Tag Archives: marketing

Mel Robbins on Motivating for Audiobook Success

5-4-3-2-1! ACX author, narrator, and master motivator Mel Robbins joined us in-studio to discuss The 5 Second Rule and how her method can help creatives of all stripes achieve success. Writing one of the best-selling audiobooks of 2017 and an Audible Original out this past May, Mel knows a thing or two (or five!) about maximizing your productivity and growing your listening audience. Listen to our interview below or read through the transcript to learn from the path she’s blazed.

Mel Robbins_ The ACX Audio Interview(2)

Key points from our interview with Mel:

  • Learn The 5 Second Rule and what went into creating the bestseller. (02:25)
  • Discover how you can join the indie publishing revolution by publishing or producing audiobooks on ACX. (05:20)
  • Hear how to connect with your listening audience from the recording booth. (08:15)
  • Build your social media following the 5 Second way. (09:18)
  • Learn the role of graphic and video content in promoting your work on social media. (11:40)
  • Find out how authors and actors can use The 5 Second Rule to increase productivity. (15:00)
  • How does Mel recognize when she is one the right path to success? (22:15)
  • Mel has inspired a great number of people, but who inspires her? (29:15)

Read the transcript: Mel Quote

Scott Jacobi: This is Scott Jacobi with ACX, and I’m here with Mel Robbins. Thanks for joining us today.

Mel Robbins: Well, thanks for having me.

Scott Jacobi: We are in our Newark, New Jersey studios and today, Mel and I are going to talk about her book, The 5 Second Rule and how some of her tactics can be applied to ACX authors and actors to find success in their own lives.

Mel Robbins: That’s right. Listen up, baby.

Scott Jacobi: So could you please start by, give us sort of your 60 second elevator pitch on yourself and The 5 Second Rule, just set us up with what we’re dealing with today.

Mel Robbins: Sure. My name is Mel Robbins, and I’m a businesswoman, a mother of three. I’ve been married 21 years, which is a small miracle that Chris stuck around for that long, and I wrote The 5 Second Rule which is a book about a mind trick that I created by accident 10 years ago that will help you change any habit and have a deeper connection with your authentic self. That sounded so cheesy it’s unbelievable, but that’s just what fell out of my mouth.

Scott Jacobi: I don’t think it sounds, I think it sounded authentic. Like you said, authentic self. If you’re doing it without thinking about it, I think it’s coming out just right.

Mel Robbins: There you go.

Scott Jacobi: So there you go. Okay, so to get into it, your book has been a smashing success on Audible as well as in ebook and print. It quickly became one of the best selling books that we have on Audible. It has a 4.6 rating over 17,000 reviews.

Mel Robbins: That’s insane.

Scott Jacobi: Yeah.

Mel Robbins: Can we just stop right there?

Scott Jacobi: And it’s just been out a year, right? Last February?

Mel Robbins: It hasn’t even been out a year. 17,000 reviews, 4.6 stars, that is the thing I’m the most proud of. The fact that it’s not only done well, but more importantly, people fricking dig it.

Scott Jacobi: They dig it. They’re giving it great reviews, and you’re nearing 300,000 Audible units. Okay, all right-

Mel Robbins: No, we’ve passed it. Nearing. Give me all the credit it is due.

Scott Jacobi: I need an updated paper. The big thing there that I find so fascinating is your audiobook sales are more than your print and your ebook sales combined.

Mel Robbins: Yes.

Scott Jacobi: Which blows my mind, and I’m sure it blows a lot of people’s minds that’ll be listening to this. It seems, in some ways, like it came together very quickly, like it showed up on the scene very quickly, but we know that usually, overnight success is a misnomer. Can you tell us about the work that you put into The 5 Second Rule that most people wouldn’t see that they might be able to learn from?

Mel Robbins: Well, I’m gonna answer the question two ways. First, I’m gonna talk about The 5 Second Rule concept, and then I’ll tell you into the work that went into creating not only the book but an audio experience that became the sensation that it’s become.

Scott Jacobi: Give it to me.

Mel Robbins: So first of all, the idea of The 5 Second Rule is super simple, and that is that you can change your life in five seconds. In fact, that’s the only way that you change your life, and I came up with this simple trick 10 years ago to help me beat a habit of hitting the snooze button and oversleeping every single morning.

