Category Archives: Storytellers

The Diary of a Canadian Author: Part Five

We asked Sci-Fi Romance author Susan Hayes to keep track of her progress publishing Double Down in audio, and we’ve been sharing her journey over the past few weeks. Missed Parts One, Two, Three, or Four?

07/06/17 – Day 36: Telling My Fans About My First Audiobook… And Planning the Next One

It was less than six weeks from the date I started on this audiobook adventure until I was ready to approve the final version of Double Down. The only thing that could have made the moment more satisfying is if ACX included a brief digital set of fireworks that went off when I hit the “approve” button [We’ll take it into consideration! – Ed.].

My title passed through ACX QA within 48 hours with no problems, and then I began waiting for my title to become available for sale at Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. During the wait, I put together some promotional images, wrote marketing copy, and researched what blogs I could submit my new audio title to for reviews. I found both the Audiogals and Eargasms Audiobook Reviews receptive. I teased my readers with “coming soon” posts on social media, too. I wanted to be sure my readers were as excited as I was!

By the time I had approved Double Down, plans were already in motion to produce All In, the second book in the series, as an audiobook. I wanted to make sure that readers could continue with the series right away. There are currently four books in the Drift series, and I plan on having them all available to readers by early next year. Now that I have the fantastic Tieran Wilder and know more about how the process works, I’m eager to keep up the momentum. [All In is now available for sale as well – Ed.] From my research, I’ve learned that audiobook production is a marathon, not a sprint, though. It will likely take some time to earn back the money I’m investing, so I’m trying to temper my excitement and make sure I stay within my budget.

Looking back over the last two months, I’m amazed at how quickly everything came together. Despite having listened to a number of audiobooks, it was stunning to hear my narrator bring my characters to life. It gave me a much greater appreciation of the work that goes into every audiobook. Listening to the completed work also got me thinking about ways to deepen the characters on paper, especially the way they speak. Going forward, I know I’ll be using what I learned by including more information about the character’s verbal tics, accents, and cadence to help enrich the story.

I’m very happy that ACX finally opened its doors to Canadian authors. It’s given me an opportunity to expand my markets, reach new readers, and think about my craft in new ways. Having taken the plunge, I can say it was worth the risk to try something new.

Susan lives out on the Canadian west coast surrounded by open water, dear family, and good friends. She’s jumped out of perfectly good airplanes on purpose and accidentally swum with sharks on the Great Barrier Reef.

To contact her about her books or to arrange end of the world team-ups, you can email her at susan@susanhayes.ca or find her at susanhayes.ca. If you’d prefer to stalk her from afar, you can sign up for her newsletter http://susanhayes.ca/susans-newsletter/

The Diary of a Canadian Author: Part Four

We asked Sci-Fi Romance author Susan Hayes to keep track of her progress publishing Double Down in audio, and we’ve been sharing her journey over the past few weeks. Missed Parts One, Two, or Three?

Day 29 – 06/30/17 : My Audiobook’s Complete!

Tieran sent me the completed audiobook several days ahead of schedule, which was a lovely surprise. The entire book came in at just under six hours of finished audio, but it took me longer than that to go through it all. I needed to stay focused, but often I found myself getting caught up in the story, and I would have to go back a bit and make sure I hadn’t missed anything that needed correction.

As it turned out, there was very little that needed to be changed. Tieran’s characterizations and pronunciation were almost perfect. I had kept notes of any issues that cropped up as I reviewed everything, and once that was done, I went back and listened to sections I’d noted a second time to make sure I had the correct chapter and timestamp. Once that was done, I hit the “request changes” button and sent a handful of changes Tieran’s way

The experience of listening to my own book was an amazing one. I wrote this book over a year ago, and getting to revisit it again in a new format let me enjoy moments that I had forgotten about. My producer added her own subtle touches to my characters. She expressed the personalities I had given them with differences intonation, cadence, and speaking styles, and the result put a smile on my face from the very first scene.

Tieran’s rendition of my story enriched everything from the description of the scenes to the personality of even the smallest background character. There’s a lot of trust that goes into a collaboration like this, and I am very pleased with the way everything is coming together.

Susan can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Continue on to Part Five of Susan’s diary on Friday.

The Diary of a Canadian Author: Part Three

We asked Sci-Fi Romance author Susan Hayes to keep track of her progress publishing Double Down in audio. Join her on her journey here on the blog. Missed Part 1 or Part 2?

Day 16 – 06/17/17: My Book is Starting to Sound Great!

