How Ali Hylton Grew Their Podcast by Leveraging Fans and Word of Mouth

In this episode, we chat with Ali Hylton, host of Dining in the Void and Human Error to learn how they grew their podcast by leveraging fandom and word-of-mouth.

Ali Hylton - Dining in The Void - Podcast Growth Hacks

Ali: [00:00:00]

word of mouth is honestly the best way to get people, to listen to your show because everyone trusts recommendations from like friends and family.

And it works.

I’ve had, folks we’ve done promo swaps with. They’ve sent me messages that their audience are talking about my show because we did a promo swap together.

Pat: Hello, you’re listening to podcast growth hacks, where I talk to podcasters of all experience levels to unpack the most powerful growth tactics they used to grow their podcast. I’m Pat Cheung. And if you’re a podcaster will then subscribe so that together we can all learn and experiment with how to grow our own podcasts.

today. We’re chatting with ally Hilton, the host of dining in the void. It’s an audio drama podcast that they’ve been doing since January, [00:01:00] 2018, with over 49 episodes. And I wanna have ally on the show cuz to my shame, I realize I know very little. The audio fiction, genre of podcasts.

And I find it fascinating.

So I want to learn more about their show and even more about the genre in general. So welcome to the show, Allie, how are you doing?

Ali: I’m good. How are you?

Pat: I’m good I’m good too. Thanks. Well, thanks for coming on today. And, we wanna take a deep dive into what helped your podcast grow

and learn about dining in the void.

But before we go into all that, tell us a little bit about, about your podcast

Ali: So dining and the void is about a group of alien celebrities who are locked on a space station and they have to figure out who among them has trapped them there or die trained. Um, it’s science fiction, horror, and it’s an ensemble of. Starts with six and it’s turned into 38, but you know, and then I also work on, human error, which, that one is about a [00:02:00] found family of survivors going on a road trip through a zombie apocalypse, uh, which is also horror, but more hopeful, horror.

Pat: nice. So I wanna dive into dining in the void a little bit. like I said, I know nothing about audio fiction or audio Jo. Well, actually, what is the genre called? Is it audio fiction or audio drama?

Ali: You can say both, uh, people

generally call it both. I prefer audio fiction but it’s called both

things. Audio drama, audio fiction.

Pat: And how does the cadence even work? I know. Um, and I’m gonna ask you some questions kind of in general too. So you’re kinda representing that genre for me a little bit. Uh, so no pressure there

Well, first of all, I noticed there could be a lot of little breaks between seasons and it seems like even sometimes between episodes. Because I. it takes a lot of effort and maybe we could even dive into that.

Like, I think a lot of audience members maybe have not even heard of the genre before, it might be new to them as well. So we don’t know that, it takes a lot of effort to put together these shows, right?

Ali: oh yeah, [00:03:00] definitely.

Pat: So like with dining and the void, how many people actually work on the

Ali: Working on the show, there’s a cast of 38 and then a lot of the actors are also on the crew, but I believe there’s. Three, additional people for additional people who are not in the cast. So

roughly around 40 ish people, but in total, across the whole show, cuz we’ve had like guest writers and we’ve had, guest actors.

It’s like 57, something like that.

Pat: Wow.

Ali: the numbers recently cuz I was trying to figure out

how many people I work with.

and it’s, it’s a lot

Pat: That sounds like a lot of work. So about 35 cast members and several crew members. And how do you define a crew member? What do they do?

Ali: So the crew, depends on the job. I, work with a bunch of different writers generally. So I have like a writer’s team and then I have a script editor team, and I specifically keep those [00:04:00] separate because I wanna have outside eyes who have not been staring at the same script, writing it. And then I have my sound design team, which can range from just doing dialogue editing to doing the whole sound design process, which includes sound effects, , fixing up some audio, , adding in the music, although I confuse the music myself.

So that’s part of the crew as well. I think that’s generally what I use for a crew.

Pat: And what’s your role in all of this?

Ali: I am. Oh, wait, I have this written down. Hold on. there is an official title. That sounds nice.

So I’m gonna find that really quick. I do a lot of things. I’m the creator of the shows. I’m the show runner and executive producer.

I’m the generally the director head writer composer. I do some dialogue editing.

I. Run the website, social media. I do a lot of different things. I wear a lot of different hats.

Pat: so you’re the main writer and you have other [00:05:00] writers that contribute as well. That’s interesting. Is

Ali: I plan out the whole season myself, cuz they’re my stories. And sometimes I’ll, uh, get input from the writers and

they’ll help me figure out some plot points, but I have this story pretty much figured out in my head. And if it there’s an episode, I don’t have like the strongest grasp on that’s another writer’s problem.

They can figure it out. , But I tend to be the head writer. I’m the one who goes through all the scripts to make sure they’re matching the story like. I want it. My outlines tend to be pretty detailed, so generally it’s all good. But like where season one of human error, I would get the draft from my writers and then I would double the script length by just adding in more details and more dialogue for the characters.

Pat: I

Ali: That’s Yeah.

Pat: So, parts of the script where you don’t write, where you kind of hand off to another writer, you, it sounds like you’re just writing the outline and then they kind of fill that in with dialogue and all the details.

