Author Archives: Emily Curran

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.

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.

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.

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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.

Amy Daws on Her Authentic Social Media Self

Amy Daws is the best-selling author of the ‘Harris Brothers’ and ‘London Lovers’ series whose engaging and authentic social media presence has earned her a devoted fan following. Join us as we find out how she uses social media to connect with fans and grow her listenership, and learn how you can make her strategies work for you.

AmyDaws bio photoQ: How would you describe your writing?

A: I would say my writing style is rom-com with heart. Every time I sit down to write a light rom-com, I get deeper than I expected and end up crying through at least one scene. So I always know that no matter what, my characters are going to have moments of pain and sadness too. My readers often say that they’re laughing one minute and crying the next. I love that feedback because it means you’re FEELING.

Q: How did you get your start as a writer?

A: I have a unique entry point into the world of writing because my first book is a memoir about my journey through recurrent pregnancy loss. It’s called Chasing Hope and honestly, it was just something I needed to write for therapeutic reasons. But I’ve been a lover of romance forever, so once I wrote Chasing Hope, I guess you could say I got the itch. I sat down and wrote my first romance novel, and almost five years later I have 13 contemporary romance books published!

Q: Tell us about your online presence.

A: I’m everywhere on social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, Book+Main. Instagram is my favorite right now. I’m a silly person by nature and I love sharing random musings in my Instagram Stories. I also have my website that I update regularly and a newsletter that I’m very consistent with.

I think I reach different readers at every spot. Some people only follow me on Instagram. Some only get my newsletters. It’s important for me not to forget any of those outlets when I have a new release.

Q: How does your personality show up in your online presence—or maybe that should be how does your online presence reflect your personality? 

A: I definitely think social media should be fun. If you get too focused on sales and promotion, you lose your authenticity with your followers. I’m an open book person by nature. My first book was a memoir, so I’m out there already. I don’t see a need to hide my child or parts of my life from social media. People love my kid, and I love to share her! In a way, my family is a part of my brand now. This isn’t an intentional choice, it’s just something that feels right for me.Amy Quote

Q: What is the strategy behind your social media approach?

A: I post somewhere every day. Not everywhere every day. And I schedule some general promo posts to keep my name out there, but for the most part, I think my social media presence is the most effective when I post something in the moment. Readers care more about a funny interaction I had while writing that day, not a generic scheduled filler post. And you’ll see the difference in that with the amount of interactions you get.

I like authenticity. I like silliness. And I like to be real. I think posting in the moment helps me feel authentic. I don’t worry about having makeup on or that my hair looks good. I just post when I have something to say, regardless of how I look. Pre-made posts and pre-written text have a tendency to dilute your genuine voice.

And you have to find what works for you. I don’t really do a lot of the fancy Instagram pictures because that’s not me. I’m more of a nostril shot, double chin photo, meme myself with something ridiculous Instagrammer. I make fun of myself a lot, which I think takes me off a pedestal and makes me more approachable. Social media is a place I come to for endorphins… something to make me smile, and that’s what I hope people get out of my presence.

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Some posts get more engagement than others. The promo posts get the least amount of engagement—if you focus too much on those, you lose that authentic voice with your followers. I keep an eye on posts that don’t get much engagement and try to think what I can do better to bring more reactions to a post next time.

Q: What is the strategy behind the way your website is organized?

A: My website is literally just a WordPress blog website that I’ve set up to look like a more traditional site. I pay $17 a year for it, and it’s simple and I can update it myself because it’s so user-friendly. My new release is always on the front page, loud and proud, and I always include a link to the audio—so I have ‘read’ and ‘listen’ on my front page. I made an ‘Audio’ tab and I break down all my audiobooks for anyone who’s looking to start listening. I have a ‘Reading Order’ tab, too, that talks about where everything fits in—I always try to update my reading order after each new release.

Q: How about your newsletter? What kind of content goes into that?

A: I do a newsletter at least once a month, sometimes two or three times—anytime I have something new going on. I use it to notify my readers of my new releases, any sales I’m doing, preorder links going live, a release date announcement, an audiobook release announcement, and a monthly free book from one of my author friends as a bonus to my subscribers and to cross promote with other authors. Readers feel like they’re getting something with every newsletter, and there’s a call to action in every one. I try to keep my voice the same as it is in social media so it feels authentic. I don’t want them to feel like they’re getting a different version of me that’s just trying to sell books.