Before my Producer, Tieran Wilder, started working on Double Down, she and I exchanged several emails to make sure we were both on the same page. I sent her a list of the main characters, along with a few defining traits. I also gave her a pronunciation guide, which was quite necessary given my story is a science fiction romance containing alien names, planets, and other languages I had created.

My fifteen-minute checkpoint audio came in right on time. I was excited to hear what Tieran had produced, and amazed at how much depth it added to my story to have her bring the characters to life. I listened to it several times over the course of the day, and I couldn’t find a single thing I wanted to change. I approved the checkpoint audio the same day I received it.

While I was waiting for my producer to work her magic on the rest of the book, I started letting my readers know that Double Down was in production. My cover artist created a gorgeous new cover for the audiobook. I had fun sharing it with my reader group and newsletter subscribers, as well as with the rest of my social media followers. As the audiobook nears completion, I’ll ramp up the marketing by increasing mentions of the project on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, and making an announcement on my website. I will upload the retail sample to SoundCloud and post links to give my readers a taste of what’s to come. I want to be sure the word gets out to my readers and fans of the series. Some of them have been waiting for years for me to start producing audiobooks of my work.

Susan can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Read more about Susan’s audiobook journey in part four.

The Diary of a Canadian Author: Part Two

Once we opened our doors to Canadian authors and actors this June, Sci-Fi Romance author Susan Hayes posted Double Down, the first book in her series, for auditions. We asked Susan to keep track of her progress through the audiobook publishing process. Join her on her journey here on the blog. Part one is here.

Day 6 – 06/07/17 : I Found the BEST Narrator!

I was fortunate enough to have the guidance of a few authors who had already gone through the process, including Kristen Painter, Zoe York, and Jill James. I bounced ideas off them all morning, especially when it came to picking an audition script. They reminded me that I would want to hear the narrator read for all of the main characters. Since I write ménage romance, there are three main characters: two heroes and a heroine. They also had a few tips about how to make the book appealing to potential narrators. I made sure to mention it was part of an ongoing series, that it was well reviewed, and I laid out what kind of social media reach I had in place for promotion. It seemed to work, because Double Down attracted more than thirty-five auditions in the first three days it was posted, which was equal parts exciting and terrifying.

Listening to the narrators reading the script for my book was an unforgettable experience. They brought my story to life and made my characters far more real than I expected. I got to experience my book in an entirely new way. I was out of the country at a book signing when the auditions started coming in, so my assistant and I wound up listening to various narrators in our hotel room every night. Between us, we whittled down the choice to a handful, and finally to one, Tieran Wilder. She made me laugh at all the right moments, and she captured the essence of the story and the characters.

Listen to Tieran Wilder’s winning audition for Double Down:

I’m learning as I go, but my narrator has been a wonderful resource for information, as have my friends and fellow authors.

I think it helped that I did my research before starting this project. I had listened to a variety of audiobooks so that I had some ideas on what I wanted in a narrator. I knew how much I was willing to pay, and I had already spoken to my friends about royalty splitting and some of the other choices I would have to make along the way. That preparation made the process easier.

Even though audiobook publishing was always part of my long-term plans, I must confess that when the opportunity arose, I was incredibly nervous to take this step. Now that I’m on my way to having my first audiobook completed, I’m glad I dove in and didn’t let my worries stop me. It’s been exciting, fascinating, and more fun than I expected it to be.

Susan can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Read more about Suan’s audiobook journey in part three.

The Diary of a Canadian Author: Part One

Sci-fi romance author Susan Hayes had been waiting patiently for the opportunity to publish her audiobooks via ACX. Once we opened our doors to Canadian authors and actors this June, she posted Double Down, the first book in her series, for auditions. We asked Susan to keep track of her progress through the audiobook publishing process; join her on her journey here on the blog below.

Day One – 06/01/17: I Can Finally Join ACX and Post My Book!

I’ve been a small press and indie-published romance writer for five years now, and it wasn’t long after I started as a professional author that I first heard about audiobooks and ACX. I was intrigued enough to start looking into it, but quickly learned that ACX was not available to Canadian authors. I explored other options for audiobooks, but in the end, I decided to wait for ACX. The access to quality narrators, good technical support, and a solid distribution model all made it the right choice for me.

In the meantime, I talked to friends who had published in audio, and started buying audiobooks to listen to different narrators and get a feel for what could be done, they had to get financial help from https://nation21loans.com/ in order to be able to buy what they needed. I knew audio was something I wanted to do to expand my audience and give my readers what they wanted, so I aspired to educate myself on the topic before I jumped in.

