Category Archives: Marketing Advice

Celebrating 10 Years of Storytellers: Narrator Karen Commins

We’re celebrating the 10th anniversary of ACX this spring by sharing career journeys from some of the amazing indie creators who have used ACX to share their stories with the world over the last decade. Read this blog series from the beginning, or read on to hear from our next celebrated storyteller—narrator, producer, and expert audiobook educator Karen Commins.

When did you know this was what you wanted to do?

Beginning in fifth grade, I knew I wanted to do voiceover work. I started listening to audiobooks in the 90s when I was already volunteering as a reader for the Georgia Radio Reading Service, and decided to become a narrator. In 1996, I wrote to Frank Muller, who was one of the industry’s titans. I found his contact info and sent him an email with just a few questions, like how he got his work and whether he worked at home or in a commercial studio. He very kindly replied with enough info and encouragement that I knew I could do it.

Fast forward to 2013—after working consistently through ACX for a couple of years, I made what some would call a radical career decision. I wrote to my 3 commercial agents asking them to remove me from their rosters, explaining that I wanted to devote all of my attention to audiobooks. I left online groups that discuss any voiceover topics that weren’t specifically about audiobooks and I changed my website to remove demos for and testimonials from corporate clients.

This eliminated the distractions of commercial auditions, developing marketing campaigns for corporate clients, updating 2 versions of my website, and wasting energy comparing myself to other voice talent and pressuring myself to make my career look like theirs. My life revolves around audio books, and I couldn’t be happier!

Karen’s journal entry celebrating her first ACX contract in 2011

How has ACX affected your journey, and what would you recommend to first-time narrators as far as learning about their craft and the industry?

Although I had narrated a few audiobooks, taken a workshop with Pat Fraley, and attended APAC and two APA job markets, I couldn’t get traction with publishers. Most recorded in LA or NY, cast local talent, and didn’t hire narrators with home studios. I will always remember the excitement I felt in January 2011 when Audible invited me to be one of the beta testers for its new site, acx.com—the fact that I had a home studio was a key reason they chose me. The audiobook world opened up for me that day!

I devoured everything on the site. I didn’t —and still don’t—audition for every title. Instead, I carefully choose the titles for audition to suit my voice, style, and interests. I recommend that newcomers do the same to build a portfolio they’d be proud of. I continue to watch ACX University videos and read all of the help articles to maintain an expertise about the site and narration resources.

I advise newcomers to listen to good audiobooks every single day. Read AudioFile Magazine and choose award-winning audiobooks in genres you like and want to perform in. I’m not just listening for the story or entertainment, I’m critically listening to hear:

  • How is the narrator phrasing the words?
  • Do the character voices sound like believable people or cartoonish caricatures?
  • How did the narrator interpret the book differently that I might have done?
  • Are any words mispronounced?
  • Can I discern where a correction was inserted?

Continuing coaching in audiobook performance is essential regardless of your background. Audiobook narration is an intimate medium with acting requirements that are unlike any other role. A list of vetted coaches is available on NarratorsRoadmap.com.

You can learn so much from being active in the narrator community. I joined the Facebook group Indie (ACX and Others) Audiobook Narrators and Producers and started answering questions about ACX from other narrators. After a while, I created this FAQ for the group. You do need to be wary about the online advice you accept. I’ve seen other Facebook groups and some on Reddit where veteran narrators participate, as well as many more that don’t include any experienced voices in the membership. You need to observe the group interactions to discern the professionals who consistently dispense advice that you can trust.

Road to Tara: The Life of Margaret Mitchell was a Voice Arts Awards finalist

What’s your favorite thing about being an independent producer?

During my previous 30+-year career as an IT specialist at everyone’s favorite government agency, I arose before dawn and drove to an office 30 miles away in Atlanta rush-hour traffic in all kinds of weather. Once there, I worked diligently on management’s priorities and solved problems with users’ hardware, software, and data.

Now, I’m grateful every day to enjoy such tremendous freedom! I only do work that is meaningful to me. I plan my work around my life rather than planning my life around my work, and I don’t need anyone’s permission to submit audiobooks I’ve published for review and award consideration. AudioFile has reviewed my work three times, my audiobook Road To Tara: The Life of Margaret Mitchell by Anne Edwards was a finalist for the Voice Arts Awards, and my audiobook So Big by Edna Ferber was a finalist for the Independent Audiobook Awards.

So Big was a finalist for the Independent Audidbook Awards

Who was most instrumental in getting your career going (besides you)?

