In this episode of the Digital Publishing Podcast (which you can find a full transcript of below), I cover 7 topics from how I recorded an audiobook to a better way to go about your blog commenting.
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- 01:21 – Topic #1: Browse in other browsers
- 03:07 – Topic #2: Sometimes you need to give up
- 05:25 – Topic #3: A podcast timeline
- 06:31 – Topic #4: Recording an audiobook
- 11:44 – Topic #5: Not using a pop filter
- 13:10 – Topic #6: Music while you read
- 15:12 – Topic #7: Making blog commenting more enjoyable
- 18:02 – Featured Podcast
- 19:14 – Featured Tool
DPP019: Recording an Audiobook, Better Blog Commenting, Giving Up, and 4 More Ideas
Hey everyone, I’m Tristan Higbee, and this show is all about the things I see and would like to see in the world of digital publishing, from blogging to ebooks to membership sites and more, plus things related to internet business and online marketing. At the end of the podcast I’ll mention my picks for this week’s featured podcast and featured tool for digital publishers. You can find a full transcript of each episode of the Digital Publishing Podcast at DigitalPublishingPodcast.com.
Thanks to everyone who has gone into iTunes and left reviews and rated the show. I really, really appreciate it. You can go to itunes.digitalpublishingpodcast.com and then click the blue “Rate in iTunes” button in the left sidebar to pull up the podcast in iTunes so you can rate and review it, and it’ll only take a minute or two.
Ok! I’ve got 7 topics to talk about today, so let’s get started.
Note that in the audio version, I say 6 topics and I mess up with the counting of each individual idea/tip. Oh well. There are 7.
1. Browse in other browsers
I’m a very happy user of Google’s Chrome browser. I even wrote a book about it called The 138 Best Chrome Extensions. I very, very rarely use other browsers because I just don’t like them as much, but I did last week. I think Chrome was acting buggy for something I was doing, so I opened up Firefox and went to the site I was working on. I was horrified when I realized that a pretty important design element on the page looked terrible. I’m on a Mac so I don’t have Internet Explorer, but I also opened up Safari and yep, that design element looked crappy there too.
I looked at another site of mine in all three browsers and again, it looked fine in Chrome, but not so fine in Firefox and Safari. I fixed what needed to be fixed and now am planning on going through all of my sites online and making sure they don’t look too weird in different browsers. I used to do this kind of testing a lot, but I’ve gotten into a comfortable Chrome rut and have been forgetting to do it. If it’s something you don’t do or haven’t done in a while, it might be time to do it again.
You can also use Browsershots to see how your site looks in other browsers.
2. Sometimes you need to give up
A friend emailed me last week and asked me to take a look at his site and tell him what I thought about it and how he could get more traffic to it. I won’t say exactly what the site was, but it was a niche classifieds site. The prognosis wasn’t good. My friend said that he had been working on the site for 3 years, but there were only 4 or 5 things listed on the site.
I’m a huge fan of starting new things and quitting them fast. I don’t know if that’s a skill or a bad habit, but it works for me. If you’ve listened to most of the episodes of this podcast, you’ll know that I’ve talked about several new things that I’ve started, and some of them I’ve already abandoned. But working on something for three years? That’s just bad, even if that’s three years of spare time effort. If your project has zero traction after three years, there’s a fundamental problem somewhere. If my friend had asked me about his site three years ago, I definitely could have told him why this particular site was a bad idea. Or if he’d asked almost anyone else with online experience, he would have been told it was a bad idea. The problem is that I don’t think he asked anyone.
I did tell my friend how he could get more traffic to his site, but I also said that it wouldn’t matter because of the several things wrong with the premise of the site. I think it made him mad because it’s been a week and he hasn’t written back to me. Oh well. But don’t pump three years into something before getting feedback on it. Ask other people about your project to see if they think it’s a good idea, and have a timeline in mind, like if you don’t hit a milestone or goal after a certain period of time, you’ll step back and re-evaluate what you’re doing.
3. A podcast timeline
One of the new podcasts I’ve come across recently is a business/personal development podcast called Think Act Get. I’ve listened to a handful of episodes now and haven’t quite decided if I like it or not, but I did see that they’ve done something interesting for the last couple episodes. In the blog post for each episode (which also turns up for me as the show notes in Downcast, which is the podcasting app I use on my iPhone), they’ve put a timeline of when things are discussed. So the timeline for the most recent episode includes things like “Copying proven systems” at 9:33 and “finding balance in your diet” at 19:05. I think I’ll start doing that for this podcast (in fact you should see it for this podcast), and let me know if you like it or of it doesn’t matter to you.
4. Recording an audiobook
I mentioned last week that I was writing a book of travel tips, that I’d probably end up recording an audio version of it, and that the book would be available in the Kindle store by the time I recorded this episode. I talked about the actual writing of the book last week, so now I’m going to talk about recording the audio version of the book and how I’m working that in to the Kindle version.
