(By Emily Prokop) A year ago, around this time, I was flipping through my email on my phone during my lunch hour. I didn’t get a lot of email for my show, The Story Behind, at the time. It’s a short history podcast about the origin stories of everyday objects, and even though I let my listeners know I’d love for them to reach out to me, it’s very rare they do. For the most part, my inbox was filled with spam offering editing services, hosting services, or services that can guarantee I rank in the top podcast charts.
But that day, there was an email from a publisher who had heard my podcast and thought that the episodes would make a great book. I researched the company and when no red flags went up, we set up a call to talk about creating a book and how the company worked. I wasn’t given an advance from them, but I would receive a large percentage from the books that were sold. It sounded legitimate and I signed a contract that gave me a deadline seven months away and a word count of 50,000.
Tip: You never know who’s listening! Keep producing good content and worry about stats later.
It had been a dream of mine to write a book since I was a kid. But it was one of those “someday” things I wanted to do. I didn’t even realize I had at least two books’ worth of content I had been writing every week just sitting on Google Drive after the episode was released. Thank goodness I kept all 100 scripts!
I could have made a book of all repurposed content, but that wouldn’t be fair to my audience. They would probably be the first people to buy the book and I knew it would be unfair to have them pay for something they had already listened to for free. I ended up repurposing 30 episodes, but the other 20 chapters were topics I hadn’t covered on the podcast.
Tip: If your show isn’t scripted, consider getting the audio transcribed through a service like Rev.com or Temi.com and use the transcriptions for notes while you write a book.
Much like when I was in college, I procrastinated about writing the book. I was already in the process of turning podcast editing into a full-time business. I had found out a few weeks earlier that I was going to be laid off from my full-time job at the end of the year.
Needless to say, getting that email from the publisher on my lunch break was the knock of opportunity I needed to boost my mood. But I still put it off, making empty promises to myself that “tomorrow would be the day I might have some time to write.”
Tip: Set a schedule for yourself. Make a non-negotiable date with yourself at least once a week to work on the book.
Finally, by May, I had booked a long weekend up in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, to focus completely on writing. But I didn’t get much accomplished. For one thing, I realized repurposing my scripts was a lot more than copying and pasting them into the book. I had to take away the audio crutches like a music transition to signal moving onto a new thought. I had to find the way to do that using only words. Luckily, after some stops and starts, I was able to piece together chapters.
I set up a Google Sheets spreadsheet with word count formulas so I could keep track of how much I had written. If I had some free time, but couldn’t write (I’m a mom of two), I spent the time pulling articles for research and putting them into a Trello board for the book. I finally had a system in place for repurposing old episodes and writing all-new chapters. I finally found a writing groove and got to work.
Tip: Get organized as early as possible! Pick a system that works for you and that you’ll use.
The week before my deadline, all my free time was spent writing. My husband took over with the kids and the house. And I minimized my client work so I could focus fully on the book that week. But then, three days before my deadline, a huge feeling a dread whacked itself into my head.
I felt paralyzed. I looked over the words I had written in the chapter I was working on and realized I hated every single one of them. My sentences sounded stupid. I was a hack. Who was I to write a history book when I got Cs in history in school because I couldn’t remember dates very well? Who would possibly buy a book from me since I’m not anything special! I barely register in podcast charts — who am I to even write a book based on this podcast?
This is called Impostor Syndrome. If you haven’t heard of it, you’re lucky. It’s an evil voice that tells you everything you are doing is wrong and makes you second guess everything. It made me even question doing the podcast anymore for a few moments.
But instead, I got behind the mic. I hadn’t put out an episode in a few weeks because I was so distracted with the book. My audience was there for me, though. They understood that my episodes would be late and that there was a lot going on this year. So I decided to be honest with them, instead of just issuing an apology in a Tweet or Facebook message.
Tip: Your audience should always come first. They are the lifeblood of your podcast and soon-to-be book.
I pressed “Record” and started talking to them about what was going on. I talked about what I was feeling. For the most part, my episodes are very factual. I throw in an anecdote here and there, but it’s very rare I get as personal as I did in that episode. I hesitated before pressing “Publish,” but did it quickly and shut the laptop before second guessing yet another thing that night.
The next morning I woke up to a barrage of messages. My audience — who I had previously only known about because of my podcast stats — had started filling my inbox with support messages! I had tweets regarding my episode from people I had never heard from before. I had people go to the trouble of trying to find my personal Facebook profile among all the other Emily Prokops out there. It completely blew me away, as well as that Impostor Syndrome.
It was very much like the ending of It’s a Wonderful Life, only it was set in a virtual age when the bells that gave angels their wings are probably now notification sounds. And that was how I turned my podcast into a book.