I am beyond blessed and exceedingly grateful that my husband Drew, who is the hero of my life story, has been a full partner in my career since day one. He’s helped me in big ways, like agreeing we should get a home equity loan and construct an addition onto our previous house for my recording studio. He’s helped me in small ways, like listening to scenes and helping me select one to perform during classes. He directs all of my recording sessions, he maintains my websites, updates my mailing lists, and most recently, he disassembled my WhisperRoom booth and assembled my new Studiobricks booth!

How has your career grown since first coming to ACX?

Being an audiobook narrator fulfilled a life’s dream, but I’ve learned that it too narrowly defines me and what I’m capable of and interested in doing. In the last 10 years, I’ve become a leading expert on audiobook production, especially when using ACX.

I’ve written articles for the ACX blog about marketing (here and here) and performing audiobooks. I’ve also written my own blog, contributed to other sites, been a featured guest speaker on an APA webcast along with numerous videos and podcasts, and I’ve presented sessions at Johnny Heller’s Splendiferous Workshop and APAC. In 2018, I participated on ACX’s panel for VO Atlanta, where we discussed “Creating Your Audiobook Career,” and later that year, I was a guest on ACX University where I talked about “Acting With Intention.”

In 2019, I launched my own site, NarratorsRoadmap.com, which is the destination for narrators of all levels! It contains original content, a curated list of links to an incredible array of resources, color-coded calendars for eight types of worldwide events, a reviewers directory searchable by genre, and several exclusive video courses.

To celebrate my 10 year ACX-iversary, I developed and taught a three-hour webinar for VoiceOverXtra a few months ago titled “Put Yourself in the ACX Drivers’ Seat.” It includes 90+ slides and an extensive list of resource links to help narrators make an appealing profile, search for and vet titles and Rights Holders in the system, communicate effectively, and establish effective work flows. The recording and materials are available on my Shop page.

Another journal entry depicting Karen’s dashboard when it reached 10,000 units sold in 2014

What important connections have you made on ACX?

The entire ACX staff has been unfailingly kind and helpful to me in all our interactions, and Debra in Support deserves special mention. I’ve met so many publishers and authors through my auditions and narrations on the site that I can’t possibly list them all!

I joined the Facebook group I referenced shortly after it began in 2013. Originally, it was a group devoted to narrators on ACX, and it has grown to over 8000 members. I can’t say I’ve met all 8000+ people, but the number of narrators I know through that group is staggering. A few of those folks are now among my most cherished friends!

How do you define success in your career?

I’m doing creative work that matters to me and helps other people. I would say I’m wildly successful!

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about the industry since getting started?

The audiobook industry and my previous IT career in the federal government share many aspects—you’re expected to conduct yourself in a professional manner, which includes showing respect to other people, keeping the team informed about the status of your projects, undertaking training on an ongoing basis to maintain and improve your skills, and meeting or beating your deadlines.

A major difference for me has been learning to stop comparing myself to other narrators. I admit that I still sometimes struggle with this issue! We may all be headed in the same general direction, but we have different missions and are on completely different paths to get there. I love this quote from Ernest Holmes: “We should never watch to see what another is doing or how he is doing it, for when we do this, we are limiting our own possibilities to the range of another’s vision.”

What do you aspire to next?

I always have short, medium, and long-term goals. As a narrator/producer/publisher, I’ll soon start recording a wonderful autobiography that I excavated from the public domain. Later on, I’m planning to license the audio rights to some more titles that I want to narrate, produce, and publish. I’m also eyeing two books with the hope of producing full-cast audiobooks from them.

NarratorsRoadmap.com is fast becoming my life’s work! Drew and I are constantly updating the site. I’m planning some more articles and video courses, and we’re currently building a mammoth casting directory. Stay tuned!

You can find Karen Commins on her website, or access her wealth of educational resources for all narrators at NarratorsRoadmap.com.

Keep an eye on the ACX blog for more career retrospectives from ACX’s finest!

Celebrating 10 Years of Storytellers: Author Aleron Kong

It’s ACX’s 10th anniversary this spring, and we’re marking the occasion by sharing the stories of amazing independent creators that make this a milestone worth celebrating. Start reading this series from the beginning, or read on to hear from our next celebrated storyteller, author Aleron Kong.

How did you become an author?