Ali: Yeah. Sometimes we’ll have like little [00:06:00] phrases written in, but I don’t generally write the dialogue or anything. I’ll just break out. Break up what happens? Like here’s the scene. Here’s how the scene generally is gonna play out.

Here are the important details. And of course my writers can change things if they want.

Um, if they have something big to change, they generally talk it over with me. , and sometimes when you’re writing and you find things don’t quite fit in how originally it was planned. So we’ll move some things around to a different episode or just take it out entirely. It just depends on what happens while you’re writing, because you want it to flow.

Right? You don’t wanna like. Force something in that’s just not working.

Pat: That’s interesting. That sounds like so many moving parts. Um,

Ali: It’s a lot of moving parts. Yeah.

Pat: so you say you do this as a hobby too. How? I mean with this much work, is that pretty common?

Ali: Um, it depends on the creator. I recently started, doing, job set pay because when I started this, I was in high school. I didn’t have a job,

so I couldn’t. Pay people. So that’s [00:07:00] why, D and the void is a volunteer show, and there’s nothing wrong with shows being volunteer so long as you are very upfront about it

Pat: Mm

Ali: cuz you don’t wanna be hired onto show and be like, Hey, when I’m gonna get paid and then have the creator be like, oh it’s volunteer.

That’s not great.

You wanna be like really upfront? Hey, this is a volunteer show. Here’s the deal. And. People will wanna join, not everyone’s going to want to,

but a lot of people will. But with human error, that is now releasing, we crowdfunded free season one, which means I got paid, which is. Really fun and great.

And so I’m trying to work my way into creating more shows that are going to pay my cast and crew and myself, because as a producer, you should pay yourself.

Which is something we are trying to do,, as a community trying to do more because there’s kind of a hesitant for paying yourself., but it’s important too, cuz you do a lot of work as.

Pat: Right. And do you know the normal business model for, or revenue model for these types of audio fiction shows? [00:08:00] Is it because you mentioned crowdfunding, is that pretty much the norm or are some shows sponsored or.

Ali: depends on the show, honestly. Um, I know, I think Anne Baird and Tal Manier did, some research on crowd funding and how successful they were and how much shows have raised. I think. One of their websites might have it

Pat: well, you said you did crowdfund, one of your shows recently. Yeah. How successful was that?

Ali: We reached our goal and we reached our, milestone goal as well. I can actually pull those numbers up really quickly. So ideally in the future, I want my shows to be paying more. But this is what we did for the first show and the first run of the show first season, cuz generally, the first season of a new show has a harder time. Raising funds. Just cuz it’s new. But I have, family and friends who are amazing and they donated.

And so we [00:09:00] were trying to, our goal was 3,700, and that’s for an eight episode, season with a main cast of seven and then just a small ensemble depending on the episode. And then includes also our sound design. I actually have this broken down. Okay. So we had like, so paying our actors, our writers sound designers, script editors are consultant, cuz we, the show has deaf and hard of hearing characters played by deaf and hard of hearing actors. And I myself am not deaf or hard of hearing. So I worked with Caroline minks, who is our consultant. So they got paid, which is important. And then stuff to cover our perks and Indigogo feeds. So, like I said, our goal was 3,700 and then we had a stretch goal of 4,000, which meant I got paid a little bit more for the things I do because I, was getting paid for my writing [00:10:00] at the very least.

But I also direct produce

compose all of this other stuff.

So we reached that and we ended up raising $4,057.

Pat: That is awesome. Congratulations.

So that is, so you set a goal on Indigogo basically to cover all the cost of paying everybody and maybe a little bit of profit. That’s great. Wow. That’s actually a lower budget than I thought it would, cuz that’s a lot of people and that’s a lot of,

Ali: Like it said, um, I’m hoping for the next season to actually pay everyone more.

This was just kind of the breakdown that I had set up with a friend who had advised me on it. But it honestly depends on the show. I’ve seen SIM shows have, larger goals, like $16,000. I think that’s what, sum as elevator was their goal was.

And then there’s unwell, which was a huge amount. But it generally depends on production. There’s not really set standard or anything, [00:11:00] cuz these are not, industry standard. Payment. I don’t know the right word for that. It’s not industry standard, but the show is pretty successful so far. So my hope is that next season we can pay people more, especially sound designers, sound designers deserve to be paid a lot more than they’re paid.

Pat: Right. So it sounds like dining in the void is that still going on sort of a free model? Like everyone’s kind of just pitching in and are you thinking of moving that over to like a crowdfund?

Ali: I’m not sure I’ve considered it. I haven’t looked into it a whole, whole lot because crowdfunding is a lot of

work. Um, and it’s very

stressful and I’m producing four shows and told right now but maybe in the future it might be, but I might also just keep it volunteer in just for fun,

because that’s what it’s been, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Pat: Yeah, for sure. No, that’s, that’s super cool that people are so passionate about it, that they want to keep on doing it. And what season is it on [00:12:00] now?

Ali: uh, we have two seasons out and we are recording our third season at the moment. And there’s gonna be five seasons in total.

