Production Pointers from Audible Approved Producers

Audible Approved Producers are the best of the best on ACX. Qualifying Producers have a proven track record of dynamic performances and superior-quality audio. They’ve been around the block a few times and learned a thing or two about compelling narration, pristine sound, and how to make the whole production process run a like a well-oiled machine. We checked in with a few of our newest AAPs to get their advice on producing like a professional.

Q: What’s your biggest production timesaver?

Paul Stefano headshotPaul Stefano: OUTSOURCING. I hire out nearly all of my editing and proofing. This allows me to work on several projects at once as I focus on what I do best: the narrating. Plus, it’s always good to have a second set of eyes (or ears, as it were) on your work. If you made a mistake once, you are likely to do it again, so doing your own quality control as a narrator is generally a bad idea. Once I made this switch in my career, it was like the heavens opened up to a whole new world.

Heather Masters headshotHeather Masters: I keep a file in the folder of each book I produce, which is titled ‘Voice Profile.’ Each time I record a new character, I highlight a few lines and copy [the audio] into my voice profile. This way, even if I don’t see the character again for days, I can jump right to their voice and refresh my memory, ensuring my characters are consistent. It’s an invaluable tool with a series!

Travis Baldree: Know your software, make shortcuts for anything that can be short-cutted, and constantly be on the lookout for ways to optimize your time or reduce repetitive actions that slow you down or introduce problems.

Aven Shore: I maintain my progress notes on an online Aven Shore headshotdocument, so I can reference them anywhere.  Even better, it’s shareable, so I use it to communicate with my sound engineer and proofer so we don’t have to email each other constantly. We can all log in to the document and see deadlines, pickups, file names, where I’m at in the recording, upcoming books scheduled, special treatment notes, and more (we use Zoho Docs, but there are similar alternatives, like Google Docs).

Rich Miller: I think it’s probably Punch & Roll recording [a method of recording that involves rolling back a short way into a recording, playing, and then punching into the record at a set point to record over errors]. It doesn’t feel like it in the moment, but when I’m done recording I’m pretty much done. Once you get the rhythm of stopping, setting the cursor, and recording again, it doesn’t take much time at all.

Marnye_Young_headshot2Marnye Young: Pre-reading is extraordinarily helpful for me. While I understand wanting to be surprised when my listeners are surprised (to keep it authentic), the problem with that is that you are taking a road trip without a map and you may end up taking a wrong turn. Pre-reading will help you be sure to pack everything for the journey and to pull out whatever you need at the proper time.

Q: What is your pre-recording ritual like?

Paul Stefano: First of all I READ THE BOOK. This is essential to understanding the characters and how the story should flow. You don’t want to start off a book with a happy go lucky voice for a character, only to find out that the entire book was a flashback, the character is in a clinically depressed fog, and sorrowfully remembering his past! As my friend Johnny Heller says, “as a narrator, the last person who should be surprised by the ending of a book IS YOU.”

While I’m initially going through the book, I make notes, particularly of proper names, places, and other things I don’t know how to pronounce. Then, I Iook them up. In the case of names, I may even reach out to the Rights Holder for confirmation on pronunciations. Finally, I give each character a distinct voice. It may be a tone, a pace, or a certain tick that is repeated each time they speak.

Aven Shore: I make tea, brush my teeth, get dressed (in loose, cozy clothes with no swish/friction factor), fill a hot water bottle for my feet if it’s winter, scan my prep notes and what I’m about to read, then I get in my booth. I do a quick vocal warmup and some alternate nostril breathing just before beginning. I like it dark. Since shutting my eyes to get truly lost in the story is out of the question, darkness helps me forget about everything beyond the page and stay immersed in the world the author’s created.

Rich Miller: I do a little vocal warm-up, nothing too involved, Rich Miller headshotdrink some water, and inhale some steam. When I’m first starting out for the day, I’ll usually read a few pages out loud before actually recording; the vocal warm-up helps physically, but I feel that reading the actual text for a few minutes helps me dial in the right pacing and rhythm. I find that when I don’t do this, I sometimes end up having to re-record those first pages anyway.

Marnye Young: I drink coffee to loosen everything up and then honey ginger tea to repair the damage the coffee has done. I take in a lot of water, do tongue exercises, then listen to the last few minutes of the chapter I last recorded. The looser I am, the fewer mistakes I have, the better my flow is. That means a loose tongue, body, etc. I want to be relaxed but alert—if there is any tension, that tension will be in my throat and chest which is counterproductive for recording.

