This Week in Links: August 13 – 17

For Rights Holders:

How to Market Your Book–When You Hate Marketing – via Helping Writers Become Authors – You can admit it: you’d rather be writing your books than marketing them. Reframing how you think about marketing, however, may help you find success and enjoyment in this important aspect of (audio)book publishing.

What Makes Readers Buy Books? – via ALLi – Dig deep into the data behind reader surveys to find out why your fans make the decisions they do.

30 Fantastic Writer’s Conferences for Authors, Bloggers and Freelancers – via The Write Life – The wisdom of the crowd, the support of your peers, the happy hour drinks at the bar: there are a number of good reason to attend writer’s conferences, and you just might find the right one for you on this list.

Great Book? Or Great Marketing – via BookMarketingBuzzBlog – Read on for an eye opening look at the value of writing vs. marketing when it comes to (audio)book sales.

For Producers:

Your Weekly VO Marketing Calendar – via Dave Courvoisier – Even the best in the business can fall into the inconsistency trap. Dave’s got a handy suggestion for staying on track: mnemonics!

The Secret to Sustained Success – via Paul Strikwerda – “If you wish to have sustainable success as a freelancer, you have to start thinking long-term, and big picture.”

Deliver On Your Promises – The Most Important Voiceover Advice – via Gravy for the Brain – For freelance professionals, your reputation is invaluable. Are you making a name a good impression on your clients?

As Your Voice Ages, Training Overcomes Barriers. But More Calls Coming For ‘Seniors’ – via Voice-Over Xtra – “In many ways the microphone is much more merciful than the camera. And in other ways it’s more revealing.”

 

This Week in Links: July 30 – August 3

Producers:

How To Edit Voice-Over Recordings A Lot Faster – With A Gaming Mouse! – via Voice-Over Xtra – Learn how to streamline your audiobook editing with some gear you may not even have considered for your studio.

Filling In The Blanks – via Paul Strikwerda – “You can’t give a client what s/he wants to hear, if you have no clue what it is.”

The Only Thing That’s Constant… – via Dave Courvoisier – Find inspiration in the ways your VO career “enhance[s] the definition of being human.”

Hey, I Know You!: Creating and Maintaining Your Personal Brand – via ACX University – Building a strong narrator brand and marketing your ACX productions can increase your earnings and provide a “value add” for the Rights Holders you work with.

Rights Holders:

How to Recycle, Repurpose and Promote Your Publicity – via The Book Designer – As you continue to build you Author brand, get tips on how to get the best return on the exposure you’re already getting.

Authors Should Promote Books Like Street Entertainers Sell Their Talents – via BookMarketingBuzzBlog – Turns out you can find marketing inspiration in the funniest of places. Find out how two different types of creatives have more in common than you may think.

11 Ways to Simplify Your (book promotion) Life – via author marketing experts – “Simplifying for authors is different…because most of us have day jobs and for us, simplifying isn’t just about keeping things simple, it’s also about preventing that bottleneck when too many things hit at once.”

How to Use Awareness Days to Promote Your Self-published Books – via ALLi – “Awareness Days of some kind or other happen just about every day of the year. There can be few authors who can’t find at least one day that somehow chimes with their books, if only they take the time and trouble to look. But what to do when you find one that suits you?”

Announcing The ACX Bounty Referral Program

Today, ACX announced the new Bounty Referral Program, upping the payout to up to $75 for each new Audible member and providing advanced tracking on your ACX Sales Dashboard. You’ll receive new, trackable referral links, unique to you and each of your audiobooks, starting August 1.

Bounties for Royalty Share titles will be divided, with $50 going to the creator whose referral link enticed that new member, and $25 to their creative partner, whose performance or writing helped seal the deal. Bounties are subject to the ACX Bounty Program Terms and Conditions, which can be found here.

That means you’ll want to leverage this URL each time you promote your ACX audiobooks, which we at the blog hope is all the time! To get you started on the path to marketing with your new referral links, we’ve got some tips that will help you get listeners excited about your audiobooks.

