This Week in Links: April 14 – 18

Did you join us last night for our Twitter chat with guest Toni Tesori from @duolit? We had a great time connecting with authors and talking audiobook production and marketing! If you missed the chat, or just want to relive the fun, check out our Twubs page (remember to read from the bottom up), and make sure to follow @ACX_com for all the best audiobook info in 140 characters or less.

After that, read on for your top audiobook links from this past week!

For Producers:

4 Voice Actors Walk Into A Bar…. – via Rhonda’s Voice – Learn what the 4 generations of voiceover professionals can teach us.

Wake Up Your Voice With Protein - via Online Voice Coaching – Dr. Ann Utterback explains why you should reach for a can of sardines instead of a bar of chocolate for your next in-booth energy boost.

5 Simple Things to Improve Your Voice-over Career – via Bodalgo – Follow these 5 easy tips and see how they improve your voiceover outlook.

How to Connect with People on Social Media - via Socialnomics – Social media can be one of the most powerful (and free!) marketing tools. Read on to learn how to get those most out of your time on social media.

For Rights Holders:

Cynthia Hartwig’s Top Five Marketing Jobs for New Authors - via The ACX Blog – Cynthia’s guest post on this very blog is full of tips you can put into practice right away to get the word out about your audiobook productions.

Five Warning Signs Your Story Needs Revision – via Kristen Lamb’s Blog – “Many readers might not be able to articulate specifically why they lost interest in a story, but often the answer is simple. It can be an accumulation of the small things.” Let Kristen help you figure out where your story went astray.

How to Know When You’re Done Revising Your Manuscript – via The BookBaby Blog – After Kristen helps you figure out if you need to revise your story, let BookBaby help you understand when enough is enough.

10 Steps To The Best Cover For Your Book – via badredheadmedia – Like it or not, readers and listeners will judge your book by it’s cover. Learn 10 things you can do to make sure your fans judge yours kindly.

 

 

Cynthia Hartwig’s Top Five Marketing Jobs for New Authors

We met Cynthia Hartwig in Seattle at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference. Cynthia teaches writing and storytelling at the Richard Hugo House and The School of Visual Concepts, and we learned right away that she had a knack for tackling topics writers find daunting. She joins us today to demystify what some consider to be the scariest task new authors face: marketing their titles.

Cynthia02The Top Five “Absolutely Positively Have-To-No-Matter-What” Marketing Jobs for New Authors

We need to talk. Yes, I’m talking to you, friend. I get that you’re a writer, a word nut, a lover of deep, heartfelt tales, more conversant in character arcs than target markets and audience splits.

Stop shaking in your boots. I’ve narrowed the marketing tasks down to the top five most effective steps for authors new to the marketing conundrum. If you’re stultified by the thousand things you’ve heard other experts telling you to DO RIGHT THIS MINUTE, start here and you’ll do better than fine.

Understand that a marketing hat is not a dunce cap, a cone of shame or a dog collar.

Writers are strange animals. They write books and they want people to read them. And yet when someone says, “be a marketer” they get all shamefaced and embarrassed.

If you can’t admit to the idea that marketing = sales, try thinking of marketing as an honorable way to find readers. Assuming you’ve got a great story, an inviting cover and a hook-‘em-hard title, this list of marketing priorities will get your book sales moving.

1.  Fill out your Amazon Author Central profile to help readers find you.

It seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many new authors forget this basic task. Filling out your Amazon Author Central page is far more effective than paying for a sexy web site at the early stage of your author career. This is because Amazon attracts millions of readers to its site—and all of them have no idea who you are or why they should look for you UNLESS your book comes up in their search bar.

You have no real brand identity (yet), so it makes sense to help Amazon direct readers to your e-books and audio version(s). Amazon is the online mega-store equivalent, so naturally you want to be front-and-center, as close to as many reader “buy” buttons as you can get. Your author profile page is there to help you.