Pat: Whoa. So you already have the whole thing scoped out to five seasons.

Ali: yeah, I know exactly how it

ends. Um,

Pat: Awesome. That’s always good by the way I hate when I, even smell that, the writer doesn’t know how it’s gonna end. That’s, uh, that’s always disco concerning.

Ali: When I started, I had no idea. Um, but after we wrote season one, I was like, you

know what? I really need to figure this out. So I did.

And, we have, five seasons, season four is a prequel season. So there’s

technically four seasons of the main story. And then the fifth is, prequel to show how our villains came to.

Pat: mm-hmm interesting. Like the origin stories of the villains.

Ali: Yeah,

cause you meet the, we meet all of the rest of them in season three, and then we’re gonna go back and see where they started and then go back to present day and see where [00:13:00] they are again, and be like, oh, these people suck. this is why.

Pat: that’s very cool. So. Just thinking about the cadence a little bit, once again, sorry for my, ignorance of the genre.

How often do the episodes come out and how long are the breaks between the seasons?

Ali: It depends on the show. My shows, it depends on how fast production goes.

I like to have a backlog of episodes, so I’m not rushing to make an episode and try and release it and have delays because I did that with season one and it was

hell, um, So now we create a backlog and we have either most of the season or the entire season completely done.

Sound, design, everything good. And then I release every other week. Human error, which is releasing right now, comes out twice a month. Every other Thursday.

Pat: Got it. And it sounds like you move towards a pattern word. You have the entire season all fleshed out and all edited. Oh, that’s great.[00:14:00]

Ali: Yeah. So right now we’re writing, season two of human error and there, it might end up being about a year gap between seasons, just because

of how much work it takes and how much work sound design has been taking. Um, but

Pat: that the most time consuming process? The sound design

Ali: yes, sound design takes the most work.

Pat: yeah. And it is what makes it amazing to these shows?

The sound design is captivating. It’s amazing what y’all do. So Having such long breaks. Does that affect the audience growth at all?

Ali: I think to some extent it does, but also people are gonna come back and listen to your show between the seasons of one and two of Diane and the void. And it’s ending up between season two and three, there was a two year gap. Um, but we had people come back and people were just as excited, if not more excited.

And then more people have joined the show and. People come back and they listen. And we [00:15:00] also, between season one and two released a lot of bonus content, a bunch of mini episodes, um, which I think also helps keep your listeners engaged. So yeah, to some extent you’re gonna have some people who are just not gonna listen again, but you’re also gonna have people who are, there and they’re gonna come back and they’re gonna tell their friends to come back.

Pat: right. Yeah. That’s cool. Yeah. Once you’re a fan of the show and you wanna know how it ends, yeah. You wanna see the next chapter. I guess.

That’s very

Ali: And I try to, post updates. So of like in March we posted a, production update. We’re like, Hey, this is where we are with production. Here’s where you can listen or find out more about the show and keep up with our updates, things

like that. So I think that also helps us be upfront about like, Hey, this is where we are, but that’s not required either.

Pat: Yeah. I also noticed that I, I’m not sure if it’s your show or some other shows that I was looking at that it seems like they fill in the gaps by cross promoting a lot of other shows just to fill in [00:16:00] the gaps in the RSS feed is that some tactic you use as well.

Ali: So this is something I just started doing was, promo swaps. I’ve definitely seen it where they. Episodes of other shows. And I’ve also seen it done where it’s just a trailer at like the end or the beginning of the episode. At the moment I’m just doing trailers at the end of the episodes, but in the future, as I’m learning more about chromo swaps, I wanna definitely do like dropping an episode into our feed and doing that as well.

That’s something I wanna look into more

Pat: Yeah, I’m curious how you would fair with that, cuz I’m not sure how I feel about that as a listener. Cuz I’m always a little confused. I’m like what? which story am I listening to?

Ali: Yeah, a lot of different people have different opinions on it. As a listener, if the show sounds interesting, I’ll listen to it, but I don’t generally all the time. So my preferred way to do promo ops is, doing trailers in

episodes either at the beginning or end,

cuz that’s [00:17:00] generally how I found shows more and like, oh, Hey, this trailer sounds cool.

I wanna go check out the show, which I just did the other day after listening to a show.

Pat: Yeah. Yeah, no, I like that too. Especially when the producer or whoever, is endorsing that other show, some kind of endorsement that really helps. Well, let’s dive into your growth hack a little bit. I know you said, part of the way you grew, dining in the void is through word of mouth.

Ali: mm-hmm

word of mouth is honestly the best way to get people, to listen to your show because everyone trusts recommendations from like friends and family. Like my. My sister-in-law’s friends have gone to her and be like, oh, Hey, have you heard about dining in the void?

And she’s like, oh yeah, my sibling law makes that And like the number of times that’s happened is very random and very cool. Another great way. And this is. Still word of mouth is there’s a tag on Twitter called hashtag audio drama Sunday. And so on Sunday, people will [00:18:00] list out recommendations for shows and oftentimes people will be like, Hey, here’s the show.

