Tag Archives: indie publishing

Award-Worthy Advice from Indie Voices

The Audies were last night, and there was a strong showing from the ACX community, with several outstanding independent creators receiving nominations for their work. The Audies are the Audio Publishers Association’s annual awards for the best titles in audio publishing, and we have the inside scoop on what made these productions stand out, how they came to life, and why their creators submitted them for the consideration. Read on for inspiration, and let us know at the end if you’ll be submitting your title for next year.


Lauren Blakely – Birthday Suit

What makes Birthday Suit unique?

Birthday Suit is narrated by 12 amazing performers, full-cast style, so it sounds like a book met a radio play. It’s an aural experience, a book experience, and a theatrical experience all at once. The cast sounds great together and you can tell they had fun playing off each other.

Tell us about the vision for this project—how did you bring it to life?

I’m a theater lover, so I’d wanted to produce a full-cast audiobook for some time and Birthday Suit was the perfect story for it because the romance includes an interesting cast of characters that the hero and heroine interact with during a scavenger hunt. I felt each character was unique, with his or her own quirks and traits, and because of that, the story called out for a new audio style. More so, I believe Birthday Suit has a powerful love story at its core—one that plays out over ten years, with all sorts of angst for the hero, which Sebastian York captured brilliantly as his character falls in love with his best friend’s girl.

I worked closely with two talented people who I partner with on most of my audio books—Andi Arndt, who is both my primary heroine narrator and the force of nature behind Lyric Audiobooks, and Tyler Whitlatch at Plunk Productions, who edits and produces all my ACX titles. The project was a true collaborative production, with us bouncing ideas off each other, then assembling the cast and sending them to a studio in New York. Not only is Andi an award-winning narrator, she makes casting call spreadsheets like nobody’s business! And Tyler is vital to all of my books with his terrific ear for detail and his focus on creating a fantastic final product—he was in studio working with the actors during the recording, and he made sure everything sounded amazing in post.

What gave you the confidence to submit this project for an Audie?

I fell in love with this production from the very first minute I listened to the files. It was everything I’d hoped it would be and more—bright, dynamic voices interacting together. I decided before it even released to submit it, though I never expected the nomination to come in audio drama! That was a terrific surprise!


Stephanie Bentley & Miranda Ray – Lustily Ever After: The Audiobook Musical

What makes Lustily Ever After unique?

We are thrilled to be the first audiobook musical for adults!  This multicast narration of a novella-length fictional story includes 20 original songs inspired by 90’s pop music peppered into the book, which heightens the comedy of the romance parody. Characters voice their own dialogue and chapter headings are sung by a trio invoking the R&B group En Vogue.

Tell us about the vision for this project—how did you bring it to life?

I am a full-time audiobook narrator and a longtime musical comedy performer, so the inspiration for this book was truly as organic as it could get. I narrate mostly romance novels and would find myself giggling in the booth over and over at some of the tropes. Suddenly these lyrics just started coming into my head for the classic billionaire character—“the models in my bed don’t keep me warm at night, and no amount I spend can make me feel alright”—I started writing, and pretty soon a whole musical just came tumbling out! The songs were mostly written before I hired Miranda Ray to pen the actual book, so this was very much an audio-first project. 

There was so much creative collaboration on this project. Miranda was sending me pages from her theater tour on a cruise ship, I was sending vocals to Aaron Wilson to create the tracks, and I brought in very funny comedians from The Groundlings and Upright Citizens Brigade Theater to voice the other characters in my home studio. This was such a labor of love and every person who touched this project changed and enhanced some part of it and made it into what it is today! 

What gave you the confidence to submit this project for an Audie?

I hope more than anything that this nomination will inspire ‘regular people’ like myself to go out there and just create whatever they are dreaming of! This is such an exciting time to be an author and anything truly is possible! I submitted my work for an Audie because I absolutely love it, and I believe that this audiobook musical niche is about to be a huge marketplace in audiobooks.


Tanya Eby & Blunderwoman Productions – Nevertheless We Persisted: Me Too

What makes NWP: Me Too unique?

This is truly a unique audiobook. It was created by survivors of sexual abuse/discrimination and features original essays and poems, as well as original music and art for the cover. When casting, we asked our narration community for people who felt a connection to this topic, and we did crowd funding to underwrite the production so that we could pay all participants in it.

