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What Does Success Mean in Audio Fiction? With Sean Howard

Audio fiction pioneer Sean Howard (Fable & Folly) and Hadrien Royo (Euphonie) share their thoughts on the true rewards of creating an audio fiction podcast, and how to survive, thrive, and win over the long game.

Sean Howard is the founder of the Fable & Folly network that represents more than 15 audio fiction podcasts. He started as a creator and went on to launch three successful series. Sean has documented his journey through monetization on Patreon, shared his expertise in marketing, and has been an inspiration for countless creators.

As the world of podcasting is evolving rapidly, you will also learn how both Fable & Folly and Euphonie are preparing for the future.

To learn more, visit https://fableandfolly.com.
Follow Sean on Twitter @passitalong
Follow Crypto-Z on Twitter @cryptozpodcast

Are you a creator? Then you must have a story to share. What does success mean to you? TEXT +1(646)-229-3423.

www.euphonie.media

Jump directly to what interests you

01:00: Welcome

02:20: What does success mean in audio fiction?

08:15: How to create a sustainable podcast

11:20: Using Patreon as a revenue stream

15:30: The perks of joining the audio fiction community

19:55: Sean’s thoughts on dealing with imposter syndrome

25:45: Why Sean decided to share his journey publicly 

28:55: How investments in the podcast space may or may not trickle down to creators

38:10: Sean shares about the new Fable & Folly podcast network

Transcript

SEAN HOWARD

What happens is the floodgates open, an insane amount of water comes in, money, and most of the fleet is capsized or washed away and these big, giant cruise ships now can sail into this port that’s now deep enough. A few ships or a few fishermen might survive. They band together, they get their stuff big enough but it’s not guaranteed and we’re already seeing signs of it. My hope was by sharing everything, a) it would hold me accountable to actually doing the work, right? Because I don’t want our Patreon to fail now because I’m publishing the data. It did, it motivated me.

But then b) allow others to learn and leverage it so that they could also build or improve over what I’ve been doing and a way to give other people writing on the wall that says, “We were here, we tried this, monsters ate us.”

HADRIEN ROYO

Today, I’m with Sean Howard. He is a pillar in the fiction podcast community. He’s the cofounder of Fable & Folly Productions and the Fable & Folly network which was just created three months ago and it’s a collective of more than 15 amazing fiction podcast creators. But most importantly, he’s the creator of three shows and is an expert in marketing and audience growth. By sharing his experience and everything he’s learned, he’s helped a ton of other creators jumpstart their podcast.

Sean is also just an amazing human being and this is going to be a very heartfelt conversation. We’re gonna talk about what means success in audio fiction and what are the true rewards, sometimes underrated, of being a creator. So, I hope you enjoy it. 

Now, I owe you a little update on Crypto-Z. The episodes are coming great and they’re gonna be as epic, if not more, as what you’ve heard already. As you know, our studio Euphonie has just launched and we’re still experimenting with release strategies that work for us and our supporters. We find it appropriate that those who take the steps to contact us, to be in touch with us, and choose to support us when we most need it be given the possibility to access the episodes first. But don’t worry, Crypto-Z will still be released for free and you won’t need to be a member to listen to them.

In parallel, we’re also working on other amazing projects at the same time, so keep an ear out for our next announcements because we have amazing stuff coming to you. Back to our conversation with Sean Howard.

So, Sean, let me ask you an impossible question. What does success mean in audio fiction and how should creators go about answering that question for themselves?

SEAN 

Yeah. I think it’s a good conversation to be having. I think it’s a very important conversation for producers and creators to have with themselves when they’re starting and with their teams and also to come back to every once in a while. There’s a lot of pressure I think on the audio fiction space or community and there’s a lot of pressure sometimes on producers to do things a certain way, to hit a certain size, to have their Patreon be successful as someone else they see or to have their numbers match someone else, right? 

Because everyone loves to do the post, “Ooh, we hit this many hundreds of thousands of downloads.” I think sometimes that can create pressure on the creators who maybe aren’t seeing those results yet. 

