My Favourite Podcasts on the Business of Writing

I had this image of what a ‘writer’ was before I decided to become one. He (yes, always a ‘he’– annoying when that shit is internalized, but I digress) is dignified, solitary and mysterious. He is white-haired, smokes woodbines and has badly-fitting reading glasses that slide down his nose so that he has to push them back up just before they fall off his face altogether. He has an ironic smile and when he’s not writing, he likes to gaze into the distance as ideas ignite and flicker in his head.

This writer-man doesn’t have to sell a thing. Selling isn’t his job. His job is writing novels. His books sell in the hundreds of thousands. People know his books are worth reading because the publisher tells them so and the publisher has someone that does that work, an expert. A charming, confident, gregarious marketing-mogul. Someone very different to the writer–man.

I wanted to become a version of this man. I mean, obviously, I couldn’t be him anatomically, and I wasn’t going to take up smoking woodbines, it took long enough to get off the smokes. But I thought I could manage the dignified, solitary, mysterious, does-nothing-but-writing bit. But I know that isn’t how it works anymore.

Whether we like it in the current publishing environment ALL writers are expected to build an audience. Most writers consider these things a distraction from their work, but we have to accept that this is now part and parcel of our work. Here are the most popular podcasts that deal with the business of writing, and here are my favourite episodes from each:

1. The Creative Penn- Joanna Penn

Yes. Her name is Penn and she is a writer. Coincidence? I think not! Purely on the basis of this evidence, I’m changing my name to Catherine E Bestseller by deed poll.

As well as having a great name, it just so happens that Joanne gives really great advice on the craft and business-side of writing.

Listen to this: Social Media Tips For Writers with Frances Caballo. In this episode, Penn talks social media with Social Media expert Frances Caballo. This is a fascinating discussion around what kinds of social media you should use depending on what you write. Social media is a necessary evil when it comes to growing your audience, but it’s clear from this podcast episode some platforms are better than others.

2. Create If Writing- Kirsten Oliphant

When I heard that I had to ‘sell’ my book I had nightmarish visions of myself going door-to-door with copies of my novel in a battered briefcase, my hair inexplicably slicked back with engine oil trying various nefarious tricks to flog my novel. Thank goodness for Kirsten Oliphant! Her podcast is absolutely bursting with information and advice on:

‘how to build an online platform without being smarmy’.

In her tagline, she hits on the biggest fear that writers have when they try and build their audience.  That we will be seen primarily as desperate, dishonest and smarmy salespeople. Kirsten is acutely aware that building an audience in today’s publishing climate is absolutely essential to ALL writers. Her podcasts are really practical and she has done her homework in terms of how to use the tools of social media, data and software to get your book out there.

Listen to this: I found it really hard to pick one episode, Episode 51: How to Turn Readers into Raving Fans.

3. The Self-Publishing Podcast

These guys are fun, and they like to swear. I like to swear too, so I felt like I was sitting in my office with my brethren as I listened. They offer great advice on progressing the business side of your writing career.

Listen to this: I didn’t really get the importance of data until Cambridge Analytics happened. I thought it was all about finding out whether I preferred chocolate over crisps (it’s crisps, if you’re wondering). But I never thought about using the data that I gather on my website or social media profiles to benefit myself. I was happy to just hand it all over to massive data-sucking tech companies. Writers can use their data in a number of ways and in this episode Chris Fox explains how  Sell More Books by Using Better Data with Chris Fox.

4. The Portfolio Life- Jeff Goins

Let’s forget about the romantic image of the starving artist. The fact is, that unless you make money from writing, you won’t be able to sustain yourself on it. You won’t be able to write. Jeff Goins is the king of real talk around the business of writing. He knows what it takes to make a living at writing, because he’s doing it. His advice is practical and sensible, and his attitude is that if you want to keep doing what you love, you have to make a living income from doing it. So if you want to be a writer, you have to find a market for what you do and you have to sell books. I recommend his podcasts, but he also does great webinars too, so tune in.

Listen to this: On Becoming a Perennial Seller as an Artist: Interview with Ryan Holiday


My Top 4 Motivational Writing Podcasts

I’ve begun the difficult and demoralising journey that is seeking representation for my first novel ‘The Darkest Harbour’. Up to this point I had total, unwavering confidence in my novel. This confidence is being sorely tested by the querying process (I will write a blog on that separately). For those of you, like me, that don’t have lots of writerly friends to turn to for reassurance, I recommend finding a friend in a writerly podcast. There are loads of them aimed at writers that are mostly motivational in terms of their content.

Here are my favourite go-to podcasts for those days when you’re feeling a bit deflated and you need a nudge. You’ll come away from these thinking ‘how lucky I am to love this magical thing they call ‘writing’.

1. Magic Lessons- Elizabeth Gilbert

Elizabeth Gilbert is the author of the blockbuster novel ‘Eat Pray Love’. She has also written a book to help those of us that need to boost our creativity entitled ‘Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear’. I’m sure you can guess from the title that she is all about helping others to live their creative dreams. Some of her older episodes feature Gilbert giving general advice on progressing in a chosen pursuit. In more recent episodes Gilbert and an expert guest advise a struggling creative on how to overcome the obstacles to achieving their goals. Though this podcast isn’t all about writers (not everything is about US, you know?). Gilbert sees all creativity as coming from the same well of magic, so you will encounter dancers, comedians and poets on your journey through her episodes. Their stories have you laughing and crying in turns as you relate and learn. Gilbert is a funny and charming host and her chats are engaging and entertaining, whilst also being gently encouraging. Also, I think she may have the sweetest and soothing voice in the world. No exaggeration. She should do audio novels. I could listen to her for days.