Tell us about the vision for this project—how did you bring it to life?

Blunderwoman looks for unique and important storytelling, and I try to do one passion project each year. I was deeply touched by the #MeToo movement and saw that so many of my loved ones had similar experiences. I wanted to amplify the message that abuse and discrimination still happens—is happening—and to give those stories a chance to be heard. An audiobook seemed to be the natural way to amplify voices—literally—so I created a call for submissions from writers, and narrator and writer Karen White joined me as co-editor for the piece. Friends and fans helped me spread the word about submissions, and we received pieces from all over the world. Narrators recorded poems and stories in their studios, Amanda Rose Smith did post-production and created original music, and singers who recorded tracks in their own studios and sent them in to be mastered. This was truly a sprawling project, and sort of a marvel on what we can accomplish using modern technology.

This project was definitely created with audio in mind—there is something deeply powerful about hearing a story told. In this case, having people speak directly to the listener and say “here is what happened to me.” It’s incredible the impact that audio can have. It connects emotionally with the listener, it can be transformative, and the team who came together to produce this (all 100 of us as writers, singers, artists, and performers) felt connected not only to a project, but also to something bigger: the power in telling a story, of the end of secret keeping, and the empowerment and healing that can come through expressing your truth.

What gave you the confidence to submit this project for an Audie?

I knew no matter what happened, I was going to submit this. While this is not an easy listen, I wanted to give it a chance to be heard by as many people as possible, and I thought the Audies would be a wonderful way of thanking the creators of this project by acknowledging their hard work and commitment to creating something powerful. I’m so honored and pleased that it received a nod as one of the Best Original Works. In my mind, we’ve already won.


Congratulations to all this year’s Audie nominees! Your boundless creativity and drive to create never fail to inspire us. Let us know in the comments what you’re feeling inspired to create, and if you’ll be submitting your 2020 title for next year’s Audies!

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

Cynthia Hartwig’s Top Five Marketing Jobs for New Authors

We met Cynthia Hartwig in Seattle at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference. Cynthia teaches writing and storytelling at the Richard Hugo House and The School of Visual Concepts, and we learned right away that she had a knack for tackling topics writers find daunting. She joins us today to demystify what some consider to be the scariest task new authors face: marketing their titles.

Cynthia02The Top Five “Absolutely Positively Have-To-No-Matter-What” Marketing Jobs for New Authors

We need to talk. Yes, I’m talking to you, friend. I get that you’re a writer, a word nut, a lover of deep, heartfelt tales, more conversant in character arcs than target markets and audience splits.

Stop shaking in your boots. I’ve narrowed the marketing tasks down to the top five most effective steps for authors new to the marketing conundrum. If you’re stultified by the thousand things you’ve heard other experts telling you to DO RIGHT THIS MINUTE, start here and you’ll do better than fine.

Understand that a marketing hat is not a dunce cap, a cone of shame or a dog collar.

Writers are strange animals. They write books and they want people to read them. And yet when someone says, “be a marketer” they get all shamefaced and embarrassed.

If you can’t admit to the idea that marketing = sales, try thinking of marketing as an honorable way to find readers. Assuming you’ve got a great story, an inviting cover and a hook-‘em-hard title, this list of marketing priorities will get your book sales moving.

1.  Fill out your Amazon Author Central profile to help readers find you.

It seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many new authors forget this basic task. Filling out your Amazon Author Central page is far more effective than paying for a sexy web site at the early stage of your author career. This is because Amazon attracts millions of readers to its site—and all of them have no idea who you are or why they should look for you UNLESS your book comes up in their search bar.

You have no real brand identity (yet), so it makes sense to help Amazon direct readers to your e-books and audio version(s). Amazon is the online mega-store equivalent, so naturally you want to be front-and-center, as close to as many reader “buy” buttons as you can get. Your author profile page is there to help you.

