By Tara Khandelwal and Michelle D’costa
As avid book lovers, we had been having conversations about author interviews since 2018, even when we were in different countries! Our shared curiosity for knowing what happens in an author’s life translated to our podcast, Books and Beyond With Bound, in 2019 when Michelle came to Bombay. We spent hours conducting trials, doing research and brainstorming in our Nariman Point office. We looked at the sprawling sea from our window, thought about the endless possibilities of an author interview format, and imagined the scope of creativity inherent to the podcast format!
We began Books and Beyond with Bound with the vision of interviewing every single interesting author in India. Now three seasons and 43 episodes later, we’re thrilled that our podcast has gained 100k listeners! It is trending in countries like Bhutan, Nepal, Sweden, Czech Republic, Saudi Arabia, and even hitting #1 on the UK arts and culture charts list.
Based on our experiences, we’ve listed out a few reasons why our podcast is a favourite of many.
1. We focus on the creative process.
Be very clear on the mandate. From day one, we knew that the podcast had to explore the writing process in an unusual way. We wanted to explore topics like authors’ childhoods and influences, while giving the listener a taste of our own personalities and where we were coming from. We often do a deep dive into the authors’ lives, scouring through all the research to come up with questions that haven’t been asked before, and which help us deconstruct the creative process in a meaningful way.
2. We keep the passion alive!
Consistently putting out episode after episode can start to feel like a chore after a while. Also, having a chart-busting podcast can put pressure on us to consistently perform at a certain level. It’s easy to get bogged down. When this happens, we always go back to the basics. Before every episode, we remind ourselves of how lucky we are to get an hour with our favourite author and ask them anything we want. We remind ourselves that this is our dream project, and then we let curiosity and enthusiasm take over.
3. We are mindful and responsive to feedback.
After each episode, our team debriefs. We analyse what we did well, what we could improve on, and add all our learnings to our internal podcast guidelines document. We seek feedback from our listeners, which has always helped. We each have our own strengths, weaknesses and patterns that recur. Once we have identified the shortcomings, we work hard to improve on these aspects. For example, we have a habit of saying ‘you know’ a lot.
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4. We have good chemistry!
The success of a two-host podcast depends a lot on the chemistry they share. We were friends much before we became colleagues. That warmth and friendship seeps into our questions and our banter. Our guests have told us on several occasions that it feels like they are having a coffee chat with their friend, and it doesn’t feel like an interview.
5. We only interview authors we love.
We get lots and lots of requests from publishers and authors about featuring their books, and while we would love to feature them all, we have to be very careful about who we select. We get totally invested in a project, and we prefer quality over quantity. We wish we had more slots for our podcast but the number of episodes per season, the time it takes to work on them, and the justice we can do to each episode determines what makes the cut.
6. We give due attention to each episode.
We don’t have favourites! Every episode is given equal attention. We spend over 8 hours reading the books, doing research and writing the script for each episode. We concentrate on making the interview a very enjoyable and unforgettable experience for the author.
7. We give utmost importance to the script.
We brainstorm and work on the tone of the questions so that the best in both of us comes out through the script. The priority is to do justice to the author. Our guests have told us that they have never been asked such questions before as most interviews they have done seem repetitive. We even pay a lot of focus to the intros and outros, as they determine whether a listener decides to listen further or leave.
8. We offer something different every season.
We always make sure that we challenge ourselves with every season, and that the listeners get something new every time – be it in the genres we cover, or the questions we ask.
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9. We didn’t give up!
Since Season 2, we have been recording from home. We live on the opposite ends of Bombay, and had to face all sorts of technical glitches, clashing guest schedules, illness and much more – but we kept at it and never compromised on the quality!
10. We don’t stress about tech!
We found ourselves using the simplest equipment when we started recording from home. Most people think you need fancy equipment to record. We use regular earphones and a laptop to record online!
11. We are part of a team effort!
This project started with just the two of us trying to figure out how to do this the right way. We did several trials and a lot of research to find out how we could do everything from start to finish, by ourselves. Now that we have grown, we have a team to produce our podcasts. From overlooking the concept to editing the episodes, and promoting them on social media, our team helps us out. Our podcast producer Aishwarya Javalgekar has mastered the tips and tricks of podcasts. We rely on her to fix any glitches!
12. We have a signature rapid fire round
Many listeners have told us that they return to our podcasts for the fun rapid fire round that we end each episode with. This is completely customized for every guest and we have the most fun in this!
We have had an amazing experience trying to figure out what makes a successful podcast, and we are grateful for the support of every listener. In the spirit of sharing all the knowledge we have gained along the way, we have started PodSquad – a community of podcasters and podcast enthusiasts. As people who love stories, we’ve realized that stories go beyond books, and that’s exactly what Books and “Beyond” is all about. If you want to start your dream podcast and reach the right audience, you know where to come! Join our PodSquad Whatsapp group for exclusive insights, interaction and expert advice on podcasting.
About the author
Tara Khandelwal is a writer, editor and podcaster. She is the founder of Bound which provides skill building for creatives through writers’ retreats, workshops, writing coaching and editorial services.
Michelle D’costa is a Mangalorean from Mumbai. She is the Managing Editor at Bound. She was born and raised in Bahrain. Her poetry and prose have been published in over 50 journals.