Here’s what it’s about. This is why I like it. And that’s another really cool way to find, recommendations. And also Tumblr Tumblr is where all the fandoms are at. We’ve gotten a

bunch of, yeah,

Pat: That’s funny. I’ll be honest. I wasn’t sure if they were still alive, so people are using

Ali: mm-hmm,

a lot of audio dramas. Have, pages on or blogs on Tumblr and they’ll post like memes and share Fanar on there and things related to the show. Dining in the void. I queue up a bunch of space photos because I really like space. So there’s like a new space photo that posts every day.

And then if I see fan art or something, I’ll. Repost that, and I’ll share that a few times. Also all the fan art I have gotten for the show. I haven’t saved on a folder on my phone because it is so cool that people were so inspired by something. I made that they made more art out of that.

It’s so

Pat: Interesting. So fan art is a thing

and [00:19:00] it’s shared on Tumblr. So does dining and VO have its own Tumblr feet.

Ali: Yeah. Uh, I can pull up what that’s called also.

Do I remember it off the top of my head? No,

Pat: so that’s not sort of your main podcast website, then that’s just like a separate channel.

Ali: We have a, website, for Diane, the void and it’s spinoff that is in production written and star us. They’re both under, Lon podcast dot w And then they have specific pages for the shows that will lead into like, here’s the casting crew. Here’s where our Tumblr is.

Here’s our Twitter, things like that. And we also have a fan discord. So we have fans that go in there and they engage with me, some of our casting crews on there.

And that’s also another really cool way to get to know and get to see your audience and get to know your audience more.

Pat: That’s a great audience engagement tool for sure.

Ali: Tumblr is more for memes and photos and more lighthearted fandom related stuff. [00:20:00] And

then the shows of course have their own,, website like , human error is,, human error, for slash main.

Pat: So why do you think the community glommed onto Tumblr? Why not? Like something like Reddit?

Ali: There is Reddit. A lot of people are on Reddit, too. There’s a whole audio fiction. Or I guess audio drama is what it’s called on Reddit. There’s a whole, Thing there for red. I’m not on Reddit very much

so I don’t know a, a lot about it. I can’t really talk a lot about it, but I know, a lot of people are on there as well.

I just know Tumblr more and that’s what I’ve been using since high school. So that’s where, that’s where I am.

Pat: that’s cool. I’ll have to check out the, that Tumblr feed and yeah, definitely share that link and I’ll put that link in the show notes.

Ali: Mm-hmm

Pat: So were there any other things that helped increase word of mouth? Cuz I’m a huge fan of word of mouth too, but one of the things I always kind of say, it’s like, there’s no way to kind of, you know, buy more of it.

Right. It’s not like paid advertising where you could just spend more money and kind of get more clicks.[00:21:00] How else do you increase word of mouth?

Ali: It just depends. Like, like I said, promo swaps is also kind of in a way word of mouth. It depends on how it’s done, for promo swaps, I do, I actually talk about the show before the trailer goes on. So I’m like, Hey, this is what it’s about. This is why I like it. So I would consider that also a little bit of word of

mouth and it works.

I’ve had, um, some folks we’ve done promo swaps with. They’ve sent me messages that their audience are talking about my show because we did a promo swap together.

Pat: Right. No, that, that, that makes total sense. It’s like you get this whole other audience talking about your show.

Ali: mm-hmm

Pat: I mean, one of the thing that you do, just kind of hearing it and riffing on that is, I feel like crowdfunding is also a great way to increase word of mouth too, because you’re getting people like taking some pretty high level action of giving you money and donating.

Do you see that as kind of a good way as well?

Ali: I

think so. Yeah. Human error [00:22:00] is, we just have two episodes that right now we have our third episode coming out next week and we’re almost at 2000 downloads, which is really impressive for a brand new show.

Pat: Oh, wow. That’s awesome.

And tell us a little about human error a little bit. When did it start again?

Ali: It’s been in production since 2019. But we just started releasing episodes. This month or last month we’re in September. Now we started releasing episodes on the 18th, which is right before podcast movement, because I wanted to be like, Hey, go listen to my show. It’s out

now. And it worked.

Pat: And that was the first season.

Ali: yeah, it’s our very first season.

And there’s gonna be four seasons in total.

Pat: wow. And it’s already at what download count.

Ali: It’s at, 1,700 something like

that. We’re almost at 2000.

Pat: How many downloads per episode?

Ali: It is telling me about 638 per episode at the

Pat: Wow, that’s amazing. And do you attribute most [00:23:00] of that through word of mouth?

Ali: probably, honestly, cuz I’m not, I don’t have like. Any paid advertisement or anything.

I have just been talking about the show a lot on like Twitter and Tumblr and

discord because I’m on a bunch of different, audio drama discord. So there’s a lot of different fan

servers and there’s also a lot of ones for creators.

And the thing with the audiod drama community is we are often listening to other

shows and we love other audio dramas. So you have a lot of people listening to each other’s show.

Pat: Yeah, that’s what I love about your community. Seems like a community that I guess. Y’all like to share, uh, which is different. Like even when you said there’s a lot of discord, the first thing that popped into my mind is like, wow, they let you promote your own show. Cuz a lot of these sort of online communities kind of flag you for that.

