Author Interview: Richard Heathcote

Do you prefer ebooks, printed books, or audiobooks most of the time?
I’ve been a Kindle user for many, many years. They are a fantastic bit of technology that obviously enables us to have seemingly unlimited amounts of books at our fingertips; perfect for travelling! So whilst my Kindle is often my day to day reading platform, I still buy and read lots of paperbacks. You can’t beat the feeling of opening and gently creasing the spine for the first time! And some may think me odd, but smelling a proper, tangible book, there’s nothing like it! It’s intoxicating. So paperbacks will still, generally, be my overall favourite.

Does writing energize or exhaust you? Or both?
A mix of both! I’ve written blogs, newsletters and articles for a long time, so I’m used to ‘writing’ in a variety of media and styles. This however is my first book, and it’s a totally different kettle of fish! Blogs etc I can usually ‘rattle off’ fairly promptly, but this being my first book, it took much longer, and took quite a while to get ‘right’. So although I loved the process, it was a little exhausting at times. But once you finally receive the finished printed copy, it’s massively exhilarating! And that gave me a renewed energy for the whole process. Maybe even given me the bug to write a second book….

How did you come up with the title for your book?
In the UK, there’s a brand of garden fence protective sealant called ‘Ronseal’, and their tagline for decades has been ‘does exactly what it says on the tin’ – and that was pretty much the inspiration for my book’s title. It literally teaches people, in an easy to read format, precisely how to start podcasting, from idea creation, right through to publishing. I did spend considerable time mulling over various title combinations – too long I think! But in the end, this is the one I kept coming back to. It’s descriptive, it shows people what it’s all about from the get-go, and is a simple enough concept to grasp that if you want to do ‘x’, then buy ‘y’, it’ll tell you all you need to know. And I think it does just that.

How long did it take you to write this book?
Well, this never started out as a book. I began writing this book as a few notes, with the idea of maybe turning it into an online course. Those few notes became longer notes, bullet points, and a couple of sentences under each bullet point. Gradually, those notes became a little out of hand, and I started to flesh out entire sections. Before too long, I realised I had something else on my hands, something that felt more of a written entity. So from what began in early 2019, adding to it on and off over about 3 years, I finally decided (after letting the file be dormant on my desktop for many months!) that it’s about time I did something with it, and thought right – I’m going to turn it into a book and see what happens! So in mid 2022, I did just that, reopened the document file, read it through, and started working on it properly.

How much research did you need to do for your book?
How To Start Podcasting is pretty much the culmination of over a decade of inadvertent research, and working knowledge. Being a full time voice over artist and working in the field of media production for nearly 20 years, podcasting was just one element of what I do. So having learned and researched this field a LOT over the past decade especially, that knowledge is what I decided to transpose to a book format, so it can benefit others. There are so many tips, tricks of the trade, and nuggets of wisdom I’ve learned over the years which I’ve put between these pages, that hopefully it’ll end up being useful for lots of other people. Also to learn from some of my mistakes! So it’s a blend of constant research, and on-the-job working knowledge.

What do the words “writer’s block” mean to you?
It means countless hours, and hours, spent in front of my computer screen, willing the words to come to me of how to phrase certain parts of my book so that it’s easily understandable by the masses! You get so caught up in whatever field of work you’re in that certain turns of phrase and jargon become second nature. But then you realise, not everyone knows about some of this – so it needs explaining. That was the hardest thing. Writing in a format that is fully accessible, so that it doesn’t put people off. There were so many times I was writing this book that this happened, ensuring that it made sense, not just by me, but that it made sense to anyone, and everyone. I hope those countless hours of blankly staring at pixels has paid off! I’ve got through many cups of coffee, far too many biscuits (cookies), and an incessant amount of eye-rubs til my eyes turn bloodshot, willing the words on these pages to make sense and come together!

What do you think is the best way to improve writing skills?
Reading. Quite simply, I think one of the best things anyone can do to improve their writing, is to read. And read a lot. Read lots of different books, by as wide a variety of authors as you can. Fiction and non-fiction. It’ll improve your vocabulary, your comprehension, which in turn will most certainly help improve the way you form sentences and paragraphs in your head, which in turn translate to the page, whatever it is you’re writing for.

What is a significant way your book has changed since the first draft?

After I compiled my initial notes for this book, before I even knew it was going to BE a book, a lot of it was written in fairly quick note style, because I had so much in my head that I wanted to put down on the page, I ended up writing it very much in ‘brain-fart’ mode! So when I read the first iteration back, although the bones were very much there, there was so much that either didn’t make sense, not remotely coherent, stuff that even I didn’t even understand what I meant at the time! So yes, a very painstaking process to work out what my original intention was in some of my notes. And when I made the decision to turn this into a book, going back all through my previous notes and semi-fleshed out sections, there was a lot of reworking to do to make it all come together. There was also a lot of re-ordering of some of the content to make more cohesive chapters – there were several sections that suddenly related back to earlier sections, so it definitely needed a lot of sifting, sorting, and re-working until it finally became what it is today.

What is the most difficult part of your writing process?
For me, creating this into a traditional book format. I use Apple Pages to write, and the first drafts of this book were very much just one long document that had no separation really, beyond some titles and subtitles I’d put in bold, in order to give it some semblance of flow.

So when I started finding out what Pages (and similarly with MS Word etc) can really do, seeing how straightforward it was to insert a dynamic table of contents, chapter titles/subtitles, section breaks, page breaks and all that business, it was an eye opener! I’d never used those sorts of features before, but once I got to grips with it, it certainly made life easier! And in turn, started to make it look, and feel, like a ‘proper’ book. Once I’d got a handle on how to ‘drive’ Apple Pages properly, and more efficiently, it opened my eyes to how writing a book should be from the start – not something to do when you’re halfway through! It simplified the process of laying out various chapters better, re-ordering some around too. So yes, the ‘mechanics’ of writing were more my stumbling block, which when learning how to do that more effectively, definitely made a massive difference to my whole process.

What would you say to an author who wanted to design their own cover?
I was told by several people, ‘don’t even think about designing your own cover’. Although there’s probably a lot of merit in that, I decided to ignore that bit of advice. I had a clear vision in my head of what I wanted my cover to look like, down to the font, imagery, and colour palette, and having worked in design for many years too, I wasn’t really phased by the concept of designing my cover. I had confidence in my ability, and knew I wouldn’t rest until I got it right. Again, the cover design took several iterations of similar themes until I settled on the current & final version; because even with a fairly clear vision, there’s always things you’ll need to tweak, move around, see what works best etc.

My caveat to all this would be if you’re not a designer, have never designed anything before, don’t feel that you’ve got an eye for it, nor have a fairly clear vision for what you want it to look like – maybe get someone else to do it for you. There are many, many fantastic designers out there who can turn your book cover into something you never imagined, which may end up being completely perfect.

But, there’s nothing stopping you from giving it a go. Try it out, do some tests in things like Canva. Even if it’s just a few concepts, or mood-boarding. It may help your mind reach where you want it to go, finding avenues of design you may not have come up with before. Even if you took that concept and then passed it to a designer to translate it into something amazing and bespoke. Don’t be afraid of giving it a go. If it doesn’t work out, there are plenty of people out there who can help before you go for launch.

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