Inside the Australian and New Zealand book industry

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Podcast spotlight: The First Time Podcast

Launched in 2018, The First Time is a weekly podcast about the first time someone publishes a book. Supported by the ACT Writers Centre, Writers Victoria and RMIT University, each episode covers ‘all the firsts: agents, editors, social media, reviews, and if you need to get your nails done to match your book cover’. With the first season currently underway, co-hosts and debut authors Kate Mildenhall and Katherine Collette are already planning their second. Mildenhall spoke to Books+Publishing for our ‘podcast spotlight’ series.

For new or uninitiated listeners, describe your podcast in under 50 words.

The First Time Podcast is a podcast about the first time you publish a book. Part reality show, part writers masterclass, hosts Kate Mildenhall and Katherine Collette take listeners through the highs and lows of publication and talk to other Australian writers about their own experiences.

What makes your podcast unique?

We are completely obsessed with first time publication! We are both big fans of writing-related podcasts but with the publication of Katherine’s debut novel, The Helpline (Text), looming, Katherine had so many questions—both practical and more emotional—about what might happen through the process. We figured other first-timers (and all writers!) might also be interested in those questions and answers and so decided we’d talk to a whole lot of Australian writers and industry insiders (including Melanie Cheng, Mark Brandi, Jamie Marina Lau, Graeme Simsion, Danielle Binks and Irma Gold, just to name a few!) about how they got through their first time: what it felt like, what helped and hindered, and what has changed since then.

When and how did you get started in podcasting?

We are both big podcast fans and we talk endlessly about writing and books and publishing. Earlier this year, it was Katherine’s questions about what to expect with her first time that really got us thinking about how many different experiences there are of debut publication, and what we (and others!) might be able to learn from that. We came up with the concept of The First Time, had a coffee where we got hugely excited, and it just went from there.

Where and how is your podcast recorded (and how big is your team)?

We are enormously lucky to have the support of RMIT School of Media and Communication, who help us by providing studio space, but more importantly, the time and skills of two sound production students, Phoebe Ady and Harry Morris, who record our interviews and edit our audio. The two of us do admin, partner liaison, marketing, website and social media and we prepare and conduct interviews with Phoebe and Harry editing each episode. They also mixed the music you hear, and we had the support of a fab graphic designer, Katja Matters, who created our logo.

What kind of listeners does your podcast reach?

At this stage (judging from the fabulous analytics on Audioboom, the hosting platform we use), we are reaching a mostly Australian, predominantly female audience, and we know from the feedback we’re getting that it is mostly other writers (or it could just be our friends!). We hope to expand that to a wider audience of other writers, readers and creatives.

What have been your most popular guests or most memorable episodes?

We’re only part way through our first season so we are looking forward to crunching all the data at the end! Our first episode with Claire G Coleman has been really popular and was a great insight into Claire’s writing process for Terra Nullius (Hachette). Our chat with Toni Jordan is a favourite with us and our listeners. Interviewing Annabel Smith and Jane Rawson together was a blast—we have loved their blog series ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting a Book’ and their combined frankness and wisdom about what it’s like to publish a book and everything that comes after is so refreshing and important. Going behind the scenes with Katherine’s agent Jacinta di Mase and editor Mandy Brett was illuminating, and there are loads of great tips in those episodes for other writers.

What recent trends have you noticed in podcasting? (Do you have any predictions for this format in the future?)

The rise of podcasting feels a little like going back in time in some ways, almost like a re-introduction to radio. Once upon a time, it was strange to have other people’s voices in your home. There’s a kind of intimacy in it as a medium. The delight and appeal of that hasn’t changed whereas radio seems to have become more and more commercial (and inane).

The rise of longform in general, and people wanting to hear a more in-depth approach to the discussion of topics, is very heartening.

Why do you think people are drawn to this format?

What’s not to love? Interesting conversations in your ears while you do the washing up. Win/win/win.

We’ve really enjoyed making something that listeners are saying is intimate and honest and that’s what the form offers; opportunities for quiet, frank often hilarious conversations that can then be broadcast to ears everywhere.

How do you fund your podcast? Do you have plans to explore other funding options?

We are applying for grants so that we can hopefully offer paid audio production positions for season two and cover some of our costs. We’ve also considered experimenting with other more creative ways of monetising the podcast (see upcoming episodes!). For the moment we fund it ourselves in terms of time and covering costs, and we are supported by the goodwill and hard work of others.

What plans do you have for your podcast going forward?

We’ve got such a long wish list of authors we want to speak to about their first-time publishing experiences, so we really want to keep those interviews going. We are both also in the process of working on our second books, which we know are completely different beasts to our firsts, so we want to keep up that frank discussion, expanding it into how we also approach editing, mentorships, finding agents etc. We’ve got an event coming up with Writers Victoria and we’re also really keen on live networking events where early career writers can meet up and lament and celebrate!

What other bookish podcasts (or podcasts for people who love reading, writing and sharing ideas!) should we be listening to, Australian or otherwise?