My name is Tyler Bell and I'm the voice and pen behind the Westside Fairytales Podcast, an anthology of short horror and dark fiction stories guaranteed to keep you from falling asleep if you listen before bed.
Stories drop on the first Friday of every month, and sometimes we drop special minisodes here and there between seasons. This season, our stories include the tale of a woman breaking free of the domestic life she's created for herself, the story of how a young woman fled from her war-torn homeland only to be haunted by a strange doll that brings disease and death in its wake, and the story of a medieval inquisitor who investigates the rumors of a demon possessing the priest of a small farming village.
If you like horror and the macabre, Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft, and appreciate some damn fine writing, then you'll love the Westside Fairytales.
I started this podcast over a year ago as a way to get my stories out to people. I've been writing forever, but only recently got up the courage to share what I've made with folks outside my personal life. I also wanted a platform where I could build some reputation for myself and hopefully get published.
I'd been thinking about podcasting for a few years prior, never quite getting started because I had only a hazy idea of what I wanted to do. I listened to a lot of comedy and interview podcasts (you probably know the ones) as a diversion while I worked as an aftermarket van parts installer in Virginia Beach between reporting jobs, and I thought that maybe I could do something like that, a solo, me-and-the-microphone venture. Eventually, I settled on telling some of the short stories I'd been keeping in a pile on my hard drive and, well, here I am.
I release episodes on the first Friday of every month, but I'm working on them months, even years in advance. Because the episodes take so long to write (they're between 5,000 to 7,500 words on average) and copyedit, I usually get going on them six months or more before they're needed. Like, I already have 40- or 50-thousand words of the next season written before this season aired. Writing a story averages out at around one hour per thousand words, give or take, and then there's usually around 45 minutes of raw recording and around 1.5 hours of editing before an episode is ready to go out. After that, I usually listen to an episode once or twice to make sure I didn't make any errors, and then there's a couple of hours of uploading it to various sites and doing all the social media and promotion.
I find time for all that by sleeping less and taking time out of other things I enjoy doing. Plus, I don't have children or anything like that, and I'm fairly stickler about managing my time once I actually get to work.
As far as the cost, I think of podcasting as a hobby, like video games or being a sports fan or whatever. I honestly love doing it, making my episodes and editing them and getting them out in front of people. So, to me, the cost isn't that big of an issue. Where most people would be spending money on, for instance, new video game or computer equipment, or tickets to sports games or whatever, I'm saving up here and there to buy nicer headphones or a better microphone. They're tools you use in a craft, and like any good set of tools, you put it together piece-by-piece over time.
What I really get from podcasting is a sense of validation in my writing, which is everything to me. I just got a sponsorship deal with Sudio, a baller headphone company out of Sweden, and they're the first taste of success I've had. Those fat Casper Mattress dollars are still somewhat out of hand, I'm afraid.
I'm not sure what my downloads-per-month actually are because I use Squarespace and their metrics are complete trash. If they're to be believed, I've got 1,000 or so dedicated subscribers. I know I've cracked Stitcher's Top 100 Growing Podcasts lists at least once or twice, but like I said, the thing I care about most is just getting my stuff out there to an audience that can appreciate it.
Since I started, I've had dozens of people who've told me that my stories have made them feel something akin to what I felt when I was writing them. I've made a bunch of friends in the podcasting world too, and really that's what I've enjoyed the most.
I start every episode of the Westside Fairytales usually by taking a walk or going to the gym. I kind of let my mind wander and it goes to whatever dark place all my ideas come from. Then I crack open Word and write it all down. After that, I let stories sit for a few months or a year, and go back to them with fresh eyes. I edit the manuscript two or three times and then it's ready for recording.
My recording setup is only slightly less barebones than when I started. Now I use a Rode NT-USB mic attached to the PS1 (I think) mic arm, but when I started, I used a dinky, portable Zoom mic set up on a New College dictionary and some other books so it could reach my face. I've always edited and recorded in Garageband, though I switched from using my desktop Mac to a Macbook Air I saved up to buy last summer because the track pad speeds editing way the hell up.
I'm terrible at marketing, which is probably the main reason my podcast is so small.
I used Facebook and Twitter a lot when I started, but Facebook is garbage for connecting with potential listeners if you're small. They'll charge you a lot for advertising, but it's rare that it'll turn dividends for you. Most of my listeners find me via word-of-mouth from other podcasts and podcasters.
Networking in the podcast industry is the best, and really only, way to get noticed. Pretty much everybody that listens to stuff starts listening because somebody they know said "hey, this is great" and not because they saw it in a Facebook ad or a sponsored tweet.
If you can get your podcast in front of somebody people listen to, and that person likes it and talks about it, that's going to be better for you than anything else you can think of.
The Westside Fairytales drops the first Friday of every month. All of our episodes are available and easy to find on Stitcher, iTunes, Google Play, and wherever else you find podcasts.
Don't do it for money or recognition, do it because you actually like doing it and you think you can put out something people will love. There's a lot of folks out there who think they can put out a podcast because it seems easy and they can maybe make a quick buck, but then they start getting a following and everything falls apart because they don't have the endurance to keep doing something well that they didn't enjoy doing in the first place.