The Case for Audio

Last week, we discussed how to market your audiobook to listeners who haven’t heard your work. In today’s post, we’re addressing your other target audience: fans of your books who aren’t yet audio listeners. These might be devoted followers or those who have only read one title, but either way, you want to get them listening. But how? Well, the first step might be to find out what’s stopping them.

My first recommendation is to grab the low hanging fruit – your fans who just haven’t given audio a try. Maybe they no longer have the time to sit down and read. Maybe they’re already reading so much of your work that they simply don’t have any more time to read. These fans might be your easiest audience to convince, because one of the best arguments for audiobooks is that you can listen to them when you don’t have time to read. For this audience, you can play up the classic audiobook promotion angle: listen while you drive, listen while you walk, or clean, or garden, craft, exercise, cook, whatever! Your biggest fans may be quick converts once they realize they can consume even more of your work than they thought.

Cheerful girl wearing sweater standingBut what about the holdouts, the ones who say they’ve tried but just can’t get into audiobooks? Readers, I happen to be in a perfect position to help you, because—believe it or not—I was one of those holdouts. Gasp!! I know. I’m a devoted literary nerd, a lifelong ravenous consumer of books, and a longtime fan of storytelling radio programs and podcasts, but I was very slow to come around to audiobooks. I tried one or two, but it just wasn’t the same as reading. The irony? The thing that ultimately made me love audiobooks was the realization that listening isn’t the same as reading—it’s listening. It’s an entirely different way to get lost in a story. Once I started thinking of audiobooks as oral storytelling or audio drama (like a radio play) it suddenly made sense to me. Now, I’m an avid listener, but I approach my listening choices very differently from how I approach my reading choices. A great narrator is particularly important to me, because I’m looking for an extra dimension in my audio—I want theater, I want drama, I want voice acting! This is something important to keep in mind when you’re casting your audiobook, as well as when you’re marketing it. Make sure to highlight what your narrator  adds to the story that the reader won’t get in the print version, because that could well be the thing that drives a listener to pick up your audiobook.

What about those that say they don’t listen to audiobooks because their attention wanders? I get it. Extended listening was a challenge for me, too, and as I was writing this post, I was surprised to learn how many of my audiobook-listening colleagues were holdouts because they too had trouble focusing. Many said they were finally able to enjoy audiobooks when they realized they could listen at 1.5x or 2x speed; others said that keeping their hands busy by playing a game on their phone, or knitting, or painting, made it much easier for them to focus on the story they were listening to. One listener said she now uses it as time to do something creative and fun, playing with modeling clay or coloring while she listens. Another long-time audiobook hold-out told me he listens while he’s driving or exercising, and that a good book will even motivate him to go to the gym so he can keep listening. I love going for long walks, so a good audiobook has become a welcome park companion for me, as an alternative to a stream of shorter podcasts. I can focus if I’m walking at the same time, and the long walk gives me time to get lost in the story. These are all great suggestions for your fans. The key is to highlight ways that your audiobook can enhance the other things they have to do or already enjoy doing.

Lovely young girl wearing winter clothes standingThe last thought I want to leave you with is that listening is a skill, just like reading. We all had to learn to read once, and we know how to hear, sure, but many of us are out of practice actively listening. Acknowledge this fact, and encourage your audiobook holdouts to give it a shot—it takes practice, but ultimately I’ve found that getting lost in good audio storytelling has been worth it. A well-acted, well-produced audiobook is a medium all its own, adding a new dimension to the story that wasn’t there in print. Offer some of the above tips to your on-the-fence fans, share audio samples to pique their interest, and use your referral links to grab bounties on top of earning royalties. You can even offer a promo code on occasion—challenge your fans to give listening a shot for one free book. They’ve got nothing to lose, and you’ve got fans to gain.

How to Win Fans and Influence Listeners

In the world of audiobook marketing, there are two demographics of untapped listeners you’re trying to reach: audiobook fans who don’t yet listen to your books, and fans of your books who don’t yet listen to audio. Today, in part one of our two-part series, we’re focusing on that first demographic.

Business is Booming

ACX Promo Codes are a great tool for connecting with audiobook listeners. But many wonder who to send these codes to. Audiobook reviewers do exist, but they’re not always found in the same places as as book reviewers. Do you give your codes to friends and family? They might not listen, or leave a helpful review, and anyway they’re unlikely to become the kind of paying customers you’re hoping to discover. The best way to turn promo codes into new fans and compelling reviews on Audible is to target experienced listeners, and one way to do that is though services like Audiobook Boom!

static1.squarespace.comAudiobook Boom! connects Rights Holders and Producers with audiobook listeners. Audible Approved Producer Jeffrey Kafer started AB nearly four years ago, and has since built up a database of almost 8,000 bloggers, reviewers, and audiobook fans who receive promo codes, listen to the corresponding audiobook, and leave a review. Interested creators pay Audiobook Boom! a $12 fee for a one-time listing of their title and submit the details of the book in a short blurb.

Audiobook Boom! is free for listeners, who receive an email every Tuesday detailing that week’s crop of available titles. Listeners indicate their interest in specific books and Audiobook Boom takes care of the rest—in a few days creators receive a link to a personalized spreadsheet containing all the listeners interested in their book. Creators can then review listener profiles, choose those who have a history of providing thoughtful reviews, and distribute promo codes directly to them. Listeners can claim an unlimited number of audiobooks, although the site advises that they request no more than they can listen to in a month. Rights Holders may distribute codes to as many listeners as they like.