Mel Robbins: So the idea of The 5 Second Rule was something that I used in private for five years. I then shared it on a stage just kind of extemporaneously. I said that correctly, right? Okay. Somebody taped the speech that I was giving and the speech went crazy viral and then people started to write to me about The 5 Second Rule. The writing and the kind of emails that we got from people that saw this speech online drove me to want to figure out why The 5 Second Rule actually works, and so I did a three year long research project into the science of habits and human behavior. I’m a real nerd. Like I’m super curious about human behavior and life hacks and brain hacks and it turns out The 5 Second Rule is one of the most powerful brain hacks backed by science that will help you make any change happen.

Mel Robbins: So there was eight years of using The 5 Second Rule and three years of research that went into the concept, and I think that’s one thing to understand that particularly simple concepts, the reason why a simple concept can be powerful is there’s typically a ton of work behind it. So that’s how the background on the actual concept, but with the book, okay. You’re talking to a chick that has some dyslexia. I have ADHD.

Scott Jacobi: Same.

Mel Robbins: I have horrendous executive functioning skills, and the idea of writing a book is literally the equivalent of taking a pencil and shoving it into my eyeball.

Scott Jacobi: I hope that’s not how you wrote it.

Mel Robbins: Pretty much, yes.

Scott Jacobi: But that’s a big undertaking to put all that together.

Mel Robbins: Yeah, and my business partner will tell you it was probably the worst six months experience for either one of us, because I was complete jackass to deal with, because I was stressed out all the time.

Scott Jacobi: I’m sure a lot of our authors can relate to that.

Mel Robbins: Totally. So we wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote, and I also … So the book took about six months to write. Now here’s the thing that happened. We self published the book, and so what happened is we had all this kind of pent up demand because I have a social media following and I have a speaking platform, and when the book came out, it sold out in terms of the print copies, because it was a really small print run in the beginning. Sold out immediately, I don’t know, the 15,000 copies that they printed. The only thing that was available was the audiobook.

Scott Jacobi: Was the audio, right.

Mel Robbins: Or the ebook. Now, the thing about the audiobook that I think was a differentiator is that when you say overnight success usually means 10 years of experience, the one thing that is different about me as an author is that I have five years of broadcast experience. So when it came time to do the audiobook, I just naturally looked at the audiobook as if it were producing a radio show.

Scott Jacobi: Another broadcast project.

Mel Robbins: Correct. So the interesting thing, and I fricking love ACX. The experience that I have had as an author using your platform and, I should say, this platform, has been mind blowing and very eye opening. Number one, we all know that there’s a huge paradigm shift in publishing, and authors make the mistake of letting their egos make big business decisions. There are a lot of authors, and you may be one of them, that feels a little insecure about your work, and so you think you need an agent, or you think you need a big publisher. You think you need some kind of advance in order to validate your work. The truth is, you don’t need … anybody. The only thing that will validate your work is you actually doing your work.

Scott Jacobi: Getting it out there.

Mel Robbins: Yes.

Scott Jacobi: Doing it and getting it out to people.

Mel Robbins: Yes. Regardless of how the book gets published, you still have to market it. So finish the book, but then when you publish the book, it’s gonna be on you to push it. You’re gonna make more money if you are pushing people to the audiobook, because if you do your global distribution, the percentages are fantastic. Now-

Scott Jacobi: Right. Better than you’re gonna find on the print or the ebook side.

Mel Robbins: Better. Are you kidding? 10 times better for crying out loud. I say to everybody that I talk to that reaches out to us about advice about writing a book and publishing, number one, no matter what, sever all audio rights. Do it yourself through ACX. It’s the smartest business move, it’s a long tail strategy, you have all the resources right here, you’re being a complete dummy driven by ego if you do it any other way. Because let me tell you something, that big publishing house that is launching your book for you, you know what they’re gonna do? They’re gonna hire the same actor you could hire. They’re gonna stick him in the booth here at ACX, and they’re gonna distribute it themselves through ACX and they’re gonna give you a penny. Goodbye.

