Rockin’ Libsyn Podcast: The Classic Tales Podcast

This series is all about showcasing Libsyn podcasters. Its sole purpose is to introduce these awesome podcasts to the world as well as share their podcasting insight to empower the community!

Q & A with BJ Harrison from The Classic Tales Podcast

When did you start podcasting?

I started podcasting in June of 2007. I released three episodes and was planning on doing an episode every two weeks. This was back when the click wheel iPod was the thing. Mainstream smartphones and tablets were still a long ways away.

Why did you start podcasting?

For around 15 years, I had a job where I could listen to audiobooks and work. So I had a lot of opportunity to figure out what made a good audiobook, and what didn’t work so well.

I also got to know the value of the narrator, and how the narrator could tip the scales if I was on the fence about a certain book.

I loved the classics, and always wanted to read them, but I wasn’t a super reader and was intimidated by them. I mean, those are some big books, you know?

A friend of mine told me about podcasting. He had just started one and was achieving some real success.

His was an athletic podcast, and iTunes had featured him on their Health and Wellness page. It was a big deal! When I thought about my skills (I have an acting and art background) and my interests (classic audiobooks), the idea for a podcast that offered solid recordings of classic literature just kind of made sense.

What’s the name of your show about and what is it about?

The idea that the content was basically curated so that every week there was a solid story from a variety of genres really excited me. So, I created The Classic Tales Podcast.

I borrowed a computer, borrowed some recording equipment from my friend, and used the internet at work to upload the episodes.

I posted the first three, and had to wait a day before I could see how things were going. No internet at home. It turns out, iTunes had featured me on their main page – like, their main podcasting page for New and Notable podcasts. Top left spot. They kept me there for weeks. Things kind of took off.

The Classic Tales Podcast was the #1 Arts podcast for months, my show was written up in the Wall Street Journal, and I had hundreds of thousands of downloads.

The Classic Tales Podcast peaked as the #3 overall podcast, right behind This American Life. Audible reached out to me and we worked out a deal to sell my audiobooks through their service.

The content supervisor for iTunes also reached out. I remember I was working in a shop, wearing my paint clothes and I went out to the loading dock as a quiet place to talk to the main content guy at iTunes. It was crazy.

The thing was, nobody really knew how to monetize the podcast. I had a lot of people who were excited, but it didn’t really turn into money in my pocket.

It was the curse of new media. After around 7 years of intense trial and error, I finally figured out something that works for me.

Now, I have a website at, which I run kind of like a book club. If people want to support my podcast, they can for $5/month.

For that $5, they get a coupon code for $8 off anything in my store and gain access to 3–4 hours of exclusive content. Once I hit upon this concept, the podcast started to keep its head above water.

I’ve been able to use my podcast success to market my audiobook production services. Authors and publishers now hire me to record their books for them.

This is what I do full time, now. I’ve worked with Audible studios and other production houses, and have recorded with many New York Times best-selling authors.

What’s your podcasting set-up? Hardware, software, CMS, etc.

My studio setup: I have a soundproofed room in my basement.

I use an iMac with a Neumann TLM 102 microphone. I capture the audio using ProTools, and mix it using LogicPro.

I’ve been able to record for other story podcasts, and have done some cross promoting that way.

I also include a tag for my podcast at the closing credits for all of my audiobooks that are sold at Audible, iTunes and other retail outlets.

What do I wish I knew when I started?

I wish I had known how long it would take before things would start to pay off for me. I had a lot of frustration early on because it felt like I was creating amazing content, but I didn’t have the marketing background to do anything with it.

I really struggled with this. Stellar content doesn’t guarantee success. You have to know what to do with it.

Also, If you try to partner with someone who boasts about a marketing background, and you enter an agreement where you provide the content and he/she provides the marketing, don’t do it.

You need to do it yourself.

Keep all of the rights to your work, and don’t sign any exclusive contracts. It’s no fun, but you need to dig in and market yourself. If you try to outsource this, it’ll come back to haunt you.

If you LOVE Classic tales and stories this is the podcast for you! How about subscribing to some of the best podcast content around?

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