I started writing for me. I never thought it would go anywhere. It was more of a psychological exercise than anything else. But I had found LitRPG, which is my genre—literature role playing games. It’s only been around in the States for about four years, and I found it around three and a half years ago. And when I found it, it was like, “Where have you been my entire life? Like video games and sci-fi fantasy??” At the time, there were only like four books available in English because it started either in Russia or Korea, so I was bemoaning the fact that there was nothing more to read one day and I was like, “Well, why don’t I just give this a shot?” I wrote six books in 14 months, and then the seventh one – I wrote that a year later and it weighs five pounds. 

You went from being an audiobook skeptic to being a champion for the audio format, with audiobooks outselling print books! What role did ACX play in helping you to make that leap?

I knew nothing about audiobooks before I became an author. I had only listened to one—Lord of the Rings—in my life, and honestly, while it was nice hearing the story, it felt a bit dry. And at the time, that felt right because that was just the accepted “right way” to create an audiobook. The more British the better. Because of that, I thought audiobooks were just a different way to read a book. I didn’t understand yet that audiobooks could be an artform in and of themselves, the same way music videos in the 70s and 80s could transcend the song. Nick [Podehl – narrator of The Land series] was able to elevate my words and worlds in a way I could not do alone. That is the blessing and wonder of working with another talented artist who is willing to share their gift.

I didn’t have a master plan when I started, but the worlds I create are as precious to me as a family member. One you actually like. It was only because of my partnership with Nick Podehl and ACX that I was able to push boundaries and make something incredible. Even including sound effects, something that has become the standard for my genre of LitRPG, was considered a big risk several years ago. It had been done before, but I was told I might alienate half of my listeners, as it wasn’t something they would be used to.

Book one of Aleron’s popular series The Land, narrated by Nick Podehl

The people at ACX have created a model that provides the opportunity and support a motivated person requires to reach great heights.  Rather than try to convince me of the “right way” to do things, the feedback I got was that if I wanted to take a chance, ACX would help as much as they could. The connections I’ve made with ACX have played a huge role in my success. Whether it be advice, internal support, marketing, or hard work, it has been a joy to have a partner in connecting with my fans.

What was your big “I made it” moment?

It’s an interesting question. I have hit several big milestones because of my awesome fans—The Land saga is a WSJ bestseller, has sold over a million copies, has more than 100,000 five-star reviews, and became Audible’s Customer Favorite of the year, reaching the Top 5 on both Audible and Amazon.

But with all of that, I remember sitting on a panel with Jim Butcher—I introduced myself, sharing all of those facts, and the fact that I was a physician, and I got applause from the crowd. Then I handed the microphone to Jim. He said, “I’m Jim Butcher,” dropped the mic, and the crowd went wild like Aerosmith just rocked the Garden, lol.

So basically, I feel very happy with what I’ve achieved, but I know I still have miles to go before I sleep.

What important connections have you made on ACX?

I have met many amazing people, and Debra in the ACX call center would be towards the top of the list. Not only is she amazingly helpful, I always end our calls with a smile on my face. It’s nice to have our interactions be friendly as well as professional.

What’s your most essential piece of writing “gear?” What do you have to have around when you’re writing?

From what I hear, I’m very different than most authors. I write anywhere, at anytime, and have no issues devoting three days to perfecting a cookie recipe or hiking instead. My fans do not generally like that I have an active life outside of the books (lol), but the energy I can bring to the page is fueled by the moments of my life that I’m not typing.

Aleron’s latest audio release, God’s Eye, narrated by Luke Daniels

Any particular or weird habits you have while you’re writing?

Too many cookies. Cookies feel like love. Cookies are evil… and I love them.

What’s your favorite thing about being an independent author?

Freedom!

What does being an independent allow you to do that you couldn’t otherwise?

There is no oversight on your words, and you don’t have to delay a launch by 1-2 years like many traditionally published authors.

If you could have anyone in the world narrate a book of yours, who would it be?

Ricky Gervais.

What’s your dog’s name?

Chewbacca.

What do you aspire to do next?

I would love to make the leap to the screen—either big or small, live action or anime. I feel that my story would translate well to nearly any medium.

How do you define success in your career?

I have two definitions: 1) Am I making enough money to live the life that I want to live? 2) Am I making a difference in the world in a way that I am proud of? And the answer to both questions for me is yes.

You can find Aleron on his website, and check out this panel he did for VO Atlanta with narrator Nick Podehl on successful collaboration between authors and narrators. Keep an eye on the blog for the next ACX creator to get the storyteller spotlight!

