, as my audience grew and people learned what I was writing and I started releasing fiction, I would get lots of downloads.
I did a Kickstarter for some podcast fiction I did back in 2011 and that was very successful.
Right now I’m doing a Patreon, which isn’t paying my mortgage but you know, it’s a nice bit of money in my pocket.
So, I know that the support is out there, I just try not to worry too much about the numbers because I’ll just get depressed, and I’ll find some reason to be upset about that.
Dave: Sure, sure. Well, in ignoring the numbers have you had opportunities to engage with your audience? Or have you gotten feedback.
Do they email you? Or how do you stay in touch with them, if you do?
Mur: Oh sure, they email all the time. I get a lot of questions for the show or I get people talking about how the show has affected their lives.
Right now, I’m doing two shows. One for beginner writers that’s clean and friendly and one for more accomplished writers and we talk with my friend Matt Wallace.
We talk sort of no holds barred about the business side of writing and it is not clean.
It’s funny because “I Should be Writing” has more listeners. This is why I don’t want to obsess about it, because I think about these things. But people talk more about Ditch Diggers.
Mur: So Matt and I released a new show and lots of people on Twitter talk about it, “I Should be Writing” comes out and I guess maybe because it’s 11 years old it gets more downloads.
So I’m just gotta make the stuff… I’m not going to worry too much about it. But yeah, people email all the time.
Dave: Have you had any success stories?
Mur: Oh yeah! Yeah.
Dave: That’s awesome. Any one particular story stand out where somebody maybe was struggling early on but over time you helped them kind of break through?
Blake Charlton, whose is a strange man who has done both writing of a fantasy series and getting a medical doctorate. So he would write a novel and then go back to residency for a couple years and then write another novel.
He did tell me that he was an early listener and sent me a copy of his book, so yeah there have been a number of success stories, it’s very exciting.
And people keep telling me, like emailing me, telling me that they got a new deal which is just the best feeling in the world.
Dave: Yeah, that’s awesome. So how did your writing and podcasting kind of play out with each other? I mean, were you writing before you started with the podcasting or did you start podcasting because you were starting to write?
Mur: Well I didn’t publish my own fiction for a while, I was worried about the rights involved with that. But in 2001 I got laid off, or 2000, somewhere around there, I got laid off from my job and just decided, you know, I’ve been wanting to write for years, I haven’t done it, maybe this can be the kick in the pants to get me to start doing it.
So I started writing for role playing games. I had a contact who got me in touch with people and so I started getting some jobs there and so that was my first bit of professional writing. Then a couple years later podcasting happened and I was writing fiction and not getting it published in the meantime so it was..
But the way the internet has gone in the past 15 years, I would not have the career I have now if not for podcasting. Because even though I don’t publish a lot of fiction right now, via podcast…people know me.
I am doing that whole like bring a platform to your publisher and say, “Hey, see these thousands of people? They follow me.” I can’t guarantee that they’ll all buy my book but I have a large following where some other people who may buy do not.
And you know, I didn’t set out to do that, for my grand plan, but you know it worked out really nicely.
Dave: Yeah, that’s great. That was going to be my next question. So having the podcast really helped you get your writing career off the ground, is that right?
Mur: Oh definitely! One of my favorite anecdotes is Lev Grossman, The Creator of the Magicians, which is now a TV show. I saw him at a World Con and asked him if I could do an interview with him and he was up for the Cambell Award that year, and his second book had just come out and had just hit the New York Times Bestseller List.
So we talked about that and we hit it off and he asked me if he’d see me at the parties that night and I said, “Well, the parties that you’re going to are invite only, so I don’t have an invite to those parties, so no.”
And he’s like, “Well I’m not taking anybody, you could be my plus one.” And I’m like, “Well twist my arm, sure.”
So, at the cocktail party before the awards ceremony, I was standing in line for a drink and started chatting to the woman standing next to me, who turned out to be an editor at Orbit. And you know, four months later she bought my book.