HADRIEN

Right, and this is why also I’m very conflicted about doing the same thing and I haven’t really done it once and never did it again. It’s because those download numbers  out of context are really not that meaningful unless you take in consideration the business model that supports it. What’s true for Hollywood and big movies is also true for podcasts. An independent small budget film can be a million times more profitable than a giant superhero movie. How would someone who is just starting out and launching this first show would go about answering the question? Is that something that you’ve wrestled with launching your shows?

SEAN 

Yeah, we did not do this when we started. I think like a lot of people, we just created a show in our living room with a lot of friends, it was crazy, and back then, in the earlier days, there wasn’t as big of a community. We didn’t see that many downloads. It was just a thing we did. When it started to gain traction and when other shows started to showcase what was possible, because we didn’t stay focused on it, we started and walked away. Then there was this pressure, right? This, “Oh, what can we do with this thing we built?”

HADRIEN

When you say you started and walked away, you released a certain number of episodes first in an amount of time and kind of paused?

SEAN 

Yeah, so we released… I have to pull up the actual dates but Eli and I released Alba Salix season one, I think it would be 2014 if not earlier and we released all of season one and we walked away. We went on with our lives, all the things we were trying to do. At that time, there was no… Like I said, there wasn’t a big community, there wasn’t any sense that you could do more with that. 

Then when we started to see numbers, it was a mad scramble. I launched a Patreon, we did all the things we saw people talking about and doing online and it was just… We made 20 bucks a month for a year. Thanks mom and a few friends and friends and that was it. Our numbers were growing, but we didn’t know what to do with it and it didn’t feel like our numbers were growing as fast as everyone else. We were in that same position. We saw everybody talking about growth and there could be TV deals and all this stuff. This was a few years ago. 

At a certain point, we decided to try and make a go with Alba, try and figure out, okay, we’re working on season two so what can we do in the interim because that was gonna take us a long time. Then we slowly committed more and more to the Alba universe, to other shows, to expanding. We now have four shows.

I’d say that yes, now we do sit down and talk about what is success, what are our goals, who is our audience, how can we be of service and what’s realistic. That’s hard. The what’s realistic question is hard. A lot of the creators and producers I talk to, I’d say a year ago, I’d say a lot of them were… I don’t know how to put this any nicer but afraid of success and that’s fine. They set very clear… They just wanted to create this show, not make money, not promote it, and there’s nothing wrong with that but I’ve seen a shift happening in the industry where more and more, the creators and producers I talk to are interested in creating something from it, growing it, building an audience, building a community.

Those are all beautiful things and the challenge comes down to how do we do that. I think the creators right now that can make a living off their work from the indie community is a very small percentage and that pisses me off, to be honest. I’m not happy about that. I don’t think that’s right, but that’s a reality in our space. Most of us out there are trying to figure out how do we just create this thing where it can be self-sustaining and what does that mean for us? What’s required? How much money a month does it have to generate just to sustain itself? That’s with a job and with other things.

But I’ve seen that conversation changing, where more and more of the creators I talk to are interested in building their audience and their community and creating something beyond just releasing those audio episodes.

HADRIEN

I can’t remember the entrepreneur that said, “Don’t try to go from zero to one hundred. Focus instead going from zero to ten, ten to twenty, twenty to thirty, thirty to forty and so on.” Because if your focus is going to hundred and your focus is on the big rewards, you’re gonna miss out on all the steps and not only the whole thing might collapse but you’re gonna make yourself miserable in the process because you’re gonna continuously feel like you’re underachieving and underperforming.

If the goal is to be able to make a show sustainably and maybe it means for everyone who participates in the show gets taken care of or maybe it means to break even or maybe it means to have enough time during the week so that the day job and the podcast job doesn’t lead you to burn out, whatever that is for you. Do you think that maybe defining those steps, zero to ten to twenty to thirty, is what’s missing right now in our community? Because very concretely, it just pains me when I see other creators feeling discouraged because this thing that they’ve created and that’s been such a powerful motivator for them is turning into a monster that’s constantly asking for more and they just find themselves completely overwhelmed.