  1. Get organized. Set up a marketing calendar that allows you a holistic view of your marketing efforts across channels and over time. This will not only help you stay organized, it will allow you to understand which of your marketing tactics had the greatest impact. Speaking of which…
  2. Leverage data. We’ve enhanced your ACX Sales Dashboard to show pageviews generated by your use of your new Bounty referral links, as well as the Bounty payments you’ve racked up by driving new listeners to Audible. With this information, you can track your marketing methods and channels, learning which have earned the best results and repeating the most successful efforts (marketing shorthand for this is “test, measure, repeat”).
  3. Be authentic. Today’s consumers have long since learned to filter out “Buy! Buy! Buy!” messages. Your fans are your fans because they feel an emotional connection to you and your work. Find the aspects of the audiobook publishing and production process that light you up and highlight them to your fans. Insert “calls to action” (CTAs) strategically, and make sure to include your unique referral link when you do.
  4. Go social. Whatever your preferred social media platform—and this includes your blog—two things are likely true: it’s the most direct connection you have to your fans, and it is hungry for content. Use this to your advantage by mentioning your audiobooks early and often. Audiobook fans love getting a peek behind the curtain, and the audiobook creation process affords numerous opportunities to share. Get your social media followers and blog readers talking about your audiobook and keep them informed as you work though the publishing process, building excitement from casting to release day. Once the audiobook is released, celebrate the day by asking your fans to give your book a listen—via your Bounty tracking link. The goal here is to create a relationship between your fans and your work that compels them to purchase your audiobook and leave glowing reviews on Audible.
  5. Start spreading the news via your email newsletter. Find a reason for your fans to listen— a day at the beach, a long ride to see family for a holiday, even a free hour at home once the kids have been put to bed—and tell them why your audiobook is the perfect companion for those times. Ask your fans to listen to your titles on Audible and help them get there via your Bounty referral link.
  6. Boost your backlist. Take a look through your past audiobook marketing efforts and insert your new Bounty tracking link wherever you’ve linked off to Audible. This is also a great occasion to take a look at the books you’ve already produced and (re)introduce them to your fans. Share a memory about the production, or something that ties the audiobook to a current or upcoming event, and include your Bounty referral link so fans can hear it for themselves.
  7. Highlight the magic of audio. The performance behind the audiobook is what sets it apart from your paperback and eBook editions, so show it off! Audio clips, including your retail sample, are a great way to entice new listeners to the format. Consider a simple book trailer that leverages your audiobook’s narration or an Audible clip, and pair it with your referral links as you promote to make it easy to purchase after they’re blown away by your sample.
  8. Get inspired by your peers. Keep following the marketing section of this blog to get more ideas on how to leverage your referral links, and learn how fellow audiobook creators like Scott Sigler, Zhanna Hamilton, and Ryan Winfield have boosted their earnings via the ACX Bounty Program.

Your blueprint for earning for Bounty Referral payments is clear: focus on the aspects of your audiobooks that make them unique and exciting, communicate them authentically to your fans, and leverage your Bounty tracking link and enhanced sales dashboard to make the most of your efforts. Now, go forth and market!

 

Introducing the Refreshed ACX Website

Pardon our dust! We’ve refreshed ACX.com to enhance the look and feel of the site with changes meant to make audiobook creation even easier.

We are happy to provide to you a more intuitive audiobook creation experience, and although this launch will remain largely consistent with your current experience, there will be a few changes you notice such as:

  • The ability to easily organize your received auditions with the new “Favorites” tag.
  • Clearer production statuses and instructions for next steps within the creation workflow.
  • Visual improvements to the Sales Dashboard.

We believe these changes will improve and expedite your audiobook production experience on ACX. If you’ve got feedback on the refreshed ACX experience, contact support@acx.com, or leave us a note here in the comments. We can’t wait to hear what you do next!