Jeffrey Kafer - Headshot2

Jeffrey Kafer, owner of Audiobook Boom!

Kafer’s advice on how to get the best boom for your buck? Submit titles of 6 or more listening hours in mainstream, broad-interest genres such as romance, fantasy, sci-fi, or mystery, and make sure to write an interesting book blurb. Creators can submit as many titles at once as they want, but to keep content fresh for listeners they’re asked to promote each title no more than once every 6 months.  Most audiobooks will receive roughly 40-50 requests, and the review rate is about 25%, Kafer says—not all listeners will write a review, but creators still get exposure to a new audience. Word of mouth is important, and Audiobook Boom! is a way to get your work in front of new listeners who may then pass the word along.

The audiobook industry is growing at an exponential rate and there’s an increasingly enormous number of titles for listeners to choose from. Audiobook Boom! offers two ways you can help your content stand out to listeners who are fans of your genre, but haven’t yet found your work: sending promo codes to dedicated audiobook listeners expands your audience and builds word of mouth, and great reviews will catch the eye of listeners.

Stay on the lookout for part two of our series, as we tackle that other pool of listeners-to-be—your readers who haven’t yet discovered the magic of audio.

Negotiate Your Perfect Deal with Royalty Share Plus

Today, we’re excited to introduce a long-requested feature: Royalty Share Plus!

With Royalty Share Plus, authors and publishers can invest in their audiobooks by contributing to the production costs and accessing an even greater community of Producers. This new payment option is an evolution of the Royalty Share concept, allowing ACX RSP_Brick Wall.pngRights Holders to negotiate a per-finished-hour payment for their projects in addition to splitting royalties with their Producer. Once the audiobook production is complete, Rights Holders send the Royalty Share Plus fee to their Producer, and ACX will split your royalties once the audiobook becomes available for sale.

For Producers, this means building a portfolio of steady residual income and paying everyday expenses. Producers tell us this option helps them pay for supporting services like audio engineering, take care of everyday expenses, upgrade their recording equipment, and expedite production to create even better audiobooks. Authors and Publishers can discover talented performers that may not have been previously accessible to take your audiobook production to new heights.

We hope you’ll consider Royalty Share Plus for your next audiobook production. We can’t wait to hear what you do next!

Learn more about Royalty Share Plus and all of your production options on ACX.

More Production Pointers from Audible Approved Producers

Last week, we checked in with a few newly minted Audible Approved Producers to share some of the knowledge they’ve picked up throughout their career. Today, our production professionals tell us the benefits of listening to audiobooks produced by others and reveal what they wish they’d known at the start of their careers.

Q: Is there anything you’ve learned from listening to audiobooks by other producers?

Paul Stefano coverPaul Stefano: Yes, everything! I have taken some coaching, but I learn mostly by listening to some of the greatest narrators out there: Johnny Heller, Andi Arndt, PJ Ochlan, Scott Brick, Sean Pratt, and Jeffrey Kafer. Every time I listen to a book from a master, I learn some new technique—a way to voice a character, how to approach a certain scene, or tone. I have learned much of what I do now just by listening to my peers.

Travis Baldree: When I listen to other audiobooks, I’m usually paying attention to performance. I zero in on pacing, how a narrator uses silence, and how they use their breathing as part of the performance. I love to hear the many different approaches to character work and accents and how they perform dialogue for different genders. On the engineering side, when I was first starting and fine-tuning my mastering stack, I actually bought a CD of an audiobook that had some enviable engineering. I pulled up the audio into a DAW, and had a look at the waveform in a spectral view so that I could see in detail what the noise floor looked like and how the compression affected the final waveform as a frame of reference. It’s still fascinating to listen to the different mastering from book to book for a given narrator, and to note how it complements their performance.

Heather Masters coverHeather Masters: YES! I’ve noticed a trend in tone among different genres, which helps me to be able to offer more variety in my reads. For example, romantic comedies are often read at a quick pace with a warm tone, whereas in sci-fi/fantasy, the pace tends to be a little slower, more contemplative, as you’re often world-building and giving the listener time to imagine.  Becoming familiar with the style of the genres I love to narrate helps give me an edge in my auditions.

Rich Miller: I think I’ve learned a lot from listening to well-produced audiobooks, but it’s difficult to distill it down into concrete bullet points. For the most part, it’s about the performances: What did this narrator do to make me feel like they were telling me a story? Not just telling a story, but telling me a story.

Stephanie Quinn coverStephanie Quinn: I’ve learned about the flow and tempo needed for comfortable listening: not so fast that it’s hard to comprehend, but not so slow it’s annoying to listen to. Also, listening has helped me understand how much empty space is too much or too little between headings, sentences, paragraphs, sections, etc.

Marnye Young: Yes. I learned a lot about pacing and really allowing the text to breathe just like you do as an actor. I learned, as I had to learn as an actor, that not everything can have weight or nothing does. The character doesn’t know what they are going to say and that needs to come across in the storytelling. You are telling your listener this story for the first time and you must be just as surprised as your listener.

Aven Shore: Lots. Of course poor production matters—mispronunciations and mouth noises are distracting and devalue the product—but as a listener, I find that the performance trumps the production. The right performer telling the story well matters the most.

Q: What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you were first starting out?

Aven Shore coverAven Shore: So many things! The incredible importance of proofing required The importance of keeping audible breaths in your recording at an un-distracting level. That there is a great distance between adequate and good.