Celebrating 10 Years of Storytellers: Author Amy Daws

This spring, we’re saying cheers to 10 years of ACX by shining a spotlight on the amazing creators that make this a milestone worth celebrating. Check out the first post in the series if you missed it, or read on to hear from our next celebrated storyteller, author Amy Daws.

How did you become an author?

My first book was a memoir about my struggles through recurrent pregnancy loss. After that, I got the writing itch and took a turn into the world of romance novels.

Are you a full-time author? 

Yes, I have been for nearly four years now.

How did you find/come to ACX? 

I’d heard through various author channels that ACX had a royalty share option for authors and narrators to collaborate, so I didn’t have to invest money in a narrator up front for a format I was unsure I’d be successful in. Splitting the earnings with a narrator felt like a win-win situation!  

Has your career grown since then? 

One hundred percent. I used to only be able to afford narrators willing to do Royalty Share and now I am happy and willing to pay the full per finished hour rate for my narrators of choice. It took some time, but my audio earnings have continued to double every year for the past three years.

What was your big “I made it” moment? 

When I had a book make more in one month than I did for an entire year at my day job, I knew things had changed for me.

Amy’s latest sports romance, Replay, was released in audio earlier this month.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about the industry since getting started? 

Growth takes time. Both in the e-books/paperback publishing sector and in audio. You have to build that audience. Make connections. Write a memorable story and hopefully they’ll keep coming back for more.

Why are you so passionate about advocating for audiobook production?

First of all, writing a book is a lot of work. But once you’ve polished your story and made it shine, why wouldn’t you want to milk it for all it’s worth? That’s why audio is so important to me. I’ve already done the hard part—I’ve written the book. Now I need to get it out to all the major channels so readers and listeners can consume it in their preferred medium.

Not producing an audiobook is like taking a four-course dinner you worked on for hours and deciding not to serve all four courses to your guests. Someone is certainly going to leave hungry and good food will go to waste. 

The fact that there’s a service like ACX that’s user-friendly enough for someone with no experience in audio production to publish their own audiobook is all the help I need to serve all four courses to my guests!

What important connections have you made on ACX? 

My relationships with my narrators are very special. I’ve been able to meet nearly all of them in person and now we’ve worked together on so many books, it feels like they wrote the story with me. And sweet, kind Debra in ACX customer service has a special place in my heart!

What’s your favorite thing about being an independent author? 

The flexibility of my job is wonderful. I work from home, which I very quickly realized was extremely valuable during a pandemic situation. I love that I get to make my own covers and choose my own release dates. I’m not just an author, I’m an entrepreneur and I can take my career in a variety of directions.

What do you aspire to do next? 

Amy’s bestselling novel Wait With Me has been optioned for film by Passionflix.

The movie/television industry is always a big dream of mine. And with one of my books (Wait With Me) optioned for film by Passionflix, I’m super excited to see what comes of that. I have also been trying to manifest my Harris Brothers series into a TV show. I’ve been telling people that I want it to be picked up by Netflix, HBO, or Showtime and I want it to be like Ted Lasso meets Grey’s Anatomy but with more HEAT! HAHA. It’s good to have dreams!

You can find Amy & all her audiobooks on her website, check out her ACX University episode here, follow @amydawsauthor on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok to join her in the fun. Tune in again next week when the ACX anniversary spotlight shines on another celebrated creator!

ACX Alumni at The Audies

There’s no set formula for finding success as an indie creator, but sometimes to see ahead towards where you’re going, it helps to take a look at those who have been where you are now. This year’s Audies saw wins from more than a few friends of ACX – authors and narrators who got their start on the platform or pros who have been featured in ACX educational programs throughout the years – and to inspire your journey forward as an independent creator, we’re looking to a few of our old friends to ask about their recent Audie wins. First up, authors Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward, and their narrator Andi Arndt for Best Romance Audiobook, Dirty Letters.

What do you think you did that contributed the most to your win this year?

Vi Keeland & Penelope Ward: Two things make an audiobook stand out: exceptional narration and a unique story that allows the cast to shine in their performances. For Dirty Letters, we believe the heartfelt correspondence between our two characters at the beginning of the book allowed listeners to immediately connect with the unique personalities of the hero and heroine. Jacob Morgan’s portrayal of the charismatic British rock star, Griffin, and Andi Arndt’s portrayal of the quirky and awkward agoraphobic Luca were the perfect complement to each other. Not to mention, their amazing work voicing all of the different side characters truly gave the impression there was an ensemble cast rather than only two narrators doing all the work. 