Q: Can you tell us a little about your studio set-up and equipment essentials?

Travis Baldree headshotTravis Baldree: I have a StudioBricks One booth (which is great, because there are no spare closets to be found in my home, my kids like to run across the house, and there’s a crow who enjoys parking right outside to caw at all hours). I use a Windows 10 PC with an SSD stationed outside my booth, a monitor in-booth with a bluetooth keyboard and mouse, and my trusty Razer Orbweaver mini-keyboard for Punch & Roll and editing shortcuts. The keyboard is essential—I have so much muscle memory for it, it’s super comfortable, and saves me a lot of hand strain to boot. My microphone is a Mojave MA-200 tube mic running through an Audient ID14 interface.

Travis Baldree studio

Paul Stefano: I have a WhisperRoom recording booth, a Steinberg UR12 audio interface, and a Sennheiser MKH-416 microphone—I spent years and thousands of dollars to get the right mic and I should have started with this industry standard from the get-go. I have a monitor on a shelf outside the booth and a wireless keyboard inside so that I can start and stop the recording.

Paul Stefano studio_2

Aven Shore: I have a big property but a small house, so my studio is a standalone building I built myself. At a glance it could be mistaken for an outhouse, but it was affordable and it’s effective. The floating interior framing is completely unattached to the exterior structure, with an abundance of Roxul insulation between the two and some acoustic foam on the inside. I use my thrift store rescue ergonomic kneeling chair for recording because it keeps my torso tall and open. I also had to Faraday cage my booth with aluminum foil because my mic was picking up these digital sounds that were not at all audible to the ear, but obliterating in my recording. I believe it was interference from a cell tower. My booth has a room tone of -75db or better, and the last thing I see before I shut myself in to work is forest.

Aven Shore studio

Rich Miller: I’ve got a Mac Mini, an Onyx Blackjack interface, and a Rode NT1-A microphone. I’ve got a mirrored monitor setup, with one on my desk outside the booth and one inside the booth; when I’m ready to record, I just put my wireless keyboard and Bluetooth trackpad inside the booth and I’m ready to go. I built my 4’ x 6’ x 7’ booth myself last year, and it keeps external noise out much better than my previous space. Seriously, my setup is pretty minimal, so every piece is pretty critical; none of it is super-high-end, but it all works great.

rich-miller-studio.jpg

Marnye Young: My studio is in the back of the house. Inside my studio is my monitor, my mic, headphones, and chair. The mic I use now, the AKG c214, is my third one and by far the best—it captures my low end and high end and still gets the nuances. The one I had before, a Blue Yeti USB mic, I picked because, in all honesty, it was affordable and had good reviews for what it was. It gave me a nice fullness, but it washed out most of the nuances and any brightness to my voice. I have a low voice anyway so I wanted to keep as much brightness as possible. The headphones were a recommendation to me and I really like them. The Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO 80 Ohm Over-Ear Studio Headphones are super comfy and catch everything, which I like. I like to know what other noises are happening so I am aware and can catch them in post or redo if necessary, like a door shutting, that kind of thing.

Marnye Young studio

We hope these pointers have you ready to jump into your sound booth and get to work on the next ACX hit production! Stay tuned for part two, where these production pros will cover why you should listen to audiobooks—not just make them—and what they wish they’d known when they started.

Get Cookin’ with New and Improved Promo Codes

PC Cooking 2Putting together an audiobook marketing campaign requires a few key ingredients, and now it’s easier than ever to include listener reviews! Rights Holders and Producers with an eligible audiobook for sale through ACX can visit the new Promo Code dashboard on ACX.com to access Promo Codes good for a free copy of your audiobook on Audible. You’ll receive 25 codes per book for each of Audible’s US and UK marketplaces and will be able track which have and haven’t been redeemed yet.

Codes will be available for your newly published ACX audiobooks as soon as they go on sale, and you can generate codes for your backlist audiobooks whenever you’re ready to promote those titles.

Learn how to access this marketing tool, then read below for ideas on turning your codes into listener reviews.

Serving Suggestions

First off, bookmark the new ACX promo code redemption pages on Audible, audible.com/acx-promo and audible.co.uk/acx-promo, and make sure include the appropriate link when distributing your codes. ACX promo codes can only be redeemed at those links.