2. Give out free copies like candy in exchange for reviews.

Cynthia04Deborah Reed, pictured right, is a very successful writer of both literary novels (much harder to sell than genre books) and thrillers (written under the pseudonym, Audrey Braun). Deb recommends sending lots of free copies of your book to bloggers for review. “Be incredibly generous and polite to said bloggers,” she says. “Also give free copies to other writers and readers, including people you know, in exchange for an honest review.”  Don’t worry that giving your book away will steal sales away from you; while it seems counter-intuitive, free sampling is a proven way to build an audience. Once you hook a listener, they will clamor for more. (ACX gives you 25 free download codes that you can use as Cynthia recommends. Just email support@acx.com to request them.Ed.)

3. Reviews are worth mowing the neighbor’s lawn, changing diapers, and washing cars.

Reviews are social proof that your book is worth spending hard cash for. We’re herd animals and believe me, the more you can herd friends, hair cutters, garage mechanics, yard people and yes, even family members, to write a paragraph of honest copy about your book, the better your sales will be.

Your goal is to hand-sell 20-25 reviews. Call in every favor, every chit, every IOU or marker you have outstanding from people in exchange for a review. Do not worry one whit about whether the reviews or good or bad; in fact, I believe bad reviews have a positive effect because people are so cynical they will distrust you if all the reviews are glowing.

4. Build an email list of 1000+ and mail an e-newsletter once a month.

Books have always been sold hand-to-hand until the marketing snowball gets rolling. I hope you started an email list a long time ago but if you didn’t, immediately start collecting names and email addresses of everybody you come in contact with. My list includes business associates, past clients, social club members, PTA committee volunteers, neighborhood watch folks and a host of people I meet in a busy social life. You want to track everyone you meet because people who know you are more likely buy your book than people who don’t. It’s been said that an email list is the one marketing tool that traditional publishers most want to get their hands on. So it makes sense as a “self-marketer”, that you’d build your list into a marketing asset of at least 1000 names.

cynthia03

Next, create an e-newsletter and mail it once a month. More often than that is annoying; any less and people will forget why they are getting a message from you and will unsubscribe. If you happen to blog, the best things to put in your e-newsletter are interesting and informative posts—just don’t make them posts about writing (most of your friends and associates don’t care a whit about the writing, just the reading). Always include a clear, simple call-to-action asking the recipient (nicely) to buy your audiobook. Show your cover with its short sales blurb and make sure they can click a link to buy on Audible, Amazon, or iTunes. If the e-news is informative and doesn’t bludgeon them over the head with a buy-Buy!-BUY! message, your newsletter will be the closest thing you have to your own storefront.

5. Create a blog that doubles as your web site (and isn’t about writing).

You won’t find social media on my “top five absolutely, positively must-dos” for a self-published author right out of the gate. Even though I’m a huge social media fan.

I believe a new author is better off creating a blog that will build credibility in a specific area and will later become the hub for social media. Instead of randomly tweeting or posting “Buy my book!” on Facebook (which doesn’t work and annoys people), create a strong blog designed to build both platform (aka who you are online) and proves your authority (why readers should care).

Don’t make your blog about writing, because the field is saturated. Instead of writing about writing thrillers, blog about weapons the good and bad guys use against each other; don’t write a blog about writing Regency romances, write a blog about the amazing fabrics (duppioni, muslin, jacquard, white weave, slub, satin!) of Regency-era fashions. Once you’ve got yourself established in the blogosphere, then links to your posts become the “there there” that all your tweets, Facebook posts, Goodreads comments, and Pinterest boards lead to. I use WordPress as my blog and website platform and by far, the Two Pens blog aimed at business readers is one of the most important marketing component I use.

6. Once You’ve Written a Book, Record It

I know, I said there would be five tips. But here’s a bonus. You’d expect that the ACX blog would recommend having your book produced in audio. But don’t do it just because ACX says so. Do it for selfish (i.e. marketing) reasons: people who buy audiobooks are way different than the people who buy e-books or print books—and the market is growing. Audiobook listeners are multi-tasking in some way: they’re driving to or from work, they’re riding the subway, enjoying a sunny day in the park – doing a hundred and one things you can’t do with your eyes glued to a page. A basic tenet of marketing is to be everywhere your buyers are. Why not expand your readership beyond books to listeners of audiobooks since ACX has made it so easy to have your words professionally recorded?Cynthia01

-Cynthia Hartwig

Have you tried any of Cynthia’s marketing tactics? Which have worked best for you? Tell us about it in the comments!

