Guest Post: Karen Commins on Marketing Audiobooks – Part One

Audible Approved producer Karen Commins is a prolific audiobook narrator who has completed over 20 titles on ACX. She is also a skilled audiobook marketer, working independently and with ACX rights holders to drive sales of her productions. Today, she joins us to share the first installment of her thoughts on audiobook marketing and some of the tactics that have brought her success.

A Narrator’s Look at Audiobook Marketing – Part One

Karen Commins

ACX Producer Karen Commins

After picking and performing a great royalty-share title on ACX, the next question many narrators and producers have is: “How do I market my audiobook?” Others ask: “Why do I need to market the audiobook? Isn’t marketing the job of the rights holder?”

Let me answer the second question first. Whether I’m paid per finished hour (PFH) or on a royalty-share (RS) deal, I always publicize my audiobooks because:

  • I want the world to know that I am an audiobook narrator! As a result, I have come to the attention of authors and publishers, and I’ve received ACX offers for books for which I didn’t audition.
  • Marketing is a value-added service that I offer my clients.
  • I have seen my sales numbers and the ensuing royalties for my RS audiobooks increase as a direct result of my promotion.

In addition to these reasons for marketing, I encourage other narrators to promote their books because, while audiobooks are a rapidly growing industry, the majority of people have never listened to an audiobook!

Those entrenched in the audiobook world may be quite surprised by this fact, but people resist audiobooks for several reasons:

  • The earliest audiobooks were only available to those with vision impairments. Some people do not realize that audiobooks are now mainstream entertainment!
  • Some devout readers won’t even invest in an e-reader because they like the feel of the actual book and the experience of reading the actual pages.
  • In past centuries, only the most educated people could read. Even in modern times, learning to read could be a difficult skill to master. Some readers still stigmatize audiobook listeners as “cheaters” if they choose to hear the text instead of reading it with their eyes.

So now you know what you’re up against. But with the right tactics and proper execution, you can become a skilled audiobook marketer who exposes new listeners to your work. Once you’ve decided that you want to market your audiobooks, we’re back to that first question – how should it be done?

Before I offer you some ideas, I want to address one misconception that seems prevalent with those who are new to marketing.

You’ve probably heard or read that it’s essential to repeat your message many times to get the attention of your potential buyer. I’ve seen updates on social media sites where the writer applied that advice literally.

They remind me of a broken loudspeaker continuously blaring the same phrases: BUY MY BOOK! READ MY BLOG! WATCH MY VIDEO! MY BOOK IS FOR SALE! HAVE YOU READ MY BLOG? MY VIDEOS ARE GREAT!

Loudspeaker

“Repeating the message” doesn’t mean that you say the exact same thing every time! If you use the same general words to present the same general theme, people will stop caring what you have to say. TV advertisers know they have to find new way to express their message. They change commercials frequently while keeping the underlying message the same.

“Repeating your message” really means that you are creating an association in the consumer’s mind.You create this association by continually and consistently letting the world know in a variety of clever ways that you are an audiobook narrator and that you have interesting audiobooks that they might enjoy.

Here are 3 ways to create those associations to your message.

1. Be Authentic

I recently read an author’s blog article about book trailers. She commented that other authors feel pressure to do something like a book trailer because “everyone else is doing it.” She wisely pointed out that you should do what is authentic for you. Don’t feel like you have to do it all, or any particular thing if it’s not you. As Shakespeare said, “to thine own self be true.” You’ll find millions of articles and videos from experts and gurus who will tell you all of the “rules” for any type of marketing. Don’t be afraid to break the rules and do things your way!

2. Be Consistent

It helps to view marketing as a system or process, not an isolated action. I certainly don’t do all of my promotional activities in one day or even in a week. The key is to regularly discuss your audiobooks. One way to be consistent is to always promote your new releases.

Narrator Andi Arndt offers this great advice about promoting new releases:

One thing I’ve figured out that seems important is to be sure and tag the author, audio publishers AND print publisher in social media posts.

It has been helpful to think of it as a congratulations to the author and publishers, and to follow their lead. Look up the press they’ve carefully put together for the book and use THEIR quotes, summary, description, so you’re reinforcing their marketing messages. Reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus provide great material. The positive stuff, that is!