We recommend using Promo Codes to garner early reviews of your audiobook, and to reward your fans for engaging with you and your marketing efforts. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  1. Send your promo codes to audiobook reviewers. We’ve covered this topic in an episode of ACX University, so check out our video, then do some Googling to find out who’s reviewing audiobooks in your genre.
  2. Empower your street team/beta readers. Send them each a code for your audiobook in exchange for an honest review – just make sure they mention that they got the audiobook for free in the review itself.
  3. Use promo codes as fan rewards. Need to compel your listeners to take an action, like signing up for your newsletter or filling out a survey? Offer a free copy of your audiobook as the carrot on the end of the stick.
  4. Run a social media giveaway. It can be as simple as “like/share/tag a friend in this post for a free audiobook.” Just make sure to check the promotion/contest guidelines on your platform of choice before posting.
  5. Swap codes with your peers. These codes are specific to your ACX audiobook, so find authors and narrators willing to do a “code swap,” where both sides give away codes good for the others’ book. This way, you’ll each expose new audiences to your awesome-sounding audiobooks.
  6. Feature a review in an audiobook ad or in your newsletter. Once you’ve used the steps above to gain reviews of your audio productions, feature your favorite in your marketing efforts – 84 percent of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.

Promo Codes are served up for titles with exclusive distribution, and provide another flavor for your audiobook marketing palette. We can’t wait to read all the glowing  reviews you’ll earn!

Don’t Fear the REAPER

Mike Taddeo of the ACX Audio QA team joins us today to discuss REAPER, a digital audio workstation (DAW) that many audiobook producers find to be a solid, cost-effective solution for audiobook recording, editing, and post-production.

As technology continues to democratize home recording, audiobook producers are presented with more options for processing audio than ever before. While some advanced production platforms cater more to music than narration, other simple editors leave much to be desired when it comes to  post-production. How can you decide which DAW is right for you?

Whether you’re new to narration or looking to up your game, we find Cocko’s REAPER to be a fine balance of the two. Featuring a customizable interface, REAPER allows you to set up a session view to best fit your workflow and find all the tools needed to produce a high-quality audiobook. For more information on using these tools & effects, be sure to check out our recent episode of Q&A with QA titled, Mastering with Effects Processing.

Customizing Your View

The first step in maximizing your efficiency is to set up your session to meet your needs. REAPER’s default settings include a timeline set to bars/beats, and a metronome and grid lines to sync music to a tempo—tools you won’t need for audiobook production—so you can simplify your workspace by hiding these and other unnecessary features from view.

hide grid

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If you are only dealing with a single audio source, you may also want to hide the mixer view so you have more space to zoom in on the wave form when editing your files.

hide mixer

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Commonly Used Tools

REAPER comes stocked with several tools that can help you meet specific ACX Audio Submission Requirements.

Playrate

Increasing the playback rate is a great way to quickly review a recorded script for accuracy to ensure the manuscript matches the recorded audio. This is called audiobook QC, and you’ll perform this step after you edit your raw audio files. In the ‘Rate’ menu, be sure to select: “Preserve pitch in audio items when changing master playrate,” which will prevent your voice from increasing in pitch and sounding like a chipmunk during playback!

playrate

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Nudge

ACX requires each file to have between 0.5 and 1 second of room tone at the beginning, and between 1 and 5 seconds at the end. This spacing clearly signals to the listener that a chapter has ended and gives them a moment to catch their breath when a chapter ends on a dramatic note.

REAPER’s ‘nudge’ tool makes it easy to double-check that your files meet the spacing requirement by  lining up all of your files at the same starting or ending point so you can easily see if there is too much space on either end.

nudge

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While your files are lined up, you can also check for any extraneous noises at the beginning and end of each file. You can also add clean room tone and short fade-ins and fade-outs to all of your files at once.

Normalize

The term “normalize” can mean different things depending on which DAW you’re using, the normalize function automatically increases the level of your audio until it is peaking at 0dB, causing it to digitally distort “in the red” and fail QA review. You can use the SWS extension action item (Xenakios/SWS: Normalize selected takes to dB value…) to input the peak level you’d like your files normalized to—we recommend -3dB (peak) to keep the peak level at the maximum level permitted by ACX.

normalize

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RMS/Peak Analysis

ACX requires audio files to measure between -23dB and -18dB RMS, with a maximum peak level of -3dB, which can sometimes be difficult for the naked eye (and ear) to discern. The SWS Extension includes a reliable Peak and RMS analyzing tool (SWS: Analyze and display item peak and RMS) that can provide a quick reading of your files to ensure your levels meet ACX requirements.

analyze RMS

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Exporting MP3’s

When you’re ready to export your finished audio out of REAPER, there are two options: “render” and “batch file/item converter.” Either function is capable of quickly converting your WAV files to MP3, and each allows you to save an encoder profile. The Render function is typically used to export an audio item as it appears on the timeline. This will be a good choice if you are exporting your files out of REAPER one at a time. The Batch file/item converter allows you to add individual items from your timeline, or select files from a folder on your computer to encode all at once with the same encoding profile. We recommend saving your settings to encode to 192kbps or higher 44.1kHz MP3, Constant Bit Rate (CBR) in keeping with ACX’s requirements.