When I got the news that ACX was finally open to Canadians, I hit the ground running. I was ready to post my first book for auditions in a matter of hours. To say I was excited might be something of an understatement.

While I have over thirty books published at this point, I knew from the moment I signed up which book I’d publish first. Double Down is the first book in my current sci-fi romance series, The Drift, and I’ve had many requests from readers to make it available as an audiobook. When I told my readers Double Down was coming to audio, their positive reactions affirmed that I’d made the right choice.

Being an independent author/publisher means wearing a lot of hats and acquiring a multitude of skills, many of which I couldn’t have imagined when I was first starting out. Now, I’m adding a new hat to my collection: audiobook publisher.

Susan lives out on the Canadian west coast surrounded by open water, dear family, and good friends. She’s jumped out of perfectly good airplanes on purpose and accidently swum with sharks on the Great Barrier Reef.

To contact her about her books or to arrange end of the world team-ups, you can email her at susan@susanhayes.ca or find her at susanhayes.ca. If you’d prefer to stalk her from afar, you can sign up for her newsletter http://susanhayes.ca/susans-newsletter/

Read part two of Susan’s diary here.

ACX Storytellers: Chris Philbrook

Author Chris Philbrook parlayed his love of playing role-playing games into an opportunity to write for them, and eventually, himself. His post-apocalyptic Adrian’s Undead Diary series has garnered an average 4.6 rating across 5,200 reviews on Audible. Read on to get his advice for achieving audiobook success.

Q: How did you become an author?

A: Ever since I was a kid my friends told me I was a storyteller. I cut my teeth running role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons and White Wolf through my teenage years, and I broke into writing by authoring serials for a game developer’s website in my early 20s. Writing for their games put the itch on me. I developed an idea for a series of stories, and one of my best friends from childhood essentially dared me to write it.

I started a blog with his help, and we did a lot of marketing online to promote it, like sharing posts in Facebook genre groups and giving out simple prizes. With that online exposure, I grew a reader base of thousands within a few months, and when I made the jump to eBook/print (and later audio), I had a path to success laid out for me. Eight novels into the Adrian’s Undead Diary series, I broke off and started to write other stuff, and those titles have been received well, too.

I make stuff up for a living. It was a good dare, and I’ll forever be thankful that my friend pushed me harder than I pushed myself.

Q: Can you tell us about your experience on ACX?

A: I had caught wind of the ACX platform through a few writers groups on Facebook. Most of the authors reported an easy, profitable experience, and I got excited to try a new way to add readers to  my writing portfolio. After doing some research, I decided to post one of my titles. Forty-odd auditions later I made a connection with producer/narrator James Foster, and we were off to the races. He’s been my end-all, be-all resource, my close business associate, and dare I say, a friend.

Taking this step has opened up a world of opportunity for my creative talent. Going from print to eBook or vice versa is not the same as going to audio via ACX. The audio production process through the ACX platform is far more like going from print to the silver screen. You are producing a theatrical version of your book.

Creatively, you will be sharing a vision with a narrator and producer who have different takes on your story. They have ideas for how it should sound, and how it should be listened to, and there’s tremendous merit in listening to their ideas. Greatness is rarely developed in a vacuum, and ACX puts you in a position to interact with incredibly talented people who want to take your story and add to it so that an enormous audience can access it. It’s a thrill to work with folks who want to be successful with you, not just because of you.

I trust James’ ideas and interpretation because we’ve worked so closely together for so long. I put my vision in his hands, and know that he has learned about my writing style and reader base, and has my best interests aligned with his own.

Q: What are you doing to grow your skills and get better at your profession?

A: I read blogs about the profession and attend writers meetings as often as I can. Cory Doctorow’s blog, Poppy Z. Brite’s, and Neil Gaiman’s Journal are all favorites of mine. Joining the Horror Writers Association and the New England Horror Writers was a terrific pair of decisions that led to making many friendships, and securing a literary agent to promote my titles and help me be a better writer.

I also challenge myself by writing stories out of my comfort zone. I truly believe that the only way to be a better writer is to write things you wouldn’t normally write. I’m most well known for a post-apocalyptic story, but I love writing dark and urban fantasy. My dark fantasy works have been less of a hit, but my contemporary fantasy has been a smash. Walking away from my supposed bread and butter was frightening, but I think the payoff has been enormous. Taking the risk and writing new stories causes you to access new dialogue, new situations, new characters, and new ways to engage your potential readers. If you’re not trying to get better, you risk boring your readers.