AndiTweetWith a little thought and planning, you can find reasons to talk about your audiobooks on days other than the release days. Your growing fan base is interested in progress on your current book, funny quotes from it, etc.

I created an annual event calendar where I can connect the people/themes/events in my audiobooks with something in the news. I can create updates ahead of the date and use them each year.

For instance, my Blue Suede Memphis mystery series is set in – you guessed it — Memphis, and the main character is a tour bus driver. The titles of the books are plays on the names of famous Elvis songs. I can promote the series of books on Elvis’ birthday. On 13 July, I’ll talk about the audiobook Hound Dog Blues because it will be the anniversary of the release date for Elvis’ hit record Hound Dog.

You can also check Chase’s Calendar of Events each day to discover clever promotional tie-ins. Oh, and you should know that June is always audiobook month, so you could plan some promotions around that theme.

3. Be Creative

Think of marketing your audiobooks as yet another way to express your creativity. After you receive that email from Audible with your 25 promotional codes, you can write a fun blurb to give them away, as illustrated here by narrator Christa Lewis.

ChristaPost

She really makes you want her audiobook! And who knows – maybe someone who misses out on the download code is intrigued enough to BUY the book!

If you pay attention to what your publishers and authors are promoting, inspiration for a tie-in promotion may come beating down your door. One day, I noticed that author Barbara Silkstone wrote a blog post where her character Wendy Darlin (who is voiced by Nicole Colburn in audiobooks) interviewed Sasha McCandless, who is the main character in the series of books I’ve narrated for Melissa F. Miller.

I contacted Nicole about her interest in recording her character’s lines. We both obtained permission from our authors to record that blog installment like a radio show. The resulting recording was fun to create, thrilled our authors, and has been something that we continue to publicize.

Coming up in part two, I’ll share some more ways to create those coveted associations to your message. I’ll also give you site-specific social media tactics geared to make your audiobooks more easily discoverable.

You can find part two of Karen’s guest post here.

Help your fellow narrators out by sharing some of your favorite audiobook marketing tactics below!

27 responses to “Guest Post: Karen Commins on Marketing Audiobooks – Part One

  1. I enjoyed your presentation and learned a lot.

    Karen, you mentioned everything except audiobook price. In my opinion,
    they are extremely overpriced. You can get an excellent Kindle download
    for $2.99. -A really good paperback for about $10. So why is audiobook
    competing with hard cover? This industry is just now being introduced into
    mainstream marketing. With the cost of a listening device, it is still an
    upper-class entertainment; not affordable for the masses. I would like to see everyone earning a decent living afford this new technology. We all would benefit.

    • You spoke, Robert, and the audiobook-verse listened. Or at least Audible did. Now Amazon sells the eBook bundled and Whispersync’d with the Audible audiobook for a mere extra $1.99 or so. And you can alternate reading and listening and the technology remembers your place after each reading or listening session. Wow. It’s never been more enjoyable or inexpensive to get hooked on the audiobook experience. Cheers!

  2. thank you thank you Karen. I just communicated with one of my favorite authors today, Ashley Fontainne, about the very things you are talking about. Put it out to the universe and the universe speaks!

  3. Karen..I agree with Robert Carroll about the price–which makes the free download that much more appealing but,of course, only in return for a review. The offer by Ms.Lewis was confusing. Why would she just make the general offer without knowing who would promise a review. Confusing. I have given my e-mail address on Twitter after asking for takers..

    • As I mentioned to Robert, Jack, he spoke and the audiobook-verse listened. Or at least Audible did. Now Amazon sells the eBook bundled and Whispersync’d with the Audible audiobook for a mere extra $1.99 or so. And you can alternate reading and listening and the technology remembers your place after each reading or listening session. Wow. It’s never been more enjoyable or inexpensive to get hooked on the audiobook experience. Cheers!

  4. As a 60 year-old stage actor/writer who is transitioning into audiobook narration/production I am doing my best to conform to the new marketing strategies, however, having owned and sold two successful businesses in the past, I do not recall ever having to resort to my friends, family and business contacts in order to move product – that strategy was the awkward domain of the multi-level marketing friends everyone tried to avoid. Social media marketing is dependent on enthusiasm. Truth is I am not enthusiastic about some of the audiobooks I have produced because I didn’t choose the projects, the projects chose me. That is the domain of most actors – making the best of work that comes to you. And, traditionally – though that is changing – we do not invite friends and family unless we are thrilled with both the work and our performances – which is a rare and beautiful thing. My point is: this is art. Art and enthusiasm do not always jive. Also artistic development is a delicate process. I would like to hear about marketing strategies that honor that.