Plug-ins and FX

When using REAPER as your DAW, we recommend downloading the free compatible plug-in suite SWS Extension as well, which includes all the effects plug-ins you’ll need to produce a top-quality audiobook. . Find yourself using the same effects often? You can save these as favorites, organize your own folders, and save plug-in chains and custom presets to streamline your workflow.

save template

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One of our favorite plug-ins in this extension is ReaEQ, which gives a visual representation of how the audio source is displayed across the frequency spectrum, making it a great tool for learning the art of equalizing. Spend time with the different filter types, cutting and boosting different frequency bands to hear how each affects the quality of your voice.

ReaEQ

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We also love ReaComp, an easy-to-use compression tool that keeps the dynamic range of your recording in check and adds fullness to your production.

Templates

Once you’ve set your project session to fit your personal workflow, you can save your custom settings in a project template so you won’t have to set up your DAW each time you begin a new project, saving you time and ensuring  consistency throughout your productions.

favorites

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Try Before You Buy

Interested in finding out if REAPER is the right DAW for you? You can download a full version of REAPER to use for free for up to 60 days. After the evaluation period, users are required to purchase an individual use license for $60.

Already using REAPER to produce for ACX? Leave a comment to let us know how you customize your setup for audiobook production!

Amy Daws on Keeping Listeners Engaged Between Releases

Last month, we met best-selling author Amy Daws and learned how she uses social media to forge authentic relationships with her fans. Today, she shares how these connections help keep her followers’ attention between new releases. Read on to learn how she maximizes her engagement by creating exclusive content her listeners can’t get enough of.AmyDaws bio photo

Q: You got a flurry of media attention last year with a story about you writing a book in the waiting room of a tire shop—what’s the story with the Tires, Tires, Tires saga?

A: When I started writing at a tire shop and posting about it on social media, I could instantly tell that my readers were loving the anecdotes. Heck, even my author friends were dying laughing over the fact that I liked the vibe there and the complimentary beverages. Everyone was having fun with me just being me so I kept posting about it. It was something authentic, silly, and positive in a book world that can sometimes get bogged down with drama.

Part of what I do with social media is bring my readers along for the ride, and when things snowballed into national blogs posting about me and news stations requesting interviews…at that point, it was sort of a fun win for us all, not just me. That’s why, when I decided to turn that crazy experience into my book, Wait With Me, I continued to let my fans be a part of the process from the cover shoot to the book signing at the tire shop. All of it! Their social media interactions were the reason that my craziness got national attention, so they deserved to be a part of it.

And above all, I’m a storyteller, so sharing bits of my day writing in a tire shop waiting room is fun and easy.

Q: And how does this tie into keeping your listeners engaged between books? 

A: By continuing to be authentic and real and goofy, I’ve created a bond with my readers that feels really strong. Many of them found me through my Tires, Tires, Tires journey and then went on to read all of my backlist. My books reflect my personality and my silly voice on social media, so they get more of what they like about me…which helps make them fans for life, instead of fans for one story. Tires_Sign2.png

Q: What else do you do to keep your fans following along even when you don’t have a new book to promote?

A: There’s peaks and valleys, and I try to drop a sale or a free edition of my print/eBooks when there’s a valley—just something to keep my name at the top of their minds. And I try to do unique releases here and there to keep people happy.

A reader Facebook group does this great series called “Bedtime Stories” and they asked me to give them new content and be one of their featured authors. I [wrote a short story] and posted it there exclusively, and I found it to be a great way to attract new readers while giving a special free gift to my already loyal fans.

I did a re-branding and re-release of That One Moment [now Strength], a crossover book between my London Lovers and Harris Brothers series. I wrote 10,000 words of new content and re-released it for 99c in Kindle Unlimited. I even went a step further and had my narrators record the new content, which ACX updated on the original so if audio listeners previously owned That One Moment on audio, all they had to do was delete and re-download to get the bonus scenes! Going that extra step only gained me audiobook sales, so I’m really glad I did that. It was a successful rebranding of a story that I was proud of and it gave a new set of legs to a book that hadn’t sold the best in the past.

