By 2007 Mignon Fogarty, better known to her fans as Grammar Girl, had created the Quick and Dirty Tips network, a series of podcasts based on her tips on grammar and writing. She had also started adding podcasts on more topics hosted by a variety of experts. Impressed with Fogarty’s network and its potential to support authors, Macmillan entered a joint venture with her that year and began producing the QDT podcast network, as well as a series of Quick and Dirty Tips books by Fogarty.
The venture created an exciting new platform for Macmillan. According to Edison Research’s “Infinite Dial,” a March 2018 report on the podcast marketplace, podcast listening continues to grow, with an estimated 73 million people listening to podcasts of all kinds each month.
Since teaming with Fogarty, Macmillan has gained experience and data with the format, using podcasting to promote its authors and market its books. But podcasting has also provided a platform for the house to create original audio content, connect directly to readers, generate advertising revenue, and recruit new authors.
As of 2018, the Quick and Dirty Tips network has grown to 10 weekly podcasts hosted by a variety of distinguished experts, according to Macmillan Audio president Mary Beth Roche. QDT, Roche said, generates two million monthly downloads across its 10 weekly shows, and its websites attract more than three million unique visitors each month.
Roche said that last year Macmillan also launched a second podcast network, Macmillan Podcasts, in an effort to support a broader range of authors and titles and to develop different podcast formats. The QDT network, she explained, is based on providing short tips, and “we needed a broader platform for all of our authors and for other types of shows.”
Today, in addition to producing the 10 shows on the QDT network, the Macmillan Podcasts network produces seven weekly shows of its own, with more to come, said Kathy Doyle, v-p of Macmillan Podcasts and QDT, who manages the team that oversees both networks.
It was the experience of working with Fogarty and QDT, Roche said, that made the Macmillan Podcasts network possible. “We got a lot of data and expertise working with podcasts,” she noted.
One of QDT’s most popular shows, Savvy Psychologist, began in 2014 and is hosted by Ellen Hendriksen, a clinical psychologist specializing in treating anxiety. The show became a hit and eventually led to a book deal for Hendriksen with St. Martin’s Press. Doyle and her team at Macmillan Podcasts worked with Hendriksen to create a six-part podcast on social anxiety, which debuted in March in conjunction with the release of the book How to Be Yourself: Quiet Your Inner Critic and Rise Above Social Anxiety. (At the time of this writing, Savvy Psychologist is the #3 show on Apple Podcasts.)
“The MP network showed us how to create a synergy between author, book, and podcast,” Doyle said. The network supports websites for each podcast and turns transcripts of each show into blog posts, creating additional content. “Listeners can go to the website and download the transcript of the show—it’s bonus material for the podcast,” Doyle noted.
But the Macmillan Podcasts network is not just a promotional and marketing platform for Macmillan titles: the network also creates original content. Macmillan Podcasts teamed with Tor Labs, a Macmillan imprint that specializes in experimental works, to create a podcast audio drama, or a radio play, titled Steal the Stars, which featured a cast of 24 voice actors. It ran for 14 episodes beginning in 2017, generating more than one million downloads. Macmillan Podcasts then used the podcast script to create a Steal the Stars novelization that was released in 2017 in trade paperback, e-book, and audiobook editions.
One of Macmillan Podcasts’ hosts is Will Schwalbe, Macmillan executive v-p of editorial development and content innovation, who is also a bestselling author. His podcast, But That’s Another Story, is an interview show that invites guests such as Katie Couric and Min Jin Lee to talk about the books that changed their lives.
Podcasts, Roche insisted, can boost a book’s sales. She cited Picador author Giles Milton, host of Macmillan Podcasts’ Unknown History show and the author of the History’s Unknown Chapters series. His most recent volume, When Churchill Slaughtered Sheep and Stalin Robbed a Bank, was released in 2016, and Roche said Picador “believes the podcast kept the book going and helped increase sales.”
The Macmillan Podcasts and QDT networks are managed by a staff of nine, which includes producers, editors, and audio engineers. The network’s audio studios are in the Flatiron Building in Manhattan, and Doyle said that some hosts record in home studios as well.
“All of this gives us a great edge in helping our authors to build their brands and build a fan base,” Roche said.