Finally, I believe that traveling and meeting new people is huge when it comes to being a quality writer. Writing is about the characters, right? Compelling, interesting characters can be based on, or inspired by real people. I find traveling and meeting people is the best way for me to be inspired.

Q: Is there someone you look up to in your industry? Why?

A: I look up to the people who treat writing as more than just an artistic endeavor; I appreciate the folks who understand the level of commitment required and passion it takes to succeed. I appreciate the people who see the tools that are out there, and snatch them up to find success, not wait for it to come to them. Using email blast services, doing podcasts, attending conventions, speaking at panels, doing small local signings…all of it leads to selling books, and being a successful creator/author. This applies to the big people as well as those still coming up. Folks like Hugh Howey, Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman, Mark Tufo, and others have led the way, or are leading the way.

Q: What is your must-have item in your writing space?

A: I require music (preferably without lyrics) and copious amounts of coffee. I mean borderline illegal amounts of caffeine. Like, I should probably either scale it back, or get some kind of prescription.

I also need water. Not to drink, but to sit near, or listen to. I write so effectively when I’m near a lake, or river. I used to drive ten miles to a secluded town beach to write during warm weather because I just felt the writing there.

And don’t laugh, I keep a Chicago Manual of Style in the top right-hand drawer of my desk. Without it, I’d have to pay double to have my indie titles edited. Probably far more, based on how fast and loose I write when I’m feeling it.

Q: Can you tell us about a mistake you’ve made in your career, and what you learned from it?

A: I have consistently made the mistake of under-promoting my new releases ahead of time. I tend to complete a project, and after it has been edited and finalized, rush it to market. I’ve learned over time that if I slow it down, promote the title through social media, blogs, and interacting with authors in the same genre as my release, I tend to have much higher early sales (which means I chart higher), and then go on to have more subsequent sales of other titles. I’m a work in progress.

Chris Philbrook is the creator and author of the urban fantasy series The Reemergence, as well as the dark fantasy series The Kinless Trilogy and the post apocalyptic epic Adrian’s Undead Diary. Chris is the owner of Tier One Games LLC, his game development company.  He and his wife welcomed their first daughter, Willow, to the world in April of 2016. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

 

ACX Storytellers: Amanda Rose Smith

As an engineer, editor, and director, Amanda Rose Smith has worked on over 700 audiobook productions, 300 of which are ACX titles. After years of working with studios and publishers, she struck out on her own, and recently dropped a vocal booth into her Brooklyn apartment so she can see productions through from start to finish. Read on to learn her thoughts on collaborating with narrators and the value of knowing what “ə” sounds like.

Q: How did you become an audiobook studio pro?

A: I was a music major at Smith College, studying to be a composer for film, TV, and video games, and I decided I’d like to record my own work. Simultaneously, my work-study job in college involved read aloud for blind and dyslexic students, recording each week’s lessons onto those old tiny tape recorders.

Later, when I traveled to New York to get my masters in Music Technology, I began working for the American Foundation for the Blind as a recording engineer and editor for audiobooks. After that I was at a commercial studio for several years, working on audiobook productions for several publishers, doing post-production for film and television, and eventually became the production manager for the entire studio. A few years ago, I left that position to start my own business. I now work directly for publishers, with narrators on ACX, as well as continuing my work in film, television, and video games. I recorded all the ADR for the second season of Orange Is the New Black, for instance.

As a studio professional working indirectly with ACX (I’m usually hired by producers to edit and master their home-recorded audio), ACX work factors in as a significant portion of my income and in growing my business. After encountering lots of producers who would love to work on ACX but don’t yet have their own recording spaces, I decided to buy my own booth and create my own recording space.

Q: What do you wish someone had told you when you were just starting out?

A: I wish someone had explained to me how vulnerable one has to be, as an actor, to get the right performance across. Consistently connecting with this work on an emotional level is a hard job. Over the years, directing actors, I’ve learned how closely collaborative this work is. The engineer/director and the actor have to fully engage with each other to allow the best product to emerge.

In my early years, I was sometimes afraid to be as hands-on as I could have been in that collaboration. That feeling probably stemmed from an interaction I had with a very seasoned—but also sensitive—narrator on a book. They had started the book with another director, and I had been brought in to finish things off at the last minute. So we hadn’t really built a rapport yet. Being the pronunciation and misread nerd that I am, I came down a little hard and fast from the start of our session, pointing out all of their mistakes right away, before we had built any trust. It made for an uncomfortable session and the ensuing performance suffered.