SEAN 

Yeah. Oh boy. I love it when people set a high bar, but that should not necessarily be the way. When you create something of a certain caliber, there should be a path to hit sustainability in a typical runway, like with a TV show or whatever. I mean, the odds are stacked and there’s risk but you have a shot. 

To be honest, in audio fiction right now, there aren’t a lot of opportunities or paths for that. It comes from an indie community, which is beautiful. It’s from the same kind of space that makes the zines, right? You go to a local community gathering and someone will set up a little table and be selling zines that they created that are beautiful and that’s the same kind of energy where audio fiction sort of comes from.

It’s hard to even make your money back for a table at a con right now, let alone create a show that’s sustainable. I do think you have to set a bar if you wanna try and hit sustainability. You do have to set that bar. That doesn’t mean everyone needs to set that bar, but it is possible but it’s a lot of work.

For example, when we started and I launched the Patreon and we had these listeners and I thought, “Oh, we can just start building”, a year later, I was still making $22 a month off our Patreon. That doesn’t even cover my coffee bill.

HADRIEN

At this point, does the Patreon actually cost you more than it gave back?

SEAN 

Yeah, probably. But it was also because of the way I was thinking about the Patreon. I thought, “Oh, I’ll put more effort into the Patreon when it pays me more than $22 a month.” But that’s not how Patreon works. I had to set a bar and the bar I set was $1000 a month. I had to start acting like a $1000 a month Patreon creator in order to even start to build towards that bar. I had to become that today even though I was making $22 a month.

It’s taken two years. I’ll have to look at the exact date. We’re approaching that $1000 mark and I need to now go back and look at when did I start this experiment, because we open sourced all our data. We share all our data on our Patreon with everyone and we’ve created a dashboard and all kinds of things for people. It was two years. You’re gonna get this. You’ve got a show, you’re a creator.

For two years, we’ve been releasing a piece of content to every Patreon every Friday. We’ve missed a couple, but every Friday we’re putting something out for them and that’s a lot of work to create that thing. Plus, we have $5 exclusive bonus episodes, plus we have $10 mystery packages. I’m working on sending them out right now. Plus, there’s other work that goes into it. That’s the level of work we’ve been committed to for two years while we literally are just running up credit cards and trying to live. 

It’s possible, but setting that bar, there’s a lot of work still to do to hit that point where you can even start to sustain the show, let alone live off it.

HADRIEN

Right. So, I think this is really important in a way that first of all, we can take some of that pain off. We don’t start all at the same position. Some people can invest a lot of money ahead of time because they have this job or because whatever social factor comes in their personal lives. But I think what would be helpful for creators is to just set the bar high enough, they don’t feel so discouraged and disappointed when they first release their five episodes and nobody is showing up yet, just because the truth is, and then we can talk about that too, nobody knows about it.

SEAN 

Yes, I agree with you and I think it’s important to not constantly compare ourselves to people that have been at different levels with different… Well, also different means and also call it out, I had privilege that allowed us to invest this amount of time. Not everybody has that, so it’s a hard slog and it can be even harder for some people.

So, here’s the cool thing though. We put out Alba season one and walked away and I know other people have done that who now years later have this following and this fan base because someone somewhere found that show and shared it. Our first big hit in numbers was because of Imgur. I’m a 50 year old guy, I still don’t understand Imgur but that was our biggest hit was somebody created a big graphic that had ten podcasts you probably hadn’t heard of, audio fiction, and they put Alba in there and it went crazy and that was years ago.