Scott Jacobi: Right. So do it yourself, and that’s a big part of our platform is the ability either to do it yourself as you did, reading it, or to sort of be your own author entrepreneur or actor entrepreneur, take the power into your own hands, put yourself in the booth, or put yourself in the director’s chair, as it were.

Mel Robbins: The other thing that I wanna say quickly is that just like The 5 Second Rule was a mistake.

Scott Jacobi: A happy accident.

Mel Robbins: Seriously, it was a happy accident that changed my life and will change yours. The audiobook experience and us self publishing for the first time on ACX was an incredibly happy accident, and one of the things that I want you to understand if you do narrate your own book, and this is something I learned at radio that you don’t think about. When you’re doing an audio product, it is a one to one experience. So when you go into that booth, one of the tricks that we used to have when I was in the radio business is we would print out the avatars on Facebook of our fans and I would have one person paste it up, their face in the booth, and I would talk to that one person.

Scott Jacobi: And that’s your audience.

Mel Robbins: That’s your audience. It’s an incredibly intimate experience.

Scott Jacobi: Absolutely, and that’s one of the reasons that theater professionals, theater actors do so well with this, because they’re used to performing to the last row, and that’s a similar sort of idea to that. I think that’s great advice. You bring up your social media followers, which is a great point for me to pivot into my next question, and it also ties into the idea of no overnight success. You mentioned having a good social media following before you launched the book. You said people were reaching out to you and such about The 5 Second Rule when the video went viral. How did you use, once you had this book, how did you use the content around it to grow your social media channels, giving you a captive audience to then market the book to? What did you do that ACX authors or actors could try to replicate?

Mel Robbins: Well, so I have some particular rules about social media. Number one, it’s not about you. It’s about them. Unless you’re Beyonce and people wanna be a voyeur on your life, nobody really gives a shit, and so your social media is about what the audience that follows you is getting. So before you publish the book, as you’re writing a book, if you have something to say in a book, you also have something to say on social media. You need to start pushing yourself now to start publishing more content on social media. That content should be authentic. It should be personal. It should of value to your audience, and how do you figure that out? Well, you start publishing all kinds of stuff, and then you see what people comment on. You see what they heart. You see what they share. They will give you so much information based on how they’re interacting with you. Do more of what people interact with. That’s how you build an audience.

Scott Jacobi: Right. Test and repeat.

Mel Robbins: Yes, and you need to do it now. Don’t wait until the fricking book comes out and now you wanna sell something to people. Do it now.

Scott Jacobi: Right, get them involved. As we said, build up a little momentum, get them involved in the process early. We always tell our authors, tell them that you’ve cast your actor. Tell them that you’ve stepped in the studio. Share a picture of yourself as you step into the studio. Get people bought in emotionally to that product, so that when it comes out, they raring to buy it.

Mel Robbins: More importantly, as you’re writing it, take a photo of yourself as you’re struggling with procrastination. Write about it. Show people what you’re doing, and what happens is people feel like they know you. They feel like they’ve been along for the ride. They feel like for an entire year, you’ve done nothing but give value, value, value, and then when the time comes to support your work, now you can make the ask.

Scott Jacobi: And they feel like they’re giving you something back for what you’ve given them. I love that idea.

Mel Robbins: 100%. 100%.

Scott Jacobi: So as you’re talking about this social media content that you’ve created and you’re recommending others create, looking at your social media feeds, I noticed that you use a lot of video and image. It’s not just text based. I think a very basic thing people hopefully know about social media is video and pictures are going to get more engagement than just text based posts. They catch the eye. They take up more real estate, et cetera. How do you do that? So maybe you’ll tell me you are also a video producer and you’re also a Photoshop expert.

Mel Robbins: Not me. No, I’m not.

Scott Jacobi: So how do you do that and how could others possibly recreate that?

Mel Robbins: Well, the first thing that you could do is first of all, just shoot stuff on your smartphone for crying out loud. I mean, if you look at the stuff that goes viral, it’s really shady, fuzzy looking stuff that people shoot on their phones, so stop worrying about it being perfect. It’s not a book. This is a piece of micro-content that’s gonna last like 10 seconds. It’ll go viral if you’re lucky. Okay?