Tremontaine

One of Amanda’s 300 ACX productions, the serialized prequel to the Audie-winning Swordspoint

Mistakes are important to catch, of course, but over the years, what I’ve learned first and foremost is the nature of collaboration in session work. Now, I record all sorts of people—from actors who have been narrating for decades to authors who have never spoken in public—and I always approach it from a place of collaboration rather than just fixing someone else’s mistakes. The overall quality, performance, accuracy, and technical sound quality are all part of the whole.

Q: What are you doing to grow your skills and get better at your profession?

A: I’m always researching new gear, new software, new techniques, etc. Social media plays heavily into my keeping track of what my peers in the industry are doing. When I notice buzz about a new piece of software or gear, I’ll try it out. In any technical industry, which this is, it’s important to stay current. For example, I was using ProTools pretty much exclusively when I started out, but a number of other digital audio workstations (DAWs) have cropped up in the past few years. Different programs have different strengths, and studying them allows me to find the most efficient ways to get the work done. While I still often use ProTools, Reaper is also fantastic for audiobook production, especially since it works equally well on PC and Mac. Twisted Wave is great for bulk processing. Izotope RX is indispensable for noise reduction.

Staying up-to-date in this way also helps me advise others when they have technical problems. This is still a very word-of-mouth industry, and I’ve gotten lots of work simply by offering a few minutes of my time to fix a problem.

Q: What are your favorite educational resources for audiobook production?

A: The main physical dictionaries: Merriam Webster and Oxford. When I worked for the American Foundation for the Blind, we weren’t allowed to use online resources. So, I had to learn to read all of the pronunciation symbols in order to do pronunciation research. I’m grateful for that now, because most of the pronunciation sites that are reliable, like Merriam-Webster online or Dictionary.com, may only have audio files for one version of the pronunciation. Those will often be followed by a bunch of symbols only nerds like me can read.

Workspace

Amanda’s home studio and editing suite

Q: What is your must-have piece of studio gear?

A: There are a lot of microphones and pre-amps and plug-ins that I like, and I’m sure that one of those would probably be the expected answer here. But honestly? My favorite piece of studio equipment is the iPad. I have the new 12.9 inch pro in my studio and I’m in love. I started working in this field while people were still using paper scripts. When the iPad became ubiquitous in the audiobook studio, the changes I saw were profound. Narrators who previously had to stop every two pages or so (to avoid the page flip getting caught on-mic) could now go on for as long as they desired—or until I stopped them for a misread. I saw some actor’s output go up by as much as 15%; people who previously finished a session with 180 minutes of raw audio were now finishing with 200 or 210. That might not seem like a big deal, but since most publishers pay on a per-finished-hour basis, it was a game changer.

Q: How do you define success in your creative career?

A: I feel most successful when I pull my head out of my book/computer/headphones and think, “Wow, I’m getting paid to do this.” For me, getting paid to do something you’d probably do anyway is the highest form of success. I also try to keep moving forward, in terms of my level of knowledge. If I can look back on a year and feel that I know more than I did last year, that’s a good year.

ScubaQ: Do you have a fun hobby or skill unrelated to your audiobook work?

A: I love to travel! Also, I scuba dive. In 2013, I went scuba diving off the coast of Belize, at the second biggest barrier reef in the world. To an audio engineer, there’s something oddly relaxing about the near-silence of an underwater environment.

After earning a BA in Music Composition from Smith College, Amanda, originally a musician, moved to NYC where she completed a master’s degree in Music Technology at New York University.  Recently, she was the dialogue editor for Telltale Games’ “The Walking Dead: The Game.” She loves most things Star Trek, and hopes to visit all seven continents before she dies. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter.

ACX Storytellers: Bethany Claire

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Self-published author Bethany Claire has used ACX to publish her ten books and two boxed sets in audio, amassing over $60,000 in earnings in 20 months. A master of Scottish time travel romances who harbors a not-so-secret Disney obsession, she joins us today to share her audiobook story.

Q: How did you become an author and audiobook publisher?

A: The writing bug bit me in college. I started writing creatively just for fun, which allowed me to escape from my 18-hour course load for a half an hour each day, and I lived for it. But that half hour quickly grew into several hours, and I knew that my passion for writing went far beyond the enthusiasm I’d had for any other hobby. Over the course of the next four years, I changed my major seven times. But it wasn’t writing.

Then, on one fateful summer day, I heard about a writers’ academy hosted by my university. I enrolled right away. It was the first time I’d been around other people who were as passionate about writing as I was. It totally changed my world.

