One of the more popular industry podcasts is Adventures In SF Publishing. SFFWRTCHT partnered with AISFP last Fall and I sat down with founder Shaun Farrell to find out about him and where AISFP came from. Shaun Farrell is a husband, father, blogger, podcaster and SFF fan from California. He’s also the founder and host of Adventures In SF Publishing which is getting close to 200 episodes of great podcasts. An aspiring writer, he lives in Northern California with his family and can be found on Twitter as @AISFPpodcast on Facebook and via www.adventuresinsfpublishing.com.
SFFWRTCHT: Where´d your interest in SFF come from?
Shaun Farrell: My dad was into Star Trek. Of course, I was hooked on He-Man by age five. That played a huge influence. I wore out two sets of Star Wars VHS tapes in my youth, too. Star Trek II was a favorite of mine. All of those worked together to warp my mind forever. No pun intended.
SF: I discovered Star Trek novels and Tim Zahn´s Heir To The Empire at age twelve. I was a word junkie for life after that. I read media tie-ins until I was twenty years old, and not much else.
SFFWRTCHT: Were you involved with cons and fandom? Cosplay?
SF: My first con was 2006 Condor, where I met Kevin J. Anderson. What a thrill. I read his Star Wars and X-Files books as a kid. He´s a great writer, great guy. That kind of got me hooked, but I´ve attended Comic-Con many times. I like big cons.
SFFWRTCHT: What inspired you to start podcasting? I imagine it is time-consuming.
SF: I discovered podcasting in 2006, mostly from listening as I drove, and just had to try it. I’m not sure why.
SFFWRTCHT: Where did the name Adventures in SF Publishing come from?
SF: That was a tough one! I´ve been thinking about changing it, but I won´t at this point. Too much history. I wanted something that promised fun plus, perhaps, harkened back to the pulps and adventurous space opera fiction.
SFFWRTCHT: A man after my own heart… Did you plan the format in advance or just stumble into it?
SF: I started by just copying the format of Dragonpage: Cover to Cover! Over time, we´ve changed things a bit. We rotate segments for variety. Each episode can be a little different. I hope that keeps it interesting.
SFFWRTCHT: Did you study a lot of other podcasts first?
SF: Podcasting for Dummies was indispensable. All new podcasters should read it. Cover to Cover, I Should Be Writing, The Future and You, The Secrets by Mike Stackpole.
SFFWRTCHT: How did you decide what technology you needed and would use?
SF: Podcasting for Dummies and Podcast 411 helped. So much equipment out there, with prices ranging from 10 bucks to 3k.
SFFWRTCHT: What equipment and software do you use?
SF: MXL 990 Condensor Mic; USB Mobile-Preamp; iRiver recorder, 8-Channel Alesis Mixer, and Skype. Magic, baby, Magic. At conventions I use an H4 recorder and Shure SM58 Dynamic mics. For me, right away. I wasn’t happy with the free recording software. But I hear GarageBand works quite well. I’m not a tech expert, but you want phantom power and a reliable brand. Though I use the PreAmp to power my mic because most affordable mixers aren’t quite powerful enough.
SFFWRTCHT: What´s the process/steps for recording a show?
SF: One of us conducts/edits an interview or we interview together. Then, we plan and record our segments. Lou Anders and Tobias Buckell record sometimes. Lou will record “From the Editors Desk.” Toby records “Ask a Writer” Both feature listener questions. I run audio through Levelator and assemble the episode in Audacity.
SFFWRTCHT: Before becoming known and successful, how did you network and find interviewees for the podcast?
SF: The simple answer: I just asked. Most authors can be found online and have blogs/email on their websites. I also frequented Mysterious Galaxy often. The staff would introduce me to authors, and that helped.
SFFWRTCHT: So you were a stalker then?
SF: Basically, yes.
SFFWRTCHT: How much time does it take to complete a show from recording through editing? Has the production/edit time changed as you´ve done more?
SF: A lot, Yes! It used to take much longer on average. I remember episode two taking over twenty hours because of audio issues. I had no experience, so I was self-teaching everything. It was all user error stuff. All of the time was in postproduction. The guest was R.A. Salvatore. None of this accounts for time to read the authors’ books either.
SFFWRTCHT: Most memorable guest?
SF: Names that jump out: Tim Zahn, Neil Gaiman, cast of Stargate Atlantis/Universe, Lou Anders who was one of my first guests, and my interview with Ray Bradbury. Quite memorable.
SFFWRTCHT: You had a female co-host at first? How long was she with the show?
SF: Sam and I met at Mysterious Galaxy, and I thought we could have some good fun together. I was right. Sam was with me for about seventy episodes. I started solo, but the show just didn’t work well that way. I realized the show was really missing something by not having a co-host.
SFFWRTCHT: When did the change to Moses and Brent come about?
SF: They joined me about a year ago. I moved to Northern California, and Sam decided to move on to other things. I almost quit. I put out feelers for help, but Moses and Brent responded. They found me, really. They were listeners and heard me ask for help. It´s been a great relationship. I don’t think the podcast would still be around if not for them linking arms with me.