So, you know, I can’t say…I would like to say that the book stood on its own, but when you’re in publishing every little bit of networking you can do is very important.
So the fact that you know, I interviewed Lev, got me to that party, which got me in line next to my editor and then we hit it off. All those little things helped. The book had to stand on its own, but those things certainly didn’t hurt.
Dave: Sure. And that was your first book? First published?
Mur: That was my first professionally published book. I had a small press book in 2008 and I’ve published a lot of stuff via podcast and kindle between those times.
Dave: Yeah. Maybe let’s take a quick step back for those listening that don’t know who you are. Tell us about your writing. What types of books you are writing – I know you are an award winning writer, so tell us a little bit about that.
Mur: Well the books that people have probably seen are The Shambling Guide to New York City and Ghost Train to New Orleans, which is a humorous…not like slap-stick humor, but amusing urban fantasy story about a woman who writes travel books for monsters.
Those got published in 2013 and 2014. My new book will be out early 2017 and it is called, Six Wakes. It is a science fiction thriller type murder mystery in space. I’ve written superhero stories, I’ve written afterlife stories.
That’s probably…the afterlife stories is the weird thing that probably built my audience up hugely but no agent could ever sell it. So it had this huge following and I made almost $20,000 on a Kickstarter and yet no publisher would touch it, which was just very, very weird to me.
Dave: Wow. Yeah.
Mur: That series of novellas is about two people who die and go to the afterlife and don’t think it’s all that, was probably my most popular thing between 2006 and 2011. So yeah, I write science fiction and fantasy. I try to inject a level of fun into it, I’m heavily influenced by Douglas Adams and Connie Willis.
Yeah, I won the John W. Campbell award for Best New Author in 2013 and it’s a strange award because it’s kind of an award for potentia,l because when you make your first pro sale that’s when…as they say…the Campbell clock starts ticking and you have a two year window to win the award.
And after that, you’re too much of a pro. My first pro sale was a 1500 word story, which is tiny.
Mur: But I think because I had built up an audience the way I had, I already had people that were fans so when I became eligible I won the second year of eligibility. And I think a lot of that was because of my podcast following and not the 1500 word story that I was “nominated” for.
It’s not the story that was nominated they just try to see who is going to be doing things in the genre in the years to come. And so that was possibly going to be the biggest honor of my life. It’s a huge huge deal. It was a huge honor and I am very happy to have won it.
Dave: Yeah, I took a look at Wikipedia just to see previous or past winners and you’re in really good company.
Dave: Yeah, a lot of great writers. I’m curious, and this is the conversation that Jay and I have had from time to time, but how does your audience for the podcast, which is about writing, overlap much with your readership, the people that buy your books?
I mean, a lot of the people buying your books – are they also interested in writing?
Mur: I think the first one was truer than the second one. The way I understand it – I could be wrong, but it’s good to have…I mean, it’s vital to have a core fanbase that follows you, the person, and wants to know what you are up to and is excited about all of your projects, whether they’re writing or not.
But you’re going to be big and make money by the just average people who walk by your book in the store or see your book in Amazon and say, “Ah, that looks interesting! I’ll pick it up!” So, you know, if I could get a whole bunch of people who don’t know who I am but are still interested in my book and pick it up, I think that will make me bigger than a huge…a core fanbase.
Core fanbase…vital. If I had the core fanbase I probably wouldn’t even get to the point to have a book on the shelves don’t get me wrong, but I’m very grateful to all my listeners. I know they all don’t buy the book, it may not be to their taste. I don’t buy the books of all the people I like.
Dave: Yeah, right.
Mur: Don’t tell them that, but…so I don’t expect anybody to buy my book, in that way it’s kind of like madness. But I think, I actually got very excited when I met somebody. Somebody showed up to a coffee clutch at World Con (and if you don’t know what coffee clutches are…to your listeners you sign up to go and hang out and have coffee with an author at a big table. So it’s like ten people get to go and you sit around and just talk to the author.)