  5. Karen Commins

    Greetings, all! Thanks for your interest and good comments.

    Robert and Jack, you mentioned your concerns about the price of audiobooks, with Robert stating that audiobooks are priced similarly to hardback books. While I’m not in charge of pricing decisions, I can tell you that audiobooks are now a $1 Billion (yes, BILLION) a year business and GROWING. Obviously, millions of people are already buying them, and the demand for them is really just beginning.

    Every day, I am reading in 1 book on Kindle and listening to a different book in audio. Price is not really a deciding factor for me in choosing my books. With Audible Listener plans, audiobooks are even more affordable (and no, Audible didn’t pay me to write that!).

    If you think about it, audiobooks may not cost much more than a movie ticket and probably cost less than a ticket to a sporting event or concert. For my money, an audiobook provides hours more entertainment than a movie and is something I can enjoy again in the future.

    Robert, you also bring up a good point about a listening device. I think many people think they need a special player to hear audiobooks. That issue was solved with the proliferation of smartphones.

    Now, the millions of people who have a smartphone already have a ready-made audiobook player! Audiobooks also can be played on computers and tablets, which makes audiobooks even more primed to be mainstream entertainment.

    Sara, I like how you think! When you ask the Universe for that million dollars, please feel free to drop my name in the request, too. 🙂 Hopefully, you’ll find some more workable marketing ideas in part 2 next week.

    Jack, I apologize if my graphic was confusing. I took that graphic from a Facebook group where narrators offer codes to reviewers. The info about that group, as well as other places to distribute codes, is included in part 2 next week.

    While on this subject of exchanging codes for reviews, I usually offer the code to interested parties with no strings attached. I’m happy if they want to write a review but even happier to reward people who have helped me or connect with potential fans.

    Again, thanks for the thought-provoking comments, and check the blog next week for part 2!

    Cordially,
    Karen Commins

    • Karen, you missed my part about the masses.- Not just those under thirty
      that are “in the know” about iPhones and iPads.Also new cars have plugins
      for all sorts of devices. But that is only in the last few years. There are
      more than 100 million people over 30 years old in America. The audiobook
      revolution must include everyone. That is why price and simplicity is
      important.

      • I’m sorry, but a revolution of any kind does not have to include “everyone”… only the willing. You can now buy Audible audiobooks bundled together with the companion eBook for a very affordable price, like $1.99. Simplicity is already there, not just for those with smart phones, Kindle Fires and iPads… but for anyone who owns at least a computer with a set of speakers that’s not still a dinosaur dial-up connection. And you don’t have to be under 30 to understand how they works.. although if one doesn’t, there is always a helpful friend or even Google to help one try something new in the technology world. My dad was motivated to hear my new audiobook but didn’t know how any of it worked. I helped him navigate, of course, and now he can browse and download audiobooks to his hearts content. And it’s never been more affordable. So enough excuses! Lol, unless one just doesn’t WANT to try audiobooks, and then fine, that’s excuse enough. Cheers!

  6. Karen Commins

    Greetings, Carmen! Thanks for the very interesting question.

    I saw a blurb on Facebook recently that said Melville only sold 3000 copies of Moby Dick during his lifetime. I immediately wondered how much he had promoted himself and his work and whether more consistent and varied promotion would have yielded him more sales.

    Did he hold back on promotion because he wasn’t proud of his work? While performance art, like writing, is an evolutionary process, it helps to accept the fact that you’re doing the best you know how to do at that particular moment. If you wait until you think everything is perfect before marketing yourself and your work, it will never happen.

    Self-development expert Wayne Dyer says, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” These thoughts may help you change your view of marketing so that it becomes a more pleasurable activity:

    — Some of your friends and family may be living vicariously through you. We have a really cool job!
    — Social media sites are inherently opt-in marketing. People WANT to hear from you and choose to receive your updates.

    If you aren’t enthusiastic about a particular book because you didn’t choose it, remember the work chose you for some reason. Each book leaves some part of itself with us. Perhaps you learned something about yourself or the world while doing the book. If you like to write, you could:

    — write blog articles discussing your process and what you learned.
    — comment in forum discussions, which allows people to get to know you and your work in a different way.