I make a habit of sending out a rich text follow up email to anyone that didn’t open up my first email within 24 hours. With many newsletter companies, so many of our emails go to junk and the deliverability for plain text and rich text emails is better for the inbox.

Next in Line.jpgQ: How do you get your fans from social media/website/newsletter to point of purchase?

A: I just make sure that my links are easily accessible, whether it’s my homepage on my website, a link tree in my Instagram bio, or my cover photo on Facebook. I have links everywhere. And I make sure I’m linking to both e-books and audiobooks. I treat my audiobook releases just like an e-book release. All buying options need to be included.

I for sure use my bounty links for ACX, and I have absolutely seen an uptick in my bounties earned since making my bounty links available on my website and social media.

Q: What inspires you?

A: My characters are my biggest inspiration. I’m a series writer and the secondary characters in my books always end up with their own books because I care about them all like real people. I want them to have their own “happily ever after,” so I continue until I’ve got everybody happy and in love

Read part two of our interview with Amy Daws to learn how her connection with her fans helps her keep their attention between releases.

Make It Snappy: Marketing with URL Shorteners

snappy2We here at the blog spend a lot of time focusing on digital marketing, and for good reason—online self-promotion is a great way to access a large, diverse audience, and digital marketing efforts are easy to track. But let us not overlook good old-fashioned word-of-mouth for getting the word out about your audiobook. Say you’re appearing on a podcast or at an event—these are marketing opportunities, and to make the most of them, you’ll want to tell interested listeners exactly where they can go to buy your audiobook. But since you can’t hyperlink someone in a conversation (at least not yet), you’ll want to offer a snappy one-liner that’s easy to remember and visit.

So, get thee to a shortener, posthaste! URL shorteners are online services that create easy to manage URLs for you to use at all of your speaking opportunities. They can also help you develop SEO for your personal brand and provide you with tools to track your word-of-mouth marketing efforts.

We’ve gathered a few of our favorite services to share with you here. Keep in mind these are all third-party services, so their availability or features might change—after all, Google is pulling the plug on its URL shortener, goo.gl, at the end of March. Most of the services we’ve compiled offer both free and subscription plans, with varying levels of tracking for your links including geographic data, click-through rates, top referrers, and information on site visitors based on device, platform, and time, so you can track your marketing efforts and see where the traffic to your URL is coming from.

We recommend using your Bounty URLs whenever you promote your ACX audiobooks, so learn how to access yours and join us as we review the ins and outs of some popular URL shortening services.rebrandlyWhat it is: The most customizable of URL shorteners, this service allows you to use your shortened links to reinforce your brand, for example: yourname.author/audiobook

Why we like it:

  • Their free plan offers 500 branded links, five custom domain names, tracking on 5,000 clicks per month, and unlimited redirects.
  • A comprehensive site experience allows you to see exactly what you’ll get with each plan before you commit.
  • The tracking dashboard allows you to track traffic by geography, device, platform, referrer, and trends over time.

What we’d change: At $29 a month, the paid plan is more expensive than some of the other paid options we’ve listed, but the price jumps steeply between individual and team-oriented plans.

bitly

What it is: Bitly is a comprehensive, business-grade URL shortener with all the bells and whistles, including customizable, branded links and a tracking dashboard featuring extensive data on the traffic coming to your links.

Why we like it:

  • You can create custom, shortened URLs for more sophisticated branding.
  • Their free plan is sufficient for most individual and small business needs, and offers tracking on click-through rates and top referrers for 500 branded or 10,000 non-branded links.
  • Bitly offers an “Enterprise” option at customizable pricing tiers with more advanced tracking features like user experience and real-time analytics.

What we’d change: Their initial site experience can be a bit overwhelming and it can be difficult to tell what specific features will be available to you before signing up.

blink

What it is: A great URL shortener option for those interested in exploring link tracking features to see what meets their needs, but not yet ready to commit to a paid plan.