You really can’t predict when that’s gonna happen. There are things you can do though to increase your growth, increase your reach of your audience, but the coolest thing about audio fiction and podcasts is your numbers don’t go down. Right? They just don’t. It’s cumulative. The whole idea of podcasting and podcasting is going through growth. Everyone is gonna continue to grow and I think as audio fiction, as a concept, starts to latch into basically the mainstream, we’re gonna see more opportunity and we’re gonna see more competition with very deep pockets. There’s a plus and there’s also a negative coming.

HADRIEN

Absolutely. Then we can also talk about how this financial movement and consolidation happening above us is gonna affect or not the community. Where do we start to help creators focus on the positive and the good things while their show is slowly taking off? The first thing I can think of is actually showing off your skills, improving your skills, becoming a better storyteller, and just becoming a better person at the end of it because when you’ve created something, you’re a different person than when you actually started it. Other perks that you can think of that comes with making audio drama?

SEAN 

So, first of all, you join a community that is amazing and the community’s always changing and there’s these waves of creators that start to get to know each other. Two, you’re creating a story that needs to be heard. It’s hard sometimes. Our biggest story is about a fairytale healer. It’s like Shrek meets House and it seems like that would have no benefit in the world considering all the crazy bullshit that’s going on right now and the oppression and the racism and the stuff that we stand against.

And yet, getting those emails and those little messages from people who say things like, “Your show, even though it’s fictional,” actually kept them alive or was a life line. You can’t match that. It’s so powerful when you get those. But as a creator, it’s really easy to dismiss them later and be like, “Oh yeah, but I’m just a fantasy world. I don’t do anything real.” We don’t have numbers, we don’t have money, this is just ridiculous. What do we think we’re doing? We wanna be out there shouting about what’s happening in the world and instead, we’re writing comedies.

But I think you have to go back and look at those messages and you have to recognize that stories are the only things that have created change in this world, right? If you look at the psychology of stories, arguments don’t work. If arguments worked, then dear god, so many Christmas dinners I’ve had would’ve gone so differently. Our stories do have impact and I think thinking about that power, thinking about what we wanna do with our stories is really important.

I remember when we were at PodFest, I met up with the Pandora team because they were showing the beta of their new stats system, like Spotify does for podcasts. I sat down with William and he pulled up our show, because I’m in Canada so I can’t see the data because you can only access this from the US. 

He pulled up our show and he had a map of where people listened to Alba. It was cool. It was all across the US, because they’re US only. It was almost evenly shaded across every state and I remember him sort of pulling back a little with his head and looking at me and going, he says, “This is very different from what we see in any other podcast.” He said, “Every other podcast, talking podcast, like host, breaks down on the blue and red lines.” He says, “We can just see it right away, which way your podcast leans with your audience.”

He said, “You’re the third audio fiction I’ve shown the stats to where it’s not like that. Your listeners are all across.” I think sitting in audio fiction, that’s just one example of how we have this opportunity and it’s true. Even looking at our Patreons and our supporters in our Discord, it gets a little… Sometimes sensitive issues come up in a beautiful way but we see these amazing people that are in every state, who are listeners and love the show. There’s potential there. Do I know what to do with it? No. But it is a cool thing to think about from a success point of view.

HADRIEN

Right, I think this is an excellent point. I do think that creators, artists, and storytellers especially have a responsibility to maybe open the conversation in a completely different way and re-establish human relationship because it’s getting to a point where we’re entering a complete deadlock. 

I think you hinted on something really important which is a sort of imposter syndrome where it goes like this. Am I worthy to tell my story? Is my story worthy to be told? Discovering that people respond and empathize with your story and maybe react to it is such a transformative experience. So, that is a huge thing. That would be a huge reason to go and do it. 

SEAN 

Yeah.

HADRIEN

Have you encountered many creators who are struggling with this problem?

SEAN 

Yes. I definitely see this issue. I run into it. I’m at a con or even in our Discord. One of the big breakthroughs for me was when I realized that our fans, our listeners, the fans who are the most supportive, they’re in the Patreon, they follow us on Twitter, they engage with us all the time. Almost all of them are creators in their own right. Writers, audio fiction creators, everything from cross stitching to writing to baking, but not just a little bit, as a passion. That was a real insight for me in what we do and how we engage with our core fans.