    Part 2 of the article includes some tactics to market your performances. Here are 3 bonus ideas to consider in the meantime:

    — Create videos of you in the booth as you record a book.
    — Do live readings, perhaps at the library.
    — Record public domain pieces of your choosing and contribute them to Xe Sands’ Going Public project (http://goingpublicproject.wordpress.com).

    *** One sure way to accomplish your dreams is to help other people accomplish theirs. You often can be of service to someone else, and self-promotion is a natural and happy side effect. ***

    For instance, narrator and audio publisher Jonah Cummings did something quite unique last year at his county libraries. To promote June is Audiobook Month, he set up a table 1 day each week at 4 of his county library branches. He spent 2 hours at each location talking to patrons about audiobooks and encouraging them to check out an audiobook from the library.

    His table had a banner for his publishing company We Produce Audiobooks (http://weproduceaudiobooks.com). Everyone he talked with knew who he was and what he did, and even passersby could see the signage and make the mental connection. People may not have been able to check out his books from the library, but I’m sure some of them later checked out Jonah on Audible!

    Narrator Darla Ann Middlebrook volunteers to read books at nursing homes. Obviously, she is not doing it with the thought of marketing herself or a specific book. She brings joy to the residents and strengthens her performance skills with every visit.

    What you put out in the world comes back to you. Through these visits, Darla is captivating an audience with her voice and storytelling ability. I’m sure the universe will respond by enlarging her captivated audience for her audiobooks.

    I hope these thoughts are helpful to you and others with similar concerns. Look for more ideas in part 2 on Tuesday!

    Cordially,
    Karen Commins

  7. Pingback: Guest Post: Karen Commins on Marketing Audiobooks – Part Two | Audiobook Creation Exchange Blog (ACX)

  8. Good tips for promoting your audiobook. Completely agree that shouting about how great your product is will get you no where. Social media is a listening platform first and a selling platform second.

    There are tons of creative ways you can market your business through social media though.

    One idea perhaps would be to come up with a mini game where you would post clues relevant to the topic of your book to your audience where people who guess the clues correctly can win a discount token.

    This would work particularly well in the build up to the launch of an audiobook.

    I wrote a post recently on setting up a social media strategy that might be of interest.

    Take a look!

    http://www.pxl8create.com/blog/blogpost?post=the-social-media-strategy-for-winners:-setting-up-your-campaign

  9. Reblogged this on Library of Erana and commented:
    Hopefully my audio book will be done in a couple of weeks. Here’s a good post about marketing them.

  10. Reblogged this on stories from STORYTELLER and commented:
    An outstanding and refreshing look at creatively putting your best foot forward to market your audiobooks! Thank you, Karen Commins for this fantastic info!

  11. Karen Commins

    Greetings, all! I really appreciate the continued interest in and kind comments about these articles!

    @Alex — Thanks for the additional ideas about using social media and the link to a very in-depth article about creating a social media campaign. I offer some
    specific social media sites and tactics related to audiobooks in part 2 of this series.

    @Eranamage, @Kelly and @Bruce — Thanks so much for sharing this article with the readers of your blogs. If you missed it, you’ll find more ideas in part 2 linked above.

    Best wishes to your continued success!

    Cordially,
    Karen Commins

  12. Karen Commins

    Oops! I misspelled Kelley’s name above! It should be KELLEY. Hopefully, the blog editor will kindly correct it and then delete this post! 🙂

  13. Could you please let me know your comments on my audiobook “The Depths Of Poetry. “

    • Karen Commins

      Greetings, Janet! Good reviews of our audiobooks are necessary in order to gain visibility and more sales.

      I am a narrator, not a reviewer. I suggest you look at my Twitter list of reviewers and bloggers, determine those people who review poetry, and submit your review request according to their policies.

      https://mobile.twitter.com/KarenCommins/lists/audiobook-blogs-reviews

      I hope this info helps. Best wishes for your success!

      Cordially,
      Karen Commins

  14. Pingback: How to Act Like an Audiobook Narrator | Audiobook Creation Exchange Blog (ACX)

  15. Pingback: Karen Commins’s Audiobook Marketing Cheat Sheet - site37.webdnx.net

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