I stick with narrating because I LOVE it and it feels right for me, but in the beginning I didn’t anticipate the intensity of learning and commitment that was ahead of me. If a new narrator expects a fast, easy, lucrative career change, they’ve got a shock in store. Your return corresponds to your investment—in equipment, in knowledge, in professional advice, in time and dedication. The learning curve is astonishing, even overwhelming, and ongoing as the industry grows. So it’s important to be invested and dedicated.

Paul Stefano: I did a tremendous amount of research on the industry before I started. I wanted to make sure I knew exactly how to record and master well, and be able to perform on a mic before I recorded one word on my computer. I am still learning things every day, but I believe you can’t start in this business (or any for that matter) the right way if you don’t have a firm understanding before you put yourself out there as a professional.

Travis Baldree: The importance of a well-treated treated space! It’s hard to understand how critical this is as a novice, but consider reaching out to a professional audio engineer that offers evaluations of recording spaces and your recorded audio, and Travis Baldree coversecure their services—it’s money well spent. You generally want a fairly small, enclosed room with any noisy elements (like your computer) removed, covered on the interior by reflection-absorbing material. For a lot of narrators that’s a small walk-in-closet with a load of winter coats or blankets surrounding them, a wireless keyboard & mouse, a tablet, and a monitor cable strung under the door. You want to minimize the reflection of your voice from the surfaces around you—it bounces right off of hard materials, which makes you sound like you’re talking into a Folgers can. Of course, there’s more to it than just some winter coats—the dimensions of your space, the materials, the height of the ceiling, and your particular voice all factor in. You’re trying to have your voice sound natural and neutral, and not like you’re recording in a box—even though you are!

As far as isolation goes, you’re probably never going to have a perfectly soundproof space. Narrators shake their fists at leaf blowers the world over. There’s a lot you can control, but you’re mostly aiming to reduce the noise, since you can’t completely eliminate it, with the expectation that you’ll still have to take a break sometimes when the garbage truck idles outside.

Rich Miller coverRich Miller: How important building relationships is in this industry. Fortunately, there are a lot of great narrators and producers out there, so I actually enjoy building those relationships! In every business, people want to work with someone they know, like, and trust. Having a personal rapport with potential clients is very important, as is trust: people need to know that they can count on you to turn in a consistent product on time, sometimes with very tight deadlines. So get to know people—go to APAC; if you’re in the New York area, go to APA socials; reach out to individuals with questions; be professional, but be a real person, because the people you want to get to know want to know who you are before they’ll be willing to hire you.

Stephanie Quinn: Once you’re over the learning curve, it’s fun and you meet some super-cool people along the way. 

Marnye Young coverMarnye Young: My worth! It sounds silly, but when I first started out I didn’t really understand that my skillset was worth something. I wasn’t a hack—I had an MFA from Yale and acting experience—but I thought “I know nothing and therefore I will charge nothing.” It is so important—do not undercut, short-change, or devalue yourself. If you are doing this and have made it this far, make sure that you charge what you are worth. Your talent, time, work ethic, and the heart that you bring to each project is worth a lot.

Get more advice from top tier ACX Producers here.

 

Lighting the Way: An Author’s Journey into Narration

Mary Castillo is the award-winning narrator and author of the Dori O. Paranormal Mystery Series, whose decision to narrate and produce her first audiobook, Lost in the Light, led her into uncharted territory and ignited her creativity. Here’s the story of one author-turned-narrator finding her voice.

MaryCastilloheadshotMy decision to self-produce audiobooks started innocently enough. I had been listening to audiobooks, but not with the idea of producing one of my own. Many of my colleagues at the Orange County Chapter RWA were sharing how well their audiobooks were selling and how much they loved their narrators. When a fellow author said, “If you’re not creating audiobooks, you’re leaving money on the table,” I decided I wanted one, too!

The biggest roadblock (it was more like a sink hole), was the cost. Narration is everything in an audiobook. As a slightly addicted Audible listener myself, I’ve driven around the block a time or two and listened long enough to find out who the killer was. Some of my favorite narrators can effortlessly slip into different vocal tones and accents; others cannot—but they are fascinated by the story, and that’s contagious to a listener.

One night, I was reading to my son and niece, who later told me how fun it was that I got into the story and created different voices for the characters. So I started to wonder: could I do this on my own? Should I?

My backlist of ‘chick lit’ romantic comedies had been optioned for audio by my former publishers, but never produced. However, my backlist of independent titles in the Dori O. Paranormal Mystery Series was free and clear. Dear reader, I went for it!

MaryCastilloandTheBoxOn January 1, 2016, I ordered an inexpensive (ahem, cheap-as-heck) microphone and amp, built a sound box with an old pillow and cut up audio foam, and started tinkering with Audacity. I fell in love with narrating the first book in the series, Lost in the Light. I went all in—I watched YouTube videos of actors who I thought best personified the characters. I found a great book on creating accents titled Foreign Dialects: A Manual for Actors, Directors and Writers, and I read everything I could on audiobook narration, editing, and mastering (thank you ACX University!). I took to speaking in a British-Birmingham accent at the dinner table, which annoyed the heck out of my family (but a real British reviewer later said I did a bang-up job on that character’s voice!).

I must have recorded, edited, and mastered the first five chapters seven times. Finally, I gave myself a goal: launch a weekly podcast and prepare the first five chapters in advance. The podcast went live in March, and I faithfully posted a new chapter of the book every week for 36 weeks.

I won’t lie and say that narrating my own work didn’t have its cringe-worthy moments. It is a true feat of strength to get used to the sound of one’s own voice. And don’t get me started on narrating the love scenes. When I wrote them in the privacy of my own office, I was all in—but then I had to speak the words out loud and was reduced to the maturity level of a 13-year-old girl.