Listen to this: Every guest’s story is different, but I guarantee that you’ll find your episode. The one that resonates with you on a personal level. This is mine: Episode 207: ‘Living the Dream and Facing the Nightmare’. The guest on this episode is a published author who is struggling with her second novel. This is an absolutely fantastic episode that I can’t recommend enough wherever you are in the process. (PS. I’m an otter.)

2. Beautiful Writers Podcasts- Linda Silvertsen

This monthly podcast attracts guests that are big-hitters in the world of writing such as Dean Koontz and Mary Karr. It covers topics such as how to harness creativity, the reasons why we write and how to build up the courage to go and live your dream.

Listen to this: Creativity Saving Habits with guest Gretchen Rubin. Rubin is the author of, among other books, Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives. This is a very enlightening episode that will help you work with your own natural inclinations in terms of habit building.

3. Ann Kroeker-Writing Coach

Ann Kroeker’s podcasts are proof that the best things come in small packages. There are only a handful of episodes over the ten-minute mark. There’s a mix of really useful content for writers here: from advice on how to effectively use social media to managing your perfectionist tendencies. This podcast is great for inspiring you to write and spurring you on– Kroeker is a coach after all!

Listen to this: I love practical tips, and this episode offers great ones on how to move past those difficult days when you question yourself and get writing #58: How to Affirm Your Own Writing Life.

4. Write Now- Sarah Werner

Werner covers a variety of different topics in her podcast but there is a lot of content focused on creativity and the less tangible aspects of writing. She draws on her personal experiences to connect with her audience and is engaging and candid.

Listen to this: Episode: 30- Letting Go. Perfectionism can lead to creative inertia, and this episode explores the importance of just ‘letting go’.


Why Starting Novel #2 Will Make You Question Everything

I started my second novel at full pelt and full of enthusiasm.


A shiny new project to work on!

I felt more confident going into this novel than the first for three reasons:

  1. This one had been simmering away in the back of my head for a couple of years so the outline was clearer in my head.
  2. I knew I could write a novel.
  3. I had studied and put into practice the rules.

So this time around, it should have been easier. But it wasn’t. And I couldn’t understand why.

I pondered this question… ate a bar of chocolate…pondered a lil bit more….drank some wine…then took a nap, woke up and pondered further. I think the nap did it. Like a scatterbrained Sherlock Holmes I reached several conclusions:

Conclusion 1: I know how to write a novel

When I started writing the first draft of novel #1 I was in awe of the fact that  I was actually writing the novel. After so many false starts over the years, I was finally doing it. I was dreamy-eyed. In love with my progress. Book #2 is so different and I wasn’t expecting that. The first draft process feels completely different. I think that the reason why is that this time around I know that I can write a novel and I realise that the first draft is an achievement, but I’m acutely aware of the fact that it is only one step in a process. I’m conscious this time around that there’s a long way to go yet. So I’m not feeling that sense of achievement that I did with the first. The excitement is still there but the road ahead is more daunting than before.

Lesson 1: The first draft of your second novel will feel different because you know that it’s only a small part of a difficult process.

Conclusion 2: I have greater expectations of my writing

I should be a much better writer now, shouldn’t I? I should know what I’m doing, right? The process should be easier and should yield better quality writing faster, correct? All of those things are correct. It just doesn’t feel that way yet.

With the first draft of my first novel I didn’t really care about the fact that I didn’t know what the novel was ‘about’. I didn’t really care about the fact that there were enormous plotholes or bad grammar or stilted dialogue. I didn’t see any of this as I wrote because I was just being carried along by the momentum of my writing. I didn’t have time to stand still and take in the minutiae. And this is the best way to write first drafts. But it isn’t how I’ve been writing this one. Now that I’ve learned how to self-edit, I can see everything that is wrong with my writing. I can see the problems as they emerge and it is making me stop and question myself. This is sucking the momentum out and giving me time to dwell on the things that need fixing rather than being content in the knowledge that I’m getting shit done.

I had forgotten that the rule, first beautifully articulated by Ernest Hemingway: ‘The first draft of anything is shit’ still applies to me. This rule applies to all writers and all first drafts.

Lesson 2: Your writing is better, it just doesn’t feel that way yet. The first draft of EVERYTHING is SUPPOSED to be shit so cut yourself some slack.

Conclusion 3: I was too close to my last novel

I took a very short break between finishing my first novel, of which I am very proud, and launching into the shitshow that is the first draft of my second novel. This closeness in terms of proximity means that I’m subconsciously comparing the two in terms of quality and feeling as though my writing has deteriorated. I need to constantly remind myself that I’m comparing my new novel to something that had undergone four drafts before it got to the stage where I was happy with it.

Lesson 3: Be aware of the fact that you may judge your first draft of your second novel against the final draft of your first. You aren’t comparing like with like.