Yes, I see it a lot in our conversations in our Discord, this fear. I think it’s a fear that we all wrestle with as creators, that we’re not good enough. Then I wanna speak about, we have a community that is so sensitive that it’s really easy to step into this community and say something that maybe one member of this community doesn’t like and suddenly there’s this dog pile and that can be devastating to a new creator.

It’s hard for us. It’s hard for creators who’ve been around for awhile to deal with emotionally and everything from subtweeting to… It’s just out there like any social movement. I think when we take this voice that we all have as creators that says we’re not worthy and our shit sucks and who do we think we are, we don’t have a Ph.D in this or maybe we have a Ph.D, but we’ve never done it in the real world, so who are we? It’s crazy, this voice.

No matter what proof point you give it, it will find a way to say we’re not worthy. But then you add in this idea that you can do something that this amorphous community sees as wrong and that’s really hard.

HADRIEN

Do you have an example of that?

SEAN 

Oh, I’ve seen some of the most beautiful and biggest names in our community be attacked because they made some money, they took a deal that got them some money. There’s good parts, this community is amazing but there’s also this idea that we are all sometimes coveting what other people have. It’s a human trait and it’s hard but I don’t wanna call it a XX but I wanna say as a new creator stepping in, I think that can be even more daunting. You know? They’re struggling to just be confident in their voice and create this thing and then they see how tumultuous these reactions can get.

As a creator, when you’re writing, those thoughts appear. Oh, how will this be interpreted? We’re working with an off Broadway writer right now, but they have a play that calls out basically racism in America and it’s a comedy for the most part but it’s dealing with this issue and wow, that’s hard thinking about that. As a playwright, traditionally would push these areas and they would push into these spaces. But as an audio fiction creator, I had to spend a lot of time battling this, what if this is perceived inappropriately or what if someone’s not happy or what if someone gets hurt?

HADRIEN

Right

SEAN 

This community came from a place of no money. It came from that craft kind of zine world and now we have big money coming in and so, the community has been in this battle of first wanting to be at the table. We both wanna be recognized as having been here first, be at the table, but we also don’t want any part of that system from the money to the racism to Hollywood. Again, these are all valid things but they don’t fit together well. Right? 

I think a lot of us now are like, “Well, what happens if we try and pitch a deal? Are we choosing between this opportunity and the community?”

HADRIEN

On the contrary, I think outside opportunities and having creators who break through is great news for everyone because it will inspire new creators to come and they will inspire new audiences to come and discover audio fiction. Because don’t you think that the debates you’re describing and the community are symptomatic of a pain, financial strain, and-

SEAN 

Yeah. I think a very wise person who I won’t call out said to me, “We may be the only community that expects everyone to get along with everyone.” It’s this weird vibe. We all wanna be in with all the cliques, however you say it, and they’re right. This person is right. It’s not possible. Sometimes with good reason and sometimes with not and sometimes for reasons we can comprehend and understand and sometimes reasons we can’t.

Yeah, we have attempted to share and open source as much of our journey and our data as we can because I want to see… Okay. I don’t believe that a rising tide will raise all ships. It’s not true. Just look at history and look at business history. 

HADRIEN

It’s never happened ever anywhere.

SEAN 

No. No. What happens is the flood gates open, an insane amount of water comes in, money, and most of the fleet is capsized or washed away and these big giant cruise ships now can sail into this port that’s now deep enough. A few ships or a few fishermen might survive, they band together, they get their stuff big enough, but it’s not guaranteed and it’s a myth, right? We’re already seeing signs of it.

My hope was by sharing everything, a) it would hold me accountable to actually doing the work because I don’t want our Patreon to fail now because I’m publishing the data and it did, it motivated me. But then b) allow others to learn and leverage it so they could also build or improve over what I’ve been doing.