The Lost in the Light audiobook would’ve come to market much sooner if I’d invested in a narrator and producer, but a new skill in storytelling had opened up to me. After the audiobook was complete, I jumped into narrating and producing the sequel to Lost in the Light, titled Girl in the Mist.

As you go into self-producing your audiobook, I recommend that you recruit beta listeners. There were mistakes that I’d missed in Lost in the Light when I published it, so with the second project, Girl in the Mist, I reached out to my readers through my author newsletter, asking for beta listener volunteers. Five stepped up and they listened to the edited and mastered recording. They reported editing errors such as parts of the book where I had missed something, or background noise such as my pug snoring contentedly. The pug has now been banned from my recording space. Without my asking, these wonderful beta listeners also left great reviews of the audiobook once I’d published it!

MaryCastillo_inherboothWhen it comes to your home studio, do as I say and not as I did, and invest in high-quality equipment. My production of Lost in Whispers went off the rails when my cheap mic died. Then my neighbors decided to demolish their home, room by room, for a year. I now record in a converted playhouse under a pine tree. The Lost in Whispers audiobook, the third book in the Dori O. series, will be produced this fall with the fourth Dori book set to be published in October 2019.

Audiobooks injected new life into my business. The Lost in the Light podcast (no longer available), drove print and e-book sales. Audiobook sales of both titles have been my number one source of fiction income each month for the last two years, and Lost in the Light won the 2018 ABR Listener’s Choice Award in Mystery!

Audiobooks also opened my creative world. I continue to write novels and novellas, but I’m also developing audio projects. Other authors have approached me to narrate their audiobooks, and I’m developing a spin-off audio series with supporting characters from the Dori O. stories. Thanks to channels like ACX and Kindle Direct Publishing, we authors have more avenues available to us. Now our stories can take on new forms embraced by larger audiences.

Mary Castillo is the author and award-winning narrator of the Dori O. Paranormal Mystery Series. The titles include Lost in the Light, Girl in the Mist, and Lost in Whispers. She serves as vice president of communications to the Orange County Chapter of Romance Writers of America (RWA), and is a member of the Gothic Romance Online Chapter of RWA. Mary lives and writes in Orange County, CA. You can check out her books and audiobooks at MaryCastillo.com.

Production Pointers from Audible Approved Producers

Audible Approved Producers are the best of the best on ACX. Qualifying Producers have a proven track record of dynamic performances and superior-quality audio. They’ve been around the block a few times and learned a thing or two about compelling narration, pristine sound, and how to make the whole production process run a like a well-oiled machine. We checked in with a few of our newest AAPs to get their advice on producing like a professional.

Q: What’s your biggest production timesaver?

Paul Stefano headshotPaul Stefano: OUTSOURCING. I hire out nearly all of my editing and proofing. This allows me to work on several projects at once as I focus on what I do best: the narrating. Plus, it’s always good to have a second set of eyes (or ears, as it were) on your work. If you made a mistake once, you are likely to do it again, so doing your own quality control as a narrator is generally a bad idea. Once I made this switch in my career, it was like the heavens opened up to a whole new world.

Heather Masters headshotHeather Masters: I keep a file in the folder of each book I produce, which is titled ‘Voice Profile.’ Each time I record a new character, I highlight a few lines and copy [the audio] into my voice profile. This way, even if I don’t see the character again for days, I can jump right to their voice and refresh my memory, ensuring my characters are consistent. It’s an invaluable tool with a series!

Travis Baldree: Know your software, make shortcuts for anything that can be short-cutted, and constantly be on the lookout for ways to optimize your time or reduce repetitive actions that slow you down or introduce problems.

Aven Shore: I maintain my progress notes on an online Aven Shore headshotdocument, so I can reference them anywhere.  Even better, it’s shareable, so I use it to communicate with my sound engineer and proofer so we don’t have to email each other constantly. We can all log in to the document and see deadlines, pickups, file names, where I’m at in the recording, upcoming books scheduled, special treatment notes, and more (we use Zoho Docs, but there are similar alternatives, like Google Docs).

Rich Miller: I think it’s probably Punch & Roll recording [a method of recording that involves rolling back a short way into a recording, playing, and then punching into the record at a set point to record over errors]. It doesn’t feel like it in the moment, but when I’m done recording I’m pretty much done. Once you get the rhythm of stopping, setting the cursor, and recording again, it doesn’t take much time at all.

Marnye_Young_headshot2Marnye Young: Pre-reading is extraordinarily helpful for me. While I understand wanting to be surprised when my listeners are surprised (to keep it authentic), the problem with that is that you are taking a road trip without a map and you may end up taking a wrong turn. Pre-reading will help you be sure to pack everything for the journey and to pull out whatever you need at the proper time.

Q: What is your pre-recording ritual like?

Paul Stefano: First of all I READ THE BOOK. This is essential to understanding the characters and how the story should flow. You don’t want to start off a book with a happy go lucky voice for a character, only to find out that the entire book was a flashback, the character is in a clinically depressed fog, and sorrowfully remembering his past! As my friend Johnny Heller says, “as a narrator, the last person who should be surprised by the ending of a book IS YOU.”

While I’m initially going through the book, I make notes, particularly of proper names, places, and other things I don’t know how to pronounce. Then, I Iook them up. In the case of names, I may even reach out to the Rights Holder for confirmation on pronunciations. Finally, I give each character a distinct voice. It may be a tone, a pace, or a certain tick that is repeated each time they speak.