So I had somebody show up who had never heard of my podcast and he did not understand why I was absolutely delighted that I had broken out to get fans beyond the people listening. So that was great. I was very excited.
Mur: And you know if everybody that bought my book got interested in my podcast and listened I’d be very happy, but I know that not everybody that buys books want to be writers and so I have some non-writers who listen but not very many.
Dave: In your life, is podcast or writing – is one of those more important than the other, if you had to get rid of one?
Mur: Honestly I’ve wanted to be a writer since…I thought I wanted to be a writer since I was in eighth grade, and then my father brought me a stapled together book from like first grade of stories that I had written.
I don’t know if I’ll ever quit podcasting because I’ve never ever found an outlet that has helped so many people. And it’s very hard for me to speak with such confidence and ego…but seriously it’s like every time I think, “god, have I said everything? I’ve said everything that I have to say…I’ve said it over and over again. Are these people sick of it?”
And I keep getting emails saying, “You know, you helping me keep going is what made me keep going…you podcasting about your depression made me feel less shameful about my own and I got help”.
You know, I get this – not every day – but I get it steadily. And so I realized that my show is helping people and I’ve never done anything this meaningful.
However, writing has been my dream since I was a child and I’ve never not wanted to be a writer, even when I didn’t think I was good enough and I wasn’t doing it. I still…that was still my big dream.
So if I had to give it up, I would probably give up podcasting.
Dave: Wow…sorry to make you choose.
Mur: Breaks my heart to say that…but it’s true.
Dave: Speaking of podcasting, have you changed the structure of your show over the years or have you pretty much been…or fairly consistent since day one?
Mur: Yeah, I’ve changed some things. First I tried to say I was going to talk for three episodes and then I would get a veteran on for the fourth episode to tell me where I went wrong – not to tell me where I went wrong, but just to give an expert’s opinion based on, you know, referencing the things I talked about before.
Mur: That didn’t last too long. Right now I do an episode with a guest, and then I do a feedback episode. That’s kind of worked for me swapping back and forth.
I’ve done detailed show notes and I’ve done fancy theme songs and then I realized that adding production time and show notes writing was stopping me from producing more.
And so I cut those out. I hate it…I hate the fact that I did but you know, the “I have to sit down and edit my podcast” is one more mental job. And then “Oh, but I have to make sure that sure that I do this, this, and this” it’s like, “Oh god, I don’t want to do that today.”
And then I end up not doing it.
Mur: I realize that if it’s going to come out it’s going to have to come out a little less professional than it was a few years ago. No one’s complained, you know, and I still cut out all the crap. I cut out my mistakes and stuff like that, but it’s a little bit more raw now than it was.
I stopped doing promos and advertising once a certain level crossed in my Patreon. And Ditch Diggers was a big change.
We had been doing that for about a year and a half now and it’s been delightful because – I realized I enjoyed doing my show on my own because honestly it’s about me talking about the problems I have, trying to tell other people they can get past these problems that I have, while really telling myself that I can get past these problems that I have.
Mur: But you know, if you look at all the most popular podcasts, almost none of them are similar shows. People like to hear other people talking and riffing on each other and so when I started it was a lot of fun and it was nice to be able to relax.
I mean, I have a kid. I know how important it is to be listening to something in the car that you know you aren’t going to have to suddenly scramble for the volume control as somebody drops an f bomb.
I swear like a sailor – but I try to respect that. But it’s nice having the show where I can relax a little bit more. And Matt does job as co-host and he does all the QA show notes writing, so that’s why if you look at the Ditch Diggers show notes, they are very detailed because I’m not doing them.
Mur: So I do the recording and the editing and Matt does the “you made a mistake here” and here are the show notes. So we make a good team.
Dave: Yeah. I like that. I’ve listened to several episodes of your show and I like how it’s you, it’s your personality.
