This is a special edition of the show where we take a glimpse behind the scenes at how we produce the program, and the people responsible for it. As Rainmaker.FM approaches it’s 2nd anniversary, I thought it apropos to examine how we got here.
This is going to be fun!
It may seem like I’m just a guy in a garage – like so many podcasters – who interviews writers and then frantically scrambles to produce the show in the margins of my real job as a multimedia producer for Rainmaker Digital.
I do host and help produce the show of course, but I don’t record it in my garage, sorry. But you will learn how and where I do it. This week I also get the rare opportunity to shine a light on my talented production team and how this all happens.
Note: The conclusion of my chat with screenwriter and author of All Our Wrong Todays, Elan Mastai will be published Feb. 7th, the day his new book comes out.
If you’re a fan of The Writer Files, please click subscribe to automatically see new interviews.
In this episode our production team and I talk about:
- How the show made the jump from a written interview to a podcast format with Robert Bruce
- The process we use to book our writers with Caroline Early
- How I research, record interviews, and write for the show’s website
- Why the raw audio for the shows needs a little massaging from a pro audio engineer with Toby Lyles
- How it all comes together to beam to your phone or desktop, and nestle neatly in your ears with Clare Garrett
Listen to The Writer Files: Writing, Productivity, Creativity, and Neuroscience below ...
The Show Notes
- Begin your free, 14-day trial of the Rainmaker Platform and start building your own digital marketing and sales platform today at Rainmaker.FM/Platform
- Unusually Short Stories at RobertBruce.com
- Proust Questionnaire – Wikipedia
- Here’s How Brian Clark Writes – The inaugural issue of The Writer Files
- Longform Podcast #226: Terry Gross
- ScheduleOnce.com – Scheduling platform
- Caroline Early on Twitter
- Shure SM7B Vocal Dynamic Microphone, Cardioid
- Auralex soundproofing
- Call Recorder for Skype
- How Oscar Nominee Emma Donoghue (Screenwriter of ‘Room’) Writes: Part One
- How Bestselling Author Hugh Howey Writes
- TwentyFourSound – The premier podcast network editing service
- The Learn Podcast Production Podcast – TwentyFourSound
- Adobe Audition CC
- GarageBand for Mac
- Audacity – Free, open source, cross-platform audio software for multi-track recording and editing
- Trello – Workflow collaboration tool
- Rafal Tomal – Lead Designer at Rainmaker Digital
- Rev.com – Transcription service
- Kibin.com – Editing service
- Kelton Reid on Twitter
Behind the Scenes: How ‘The Writer Files’ Is Produced
Kelton Reid: Welcome back to The Writer Files. I am your host, Kelton Reid. In this special edition of the show, we’re going to take a glimpse behind the scenes at how we produce the program and the people responsible for it. As Rainmaker.FM approaches its second anniversary, I thought it apropos to examine exactly how we got here. This is going to be fun.
It may seem like I’m just a guy in a garage, like so many podcasters, who interviews writers and then frantically scrambles to produce the show in the margins of my real job as a multimedia producer for Rainmaker Digital. I do host and help produce the show, of course, but I don’t record it in my garage, I’m sorry. You will learn exactly where and how I do it.
This week, I also get the rare opportunity to shine a light on my talented production team and how this all happens. The conclusion of my chat with screenwriter and author of All Our Wrong Todays, Elan Mastai, will be published February 7th, the day his new book comes out.
But in this episode of The Writer Files, our production team and I talk about how the show made the jump from a written interview to a podcast format, the process we use to book our writers, how I research, record interviews, and write for the show’s website, why the raw audio of the show needs a little massaging from a pro audio engineer, and how it all comes together to beam to your phone or desktop and nestle neatly into your ears. If you are a fan of the show, please click Subscribe to automatically see new interviews as soon as they are published.
A quick reminder that The Writer Files is brought to you by the Rainmaker Platform, the complete solution for digital marketing and sales. Grow your audience and email list faster. Build profitable marketing automation, clear landing pages, podcasts networks, and membership programs. Sell online courses, digital products, and much more. The Rainmaker Platform helps you to focus on your business and stop worrying about the technology you need to succeed. Start building your own digital marketing sales platform today. Begin your free 14-day trial at Rainmaker.FM/Platform. Thanks for listening.
How the Show Made the Jump From a Written Interview to a Podcast Format, with Robert Bruce
Kelton Reid: That brings me to my very first guest on this special addition of The Writer Files, Robert Bruce, the man partly, or I should say mostly responsible for the existence and genesis of this show and a coworker and confidant. As you know, Robert, I like saying ‘confidant.’ It just kind of rolls off the tongue.
Robert Bruce: It’s a great word, man.
Kelton Reid: Yeah, thank you.
Robert Bruce: It’s almost communistic. Oh, no, that would be commandant, right?
Kelton Reid: No.
Robert Bruce: What’s the communist word for … ‘comrade.’
Kelton Reid: Comrade.
Robert Bruce: That’s not quite comrade. Are you a communist, Kelton?
Kelton Reid: No. I have read The Communist Manifesto.
Robert Bruce: Who hasn’t.
Kelton Reid: Just out of sheer curiosity.
Robert Bruce: Just pure intellectual curiosity, yeah, right.
Kelton Reid: Sure. That’s something they make you read in …
Robert Bruce: In southern California grade school.
Kelton Reid: That’s right. So who are you, Robert? What do you do? Give us a little brief bio, specifically what have you done for this podcast and/or podcasting in general.
Robert Bruce: I think, and you might have to refresh my memory … well, okay, who am I? Right now, man, there’s so much going on in this place. I recently switched some roles. I’m working with StudioPress. I think my title is vice president of marketing. We’re not big on titles in this company. Working a lot on StudioPress stuff, which was a switch for almost two years or a year and a half of working on Rainmaker.FM, but obviously, I’m jumping in and out of that as well, a little bit.