Authors Vi Keeland & Penelope Ward

Andi Arndt: Oh my goodness, I have no idea! I’ve been lucky to enjoy a long and fruitful relationship with everyone involved in the project, from Brilliance Publishing, to authors Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward, to co-narrator Jacob Morgan. Vi and Penelope had a very strong positive reaction to the way this particular book and audiobook turned out, and asked that it be put forward for consideration. But I prepped and recorded it the same way I approach all of my projects. Learn more about Andi’s production process here.

How can winning an Audie be used to help further your career?

Vi & Penelope: We feel like the benefits of wining an Audie are akin to other titles of distinction such as hitting a bestseller list.  These prestigious accolades tell a prospective purchaser that a book has been vetted. The Audie win provides a sort of validation that may encourage buyers to take a chance on a new-to-them author. In turn, if those buyers enjoy the work, they may also go on and buy backlist titles and become loyal readers of future books.  We’ve already experienced Dirty Letters climbing back up the charts the day after the Audie winners were announced! 

Narrator Andi Arndt

Andi: Beyond the marketing aspect of it, I take it as a challenge to renew my commitment to this work, to deepening my technique, stretching my abilities, and also giving myself permission to rest and refresh. With summer not far off, I’m thinking about things I want to do that are not work, to enjoy the life that audiobook narration has made possible. 

What advice would you give a new creator who wants to see their name among the finalists someday?

Vi & Penelope: This may sound obvious, but hire the right narrators for the right roles. Our hero is British, so we knew early on that we wanted Jacob Morgan who does a fabulous accent. Listen to multiple stories by each narrator to learn how versatile they are. Not every narrator with a beautiful voice and popularity is right for every role. 

Also, and this may be tough for creators who are just starting out and anxious to get their stories published, but make sure the audiobook is published simultaneously with eBooks and print. When you maximize your promotional efforts and treat audio as important as the other formats, audio will eventually become more important to your finances.

Andi: You never know which book is going to be the book. Details matter, so attend to them. 

Are you working on any upcoming projects that you’re excited about?

Vi & Penelope: We’re always working on multiple projects at once!  Next up, we have Not Pretending Anymore, voiced by Erin Mallon and Sebastian York. Erin is perfect for the project because she voices a young, conflicted heroine like no other. And Sebastian nails the sarcasm and wit of our hero. Not Pretending Anymore will release simultaneously with print and eBooks on April 12th.

Andi: Always! This week I’m working on the first book in Stella Gray’s new Charade series and Louise Bay’s new romance, a co-narration with Shane East. Both of these authors I either work with or connected with through ACX.

Congratulations to all this year’s fabulous Audies winners and nominees, and a big thanks to Vi, Penelope, and Andi for sharing a few words of wisdom about their wins. Stay tuned for more award-winning advice from industry pros and keep your eyes on the prize! We can’t wait to see more indie wins in the future.

Best of the Blog: 2020 Edition

With the help of some super-talented ACX creators, we’ve shared some great audiobook production, publishing, and marketing advice in 2020. Today, we’re closing out the year with a look at some of our favorite posts and videos.

Award-Worthy Advice from Indie Voices These rockstar indie creators represented the ACX community at the Audio Publisher Association’s Audie Awards this year. Get to know them and go behind the scenes of their award-winning work—then get inspired to create your own award-winning production in 2021.

Performance Masterclass ft. Khristine Hvam & Ryan Bess Winnick [VIDEO] There’s a lot to learn when it comes to audiobook performance, and the best actors never stop improving their craft. Here’s your chance to be a fly on the wall during a coaching session that covers pacing your performance, setting the scene, and understanding how physicality and preparation can enhance your narration.

Raise Your Voice: Narrator Erin Mallon Takes on Authorship Ever wondered what it’s like to be a Renaissance woman in publishing? Look no further than this Q&A with multi-hyphenate Erin Mallon, an actor-turned-narrator-turned-writer whose genre-bending work takes audio storytelling to the next level (think: meta comedic audio play).

Time Well Spent 2020 brought new challenges in time management and working from home. While it’s too early to know what 2021 will bring, we’re confident that entrepreneur Sarina Bowen’s tips on setting goals, developing good habits, and being consistent and will set you up for success.

Expanding Your Range: The Making of an Audiobook Musical [VIDEO] Now’s the perfect time to resolve to break new ground with your audiobook productions in 2021. Get inspired to try something new by learning how the cast of an audiobook musical put it all together, from the initial idea to the final edit.

