Welcome to Gain, an interview series where we ask podcasters about the backstories of the great work they’re creating.
Today, we’re speaking with Chris and Paris, the co-hosts of Terrible Book Club. Join Chris & Paris every other Tuesday to discover if you really can judge a book by its hideous cover, bad title, or weird synopsis. The podcast launched in March 2015 and is based in the Boston area.
TheKetchupFlows says about their show: “…Paris and Chris dish up hilarious takes on truly awful-sounding books, from the obscure (Bridges of Maradonia, anyone?) to the inexplicably popular (never heard of Marked? Apparently it’s the #2 vampire series, behind Twilight). The resulting banterful book club has often had me in stitches. (Seriously, listen to their recent mini-sode about healing crystals and try not to end up snickering on the bus. I dare you.) Anyone who loves talking about books, or just having a good laugh, should give this podcast a shot.”
Where did your podcast idea come from? What’s the backstory on your podcast’s name?
Paris: Chris was the one who thought of it. I honestly have no idea what possessed him to ask me to read bad books with him. As for the name, we went with something really simple and direct. We started the show several years ago before podcasts really exploded, so we didn’t feel the need to get creative with the name. I’m glad we didn’t, even in hindsight – I’d rather potential listeners not have to guess as to our show’s content.
Chris: I’ve always liked “bad” art and media that critiques it to look for what really went wrong. I didn’t really see any shows or channels that did that with books at the time, so I wanted to fill that niche and also get myself reading a bit more often. The intent was to try and have honest conversations about why something doesn’t work.
Who was the first person you told about your podcast?
Paris: I have no idea; probably our friend Tris since we were all living in the same house at the time.
Chris: Can’t remember. Probably our roommate at the time so as to let her know why we were being loud a lot.
When did you announce your podcast’s existence to the world? How did you do it?
Paris: March 13, 2015 was the debut of the show and I think all we did was announce it on our Facebook and Twitter– both on our personal accounts and the show’s accounts. Again, this was before podcast creators had come up with full seasons and marketing plans before even launching something, so it didn’t even occur to us to come up with anything of the sort.
Chris: I don’t remember doing any sort of announcement beyond just…putting it up when we made the first one. I don’t see the need to make an announcement when no one’s listening yet!
Why did you want a podcast website for Terrible Book Club?
Paris: We wanted the show to have a main landing page that was clean, modern, and easily accessible. We’re a small show, so it’s important that our online presence be at least somewhat polished to compete with the thousands of other more popular and more funded shows.
We initially utilized the Libsyn-provided web landing page for Terrible Book Club. As time went on, though, we started looking into other options and discovered RadioPublic’s Podsites. We appreciated the free page that Libsyn provided but wanted to try something new.
Chris: Every public-facing venture should have an easy place to get all the info about it as quickly and cleanly as possible. Having a central hub with an easy-to-remember URL cuts down on the amount of clicking and searching people have to do to find a way to consume your content. I was pretty excited to be able to start telling people “Just go to terriblebookclub.com!”
You publish a new episode of your show. What’s your approach to promoting it?
Paris: Oh, boy – it’s quite the adventure. I update Goodreads, post on Facebook (both the Podcasts! and Podcasts We Listen To Facebook groups, the TBC page itself, and then our personal accounts), Twitter, Instagram (a regular photo post and as Story we can highlight), Reddit r/podcasts and r/podcasting weekly episode threads, and then do a final search around Reddit to see if there are any additional subreddits or threads where posting the episode would be relevant. For example, if we review a sci-fi book, I might head over to some sci-fi subreddits and do a scan of topics to see if it would be fitting to post on any of the threads. I try to be really careful about not just spamming threads – it has to make sense for me to post about the show.
Chris: This is Paris’ part of our shared responsibility, so all I do is post it on my personal social media. Sometimes I’ll help out when she doesn’t have time, but I take the audio tedium and she handles the communication/social media tedium.
What’s your favorite episode of your podcast? Why is it your favorite?
Paris: I’m sure this is very common to say, but it’s hard to choose just one. I’d say our ‘comeback’ episode: Episode 15 – The Art of the Deal by Donald Trump & Tony Schwartz is a good place to start. We had been off the air for over a year, so it’s sort of a special one and has a good balance of research and humor.
Chris: Oof. Tough choice I have to say. I always tend to enjoy the episodes where the material is just so “out there” more than others, so I’d have to say that something like Episode 11 – Maradonia or Episode 50 – The Eclipse Of Darkness are the ones that really got me excited which resulted in a more exciting episode overall, in my opinion.
Describe a recent time you talked about your podcast in person. Who were you talking to? What did you say to help them learn more about your show?
Paris: A co-worker told me that my boss had told them about my podcast and they were going to listen to it. Most people would be thrilled, but I immediately went into qualifying mode because my co-workers should probably be prepared to hear me swear and talk about some very NSFW topics! I also usually explain that both of us read the entirety of every book that we publish an episode about and it’s not just us discussing our first impressions of a cover/title.
Chris: I’m very bad about talking up my work to others in person because I’m always worried I’ll come off self-aggrandizing, but I have a couple of older guitar students who asked me about recording things, and I brought up my experience recording music and podcasts, leading to my explanation of the show. I tend to sell it as “Mystery Science Theater 3000 for Books” or a show that tries to analyze bad art, depending on who my audience is.
When you record your podcast, you might think about your imaginary listener who will hear this episode soon. What’s your mental image of this listener, and how do you incorporate their needs into your recording?
Paris: It’s easy to only think of yourself and people like you when you think about your listeners – if people like the same things I like, they must be just like me! Of course, that’s not always true. As a result, I’ve tried to be a lot more critical in thinking about our listeners lately – are we doing our best to make sure the show is accessible to as many people as possible? Are we focusing too much on certain perspectives and topics over others and accidentally excluding certain populations? In practice, this means we need to get transcriptions of the show for non-hearing/hard-of-hearing folks, organize our thoughts before we record, and engage with potential listeners outside of the internet (among other things).
Chris: I think of us as having two audiences – book lovers that want something to gawk at or think about what went wrong, and then the folks stopping in for some yuks on their way to work. I try to balance serious critique (my number one faux pas is just saying “it’s bad” without giving a reasonable explanation why) with good jokes without going for easy targets. Can’t say I’m on point all the time, but it’s certainly been getting better. The thing I try to work on most is going a step or two more with a funny thought – elaborating on it more until we get somewhere ridiculous. Sort of the “Yes, and” improv philosophy but, at the same time, digging into exactly what goes wrong in the author’s work. It’s very difficult.