Mastering the $50 Bounty Program

Today, we’re talking bounties, more specifically ACX‘s $50 bounty program. If you hadn’t heard, bounties are a great way for rights holders and producers to maximize the earning potential of their audiobooks. Let’s review some bounty basics, and then we’ll hear from an ACX user who found success driving new Audible listeners to purchase their book.

The ACX $50 Bounty Program

Under the $50 Bounty program, users can get – or split in the case of Royalty Sharing partners – a $50 bonus payment every time a qualifying audiobook they’ve produced through ACX is the first purchase of a new Audible listener. This money is on top of any royalty earnings from your audiobook sales. Think of it as our thanks to you for helping new audiobook listeners discover Audible!

Profitable_rightDriving New Audible Listeners

Here are some quick ways to get the word out about your audiobook and start racking up those $50 payments.

1. It’s never too early to start promoting! You needn’t wait for your audiobook to be published to start spreading the word! Authors, let your fans know when you post your title to ACX and update them when you cast a narrator, and as production progresses. Producers, spread the word when you’re cast on a new title, and let your fans know when it will be out.

2. Use those promo codes from ACX. When your production is completed, you’ll get 25 free download codes right off the bat.  Use these codes to get people listening to and reviewing your book. Seek out audiobook reviewers and offer them a free copy in exchange for an honest review. Host a giveaway for your fans on social media, or trade codes with a fellow ACX user and review each others titles on your website/blog. Word of mouth marketing is a more powerful tool than ever!

3. Mention your audiobook every time you promote your book in ANY format. General book marketing is great, but to maximize your bounty payments, make sure you consistently talk about your audio version. A number of your readers may not yet be audiobook listeners, and a reminder that your book is available in this awesome format might be just the poke they need to visit Audible and start downloading.

A Bounty Success Story – Frank Eakin, 12 Years a Slave

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L to R: ACX rights holder Frank Eakin and narrator Louis Gossett Jr.

“We produced the official movie tie-in audiobook for 12 Years a Slave, and we published the top-selling edition of the e-book and print book. I believe that relatively few authors and publishers truly grasp the importance of audiobooks in driving sales across their portfolio of products related to a title.”

“When you are ready to launch your audiobook, be sure to cross-sell your audiobook inside your book. For example, in one of the front pages of our e-book and on the back cover of our print book, we try to excite the reader about the audiobook, and we usually pitch it as a different and unique way in which to experience the story. We mention that the book can be purchased at Audible inside our book and in our materials. Also, in our e-book and print book, we plug our free Audiobook Extra, which can be downloaded exclusively from our product page on Audible. A free digital extra, which in our case is a unique map related to the story, will draw many potential customers to your Audible page; by engaging readers in our free map, we help to convert them into customers of our audiobook.”

“In social media, including Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, Pinterest, etc., we plug Audible and provide some of the benefits of becoming a regular audiobook listener, which helps to drive memberships and thus increase our number of bounty payments. Our Facebook ads bring potential customers to our Audible page (to download the map) and to our unique website, which features audiobook clips in a multi-media format, and engages readers so they will want to click on our Purchase Now page, which provides a link to our Audible page.”

Are You The Next Bounty Success Story?

Have you been successful at driving new listeners to Audible and collecting your $50 bounties? Tell us in the comments and help your fellow ACXers learn from your efforts. We just might feature you in a future post!

Full terms and conditions on the $50 Bounty program can be found on ACX.

This Week In Links: April 7 – 11

We’d like to welcome all of our new UK author and producer friends to the fold! We’re pleased to have you take part in the audiobook revolution. Kick your ACX journey off by joining your American counterparts in our Friday ritual. We’ve rounded up all the best audiobook related links from around the web and presented them for your viewing pleasure. Click on your favorites below, and join us next week for more audiobook education, information, and entertainment!