Right. So it seems like these


Ali: do you know what discord is?

Pat: Yeah. Yeah. It’s a

Ali: Yeah,

Pat: right. But there’s sometimes [00:24:00] moderators, you know, if you promote too much, they kind of, they could silence you or ban you.

Ali: it depends on the server. Honestly, a lot of the servers I’m in are, audio drama based.

So if it’s a crater server, they have like a self-promotion channel where you can go and

promote your things. And the same with the fandom server, there’s like pages where like, so. Let’s say I’m on the Diane, the void, fan server.

We actually have a whole channel that is dedicated to other podcasts that you wanna talk about. So I’ll find out about new shows there that other people are like, Hey, you guys should go listen to this show.

Pat: Yeah,

this community has its own ethos. And, speaking of, I even noticed there’s an entire podcast player dedicated to

Ali: Yes, Apollo.

Pat: Yeah. That’s amazing. Do you know much about that? Like, has that helped a little bit, for discovery for you?

Ali: Uh, anyone who’s listening should go download Apollo and use it because it is a app that is entirely [00:25:00] for fiction audio drama, and it is set up in a way that will recommend shows and they’ll have like, so, you know, Netflix, how it has like a bunch of shows that flips through

and has like the art for. Apollo has something like that. So I’m, I have it up next to me. So

if I’m flipping through it, it’s like TILs of the echo wood, or earth eclipse. And it’s giving me a bunch of shows that they’re promoting. And then they also, if you scroll down, there’s different categories. So you can look for adventure, classics, comedy, crime, mystery, drama, whatever you wanna look for. And then there’s a CRA showcase right now. So they have. All the, shows they’re featuring in this creator showcase, which is

really, really cool. And they have like different things like shows for a good cry. Sci-fi

beyond infinity, women led shows BI black creatives, um, et cetera.

They have like all this is on the main page where you can go through, you can see all these different shows by these.

Different categories that you’re

looking at. It is a really cool app. I’m [00:26:00] really excited

Pat: That is really cool. I’ll be honest. When I first heard of it, I was a little skeptical. I’m like aren’t all podcast apps all the same. Like, I didn’t really see much of a difference between the genres, but now that even as you’re describing it, yeah, it makes total sense. Different genres have different ways that they could.

Recommend shows they have way different type of community that’s into different things that could help them find, discover, shows that they like. And I can’t remember what podcast I was listening to. I first heard of Apollo cuz someone mentioned that even the feature of, when you first, click onto an audio drama show.

It’s in a chronological order versus reverse chronological, cuz chances are, if someone’s listening to it first time, uh, they wanna start from episode one, not the latest episode. And I thought that was kind of interesting.

Ali: Yeah, it’s also really nice to have somewhere that’s all entirely audio fiction because when I’m looking for new shows, I don’t generally find it on other podcast apps. Like, um, the other app I use to [00:27:00] listen to podcasts is PocketCasts and I have my shows on there. But I don’t know how to find other shows because when you look at discover, it’s all entirely nonfiction and

like, there’s nothing wrong with nonfiction, but I generally tend to listen to more audio drama cuz that’s, that’s my thing.

But with Apollo, it’s all entirely audio dramas. You can find all these new shows in one

place, which is really, really cool.

Pat: Right. No, I could even see that being cool for other genres like self-help business, cuz it’d be so much easier. Opening a app, just dedicated for that. And you’re getting all the recommendations based off that one interest. It’s very cool.

Ali: it’s a really cool app.

Pat: dining in the void again? Yeah.

What, what numbers are you at?

Ali: So I actually went and checked this last night, cuz I don’t generally check download numbers because I will

hyper fixate on the numbers.

Pat: I’m sorry for making you do it then.

Ali: No, no, no. I am really glad you did because I found out we’re at 71,500 downloads,

Pat: Wow. [00:28:00] That is awesome. Yeah, that is great. And have you ever thought of monetizing from it because you do it as a hobby and everyone’s doing it for free actually, maybe you do. Do you monetize.

Ali: I don’t, I’ve definitely thought about it. It’s a little intimidating for me cuz I don’t know much about it. But I definitely wanna start, doing that with, just the different shows I produced because again, I wanna start paying my casting crew

if I can. And I would love to see like dining, the void and Ren and Staris cuz Stardust is also volunteer based, like pair actors.

And like the thing is if you can pay your actors just a little bit, like even if it’s just $10, like that’s $10 more than they didn’t

have before. And if you can pay like $25 per episode, which is what we’re doing for our main cast in human error.

That’s great. And if you have the means to pay your cast and crew, you should,

You should pay your casting crew before you pay yourself too.

Which is why for human error. [00:29:00] I made sure everyone else got paid before I got paid at all.

Because they’re working for me

and, they’re gonna get paid

Pat: All right. Yeah, no, that’s cool. That’s really good of you to do that. And speaking of it made me think, are there contracts for these kind of things or is it all just kind of

Ali: Depends on

the show, honestly, human error. I had people sign an NDA, just because I didn’t want things leaking. And also just, I don’t know. That’s what. People do sometimes, but, I don’t know. I don’t generally write out contracts, which I guess I could, but

Pat: right. It’s at the level where you’re not thinking about it too much.