Aven Shore: I make tea, brush my teeth, get dressed (in loose, cozy clothes with no swish/friction factor), fill a hot water bottle for my feet if it’s winter, scan my prep notes and what I’m about to read, then I get in my booth. I do a quick vocal warmup and some alternate nostril breathing just before beginning. I like it dark. Since shutting my eyes to get truly lost in the story is out of the question, darkness helps me forget about everything beyond the page and stay immersed in the world the author’s created.

Rich Miller: I do a little vocal warm-up, nothing too involved, Rich Miller headshotdrink some water, and inhale some steam. When I’m first starting out for the day, I’ll usually read a few pages out loud before actually recording; the vocal warm-up helps physically, but I feel that reading the actual text for a few minutes helps me dial in the right pacing and rhythm. I find that when I don’t do this, I sometimes end up having to re-record those first pages anyway.

Marnye Young: I drink coffee to loosen everything up and then honey ginger tea to repair the damage the coffee has done. I take in a lot of water, do tongue exercises, then listen to the last few minutes of the chapter I last recorded. The looser I am, the fewer mistakes I have, the better my flow is. That means a loose tongue, body, etc. I want to be relaxed but alert—if there is any tension, that tension will be in my throat and chest which is counterproductive for recording.

Q: Can you tell us a little about your studio set-up and equipment essentials?

Travis Baldree headshotTravis Baldree: I have a StudioBricks One booth (which is great, because there are no spare closets to be found in my home, my kids like to run across the house, and there’s a crow who enjoys parking right outside to caw at all hours). I use a Windows 10 PC with an SSD stationed outside my booth, a monitor in-booth with a bluetooth keyboard and mouse, and my trusty Razer Orbweaver mini-keyboard for Punch & Roll and editing shortcuts. The keyboard is essential—I have so much muscle memory for it, it’s super comfortable, and saves me a lot of hand strain to boot. My microphone is a Mojave MA-200 tube mic running through an Audient ID14 interface.

Travis Baldree studio

Paul Stefano: I have a WhisperRoom recording booth, a Steinberg UR12 audio interface, and a Sennheiser MKH-416 microphone—I spent years and thousands of dollars to get the right mic and I should have started with this industry standard from the get-go. I have a monitor on a shelf outside the booth and a wireless keyboard inside so that I can start and stop the recording.

Paul Stefano studio_2

Aven Shore: I have a big property but a small house, so my studio is a standalone building I built myself. At a glance it could be mistaken for an outhouse, but it was affordable and it’s effective. The floating interior framing is completely unattached to the exterior structure, with an abundance of Roxul insulation between the two and some acoustic foam on the inside. I use my thrift store rescue ergonomic kneeling chair for recording because it keeps my torso tall and open. I also had to Faraday cage my booth with aluminum foil because my mic was picking up these digital sounds that were not at all audible to the ear, but obliterating in my recording. I believe it was interference from a cell tower. My booth has a room tone of -75db or better, and the last thing I see before I shut myself in to work is forest.

Aven Shore studio

Rich Miller: I’ve got a Mac Mini, an Onyx Blackjack interface, and a Rode NT1-A microphone. I’ve got a mirrored monitor setup, with one on my desk outside the booth and one inside the booth; when I’m ready to record, I just put my wireless keyboard and Bluetooth trackpad inside the booth and I’m ready to go. I built my 4’ x 6’ x 7’ booth myself last year, and it keeps external noise out much better than my previous space. Seriously, my setup is pretty minimal, so every piece is pretty critical; none of it is super-high-end, but it all works great.

rich-miller-studio.jpg

Marnye Young: My studio is in the back of the house. Inside my studio is my monitor, my mic, headphones, and chair. The mic I use now, the AKG c214, is my third one and by far the best—it captures my low end and high end and still gets the nuances. The one I had before, a Blue Yeti USB mic, I picked because, in all honesty, it was affordable and had good reviews for what it was. It gave me a nice fullness, but it washed out most of the nuances and any brightness to my voice. I have a low voice anyway so I wanted to keep as much brightness as possible. The headphones were a recommendation to me and I really like them. The Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO 80 Ohm Over-Ear Studio Headphones are super comfy and catch everything, which I like. I like to know what other noises are happening so I am aware and can catch them in post or redo if necessary, like a door shutting, that kind of thing.

Marnye Young studio

We hope these pointers have you ready to jump into your sound booth and get to work on the next ACX hit production! Stay tuned for part two, where these production pros will cover why you should listen to audiobooks—not just make them—and what they wish they’d known when they started.

Get Cookin’ with New and Improved Promo Codes

PC Cooking 2Putting together an audiobook marketing campaign requires a few key ingredients, and now it’s easier than ever to include listener reviews! Rights Holders and Producers with an eligible audiobook for sale through ACX can visit the new Promo Code dashboard on ACX.com to access Promo Codes good for a free copy of your audiobook on Audible. You’ll receive 25 codes per book for each of Audible’s US and UK marketplaces and will be able track which have and haven’t been redeemed yet.

Codes will be available for your newly published ACX audiobooks as soon as they go on sale, and you can generate codes for your backlist audiobooks whenever you’re ready to promote those titles.

Learn how to access this marketing tool, then read below for ideas on turning your codes into listener reviews.

Serving Suggestions

First off, bookmark the new ACX promo code redemption pages on Audible, audible.com/acx-promo and audible.co.uk/acx-promo, and make sure include the appropriate link when distributing your codes. ACX promo codes can only be redeemed at those links.