This Week in Links: June 18 – 22

For Rights Holders:

SEO for Authors – Part 2 – via The Book Designer – We shared part one of this series last week, and the next post digs a little deeper into ways authors can leverage search engines to boost discovery of their (audio)book.

What Indie Authors Can Learn About Branding from IHOP – via Author Marketing Expert – The chain restaurant’s recent rebranding offers a lens through which authors can examine their own marketing efforts.

Are Authors Really Promoting The Benefits Of Their Books? – via BookMarketingBuzzBlog – “Many authors promote their books in simple terms – “It’s a fun read” or “You’ll learn a lot.” They may position themselves as experts on something, but fail to highlight what one will truly gain by consuming their book. Here’s a tip: know the benefits your book offers and champion them.”

How to Make Your Sentences More Descriptive – via The Write Conversation – We say it time and again: the better your writing, the better your audiobook Producer can perform it. With that in mind, read up on how to strike the right balance between straightforward and purple prose.

For Producers:

In Double-Digit Climb, Audiobook Sales Jump 23% To Over $2.5 Billion In 2017 – via Voice-Over Xtra – The audiobook business is booming! Take a look at the key insights from the Audio Publishers Association’s annual sales survey.

Why Go to an Industry Convention? Insight from the Perspective of Voice over Conferences and More – via Natasha Marchewka – Learn the “Why? What? Where? When?” of getting out of the booth and into a VO conference.

You Must Master These 4 Skills For a Successful Voiceover Business – via Gravy for the Brain – You have to wear a lot of hats as an actor-entrepreneur – four of them, according to this article. Find out how to make each one fit properly.

7 Processes to Success – via Dave Courvoisier – “The trick to discipline — beyond will power — is PROCESS. ‘…a continuous action, operation, or series of changes taking place in a definite manner.'”

ACX Storytellers: Nick Sullivan

With over 225 narration credits on Audible, not to mention his work on Broadway and TV, Nick Sullivan is an accomplished actor. The release of his second novel, Deep Shadow, reveals that Nick is a skilled writer as well. Nick recently sat down with us to share how his history as a performer influenced his work as an author.

Actor/author Nick Sullivan

Q: How did you become an audiobook narrator/producer?

A: Growing up, I was fascinated with “radio books,” and listened to the Radio Reader with Dick Estell on my local NPR station. When I became a professional actor and moved to New York, I came across an ad asking for actors to record for the Jewish Braille Institute. About a week later, I was shooting a short film and the actress playing my wife told me about the now-defunct Talking Book Productions, which recorded books for the Library of Congress. I auditioned and within days I was recording my first book, A Day No Pigs Would Die.

I’ve worked in film and TV, toured with a couple of shows, and have even appeared on Broadway a few times, but I always came back to audiobook work. I got into full-service audiobook production via Audible Studios, and I was involved in the first beta for ACX.

Q: What made you decide to try your hand at writing?

A: I dabbled in screenplay writing early on. Then, as my narration career hit its stride, it occurred to me I might be able to write if I put my mind to it. Then one day a few years ago, inspired by the wacky garden decorations in SkyMall magazine, I bought ZombieBigfoot.com and wrote a screenplay. Before I did anything with it, I booked Newsies on Broadway, then a tour of Kinky Boots. Finally, when I got back, I looked at the screenplay and thought: “I’m a narrator. I’ve been recording various authors across all genres for twenty years. Why don’t I novelize this first?” And I did. Zombie Bigfoot hit #1 in Horror Comedy in 2017. My second novel, Deep Shadow, about a team of scuba divers who get caught up in some dangerous international intrigue, just came out last month, and it’s off to a great start. There’s nary a zombie nor a Sasquatch to be found in its pages.

Q: How did your experience telling stories with your voice influence your writing?

