Author | Annette Hines

This subject is one I get asked about every single week, and it brings up a topic that I believe is so important, especially in our community, as so many of us have stories to tell that can encourage and inspire others. 

I get asked these two questions more than any others:

  1. How and why did you start a podcast?
  2. How and why did you publish a book?

So many people come to me and ask how I got these projects off the ground because they are interested in sharing their own stories in those ways.

So, let’s talk about it. 

Background Info About Me

Some of you know that I have my own neuro challenges. I am dyslexic, and I also have ADD. Because of this, I prefer to meet my audience by talking rather than by writing. That being said, podcasting and speaking were natural outlets for me. Writing, on the other hand,  definitely wasn’t the plan, but we’ll get to that later.

I started the Special Needs Law Group of Massachusetts and Special Needs Companies because when I was raising my daughter Elizabeth who had special needs, I noticed that there wasn’t any one place I could go for all of the information and support I needed. I wanted to create this place for families all over the country who were experiencing the same struggles me and my family went through.

Starting a podcast and publishing a book have become two more ways where I get to see this dream through.

Starting the “Parenting Impossible” Podcast

My podcast combined my love for talking with people with my goal of sharing information with families all over the world. 

For me, it was as simple as grabbing a microphone and a little recording device and pressing “start.” There are several podcast sites that range in price where you can edit your audio. It’s as simple as that. 

I’d love to tell you that everything with the podcast has been perfect and that I’m a perfect host, but obviously, that’s not true. I’ve gone blank in interviews, forgotten peoples’ credentials, even forgotten my own name (just once, though). In this world, where everyone is posting the perfect pictures on Facebook, Instagram, and everything else, we know that life can be messy and imperfect. You just have to love yourself through it all, and that’s the message of my podcast itself.

I wanted to use my podcast to deliver useful information, of course, but I also use it to tell other peoples’ stories. It’s important to me to have the spotlight on other families — to cheer each other on, cry together, rejoice victories together, share resources that have helped us through difficult times, whatever it may be.

Here are 5 tips for all of you who are starting or thinking about starting a podcast:

  1. Don’t stray from the message. Once you figure out the theme of your podcast, stick with it! If your podcast is about fishing, don’t record 3 episodes about fishing and then throw an episode in about cars. Sometimes this means you have to turn down a potential guest with a large social media following… Sure, they might get you some traction, but if their sticking point isn’t in line with your overall podcast message, that audience isn’t going to resonate with your show in the long run and it can confuse your subscribers. 
  2. Have a teachable moment in each episode. There has to be a takeaway. Whether you’re highlighting someone’s story or sharing a resource each week, that’s fine. Just make sure you’re actually giving your audience something to walk away with each time they listen to you. I’ve listened to plenty of podcasts where the hosts just ramble… Don’t do this. If you don’t know the point of what you’re saying, your audience won’t either!  
  3. Know and speak to a specific audience and market. When you set out to do any kind of speaking engagement, unless you’re Oprah, you’re not looking to speak to the entire world. Who is your audience? There are parent groups, sibling groups, professional groups, etc. Is your message directed to any of these groups specifically? For my podcast, I knew right away that I wanted to target the disability community as a whole to include everyone. I believe this is the best way for us to support each other. We are stronger together. 
  4. Do your homework. Know your guests! It drives me crazy when you can tell that the interviewer has no clue what is going on or who they are speaking with. I have been interviewed so many times by people who have not read my book or really looked through my bio. What a difference it makes when the interviewer has actually gotten interested in you enough to do their research ahead of time. It’s night and day. Your audience will only be riveted if YOU are riveted during the recording.
  5. Send questions to your guests ahead of time. They might not actually send anything back to you, but it gives them an idea of where the interview will go instead of being surprised and unprepared in the moment. 

Writing “Butterflies and Second Chances”

This project actually came before the podcast, and it started as a private journal. I was expressing some pretty angry, ugly things after Elizabeth passed away in my own notebook. One day I realized, “Hey, this could really help somebody.”

I don’t know if it was Elizabeth inspiring me from somewhere beyond. I had never even thought about writing a book before, but suddenly I was really considering it.

Fast forward a while and suddenly, “Butterflies and Second Chances” was born.

Getting My Book Published

The traditional way of having a book published is to work with a publisher, editor, label, the whole deal. This is extremely difficult to do unless you are well-known.The publisher will pay you in advance to write your book, and then they actually own your distribution rights. Again, this is not very common.

The other way is to self-publish. This can be wholly self-published (writing, editing, and publishing it as a PDF somewhere) or a hybrid where you handle some parts and hire others out. When you self-publish, you own your book and fund all of the costs yourself. Most people who up and decide to write a book go through this route.

I did a hybrid. I have a publisher and an editor. Because of my dyslexia, I knew I needed to hire an editor to avoid mistakes.

It’s not easy to do on your own. There are a lot of ways that you can hire out the services you need without having to spend a lot of money, you just need to be careful about who you are hiring. 

A lot of people actually start out with a blog, and then after they build up enough material, they just pull it all together and reformat it as a book. If you’ve already been blogging and it all follows some sort of theme, this might be the best option for you. 

When you write a book, you have to realize that you’re not going to sell a million copies and it probably won’t even make you money. You have to think about what the goal is. I wrote my book for a few different reasons.

  1. I wanted to use my family’s story to help other families who were struggling. I wanted people to know that there is an “after” when your child passes away. When I used to read books about living in this world with special needs children, I couldn’t relate to them at all! They were so “fluffy.”  I wanted to tell the raw story… divorce, lost jobs, bankruptcy, how I failed, how I felt like a terrible mother. I needed to let other moms know that they weren’t alone, and teach other people who cared to pick up my book what our lives are like, how to be a friend to us, how to be a teacher to us and our children, how to be a therapist and doctor to us… If I could impact ONE other family, that’s what I wanted this book to do.
  2. I wanted Elizabeth’s life to continue to have meaning. I wanted a way to continue her legacy.

Do you have a story you’re ready to tell? I’d love to connect with you in our “Circle of Care” Facebook group! Our community is filled with special needs parents, siblings, caregivers, and individuals who would love to hear your tales of joy, heartbreak, success, lessons, etc.
You can join the group right here!