A lot of it’s monologue. What would your advice be to someone that’s starting out that feels like they have something to say about their industry or their art but maybe is hesitant because there’s a lot of talk online if you’re going to look about how to start a podcast then “don’t do this and you should do that”…you know, don’t ever do these types of things.
What would your advice be to someone who feels like they have something to say and maybe they just want to do a monologue. Would you encourage that?
Mur: Of course. Yeah, one thing I did not anticipate is that podcasting is the intimacy of having your voice in someone’s ears. There’s something much more intimate about that than reading a blog.
When you speak and you have emotion behind your words and you talk about, you know, if you have things to say and you admit to vulnerabilities you tell people, “I’m human and I’m still getting by.”
And people respond to that. You know, I’m aware of the stigma of mental illness and depression but I still talk about mine because I wasn’t – like when I finally got a treatment for depression is when I started actually producing, you know.
I started getting treatment for depression in Oct-Nov 2004 and I started podcasting in December of 2004 so it’s like a direct correlation. So I try to fight the stigma of the shame of mental illness and I try to fight the stigma of “well you need to be damaged in some way in order to write well” or “you…if you do get medication for whatever is ailing you it will stifle your artistic brilliance” and I think all that is BS.
I know there are drugs with side effects but you can’t lump everything about illness and mental illness and all that into “I can’t get help because it will kill my creativity.” You just can’t do that.
It’s like talking about all this, while prefacing the fact that I am not a doctor, making that clear, just talking about my personal experience, that resonates a lot with people. When I talk about the mistakes I’ve made or the problems I’ve had in my career, that resonates with people.
So show people confidence, but don’t underestimate the fact that if you show some vulnerability people will really relate to you as a human, and as someone like them, and that it’s hard to be vulnerable.
But I’ve seen so much more come back to me from being vulnerable than doing some sort of bravato, some just sort of generic joe about something outside of myself, like…god, I can’t think of anything. I guess I’m thinking of like car podcasts or you know.
Dave: Right, right.
Mur: And those are fine and I’m sure you can put your own sort of emotion and some vulnerabilities if you’re going to be talking about your favorite things. But I guess just try not to be so sterile and polished. I think one of the things is the sort of raw human feel of it.
Dave: Yeah, yeah. And that’s great. Great advice and I applaud you for your openness in talking about all the personal things and depression and things like that. I think, people need to hear that. It’s not something that’s talked about enough so I applaud you for that, as a side note there.
Mur: Thank you.
Dave: You mentioned that you at some point had some sponsors, but you’ve since switched over to Patreon. How did you go about getting sponsors? Did you have people approach you at some point of did you kind of go out and thought to yourself, “You know, I need to bring in a little bit of revenue from this to keep going so I’m going to go find people”.
Mur: Usually they approached me. I am hosted by Libsyn and good friends with one of the VPs at Libsyn, Liberated Syndication. Very good podcast host. And I’m old friends with a person there and he would bring me some sponsors.
That worked out well, but I could never count on it and it always felt like suddenly corporate disingenuous to be going, “By the way, let’s talk about our sponsor and here’s the ad I have to read about our sponsor that I would probably never use because I work from home and this is a corporate thing but I have to tell you how awesome it is!”
It’s not that it was a bad product, it’s just that it just felt weird. Whereas now I can just tell people, “Here’s what I do, if you like it, support it!”
Dave: Yeah, so were you hesitant about getting sponsors at that point?
Mur: No. I liked the podcast making money. And again I’m not saying that they were bad products, I’m just saying, it just felt a little strange. A couple of times I did approach people, like I approached Lulu several years ago, for their self publishing company.
Dave: Uh huh.
Mur: Or print on demand company and approached them for sponsorship and they gave me some and that was neat. So a couple of times I’ve done that.
I’ve never really approached publishers, which maybe I should’ve done but sometimes authors would support the show for me to talk about their book. They’re not paying for interviews understand, it would be a commercial for the book.
Mur: I don’t require people to pay for interviews. I don’t do that.
Mur: But, sometimes people would advertise their books on my show.