We’re about to release a big product, so I’m back to copyrighting for the first time in a number of years, which has been an interesting thing. That’s what I’m doing right now, and that will broaden into more of content strategy and creating stuff for StudioPress and working with Brian Gardner more directly. Then by night, I write unusually short stories at RobertBruce.com.
Kelton Reid: That’s right.
Robert Bruce: Did you like my pitch, my plug there?
Kelton Reid: I did. I do love those unusually short stories. I know that you have a penchant for going in and out of KnifeGunPen.com, also?
Robert Bruce: Yeah. I’m toying around with this site idea. It’s been years, and I don’t know what I want to do with it. The first thing I ever wanted to be was a detective, when I was a kid. I’ve always a thing, like just about any American, we all love crime and noir and crime culture. We’re, as adults, addicted to crime television, so I’ve got this idea for this site and this domain. It was the first domain I bought 10 years ago actually.
Kelton Reid: Wow.
Robert Bruce: It’s just not gelling at the moment, but we’ll see.
Kelton Reid: Okay. Let’s go back a little bit. I wanted to get you on here first to talk about how this show came into being, the idea behind The Writer Files initially, which was not a podcast, and the ethos that created this show in particular. Where did The Writer Files come from? Do you remember?
Robert Bruce: Yes. This is started as a text, in the form of text. I don’t remember how early you and I talked about it, but like so many, I always loved, one of my favorite things, great magazine Vanity Fair and one of the best, if not the best to me, section or recurring section in that magazine was the very back page, little thing called the Proust Questionnaire, as in Marcel Proust, the French essayist.
In Vanity Fair, it was the same questions every time, but they would rotate through this amazing cast of world-class writers, actors, philosophers, and business people, asking them this series of questions. I should have done a little research because I don’t know if there was a purpose, other than just interest in why these particular questions were compiled in the Proust Questionnaire. It was unendingly fascinating, and like I said, to me, it was my favorite part of that magazine and, in large part, still is.
The idea just came. This is, a lot of people have riffed on that over the years, both in text and audio. I’m going to sneeze, I know it. Sorry, man.
Kelton Reid: Don’t apologize to me. Apologize to Toby.
Robert Bruce: Sorry, Toby. I guess it’s not going to happen. Okay.
Kelton Reid: I think you should leave that in.
Robert Bruce: I might as well. So yeah, that was kind of the genesis of the idea. Obviously, we wanted to tweak it toward our audience at Copyblogger. On Copyblogger.com … do you remember the date? I don’t know.
Kelton Reid: Yeah. Four years ago, almost to the day, when we published that first experimental episode with Mr. Brian Clark, our humble leader. Brian Clark, the CEO of Rainmaker Digital was my first victim and, from there, kind of had a cavalcade of pretty interesting writers on.
Robert Bruce: Yeah, you got some big time … well, one thing I want to say, too, this was really perfect. At that time, you and I were with Brian and Sonia, we needed to come up with stuff, weekly, on top of everything else we were doing for the job. I don’t know how you felt when this idea came around, but to me, it was like, “Oh, this is perfect.” I don’t know why I gave it to you because it would have been the perfect thing for me to do and get out of having to write a weekly article.
Kelton Reid: I know.
Robert Bruce: It’d be really useful and interesting hopefully to our audience as well. But anyway, you took it. You ran with it, masterfully.
Kelton Reid: Oh thank you.
Robert Bruce: You developed the questions, redeveloped them, and over time, brought in a bunch of stuff. Now, you’ve got this massive Rolodex of superstars across the globe who are clamoring to talk to you. But you’re right. Over the years, you’ve got some names listed here. You’re looking at Seth Godin, Austin Kleon, Maria Popova.
Kelton Reid: Sure, yeah. Those are early days. It was like Dan Pink. When Liz Gilbert popped in there to do that, that was pretty fun. Okay. You actually really did help me to develop the Q&A — which as you said, is the Proust Questionnaire kind of meets Inside the Actors Studio, as I describe it sometimes — to kind of get into the brains.
Robert Bruce: Yes.
Kelton Reid: I think that at least the original idea was to get a glimpse of the process, of the writer’s life, the writing life. It just grew. It became its own thing. I think originally Proust Questionnaire was like a parlor game to kind of loosen the mood and get people to talk personally about themselves, but pithy, short questions were always initially our idea. It was like one-word answers were fine.
Robert Bruce: Right, short answers. Yup.
Kelton Reid: Okay. Let’s talk about, moving forward, the process itself was I was coming up with these queries for authors and/or their handlers, publicists, if I could find them, and then sending the questions by email, with the caveat … Jonny Naster, host of Hack the Entrepreneur and The Showrunner had recently asked me, “How did you generate this written content? Was it an audio format first?” It wasn’t. It was all via email.
I was saying to some of these publicists, they can answer as many or as few questions as they’d like. It was broken into the five pieces: the origin story, productivity, workflow, creativity, and some goofy ones. Now, it is a podcast.
How did it come to be a podcast on a podcast network that you built from scratch, with this great team that I’m talking with today, that has now published and produced over 1,300 shows, coming up on the second anniversary of Rainmaker.FM? It’s a lot of content. How did this show, The Writer Files, make that jump from page to ears?
Robert Bruce: Well, I think the shortest answer is the four of us built a podcast network, and we needed a podcast. Right? We needed content. I think, initially, you and I started talking about it. We had hoped that it would become, “Oh, it’s perfect.”
Like you said, Inside The Actors Studio, it’s this great interview format. This would make for a great podcast, and it continues to serve our audience of writers, bloggers, journalists, and those people. You’ve expanded that in the audio format even more, talking to some pretty heavy-hitter neuroscientists, philosophers, and all these.
This is probably a good lesson for anybody listening that is doing this struggle of producing content on a regular basis. In our case, we built this podcast network and were looking around for shows, for formats, for hosts, and this and that. Kelton, you’ve had experience on air. You’ve got a great voice, and you had the willingness to do it. We’re looking around, and it’s like, “Oh, wait a minute. That’s something that we could pull over this way.”