When I decided to drop out of college and pursue writing full-time, I wrote like a fiend, studied every single thing I could find about the business, and made a plan for publication. I continued to work part-time before releasing my novels, but five months after dropping out of school, I released the first three books in my Morna’s Legacy Series. Less than a year after that, I hit the USA Today best-seller’s list.

Two years after releasing my first three books, I made the jump into audio after listening to ACX representatives speak at the Romance Writers of America (RWA) national conference. It was something that my readers wanted, and I’d been curious about for a while. I knew it had the potential to be an extra source of income for my business, and I looked forward to the creative process of bringing the characters in my stories to life.

Q: What decisions have contributed to your audiobook success, and what made them the right decisions?

A: From the very start, I think one of the best things I did was offer a high per-finished-hour payment rather than the royalty share option. Despite my fear of investing so much money upfront for the audiobook production, I knew that my goal with my business has always been to look at long-term success. I knew that eventually I would earn out on that investment, and once I did, I would be so glad that I was able to keep my full royalties. It was an excellent decision. It only took a couple of months for me to earn out on the investment of paying my narrator a set amount.

Focusing a section of my marketing efforts towards the sale of my audiobooks has really helped with my success. Giving out the free download codes that ACX provides with each new audiobook release is a great way to build buzz among your readers about a new release and to encourage reviews. I also post and tweet about my audiobooks often, and use online design tools such as Canva to create beautiful and professional-looking images to go along with my posts and ads.

cover01Q: What are you doing to grow your skills and get better at your profession?

A: Writing consistently is one of the best things I do to continually grow my skills. When I do skip a few days of writing—whether it be to travel, sickness, or just plain laziness— my writing is always a little rusty on my first day back.

On the business end of things, I’m continually working to stay on top of changes in the industry. Conferences are a great way to do this. I try never to miss RWA’s national conference and will be attending the NINC conference for the first time this year.

Podcasts are a great way to stay educated. I love Joanna Penn’s podcast. She does a great job of discussing a wide range of self-publishing topics, including audiobooks. Another great podcast is the Sell More Books Show, which focuses on current news, and is a great way to stay on top of changes in the industry.

Blogs are another phenomenal resource. Jane Friedman covers everything from traditional publishing to self-publishing, marketing, and social media. I also think every author should read BookBub’s regular blog posts, which are filled with marketing tips.

Q: What do you wish you’d known when you first started out as an author?

A: I wish I’d understood the importance of creating work-life balance from the start. My first few years as an author, I worked nonstop. While I know it contributed to my success, every other area of my life took a hit as a result. I hit a wall in 2016. Totally burned out and exhausted, I had to stop everything for a number of months. Hard work is important, and I love my job, but if I had started writing and publishing from a place of balance—with self-care as a top priority—I wouldn’t have suffered the major burnout that I did last year. Now that I’ve re-evaluated my priorities, everything is in better shape—even work.

Bethany's writing room

Bethany’s writing room

Q: How about when getting your start in audiobooks?

I wish that someone had urged me to start sooner! I waited two years to get into audiobooks—two years that I could’ve spent growing my audiobook audience and income. I was nervous to take the initial dive into this format, but I had nothing to fear and so much to look forward to. I wish that I had considered audiobooks at the beginning of my publishing career.

Another piece of advice I would offer to fellow authors is that if you have a book that contains multiple points of view, post an audition piece that allows the narrators to read from each POV. For example, all of my books have scenes from both female and male POVs, and they are romance novels. So when I posted my audition script, I included a scene from each POV, as well as a love scene. Hearing the narrators read these portions helped me cast the perfect voice.

Q: What is your “must have” item in your writing space?

A: Every time I sit down to write, I diffuse peppermint and orange essential oils in the diffuser that sits close to my desk. The peppermint keeps me alert, and the orange is a mood lifter.

Bethany and friends at Disneyland

Bethany and friends at Disneyland

Q: Do you have a fun hobby or skill unrelated to your audiobook work?

A: I can plan a trip to any Disney theme park like a boss! Seriously, Disney should hire me. I also love to play the piano, although I’ll admit that eighty percent of the songs I know are Disney. In case you can’t tell, my love for Disney is a bit of a problem.

Bethany Claire is a USA Today Bestselling Author of the Morna’s Legacy Series, with more than ten books published since the release of her first novel in 2013. Bethany loves to immerse her readers in a world filled with lush landscapes, hunky Scots, lots of magic, and happy endings. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

 

ACX Titles Grab Audie Nominations!

The APA announced the nominees for the 2016 Audie Awards on Tuesday, and we’re thrilled to see that ACX authors and actors received seven nominations across four categories! We checked in with a few of our finalists to get reactions from some of ACX’s accomplished creative talent.

