Guest post: ‘Setting up a spoken word website’ by Rachel Cochrane

I’m delighted to bring you this guest blog post, today by Listen Up North’s Rachel Cochrane.

Setting up listenupnorth.com a spoken word entertainment website

Ten years ago I gave up a professional post in the NHS to realise my ambition to become a scriptwriter. Many years and countless rejections later, I was determined that the next thing I wrote was going to find an audience.  This decision coincided with the advent of digital media and for the past year I have been setting up spoken word entertainment website listenupnorth.com showcasing my own and other writers’ work.  Visitors to the site can listen online or via downloads to radio plays, short stories, poetry and book extracts.

Having built up content and a following, I am now exploring ways of monetising the site to make it a viable concern including advertising and sponsorship. I would like to share with you 10 things I have learnt along the way:

  1. Be prepared to be out of your comfort zone – I am not the world’s most outgoing or confident person but to achieve what I want I have had learn to fight my corner, become self-assured about what I am doing and shout it from the roof tops.
  2. Take responsibility – You have to be the driving force that ensures that your project is on course and comes to fruition.
  3. Networking – Many writers spend solitary lives avoiding communication with others!  You need people that can help you build and support what you are trying to do both creatively and as a business venture. Find network groups that are not just other writers.
  4. Numbers matter – Not only is it very satisfying to get your work out to an audience but the number of hits and especially subscribers matter when you wish to attract funding, whether from public or private sponsorship or advertising.
  5. Publicity – There are lots of ways that you can raise awareness of your work without spending huge amounts on marketing.  Encourage those involved with your projects to spread the word about what you’re doing. Try a workshop on how to exploit social media for business.  Whom are you trying to attract?  Where can find you find them?  How you can target them? Networks made on social media can pay dividends at this point.  Are there any current topics or issues that your creative work can hook into?  Any blogs posts you can write for other sites? Don’t forget traditional media: a story in the local newspaper, a guest spot on local radio, a talk to local groups in village halls.
  6. Look for opportunities – I undertook a creative entrepreneurship course to learn business skills and then a digital fellowship to develop my digital awareness.  Both these university-based schemes had mentor support.
  7. Be prepared to learn new skills – To make my radio dramas and other recordings, I had to learn about directing (i.e. just stand there and sound like you know what you are doing!), producing and I undertook a course at a local college to learn technical skills such as recording and editing.
  8. Collaboration – Some projects, whether business or creative, are too big to manage alone and this is where networking is invaluable.  Other people may have the skills and knowledge that you need and vice versa.  It is important to establish at the outset the role of each party, what they expect to achieve and any boundaries. At present I am collaborating with another writer on a joint package to attract advertising to support both our businesses.  My soon-to-be-released short film Celia was a joint venture between myself, a producer / director and an actor, each of us looking for a vehicle to showcase our talents. Click here for a link to the trailer for Celia.
  9. Run it as a business – Money should not be a dirty word to creative people! Make sure that what you are doing does not just become an expensive hobby.  Fact: without bringing in money I cannot hope to maintain what I have worked hard to create not only for myself but also for other writers.
  10. Make sure you still find time for your own writing!

Hear hear! Thank you Rachel.

After many years of scriptwriting full-time and several shortlists, Rachel decided to bypass the cumbersome commissioning process and take advantage of the advent of digital media.  After being selected for the Creative GLEAM scheme at Durham University Business School and a DigitalCity Fellowship at the Institute of Digital Innovation, she has now set up a spoken word entertainment website listenupnorth.com, recording her own dramas and inviting other writers to submit their quality work for you to enjoy.  Rachel is about to launch the pilot episode of her webdrama Celia, the deliberations of a middle-class, middle-aged woman which bears no resemblance to her own life – honest.  Catch the trailer http://listenupnorth.com/drama-page/338.

You can find more about Rachel and her work via the links above and you can also find her on Twitter and Facebook. You can also email her at enquiries@listenupnorth.com. I shall be interviewing Rachel later this month but in the meantime you can read her author spotlight.

If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please” (while quietly bouncing up and down in my seat with joy!).

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with novelist Laura-Wilkinson – the one hundred and eighty-ninth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

Author Spotlight no.27 – Rachel Cochrane

To complement my daily blog interviews I recently started a series of Author Spotlights and today’s, the twenty-seventh, is of scriptwriter and spoken word director, editor (and more) Rachel Cochrane.

After many years of scriptwriting full-time and several shortlists, Rachel decided to bypass the cumbersome commissioning process and take advantage of the advent of digital media.  After being selected for the Creative GLEAM scheme at Durham University Business School and a DigitalCity Fellowship at the Institute of Digital Innovation, she has now set up a spoken word entertainment website listenupnorth.com, recording her own dramas and inviting other writers to submit their quality work for you to enjoy.  Rachel is about to launch the pilot episode of her webdrama Celia, the deliberations of a middle-class, middle-aged woman which bears no resemblance to her own life – honest.  Catch the trailer http://listenupnorth.com/drama-page/338.

And now from the author herself:

After almost 7 years of near solitary writing, I decided to set up listenupnorth.com, a spoken word entertainment website.  I had a vague plan of how it might work but I was charting new territory.  Really it was a case of putting my toe in the water to see what might develop.

I wanted to produce the radio plays that I had written as audio dramas and put them out to an audience on the web.  This needed a several-pronged approach:

  • Gathering actors
  • Directing
  • Arranging recording and editing
  • Legal considerations
  • Developing a website to house the productions

Having no experience of recording and editing, I contacted a local studio and arranged to record a short pilot drama.  They were used to recording music rather than drama and so arranged to do the pilot free of charge.  The drama was called Couple and needed 3 actors: a narrator and 2 actors that make up the couple, figures in a sculpture of the same name sited on a breakwater off the Northumberland coast.  Most of my dramas have a village setting because that is the environment with which I am familiar.  However I hope that the themes of my stories are universal and something with which most people can identify.

Through our local am dram I was able to enlist the help of willing actors keen for a new experience.  We rehearsed in my sitting room, it was the first time that I had directed and being tuned into voice was the key, as there would obviously be no visual clues.  Because actors did not have to learn lines, we could concentrate on performance.  The actors were very supportive and I learnt that being open to suggestions does not mean you lose artistic freedom or ownership of your work but that collaboration makes it greatly enhanced.

Waking up on the morning of the recording is always a tense affair; it’s not until I get to the studio, the actors are positioned behind the microphones and I start ticking off items on my schedules that I can start to relax.  Depending on length and complexity of script, it can take anything from a few hours to one and a half days to record.  I usually attend sessions with the recording technician at the later stages of editing.  It takes around four times longer to edit than record.  Sound effects are also added in, purchased with a royalty free licence as my website is potentially commercial.  The actors also sign performers’ contracts to ensure that I own the recording that we make and I can put it out on a website and use parts of it for publicity.  Similarly, for any writers’ work I use, a contributor’s contract is also required.

The finished work is then uploaded with great excitement to my specially developed spoken word entertainment website listenupnorth.com and publicised through social and traditional media to take it out to an audience.

Radio/audio Plays produced so far: Couple, Village Notes, Tilting at Windmills (monologue), Any Other Business, Oranges and Lemons, A Grand Old Lady (monologue) and Dolly’s House.

There is no greater joy for a writer than hearing their words come to life and I am indebted to my generous and talented friends for helping me realise this dream.

You can find more about Rachel and her work via the links above and you can also find her on Twitter and Facebook. You can also email her at enquiries@listenupnorth.com.

The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with mystery novelist Anne R Allen – the one hundred and seventy-second of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me. You can also read / download my eBooks here.