A: I think it’s helped with the dialogue. I already have a “visual style” to my writing, with my structure having a lot in common with movies and episodic television. I married that to my desire to have every line of dialogue sound at home flowing from that character’s mouth. There were many times where I’d stop writing and “narrate” what I’d just written; often this would result in “oh my goodness, no…” and I’d go back and tweak the sentences to flow better. Once in front of the microphone, I made a number of changes during the audiobook recording process: I simplified some of the dialogue when it seemed too wordy or made a change here or there to let a conversation unfold more smoothly. There’s also the overall pacing of a scene that I think narrators are very attuned to. The author might be building to a climax, ratcheting up the action, or simmering in a tense situation—the narrator has to be on the same page with that, adjusting their pace and intensity accordingly. I’m hoping I managed to provide some excellent builds, transitions, and even moments of quiet.

Q: Do you write with the audio performance in mind?

A: Oh yes. For Deep Shadow, I picked voices I knew I was at home with and wove them into the characters from the start. I used accents for some characters that I was quite comfortable with; though I did use Afrikaans in Zombie Bigfoot and I’d never done it, so I forced myself to learn it since it was crucial to the character. But some dialects are my kryptonite. You will never hear a Chicagoan in my books. I sound like that “Da Bears” sketch from Saturday Night Live.

Q: Were there any authors that you tried to emulate or use as specific influences?

A: I think I’ve got a fair amount of Carl Hiaasen in my blood—I recorded one of his books long ago and went out and read-for-pleasure nearly all of his works. I love how he can fold absolutely absurd situations and broad characters into serious, suspenseful situations. Stephen King’s work has also informed my writing. He can go full-horror, but he’s not afraid to go all “funky n’ cool” too, inserting levity into the horror. And King’s book On Writing has some gleaming gems of wisdom about the craft.

Q: You wrote an impressive variety of voices/accents into Deep Shadow. Why did you decide to go that route?

A: It’s tricky, because I didn’t want to go overboard, but honestly, the location and nationalities involved in the story required a lot of accents. In fact, I decided to tone down a couple of the accents because there were so many. One example is with Martin, the elderly cook and father figure to Boone. He’s a native Bonairean, and would speak Papiamentu, a creole dialect on Bonaire. It’s a fascinating mish-mash of languages, but I decided I wanted him to have a clean delivery to match his straightforward wisdom. I knew some Bonaireans and Curacaoans who didn’t have strong accents, so this was something I felt I could do.

My general rule is, if someone is “from” somewhere, they need to speak accordingly. That being said, I didn’t want my main character to have an accent, so even though I wanted Boone to be from my home state of Tennessee, the decision to give him a Dutch father (which is part of his connection to Bonaire) gave me the license to have him speak without a Southern accent. Emily, on the other hand… I’ve noticed that the Caribbean is chock full of divemasters from the UK, Australia, and South Africa, so I wanted her to be a Brit from the beginning.

Nick the actor in the booth

Q: Did you find the experience of narrating your own writing to be easier or harder than narrating someone else’s work?

A: I hope it’s not a cop-out to say “both.” Honestly, the dialogue was a blast, because I knew exactly the intonation and intention I wanted. But, since I wrote the material, I knew in the moment if my vocal choices weren’t accomplishing what I intended, so it took longer than usual to record. I didn’t finalize the text for either book until I recorded it, so I was able to change any sentence that struck me as clunky, and I even reordered a few things. I remember a particular section in Deep Shadow where I had a lot of exposition to get through and finally I just stopped and said “No…if I don’t find a way to begin the dialogue earlier, people will drive off the road listening to this.” I don’t want to give any spoilers, but I found a way to introduce a second character earlier, allowing me to intersperse some dialogue.

Finally, no editor can catch typos like a narrator. For both books I hired a professional editor who caught plenty of them, but I still caught quite a few more when I narrated…and then a couple more when I QC’d and edited the audio.

Q: What’s next for Nick the author? 