In a way, it turned out to repurpose as well. I think it’s really cool as text, but you just can’t deny how cool it is, especially, as a listener, if you’re into the person that’s being interviewed, as with any podcast or any radio interview, it’s like, man, to be able to hear that person actually talk is pretty sweet.
Then, I don’t know exactly where you want to go here, but Caroline Early came on. She’s been booking guests because it’s so much work, and you’ve got so much to do outside of this show, just for your day job, that you obviously needed help booking guests. Man, you guys have just been really expanding the guest list here in a way that I never, in some cases, I never thought possible and never even thought about. That’s been cool to see, too.
Kelton Reid: For sure, yeah. It’s just been a pleasure and an honor to work with both of you, all of you, the whole team, obviously, have put together some pretty amazing workflows, which we’re going to talk with both Caroline, Clare, and Toby coming up. We’re going to segue into that, all of that. You have been a guest on the show. How was that for you?
Robert Bruce: It was not great.
Kelton Reid: You were in a Writer Porn episode. I’ve been trying to get you to do …
Robert Bruce: Oh, yeah, right. That was fun. Is the novel dead?
Kelton Reid: Yes, one of my faves.
Robert Bruce: Yeah, that was a good conversation. I think that was good, too. It’s another maybe lesson for people is there was some contentious back and forth, and not anything hardcore, but it was great because you don’t want everybody saying, “Yeah, right. I agree. I agree. I agree.” You want to have a little difference of opinion whenever you can get it. Makes things interesting. I enjoyed that. Was that the only time, those two episodes?
Kelton Reid: I think you’ve been on twice, but I am wracking my brain as we are at episode 80 plus here. I’m having a hard time remembering, but will you return? That’s the question on everybody’s mind?
Robert Bruce: For the right amount of money, Kelton, I will return. I don’t know what you’re budget is these days.
Kelton Reid: Okay. I’m going to have you get in get in touch with my accountant regarding the fees. Sorry, my lawyer. Okay. I don’t have either of those.
Robert Bruce: I will return any time you ask me, yes.
Kelton Reid: Okay, great. Well, we look forward to more Writer Porn in the future.
The Process We Use to Book Our Writers, with Caroline Early
Kelton Reid: That brings me to my next guest, the esteemed associate producer for Rainmaker.FM and this show, Caroline Early, who luckily has been with us from the start to really ensure booking all of our great guests. Caroline, thank you for stepping away from your … I heard you were on a horrible, horrible cruise, but that you stepped away to do this interview with us. Thank you.
Caroline Early: No problem. I’m happy to be here. There’s nothing better, I guess, than being on vacation, but it feels good to be home.
Kelton Reid: Yeah, I’m sure. You were in the Caribbean?
Caroline Early: I was actually, but the boat was a little bit more of a fun music boat, instead of really getting off the boat at all. I was actually just on the cruise for five days, didn’t leave. We only stopped one time, and I didn’t even bother getting off.
Kelton Reid: Oh, my.
Caroline Early: Can’t complain.
Kelton Reid: I’m so sorry.
Caroline Early: I know.
Kelton Reid: Let’s talk about you and what you do for Rainmaker and specifically for this show to start out.
Caroline Early: Yeah, sure. As you said, I’m the associate producer for Rainmaker FM, which I think that title definitely makes sense for what I do on Rainmaker.FM, but I do also work on all of Rainmaker Digital, primarily on the outreach and PR side of things, help schedule guests for webinars, help schedule guests for these shows. Really anybody that’s coming on to any Rainmaker.FM show is booked through me.
It’s pretty time consuming, but it’s a fun job to be able to feel like I’m not only just talking to all you Rainmaker people all day. I get to correspond with people all over the place, all around the world. It’s a really fun part of my job.
Kelton Reid: Yeah. You also have your own project, your own blog out there also.
Caroline Early: I do. It’s called Your Whole You . It’s sort of healthy lifestyle blog. As with any side project, it ebbs and flows. Lately, it’s been a little bit on the down side, but that’s not to say that it won’t be back up here pretty soon. We’ll see how that goes.
Kelton Reid: Cool. Well, how did you find yourself working on The Writer Files, in particular?
Caroline Early: Well, obviously, when I came on board, I started helping out with the PR outreach side of all the shows. I think in talking with you, it was clear that it’s a pretty time-consuming job to find and track down guests for these shows. You have to not only be digging around and finding interesting people, but then you have to figure out how to talk to them and how to get in touch with them.
In talking with you and then working on it, I think it made sense with my background in PR and what else I was doing for Rainmaker to start helping you with that. I’m not just saying this because I’m on your show, but I would say that The Writer Files is probably my favorite thing to pitch and to work on. These authors are just the nicest people. They’re always so flattered and honored to be selected or to be invited on the show, so it’s just really, really nice to be able to talk with people who are just really excited to be a part of it.
Kelton Reid: That’s cool to hear. I think some writers and listeners might wonder how we choose guests to come on the show. Let’s talk a little bit about that before we get into specifically how we track them down. How do we decide where we find our guests?
Caroline Early: Well, I think, luckily, you and I, and Robert as well, are all sort of book nerds, so we’re already in the world of novels. I think one benefit is that we all seem to have different interests. I think that we all like different things, which helps us be aware of plenty of different authors that are out there. There’s a lot of research that goes on, just on the back end, trying to figure out what we like and who’s, not necessarily popular, but maybe who’s coming out with something new in the next couple of months.
You have been grateful enough to provide me with a wish list, which is always helpful to see what people you’re really interested in talking to. We do use Trello for that, which is nice to be able to keep track of everything. Obviously, we send a lot of emails between the three or four of us, just to figure out who’s reading what and who maybe heard of somebody on some other show or a news story that we heard about someone. That’s definitely a piece of it.
Then, the other side of it, too, is some publicist recommendations. Now that we’ve been doing this for a couple of years, we’ll correspond with a publicist about one author, and they’ll say, “Hey, this was really great. How about this other person?” That’s been helpful, too, because they have people that they want to put out there. Sometimes it’s a good fit. Sometimes it’s not. But there’s a lot of different avenues to be able to find different people.