We recommend using Promo Codes to garner early reviews of your audiobook, and to reward your fans for engaging with you and your marketing efforts. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  1. Send your promo codes to audiobook reviewers. We’ve covered this topic in an episode of ACX University, so check out our video, then do some Googling to find out who’s reviewing audiobooks in your genre.
  2. Empower your street team/beta readers. Send them each a code for your audiobook in exchange for an honest review – just make sure they mention that they got the audiobook for free in the review itself.
  3. Use promo codes as fan rewards. Need to compel your listeners to take an action, like signing up for your newsletter or filling out a survey? Offer a free copy of your audiobook as the carrot on the end of the stick.
  4. Run a social media giveaway. It can be as simple as “like/share/tag a friend in this post for a free audiobook.” Just make sure to check the promotion/contest guidelines on your platform of choice before posting.
  5. Swap codes with your peers. These codes are specific to your ACX audiobook, so find authors and narrators willing to do a “code swap,” where both sides give away codes good for the others’ book. This way, you’ll each expose new audiences to your awesome-sounding audiobooks.
  6. Feature a review in an audiobook ad or in your newsletter. Once you’ve used the steps above to gain reviews of your audio productions, feature your favorite in your marketing efforts – 84 percent of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.

Promo Codes are served up for titles with exclusive distribution, and provide another flavor for your audiobook marketing palette. We can’t wait to read all the glowing  reviews you’ll earn!

Don’t Fear the REAPER

Mike Taddeo of the ACX Audio QA team joins us today to discuss REAPER, a digital audio workstation (DAW) that many audiobook producers find to be a solid, cost-effective solution for audiobook recording, editing, and post-production.

As technology continues to democratize home recording, audiobook producers are presented with more options for processing audio than ever before. While some advanced production platforms cater more to music than narration, other simple editors leave much to be desired when it comes to  post-production. How can you decide which DAW is right for you?

Whether you’re new to narration or looking to up your game, we find Cocko’s REAPER to be a fine balance of the two. Featuring a customizable interface, REAPER allows you to set up a session view to best fit your workflow and find all the tools needed to produce a high-quality audiobook. For more information on using these tools & effects, be sure to check out our recent episode of Q&A with QA titled, Mastering with Effects Processing.

Customizing Your View

The first step in maximizing your efficiency is to set up your session to meet your needs. REAPER’s default settings include a timeline set to bars/beats, and a metronome and grid lines to sync music to a tempo—tools you won’t need for audiobook production—so you can simplify your workspace by hiding these and other unnecessary features from view.

hide grid

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If you are only dealing with a single audio source, you may also want to hide the mixer view so you have more space to zoom in on the wave form when editing your files.

hide mixer

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Commonly Used Tools

REAPER comes stocked with several tools that can help you meet specific ACX Audio Submission Requirements.

Playrate

Increasing the playback rate is a great way to quickly review a recorded script for accuracy to ensure the manuscript matches the recorded audio. This is called audiobook QC, and you’ll perform this step after you edit your raw audio files. In the ‘Rate’ menu, be sure to select: “Preserve pitch in audio items when changing master playrate,” which will prevent your voice from increasing in pitch and sounding like a chipmunk during playback!

playrate

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Nudge

ACX requires each file to have between 0.5 and 1 second of room tone at the beginning, and between 1 and 5 seconds at the end. This spacing clearly signals to the listener that a chapter has ended and gives them a moment to catch their breath when a chapter ends on a dramatic note.

REAPER’s ‘nudge’ tool makes it easy to double-check that your files meet the spacing requirement by  lining up all of your files at the same starting or ending point so you can easily see if there is too much space on either end.

nudge

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While your files are lined up, you can also check for any extraneous noises at the beginning and end of each file. You can also add clean room tone and short fade-ins and fade-outs to all of your files at once.

Normalize

The term “normalize” can mean different things depending on which DAW you’re using, the normalize function automatically increases the level of your audio until it is peaking at 0dB, causing it to digitally distort “in the red” and fail QA review. You can use the SWS extension action item (Xenakios/SWS: Normalize selected takes to dB value…) to input the peak level you’d like your files normalized to—we recommend -3dB (peak) to keep the peak level at the maximum level permitted by ACX.

normalize

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RMS/Peak Analysis

ACX requires audio files to measure between -23dB and -18dB RMS, with a maximum peak level of -3dB, which can sometimes be difficult for the naked eye (and ear) to discern. The SWS Extension includes a reliable Peak and RMS analyzing tool (SWS: Analyze and display item peak and RMS) that can provide a quick reading of your files to ensure your levels meet ACX requirements.

analyze RMS

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Exporting MP3’s

When you’re ready to export your finished audio out of REAPER, there are two options: “render” and “batch file/item converter.” Either function is capable of quickly converting your WAV files to MP3, and each allows you to save an encoder profile. The Render function is typically used to export an audio item as it appears on the timeline. This will be a good choice if you are exporting your files out of REAPER one at a time. The Batch file/item converter allows you to add individual items from your timeline, or select files from a folder on your computer to encode all at once with the same encoding profile. We recommend saving your settings to encode to 192kbps or higher 44.1kHz MP3, Constant Bit Rate (CBR) in keeping with ACX’s requirements.

Plug-ins and FX

When using REAPER as your DAW, we recommend downloading the free compatible plug-in suite SWS Extension as well, which includes all the effects plug-ins you’ll need to produce a top-quality audiobook. . Find yourself using the same effects often? You can save these as favorites, organize your own folders, and save plug-in chains and custom presets to streamline your workflow.

save template

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One of our favorite plug-ins in this extension is ReaEQ, which gives a visual representation of how the audio source is displayed across the frequency spectrum, making it a great tool for learning the art of equalizing. Spend time with the different filter types, cutting and boosting different frequency bands to hear how each affects the quality of your voice.