Why we like it:

  • Their 21-day free trial lets you test drive some of the more extensive features of paid tiers before committing to a plan.
  • The free tier allows you 1,000 shortened links, branded links, and tracks trending and basic stats on 1,000 clicks per link.
  • The first paid tier of service is an affordable option at $12 a month and offers additional features such as multiple users, account support, and unlimited custom domains.

What we’d change: The free plan is a little more limited in terms of analytics than some of the other free options out there.

t2m

What it is: A URL shortener with a free plan offering unlimited links, this service has the unique feature of generating a custom QR code with your shortened link.

Why we like it:

  • Their free plan offers unlimited shortened URLs, clicks to your links, and redirects, as well as click-tracking by year, month and day, country, device, browser, platform, and referrer.
  • The first-level paid tier is an affordable $10 a month and offers branded URLs and one custom domain.

What we’d change: There is a large leap in pricing and features between the first-tier ‘Standard’ plan and the next-tier ‘Enterprise’ plan (a difference of $10 and $90 a month), which offers unlimited custom domains and branded URLs.

tiny

What it is: A fast, free, anonymous URL shortener that allows you to create shortened URLs for any site instantly, without creating an account.

Why we like it:

  • Its browser plug-in allows you to create a shortened URL instantly from any page you’re on—just click the icon on your toolbar after installing, and you’ll be directed back to TinyURL’s site where a shortened URL of the page you just left will be waiting for you.

What we’d change: This service doesn’t offer any tracking or customization with its shortened links, so it’s a great ‘quick fix’ if you need a shortened URL fast, but it lacks the marketing tools we love in the other options we’ve suggested.

Now that you know a little more about your options, you can start using the URL shortener that’s right for you to create snappy, custom URLs that are easy to share in-person and on your websites, social media platforms, email newsletters, and business cards. Short URLs are a great way to enhance your Bounty URLs, and since most include additional tools to add to your marketing toolbox, they can also be a great way to test, track, and refine your marketing strategies.

Have you made URL shorteners a part of your audiobook marketing efforts?

Now Hear This: Creating a SoundCloud Link to Promote Your Audiobook

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You’re telling those tales, ACX’ers, but before yours can take up residence in someone’s soul, it has to take up residence in their ears. So how do you get your story housed in that valuable real estate? As with any real estate, the key is location, location, location—as in, don’t make your listeners go to a secondary location to hear your audio sample, bring the audio sample directly to them. And that’s where SoundCloud comes in!

SoundCloud is social audio platform that allows artists such as yourselves to connect directly with their fans—create a profile, upload audio files, and embed SoundCloud’s audio player on your website and social media platforms, or share it in your email newsletter. Uploading a sample of your audiobook to SoundCloud allows you to put that sample right in front of your fans so they can simply click and play—and while you’re at it, add your Bounty Link to your sample so listeners know just where to go hear the rest of your story!

Creating a Clip

  1. Go to SoundCloud.com and create a free account.
  2. Once you’ve created a SoundCloud account, click “Upload” in the upper right-hand corner, then select your chosen audio clip from your computer. We recommend starting with your book’s Retail Audio Sample, which you can download from your Project Dashboard on ACX.
  3. While your file uploads, click the “Choose new image” button on the left-hand side of the page. Then, click “Upload new image.” Next, find and select your cover art.
  4. In the “Title” field, enter the title of your audiobook, the author name, and narrator name.
  5. In the “Tags” field, enter any tags that you feel will best help promote your title. At minimum, you should use the following tags: Audiobooks, Audio Books, Audio, Books, [Author Name], [Narrator Name], Series Name, Genres. Be sure to enter in each tag individually.
  6. In the “Description” field, we recommend the following information:
    1. A short description of your audiobook
    2. The name of the narrator
    3. A brief “about the author” section
    4. Links to related titles or books in the series
    5. Links to your website or social media platforms
    6. Your Bounty referral links
  7. Once you’re satisfied with your entry, click the “Save” button.
  8. Once you have saved and posted your book to SoundCloud, click “Go to your track.” You can now share the URL at the top of the page on social media or on your website.
  9. Better yet, you can embed your SoundCloud link on your website by clicking the “Share” button in the center of the page.
  10. After clicking the “Share” button, you can choose to share the URL to your favorite social media platform or embed the SoundCloud player on your website. You can even select how you’d like the embedded SoundCloud link to look. Finally, copy the code and paste it to your website.