Kelton Reid: For sure. We’re really looking for, as we crowdsource these ideas, writers with inspiring stories that are of particular interest to writing right now. It’s a survey. We’re not just going for fictionists or scientists, etc. We’re trying to get a little bit of everything in there for listeners. Anyway, it’s a pretty fascinating process.
So how do you track down a celebrity author? I think people might be curious. Robert might liken it to witchcraft, but how do we find these people when they so often do not want to be found? They just want to be writing really.
Caroline Early: Right. And sometimes it feels that way. I will say it starts with a lot of Googling because, like you said, some of these people, I think they want to just exist in this other universe, where they’re not ever spoken to. It can be interesting to even find a website. There are several authors who the only websites they actually have are their publicists page. They don’t even have their own site.
So there’s a lot of Googling involved to maybe find some sort of fan page, Facebook Page, whatever it is. If they are nice enough to have a website, sometimes they’re even nice enough to put their personal email. That’s really a good starting point. If I can find their personal email, that’s usually what I reach out to.
I try to be somewhat clear. If someone says on their page specifically, “Please don’t reach out to me for publicity requests and find my publicist.” I really do try to honor that. I don’t want to bother them with these kind of requests. There’s that. There’s also a contact page. We’ve had really good luck with contact pages honestly. I think authors do appreciate getting notes from people. Every time I’ve had to use one of those it’s worked out.
Then I think the worst-case scenario that I’ve had to do so far is just try to guess emails because so many people’s is just their name @whateversite.com. It’s fairly easy to find. That one always makes me feel a little bit weird because you can tell they’re really trying to hide, and then here I am Googling and trying to guess whatever potential email they’ll have.
Fortunately, we’ve had no one be offended or no one be mad that we tried to email them. Every single person we’ve had has just been really, really excited about being on the show. That’s, I think, helped me to feel more empowered to be able to email more people. You can tell that they’re just really, really excited.
Kelton Reid: That’s cool. With your track record, it’s like now you have this, as Robert puts it, this Rolodex of impressive authors. Okay. Let’s talk a little bit about a couple of the tools that we use to just get everything synced up with our schedules because obviously everyone’s busy. It’s not always easy to … we can’t just be 30 emails back and forth about, “Hey, is this day good for you?” How do we do that, in particular?
Caroline Early: Well, we do use ScheduleOnce and these online calendars, at least as a starting point. Since I’m scheduling for you, it’s really nice to be able to not have to go to you every single week and say, “Are you free at this time? Are you free on this day?” That’s a great starting point to see your schedule. I have noticed that people don’t necessarily want to look at that calendar, so there’s a lot of me being like, “Hey, how about this day? How about this time?”
Fortunately, usually if I give them three options, one of those times will work. We make it so that it doesn’t take more than 30 to 45 minutes to record the show. We’re doing it over Skype, so it’s not too bad for them. It’s not like it’s this three-hour long in-person interview or something like that. I think that definitely helps. We just really haven’t had a lot of problems with it.
Especially with all of these online tools now, to be able to sync calendars and all of that, it just makes everything so much easier. I can tell just, especially when I’m working with a publicist, because then it becomes us two trying to plan for two other people. There’s a lot of back and forth, but it’s pretty easy.
Kelton Reid: Yeah. Well, it’s pretty amazing. Another part of what you do is then you’re sending our sample questions of the interview, so let’s talk a little bit about that. Again, I keep referring to Terry Gross and her process. She comes up with these one-of-a-kind, thoughtful questions, obviously tailored to each guest. We do that to some extent, but why do we send the sample questions beforehand?
Caroline Early: There’s a couple reasons for it. Terry Gross is on another planet of interview skills, right? That woman, I feel like she must know everything about everyone because of the way she interviews. But I think in our context, we’re not necessarily trying to catch these people off guard. We want the conversation to be fluid, but we really want to learn about them. Like you said, we really want to kind of dig in to the brain and learn more about them.
So I think giving them the questions ahead of time allows them to feel like they can prep if they want to. They don’t have to. It gives us a chance to learn as much as possible about them and really, really learn about their process, instead of just, “Hey, tell me a little bit about your book.” That’s great, but we want to learn more about the nitty gritty of their style. I think maybe it helps them to have the questions ahead of time.
Kelton Reid: Yeah. In the spirit of the Proust Questionnaire, obviously, those questions are not hard to find. It’s amazing the work that you do. Thank you, again. I will say one of the perks is getting these galleys of books that are to come out soon. The free books don’t hurt, so thank you.
Caroline Early: Can’t complain.
Kelton Reid: Thanks for all the great work that you do.
Caroline Early: No problem. I really love this part of my job. It’s definitely up there with … my favorite day-to-day task is being able to talk to these people and get to know them on a little bit more of a personal level. Thank you for hosting this great show.
Kelton Reid: It is truly a pleasure.
How Kelton Researches, Records Interviews, and Writes for the Show’s Website
Robert Bruce: So, Kelton, I want to turn the tables on you here for just a minute and ask you a few questions because you have been instrumental in the conception and growth of this podcast network, as a whole, but specifically, obviously, this show. Will you allow me to do that for just a few moments?
Kelton Reid: Yeah, of course. I’m blushing.
Robert Bruce: Okay.
Kelton Reid: Even though this is written into the script here.
Robert Bruce: You’re so humble. Okay. Tell us about you. Who are you? What do you do in regards to all of this?
Kelton Reid: I am a professional golfer.
Robert Bruce: Toby, cut all this out.
Kelton Reid: Yeah. Hopefully you know me by now, if you listen to the show, but if you don’t, I am a multimedia producer who helps to run the day-to-day, in-house production needs of Rainmaker Digital. I have the pleasure of working with all of the great, great talent that has entered the fray in this fantastic podcasting universe. Overseeing the day-to-day production that we’ll talk about later with Clare, the ins and outs and the tools that we use at Rainmaker.FM, built on the Rainmaker Platform, which we’re so lucky to have this amazing, talented team supporting us every day.