Mel Robbins: The second thing is that it’s platform dependent, so people that are on Instagram are image heavy. Things that are on Facebook tend to be either longer form or tend to be natively uploaded video. You don’t wanna just link to YouTube. That’s lazy. You gotta upload the video yourself to Facebook, otherwise you’re gonna decrease the amount of stuff that, the amount of times people share it. With YouTube, obviously it’s all video. If you start shooting your own video, almost like a selfie, just kind of talking to camera and showing people what you’re up to, sharing what you’re thinking about, you’ll see if it resonates with people. If you need to do more video, what you’re gonna do is you’re going to take a video of yourself and you’re gonna say, “I’m looking for an intern. Is there any high schooler out there that understands how to use iMovie or any of the editing tools, and I’ve got an incredible, killer, 10 hour a week internship with you that could turn into a paying gig.”

Mel Robbins: All of your friends’ nieces, nephews, sons and daughters will reach out to you, and next thing you know, you’ve got a couple people that are interested in editing video as an internship. Here’s what you’re gonna do. You’re gonna tell them to take five or six of the crappy videos that you’ve shot yourself and edit together something kind of cool. You give them that project as a way for them to try out, pick the best one, boom. Now you have a video editor. You do this one little push at a time, and so that’s how we started. We now have three full time video editors. We have a creative director that runs social media. We have community managers that respond to all the posts and the comments, and one woman who does nothing but just answer emails all day. Because my brand is all about helping people get the advice and the entertainment and the connection that they need so that they can do a little bit better.

Scott Jacobi: So speaking of that, let’s do that right now. We’ve talked about some of the broad tactics that you’ve used for marketing your books, but I love The 5 Second Rule. I think it’s so fascinating, and I tried it myself the other night. I’ve personally not been going to bed early enough, and I have a little daughter who wakes me up at the same time every morning, no matter how late I go to bed, and I’m playing on my phone too long and I’m staying up too late. So having listened and researched your book, I said, I really should go to bed, and then I said 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, I’m getting up and I’m going to bed.

Scott Jacobi: So it worked for me in that little instance. How can authors and actors apply The 5 Second Rule specifically to what they’re trying to achieve in their day to day lives with their audiobook and writing?

Mel Robbins: Great, well, so let’s talk about the big creativity killer, which is procrastination. So procrastination is a habit. You’re not a procrastinator. You have a habit of procrastinating, and when you look at the research around habits, there are three parts that make up a habit. Then those become like a closed loop that get encoded in your brain, and then you get stuck in the habit of procrastinating.

Scott Jacobi: What are the three parts?

Mel Robbins: The first is the trigger. The trigger is something that is outside of you that triggers you to repeat a pattern, and then when you do the pattern, you get a payoff. So with procrastination, the trigger is 100% always the same. Procrastination is a habit that’s triggered by stress. Believe it or not, when you procrastinate on work, it has nothing to do with work. You’re actually stressed about something else, typically, and the stress triggers you to blow off the things that require focus. And so blowing off writing, blowing off editing a video, blowing off working on your marketing, blowing off watching the videos on the ACX university platform in order to get better at the acting stuff that you need to do. All of that is triggered by greater stressors.

Mel Robbins: The reason why you have the pattern of procrastinating is because when you blow off the work that requires focus, you get a small amount of release from the stress that you’re feeling. So the only way to change a habit is not to worry about the trigger. There’s always gonna be shit that stresses you out. You just can’t control that.

Scott Jacobi: That’s life.

Mel Robbins: That’s life. But you can always choose how you respond to the trigger. So if the habit right now is procrastinating as a form of stress release, what we need to do is we need to actually retrain you that when you’re stressed, that you recognize it and that you actually push yourself forward and do a little work anyway.

Mel Robbins: And so the way that you’re gonna use The 5 Second Rule is when you catch yourself procrastinating, number one, acknowledge oh. Don’t say, oh, there I go procrastinating again. Go oh, I must be stressed about something.

Scott Jacobi: Okay, so link the two together.

Mel Robbins: Yeah, link the two together, and it might be maybe your dad’s … Somebody on our team, she’s worried about her dad’s health. They’ve got a test back that’s a little sketchy and she’s now extraordinarily upset about it. Okay? That’s the trigger.

