In 2020, over 155 million people listened to a podcast every week. And whatever your niche interest, whether it's food history or wild swimming, there's a show to match it, most likely hosted by an expert enthusiast in that area. The book world is no exception. Authors Elizabeth Day, Gillian McAllister and Daisy Buchanan all host very popular and much downloaded podcasts. So, what's in it for them?
Caroline O'Donoghue, author of two novels for adults and a YA novel, All Our Hidden Gifts (out with Walker Books in February), gets approximately 30,000 downloads per month on her podcast, Sentimental Garbage, which started in 2018 and deep dives into commercial women's fiction classics of the past.
"There are lots of novelists in the world, and a novelist who has their own channel where they can speak directly to their readers, or directly to the people who are interested in their voice, is extremely valuable for being able to build up that person-to-person relationship with an audience," she says. "It's such a democratic way for authors to create their own enterprise."
O'Donoghue describes going to The Miniaturist author Jessie Burton's house to talk about the novels of Jackie Collins for an episode of the show between lockdowns last year as "a tonic".
"To me, the most difficult thing about my life as a novelist is the lack of variety. Being at your desk at the same time every day, and a novel takes a year or two, there's not really much checking in with people throughout that time; you're trusted to get on with it," she says. "For me, talking to the same people, over and over again about the same stuff, I find very nullifying."
Ciara Geraghty set up BookBirds with fellow writer and friend Caroline Grace-Cassidy last summer, because "creativity hadn't been brilliant over lockdown but the podcast was a great distraction and we had such a laugh". The duo reread Patricia Scanlan's City Girl as it celebrated its 30th anniversary since publication and have subsequently discussed Sharon Owens' The Teahouse on Mulberry Street.
A future episode will see them delve into Edna O'Brien's The Country Girls. Geraghty, whose new novel, Make Yourself at Home, is out with HarperCollins in February, and whose writing has been likened to Jojo Moyes, says the podcast doesn't feel like work.
"It just feels like serious fun," she says. "It's a book club where we actually talk about the book!"
For debut author Jamie O'Connell, his podcast Good Luck with the Book, which he hosts with friend and former colleague Sarah Cassidy, is a way of keeping him connected to the world of publishing, an industry in which he worked for several years.
He met co-host Cassidy when they worked at Irish publishers O'Brien Press together.
"One of the big pluses of the podcast is that it's allowed me to stay connected to all these wonderful people I've worked with," he says. "I love books, and on a personal level, I want to know what's happening in the world of books. So, to have a definite reason to contact people and hear about the new books coming out and engage with new voices is a big focus of the podcast. We give space to debuts because we really just want it to be a contribution to the industry."
Sponsorship may be the holy grail in podcast-land, but all three authors describe their podcasts as passion projects or labours of love, with many precious hours devoted to creating them. O'Donoghue is part of a podcast network called Acast, which automatically plugs advertisements into her shows, but the money is poor, she says. "Podcast monetisation rewards scale - people with millions of listeners - and that's where they tend to make real money," she explains.
"What they don't take into account, however, is that there are podcasts, like my own, which appeal to a very specific audience, and even though that audience might be smaller, their relationship with the host tends to be deeper because the host is so simpatico with their interests. So, when the host recommends something, it tends to go further."
O'Donoghue says each episode of her show takes around 10-15 hours to create. She does her own editing using the software GarageBand, which is then mixed by her friend Hannah Varrall, who is an audio producer, in order to get the sound right.
Geraghty and Grace-Cassidy have technical help from Grace-Cassidy's husband's colleagues in Document Films and they commissioned a local artist, Becca Kelly to design the artwork, while its jingle was composed by Eugene Peelo.
Meanwhile, O'Connell, whose novel Diving for Pearls is out with Doubleday in May, says his advice is to keep it simple. "I'm a fan of YouTube how-to videos and it's very much do it yourself."
Books for Breakfast
A weekly look at fiction and poetry hosted by Irish poets and writers Peter Sirr and Enda Wyley. The hosts also feature the 'toaster challenge' where guest writers are given the time it takes to make toast to talk about a book which has resonated with them.
Journalist and author Daisy Buchanan (pictured) scrutinises what's on various authors' bookshelves in You're Booked, a podcast "for literary nosy parkers". Previous guests have included Dawn French, Irvine Welsh and Patrick Freyne on the books that have shaped them, while crime writer Erin Kelly gave a fascinating insight into her literary influences. Aspiring writers and book lovers alike will pick up tips and book recommendations galore.
Unique Media's Breda Brown (pictured), who also regularly reviews on these pages, hosts interviews with authors and publishing insiders, as well as book news, in a fortnightly podcast. Expect thoughtful questions, and a fresh look at the book world. Previous guests have included Doireann Ní Ghríofa, Jane Casey and Helen Cullen.
How to Fail
Author Elizabeth Day asks a different guest in each episode about their life's failures, tying in with her memoir of the same name. Day has written four critically well-received novels, but has gone stratospheric since the publication of her memoir and the launch of her podcast. She has since published a second memoir/self help guide, called Failosophy. Guests on the podcast are always honest and open about the past failures that have brought them to where they are now. The Marian Keyes episode, in particular, is well worth a listen.
Authors Gillian McAllister and Holly Seddon reveal the warts-and-all truth behind writing novels for a living. They often read out their one-star reviews on Amazon or GoodReads, and listeners are treated to a behind-the-scenes look at what it's really like to be an author, and to sustain a writing life. Previous guests have included crime authors Fiona Barton and CL Taylor.
Two Crime Writers and A Microphone
Crime authors Steve Cavanagh (pictured) and Luca Veste have a laugh together about what's been happening in the world of publishing, and interview writers and crime-writing publishers with gusto. Recent guests include writers Lisa Hall and Gytha Lodge.
Sunday Indo Living