A: After Nick the Narrator finishes up a couple of projects, Nick the Author is going on a scuba trip to Saba in June, then he’s off to Bonaire for a writer’s retreat with two other authors. I’m hoping to have a first draft of the sequel to Deep Shadow by late September.

NICK SULLIVAN has narrated audiobooks for over twenty years and has recorded over four hundred titles, receiving numerous AudioFile Earphones and Audie nominations and awards. He has performed on Broadway and appeared in many TV shows and films, such as The Good Wife, The Affair, Divorce, Bull, Madam Secretary, Boardwalk Empire, 30 Rock, Elementary, and all three Law and Order series. Nick is also the author of Deep Shadow and Zombie Bigfoot.

This Week in Links: June 11 – 15

For Producers:

If You Start Crying – Don’t Stop Narrating! And More Tips From BookCon – via Voice-Over Xtra – Audiobook narrator Tom Dheere shares what he learned from the panelists at the “Into the Booth” panel at this year’s event.

Chill Out this Summer – via Dr. Ann Utterback – The good doctor shares her advice for de-stressing this summer to unlock your best on-mic performance.

Deliver On Your Promises – The Most Important Voiceover Advice – via Gravy for the Brain – “Your word and your bond will say more about you and your brand than any advertising campaign ever could.”

Break Out of Your… – via Dave Courvoisier – Dave’s here to tell us about the value of shaking things up to get a clear mind and fresh perspective.

For Rights Holders:

SEO for Authors – Part 1 – via The Book Designer – Learn how Search Engine Optimization can help authors drive traffic, build email lists, and sell more (audio)books.

Which Message Should Authors Sell To The News Media? – via BookMarketingBuzzBlog – “What exactly is the message you want to convey and sell to the news media so journalists, broadcasters, and social media sites will want to cover you and your book?”

5 Steps to Writing Great Character Chemistry – via Helping Writers Become Authors – give your audiobook producer something to sink their teeth into by building your writing skills.

Social Media Strategies in this New World of Algorithms – via The Write Conversation – Author Edie Melson lays out her strategy to “help you find a blueprint to continue to make valuable online connections.”

 

Doubling Down on Audiobook Success

Audible Approved Producer Eric Martin joins us today to discuss one of the rewarding creative partnerships he’s forged on ACX and how it has grown across multiple audio projects. Here’s Eric in his own words.

Hitting the Jackpot

Audible Approved Producer Eric Martin

Audible Approved Producer Eric Martin

I got my start in audiobooks via ACX back in 2012. A lifelong love of storytelling and audio recording led to podcasting in the mid-aughts, which led to audiobook narration and production a few years later. Publishers like Penguin Random House, Hachette, and Tantor Audio quickly found me through my work, and I’ve since gone on to narrate or produce more than 150 titles and counting. I’m grateful to ACX for the opportunity to get my foot in the door and learn what there is to know about audiobook production and narration. Even today, ACX remains an important part of my portfolio. I love being able to work directly with authors and create projects that I’m passionate about. Here’s the story of how I hit the jackpot working with a great author on one of my favorite subjects.

Place Your Bets

When I’m not narrating for work, often I’m reading for pleasure—and I particularly love adding nonfiction titles to my library and learning something new. In 2014, I picked up Grandissimo: The First Emperor of Las Vegas, and was immediately fascinated by the story of larger-than-life impresario Jay Sarno, the creator of the iconic Caesars Palace and Circus Circus casinos in Las Vegas.

The book was written by David G. Schwartz, who is the Director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He’s a prolific writer on websites like Vegas Seven and an engaging public speaker with a dedicated following. The combination of great material, engaged author, and excited fanbase made this a very attractive project to take on. I approached David and asked if I could help adapt the book into audio. He agreed, and we began our collaboration.

Grandissimo_CoverA couple of months later, the audio edition of Grandissimo was released. David helped get the word out to his fans and readers via social media, and I interviewed him on my podcast “This American Wife.” Together, we reached a lot of potential listeners.