2. Give out free copies like candy in exchange for reviews.

Cynthia04Deborah Reed, pictured right, is a very successful writer of both literary novels (much harder to sell than genre books) and thrillers (written under the pseudonym, Audrey Braun). Deb recommends sending lots of free copies of your book to bloggers for review. “Be incredibly generous and polite to said bloggers,” she says. “Also give free copies to other writers and readers, including people you know, in exchange for an honest review.”  Don’t worry that giving your book away will steal sales away from you; while it seems counter-intuitive, free sampling is a proven way to build an audience. Once you hook a listener, they will clamor for more. (ACX gives you 25 free download codes that you can use as Cynthia recommends. Just email support@acx.com to request them.Ed.)

3. Reviews are worth mowing the neighbor’s lawn, changing diapers, and washing cars.

Reviews are social proof that your book is worth spending hard cash for. We’re herd animals and believe me, the more you can herd friends, hair cutters, garage mechanics, yard people and yes, even family members, to write a paragraph of honest copy about your book, the better your sales will be.

Your goal is to hand-sell 20-25 reviews. Call in every favor, every chit, every IOU or marker you have outstanding from people in exchange for a review. Do not worry one whit about whether the reviews or good or bad; in fact, I believe bad reviews have a positive effect because people are so cynical they will distrust you if all the reviews are glowing.

4. Build an email list of 1000+ and mail an e-newsletter once a month.

Books have always been sold hand-to-hand until the marketing snowball gets rolling. I hope you started an email list a long time ago but if you didn’t, immediately start collecting names and email addresses of everybody you come in contact with. My list includes business associates, past clients, social club members, PTA committee volunteers, neighborhood watch folks and a host of people I meet in a busy social life. You want to track everyone you meet because people who know you are more likely buy your book than people who don’t. It’s been said that an email list is the one marketing tool that traditional publishers most want to get their hands on. So it makes sense as a “self-marketer”, that you’d build your list into a marketing asset of at least 1000 names.

cynthia03

Next, create an e-newsletter and mail it once a month. More often than that is annoying; any less and people will forget why they are getting a message from you and will unsubscribe. If you happen to blog, the best things to put in your e-newsletter are interesting and informative posts—just don’t make them posts about writing (most of your friends and associates don’t care a whit about the writing, just the reading). Always include a clear, simple call-to-action asking the recipient (nicely) to buy your audiobook. Show your cover with its short sales blurb and make sure they can click a link to buy on Audible, Amazon, or iTunes. If the e-news is informative and doesn’t bludgeon them over the head with a buy-Buy!-BUY! message, your newsletter will be the closest thing you have to your own storefront.

5. Create a blog that doubles as your web site (and isn’t about writing).

You won’t find social media on my “top five absolutely, positively must-dos” for a self-published author right out of the gate. Even though I’m a huge social media fan.

I believe a new author is better off creating a blog that will build credibility in a specific area and will later become the hub for social media. Instead of randomly tweeting or posting “Buy my book!” on Facebook (which doesn’t work and annoys people), create a strong blog designed to build both platform (aka who you are online) and proves your authority (why readers should care).

Don’t make your blog about writing, because the field is saturated. Instead of writing about writing thrillers, blog about weapons the good and bad guys use against each other; don’t write a blog about writing Regency romances, write a blog about the amazing fabrics (duppioni, muslin, jacquard, white weave, slub, satin!) of Regency-era fashions. Once you’ve got yourself established in the blogosphere, then links to your posts become the “there there” that all your tweets, Facebook posts, Goodreads comments, and Pinterest boards lead to. I use WordPress as my blog and website platform and by far, the Two Pens blog aimed at business readers is one of the most important marketing component I use.

6. Once You’ve Written a Book, Record It

I know, I said there would be five tips. But here’s a bonus. You’d expect that the ACX blog would recommend having your book produced in audio. But don’t do it just because ACX says so. Do it for selfish (i.e. marketing) reasons: people who buy audiobooks are way different than the people who buy e-books or print books—and the market is growing. Audiobook listeners are multi-tasking in some way: they’re driving to or from work, they’re riding the subway, enjoying a sunny day in the park – doing a hundred and one things you can’t do with your eyes glued to a page. A basic tenet of marketing is to be everywhere your buyers are. Why not expand your readership beyond books to listeners of audiobooks since ACX has made it so easy to have your words professionally recorded?Cynthia01

-Cynthia Hartwig

Have you tried any of Cynthia’s marketing tactics? Which have worked best for you? Tell us about it in the comments!