Robert Bruce: What about, let’s get into some specific kind of production-y questions about The Writer Files. How do you put the show together?
Kelton Reid: Okay. We’ve just spoken with Caroline about booking guests and all the great works that she does. Once that interview is on the books — it’s scheduled, I’ve got a time, we agree to record that — it’s just a matter of heading into the garage, turning on the computer, logging into Skype, right? Wrong, as you know.
Robert Bruce: It’s not that easy.
Kelton Reid: You’ve produced a lot of podcasts in the past. I, going back, want to thank you and Toby — once again, I may be skipping ahead a little bit — but for all of the guidance in helping me to get set up with this great system here. The real work really does start once our guest is booked. I usually start, now, I have the pleasure of shooting the name of the guest and hopefully just a starter link to their author website to a production assistant, Bill Geisheker, very talented, old friend of mine, that basically puts together a one-page research doc. It’s really short. It’s simple, succinct.
Robert Bruce: Oh, wow. I didn’t know you were doing that. That’s cool.
Kelton Reid: Yeah. It’s got all the relevant information on the author — websites, interviews, other podcasts, interesting facts that he thinks will be useful to me as he knows my process now very well, ins and outs. He does some transcription work for the show as well. He knows what’s going on there, but it’s very helpful. It gives me a jumping off place, where I can then start to get my thoughts together.
As you know, Robert, having done a lot of these interviews, you were the original Rainmaker Digital/Copyblogger podcaster guy. You interviewed a lot of big names as well for … what was that show? The Lede, or was it something else before that?
Robert Bruce: It was The Lede and I think it was Internet Marketing for Smart People early on, yeah. It was November 2010 we launched that show.
Kelton Reid: Yeah. You guys were way, way ahead of the curve. It’s paid dividends, I think, for those audiences. Anyway, I take my talking points out of that doc. Then I just try to read as much of the author’s writing as I can get my hands on. Again, thank you, Caroline. She often gets an advanced copy of a book, if I’m lucky, and the galley or the publicist actually sends a copy of the book. Luckily, I am a speed reader.
Robert Bruce: What, like the Evelyn Wood’s speed reading course kind of thing?
Kelton Reid: Exactly. I’m processing a lot of information. As we can refer back to the format of the show, we designed the show around the Proust Questionnaire, so the guests actually know ahead of time what to expect, but I add some bonus questions in there that are pertinent to the author and what I think to be maybe their interests or other things about them that listeners might not know.
Robert Bruce: Let me ask you this, and this is true of anyone who’s wanting to do a podcast, especially interview. People think that interview podcasts, “Oh, that’s easy. All you’ve got to do is talk and let the other person … ” But just the number of elements that you’ve named here — from scheduling, to booking, to back and forth. I think I talked to Caroline once, we were on a meeting, and she said it was on average 10 or 12 emails back and forth, before someone is booked, if they are booked.
But in terms of the research, the reading, and the preparing for a single interview — of which you do, on average, one a week — how much time do you estimate you put into a single show, on average?
Kelton Reid: I can’t say. Every show is different, but I do find myself reading books a lot of weekends. I’m going to link to this great, Longform Podcast episode with Terry Gross where she talks about how at the beginning of her career when she was doing five interviews a week that she really didn’t have a life. She was basically just watching movies and reading books all weekend long.
That’s not really the case, but I do find myself wanting to absorb quite a bit of the writing itself because that’s what the show’s about. Also, I am a great admirer of writers, kind of a mediaphile, if you will. I invented that term.
Robert Bruce: I like that term a lot.
Kelton Reid: Thank you very much.
Robert Bruce: Cinephile?
Kelton Reid: Yeah, bibliophile, mediaphile.
Robert Bruce: Mediaphile kind of covers it all.
Kelton Reid: There you go. Well, I have to be in my line of work. Anyway, yeah, it’s definitely a minimum of three or four hours. Really getting into just the research, not including the other writing stuff, probably like an hour to an hour and a half prior to the show, which doesn’t seem like a lot, but when you have a day job, it can add up for sure.
Then there’s the piece of getting set up with the technical part of recording the guests. I do not work in a garage. But I start up, I kind of do some vocal warmups. I’m not joking. I have borrowed some straight from a broadcast voice.
Robert Bruce: Give us one. Give us one vocal warmup.
Kelton Reid: Oh, it’s the easiest one. Aw, aw, ee, aw, aw, ee. You just do that over and over and over again, aw, just trying to stretch out the back of your throat. Yeah, listeners, you can practice this at home.
But then I get set up here with a wonderful Shure SM7B microphone that you sent to me gift-wrapped, with a preamp connected here to the MacBook Pro, which is very silent. It doesn’t have a fan that comes on during the interviews, which is really nice. Then I’m in a walk-in closet actually in my basement. It’s been converted into a sound-proof hermetically sealed coffin. I think you’re familiar with these things. I am surrounded by clothes, don’t get me wrong. I can see shoes and all the fun stuff.
There are some additional Auralex panels that can be moved around. I have a bass catcher in here. I want to thank both you, Robert, and Toby for all of your consulting and guidance early on because I was just working in an office with little to no sound proofing on a … what was our favorite microphone early on?
Robert Bruce: Yeah. Not the Snowball. Everybody knows the Snowball, but the Yeti.
Kelton Reid: Yeti, yeah. Hey, we made it work. I didn’t have really a clue, but you just kind of, as you develop your podcast and your voice, you learn things, and you iterate.
Robert Bruce: What is a base catcher?
Kelton Reid: A base catcher is just one of those foam thingies. It’s also made by Auralex. It just goes in the corner, so that it’s not reverberating, especially with a base, heavy voice like my own. It can just bounce sound around. I don’t know what it is really.
Robert Bruce: I’m getting a base catcher.
Kelton Reid: Then I hook up Skype Call Recorder. Logging into Skype, it’s already connected, so Skype Call Recorder, I’ll link to, is the primary recording method. You’ve got to make sure that’s all configured. Then I do a backup, usually, with ScreenFlow so that it’s just pulling a recording straight from the computer in case Skype crashes for any reason or Skype Call Recorder isn’t updated or something. I’ll get a backup there.
