Is it okay to podcast old work?

So the plan, such as it was, was to podcast the original version of Between Heaven and Hell as three 20-week seasons while I write the new and Unification Chronicles series (of which the first three books comprise the same events as Between Heaven and Hell). I figured this would help get my name out there and start building a fan base so that when/if I started podcasting the new books, there would already be a sizable audience. Even if I decided to go the traditional route and query the (nigh unsaleable) seven book series to agents/editors, a podcast audience would show that there was at least a market for this story.

Then today I was listening to one of the panels from DragonCon ’09 (via the Dead Robots Society, my new favorite podcast I don’t host) and Mike Stackpole had a suggestion that stopped me in my tracks. He said that you should definitely not podcast old work you just have lying around, that it’s vital if you’re building a fan base that you show them what you’re capable of as a writer today, not years ago.

Between Heaven and Hell was originally written in 1996, and in just rereading the first chapter, I can tell how much I’ve changed as a writer in the last 13 years. When I wrote that book, I’d only actually written five real short stories before that, and only one of those based on my own characters and not fanfic. I’d had decades of storytelling experience through oral storytelling and later running role playing games, but my actual writing experience was thin. And frankly, you can tell. I know so much more about the craft now than I knew then, have learned so much about writing in the screenplay and two novels I’ve written since, along with what I learned from writing that first novel that you can only learn by writing a first novel, that it really does read like it’s from a different author than the stuff I write today. In a very real sense, it is.

Which means that Stackpole has a point. It might not be a good idea to podcast a 13-year-old book as a way of getting people familiar with me and my style. And yet, it would be good practice in podcasting fiction, and I know people enjoy the story, however awkwardly I told it. And it would seem that one of the unique things people like about podcast fiction is being able to see a work develop over time as new versions of the same story come out (see Sigler, Scott and Hutchins, J.C.). Pros and cons to both sides.

Pros to podcasting Between Heaven and Hell while I write Unification Chronicles

  1. Establishes a following who want to read more of my work
  2. Gives me experience in podcasting fiction
  3. Gives people a “before” to which to compare the “after” I’m writing now
  4. Refreshes my memory to the major plot points and character moments for writing the new books

Cons to podcasting Between Heaven and Hell while I write Unification Chronicles

  1. Not a true representation of my current capabilities as a writer; people might not come back to see the new stuff
  2. Will take a lot of time and effort I may not have while trying to write 2,000 words a day
  3. Could blind me to new possibilities with the reworked plot and characters; might slavishly stick to the original plot too closely

I honestly can’t decide at this point. While I mull this over, let me know what you think.

3 thoughts on “Is it okay to podcast old work?”

  1. Stackpole’s right.

    If your stuff seems awkward to you now, then don’t do it. The old saw still holds. “You only get one chance to make a first impression.”

    There’s no sense in building an audience for work that doesn’t represent you well. And absolutely no sense in building an audience for a work that’s not ready yet.

    *MY* advice, for whatever it’s worth, is

    1. write your best.
    2. record your best.
    3. start building an audience when you’ve got something to give them.
    4. get feedback from the mentorship group at BEFORE you record three episodes and find out that your technical chops need some buttering up.

    Your mileage may vary.

  2. Right. It depends on whether it’s merely “previous” work or “OLD” work. And since you’re saying BHaH is truly OLD work, I’d say don’t do it.

    After all, if the author himself thinks BHaH is inferior, why should listeners be expected to think otherwise?

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