Dave: So how did you get into Patreon? How long have you been doing that?
Mur: Two years maybe. One year, at least one, maybe two years. I think it’s two years. Yeah, wow! I just, you know, I heard about it and I liked. I did Kickstarter in 2011 which is crazy how far away that suddenly is.
But Kickstarter is now such a production. Kickstarter campaigns require so much more work now than they did before. I mean you’ve got people who they don’t just list stretch goals, they’ve got art for their stretch goals.
I know no graphic design at all so when I look at these things and I see all these attractive art describing stretch goals and all this stuff, it just makes me tired.
Mur: People just don’t list things, they gotta -you know, I didn’t mind doing a video but I minded just the idea of everything people are doing for Kickstarters now just make me tired and that’s a lot of work in a big concentrated like two or three month period of your life.
Whereas Patrion is a lot more low key and it’s ongoing so I’ve found it very rewarding. So some people don’t take advantage of their rewards, which confuses me, but then I realize that other people I support, I don’t always take advantage of their rewards either.
Sometimes I’m just happy to support what they do. So I suppose if I look at it that way, but the people who do take advantage of it; I connect with a lot of people on a mentor level, on a workshop level, and it’s really rewarding. It’s a lot of fun to talk to people about their careers coming up.
Dave: Yeah, so for somebody that might not be fully aware, so Patreon people can donate through the company and you have a little badge on your website and then you offer those people a little something extra behind the scenes or something like that. So what are you offering your patrons at this point?
Mur: I offer access to all I Should be Writing archives, which is pretty large at this point.
Mur: I offer sort of a “I am your hotline” kind of thing if you have any questions at all. You don’t have to wait for a feedback show, just email me.
I try to do a monthly hangout, where people can just show up on Google Hangout and talk to me. Another level I do is I offer two meetings a month for like half an hour each to talk to somebody about their work, not on a workshop level, but just “how are things going,” “what are you working on” and things like that.
Mur: At one level I’m offering a workshop so everybody at that level can send me their work and then we all get together and run a Google Hangout and do a workshop on it.
Higher levels get like “Tuckerizations”, which means that they get put in my books, their names get put in my books as characters.
I try to do like VIP stuff at Cons…if you happen to be at the same Con as me we’ll hang out, I’ll make sure you get a seat in the front row at my reading or something like that.
Dave: That’s really cool. It actually – not only do they get value out of it, but you get value out of continuing to build those relationships and their loyalty and you get to connect with your readers and your listeners and things like that.
Mur: Yeah. Exactly.
Dave: Yeah, that’s awesome. And so once that took over the ads spot you just dropped the ads altogether?
Dave: That’s great. That’s great. And are you picking up…do you advertise Patreon or do you just let people stumble across it?
Mur: Oh I try to mention it in every show and there’s a badge on my site but that’s about it.
Dave: Yeah and I just asked for somebody that maybe has not considered that, but you’ve been real pleased with the service?
Mur: Oh yeah.
Dave: That’s great. Are there any other things that you are doing to promote your podcast? I mean, do you use social media at all?
Mur: I use Twitter a lot. I left Facebook a couple of years ago just because I hated everything about it except for the ability to connect with people you love.
Mur: So I try to post on Twitter frequently.
My blog posts automatically to Twitter, so everytime I post a show it shows up on Twitter. I don’t usually talk about the blog, I just talk about myself, but Twitter is something else I started really early on, 2007.
So that’s been…built up, I guess kind of a big audience, sometimes I see people with smaller audience get a lot more traction for when they say something.
I have been stepping away a little bit more because either I feel that Twitter is either I’m on it all day or I’m going to do some work and then check in in the evening. I’ve not found a happy medium for that.
But I do like social media and it has been a great place for me to connect with people.
Dave: Have you used it at all for just sheerly promoting your podcast? Do you go out and try to promote your episodes and get new listeners? Or has your audience grown mostly because of word of mouth?