Ali: Yeah. It’s not something I really need to think about right

Pat: Right? One of the reasons why I ask that is,, I think some people who do kind of high production shows on. Because I’m kind of thinking, you know, I’m sorry, I’m trying to like put dining in the void in a bucket for some reason, just like my mental model of like how things work is.

Like, some people will kind of invest, you know, sweat [00:30:00] equity or, or whatever into a project for free, With maybe some other outcome in mind that they, maybe they hope for in the back of their mind. And I think one of the things that some podcasters are doing is they’re kind of hoping maybe for like, for it to get picked up by a network or to get made into a, Netflix series or something like that.

If something like that happens, do you ever think about that?

Ali: Sometimes, like human error would absolutely be so cool as a TV show,

Because it’s such a visual story as well, but I don’t know if that’s ever gonna happen because that’s a whole nother thing that I don’t know very much about. Sarah Ray Warner gave a talk at podcast movement about how. Their show almost became a TV show

and then a bunch of different things happened and it just, it didn’t happen anymore.

Because TV interest stream from what I’ve heard is very complicated.

Pat: yeah, it’s complicated, but I think they’re kind [00:31:00] of using podcasts as a way to test out ideas. So I don’t know. It might happen. It might be interesting to be prepared for, even if it’s, a slight chance, one in a million or whatever. you never know what could happen.

Ali: So how my brain works. When I, write stories or hear stories, my brain plays it out. Like I’m watching a

movie, it’ll have, I can see the characters in the setting and I can see different visual things, especially like with humid error, same with Diane and the void. But Diane, the void is, they were on the same space station for a while.

So it’s not so much atmospheric human error is very atmospheric. They’re outside in south central, Texas, which is where I live. And. So you can hear the cicadas in the summer and you can hear the birds. And one of my sound designers was specifically Googling different birds in Texas and was finding those sound effects to put into it.

So it was accurate. Like this is really [00:32:00] cool.

But I can, because I live here, I can see. Visually how it will look because one of the reasons I made the show is because Texas is beautiful. There’s a lot of countryside out here. And one of my favorite things is driving out in the country where you can see just fields and fields and fields for miles and miles.

And then there’ll be wild sunflowers on the side of the road. And sometimes you’ll see cows and sometimes you’ll see trees and houses every once in a while. And. It’s just, it’s really pretty. And so that’s why I put human error here because I think it’s nice.

Pat: That’s cool. Maybe you should figure out a way to pitch it to Netflix one day.

Ali: one day maybe, maybe we’ll

look at, make it into TV show. I think that’d be cool, but that’s not something I’m looking at right

now because I wanna focus on making the audio drama because that’s what I have control over. And that’s what I’m working on. Right.

Pat: Yeah. Yeah, that totally makes sense. And I think you said you [00:33:00] are planning to crowdfund the rest of the seasons.

Ali: Yes, human error is in, is gonna pay every season.

There. It is always gonna crowd fund for each season.

Um, and the goal will depend on how many episodes there are and how many actors are in each

episode. Like season two is 12 episodes long, and it’s a much bigger


But it’s gonna be really good.

Pat: And it seems like it makes some logical sense to ramp up the budget on each one. Right. You have more and more listeners you could get more and more supporters outta curiosity, not to make you look in your stats again. How many supporters did you get for your Indiego campaign?

Ali: Uh, let me see. I, so have this pulled out. We had 82 backers.

Pat: 82. Wow. That’s really good. That means they’re all supporting quite a bit.

Ali: Yeah. And the thing with, crowdfund is we had different levels that people could pay. So we had like $5 tier and $15, $20, 30, 5,000, and each tier [00:34:00] has different rewards you would get. So the first tier $5 would get you a chat out on Twitter and your name on a thank you page. And then the $15 was a whole digital pack where you get, wallpapers for your computer and annotated scripts and early access to the soundtrack. And then as you go higher, we start adding in stickers and cuz we have a whole sticker pack for our characters. We have a, I commissioned someone to do official artwork of the characters.

And what I’m planning on doing is each season doing a new sticker pack with the characters updated. This, looks.

Pat: Wow.

Ali: The show takes place over the course of a year. So you’re gonna see them in summer, fall, winter, spring.

Pat: Wow. That is a lot of work. What was the most popular tier?

Ali: Let me see. It looks like our $20 tier was the most popular. But it just kind of like a lot of them were pretty even. But [00:35:00] like $20 had the most. And then like our a hundred dollars tier there’s. We got like 10 out of 15 claimed, which is really impressive. And the reason I limited it to 15 is because with that tier, they get to name a character.

And in season two we have 15 additional characters. So they’re gonna name an ensemble character who you will hear throughout the season

but yeah, our $20 one looks like was the most popular one.

Pat: Yeah. Congrats on the current success of human error. And outta curiosity. Did you promote it at all on the dining and the void

Ali: I did, um, that’s something I can do with my own

shows is I can very easily promote it. So, like I said earlier, we were doing a production update. So I gave her production update, like, Hey, we’re gonna be casting preseason three, and we’re gonna start recording. And also I have a new show on crowdfund right now.