Then Zencastr is my other backup recording method. If Skype, for some reason, doesn’t work for the author, I can just send a link, and they can just jump on Zencastr. You’ve used that before. How did you find Zencastr?
Robert Bruce: That was cool. You shot it my way, and I think I just connected into a page that you had produced and were working on. But, man, that was very, very cool. Very easy.
Kelton Reid: Very seamless. I’ll link to all those things. Yeah, so once I’m hooked up in here. I’ve got the headphones plugged in. I do a test call, make sure that it’s all configured correctly, got a hot beverage, headphones. I’m ready to do the call, and it doesn’t always go smoothly. Authors have called me from construction sites.
Emma Donoghue, I actually asked her very kindly … she was on a press junket for her Oscar nomination. She was in Los Angeles in a hotel next to a construction site. I could barely understand what she was saying because there was as jackhammer. I actually asked her to move to the bathroom of her hotel. I think she sat in the bathroom on the tub. Oh my gosh.
Robert Bruce: That’s great.
Kelton Reid: So we got it.
Robert Bruce: Man, yeah, that’s tough because that was a tough get, first of all, because she’s busy, and she’s got a lot going on. She was gracious enough to be on the show, but then you get on there and it’s just like, “[Beep] there’s a jackhammer in the background, and this is not going to work.” I remember you bringing that up. That’s the life, right? You’ve got to think on your feet and help them, make it as easy as possible for them.
Kelton Reid: Yeah. Well, you know. You get dropped connections. I’ve had authors miss appointment times, or I’ve had to email their publicists because I don’t have their direct email. It’s that multiple, again, back and forth that Caroline has to deal with a lot. A lot of times, it’s a help message to Caroline saying, “What happened? Where are they?” Or an author will be on Skype on their mobile phone, walking along a busy highway. Thank you, Hugh Howey, just to go back to that one, but the list goes on.
Robert Bruce: That’s great.
Kelton Reid: Okay. Anyway, then I hit record. Before that, again, I’ll link back to that Terry Gross interview, but I try to assure guests that they’re in good hands, that we’ll edit them kindly, and we can give Toby cues if they need to stop or start over, whatever happens. Sometimes their phone just rings, and it’s unavoidable. You know this, but luckily it’s not live.
Some authors really want to talk more than others about their writing life. I’ve heard Terry Gross conjecture about this kind of confessional nature of the remote interview because you’re not face to face. It’s like you can kind of say things that you wouldn’t say to somebody that you’re looking in the eye, in the same room.
I do love being able to chat with writers like that. Sometimes it’s like a phone call with an old friend. Sometimes it’s just business. Sometimes it’s not as warm, but that’s just the nature of the beast. I like it when writers go off script and just talk about whatever’s on their mind that day.
Robert Bruce: How much time do you spend pre, when you say, “Okay. You’re on the line,” but before you start recording and just kind of warming them up. You’re talking about assuring them that everything’s going to be cool. I guess it varies.
Kelton Reid: Yeah. It’s usually about five minutes. I’m like, “Hey. I’m a fan of your work” because I am. And, “Thanks for coming on. You’re in good hands. Don’t worry about … we’ll edit out anything you don’t want in there.” I’m not Terry Gross. Ours is a non-fiction format that we send the sample questions off to writers to check out. We skip around. I skip around. I don’t always get all the questions.
In fact, nine times out of 10, I don’t even get three quarters of the questions in there that I’d like to get in, but I always ask writers, “Do you have a time constraint?” and get them out on time. Luckily, we have Toby. We’re going to talk to him about that moment before the interview starts.
Robert Bruce: Everybody needs their Toby. Every podcaster needs their Toby.
Why the Raw Audio for the Shows Needs a Little Massaging From a Pro Audio Engineer, with Toby Lyles
Guest: Man, just let me know if there’s any weird noises on my end or if you need me to re-say something or something like that.
Kelton Reid: Oh, yeah. No problem at all. We got a professional. Toby, thank you very much, will be editing this. So we are rolling.
Guest: Hello. Thanks, Toby. Toby, I’m counting on you to just cut out all the things that I say that make no sense, okay? Toby, Toby, seriously.
Kelton Reid: All right. Toby, thanks for joining me on The Writer Files today. How do you feel about that outtake from that show?
Toby Lyles: That outtake is hilarious. When it first came through, I just laughed.
Kelton Reid: Yeah. It doesn’t always happen where a guest specifically asks you to make them sound better, but you always do.
Toby Lyles: Well, often you’re not the known person. You’re the unknown equation. If somebody mentions there’s going to be somebody working on this afterwards — like you, you always imply trust. So when that happens, I think you just teed that one up for him. He’s like, “Well, yeah. If there’s somebody working this, you’ve got to make me sound great.” Right?
Kelton Reid: Yeah. Luckily, some of these authors do have a sense of humor. From the get go, he was a pretty fun guy to talk to. It doesn’t always go that way, as you know. Maybe for listeners who aren’t familiar with you, Toby Lyles, who are you, and what do you do?
Toby Lyles: Well, I’m the voiceless, non-writer behind The Writer Files.
Kelton Reid: You’re the audio genius who makes us sound so good.
Toby Lyles: I run a company called TwentyFourSound and have the incredible honor, privilege of working with your show and then the rest of the folks at the Rainmaker team. That’s fun. I’ve been doing audio for years. I don’t know if it’s decades, if I’m old enough to be that way. I’ve been doing audio for a very long time and get to work with you and your show. It’s fun.
Kelton Reid: Well, it is an honor to work with you. Your work is fantastic. You do always make us sound great. Let’s talk about a funny thing that happened to us trying to get on this and record this quick snippet with you. We went on Skype, as we are apt to do as interviewers. You called me on Skype, and we couldn’t get a good connection. We had to jump over to Zencastr to record this little bit, which we were both laughing about because, between the two of us, we have the know-how and the equipment here, but we couldn’t make it work.