Hannibal Hills: Lessons from the First Three Years Part I and Part II It’s never too late to launch your career in audiobook production. Take it from Audible Approved Producer Hannibal Hills, who went from self-starter to self-mastery in 3 years. In this article, he shares practical advice for sharpening your skills, building your brand, and telling the stories that are true to you.    

Love Is in the Airwaves Here’s to gal-mances everywhere! Follow along as New York Times best-selling romance authors Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward gush about each other’s audiobooks and share their process for casting and communicating with narrators, especially for dual narration and duet narration projects.


We can’t wait to see where your audiobook career will take you in 2021.    

Raise Your Voice: Narrator Erin Mallon Takes on Authorship

The driven artists in the indie publishing community are used to wearing multiple hats. Then there are the independent artists that are pushing the boundaries of their chosen profession to expand even further, following their creative spark to craft projects that expand their careers and enliven the audio storytelling genre.

Erin Mallon is one such artist – you might recognize this prolific narrator from her work with Lauren Blakely, Amy Daws, or Julia Kent, her recently-released audio play, These Walls Can Talk, or her first foray into novel-writing, Flirtasaurus, on Audible. Erin Mallon joined us recently to talk about her ever-expanding career journey.

Erin, you’re known for your work as a narrator of romantic comedies, but we heard you have two exciting new projects to add to your resume – a play and a novel, both written by you! Can you tell us a little about both of these? 

Sure! The first project is These Walls Can Talk, a six-character comedic audio play about intimacy and communication in marriage. And get this – the play is set in… the romance audiobook industry! I will tell you, it was a very “meta” experience. The next project is my romantic comedy novel which released on July 15th called Flirtasaurus. It follows Calliope, a young, determined paleontologist and her budding relationship with Ralph, the sexy astronomer who works in the planetarium at the Philadelphia natural history museum where she is interning. Absurd, dino-driven humor abounds!

Have you always been a writer or was it something you got a feel for as a narrator?

I have been writing for the theater for about ten years now – I actually wrote my first play and narrated my first audiobook the very same year! So I’ve been working both careers simultaneously all this time. Flirtasaurus is my first foray into writing a novel though. It’s been a wild ride taking what I’ve learned from creating my own comedic plays and narrating other authors’ great romantic comedies, then sort of bringing it all together in writing my own book.   

Has your work as a narrator influenced/informed your writing?

It has to, right? I started out performing on stage, so once I started writing plays I think I’ve always come to it from an actor’s perspective. When I’m on a roll, it feels a lot like playing all of the characters on the page. It’s always been really important to me that the actors who work on my plays feel energized and motivated by the story, the characters, the words, the comedy – so that every night they can’t wait to get in front of an audience and let that energy and excitement bounce.

Also, I’ve narrated almost 500 books at this point, and I’d say about 75% of those have been in the romance genre. It’s been such an inspiration over the years seeing and experiencing how awesome authors put their work out into the world and pondering how I might adapt my theatrical style and put my own voice out there in novel form.   

You chose to record These Walls Can Talk as an audio play – was that your plan from the beginning?

No, it actually wasn’t initially intended as an audio play! I wrote These Walls Can Talk back in February through a project I co-produce in NYC called The Brooklyn Generator – an “engine” for creating plays in under 30 days. I always intended it to be performed live onstage (and I hope it still will be), but we had only one public reading in midtown before Covid hit and shut our theaters down. In an effort to bring some laughs to people in quarantine at home, I teamed up with some of my romance narrator friends to do a zoom reading of the play and streamed it on Aural Fixation, an amazing Facebook group for lovers of romance audio. The reaction from the audience was really encouraging and folks kept asking when they would be getting the Audible version, so we made it happen!

Let’s turn to Flirtasaurus, your first novel. Was it daunting to start such a large new project like that? How did you know you could do it?

I think I was pretty much equal parts confident and doubtful when I started this process. After writing so many plays, I knew I could tell a story and I felt that I was strong with dialogue – after all, that’s what plays are – but I had some doubts about how to weave a story over the course of six to eight hours (plays usually clock in around two hours or less). Whenever I felt stuck or insecure though, I returned to my processes as a playwright and that always got me back on track. Slowly but surely, I found my natural style of storytelling in this new-to-me format. I think it’s always a bit daunting when you’re standing at the beginning of a creative project, full of ideas but staring a whole bunch of blank pages. That feeling keeps many of us from even starting, because we think we’re supposed to know what to do at every moment. I don’t think that’s how creativity works, though. You just have to show up every day and play. If you can make a commitment to doing that, word by word, page by page, the story starts to take over and tell you what needs to happen, instead of the other way around.