Including a free MP3 version is something I’ve done in a couple of my other books, namely 101 Blogging Tips and How to Manage Multiple Blogs. I like doing this because it provides a lot of value. I mean, you get a Kindle book and an audio book for $3. That’s pretty darn good, however you look at it. Even if someone has no interest in listening to it, I think that the audio version increases the perceived value of what I’m selling and is a compelling reason to buy my book versus the book of someone else in the niche.
Now for the actual recording of the book. I read it myself and just recorded me reading it. I recorded it using the setup I use to record this podcast, which I talked about in episode 15. It was with the Audio-Technica ATR-2100 microphone, and I recorded and edited it with the Audacity software I talked about last episode. To be honest, I absolutely hated recording and editing the book. I had to turn off the fan and air conditioning so that there wouldn’t be any background noise, so it was hot here in Cozumel, and I just didn’t enjoy the actual reading aloud part; I’ve said many times that I’m a writer, not a talker.
But one really good thing about reading every single word out loud is that it’s a fantastic way to edit your stuff. When you just read in your head, it’s easy to gloss over misspelled words or awkwardly worded phrases, but you catch that kind of thing when you read it out loud.
So yeah, I really disliked the recording part, but I loathed the editing. Recording the book took about 5 hours total, spread throughout a day. Editing took three or four times that spread out over the two following days. It was miserable. I messed something up in just about every paragraph, so editing out all of those mistakes plus he lip smacks and removing the pauses that were too long took forever and was excruciating. The upside, though, is that after those three days I had an audio version of my ebook. I’m willing to endure three days of discomfort if it means that I have a better product to sell.
I split the book up into 10 MP3 files and then combined them all in a zipped folder. I then uploaded the zipped folder (which was about 71 MB) to my site (or more accurately to Amazon S3, and then I linked to the zipped file from my site). And then here’s how people who buy the book can access the MP3 version: On the last page of the book is a URL and a password. On the page it says something like, “If you want to download the MP3 version of this book for free, go here and enter in this password.” The person goes to the page, enters in the password, and can then download the zipped file. WordPress has built in password-protection functionality for posts and pages. Before you publish the post, click the “Visibility” option next to the Preview and Publish buttons, then select the Password Protected option and type in your password.
You could set something up where people have to subscribe to your newsletter or something in order to receive the free version, but that would definitely make some buyers unhappy, so I have no interest in doing that.
The book is currently live and available for purchase on Amazon but I don’t want anyone to buy it yet. Some of the colors on the cover are off, so I uploaded a new version but it has yet to actually update Amazon itself. So I’ll announce the book next week on the podcast and include a link to it, and I’ll actually make it free on the day that the next episode of the podcast goes live next week, so you can download it and hopefully leave a great review.
And in case anyone’s wondering, the 27,500 words of the book translates into roughly 144 print pages, according to Amazon.
5. Not using a pop filter
So I recorded the audio version of my book in a way that I’ve never recorded before. There were a couple things I did differently. First, I recorded it in bed. I didn’t want to sit at a table for 5 hours, so I put a little end-table thing up on my bed and then put my microphone on the end-table. My mic is propped up by a little 6-inch-high tripod. So I sat on the bed with the end-table on the bed right next to me, and the microphone on top of the end table and pointed at my mouth.
The second way I recorded differently was by not using the pop filter. The pop filter is the thing that helps diffuse the air coming from your mouth so that loud popping noises you hear on certain sounds like the “p” sound aren’t as pronounced. But I couldn’t fit the pop filter on the end table. What I ended up doing instead is just positioning the microphone so that it was off to the side of my mouth. Instead of being right in front of my mouth and in the path of the air coming out of my mouth, it was slightly off to the side. And that worked really well. In fact, I think I’m going to ditch the pop filter when I move because it’s one less thing I have to carry around, and right now I’m recording without the pop filter.
6. Music while you read
One thing that some ebooks in one form or another have offered for a while is the option to listen to music while you read. It’s to set the tone or ambiance or something. I don’t think that this is something that appeals to most people, but it’s kind of a neat idea. Marvel Comics just announced last week that it would be including soundtracks with its comics at no additional cost. And then a few days ago I read a great blog post that had a play button at the top, and it said “To get the full effect, press play on the track above and start reading.” But I actually did click the play button before I started reading and you know, it actually did add something. The music in this case was used to be a bit tongue-in-cheek and melodramatic, but it did add a unique something else to the post. It was a novel reading experience.
This is something I don’t think I’ll ever do on a blog post, but this podcast IS about the things I see in the world of digital publishing and… I saw this.
Another tangentially related thing I noticed recently was on BuzzFeed. At the end of every post there are yellow buttons you can press to give your reaction to what was posted. You can choose things like LOL, Trashy, Geeky, Ew, and Old. One of the other options is an orange Rdio button (Rdio is an online music service). If you press the button, you can reply or react with a song. You type in a song and that takes the place of your comment or reaction or whatever. It’s interesting. I don’t know why it’s there because I don’t think anyone uses it, but still, it’s interesting, and it is something that I saw recently.