Mur: I’d say it’s word of mouth. I think I’ve tried a couple things, like I did a give away…you just post about the show and tag it ISBW and it was a Dutch thing, that was using the hashtag ISBW so there was like…you know, you would just see more people talking about writing and then you’d see Dutch, and then you’d see people talk about writing, or Dutch.
Well that was a hashtag fail right there. But I’ve done it from time to time, but I prefer word of mouth, people follow me, they’re amused by me, hopefully they’ll check out what else I do. I’m kind of lazy when it comes to marketing, I need to step it up a bit.
Dave: Yeah, well I think, you know, I’ve interviewed several other podcasters who talk about the consistency aspect, and so just the fact that you’ve been doing it for so long and you’ve remained consistent, I think, that just goes a long way, to showing up and being there for your audience and then they bring in other people.
Mur: Yeah. I’m not as consistent as I’d like to be, but I haven’t quit so there’s a consistency that I have.
Dave: Have you gone a period of time where there was, you know, several weeks or months without putting up a show and maybe you weren’t sure if you were coming back at all?
Mur: Not necessarily. I never thought I wouldn’t come back, but I’m often plagued by a self doubt that tells me I have nothing to say or that people aren’t interested.
Besides the years of proof I have that they are interested, I still get the “I don’t know what I’m going to say on the podcast today” and then I say that in what feels to me like two weeks, then I look at the blog and I haven’t put up a show in two months and then I think, “Oh I should do that!”
Mur: So that feels a little bit…that’s something I struggle with, that I can’t seem to get over, which is kind of bad. But then once you realize that it can’t be beaten then you can just accept the fact that it’s in your life and just try to move around it.
I’m not going to break through this wall so I’m going to see if I can move around it kind of thing. So, no, I’ve never thought that I wouldn’t come back, but there have been dry spells.
Dave: Are you currently putting out a show on the same day of the week, every week?
Mur: No, I put out shows when I think about it and have the time to record it and have the mental energy to edit it and post it. It’s very shameful.
I shouldn’t talk about it like this. I would love to come up with a regular schedule and I actually have a business manager now and we’re working on tweaking my schedule to see what works best for me.
So I would love to record and release on the same day every week. But I am not really good at doing it.
Dave: And when you sit down to record a show, do you have a script or ideas in mind? Or things written down or do you just sit down and start talking?
Mur: I usually have a topic in mind. That’s about it. I definitely don’t have a script.
Dave: So it’s kind of like an unfiltered blog.
Mur: Yeah. Pretty much. I try to cut out the stumbles and the long umms and silences. Overall it’s just like an audio blog.
Dave: I think that’s great. I love finding success stories like yours that kind of go against the grain of some of the common “wisdom”.
So the common wisdom is that you have to do a show, again, not a solo show. You want to produce the same 20-30 minute episodes once a week, produce it at the same time, all these different things.
I think whatever works for you is what works. Do you think there’s other advice that’s just wrong, that you see going around in the podcast world?
Mur: I don’t think that advice is wrong. I’m trying to think of what I do and don’t like. I am not a big fan of comments section. I don’t have them on my blog. I’m not a big fan of forums.
So people who say you want to increase your community, blah blah blah, by doing that, I’m like ‘nope, it’s too much. It causes too much anxiety in me.’
I’ve done forums, I’ve done comment sections, and I’ve found that it is not for me. Especially if things get toxic.
So I don’t think that your own mental health is worth doing something you don’t want to do because someone suggests it’s the thing you should do to build an audience.
I agree that doing something consistent gets the most audience. Which is why I’m anguishing about the fact that I don’t do that. But I mean, people like to know what they’re going to get. One of the great freedoms of podcasting is that you can talk for as long as you want.
On the one hand, people want to know ‘am I going to be able to listen to this show on my commute? Because my commute is 45 minutes, I’m going to pick a 45 minute show that I know is usually 45 minutes.’
That’s why consistency is good. Even though it’s fun to have that freedom, people are used to a 30 minute television show, or an hour long television show. They’re used to movies that take about 100 minutes to two hours type thing.