Scott Jacobi: I hope he’ll be okay.

Mel Robbins: So acknowledge, I’m just stressed about dad. So that disappears the trigger, and then go 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, and I want you to just work for five minutes. That’s it. The reason I want you to just start working for five minutes is starting is the hardest part, number one. Number two, we’re not actually trying to turn you into a workaholic. We’re trying to retrain you and your response to the trigger of stress. Your old habit when you felt stress was to step back and procrastinate. The new habit is to recognize the stress, acknowledge it, and lean into the work.

Mel Robbins: So I only want you to work for five minutes because if I can get you started, 83% of you will keep going.

Scott Jacobi: 83%?

Mel Robbins: Yes.

Scott Jacobi: That’s pretty good.

Mel Robbins: Yes.

Scott Jacobi: I have a question about what you just said. I can say in my personal life, I’ve been working to try to do the first step of what you said, which is sort of step back and recognize, what am I actually feeling right now? What’s going on in my head or my body? Do you have a good way to take, is it a physical step back? Is it closing your eyes and taking a deep breath? How do you grab onto that moment and to not let it pass by?

Mel Robbins: Well, first of all, I count backwards, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. That’s The 5 Second Rule, and you’ve got to do that because what you’re doing is you’re interrupting all of the bad habits and reactions that get stored as habits in the interior part of your brain, and you’re awakening your prefrontal cortex. By the time you get to one, your mind is now primed to focus, to act with courage, to do something new. So the counting backwards is essential.

Mel Robbins: You can use the rule, the second that you hit one, you’re in control. So you now have the ability to make a conscious choice, whether that’s pushing yourself forward by speaking up, or by doing something outside your comfort zone, or starting the work where normally you’d procrastinate. Or maybe you’re gonna use it to 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, and now pull yourself back. You’re not gonna micromanage your team. You’re not gonna snap at your kids. You’re not gonna reach for that Manhattan, that you’re going to redirect yourself away from the thing that you do that’s destructive.

Mel Robbins: So for me, when I first started using The 5 Second Rule, I used it to 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, get up on time. Then I used it to 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, get to the gym. Then I used to it to 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, kinda curb the drinking a little bit. Then I started using it to 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, change the way and the tone in which I was speaking to my husband. We were going through some shitty stuff at the time, and I was not being that nice. Now, I use it mostly for thinking patterns.

Scott Jacobi: Give me an example.

Mel Robbins: So self-doubt. Imposter syndrome. Anxiety. Any garbage that you think that’s actually self destructive. It is a habit, just like chewing your nails is a pattern that you repeat that’s annoying, so is self-doubt. So if you catch your thoughts drifting, you can 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, give yourself like a mental … slap, awaken the prefrontal cortex, and insert something that is optimistic or positive or self-serving instead of defeating. In the five years that I have been using The 5 Second Rule to redirect my thoughts and reframe them, I have fundamentally changed my mindset. I’ve cured myself of anxiety. I have no imposter syndrome, and this goes back to the original question, which is how do you, in the moment, figure out how to do this?

Mel Robbins: Well, I think that inside each and every one of us, whether you call it a GPS or you call it your inner wisdom or you call it your soul or whatever you want to call it, that there is a guidance system inside of you.

Scott Jacobi: Something innate.

Mel Robbins: It’s always talking to you. It’s a combination of all the experiences of your lifetime, situational intelligence. It’s your intuition. The fact is that when you start to use The 5 Second Rule to push all the excuses aside, you gain a level of clarity that is very hard to describe. It gives you a direct line to your intuition, because so many of us, our intuition kind of rises up, and then we shut it down with an excuse or with self-doubt or with anxiety. When you start to empower your own intuition, and you start to have a little bit more courage in your life, what happens is your ability to hear those moments, your ability to really know yourself and be able to self-monitor, it’s extraordinary. It’s the most powerful thing that you could learn to do.

Scott Jacobi: So you’re stripping away the self doubt-

Mel Robbins: Yeah.

Scott Jacobi: Which is leaving room for the way you truly want to be feeling and acting to bubble up and for you to be able to recognize it and act on it.

Mel Robbins: That’s a beautiful way to say it.

Scott Jacobi: Thank you.