 A couple people surpassed me faster than I was able to build and some of them reached back and went, “Here’s what I did.” I’ve been able to use that and share it. That’s what I was hoping. A way to give other people just writing on the wall that says, “We were here, we tried this, monsters ate us,” and maybe monsters won’t eat you, you’ll have a better idea of how to cross that chasm but we went this other way instead and I think my hope is that if more and more of us do that, we can get enough of us to a point where we can survive because the floodgates are opening. It’s already happening.

The big companies are coming in with crazy budgets. They can afford to promote a show and spend tens of thousands of dollars promoting a show, whereas most of us don’t even gross anywhere near that amount in years of a show, if not ever. That was my hope.

HADRIEN

The beauty of it is that not only you’re helping others and people like me, but you’re also creating opportunities for yourself because this is how you get known and this is how you build trust and it’s very hard to know when or where the next opportunity’s gonna come. However, it’s for sure not gonna come if you’re not known or if you’re hard to find.

SEAN 

No, 100%. I don’t wanna come across that I did all of these things entirely selflessly. As a marketer, I knew from the past, having a top blog, from doing other things, I knew that the way to build credibility and visibility is to share everything. 

HADRIEN

There is a recipe and a mindset to have to attract opportunities.

SEAN 

Yep.

HADRIEN

So, let’s talk about the floodgates opening. How do you see the investments, the consolidations happening in that space and do you see that trickling down to creators?

SEAN 

Okay. Traditionally as audio fiction, creators we think, “We created this IP. We’re gonna be able to sell this IP.” There is no path for that. There is zero. It’s happened but it’s so infinitesimally small, it’s like a crack in the wall that’s almost a mistake where the industry’s like, “Oh, how’d we let that in?” But it’s cool. It’s amazing when it happens, but it’s a percent of a percent of a percent of shows are getting those deals through. 

But it is happening. Again, if you look at the number of audio fiction shows. Let’s say there’s five. It’s crazy. It’s a percent of a percent of a percent. That still exists and a lot of us hope for it. We’re like, “Oh, maybe someday an agent will reach out,” and they do every once in awhile. We’ve gotten a couple, like, “Oh, an agent,” and nothing happens. So, there’s the IP angle. Really hard to make that happen right now.

HADRIEN

And even if it happens, doesn’t mean there is real money behind it either.

SEAN 

Correct. No, correct. 100%. The getting the interest and then getting all the way through. Morgan Gibbons announced, I think he’s got a TV cartoon lined up around Flyest Fables, so that’s an extension deal. The shift to TV is something that we’ve often all looked at. We’re like, “Ooh, wow. We could make a cartoon.” So, we’re seeing some but very small number of deals, considering the years we’ve been watching this and the number of amazing creators, though I’m so excited for Morgan Gibbons and Flyest Fables. If you haven’t listened to that, listen to that show. It is one of my all-time favorites.

HADRIEN

Writing it down right now.

SEAN 

The next step we look at is all this acquisition activity that’s happening and there’s a lack of distribution, right? Meaning who’s the person that buys these shows that are being developed for making the money back on advertising or subscription or whatever? Spotify is actively greenlighting shows. They are an active distribution channel right now looking to fund new opportunities. 

We also have Apple announcing they’re gonna launch this. We don’t know what that’s gonna look like. We see Pandora making moves towards this, but Pandora has a lot of… They’re stuck US only so it creates some issues. Luminary, not sure how much longer they’ll be around. Stitcher, having some problems. But I’ve heard that Amazon Originals is resurfacing, so they are also distro-greenlighting.

HADRIEN

Audible.

SEAN 

Sorry, Audible Originals. Amazon Originals, whatever it’s called. They’re also now looking to greenlight. But here’s what we look for in a market. We don’t wait to see the distribution partners that succeed. We look for traditionally producers and companies coming in funding new show development, meaning someone somewhere is connected enough that they’ve seen the dollar opportunity and they’re coming in and saying, “I wanna create 12 shows to figure out how to sell those through the distribution channel.”

