While produced by 59 North, Ltd., Sailing Stories is a standalone project, so it needs income to keep making new seasons, which is why we need to fund it. Our goal is just $1 per person, per episode, a small contribution - only $4 per month while the show is in season - to keep us making content beyond Season 1. YOU can help make it happen!
What's Sailing Stories?
Building on the success of the On the Wind' sailing podcast, Andy Schell & Lee Cumberland are launching a new podcast.
The show will be a highly produced 'serialized' story, hosted by Lee Cumberland & co-produced by Lee & Andy Schell, and offered for free on iTunes, Stitcher & anywhere else you get your podcasts. Each episode will run about an hour long, and the first 'season' will run 12 episodes, released weekly.
We're kicking things off with an audio interpretation of the book 'Brave or Stupid,' a story about an unlikely Swedish duo with zero sailing experience who set out to circumnavigate after making a handshake agreement during a cycling trip in France. The story is co-authored by 'On the Wind' podcast guest Janne Larsson.
Depending on the success of this first season, we'll be back with more seasons based on previously published books, anecdotal sea stories, personal stories from Lee, Mia & myself, and lots more, all neatly packaged in a easy listening format.
So that's the gist - if you like what you hear, contribute some cash money to support us now! If you want more info, keep reading.
The Evolution of 59º North
As an avid podcast fan himself, Andy started the 59º North sailing podcast in September of 2013 on the theory that nobody else was doing it and there wasn't enough sailing audio content out there. It was also a way for Andy to connect with sailors around the globe and from all walks of life, and have long-form conversations with them.
Andy and his wife Mia later started Isbjorn Sailing, a small business in order to take people ocean sailing, following a dream Andy has had since his early years as a kid sailing on mom & dad's Sojourner. The podcast and the passages business grew in tandem, and now play off each other - Andy gets to meet and interview people in the places they sail to, and most of our crew are avid podcast listeners.
Now it's 2017. On the Wind is going strong and we've developed an enthusiastic listenership. In the last three years, we've published over 175 long-form podcast episodes and several key people have joined the creative team to help make that happen. That podcast will still go strong into the future, and it'll forever remain free for listeners.
But we think we can do more in the world of sailing audio content by creating a standalone podcast, and that's where Sailing Stories comes in...
Sailing Stories' Goals
- We want to create more awesome sailing content, based on new and old sailing books that we love. To do this professionally, it's more than just Andy talking into a mic - you need a professional studio and professional voice-over talent, and this is surprisingly expensive (see below for details).
- We avidly want this content to be out there and available! By making Sailing Stories a free podcast on iTunes, and using direct fan contributions rather than a traditional method of distribution like Audible (see more on them below), we're gambling that our listeners will see the value and help pay for it! Of course, there is no obligation to do so - by simple economics, if we don't get enough contributions we won't be able to produce it, and that'll be that.
- We need to make Sailing Stories self-sustaining for this to work. Our savings are unimpressive (read 'non-existent'), and what's there goes straight into Isbjorn, our Swan 48. And the passage business is trying to grow and needs every dollar it can to invest in itself. If Sailing Stories is going to go on for a long time, it has to be able to support itself.
Why Not Audible?
Sailing Stories is essentially 'serialized' audiobooks, all about sailing, so Audible seems the most logical route, right? In fact, we had a plan setup almost 2 years ago that would have made exactly this happen - but in the end, it would have been financially irresponsible for everyone involved, so we shelved it. But, like all creative projects, the work then wasn't wasted time - Andy learned a ton about the audiobook business, and that research ultimately led to the inspiration to try something 'out-of-the-box.'
The audiobook world is dominated by Amazon and it's subsidiary audible.com, and their revenue-share rates are impossible for independent creators. Right off the bat they take 60% of all sales, leaving only 40% left to share among the creator, voice talent, publisher, etc. It simply doesn't work financially, as you'd have to sell a stupid amount of books just to break even. And they control the pricing.
Sailing is a niche industry with a small audience (in mass-market terms), but that audience is passionate. We think there are tons of people out there looking for good content, but until now there was no way to get it to them, especially through traditional methods. With the popularity of direct, fan-funded content, I felt it high time to re-examine the audiobook idea. Plus, producing an audiobook as a serialized podcast creates drama and anticipation that isn't possible through traditional methods - think about how much more exciting it was to watch Breaking Bad in real-time, for example, than simply binge-watching a series after it's been entirely released? We want to create that drama with Sailing Serial and we think the listening experience will be better for it!
Sailing Serial's Costs
- Audio Production. It costs about $250-300 per finished hour of audio production from a professional voice-over actor using a professional editing studio. That translates to between $2,500.00-4,500.00 per season of finished product (10-20 hours of content), and needs to be paid up front. Andy is personally financing production of the first season, taking that gamble to create content for you!
- Revenue Sharing. Each story we'll be featuring was of course written by someone else! (and usually available in print, as a real book). These creators need to get paid for their work too, so we do a simple 50-50 revenue share with them, once our setup and production costs are met.
- Hosting. Sailing Stories will be released as a podcast, hosted on libsyn.com. That costs about $20/month. Not much, but it adds up.
- MailChimp. The service we use to email posts out to the subscription list. This fee grows as the email list grows.
- Facebook post "boosts". When we announce a new episode on Facebook, this makes sure that the announcement gets onto 1/3 or 1/2 of our Facebook followers' News Feeds.
- One employee. We need someone to handle things like redistribution requests, spam comment deletion, podcast upkeep, customer service, and a bunch of other little jobs. These things end up adding up to a few hours every day.