They like knowing that a new show is going to come out every 7 days. That all is good advice, it’s just hard to stick to. The only advice you need to follow is you have to create.
How you create is up to you. People say ‘oh, you have to write every day.’ But some people write 10,000 words on Saturday and Sunday and it works for them.
Some people say don’t use adverbs. Well, you know what? J.K. Rowling did just fine using adverbs. She did dandy using adverbs.
All these hard and fast rules. Really? The only rule is you have to put the words on the paper. You have to record the words. You have to release the book or submit the book and you have to put the podcast online. Everything after that is your own mileage-may-vary kind of thing.
I think that a podcast longer than an hour and a half is a horrible idea. And I feel guilty when Matt and I get into a long detailed interview for so long, because I wouldn’t want to listen to it.
I don’t even know if it’s still going on because I stopped listening to it because it was over two hours, but there was, back in the day, there was a board gaming podcast that commonly went 2-3 hours every week.
And I was just like how can anyone listen to this? This is crap! I hated it! So I stopped listening, but it was one of the most popular shows and it had a huge following of rabid game fans who wanted to listen to 3 hours of game talk a week.
So the mileage may vary for the creator and also for the listener. Because I say that the perfect length of a podcast is your listeners commute time which you have no control over.
So just make what you want to make and they’ll decide whether they want to listen to you during their 10 minute commute or their hour long commute. Whatever.
Dave: Yeah, have you ever gotten feedback from your listeners that’s caused you to change how you do your show or how long or how frequent or anything?
Mur: I’m trying to think. I have not gotten a lot of requests to change the show. I’ve gotten some comments about my writing, people want me to change things, which is kind of funny because it was after it had already been written.
Mur: Not that I can remember.
Dave: Do you listen to a lot of podcasts?
Mur: Not as much as I should, anymore. I’ve gotten into listening to audiobooks a lot. So, usually I pick up audiobooks.
And I feel very guilty because I create podcasts and hope that people will listen to mine and I have like, some podcasts that I want to listen to, but I’ve got backlogs of like 50 episodes on my phone because I haven’t listened to them.
I do enjoy Writing Excuses, and let’s see, Manic Mondays which is a funny music podcast, every Monday. He’s consistent. He does every Monday. It’s called Manic Monday so he has to, that’s by Tom Rockwell.
Yeah, those are the two that leap to mind.
Dave: What do you think makes a podcast remarkable?
Mur: I don’t know? I think the ones that – when you get your audience to care about what you have to say. And to care enough to tell you what they think.
Not just feedback like I thought you did a good show, but just that you sparked something in them to make them either think something or do something.
Or you make them – you know, I’m trying to be remarkable by encouraging people to follow their dreams to write no matter how old they are no matter how crappy they think they are.
And I think that if you get people to care. Does that make sense?
Dave: Yeah, I think that’s a great answer. Great answer. So tell us again about your new book that’s coming out?
Mur: It is a clone murder mystery in space. Six clones aboard a ship are murdered and when they wake up in their new bodies they have to figure out which one of them murdered them all, and they’re driving a generational starship, and they’re the only living crew.
That’s my thriller. It’s called Six Wakes. It’s available for pre-order now.
You can buy it early 2017.
Dave: Is that on Amazon so if somebody wants to go check that out they can go ahead? So everybody listening please support Mur, and preorder a copy of her book.
And where are you on twitter? Where can people connect with you?
Mur: MightyMur. M-U-R. On the web I’m at Murverse.com. Like Universe, only MUR.
Dave: Excellent. Well, I do show notes page, so I will include those things so people can connect with you and maybe say hi.
Dave: Well, Mur, thank you so much for your time. I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s been great to get your extensive history. You’ve been podcasting longer than anyone else I’ve interviewed.
Mur: Thank you. It’s been a lot of fun talking to you.
Dave: I look forward to keeping in touch. Thanks again. Take Care.
Dave: Bye bye.