Toby Lyles: Yeah. It was kind of embarrassing. I’ve got Skype. It’s not letting me log in. I’m going to try this other thing. I was opening the iPad to do Skype on that. If we do that, then how are you going to hear me well, but you had the tools, Kelton. You pulled it off.
Kelton Reid: It’s a good point to having a contingency plan, especially when you’re interviewing a celebrity or something like that to give them another option to connect with you or record this. Anyway, that was kind of funny.
So when an episode of The Writer Files hits your desk, are you just like, “Oh, crap. Here we go.” What’s your initial reaction when a show lands on your desk?
Toby Lyles: I enjoy it. Of course, like any writer would never say, “Oh, man, I got this new contract or new book I need to write.” At least I would assume, if you’re a writer, there’s got to be some amount of joy in the process, right? I think it’s fun. Honestly, I think the show is fun. I listen to lots of shows. I have recommended this show, probably because I know a lot of writers, but just the way you’ve set it up is really fun.
Back to the … what do I say? It’s a great show. I get to listen to the whole thing. I don’t think I dread much about your show. I’ll work on that one. I’ll find something.
Kelton Reid: Okay. Well, what’s the first thing you do when you get that link to the raw audio there for Dropbox?
Toby Lyles: This is for anybody, any audio nerds out there, anybody producing their own stuff. The first thing I do is I don’t copy the original audio … I should say this. I copy, I don’t work on the original audio. Same thing if you’re an editor, right? You’re not going to edit, mark up, mess up the original document, so it can’t be undone. We make a copy of it, and instead it’s somewhere else in the place where it can be worked on because stuff blows up every once in a while. You’ve got to watch out for that.
Kelton Reid: Yeah. All right. What are the primary tools that you are utilizing there to make us sound so darn good?
Toby Lyles: It’s pretty simple. I’ve got the studio. We have a studio computer. We use Adobe Audition. Specifically, I chose that one because a majority of podcasters out there right now, or authors who are trying to promote themselves via audio or help people that way, are using either GarageBand, Audacity, or Adobe Audition.
Of the three, Adobe Audition is the only professional something or other, so that’s why. Then we can talk to other people well with it. It’s great. It’s a great program. We’ve got lots of fun toys involved with it. We just drop it into Adobe Audition.
Kelton Reid: Well, you do amazing work to make us sound smart. Of course, I send you copious notes on where I need help, especially or if there’s swearing as well, but I’m very lucky to have you as part of this team. Rainmaker, as I mentioned to Robert earlier, has produced, since the beginning of the network, which you’ve been around since the beginning, over 1,300 episodes. It’s a pleasure to work with you.
With that said, as a contractor, can other podcasters hire you to work on their shows? Can they hire you as a consultant, as we have used you for many of our shows? If so, where can they find you?
Toby Lyles: Yeah. I think one of my favorite things is helping. I like authors a lot. I like helping people who have messages to say. People who are actually helping people with what they’re doing and of course in audio. Yeah. I’m always welcome to that. The website’s TwentyFourSound.com. It’s all one word and all spelled out, or the email is Toby@TwentyFourSound.com.
Kelton Reid: Oh, wow. Awesome. Thanks so much. You have a great podcast also … titled?
Toby Lyles: Yeah. It’s called the Learn Podcast Production podcast. I appreciate you saying it. It’s a great podcast. It’s kind of nerdy, so good luck.
Kelton Reid: Yes, but I have learned quite a bit from it. I really appreciate you stopping by, and I’ll be sending you some raw audio shortly.
Toby Lyles: Perfect. I look forward to it.
Kelton Reid: I’ll send it very soon.
Toby Lyles: Okay.
How It All Comes Together to Beam to Your Phone or Desktop, and Nestle Neatly in Your Ears, with Clare Garrett
Kelton Reid: That brings us to the final pieces that we put together before this show is beamed into your head. I actually have to write the copy for the webpage or, in the case of the Rainmaker Platform, which is what we have used exclusively for all Rainmaker.FM shows, good fit here, we have to create a draft podcast post, which I actually don’t do.
The great thing about Rainmaker itself, for publishing podcasts and getting them out to your favorite audio platforms is that it’s all very intuitive and so simple to get these shows beamed out to the world, beamed out to you, the listener. That’s why I want to welcome Clare Garrett, my very talented multimedia producer and editor that handles a lot of the day-to-day details of that process of getting these podcasts published.
Clare, thank you so much for coming on the show. I understand you’re a little nervous about being on the podcast for the first time. How are you today?
Clare Garrett: Definitely. I don’t know if to thank you or not, but we shall see. It’s my first ever one, so it’s a bit different to be on this side rather than behind the scenes.
Kelton Reid: Yeah. You’re up in Canada, presently.
Clare Garrett: I am.
Kelton Reid: We are a distributed team. You work remotely, and I understand things are good in Canada.
Clare Garrett: Yeah. Luckily you and I are in the same time zone, so that works out.
Kelton Reid: That really is helpful. You hail originally from Britain.
Clare Garrett: Yes, the north of Britain. If anybody has trouble understanding my accent, I do apologize.
Kelton Reid: Just to preface that accent. Yeah. Let’s talk about you. Who are you, and what do you do specifically? What do you do for the podcast and the podcast network?
Clare Garrett: I am multimedia producer and editor for anything Rainmaker Digital, but a lot of my job is based around Rainmaker.FM and the shows. Although it was daunting when we started the podcast network, it was easy to fall in and get it all up and running, once we got a process in place, which took quite a while to start out. It works pretty well right now.
Kelton Reid: I did want to, well, I reminded both Robert and Toby that since February of 2015, when we actually started the podcast network, we’ve produced, all of us, over 1,300 shows. That’s pretty impressive. You might not have known that specific fact, but kudos on that.
Clare Garrett: Yeah. That’s a terrific number.
Kelton Reid: Yeah. Let’s talk about a few of the tools that we use to actually make all this happen. It’s not just as simple as pinging you in an email, although that does happen. The team gets an email from a podcast host. In this case, it would be me. What happens from there? I guess you can kind of walk us through that first tool that we use, that we like so much.