For Producers and Rights Holders:

ACX is Now Open to UK Authors and Voice Actors! – via The ACX Blog – We’re pleased to open our virtual doors to authors and actors form the UK!

Harmless Audiobook Trailer (VIDEO) – via DJ Holte – Creative audiobook promotion alert! ACX producer DJ Holt created this video trailer to help spread the word about his latest production.

For Rights Holders:

Why Audiobooks Are the Next Big Thing in Self-Publishing – via MediaShift – ACX author shares her audiobook self-publishing journey.

3 Steps to Choosing The Perfect Freelance Editor – via Digital Book World – Being self-published doesn’t mean you have to do it all yourself. DBW has advice on how to hire an editor.

Putting Your Life in Your Fiction – Via LitReactor – How do you work your real life experiences into your fiction? Richard Thomas has some tips on how to get it done.

For Producers:

The ACX Studio Gear Wishlist (Beginners) – via ACX – Breaking into the voiceover business and unsure what basic gear you’ll need? Check out our handy wishlist.

Whittam’s World: Episode 25 “Microphone Marathon (…and More!) (VIDEO) – via Edge Studios – Studio master George Whittam covers all of your microphone questions

Voice of Winnie the Pooh Reads Darth Vader’s Lines From Star Wars – via 22 Words – Voice actor Jim Cummings messes with your mind, voicing the evil villain as the sweet childhood character.

ACX is Now Open to UK Authors and Voice Actors!

ACX is pleased to announce we are opening our virtual doors to the United Kingdom! We now welcome all UK authors and actors to join the online marketplace that has facilitated the creation of over 16,000 audiobooks in less than three years. Opening ACX to the United Kingdom means that UK narrators can now audition for US books, UK rights holders can cast US narrators, and vice versa!

Make sure to check out Audible founder and CEO Don Katz’s piece on this initiative in Publishing Perspectives, and then head back to ACX with any questions. New to our site? See how ACX works for authors or narrators. Actors should also check out The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Audiobook Professionals, and authors can get the scoop on How to Win Listeners and Create Great Audiobooks.

We firmly believe that every book worth reading is worth listening to. We can’t wait to see your book or hear your voice on ACX!

This Week in Links: March 31 – April 4

Another week is in the (audio)books, and we’re back with another edition of our links roundup. Whether your week was busy or slow, easy or challenging, you can count on the ACX blog to help you make next week even better than the one that just past.

So read on for our picks for this week’s best, and apply what you learn to your audiobook work this weekend and beyond!

For Producers:

Popped P’s: Fixing Excessive Plosives in Voice Over Recordings – via Lance Blair, American Voice Over Talent – Lance offers 4 ways to avoid popping plosives, along with some audio and visual aids to help break it down.

Interview With an Audio Engineer – via Real Time Casting – Learn what life’s like on the other side of the glass in this interview with engineer Dylan Tishler of Lotas Productions.

How Do You Handle Stress? Create A Voice OverCharacter! – via Voice-Over Extra – VO talent and coach Deb Munro has a recipe for letting your work cure you stress!

VIDEO: English Is Crazy – via HuffPo Books – This fun video highlights pronunciation quirks in the English language.

For Rights Holders:

4 Questions To Ask Before Self Publishing – via Digital Book World – “Self-publishing opens up a world of opportunities for novelists. But as an independent author, how do you know your book is ready for prime time?”

Why Series are Becoming Hot, Hot, HOT! – via Kristen Lamb’s Blog – Can Kristen convince you that “dragging out the pain is good for your readers?”

The 9 Most Mischievous Literary Pranksters, Ranked – via HuffPo Books – The Huffington Post published this fun look at mischievous literary rascals in honor of April Fools Day.

And The Winners Are…

Back in March, ACX and VO Atlanta 2014 teamed up to bring you our latest casting call. Dozens of fantastic voice actors auditioned for the chance to narrate stories from New Orleans Noir and Philadelphia Noir, and Audible Studios producers and Audible Editor-at-Large Susie Bright definitely had their work cut out for them picking the winning voices from such a talented group.