ReaEQ

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We also love ReaComp, an easy-to-use compression tool that keeps the dynamic range of your recording in check and adds fullness to your production.

Templates

Once you’ve set your project session to fit your personal workflow, you can save your custom settings in a project template so you won’t have to set up your DAW each time you begin a new project, saving you time and ensuring  consistency throughout your productions.

favorites

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Try Before You Buy

Interested in finding out if REAPER is the right DAW for you? You can download a full version of REAPER to use for free for up to 60 days. After the evaluation period, users are required to purchase an individual use license for $60.

Already using REAPER to produce for ACX? Leave a comment to let us know how you customize your setup for audiobook production!

Amy Daws on Keeping Listeners Engaged Between Releases

Last month, we met best-selling author Amy Daws and learned how she uses social media to forge authentic relationships with her fans. Today, she shares how these connections help keep her followers’ attention between new releases. Read on to learn how she maximizes her engagement by creating exclusive content her listeners can’t get enough of.AmyDaws bio photo

Q: You got a flurry of media attention last year with a story about you writing a book in the waiting room of a tire shop—what’s the story with the Tires, Tires, Tires saga?

A: When I started writing at a tire shop and posting about it on social media, I could instantly tell that my readers were loving the anecdotes. Heck, even my author friends were dying laughing over the fact that I liked the vibe there and the complimentary beverages. Everyone was having fun with me just being me so I kept posting about it. It was something authentic, silly, and positive in a book world that can sometimes get bogged down with drama.

Part of what I do with social media is bring my readers along for the ride, and when things snowballed into national blogs posting about me and news stations requesting interviews…at that point, it was sort of a fun win for us all, not just me. That’s why, when I decided to turn that crazy experience into my book, Wait With Me, I continued to let my fans be a part of the process from the cover shoot to the book signing at the tire shop. All of it! Their social media interactions were the reason that my craziness got national attention, so they deserved to be a part of it.

And above all, I’m a storyteller, so sharing bits of my day writing in a tire shop waiting room is fun and easy.

Q: And how does this tie into keeping your listeners engaged between books? 

A: By continuing to be authentic and real and goofy, I’ve created a bond with my readers that feels really strong. Many of them found me through my Tires, Tires, Tires journey and then went on to read all of my backlist. My books reflect my personality and my silly voice on social media, so they get more of what they like about me…which helps make them fans for life, instead of fans for one story. Tires_Sign2.png

Q: What else do you do to keep your fans following along even when you don’t have a new book to promote?

A: There’s peaks and valleys, and I try to drop a sale or a free edition of my print/eBooks when there’s a valley—just something to keep my name at the top of their minds. And I try to do unique releases here and there to keep people happy.

A reader Facebook group does this great series called “Bedtime Stories” and they asked me to give them new content and be one of their featured authors. I [wrote a short story] and posted it there exclusively, and I found it to be a great way to attract new readers while giving a special free gift to my already loyal fans.

I did a re-branding and re-release of That One Moment [now Strength], a crossover book between my London Lovers and Harris Brothers series. I wrote 10,000 words of new content and re-released it for 99c in Kindle Unlimited. I even went a step further and had my narrators record the new content, which ACX updated on the original so if audio listeners previously owned That One Moment on audio, all they had to do was delete and re-download to get the bonus scenes! Going that extra step only gained me audiobook sales, so I’m really glad I did that. It was a successful rebranding of a story that I was proud of and it gave a new set of legs to a book that hadn’t sold the best in the past.

Will WattAnd I brought my narrator, Will Watt, with me to a big book signing in Philadelphia! He’s British and fun and has narrated my entire Harris Brothers series, so my readers loved getting to meet him!

Q: We hear you’re using YouTube to great effect, too! What are you up to there?

A: I like having a place where all my videos sit and don’t just disappear down a Facebook timeline, so I started a YouTube Channel with a group of authors in addition to my own YouTube channel. I post on both. My background is in video production, so I like to take an excerpt from my audiobooks, preferably so listeners are getting something new, and add photos and motion graphics to turn it into a “sample movie” so to speak. I upload the video to YouTube and use that link in my newsletter and on Facebook takeovers/giveaways. I might say “Check out this sample and comment below with what you think for a chance to win an Audible download!” People love to click on videos and it makes for great new way for them to hear a sample.

AGYT

Erin Mallon and Teddy Hamilton, the narrators of Wait With Me, both did videos for me to help promote the book. They even took it a step further and recorded scenes from each other’s chapters—Erin read the male perspective and Teddy read the female perspective. It engaged my listeners in a personal way, and I posted it everywhere—not just to YouTube and my newsletter, but to audiobook Facebook groups, my own Facebook pages—anywhere I could.

Q: What advice would you give indie authors making the move into audiobooks?

A: Audiobooks are such a growing format, you’d be crazy not to get on board with it! Even authors who have published audio editions, I feel like a lot of them aren’t talking about audio enough. For every promotional post you do for your book, you should include an audio link. You need to be constantly reminding people that you’re not just an eBook author, you’re an audiobook author, too!

Amy Daws is an Amazon Top 25 bestselling author of sexy, contemporary romance novels with 15 titles in audio. She enjoys writing love stories that take place in America, as well as across the pond in England; especially about those footy-playing Harris Brothers of hers. When Amy is not writing in a tire shop waiting room, she’s watching Gilmore Girls, or singing karaoke in the living room with her daughter while Daddy smiles awkwardly from a distance. For more of Amy’s work, visit: http://www.amydawsauthor.com.