7. Making blog commenting more enjoyable
Generally speaking, I dislike commenting on other blogs. It’s not something I’ve enjoyed for a couple years now, ever since I went through a mad commenting phase that culminated in commenting on 100 blogs in a single day. The main reason I don’t like commenting on blogs is because I feel like most blog posts are crap. That’s sad, but I think it’s true. Very few people have something interesting to say. Most of the new posts I see I don’t want to read, and in order to leave a good blog comment, you need to actually read the blog post or article. The vast majority of blogs in any niche are not very good, so I historically haven’t read many posts, and therefore haven’t found too many posts to comment on. And I’m talking here mostly about non-news blogs. I read a bunch of niche-specific news blogs and posts every day, but I don’t subscribe to too many non-news blogs because of the aforementioned quality issues.
The thing is, I think that commenting is a nice way to slowly build up traffic and relationships with other bloggers. You’ll recall that last week I talked about my new site, Travel Knowledge Database. It basically aggregates, indexes, and sorts the most recent posts from the top 100 or so travel blogs. I want to slowly start building traffic to the blog by commenting on other travel blogs. Because I sort each of the posts that come through Travel Knowledge Database from those 100 blogs, I see a lot of travel-related blog posts, and a handful every day that I want read, and a few of those that I want to comment on.
The great thing about this is that it’s not drudgery. I don’t say to myself, “Ok, I still need to comment on two more blogs today.” It’s not a strategy; it’s a natural consequence of being interested in what someone has written.
So if you want to start commenting on more blogs, like if it’s something you want to do a few times a day, subscribe to a crap ton of them. Like 50 or 100, not just 5 or 10. You’ll ignore the vast majority of new posts that you see, and that’s fine. You definitely don’t want to spend the time reading every post from 100 different blogs. Ignore all of the posts that don’t interest you and then comment on the ones that you really have something valuable to add to. Then the blog commenting doesn’t seem like work, it’s just fun. And the added benefit is that you’ll slowly be building links, traffic, and relationships.
Featured podcast and tool
And now it’s time for this episode’s featured podcast and featured tool for digital publishers. My pick for featured podcast is… actually not one specific podcast. It’s more of a reminder. If you’ve been listening to the podcast for a while or following my blog for a while, you’ll know that I love rock climbing. It’s been a huge part of my life, and it’s something that is as much a part of me as anything else. I recently ran across an amazing climbing podcast called The Enormocast. It’s been around for about a year, but I only recently found it because it had been at least a year since I’d looked for a climbing podcast. So this is a reminder to everyone listening to this to go look for niche podcasts. You might think, “Nah, there aren’t any podcasts about that one thing I’m interested in.” But you might be surprised. There’s been a podcasting renaissance over the past year or two and there have been a ton of new podcasts. So go to iTunes or Stitcher or however it is you find podcasts and see what interesting stuff you can find.
My pick for this week’s tool for digital publishers is called Kippt. Kippt is a place to save your links, or a better way to bookmark. I’m a huge Evernote fan and use it multiple times daily, but I’ve never liked it for saving links. Kippt is awesome for this. It’s a free online service. You sign up for an account and install the extension or plugin or bookmarklet into your browser. Whenever you come across a page online that you want to save, you click the Kippt button that you installed and can name and describe the link, and that includes adding tags. And you can sort your saved links into categories or lists, as they’re called.
So I’ve been using it over the past week or so to do a few different things. I made a list of places I want to go and things I want to see. Every day online I see a couple really beautiful places or awesome buildings—something that I want to see at some point in the future. Like earlier today I saw this really cool swimming hole in Samoa, so I added it to my Bucket List list on Kippt and used the hashtag #samoa on it. At some point in the future I’ll end up in Samoa and can search for everything I tagged with the hashtag #samoa.
In addition to the Bucket List list, I have a Travel Websites list and a Digital Publishing Tools list. You can go to your account at Kippt.com/whatever and view all of your lists and links. You can make your lists public or private, and there are even RSS feeds for each list, which is pretty neat. That means that you could use something like IFTTT (which I talk about all the time now), to post your saved links to a Tumblr or WordPress blog.
I’m a pretty new Kippt user but I love it. I think it’s awesome, and if you’re the kind of person who bookmarks a lot, this is a fantastic way to organize them for future reference.
And that’ll do it for episode 19 of the Digital Publishing Podcast. Be sure to check out digitalpublishingpodcast.com for show notes and links and transcriptions. You can also sign up there for a weekly newsletter where I send out a roundup of the best digital publishing-related articles that I’ve read over the previous week. Usually it’s about 4 or 5 articles—nothing too crazy or overwhelming.
Please don’t hesitate to email me any question you might have regarding digital publishing. I love talking about this stuff, and I’d love to help you out. You can follow me on Twitter by going to twitter.digitalpublishingpodcast.com. That will redirect you to my Twitter account, since my name is a bit tricky to spell. And again and as always, I’d really appreciate it if you went into iTunes and rated and reviewed this podcast, and thanks for listening.