This pandemic has been a bane and a bone.
Remember those days when people were posting insanely cool-looking pics of cakes, cookies, buns, elaborate Sunday lunches, Dalgona coffee, families dancing, and mandala art. I can laugh about it now, but believe me, I was grumbling and growling at all of them for having the time to do this when I was barely managing to keep my head above water.
I had to retain my sanity, though those who know me will argue that it’s an exercise in futility. Thankfully they are not writing this article. As a child, I loved listening to stories but as time went by, it was relegated to the long-forgotten shelves of childhood activities. But a few months into the pandemic, a frantic search ensued to find something suitable to listen to while I did all those mundane chores around the house. I rejected the audiobook apps after a few attempts. By this time, I had already uploaded a few episodes of my podcast Shweta’s Basket. So, I decided to look up similar short stories and poems podcasts. But finding one that I liked, turned out to be a far more difficult task, I soon realized.
What are podcasts, you ask? Simply put they are radio on demand. The only difference is that instead of having five to ten radio channels to choose from, there are nearly 8,50,000 channels (read podcasts). This was truly like looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack. But persevere, for whatever your taste and liking, I bet there is a podcast for it out there. And, if not, then you create your own podcast.
Get, Set, Go–
There are two parts to my journey as a podcaster – As a listener and as a podcaster.
Generally, people consume before they produce but for me, it was the other way round. I recorded and uploaded my first episode in March 2020. But I became a serious listener somewhere in August.
The journey as a podcaster, in the beginning, was rather dismal. In the first nine months, I had uploaded only nine episodes. On the other hand, as a listener, by June-July, I was desperate for something to listen to. So, for the next few weeks, I listened to a lot of different short story podcasts and found them wanting. That exercise however became an excellent learning opportunity. I had started my podcast with the aim that the work I was doing as a writer, writing short stories and poems for online platforms, could be consumed as audio content.
But, the more I listened to these podcasts, the more I realized that all the stories written by an author are not brilliant or may not be appropriate for audio content, as well that the story and the narrator’s prowess were equally important to the success of a podcast. Alongside, I was reading awesome stories by other writers on these same online platforms and I would imagine narrating them.
That’s when it all came together for me. By mid-November 2020 I knew exactly the direction I wanted to take Shweta’s Basket in. I decided to shed my sloth skin and try on some spots. An Excel workbook was opened and a schedule was made leading right up to May 2021, which marked the 1st anniversary of my website. Yes, I had got myself a website too, so that I could showcase all my work in one place.
Hence the podcast, Shweta’s Basket, became an amalgamation of my desire to showcase stories written by contemporary writers, like you and me, and also my intense pleasure of narrating these awesome stories.
In the Race –
The marathon of the middle is real for podcasters too.
I had started but what now? Well, now came the toughest part. Yes, tougher than taking the plunge, tougher than planning the episodes. It was translating that Excel sheet into reality. Questions like, which platform should I use for hosting, how do I record, when do I record, choosing and learning the sound editing software, watching its tutorials, doing the actual editing, uploading to the host platform, distributing it to different platforms, and then to the biggest part, publishing it on social media had already been taken care of. Now was the time to expand.
Apart from quality content, the other thing required to succeed in podcasting is consistency. And I was determined to be consistent. So, in four months, I uploaded thirty-two episodes, culminating Season 1 with 41 episodes. The last episode was part of the one-month anniversary celebration and saw the highest episode download of over 250 listens.
This two-year journey from 10 downloads to 2500 was filled with highs and lows. The success of the anniversary celebrations was not just in people who enjoyed participating and winning Shweta’s Basket branded merchandise, but also, it’s translating into more downloads. Then in September 2021, Shweta’s Basket was nominated for Hubhopper Studio Podcast Awards 2021 in the category Storytelling.
But being a solo podcaster is lonely work. And, though I thoroughly enjoy what I do, and I wasn’t looking for external validation, it did cause anguish, to see that the downloads or plays did not match the number of people seeing and commenting on the post on social media. This is the stage where a lot of podcasters quit. You will find thousands of such podcasts where few episodes have been uploaded and then nothing. There were times when I did not want to record or edit too. But the fact that I had already invested so much time, effort, and love into growing it and that it will all come to naught if I was not consistent, kept pushing me.
Where’s the Finish Line –
That really is up to the podcaster, isn’t it?
Today Shweta’s Basket, a weekly podcast with a new episode uploaded every Friday, is available on 19 podcast platforms like Anchor, Spotify, Apple and Google podcasts, Gaana, Jiosaavn, and even YouTube. So, is that the finish line? No.
Perhaps it is 100,000 listens, monetization, diversification, or even a brilliant marketing plan for exponential growth. All I know is, while it is not easy I sure as hell am not giving up. It helps that it’s something I love and it satiates my creative soul. Every time I pick up a story, I imagine how it will sound in my head. I write the script and try different voices and tones for the characters. I practice multiple times before recording. The focus is to make every episode better than the previous one and for me to learn and grow with each story.
In these two seasons (season 2 continues) I have worked with over forty-five amazing authors and publishers. But as we all know in this ever-changing world; we need to reinvent ourselves. With that in mind, planning a new format for Season 3 is underway.
Who knows what the future holds, will Shweta’s Basket remain true to its core of bringing awesome stories and poems to its listeners or will it take a new avatar? Whatever the future holds, I know this, I will keep being consistent and uploading quality content – which I will let you be the judge of.
So, if you are planning to be a podcaster, now is the time. Audio content consumption is at an all-time high and is bound to go up. And the best part is you can do it in your PJs. So, happy podcasting.
Shweta is a passionate storyteller and has her own short stories and poems podcast called Shweta’s Basket. It is available on nineteen podcast platforms and YouTube.
She is a podcaster with a difference. For, not only does she narrate stories, she writes beautiful short stories, poems, and bespoke poems too. Her work has been published in more than ten anthologies and has been appreciated by her peers. She has written for various online writing platforms like Women’s Web, Penmancy, Artoonsinn, Literature Lover’s Association, and Momspresso and won numerous competitions for both her prose and poetry.
Shweta has her own website. Her basket of happiness as she likes to call it. It has all things dear to her. Apart from stories and poems written by her, there are helpful book reviews, must-watch movie recommendations, and mouth-watering restaurant reviews. All things that satisfy her soul and fill her with contentment. She is especially proud of her collaborations with some of the most talented contemporary writers and publishers, where their stories and poems have become a part of her basket.
A Note from The Hive Team
A collaboration between Shweta’s Basket and The Hive Publishers led to the audio version of a story for the anthology, #Love. Listen to the two episodes of Hand in Hand into the Sunset by Narayani V Manapadam from #Love by The Hive.