You chose to narrate the audiobook yourself. Why did you go that way instead of hiring a narrator, and how was it reading your own words?

When I started writing plays, I thought I would be writing roles specifically for myself, but that actually never happened. With this though, I felt like I wrote it so naturally in my own voice that I knew I wanted to give it a shot! Plus, my five-year-old son has made me a bit of an amateur dino-expert, so I knew I could get all the crazy dinosaur name pronunciations right without any additional research.

It was actually an incredibly helpful exercise in catching all those pesky final edits and typos before sending the book off for printing. Narrators are great at catching those, because we can’t say it out loud if it’s not quite right on the page. I don’t know that I will always narrate my future books, but for now I’m really loving the process! 

How did you go about marketing this audiobook? Did you reach out to any of your author contacts for advice? 

I teamed up with the awesome people at Social Butterfly PR, and they’ve done a considerable amount of hand holding. I’ve also been fortunate to have worked with so many amazing indie authors, particularly in the romantic comedy genre, so I’ve had the benefit of observing how they operate for years. Wonderful writers like Lauren Blakely, Amy Daws and Julia Kent have all been really generous with tips and support as I start to make my way.

So what do you think – can we expect more novels and audio plays from you? What’s next?

Yes, absolutely! Flirtasaurus is actually Book One in my Natural History Series, which will consist of three interconnected standalones. I am writing Book Two as we speak. I’m also excited that The Net Will Appear, my two-character play between a 75-year-old man (Emmy-nominated Richard Masur) and a 9-year-old girl (Matilda Lawler from Broadway’s The Ferryman) is streaming on The Alzheimer’s Foundation’s Youtube Channel July 24th. We put together a really beautiful online production that I’m eager to share with people. Next steps for that are figuring out the best way to bring it to the audio format. And there are a lot more plays where that came from, which I’m planning to adapt and bring to earbuds far and wide.       

Are you inspired by Erin’s ambition? Have your own ideas about taking your writing or narration career to new heights? Let us know!

The Best of the Blog 2019: The Re-Gift of Knowledge

It’s been quite a year for the ACX community: ACX creators published over 30,000 audiobooks, aided by the launch of some exciting tools and features, like Royalty Share Plus and Enhanced Promo Codes. Thank you for continuing to elevate the field of independent publishing through your hard work and innovation. In this giving season, we’ve decided to honor the tradition of re-gifting by wrapping up a few of our favorite blog resources from 2019 and presenting them to you to help support your continued excellence. Enjoy… or re-joy!

Now Hear This: Promoting with SoundCloud: Audio samples are your best friend when it comes to marketing your audiobook—they’re a great way to grab a listener’s attention and leave them eager to purchase the audiobook. Check out this article for great ideas on leveraging this free audio platform to put those samples everywhere your audience is, so they’ll be sure to give them a listen.

Bonus: Want more content on low and no-cost social media promotion for your audiobooks? Check out this episode from ACX University.


Amy Daws on Her Authentic Social Media Self: Authenticity is the key to a devoted community of fans, and nobody knows that better than this author and social media maven who uses her own genuine energy, fun content, and regular engagement to keep her fans’ attention between new releases. Learn from her social media strategies and fan the flames in your own fan base.

Bonus: Want to hear more on engaging with your fans? This is the ACX University episode for you.


Lighting the Way: An Author’s Journey into Narration If you’re an indie author, you’re no stranger to doing it all yourself, so chances are you’ve considered narrating your own audiobook. Well, paranormal mystery author Mary Castillo decided to do just that for her series, and you can read her full account of the production process from a writer’s perspective here.

Bonus: Interested in narrating your own book? Learn more about the art of audiobook performance here.


Production Pointers from Audible Approved Producers Whether you’re a narration newbie or a production pro, it never hurts to hear from other independent Producers on how they’re getting the job done. In this Q&A with a few of 2019’s newest Audible Approved Producers (AAPs), you can read about their favorite gear, pre-recording rituals, and at-home studio setups—you might learn a thing or two to add to your own process!

Bonus: Looking for more tips, tricks, and technical advice for audiobook production? Check out this ACX University series from our QA team.