That’s gonna be coming out. Here’s a trailer for it.

And that definitely, brought more people in. And I plan on doing [00:36:00] that with the other shows in grading. Because I think that’s a great way to get people, to hear what I’m

working on.

Pat: Yeah, it’s funny. I just did an episode with, another guest on, the power of networks and mini networks. And I noticed you, are you part of one, two it’s? Is it called the shadow network?

Ali: Yes, I am a part of two different networks. ZM podcast is my own network. I run it with my wife. That’s where, Diane and void and Marin star. It’s generally just where I’m keeping it. But, the shadow network is a network I’m really excited about and I’m really proud of, I’m one of the, what are we called the board?

I think we’re called the board. I’m gonna look this up shadow network.

Pat: I think it is called the board. I’m on the website right and there’s collaborators too,

Ali: yes. I’m one of the people who helped, find the network. And so there’s a bunch of different shows we’re working on. And we have a discord server for all of us who are on the board. And also the folks who are producing shows through us because not everyone producing [00:37:00] shows is on the board, but we’ll have people, come pitch shows to us and we’ll decide as a board, if we wanna. Adapt the show with our network or not, which is what I did with human error because, human error was originally attached to a different network that I just wasn’t fitting what I needed. So I was like, I feel like the shadow network is a much better fit because.

The shadow network. Our phrase for it is an audio drama network dedicated to bringing marginalized folks out of the shadows and human error has a bunch of disabled characters and that disability is also used at a strength, which you don’t really see very often.

And I’m very excited about. But yeah, and I’ve actually gotten a lot of help through this network, because. When I needed help, crowd funding, I was like, Hey. I need help with this. And so someone there who knew how to do it, a towel in this case, helped me figure out crowdfunding stuff that I was stuck on.

And then when I was having trouble, figuring out [00:38:00] phrasing for announcing the cast, because I was gonna schedule the tweets and you can’t schedule thread. So I had to put a whole bio into one post. And I was like, please, someone help me figure out how to phrase these. So one of the folks on the shadow network went and we worked together and we wrote out all the casting crew announcements together.

It’s just a really great place to help support each other. And we, are gonna be doing more like cross promotion

across the different shows. Human error is the only one out right now, but I know between the heartbeats is gonna be coming out soon. I think they just crowdfunded a few months ago.

Pat: Mm mm-hmm

Ali: So different shows are gonna come out

whenever they come out.

But you’re gonna start seeing a lot more cross promotion between the different

shows because we’re all one network and we’re helping each other and we’re boosting each

Pat: right. And I take it. You’re not just cross-promoting the show, but also the crowdfunding campaigns as well. Yeah.

Ali: Mm-hmm

yeah. I’ll either [00:39:00] share it on a feed. If I have the feed live or I can share it on Twitter and things like that.

Pat: Yeah. When’s the next crowdfunding campaign for human error. Happy to give that a little support too.

Ali: I don’t have it planned out yet.

It’s gonna be some time in 2023. We’re writing in the scripts right now, and then we’re gonna start recording early 20, 23 is the goal knock on wood. And generally I’ll crowdfund before this season releases. Like right before it releases season one, in this case, it got pushed back a few months just because sound design is so much fun. But, the goal is to have like a crowdfunding campaign and then having the show come out like really shortly after

Pat: I see. So, it sounds like you’re already committed to the production even before the crowdfunding campaign

starts. Wow. So you’re already kind of invested in some money before even money rolls in. Right. Wow.

Ali: different shows will do it different ways. I know some shows [00:40:00] will, crowdfund before they produce.

But I know other shows, crowdfund afterwards, they’ve done their production work, cuz it’s like everyone’s gonna get paid regardless. Crowdfund just means is not gonna come directly out of my pocket

so much as it’s going to come from the crowdfund campaign and the people who donated.

To the show to help us produce it

Pat: right. Was it nervewracking at all? The first one where you’re like, Hey, you’re gonna get paid. I don’t know where I’m gonna get the money, but don’t


Ali: Kinda, I, I had talked with my wife about it beforehand and we were like, we can, we can do this if we don’t meet our goal. And that was the important thing. And I know like some shows, I don’t remember what specific show, but,, they were like, here’s what I’m crowdfunding. You were all gonna get paid.

I don’t know exactly when you’re gonna get paid, but you will get paid, So I try to, be upfront about it

and updating as much as I can and keeping that communication clear

Yeah, [00:41:00] but they’re all gonna get paid regardless.

So that wasn’t gonna change at all. So yeah,

Pat: All right. No, that’s great.

No, your integrity is, very, very high, so I’m sure no one was worried about that.

That’s cool. Well, I just wanna be conscious of time,

so normally I end the show with what I call the final five questions. And these are just kind of quick questions that are hopefully a little fun and enlightening to the listeners too. So question number one.

Do you collect listener emails?

Ali: no, I don’t, I don’t have a newsletter or anything, and I do not have the spoons or energy to do it. Uh, so I don’t do that.

Pat: Okay. Fair enough. Question number two. What’s the last podcast you recommended to someone besides your own

Ali: Desto Desto is such a good show. Oh my God.