SFFWRTCHT: How long did it take you guys to get into a routine?
SF: We gelled fast. I wrote detailed scripts at first to guide us, but now we mostly wing it w/just a bare bones outline.
SFFWRTCHT: How do you decide the topics?
SF: A lot is based on current events in publishing. Sometimes we brainstorm larger topics or posts on Twitter.
SFFWRTCHT: How has the industry responded to/supported the show?
SF: Very well. Of course, I offer free publicity! I´ve built relationships and made friends I wouldn´t have made without it. Locus Magazine even sponsored us, and I´ve been able to do associate with Clarion and Writers of the Future. I feel like I’m name dropping a lot.
SFFWRTCHT: I was just going to accuse you. But I did it when I was a guest so what can I say?
SF: And the nature of this thing is very social, community driven. Hard not to drop names.
SFFWRTCHT: You have several people who are frequent repeat guests. Is it hard to keep getting new guests or do you just enjoy having those people back again?
SF: Lou Anders and Tobias Buckell are really the only recurring guests. For their segments. Others have made two or three appearances, but those are usually separated by at least 12 months. Usually more. Timothy Zahn has repeated. I think Tracy Hickman has, too. But 80-90% of our guests have one appearance, I’d estimate. Most guests come from the books we receive or events we attend. There are so many authors out there, and we get more requests than we can possibly accept.
SFFWRTCHT: How do you keep it fresh when having repeat guests?
SF: When guest do repeat, they usually have new projects to discuss, and we can flesh out stuff from earlier interview.
SFFWRTCHT: Who books the show? How do you decide whom to ask? Or do publciists and authors come to you?
SF: Both, actually. Some publishers just send us their books with contact info, and I’ll reach them that way.
SFFWRTCHT: So you get the books by request?
SF: Usually the publicist will send it to me. Sometimes I just go buy it. And other times I don’t get the book at all. Honestly, though, we don’t get as many books as you might think. They have thinned out since the recession.
SFFWRTCHT: How long did it take to get the interest of publishers?
SF: Not long. Lou was my guest in show 3, and he got me on their list right away. It just snowballed from there.
SFFWRTCHT: What do you do when your first choice for an interview fails to attend? Do you scale alternatives?
SF: Well, everything we do is time-shifted, so if someone has to cancel, we can just reschedule.
SFFWRTCHT: You use a combination of live interviews and those recorded live at cons and other places. Is that typical for podcasts like this?
SF: Yeah, I think so. Recording interviews face to face is mostly a wonderful experience.
SFFWRTCHT: What are some podcasts you regularly listen to and admire?
SF: Genre: SFSignal Podcast, I Should Be Writing, Functional Nerds, Gate World, Adventures of Indiana Jim, DragonPage and some fiction new podcasts I’m trying: The Shared Desk and A Ministry Of Peculiar Occurrences. Non-genre: 49ersfancast, The FitCast, The Mark Levin Show, Heritage in Focus, Rich Eisen, PTI, Superfunctional. I´m always rotating podcasts in and out to try new things. Some I listen to for two weeks, others for years.
SFFWRTCHT: You have a theatre background and are an actor. How do those skills come into play to help your podcasting?
SF: Tough one. I´d say that acting taught me how to manage my nerves and fears. I was nervous to approach authors, but I controlled those nerves and portrayed confidence that I hadn´t earned. I think.
SFFWRTCHT: Have you had any particular type of segments which really bombed?
SF: I tried to do a kissing booth at a convention. So my sex appeal is insufficient? Just kidding. No, all segments seemed to have worked.
SFFWRTCHT: What are your future plans for AISFP Podcast?
SF: Future plans: Can´t discuss all cause I don´t even know if we can pull it off. The goal is to get 4000 people involved in a special project in 2012. Details coming if we can move forward successfully on that big project. Also we are joining a syndication online radio station. Hope I didn´t say too much! Maybe April 2012. Station still being developed. Also, I am considering a shift from one show a week to two shows a week, but I don´t know if audience demand will support that. Also plan to continue to beef up our website. We have regular book reviews there, and more. I want more guest bloggers/editorials. You already contribute once a month which has been great for stimulating discussion. More book contests/giveaways! We gave out over 25 books this summer! And would love to hit Comic-Con and World Fantasy in 2012. I think that will keep us busy for the next year.
SFFWRTCHT: How can writers support and even get involved with AISFP both podcast and blog site?
SF: Listening and spreading the word is the biggest thing. We know we can´t please everyone, but I think we offer quite a bit. We do sell sponsorships, as well, for anyone who wants to support us and tell our audience about your book/product.
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novel The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. His second novel, The Returning, is forthcoming from Diminished Media Group in 2012. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chatevery Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF Publishing, Grasping For The Wind and SF Signal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts fromThe Worker Prince can be found on his blog. Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.