Because now we’re seeing deals signed with Netflix and HBO and some other weird stuff. Warner Brothers. There’s some stuff happening that I think is now proving that there is an opportunity emerging and we’re seeing that. We are seeing big name producers from TV, like massive names, and big agencies, like the biggest talent agency in the world almost starting to come in and launch outfits that are here to greenlight production and create pilots and create sellable things that they can sell through distribution. They’re taking that risk and that’s how a market shows us, oh, there is a potential for distribution and that’s changing, because traditionally, there really wasn’t.

We had Stitcher and Amazon and then Luminary entered. Spotify is a late entrant. What you wanna look for are the producers like in the TV world, the people who you approach and go, “I wrote this script. Can I pitch you?” That’s what we’ve been looking for. They’re here. They’re here now from Hollywood. I don’t wanna call them out, but they are here and they are actively, actively looking for pitches, but they’re approaching key producers.

HADRIEN

Let’s not call them out but let’s call how you heard about them in the first place maybe.

SEAN 

They’re reaching out. They’re reaching out to production houses from the audio fiction space to introduce themselves and to basically signal we’re here for pitches. 

HADRIEN

Okay.

SEAN 

They also have done some open calls. I mean, you can find info. I just wasn’t involved in open calls, so I don’t wanna call anybody out. My point is that’s never happened in the history of audio fiction. We did not have production companies like exist in TV, because in the TV and the film world, there are so many production houses that we almost know by name now, right? Those are houses that fund a pilot. They fund that first pilot and they try and sell a season to TV, to Over the Top or to Broadcast if that still exists.

So, because what we wanna look for is signals below, we wanna see people that are investing their money or their investors’ money in creating a host of shows that they’re trying to sell, right? They’re not necessarily cherry picking IP. They’re looking to create something that’s in the clear because the return for them, they got the IP now. They can sell across book, across whatever.

HADRIEN

That I get. I get calls for that, for sure.

SEAN 

Right. We’re starting to see bigger outfits and better backed people starting to do that in audio fiction, so that says to me, okay, they’re risking a lot of money across all these offers, so they’re the ones who are sensing this change in distribution opportunities that’s coming and that’s happening, right? It’s hard for an independent producer to walk in and pitch Spotify or pitch Audible. 

Yeah, so that’s what I see happening and that’s a change. That means these shows though, if they’re greenlit, are gonna be crazy well produced with some of the best writers from our indie world and outside. They’re gonna have a crazy marketing, they’re gonna have crazy production budgets. The numbers I’ve heard to create a pilot are what I could create an entire season for traditionally.

HADRIEN

Right. There seems to be three tiers of production budget for a season right now. The majority of the shows are made for very little, under 10 to zero, and then there is a quick bump to 60 to 90 thousand dollar and then there’s another quick bump up to $300,000

SEAN 

Yeah, I was gonna say a quarter of a million. That’s what I’ve heard. 

HADRIEN

Which is a new tier and just a handful of shows are matching that production quality.

SEAN 

But I don’t know if that’s a handful, because we’ve only caught whiff of the shows in the $200,000 but when we look at the podcasting space, there’s been some signs from some big houses that that’s what they’re paying even if it’s not an audio fiction but it’s very produced.

HADRIEN

Yeah. I mean, there is another question which is whether those productions will be profitable and if the market is gonna grow fast enough for it. But it’s interesting because you and I have both seen that change inevitable and we’re having completely different tactics to prepare for it. I hope that will inspire others. 

But Crypto-Z is definitely aiming for the sky with this oversized production, kind of a little bit ahead of its time and you’re building this supersized, giant independent network with a ton of creators, which is I think one of the most brilliant ideas that I’ve seen happening in the independent and the audio fiction space. I’m just curious, what’s your mindset overall?