Category: Inspirational, Faith-based Fiction

Finalist: Come to Me Alive: A Contemporary Christian Romance Novel, written by Leah Atwood and narrated by Pamela Almand

Summary: Country music’s hottest star, Bryce Landry, and newly single,  risk-averse Sophie Thatcher discover that finding each other was easy, but holding on will be a different story.Come to me Alive

Memory: When asked about producing Come to Me Alive, Pamela Almond recounted a unique challenge she faced during production:

“Leah Atwood wrote beautiful lyrics to a country-western song, also called Come To Me Alive, and as the narrator, I had to sing it as bad-boy country star Bryce Landry, singing along to his radio hit, then as his girlfriend…and finally as a duet between the two of them! This was more a credit to my editing skills than my singing skills, for sure!  But I loved doing the book, a very uplifting and well-done contemporary Christian romance, and Leah was great to work with. I am so honored and humbled at being named an Audie Award finalist for it.”

Category: Erotica

Finalist: Beta, written by Jasinda Wilder and narrated by Summer Roberts and Tyler Donne.

Summary: The sequel to Alpha, last year’s Audie winner in this very category, Beta finds main characters Kyrie and Roth traveling around the world when a mysterious tragedy strikes.

Beta

Memory: Author Jasinda Wilder stuck to her guns with the follow up to her genre blending Alpha:

“I personally love Beta. I love the way it plays with the accepted boundaries of romance and erotic suspense, or erotic romance or whatever category you want to slot it into. We made it different and a little darker than our usual fare on purpose. Not all of our fans appreciated Beta, though. I get that it’s not for everyone, and that a sequel can’t ever totally live up to the first book. So putting Beta into audio was a little scary, because we weren’t sure how it’d be received.”

Narrator Summer Roberts shared the excitement of tackling the sequel to an Audie winner:

“Erotica can be a really hard genre, but Jasinda’s writing is so rich and her characters are so multi-layered, that it makes narrating her work really fun. I think Tyler and I were just as excited as listeners to find out what was going to happen to Kyrie and Roth in Beta.”

Beg Tease Submit

Finalists: BEG TEASE SUBMIT, written by CD Reiss and narrated by Jo Raylan & CONTROL BURN RESIST, written by CD Reiss and narrated by Jo Raylan and Christian Fox.

Summary: In BEG TEASE SUBMIT, Jonathan Drazen is a known womanizer and a gorgeous piece of man who’s more capable of domination than love. In CONTROL BURN RESIST, his partner in pain Monica struggles with the discovery that love can be just as painful as submission.

Memory: Author CD Reiss recalled the casting process and the relationship she’s forged with her producers:

“I got a great selection of professional auditions to choose from. But I had an idea in my head and every one that didn’t meet that idea was painful to hear. Jo Raylan had a certain something that was spot on, and she let me know right away she’d do whatever she had to to get it perfect. It was obvious she had the talent, so I scooped her up. Christian’s audition for Jonathan was a home run right out of the gate. I would have walked on a bed of Legos to get him on the production. Fortunately, my feet were spared. Control Burn Resist

I’ve developed a wonderful friendship with Jo and have a deep respect for what she does. She wants it perfect. She wants every word to express the right emotions, and we spoke about the character of Monica for a long time. What she wanted, how she sat, where her fear was. It was deeply creative and deeply satisfying.”

Want to create an audiobook worthy of the Audies yourself? Check out our recent tips for rights holders and producers, then head over to ACX to get started.

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Picking the Right Royalty Share Projects

Like to listen? Click on the player below to hear this post in audio.

 

As an author, actor, and audiobook producer, Craig Tollifson brings a unique perspective to ACX. His publishing industry background has allowed him to make the most of the time he spends auditioning by putting his effort into the most promising titles. He joins us today to share his tips for picking the best Royalty Share projects.

Craig Tollifson_Headshot

ACX Author/Narrator Craig Tollifson (aka Andrew Tell)

The first audiobook I narrated went on sale in early 2015. It sold 11 copies. Since then, I’ve narrated 19 other titles, learned a lot about narrating, and learned even more about choosing good Royalty Share projects. This month I’ll pass 10,000 total sales, and recently averaged over 1,500 sales a month. And those numbers just keep going up. Not bad for a beginner!

I got my start on ACX as an author. I had my novella, The Junior Arsonists Club, produced as an audiobook by the talented Amy McFadden. I was interested in eventually narrating my own work, and had experience as a stage actor, so I decided to jump in and try it myself. Now I’m a full-time audiobook narrator and no one can say it’s weird that I sit in a giant box and talk to myself all day.

