Keep Me Out Of The Great Podcast Fiction Kerfuffle of Early 2010

In the weeks following J. C. Hutchins’ announcement that he no longer has plans to release free podcast editions of his fiction, several blogs and podcasts have mused on the significance of his decision. In a few of these forums, I’ve been mentioned as someone who has abandoned, turned his back on, reversed his position on, etc… podcasting. I’m really tired of correcting mis-representations of me and my opinions, so I’m laying it down here, once and for all.

  • Podcasting fiction is one of many tools an author can employ in the promotion and marketing of their book, other works and their personal brand. It’s not a silver bullet; it’s not a sure thing, and I’ve never represented it as such.
  • I was part of the first big wave of podcasters, and I was part of the first wave of authors who podcast their fiction. This does not make me an authority, standard bearer, or “god” of podcasting, as some have labeled me. There are plenty of far more active podcasters people can point to… for heck’s sake, I haven’t posted a podcast episode of original material in almost a year,and I’ve only ever podcast two of my works of fiction to date. Do I have my place in the history of the medium? Arguably a small one, yes… but let’s not make more of it than it is, m’kay?
  • I believe in neo-patronage and the power of “Free.” I also recognize that neo-patronage has yet to be widely adopted and may never be — it requires a philosophical buy-in from the audience that has yet to happen. Similarly, I know the use of various “Free” models in one’s marketing is not a guarantee of commercial success.
  • I’m constantly re-evaluating my methods, refining my approach to creativity and the marketing of my creative endeavors, and trying new things. I’m not a fundamentalist in anything — that’s the path to stagnation, and that doesn’t appeal to me in the slightest.
  • Just as there is more than one story and more than one way to tell those stories, there is no right way to do any of this stuff. Throw things at the wall. See what sticks, but don’t expect it to stick forever — I sure don’t!

This is pretty much what I’ve always thought and how I’ve always approached my creative endeavors: keep making things, keep being creative, keep trying new methods.

Just look at the the last twenty years of my life:

  • I’ve done a print litzine, a collaborative serial fiction shared-world webzine and a themed short fiction webzine.
  • I’ve been in two bands, two acoustic duos and performed as a solo artist at scores of venues large and small.
  • I sold a novel and two short stories, self-published three short stories and a novel (the same novel) and created an ongoing serial fiction project.
  • I’ve released five CDs and dozens of individual songs.
  • Oh, and I was a pioneering podcaster and podcasting author, and I’ve performed as a voice actor and dramatic reader for dozens of podcasts, podcast novels, audio books and, most recently, a movie.

Some of these things were disappointing failures. Some of the successes surprised the hell out of me. That doesn’t mean I’ll never again do anything like the things that failed, or that I’ll keep doing the things that succeeded. I just keep making things, and meanwhile the world turns.

As for my dear friend J. C. Hutchins, I celebrate his decision to focus his time, energy and resources on the things that, right now at least, have a better chance of helping him reach his creative goals. His choice is his choice, and it works for him.

If you’re an aspiring author considering podcasting their work, don’t let one guy’s decision give you pause… just keep your perspective, keep your head out of the clouds, avoid tiger trap shortcuts, watch your ego, and don’t think it stops… or starts… with this one thing. A carpenter doesn’t build a house using just a hammer, y’know?

All right. Are we done here?


  1. Done and done, sir. Thanks for such a resonant, well-crafted post … and for adding some much-needed grounding to this head-spinning conversation.

    • Thanks, Hutch — I’m glad you read it that way, since my intention was just to selfishly lay down my views on “Free,” podcasting, podcast fiction and all those tricky new media-y aspects of marketing your creativity and interacting with the audience.

  2. Nice piece, Matt. I’d read J.C.’s piece but didn’t realize that a gen-u-ine Kerfuffle had broken out over it!

    There’s no one path, no one way to do this stuff… and no magic potions, either (dammit). Hutch’s decisions are disappointing to hear about, but they are his own, and completely justifiable. Not that he needed to justify himself, but he did. I understand where he’s coming from, certainly.

    IMO, Podcasting is another way to tell the story – not the only way. I’m a fan of the idea of being a creator, a storyteller, utilizing all the tools at one’s disposal to get one’s story out there – there are so many different ways, now! And really, that’s why I started podcasting in ’06 – hey, maybe if I record myself reading my stories people will listen to them…

    Magic is creating something that never existed before. As long as we keep making things, we keep making magic.


  3. Well said man. I love podcast fiction, but I’m almost more excited to see what J.C. does with something like an iBook which can have pictures and video. Thanks for all your awesome various forms of storytelling Matt, it’s fun seeing all the different things you do.