The combination of a great story and a marketing push from both author and narrator using podcasts and social media helped drive sales, and contributed to Grandissimo being featured as an Audible Daily Deal a few months later.

Let it Ride

Based in part on the success of Grandissimo, I was inspired to create an original audio work of my own about Las Vegas. Hoot Gibson: Vegas Cowboy features an all-star cast including Andy Daly, Weird Al Yankovic, Rachel Bloom, and many others.

We included a lot of real Vegas history in the series, and because David and I had collaborated together and kept in touch, he was able to refer me to the Center for Gaming Research that he directs at UNLV. It’s a big library and an incredible resource for all things Vegas and gambling.

I listened to oral histories at the Center that became a huge inspiration for many characters and scenarios in the finished series. It was an unexpected thrill spending many hours listening to old tapes in the library and hearing such incredible stories that brought history to life.

Roll the Bones

A few months ago, David reached out to ask if I’d be interested in adapting his classic work Roll the Bones (Casino Edition) – The History of Gambling for audio.

I did a bit of research and discovered that nothing like this was available in audio. I thought it would be a great way to learn about a fascinating topic, and I knew that Vegas and gaming fans (as well as UNLV students) would be eager to have a resource in audio that could tell the compelling tale of humankind’s relationship to chance. So, I rolled the dice and said yes!

RTB_CoverRight away, I knew that I wanted to get David’s voice into the project. I’d previously had authors narrate their intros to include them in the audiobook, and this time, we took it to the next level. The printed book ends at about 2013. We thought we could bring listeners right up to the current moment with a funny and informal audio interview that would end the book.

Plus, it would be a great excuse to get out to Vegas for a trip!

David and I met at a local Vegas studio in late December, not far from the Strip, and recorded a great conversation about the latest trends in gaming, e-sports, entertainment, online betting, and VR. This interview, exclusive to the audio edition, is the final chapter of the audiobook.

Eric and David

Eric (r) interviews author David G. Schwartz (l)

To promote the audiobook, this time I went on the popular podcast “Obsessed with Joseph Scrimshaw” to discuss, what else? Vegas.

Know When to Hold ‘Em

Working with David has been a great experience. Bringing these amazing stories to life in audio is a reminder of why I do this work in the first place—to bring projects that I’m passionate about to listeners.

Along the way, I learned a lot about the value of creative partnerships in this business. My advice to those that want to build relationships and further their career is:

  1. Don’t be afraid to make the first move. None of this would have come to fruition had I not taken a chance and approached David in the first place.
  2. Keep the lines of communication open, even after the initial project has been completed. You never know when one good idea might lead to another, or who might be able to set you up with your next big opportunity.
  3. Combine powers. David and I made an excellent marketing team, and together we were able to reach more listeners than we’d have been able to individually.
  4. Get creative. Find a way to offer your fans something of value that they wouldn’t have without you. In this case, my exclusive interview with David made for a unique experience that differentiated the audiobook from other formats.

So, if you play your cards right, you won’t get lost in the shuffle. And you might just win big.

Eric Martin is the narrator of over 150 audiobooks, including works by George Saunders, Kurt Vonnegut, and David Foster Wallace. He is the director and narrator of Audible’s hit audio show Stinker Lets Loose! also starring Jon Hamm, Rhea Seehorn, Andy Richter, and many more, and co-creator of the original audio series “Hoot Gibson: Vegas Cowboy.”

David G. Schwartz, the Director of the Center for Gaming Research and a history instructor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, is a historian and writer whose research interests include gambling and casinos, competitive video gaming, and professional wrestling. Schwartz has written several books, including Grandissimo: The First Emperor of Las Vegas, Roll the Bones: The History of Gambling, and Boardwalk Playground: The Making, Unmaking, & Remaking of Atlantic City. He also writes regular features and the “Green Felt Journal” column for Vegas Seven magazine.