Pat: yeah. Desperado. And tell us a little bit about that one.

Ali: yeah. It’s about three individuals who are, hold on. I have this [00:42:00] right now. I wanna say this right. Can I pull it up really

quick? Um,

Pat: A great recommender, by the way. I think you recommended someone dies in this elevator to me and I listened to it several times.

Ali: Oh, I love sound’s elevator. I’m so excited for the next season. It’s so good. I’ve listened to a lot of the episodes already, cause I’m on, the crew and cast,

Pat: nice.

Ali: Okay. Um, thus Barto is a show about three individuals who are each chosen by the God of death of their respective cultures.

As they try to survive and protect their heritage from modern day crusaders. There’s a lot of magic action, adventure, swords, and they’re also on the quest to go kill God.

It’s a really fun show and

I highly recommend it. It’s so good.

Pat: Yeah, it’s funny. These descriptions sound so visual. I just wish. Yeah, I think I haven’t unlocked that side of my brain where I could convert audio into video. so I’m still learning. So question number three. How much time do you spend producing each episode?

Ali: oh [00:43:00] God. Someone asked me this recently too. A lot of time. Writing can take, if I’m quickly writing, it can take a week, but sometimes it takes, two or three weeks depending. And then recording, folks generally have a month to record and then sound design generally takes a month or two. So a few months per episode.

Pat: Wow, but you’re just, we are working it in batches, right?

Ali: Yeah, and I work with a team. So I have a team of sound designers. So we’re working on multiple episodes at the same time, which

is how we’re able to release sooner

Pat: Wow. How much time would you say you spent on an episode


Ali: A lot of time. I, I do this full time. I know it’s a hobby, but it’s also my job because I do, work on other shows that get that pay me and I’m getting paid for human error now, myself, however much time you would spend on a full time job. That’s what I do with,

uh, uh, my podcast.

Pat: Yeah. And you, you’re [00:44:00] casting crew on other shows too. You said you

Ali: I think I’m involved in 10 shows at the moment.

My website has, all my credits on it.

Pat: Yeah. Is it your personal website?

Ali: yes.

Pat: Okay. I’ll put that link in the show notes. That’s very cool. And question number four. What’s your favorite podcast tool?

Ali: What do you mean with podcast tool?

Pat: Like? I don’t know any tool that you use recording tool. Do.

Ali: Reaper’s really good for sound design. And I know some people record with it. I generally record with garage band because I’m a Mac, but when doing like dialogue, editing and sound design Reaper is so good.

Pat: Yeah. Do you create your own sound effects for sound design or are you, do you buy them sometimes?

Ali: It depends. I don’t generally do the sound design, but some folks will get stuff off of free Sometimes there’s different, ways of you attritions or some of it is just. You can, use it freely. And then some [00:45:00] of my sound designers will, they pay for libraries

and they use that or they’ll just record their own sound effects.

So it’s kind of a mix,

Pat: Got it. Yeah, that makes sense. All right. And, what social media platform are you on the most

Ali: Twitter probably. You can find me at miss Ellie Hilton on Twitter or at my website, which. Ally, which I can spell that out if you want me to

Pat: no, I’ll put all these links in the show notes. I, yeah, I checked out your card, website. Very cool. Uh, and last question. What’s your primary call to action at the end of each episode.

Ali: I generally, ask for people if they like to show, to tell a friend about it or leaving us a review on their favorite podcast app. Which

Is again, word of mouth

Pat: word. Well, there you go. If you enjoyed this episode, go check out both human error and dining in the void. And [00:46:00] if you like the episode, go give it a rating and review on your favorite podcast. Thanks for bringing on the show, Allie.

Ali: of course. Thank you for having me.

Pat: Thanks for listening to podcast growth hacks. If you like the show, please tell a fellow podcaster about it. This really does help keep our show going. And if you have a podcast growth question that you’re kind of curious about, well, I’d love to hear from you. You can leave me an audio message by going to pod

Once again, that’s pod I’ll include that link in my show notes. I personally respond to all questions I received there. . And once I get your question, I’ll find the podcasting expert to answer it on an upcoming episode. We’ll play your question and I’ll even give you a shout out

until the next episode. Keep creating and keep growing your show.


Follow Podcast Growth Hacks and Pat Cheung

Follow Ali Hylton, Dining in The Void, and Human Error

Podcast Growth Hacks Learned in This Episode

  • Finance your podcast with Crowdfunding.
    • Season 1 can be hard to crowdfund, so consider producing it on a volunteer basis.
  • If you do get volunteers, be upfront that this is a volunteer-run show.
  • It’s ok to take long breaks between seasons.
    • If you do, consider posting updates from time-to-time
  • Consider creating a companion blog, on something like Tumblr, to post updates, post fan art, etc.
  • Leverage a chat platform like Discord
    • Create your own Discord server to further engage with fans.
    • Leverage other Discord communities to help promote your show.
  • Join a network of shows in the same genre to get…
    • Marketing support
    • Cross-promotion of shows
    • Cross-promotion of crowdfunding campaigns

Podcasts & Resources Mentioned in This Episode

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