A Portrait of the Artist How do you make a big impression and catch the attention of the authors you want to work with? It all starts with a compelling, professional, comprehensive Producer profile. In this article, we walk you through creating an ACX profile that stands out with examples from some of our favorite AAPs.

Bonus: Looking for more advice on your audiobook production career? This ACX University episode is for you.


Whether you’re new to the blog or seeing these articles for the second time, we hope it renews your drive and enthusiasm for creating great audiobooks, and gives you some good ideas for propelling your passion and your work forward into a successful new year. Feel free to re-gift these to the indie author or producer on your list!

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.

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.

Amy daws insta

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.

Head Back to School with Fresh Marketing Ideas

As summer comes to a close and temperatures cool, it’s time to hit the books­—the audiobooks! The start of a new season brings the opportunity to reset your marketing efforts, so today we’re giving a quick study on some additional ways to promote your audiobook using your new Bounty Referral links. With that, class is in session…

Lesson 1: Data is your most powerful marketing tool

Estimating, then measuring the success of your marketing efforts, is the number one guide for helping you decide what’s working and what’s not working when it comes to audiobook promotion. That’s why we enhanced your Sales Dashboard with data about the performance of your Bounty Referral links. In addition to the ability to see clicks and Bounty conversions on your dashboard, you can leverage the date range function to examine clicks, sales, and Bounty performance on a day-to-day basis. Match this data with your promotions calendar and calculate the return on investment (ROI) of your efforts, in terms of cost per click and cost per conversion. For example, if you see an increase in clicks on a day that you promoted your audiobook on your blog, consider how you can replicate that success in future posts.

Two Boys Cooperating in PlayLesson 2: Collaborate to succeed

The marketing Rule of Seven says potential customers need to “see” your message seven times before they take an action and buy your product. But you can’t just scream “Buy! Buy! Buy!” all the time without burning your fans out. Good thing your author/actor network can help you spread the word. Working with a promotion partner, consider trading Bounty Referral links and promoting your peer’s work to your fans and vice versa. Choose a fellow author or actor in your genre–or even a related genre–and form an alliance to cross promote each other’s audiobooks. Beyond Facebook and Twitter, consider hosting each other for a Blog tour or featuring each other in your respective newsletters.

Lesson 3: Paid media can be a smart investment

When you’re trying to expand your following, investing a small budget in ads on search engines or social media can be a good way to recruit new fans. When placing paid ads, you have the ability to target potential clients based on geography, interests, and past shopping habits, and when combined with your Bounty Referral link, you can recruit new audiobook fans. In addition to strategically targeting your ads to your audience, be sure to use specific, meaningful keywords in your advertisements to quickly and clearly convey the benefits of your audiobook. This tip dovetails especially well with our first lesson, as you’ll be able to tweak your audience and keywords, then refer back to your Sales Dashboard to determine which worked best.

Audio cablesLesson 4: Create a connection with your fans

These days, authentic connections are happening online with increasing frequency. This means you can get the word out about your audiobook directly to your fans using innovative livestreaming tools, such as Facebook Live and YouTube live streaming. Consider hosting a weekly discussion with your fans to answer questions, give updates, and provide exclusive content related to your (audio)books. As you set up these discussions, include your Bounty Referral link in the metadata and description, then be sure to mention it during your stream to direct users to your audiobook edition–and earn those Bounty Referral payments.

Lesson 5: Include links for your eBook readers

For authors, your front and back matter (the pages that precede and proceed your story) are a great opportunity to advertise other works. Readers who finish your eBook edition are likely to be looking for even more great work from you, and you can use your backmatter to alert them to the availability of your audiobook edition. Be sure to use your Bounty Referral links to point readers directly to your title on Audible.

MountaintopLesson 6: Combine and conquer

Think of the tips above as ongoing efforts that you can combine for maximum efficiency. For example, you can invite your promotional partner to appear on your Facebook Live stream and boost that post with a dollar amount that fits your budget. A few days later, visit your Sales Dashboard on ACX to see how that effort performed. From there, schedule another broadcast, tweaking a single aspect like hosting it at a different time or fine tuning the audience. Once you’ve completed the test, refer to your Sales Dashboard again to learn whether your tweaks moved the needle in a positive direction. Rinse and repeat until you’ve landed on a promotion that resonates with your audience.

Pencils down. We hope you’ve learned some valuable lessons on audiobook promotion. We’d also like to learn from you: How have you found success promoting your audiobooks? Tell us your favorite ideas in the comments. Now, class dismissed!