Clare Garrett: Yeah. Once the host has submitted the email with the raw blog post and raw audio file in, we use a tool that’s called Trello. It’s like an organizational board, really. Each email that comes through produces its own little Trello card. With that, we’ve got the branding on there of the show art of each show. We’ve got the episode title that the host has chosen. Sometimes that’s not necessarily the one that gets published.
We have the artist’s name on there and then there’s the raw audio and the raw blog post. Trello’s fantastic. We’ve got different columns in there. We’ve got the raw blog post, the raw episode, should I say. Once that’s all been put in place inside the Rainmaker Platform, it’s ready for the final look, by yourself. Sometimes you can tweak the final headline, and that all gets put into the episode as well and confirmed that that’s in there.
From there, once it’s all ready for scheduling and publishing, once the audio comes back, it gets sent off for transcription. For the transcription, we use an amazing service.
Kelton Reid: Yeah. We can talk about the transcription piece. That’s the third piece of this. So there’s three checklists that you are manually adding to each of these cards that are automatically created, automagically created over there on Trello, when they email the production team. Then we just start working our way down those. Everyone has their different duties. I think there’s a 21-piece checklist. That’s how these things actually get built.
Then once you get that first checklist set up, then you are jumping over to Rainmaker. What happens there in the platform?
Clare Garrett: As soon as we receive the raw episode, I go in and we’ve got already draft posts created inside Rainmaker Platform. Each show’s got their own draft post in there, for that specific day and that specific set time.
Kelton Reid: That’s right. Where do those live? Where do those draft posts actually live?
Clare Garrett: They actually live inside the editorial calendar inside the platform, which is rather cool. They’re already in there. Normally, we have a month in advance in there. So it’s really easy when the host sends it in, and they say they want it published on this day. I can just go in there, scroll down, find that particular episode, drop in the tentative headline, drop in the raw blog post, add the featured image, which is the show art, the author’s name, and also the keyword.
Once I’ve hit save, I go in and preview and just make sure every link works, that it all reads well, that the title looks good. Then once all that’s in place, I can let you know that it is good to have another check by yourself. Once you finalize the headline, then Caroline goes ahead and creates the social image and then that can be added inside of there as well, which is a pretty cool tool to have.
Kelton Reid: Yeah. I should mention that our designer, Rafal Tomal, has created all of our show art and also the social images template. So it’s all really kind of paint by numbers. The amazing work that he’s done, both on the site and for the shows themselves, is pretty impressive. When you’re looking at the front page of Rainmaker.FM, you’re seeing all that beautiful work that he’s done. The functionality, obviously, is some of the other great work that he’s done for us.
That said, not to get too technical on that stuff, then we hold our breath, right? We just wait for the finished audio to come back.
Clare Garrett: The audio to come back, yeah.
Kelton Reid: Once it does, we listen to it. We check the ID3 tags. We make sure everything’s ready to go before we pop it in there, and it uploads to the site.
Clare Garrett: Yeah. It’s so super easy to do as well.
Kelton Reid: Yeah. It’s pretty amazing, the Rainmaker team has done and done for us and how all of this …
Clare Garrett: I never dare complain about anything.
Kelton Reid: All these pieces fit together so nicely. We’re very, very lucky, knocking on wood. That it is so easy.
Clare Garrett: Yeah. It’s never let us down really.
Kelton Reid: Well, let’s talk about transcription now. That is the final piece. So once that finished audio comes back, then you can talk about these fantastic tools and people that help us actually get every single transcript for every single show published back onto Rainmaker Platform.
Clare Garrett: Yeah. For the audio, we actually use Dropbox, so we can all share it between ourselves. Once the edited audio file is in there, it can be sent off to Rev. That’s Rev.com. Normally, they send it back within half a day, a day max. Normally, it’s like 95 percent accurate. They’re pretty good at doing awesome transcripts.
Once that comes back, it has to be downloaded. Then we save it to Google Drive, which is another fantastic way of sharing documents with other people outside of our company. They get sent off to Kibin, which is an amazing editing company.
Kelton Reid: We love Kibin.
Clare Garrett: We do. They’ve done an amazing job. They’ve done the majority of our transcripts for Rainmaker.FM.
Kelton Reid: Let’s talk a little bit about Kibin and our friend Naomi Tepper that helped us to get everything set up over there. We basically have a team of editors that we trained and worked with very closely to dial in exactly how we wanted all of our transcripts formatted specifically for Rainmaker.
Clare Garrett: Yes. That took some getting there as well because it was all new to us, the network. We had to figure out a way of how we wanted the transcripts done and other things that’s in there. Yeah. They’ve worked out really well. We’ve got three editors there that actually just work on our stuff, so that’s really nice to know and reassuring.
Kelton Reid: Yeah. They’re a fantastic team at Kibin. We’re very lucky to have them and you, overseeing all of this and managing that piece and all the other pieces that you do. The final question, what’s the most challenging part of working with Kelton Reid, host of The Writer Files?
Clare Garrett: You’re so tough. Maybe trying to keep up on the coffee consumption. I don’t think I could ever drink as much as what you do.
Kelton Reid: Hey. I brew half-caf coffee all day long, and it just keeps me sane and level. I’m sure it’s the only thing actually keeping me alive. If I stop drinking coffee, my heart will stop.
Clare Garrett: I’ve not had a coffee yet this year, so you’re way ahead of me.
Kelton Reid: I admire your stick-to-it-iveness there. Clare, thank you so much. I really appreciate you hopping on. Cheers.
Clare Garrett: Thank you. Bye.
Kelton Reid: Thanks so much for joining me on another tour of the writer’s process. If you enjoy The Writer Files podcast, please subscribe to the show and leave us a raving review to help other writers find us. For more episodes or to leave a comment or question, you can drop by WriterFiles.FM. And you can always chat with me on Twitter @KeltonReid. Cheers. Talk to you soon.