The original novel is not the only type of podcasted written work out there. Although it's popular, several people release their short stories, essays, poetry, and public domain works. The following sections examine the podcasting potential for different kinds of writing.
The popularity of audiobooks is one of the things that helped drive the popularity of podcasting. With audiobooks, you don't have to put down your book to do dishes, exercise, or drive to work. So novels, or "podiobooks" as Evo Terra of Podiobooks.com calls them, became a logical podcast idea. But would it be worth the authors' time and possible publishing snafus that could come with giving a book away for free?
It all depended on what people were trying to get from it.
Original fiction is by far the most popular podcasted writing these days. There are countless novels collected at Podiobooks.com, a website dedicated to the serialization and (free) hosting of podcasted books.
Novels aren't the only fiction content podcasted, however. Several websites podcast short fiction, reading their own original work and distributing it for free:
Most podcasters have a PayPal (http://www.paypal.com) button on their site for voluntary donations from listeners (see Figure 9.1), but that's not why they do it. For Patrick McLean of The Seanachai, the donation button is not at all important financially. He explains that the donations serve another purpose:
Figure 9.1. A creative donation request from The Seanachai.
In late 2005, several professionals got into the podcasting game, including James Patrick Kelly (http://www.jimkelly.net) and Cory Doctorow (http://craphound.com). They saw something in podcasting that could serve their career, while widening their fan base and supporting a new medium at the same time.
James Patrick Kelly enjoys podcasting a great deal (Figure 9.2). Here's what he has to say:
Figure 9.2. James Patrick Kelly's podcasted novella, BURN.
Kelly is honest with his future in podcasting, however, because he is not sure if he's in it for the long haul.
The much-loved fiction magazine format has also translated to podcast. At least one literary magazine, Escape Pod, is in podcast-only format. Although it commonly podcasts reprints, it does accept unpublished work for publication. It is a paying market that relies on the donations from its listeners to pay its authors.
All these podcasters share a love for the written word, whether it is their own or others'. None of them regrets making the decision to podcast their fiction, and each is gratified with the response their fiction has received from listeners.
It's clear that fiction in podcast form is an area that a lot of listeners want to see more of, so if you're a writer and feel your work is ready for hundreds or thousands of listeners, consider podcasting your fiction. You may get a better audience than you would have had you sold your story to a small magazine. You never know.
Public Domain Material
Not everyone who is podcasting stories is doing his or her own work. Although that might raise the flags of copyright infringement, the actual practice is typically far from it because these people are reading works that have passed into the public domain.
LibriVox (http://www.librivox.org) is a podcast that offers books for free. It gets volunteer podcasters to read a couple of chapters at a time and releases the book when it is done. The goal is to get all the public domain books available in podcast form.
On a smaller level, the gang from The Science Fiction Podcast Network (http://www.tsfpn.com) is releasing the works of Edgar Allen Poe as podcasts in the Poe Podcast Project. Several people also podcast their favorite books that are in the public domain, such as A Christmas Carol and The Wizard of Oz, as a simple exercise or homage and not part of a greater project.
As you can see from Figure 9.3, with so many books in the public domain, there is nothing stopping you from podcasting your favorite classic. But you will need to be careful and make sure that no one holds the intended work's copyright. More on this later.
Figure 9.3. The growing LibriVox library.
As you may or may not know, there are a number of thriving communities online that publish so-called fan fiction, or fanfic. This is a label given to fan-written work based on an existing franchise, such as a popular TV show, movie, or series of books.
Unfortunately, writing original stories in established fictional worlds such as Harry Potter or CSI: Crime Scene Investigation is always a gray area. The fans consider it homage to their favorite world and giving people the answers to questions the author hasn't answered (popular plotlines include romantic entanglements between characters that hasn't happened in the author's stories). Many writers, however, consider it a violation of the copyright they hold on their world and their characters.
Legally, fanfic is a violation of copyright, because it involves using someone else's copyrighted characters, even if it's an original story of your fabrication. Although fanfic is very popular throughout the Web, it serves you well to remember it's not strictly legal.
Because podcasting costs more money than blogging does, the desire to make some money through donations or advertising is attractive to help recoup server and equipment costs. However, profiting from copyrighted material, which is what soliciting donations for podcast fanfic is, is very dangerous.
See "Copyright Concerns," p. 175 (this chapter).
Other Written Work
Fictionshort or longis the most popular type of writing podcasted, but it's by no means the only writing. Poets, essayists, and script writers are finding podcasting to be an excellent way to publish their work.
Most poets write to have their works read aloud; the mere notion of poetic feet (the different rhythms and emphasis on certain syllables) means nothing if the piece is not spoken aloud. Podcasting seems to be the natural outlet for poets to present their work, and several have taken advantage of it.
The general rules for podcasting poetry are similar to the rules for podcasting fiction. Pay attention to quality and don't read too quickly or too slowlyif you make every line a dramatic pause, you lose the drama quickly. As with fiction, you can read your own work, work under the Creative Commons license (see Appendix B, "Creative Commons Explained"), or present poetry that is in the public domain. Whatever you choose, make the poetry something that is close to your heart; poetry is about passion, and audible presentations can release the intensity the author intended.
Along the same lines, essays are written to portray a point or tell a story from the heart of the writer, making it an ideal type of work to be podcasted. If you have ever been a fan of the essays on National Public Radio or any other radio station, you realize quickly how podcasted essays can be performed to great effect.
In November of 2004, Bill Wadman created The 365 Project (http://www.billwadman.com/365/), a website dedicated to producing something creative every day for a year. "In an effort not to be consumed by the state of the world.... The idea is to create something new every day for a year," he says on the site. Because he's a photographer, many of the creative efforts showed up in photography, but he did post poetry, music, and essays. When he discovered podcasting, he began releasing his audio.
Currently, Bill is working on The 52 Project (http://www.billwadman.com/52), a project similar to the 365 Project, only he creates larger-scale projects weekly instead of small projects daily.
Bill's advice to fledgling podcasters suggests a more proactive approach to a problem many of us have: dealing with the sound of our own voices.
Like fiction writers, script writers have considerable hurdles to clear before their work ever gets in front of the public. Podcasting removes most of those hurdles, giving the writers, directors, and voice actors a ready audience.
Audio dramas released over podcast are growing in popularity, starting with Spaceship Radio (http://www.spaceshipradio.com) soliciting scripts from authors, to other original dramas produced such as The Falcon Banner (http://www.darkerprojects.com/falconbanner.html).
In many instances, people posting unlicensed copyrighted material to the Internet think they've found a getout-of-jail-free card by including a notice that says you shouldn't download the copyrighted work unless you already own it. It's very important to understand that this tack offers you no protection whatsoever against prosecution and that the fines doled out for these violations range up to $100,000 per incident.
The audio drama production takes considerably more effort than simply reading a story over a podcast, but a team will usually take on the project, leaving the writer able to create the drama without worrying about the actors, direction, and so on.