    • You’re welcome, Dan!

      And this goes out to everyone who reads this and who reads / listens to my stuff: remember that art is not made in a vacuum, and that art nourishes the soul but not the body… if you like what I do; if you like the things I put out there for you to enjoy with no up-front cost on your part, then please consider being a patron of that stuff by compensating me in the amount you think it’s worth. And that goes for everything you get to sample and consume for free, from everyone: support the artist and you support the art.

  4. The whole thing with yourself and Hutchins has been nothing but confusing for me. For as long as I’ve been listening to JC Hutchins’ work, he’s been very clear that his ultimate goal was print publication of his books, and that he was using podcasting to advance that goal. Likewise, Matt, you’ve been very clear that you believe in the concept of neo-patronage, and that you were using podcasting as a tool related to that. At no point, for as long as I’ve been listening, have either of you suggested anything other than that, so if people are getting upset at either of you for your decisions … they must not have been listening.

    • It’s not that folks are getting upset, Ryan — it’s that I’ve been referred to more than once as someone who gave up on podcasting and podcast fiction, or as someone who has backed away from “Free,” which is even sillier. I wrote this post so that folks who want to use me as an example have somewhere obvious to go to check their facts on these subjects.

  5. Where the hell did everybody get the idea that “free” failed? Hutch couldn’t sell 7TH SON when he originally wrote it. He put it out as a free podcast, built a huge audience, and St. Martins put it out. I’m aware that I’ve simplified the process, but how can that be considered failure?

    In my early 20s, I spent a few years in sales. One story a boss told was about trying to get into a really tough building. No matter what he tried, they wouldn’t see him. One day, he gets a goofy idea, and buys a mannequin leg, sticks it in a box, and ships it to the guy. In the card, he writes, “Now that I’ve got my foot in the door…” and got a meeting. He ended up selling to the guy, but as we both know, the sale itself didn’t have shit to do with the mannequin leg. A gimmick will get you in the door, but a quality product and good presentation is what sells.

    That said, I am certainly not trying to imply that 7TH SON is not a quality product, or that Hutch’s presentation wasn’t up to snuff. If hard work and dedication was directly proportional to success, he (among others) would be a bestseller. However, we all know that plenty of great stuff doesn’t catch on for whatever reason, and that’s all there is to it. Go to your local dollar store, and you’ll find plenty of great books in the clearance bin. I’ve bought Stephen King and Larry Niven out of them, for Christ’s sake.

    In one blog post, I read a claim that in the time it took the creator to put together an audio drama, he could have billed his time for around $10-15,000, so therefore, the audio drama had an effective cost to him of the same amount. That’s true… if you forgo billable work in favor of doing the audio drama. Additionally, I think the argument could be made that it would either be extremely silly to pass on fifteen grand worth of income to do something you intend to give away for free, or that if you are doing so, your financial situation is such that $10-15k is a very insignificant amount of money to you, so it’s really not even worth discussing.

    • Great points, Chris, especially the billable time lost when creating podcasts or doing gratis work for others. One needs to have a nice amount socked away before pro bono without promotional or some other non-measurable benefit becomes viable… or one goes broke.

      This is one of the reasons I do very, very few free voice gigs these days… but I am available for pay, and I’m ridiculously reasonable. (Just slippin’ that in there…)

  6. I think part of the point that was being made about billable time when creating a podcast is that by making the podcast you have to take that time away from something else, whether that something else be paying or not, and thinking of that time as money instead of seconds or minutes gives it a different perspective. Nothing more than that. I’ve long wondered how some folks can spend hour upon hour crafting ten minutes of podcast when they could have spent that time instead writing more stories. For them, that time was well worth it, well spent. It’s not for me to judge, but I wouldn’t want to do it. I put together a short series of podcasts that were full voice and sound effects heavy, and I won’t do it again. Should I eventually turn my current work in progress into a podcast, I’m going to do what Matt did and make it a straight read.

    Anyway, I hope I didn’t add to the kerfuffle. I found J.C.’s post of great interest, we talked about it on my podcast, and then he came on to talk more about it. I think we came away with a better understanding of his position and his thought process. If I said anything incorrect in my various discussions, I apologize.

  7. As a loyal listener to both J.C. and Matthew I just want to say that I appreciate your art in whatever form it comes in. I am in awe of your abilities and blessed by your works. I think that podcasting is a good introduction and books are just as enjoyable, so whatever, whichever I don’t really care which medium is used, just keep publishing and I’ll keep listening and reading.

    • Thanks, Jodi — I appreciate you support and patronage a great deal.


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