Mel Robbins: Yeah, really.

Scott Jacobi: Great. So you talk about success and achieving this success based on these methods that you’re talking about. What are some of the metrics that you use to define success in your own life, and maybe also specifically for your book and your audiobook? What are your benchmarks?

Mel Robbins: Well, I want to be the number one audiobook in the world.

Scott Jacobi: All right.

Mel Robbins: There you go. There’s my benchmark. Let’s go. We’re well on our way. I’m just kidding.

Scott Jacobi: So you said, well okay, you set very high level goals. Do you set sort of sub goals under those to hit along the way, or do you just set that stretch goal and you do everything you can to hit that.

Mel Robbins: So I’m what you would call an outcome thinker, so I’m always thinking about where I want to get to. Maybe this is from a lifetime of experiencing anxiety, which is always living in the future and normally the future’s terrible. So that’s why you feel anxious right now. But I’m an outcome thinker, so I think about the things that I want to achieve, and then I always work backwards to figure out, well, what are the steps that lead me there? I measure my personal success by whether or not I’m energized and proud of what I’m doing and who I’m doing it with. I think the single thing that has been a really remarkable tipping point, and this will be another book that we’re gonna write.

Scott Jacobi: Somebody already used the tipping point, so I would suggest a different-

Mel Robbins: Oh, not that one, sorry.

Scott Jacobi: Just a different title, but I love the idea, so keep going.

Mel Robbins: There is this really interesting tipping point in our business where things just exploded. The deals were suddenly massive and the platform was getting bigger, and that was when we stumbled upon this really interesting little tool that I can’t wait to write more about. That is that every single one of us has an internal fuel gauge. If you think about it like a gas tank that has a gauge that goes from empty to full. When your gas tank is empty, you feel depleted. When your gas tank is full, you feel fully energized. I think we discovered this because we were trying to create an online course around passion, and passion is a very difficult topic to teach because at the end of the day, passion isn’t a thing. It’s not a profession. It’s not something that the place that you live or relationship that you’re in. Passion is energy.

Mel Robbins: The way to discover passion in your life is to follow the energy. When you tune inward and you pay attention to the data that your own body is giving you, you actually have the answer to the question that vexes everybody, which is how do I find my passion? You find your passion by aligning your life with the things that naturally energize you. So we made a crazy, lunatic woo woo business decision a year ago, my business partner and I, that we would only do things and we would only work with people that we are energized by. Anything that depletes us … we’re not doing it. I don’t care how much money they offer. I don’t care how big the person is, and when you use your internal fuel gauge as a way to make decisions, what you’re actually doing is you now have found a tool to make decisions that are aligned with the things that you’re naturally passionate about.

Mel Robbins: The cool thing is that when you’re energized, you do better work. When you’re energized by the people around you, you’re a better leader. When you’re energized by the projects that you’re working on, you’re fricking creative. So what that may mean for you as a writer is you might be depleted when you sit down to write at home. You might notice that if you go to the local library or you go to a coffee shop, you’re more energized. So if you make the small shift to write in places where you naturally feel more energized, you will be shocked at how your creativity and your productivity flourishes.

Scott Jacobi: So it sounds like in order to notice that, we go back again to what you were talking about earlier, that need to take a step back, check in with yourself, use The 5 Second Rule to center yourself, if you will. What I’m getting from what you were just saying is it almost sounds like a melding between eastern and western. It sounds like it’s a little bit spiritual, but you also say it’s internally data driven, and I love the idea of taking something that there are people out there that think spirituality is a squishy concept and aren’t super into it. If you can use it for yourself in a way that feels more authentic, as you said, I agree. I think it can be a great driver to success.

Scott Jacobi: I have a quick question for you on what you just said. I imagine that it’s easier to say, I’m only gonna work with people that make me passionate. I’m only gonna take projects, regardless of the money, that I really feel passionate about. I imagine that’s easier when you’ve had a measure of success then when you’re either just starting out or you’re sort of at that pivot point, like you mentioned, just prior to that tipping point. Any tips for how somebody could avoid the allure of, I need the money. I should just take that project even though I don’t love it. Because you went through that.

