You’ve got a bright idea and you would like to expose it to the public. But first you need the patronage and approval of the media gatekeepers. Developing your idea is only half the battle. Selling it to an agent, a publisher, a TV commissioner or movie studio is the real challenge. Often, creative people are neither keen nor particularly competitive salespeople. Why should they be?
The good news is that, in 2020, if you have an idea – whether it’s for a science fiction novel, a history of the shovel or a slim volume of poetry about recycling – you no longer have to ask for permission from bigwigs to make it public. All you need to do is pivot to podcasting.
Podcasting is a versatile medium that can be used as an initial testing ground for ideas eventually intended to be books, films, plays, TV shows – or anything really. There are few barriers to getting a podcast published and distributed: all you really need is a cheap microphone, a laptop and an internet connection.
I am a journalist, but I also have a podcast called Top Flight Time Machine. It has been downloaded over 4.5 million times since it started in 2018. It has been sponsored by a series of major brands, has a lucrative online merchandise shop and has completed two nationwide sell-out tours. We release two free-to-air episodes per week, plus another two via a subscription service which costs £3 per month. We have managed to extend that to a live show, merchandise range, video content and, perhaps soon, a book too. Taking the time to write, produce, record and edit something worth listening to will soak up a chunk of your schedule. Eventually, the need to do something that might actually help pay your gas bill is likely to get in the way. So instead of just making a podcast, chucking it out there into the ether, and sitting at home waiting for some ad revenue to arrive one day, we [at Top Flight Time Machine] looked at all the commercial angles.
Podcasting is not a very new medium, but it has only recently found its moment. In 2020, over seven million British adults (one in eight of the population) currently listen to a podcast at least once a week, according to Ofcom figures. That figure has more than doubled in the last five years. There are currently 850,000 active podcasts in the world, leading some people to deride the format as whimsical or ten-a-penny, and there is some truth in this; but if you’re someone with a story to tell, the ability to turn it into a compelling piece of audio and the commitment to do it consistently, then a podcast could change your life and your career.
I have had three books published and still have aspirations to write a fourth. If I do, I will build the idea as a podcast first – testing the creative limits, seeing what works and what doesn’t, cultivating an audience and collecting loads of lovely data with which to impress publishers when I eventually take out my written proposal. Any literary agent is going to find their life a great deal easier if they can pitch a book idea with a pre-existing audience already attached (even if that audience is only in the thousands, not millions).
Right now your idea is living inside your head. The quickest way to extract it is saying it into a microphone and releasing it as a podcast. You might just be launching it into a bright new future.
Sam Delaney is a journalist, author and broadcaster. He has published three books: Get Smashed! (Sceptre 2007), Night of the Living Dad (John Murray 2010) and Mad Men And Bad Men (Faber 2015). His writing appears regularly in the Guardian and The Big Issue, among others, and is the former editor-in-chief of Heat magazine. Sam has hosted radio shows on BBC 5 Live, BBC Radio London and talkSPORT; from 2016-18 he hosted Drivetime on national network Talk Radio. He now runs 11-29 Media (www.11-29media.com), a podcast company that helps creators monetise their content. Sam is contactable on firstname.lastname@example.org or by Twitter: @1129media1