Having been on the other side of the fence as an independent author has helped shape my choices as a narrator. I knew from the start I wanted to pursue Royalty Share projects. For years I’ve followed the indie publishing scene and noted a parade of successes, like Hugh Howey, Michael Bunker, and many more. The potential to earn more than a regular Per-Finished-Hour rate over the long term and gain passive income was very appealing. I also knew that I had to be smart in choosing the right projects. I had to get good at picking the books with the most potential for success.

ACX gives you the basic research right on the project page. Now, let’s assume you’re skilled at narration, you’re interested in the project, and your voice is a good fit for the work. Here are some of the key points to consider:

  • Genre makes a difference. Fiction accounts for nearly 80% of audiobooks sold, with mystery/thrillers and sci-fi/fantasy being near the top. Stick with popular genres if you want to sell.
  • The Amazon sales rank can be very important for predicting success. This number represents sales per day compared to every other book in the Amazon store. Audiobook and eBook sales tend to rise and fall together. Remember, this is one product on two platforms. The lower the sales rank, the better! Without going into too much detail: a sales rank under one hundred is amazing. Run to the booth and start auditioning! A sales rank in the thousands is pretty great (remember there are over a million books in the Amazon store!). When you get over a hundred thousand, or two hundred thousand or more, well…that’s not so great. But remember: this rank is only a snapshot of one moment which represents that day’s trend. Message the Rights Holder on ACX to see how the book has been selling historically. Oftentimes, a great rank can be the result of a recent promotion, and when the promotion’s over it can completely sink again. Also, make sure the number you’re looking at is the paid rank. If the book is free, the rank loses a lot of its meaning and is not a good predictor of audiobook sales.
  • The more reviews thJunior Arsonists.jpge better, and the reviews should be mostly positive. Take some time and read some of those reviews. I recommend reading the most recent reviews, as early reviews are often solicited. Click through some of the reviewers themselves and check their profiles–if it’s the only book they’ve reviewed, it’s likely they are friends or family of the author and shouldn’t be considered. Reviews are also great for quickly getting a sense of the story, often more so than the author’s description, or first few pages of the book.
  • Length of time on sale is a great metric when combined with the number of reviews and sales rank. A book that’s selling great, and has been on the market for, say, two years may have better potential than a book that’s only been out for two weeks with the same sales rank.
  • Evaluate the rest of the author’s catalog–every last book–with the same criteria as the one up for production: sales rank, reviews, etc. If they have other audiobooks, even better. Ask the Rights Holder how many copies the other audiobooks have sold. Or, check to see how many ratings the other audiobooks have on Audible. More ratings mean more copies have been purchased.

Now that you’ve done your research, you need to define success. Though you’re not working for a Per-Finished-Hour (PFH) rate when producing Royalty Share projects, you should still be thinking about how much you hope to earn. What is your time worth? Recording usually takes around 2 hours in the studio for every finished hour of audio. Then there’s editing, proofing, and mastering, which can add 3-4 hours (or more!) per finished hour of audio. You could easily be putting in 6 hours for every finished hour.  With all that in mind, come up with your ideal PFH rate for the project. Multiply it by the length of the book in hours. Now, divide that total with a ballpark royalty and you’ll see how many copies you’ll need to sell to be satisfied that you’ve made a good decision. Do you really think the audiobook can sell that many copies? Does the Rights Holder? If you’re on the fence about a project, I find that thinking about earnings goals can help cement a decision.

Once the book is produced and on the market, you and the Rights Holder both have a stake in its success. Before you jump into your next production, spend some time marketing. I spend time every week promoting titles via giveaways and soliciting reviews. Social media can be a great resource if you find the right communities. There are a ton of places online that fans gather to discuss their favorite genre, like Goodreads, reddit, and many Facebook groups. Get yourself into those communities. You’ll meet fans and authors, both of which will help your audiobook career.

The last thing you’ll need is a little bit of luck. All the points of research can add up to the best looking potential project on the planet, and you can do great promotion, but still…the audiobook may not sell well! Royalty Share comes with an element of risk. Your job is to find the ones with the best odds.

I hope that the research tips I’ve given you today can help you choose the best bets for success.

Craig Tollifson is the author of the Kindle Single the Junior Arsonists Club, the forthcoming novel Happy, and has written for Mystery Science Theater 3000. When he’s not writing or performing on stage, he narrates audiobooks under the name Andrew Tell. He lives with his wife and kids in sunny Los Angeles, California.