2013 has been an incredible year for ACX user H.M. Ward: She’s been on The New York Times and USA Today Best Sellers lists, sold her 500,000th book, and was featured in Forbes, all after considering ending her romance writing career. Her latest smash, Damaged, was just released in audio on Audible through ACX, and Ward couldn’t be happier with her experience. Today, she’s sharing her ACX experience and words of book-marketing wisdom with you.
Tell us about yourself.
Ward: I self-published my first book in 2011 after realizing that traditional book publication didn’t really jive with me. I wrote YA PNR (paranormal romance) and loved it. I created the characters, the stories, the worlds, and even shot and created the covers. It was awesome!
Then, in 2012, I tried writing a romance novel—Scandalous. The people who read it really liked it, but it didn’t really do anything impressive. I tried another stab at romance and wrote Secrets. Initially, those flopped too. It was pitiful. I was about to forget the whole romance thing, but decided to give it one more shot. I recreated the covers for Secrets, switching to something more traditional, and they got some traction. It was very noticeable. A book cover is like a stop sign. It needs to clearly communicate as much as possible about the book in a blink. Artistic covers don’t work well for romance.
Within a few weeks of the cover change, Scandalous hit the New York Times and USA Today Bestseller lists. That book sat in obscurity for nearly 9 months before people noticed it. By the time Damaged hit the ‘shelves,’ I had a decent idea of what I needed to do for the cover and the story. I almost gave up on writing romance. I’m really glad that I didn’t.
Tell us more about Damaged.
Damaged is a new adult romance novel about a college student that has a one night fling and finds out that he’s her new professor the following day.
Why did you decide to produce an audio version of your title?
When Damaged hit the virtual shelves, it took off. I receive emails and letters from fans saying how the book strikes so close to home. It’s an emotional roller coaster. I made sure that the audiobook was a priority because of how the story spoke to people. It was completed within the first few weeks of the Damaged eBook and paperback going on for sale.
How did you hear about ACX?
Through KindleBoards. Other authors mentioned how easy it was to use. I produced my first audiobook last year and was delighted with the results. Not only did I get to hear my story brought to life by a talented narrator, but the additional revenue from audiobooks was unexpected. I’d heard that audiobooks weren’t very profitable. I heard wrong. If you’re an author, you need to get your books made into audiobooks. It’s worth it.
What is the most interesting thing you learned about the audiobook production process?
I love the creative process. The whole thing draws on aspects I love about storytelling, including talking to some of the very talented actors hanging out on ACX.
What are your marketing, sales or publicity goals for your audiobook project?
Audiobooks allows me to expand my fan base through another medium. There are a lot of people that listen to audiobooks and some novels never make it to production. I think ACX is the new KDP in that it gives authors direct access to everything they need to produce their own audiobook.
Tell us about your marketing efforts for this book.
I did the things I normally do and tried a few new things, including a blog tour with a giveaway. The winner gets a Kindle Fire, a signed copy of Damaged, and all of my eBooks. There were over 50,000 entries. The giveaway created additional buzz, and Damaged hit number 1 on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
I engage fans as much as possible. I respond to every email, tweet, and Facebook post. It’s very time consuming, but I think it’s worth it. These people took the time to write me and tell me that they loved my book. I feel like I should take the time to say thank you. Without them, I’d be nowhere. My marketing is fan-driven and personal. It’s that personalization that makes the difference.
Has having your audio version produced affected your writing?
Actually, I wrote my books with the thought of having them spoken or read aloud, and that hasn’t changed. I think that’s part of why people are drawn to my titles: they’re written the way people speak. That means they cross over very well into audio. It’s easy to listen to a friend talking.
What advice do you have for other authors who are considering producing their titles as audiobooks?
There are options to have your audiobook made using royalty share or to pay a flat fee. I was a total chicken with my first book. I did a Royalty Share, and ACX graciously put a stipend on the title. I was able to get an awesome narrator with nothing out of pocket. It’s a good thing if you’re totally broke. Do it. It’s better than not doing it. However, if you can possibly afford to pay for the production costs yourself, do that. I was kicking myself for doing the royalty share. I had no benchmark, no idea how many audiobooks I’d sell. It turned out to be more than enough to cover the production costs. Do the math. Figure out what you can afford, and go for it.
What’s your next project, and when will we see it on ACX?
My next project is still hush, hush. It’s a New Adult romance novel titled Stripped. It will be out later this summer. In the meantime, I’m working with some wonderful talent to get The Arrangement series converted to audio. I’m really excited about to hear those characters come to life.