This Week in Links: April 30 – May 4

For Rights Holders:

How Do Authors Sell The Truth of Their Books – via BookMarketingBuzzBlog – This piece will help you learn how to be more persuasive about what you have to offer others.

Book Marketing Tip: Can You Answer This Simple Question? – via CreateSpace – Can you provide a succinct, compelling answer when asked what your book is about?

What Should Your Characters Talk About? – via Helping Writers Become Authors – Compelling dialogue is especially important when you write with your audiobook in mind. Read on for specific tips to put into action for your next book.

7 Ways to Counteract Writer’s Block – via Live Write Thirve – You can’t publish that next audiobook if you haven’t written the book first. Which of these tips will unleash your creative output?

For Producers:

What Non-Daw Software Do You Use? And Should You? – via Edge Studio – From hosting your website to managing your finances, find out which programs can help you succeed as a freelance VO.

Picking the Perfect Voice-Over Microphone – via Paul Strikwerda – “Let’s say I’m in the market for a new microphone. Is staring at pictures, reading reviews, and listening to audio samples helpful? The answer may surprise you.”

Dr. Utterback’s Go-To Daily Vocal Warm-Ups – via Dr. Ann Utterback – These exercises focus on releasing tension in the upper body and oral cavity. I’ve also included one to increase my heart rate slightly to wake up my brain so I’ll be sharp and ready to voice.

ACX U Presents: Peace, Love, and Understanding Your Audio Partner – via ACX – Every audiobook production represents an artistic collaboration. Find out how this Rights Holder and Producer team set themselves up for success.

ACX Storytellers: Joe Hempel

Joe Hempel Stats

Audible Approved Producer Joe Hempel took up audiobook narration and production on a dare. Over the next few years, he invested his full focus into learning his craft, and made audiobook production his full time career in 2017. 176 audiobooks and 6 ABR Listener’s Choice nominations later, Joe joins us to share the highs and lows of his journey and the value of leaning on his fellow creatives in times of need.

Q: How did you become an ACX Producer?

A: I became a narrator/producer in an odd way. Back in 2014, I was starting to gain some traction as a book reviewer, writing for sites like Horror Novel Reviews. I reviewed an audiobook, and while I took pains to avoid being overly harsh, I did give it a poor review. I was later contacted by the narrator and told “If you think you can do so much better, you do it.” I had always enjoyed books, and I loved audiobooks for the way the narrator’s performance brought the book to life, so I took the challenge. I did a little bit of research and found my way to ACX back in late 2014. I happened to notice that an author I’d recently reviewed had a book up for audition, so I reached out, and ended up producing his audiobook. At that point I wasn’t doing it for the right reasons, but I realized that this was something I loved. About 3-4 months later, I still found myself longing to be a part of the publishing world. So, I came back with a new perspective and built up from there.

Q: How did you make the leap to full-time audiobook narrator/producer?

A: In late 2015, I was at something of a crossroads in my life. I found myself shopping for my kids’ Christmas presents at the Dollar Tree because I had no money. I felt like a failure because I wanted to provide for my kids better than I was provided for, and I wasn’t doing that. At that point, I made a conscious decision: I was never going to be in this position again, and I was going to make sure of that by getting good at audiobook production. From there, I became more active in online audiobook communities like the Indie Narrators and Producers group on Facebook. I listened to everything those who came before had to say, I watched what they did, and I took as much audiobook work as I could handle. I picked some winners (and some non-winners) on the Royalty Share side, but I kept at it and started to see an upward trend to my abilities and earnings. This took a lot of sacrifice, including sleeping three hours a day in order to do both audiobook work and my full-time job.

In the middle of 2016, I started to get a good mix of both Per-Finished-Hour work and Royalty Share work. By the end of 2016, my royalties were closing in on my monthly salary at my full-time job. I figured if I could keep finding good titles and marketing myself as a serious narrator, things would continue to improve. I was beginning to learn how to network by watching how narrators I admired utilized social media, and how to market myself to authors that didn’t have audiobooks. People were now approaching me to produce their titles! All my hard work was starting to pay off, but there was still something missing, and I didn’t figure out what that was until a few months later.