The 2019 Audie Awards: ACX Honorees Share Their Tips

The Audie Awards are the Audio Publishers Association’s annual occasion to honor the best titles in audio publishing. This year, eight ACX titles received Audie Award nominations, with His Viking Bride taking home the prize in the Romance category! We checked in with some of this year’s nominated Rights Holders to ask:

What lead you to submit your audiobook for an Audie Nomination? How do you plan to use your win in your audiobook marketing going forward?

His Viking BrideViking

Category: Romance
Written by: Olivia Norem
Performed by: Greg Patmore

A: I chose to enter His Viking Bride based on my reaction the first time I heard the audiobook. When you spend months putting together a novel, you eat, sleep and breathe it – you become consumed by it. Hearing Greg Patmore’s narration the first time, I was able to enjoy my story as a fan. I kept finding myself wondering “Who wrote that?”

I thought it was a good audiobook, so took a chance and entered. Honestly, I was never expecting to become a finalist, let alone to win.

I’ve spent more than three decades in marketing. When I left marketing to become an author, I didn’t realize in the beginning that I would be right back in marketing. I’ve found the organic approach works best. I utilize all social media channels, and reach out to a lot of bloggers. Podcasts are a channel I will be exploring now that we have the 2019 Audie award. I will also be reaching out to local, regional, and national television trying to gain more exposure.

The Goliath Code Goliath

Category: Faith-Based Fiction and Nonfiction
Written by: Suzanne Leonhard
Performed by: Gabrielle de Cuir

A: Submitting The Goliath Code for Audie consideration was my narrator’s idea from the start. Although I’ve written many books, this was my first audiobook, and the fabulous Gabrielle de Cuir has been the driving force behind its momentum from the beginning. She suggested we submit the audiobook because she was in love with the story and felt confident it would make the finals. And it’s paid off; sales for both the book and the audiobook have gone up since the Audie finalists were announced. When it comes to indie publishing, you’ve got to make your book as visible as you can. Awards are a great way to move your book ahead of the pack.

Now, I plan to have the Audie Finalist logo placed on the audiobook cover, and the nomination will be mentioned in all future promotions for the book itself. Even though the paperback book was first published in late 2017, I still have an ad running for it on Amazon. It’s the first of a series of books, so I work hard to keep it in the public eye. If the book wins an award, or gets a mention on social media somewhere, I always promote it on Facebook and Twitter. Having that prestigious Audie Award finalist logo on the audio cover is going to be eye-catching.

PossessionPossession

Category: Romance
Written by Jessica Hawkins
Performed by Christian Fox

A: I’ve been publishing my own audio since 2015, and at first, it was a labor of love. Gaining an audience has been a slow but steady process, which makes it all the more rewarding to see my listenership grow with each release. I submitted to the Audies to honor that journey as well as the amazing talent behind the scenes—the production team, Lyric Audiobooks, and the nuanced and enthralling narration of Christian Fox. It’s more than that, though. Getting recognized by the APA and by Audible for a self-published title feels like a noteworthy accomplishment in my career (and a win for my indie peers too).

As for promotion, I’ll be adding the Audie finalist designation to the blurbs on all retailers, to ads and marketing wherever relevant, and as a badge on my website. Audio lovers recognize the significance of such a nomination and I intend to make sure they know! I hope it signifies to listeners and retailers like Audible that quality is top of mind each time I start a new production.

Splat! A Quirky Cat Audio BookSplat

Category: Original Work
Written by: Adele Park
Performed by: a Full Cast

A: The Audies competition has several rounds of judging, which gives indie studios like Straight to Audio Productions [which Adele owns and operates] the chance to be heard by experts in the audiobook industry. Our 2011 Audie win for Multi-Voiced Narration for Jitters-A Quirky Little Audio Book showcased the cast in front of producers who hire talent. Winning an Audie or even becoming a Finalist lends credibility to both the author and the publisher of an audiobook.

I mention my Audie win for Jitters and Finalist status for Splat! A Quirky Cat Audio Book and Gadzooks! A Comically Quirky Audio Book in all my marketing. I request that Amazon and Audible note the title as an Audie Winner or Audie Finalist for the projects that have been recognized by the Audio Publishers Association. These logos are also used on CD covers. A lot of my marketing involves funny videos; here is the one we did to announce Splat! A Quirky Cat Audio Book as a Finalist in the Original Work Category:

Loki Ragnarok

Category: Original Work
Written and Performed by: Mark Binder

Loki

A: Loki Ragnarok was a labor of love and despair. Twisting the Norse Eddas into Loki’s epic poem took almost twenty years. When we went into the recording studio, it went beyond poetry into a full scale performance. The production and music by George Dussault were precise and chilling. By the time the audiobook was finished, we knew it was something powerful and moving, funny and disquieting. It seemed award-worthy, and the only way to find out was to try. That we were selected as a finalist was really an honor.

Promotion is always a challenge. We’ve already updated the packaging and “jacket” copy. I’ve begun doing some touring and reading from the book as a way of cross-promoting the audio. We’re continuing to promote it on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, and are experimenting with a GoodReads ad campaign. And of course, it would be lovely to catch some buzz from the upcoming Loki spinoff TV series.

Want more advice about getting reviews and award recognition for your audiobooks? Watch The Elements of a Well-Reviewed Audiobook from ACX University.