SEAN 

I guess I’d say I’m curious about what’s happening in our industry but I’m also… I guess I’m a pessimist. I am madly building up the sides of my boat. I’m gonna share what I’m doing. I’m not trying to hide it. I’m like, join me. Let’s build these, let’s tie our boats together, let’s try something because otherwise, I think we risk being capsized. We risk just being whoosh, pushed out of the harbor.

At Fable & Folly, we are actively moving towards advertising, we are actively moving towards sponsorship. I was surprised how many other shows were open to this concept of commercialization, for lack of a better word, right?

HADRIEN

Can you tell us a little bit about Fable & Folly network?

SEAN 

Yeah, so Fable & Folly network I started three months ago. It is 15 shows. We have a number of some of the fastest growing, award-winning audio fiction shows. I’m very excited about the network. I expected two out of ten of the people I reached out to to even agree to talk to me because I was talking about a simple idea of one day making a living being an audio fiction producer.

I have to call it a vision because part of me is hard to even see that as possible in our current world, right? But I was like, “What if? What if this is possible? What would it entain? What would it require us to test and to try?” And one of those is to start to commercialize, start to look at sponsorship and ways that we could change the way sponsorship is both created, the ads, the units so they’re more fun but also the way they’re delivered and the way they’re sold.

So, I was a little surprised that everyone agreed to talk to me and so many people said yes that I sort of had to put the brakes on and be like, “Whoa, I didn’t really plan this well.” But now trying to prove can it work. That’s most of what I’m doing right now. That’s my day job.

HADRIEN

So, Fable & Folly network is about 15 shows now, 15 creators. Can you tell us a little bit about the revenue streams you’re envisioning for it?

SEAN 

We are a network that does around three million downloads a year, probably a little more as we go into releases. As far as revenue, we’re basically doing sponsorships. That world works on CPM, cost per thousand. We’re trying to change the ways those are built and created to make them more interesting for our fans. We’re getting some great feedback about that. 

What I wanted to do was change where we weren’t just reading the same bullets for the same mattress we don’t own but pretending we do. Right? That’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to create something fun, immersive. USe these creatives, these writers and creators that are so awesome, that created these worlds to create something more impactful, both for the brand but for our listeners. 

As far as revenue targets, I can’t really share those but what I can say is we’re trying to say can we make this sustainable and if we can, then we would have enough knowledge to go, “Okay, what scale is now required to actually make this where we could make revenue, significant, support to these producers? What does that look like? What does that entail?” Right now, it’s just an experiment.

HADRIEN

I can’t wait to check in with you in six months and ehar how it goes. In the meantime, how do people find all your articles on Medium and all your journey on Patreon and learn how to market their podcast?

SEAN 

You can get access to most of the articles if you go to fableandfolly.com and go to the resources tab. Sometimes I forget to update it, but for the most part you can access most of the major things that we put out, from if you wanna know what episode trajectories are and how to make them to building your own marketing plan to our whole Patreon journey and what we’ve learned, what works, how much effort it’s been.

HADRIEN

How do people find your podcast? How do they subscribe to it? They absolutely have to subscribe to them, so…

SEAN 

Thank you. You can find all of our podcasts and all the network’s podcasts at fableandfolly.com. There’s 15 amazing shows and I wanna call out a show that’s not on the network. I mention them but I’d love for everyone to check out, again it’s not our show, it’s not our network but it’s by Morgan Gibbons and it’s Flyest Fables and it is my show of the month that I am pushing because I just adore it. I’ve always adored it.

HADRIEN

Thank you so much, Sean. I know we’re gonna come back and talk about advertising in a different episode, but this has been really great.

SEAN 

Thank you.

HADRIEN

If you’re a podcast creator and you would like to share your story and your version of success, please text us. We wanna hear from you. We might invite you in a future episode or start a conversation on social media. Thank you everyone for your patience as we are navigating through COVID-19 weather and we’ll be back with Crypto-Z as soon as possible.

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Created By

  • Hadrien Royo
  • Danielle Trussoni

Starring

  • Fiona Sheehan as Jane Silver
  • Jamieson Price as Felix Bright

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