Learn how to access your Bounty Links in our Help Center.

Sharing Your Clips

Once you create your SoundCloud link, you can use it to:

  • Add audio widgets to your book descriptions on your website.
  • Create an audiobook page on your website featuring all of your audio samples.

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  • Share it on social media with Soundcloud’s handy Share button.
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  • Tag it, and share it on your newly created SoundCloud page.

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  • Embed it in your next newsletter to your fans.

Your fans are all engaging with the stories that move them in different ways—some of them are cozying up with a print copy of your book at home, some are enjoying your e-book on their travels, and some are taking in your audiobook on their morning commute—so why not meet them where they like to engage? Make sure your fans with a preference for listening know you have an audiobook option, and connect them with that listening experience directly by bringing your audio to them. Using SoundCloud to add embedded widgets and links to your marketing platforms is an elegant way to deliver a sample of your audiobook to potential listeners, and pairing your Bounty Link with the audio means just one easy click between connecting with your audio story and purchasing it!

Already using SoundCloud to promote your audiobook? Share your examples in the comments!

How to Get (and Keep!) New Audiobook Listeners

Remember that feeling you got the last time you found an amazing new author and couldn’t wait to go out and devour everything they’ve ever written? We want to help you spark that kind of excitement in your fans. How, you ask? Get out there and talk to your audience! Today, we’ve put together some tips to help you craft a targeted email and social media campaign that will keep your fans listening and help you earn Bounty payments.

Targeting and Re-Targeting

example survey

First things first—let’s find out who’s listening. Surveys can be a great tool for creating awareness for your audiobook and deciding what marketing and production decisions to make next. Set up a poll using a service like Survey Monkey or your preferred social media platform (Facebook and Twitter both offering polling) to gather data about your fans, and use this opportunity to ask your audience additional questions, such as:

  • Where and how they listen
  • Whether they prefer male or female voices
  • Who their favorite narrators are
  • What types of audiobooks they typically listen to

Follow your survey with an email or social media ad that promotes your audiobook and directs listeners to Audible with your Bounty Referral link.

From there, you can review the results of your social media ad or check with your email client to learn how you can see which recipients opened your email and followed the links. Then, use that information to launch a follow-up campaign. Try sending non-openers an email with a new subject line to grab their attention, or appeal to openers who didn’t click the links with a different incentive to listen. You can then track traffic to Audible and view resulting audiobook purchases on your Bounty Dashboard to understand which of your tactics are working best.

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Keep ‘Em Listening

Now that your fans have listened to your audiobook, what do they listen to next? Prompt them to listen to the other audiobooks in your series, another audiobook in your catalog, or even recommend a title by a peer in your genre. This keeps your fans engaged in the world of audiobooks and helps ensure they’ll stay Audible members.

Cross-Promoting

Want to reach an even wider audience? Talk with fellow ACX authors about sending an email campaign on each other’s behalf to promote your books to a new audience. Use this as an opportunity to bond with your fans over something you both care about—audiobooks! Create a “listening list” or “listening book club,” include recommendations for some of your own favorite audiobooks, or invite listeners to suggest some of their favorites. Then host a Facebook event or Instagram live video where everyone can discuss their listening experience.

Recommending new audiobooks and getting recommendations from your peers not only builds your connection and rapport with your fans, it keeps them in the habit of listening. New listeners may become Audible members, and fans who are already regular audiobook listeners are more likely to pick up your work.

Direct communication with your fans, whether it’s promoting your title or starting a discussion about what you’re listening to, can help you learn who your listeners are and grow your connection with them into a listening community that will sustain your success as an audiobook creator. Including your Bounty Link in all of your marketing efforts not only gives new listeners an easy way to access your titles, it can show you what strategies are driving traffic to your work.  Check out Marketing with the ACX-Perts for more ideas on how to get the word out about your audiobook, and keep an eye on the ACX blog for additional marketing resources to help you earn even more.

Editor’s Note: This post has been updated throughout.