We’re thrilled to announce J. W. Wilburn and Raquel Lozano as the male and female actors cast for these reads!

J.W. Wilburn

Susie was impressed with J.W.’s ability to put himself into the time, place, and character of New Orleans Noir, saying of his audition:

J.W. has a beautiful voice, and he suited it to the period and place – turn of the 20th Century, Storyville era of New Orleans – with nice pacing. Valentin has to be a memorable character that you want to hear from again, and Jeff makes him come alive.

Jeff Wilburn Headshot

ACX Actor J.W. Wilburn

We caught up with J.W. and got his take on the casting call and his advice for burgeoning producers.

How did you get into voice acting?

I first heard about VO when I was studying Shakespeare in Oxford back in the summer of ’99. One of my classmates was a voice actor in L.A. and said she thought I would be good at it. She put me in touch with a VO friend of hers in NY who mentored me over the period of a few years, and helped me find my first VO class and eventually produced my first demo.

What made you want to audition for this casting?

I’ve always been a voracious consumer of audiobooks ever since I was a child, but the opportunities I’ve had to audition for them have been few and far between. So when I heard that Audible was sponsoring this contest at VO Atlanta, there was really no question that I would audition.

How are you preparing to voice these stories?

I’ve read both stories once already with no intent other than to experience them as a reader. Now, I’m beginning to think about the various characters in the stories, who they are and what I think they look like, what they sound like and how they behave. I’ll be taking notes on each character based on what the authors say in the stories, which will inform the choices I ultimately make about how to voice them.

New OrleansWhat advice do you have for those new to voicing audiobooks?

Listen to as many audiobooks as you can! There are so many extraordinary narrators to listen to and learn from. As a beginner narrator myself, I will be drawing on the styles and techniques of narrators I admire to guide me through my first experience, and there’s no shame in that. As the famous saying goes, “Imitate, Integrate, Innovate.”

Thanks J.W.!

Raquel Lozano

Susie bright picked Raquel because of her versatility, saying of Ms. Lozano

Raquel nails it. I love the way she goes back and forth between the character’s life as a Method-studying actress and a cold blooded killer. Sociopath young female, please!

Raquel also took the time to share some insight on her career and tips for up and coming VO’s.

raquel051croppedforRaq

ACX Actress Raquel Lozano

How did you find your way to the VO business?

I began my voice career as a singer. As a youngster, I always wanted to “do commercials” but I didn’t want to act in them – I wanted to “do the voices” in them! While I’d been singing very young, no one around me really knew anything about voiceovers or commercials. So after much digging and asking questions, I got my first chance on the mic in my senior year of high school. I was able to voice a commercial for a local community college, San Jacinto CC. I was hooked! The first time I heard myself on the radio, I was in heaven for a month. After many voiceover classes and some coaching, I secured an agent and began my journey into the voiceover world.

What made you audition to read these two stories?

Growth, opportunity, and a chance to bring a story to lifeLike any professional worth their salt, I  want to continue to grow and leave no stone unturned. I had done some volunteer reading for children and knew that I had a skill in delivering stories. I felt intimidated because I had never voiced an audiobook, so I knew I had to do it! I took a step back and remembered that I’ve studied singing, acting, and voice work for many years, and I felt I owed it to myself to test those skills in a casting like this.

PhiladelphiaHow did you prepare to voice these stories/characters?

For the audition, I read the pages of the story a few times without voicing at all. Since I didn’t have the whole book I then had to imagine what came next. I really was excited and knew this story was going to get good just from what I had. Then I voiced the audition script once, to just get it out. Next, I really took my character apart. Who is she, What does she want? There was so much emotion in the audition pages, it gave me a lot to work with. And I worked hard to put myself in her shoes, to almost become her, so to speak. I voiced it a few times, went away and came back until I got to the “voice bones” of who I thought she was.

What advice do you have for those starting out in the VO/Audiobook business?

Ask questions, get training, and listen to a lot of examples. We have the luxury of internet these days, so take advantage of it.

Look for New Orleans Noir and Philadelphia Noir on Audible this June!