Tempt the Playboy

Joe and Melissa teamed up to co-narrate this romantic comedy on ACX.

Q: What was it that you were missing?

A: A creative partner. In my opinion, it’s incredibly important to have that one professional colleague you can talk openly with, someone who keeps you focused and motivated when you feel like a fake, who you can celebrate the successes and excitement with. For me, that person is Melissa Moran. We began working together in 2016 when Melissa posted in the Indie Narrators and Producers Facebook group, seeking a partner for dual POV (that is, male and female) romance narration. I was looking to give the genre a try, so I put my hand up, we submitted together, and ended up landing the book. From there, a natural friendship bloomed. Since we were at roughly the same point in our careers, we kept the same crazy schedule. We made audiobook production our full-time careers within a few months of each other, and we started getting hired by publishers around the same time. We found ourselves comparing notes more and more, and in the beginning of 2017, we started working as a dual romance narration team (and marketing ourselves as such).

Melissa is someone to bounce ideas off of, someone to complain to when things aren’t going well, someone to share celebrations with. We check in on each other’s progress, offer encouragement, and help build confidence. We seem to do better together at conventions and workshops than we do separately. It’s wonderful to know that someone is there to question my sanity when I’m about to make a wrong turn or to give me the lift I need when I’m down. Almost a year and a half later, we are still celebrating successes and trading marketing ideas. I encourage everyone to find that person. This can be a solitary business, but no one person will make it without someone else’s help.

In 2017, I made more money than I’ve ever seen in my life on ACX, and with that encouragement, I fired my boss. I quit my job mostly due to what I was making on ACX royalties. At almost 40 years old, I finally feel like I’ve got a handle on life, but it all started with clicking “I’m Done” on that first project.

Q: How do you make sure you continue to grow and improve in your audiobook career?

A: For one, I listen to audiobooks every day. You absolutely cannot be successful in this business without being an avid audiobook listener. Listen to those that are better than you; listen to those that are where you want to be. I’m a big audiobook fan, so I’ve turned the passive listening I’d be doing anyway into active listening that helps make my own performances better. If I’m trying to build a specific skill, like giving an engaging nonfiction read or transitioning between moods in a novel, I’ll listen to something by Sean Pratt or Scott Brick. When I’m looking to develop character voices I’ll study Marc Thompson’s work on the Star Wars audiobooks. I try to learn as much as I can from these performances before I start bugging fellow narrators for tips or advice.

I’m also continuously getting coaching and attending workshops. I have studied with Sean Pratt and Scott Brick, I’ve used Jeffrey Kafer’s Audiobook Mentorship a few times, and I’ve gone to workshops put on by Johnny Heller and others. These are some of the top people in the business, and for good reason! Listen to them, and take their advice.

Q: What is your favorite piece of studio gear?Audio Booth

A: My booth and everything inside it. I enjoy horror pop culture. I’ve got a signed Pop! figure and mask from Kane Hodder, a mask from Derek Mears, and a signed machete from CJ Graham—all of whom played Jason Voorhees in various Friday the 13th films. They keep me company while I’m spending hours upon hours in there.

Q: Do you have a fun hobby or skill unrelated to your audiobook work?

A: I worked in professional wrestling for 10 years in production and as a referee, and got to meet most of the wrestlers you see on TV today (if you’re into that sort of thing). I also play fingerstyle guitar and have built up a nice little collection of vinyl records. I’ve always got something spinning, whether I’m prepping a book or writing this blog post. The words you’re currently reading were soundtracked by Rod Stewart/Faces Live from 1973.

Joe Hempel has entertained listeners with over 175 audiobooks ranging from horror to romance, and mystery to non-fiction. Joe still lives in Cincinnati with his three amazing children, enjoys running marathons, and bringing words on a page to life. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.