Will WattAnd I brought my narrator, Will Watt, with me to a big book signing in Philadelphia! He’s British and fun and has narrated my entire Harris Brothers series, so my readers loved getting to meet him!

Q: We hear you’re using YouTube to great effect, too! What are you up to there?

A: I like having a place where all my videos sit and don’t just disappear down a Facebook timeline, so I started a YouTube Channel with a group of authors in addition to my own YouTube channel. I post on both. My background is in video production, so I like to take an excerpt from my audiobooks, preferably so listeners are getting something new, and add photos and motion graphics to turn it into a “sample movie” so to speak. I upload the video to YouTube and use that link in my newsletter and on Facebook takeovers/giveaways. I might say “Check out this sample and comment below with what you think for a chance to win an Audible download!” People love to click on videos and it makes for great new way for them to hear a sample.

AGYT

Erin Mallon and Teddy Hamilton, the narrators of Wait With Me, both did videos for me to help promote the book. They even took it a step further and recorded scenes from each other’s chapters—Erin read the male perspective and Teddy read the female perspective. It engaged my listeners in a personal way, and I posted it everywhere—not just to YouTube and my newsletter, but to audiobook Facebook groups, my own Facebook pages—anywhere I could.

Q: What advice would you give indie authors making the move into audiobooks?

A: Audiobooks are such a growing format, you’d be crazy not to get on board with it! Even authors who have published audio editions, I feel like a lot of them aren’t talking about audio enough. For every promotional post you do for your book, you should include an audio link. You need to be constantly reminding people that you’re not just an eBook author, you’re an audiobook author, too!

Amy Daws is an Amazon Top 25 bestselling author of sexy, contemporary romance novels with 15 titles in audio. She enjoys writing love stories that take place in America, as well as across the pond in England; especially about those footy-playing Harris Brothers of hers. When Amy is not writing in a tire shop waiting room, she’s watching Gilmore Girls, or singing karaoke in the living room with her daughter while Daddy smiles awkwardly from a distance. For more of Amy’s work, visit: http://www.amydawsauthor.com.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: What inspires you?

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

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

Make It Snappy: Marketing with URL Shorteners

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

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

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

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

Why we like it:

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

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

bitly

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

Why we like it:

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

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

blink

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

Why we like it:

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

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

t2m

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

Why we like it:

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

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

tiny

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

Why we like it:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Creating a Clip

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

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

Sharing Your Clips

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

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

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

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  • Embed it in your next newsletter to your fans.

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

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

How to Get (and Keep!) New Audiobook Listeners

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

Targeting and Re-Targeting

example survey

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

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

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

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

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Keep ‘Em Listening

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

Cross-Promoting

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

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

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

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

Announcing the Voice of Among Us

KristinaRienzi_AmongUs_CoverEarlier this year, we kicked off another exciting edition of ACX University with a look at Kristina Rienzi’s Among Us and a chance to audition to narrate and produce her alien conspiracy thriller. Over 65 auditions later, we’re thrilled to announce that Kristina has chosen Lewis Arlt to voice her audiobook! Let’s hear from Kristina on casting Lewis to produce Among Us:

The narrator selection process wasn’t an easy one. Every voice had a unique strength that would have added value to Among Us, but I needed to find the perfect fit. I weighed everything, and after much contemplation, I chose the performer who moved me the most, who captured my story and characters perfectly, who gave me chills with his voice. Lewis’ performance delivered what every listener wants when they choose a thriller—a visceral response. I’m certain beyond any doubt that Lewis will not only do Among Us justice, but will bring my fast-paced, dark, and twisted story to life like no one else. I cannot wait to hear the final product! 

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ACX Producer Lewis Arlt

For his part, Lewis was first drawn to the chance to voice this thrilling piece of fiction after focusing primarily on non-fiction on ACX:

[T]he notion of a thriller appealed to me from the standpoint of character delineation and plot progression in ways that non-fiction doesn’t usually offer. Additionally, Kristina’s writing drew me in. It’s a unique blend of stylistic choices – traditional spooky tension and flat-out terror, combined with wry sardonic contemporary observations, and a variety of pace, all of which gives the narrator lots to work with, and the listener to enjoy.

Listen to Lewis’ audition for Among Us below, and watch this space for updates on the production.


Check out the full slate of ACX University 2018 episodes here.