Mel Robbins: Oh, god. Look, if you’re at the point where you’re trying to pay your bills, take the … project, okay? What I’m talking about is having the awareness so that if you’re in a situation where you work for a company and there are people in the company day to day that deplete you, be aware of that, and take intentional steps not to get hooked into them. So it’s more of the awareness around how people’s behavior is contagious. If there are people you have to work with every day that deplete you, take steps to remove yourself from conversations with them. Take steps not to engage in the passive aggressive stuff.

Scott Jacobi: Minimize the exposure.

Mel Robbins: Yes. Exactly, and spend more time with the people at work that actually do energize you. If you are somebody that you’re starting the process of becoming an actor and you’ve got, it’s a new paradigm and learning something new depletes you, every time you notice that you’re depleted, I want you to redirect your thoughts to the thing that got you excited about wanting to do this in the first place, and anchor yourself there in the part of what you’re taking on now that actually energizes you. Does that make sense?

Scott Jacobi: Yeah, no, absolutely.

Mel Robbins: So it’s kind of the fact that this awareness around what naturally depletes you and what naturally energizes you, how that can give you the beacons that you need to pivot in order to align your life and your work in ways that are more satisfying and more successful for you.

Scott Jacobi: Right. I love it. That definitely does make a lot of sense. As we start to wrap things up here, I’ve got one more question for you and then we’ll go into our little end game here.

Mel Robbins: Cool.

Scott Jacobi: But as you’ve mentioned and as people will see the moment they click on any of your website or social media profiles, you’ve inspired a great deal many people with this 5 Second Rule. I’m curious, who inspires you? Who has inspired you, or who do you currently see as a hero, and don’t say yourself.

Mel Robbins: Well, if I have to be … The first person that comes to mind, as cheesy and as predictable as it is, is Oprah, and there’s a reason why. The reason why is, first of all, I grew up with her. So I’m gonna be 50 this year, and when I got home from school, she would be on TV. It was my first habit that I remember in terms of television-

Scott Jacobi: A good habit.

Mel Robbins: And always looking forward to something. What I loved about her show was the fact that she made the fact that we’re all screwed up normal, and she wasn’t the kind of expert that was talking down to people. She was the kind of person that was right there alongside with you, and that really inspired me. Then when 10 years ago, I first stepped into the media business, and I signed a development deal with ABC, one of the people that was coaching me was one of the creators of The View, and they wanted to turn me into a talk show host. I remember him making me watch all these clips of Oprah Winfrey.

Mel Robbins: One of the things that he said about her that he wanted me to pay attention to, and as an actor and as an author, when you think about your audio experience of the story that you want to tell, I want you to remember this.

Scott Jacobi: Hit me.

Mel Robbins: When Oprah Winfrey opens her show, it doesn’t matter what she’s about to talk about. She exudes a level of excitement about what’s about to go down that makes you lean in because she believes that what you’re about to hear about the brand new microwave that’s gonna hit, that it’s gonna change your life. So she was a master at piquing your curiosity and making you pay attention. She was also a master at being passionate about what she was talking about.

Scott Jacobi: You took the words out of my mouth. I was going to say, based on what you’ve just said, she must be very passionate about what she does, and that makes a great point for especially actors as they step into the booth and they’re preparing to read their tenth book in a row and they’re looking to get those energy levels up. Having that passion and being passionate about it is such a key part in connecting with the audience for that performance. You’ve taught me, I was gonna say, Oprah must be incredibly passionate about what she does to bring that level of excitement every show.

Mel Robbins: Yeah, and when I step on a stage, for example, it could be an audience of 20,000 in a stadium. It could be 500 folks that work in financial services like we had in the audience yesterday in Dallas. The thing that drives me is knowing that there is one person in that audience whose life is about to change because of something they’re about to hear. If you step into the booth before you record your book, and you convince yourself that that one person, there’s one person out there that has to hear this story, and I’ve got to tell it in a way that is so compelling that I reach that one fricking person, you’ll win.

Scott Jacobi: Going back to what you said before about the audio medium being very one to one, being very intimate. Absolutely. I love it. I think that is great advice, and I think that’s a great point to wrap up the meat of this on, and to launch into our end feature, which we normally call the lightning round, but for this session we’ll call it the 5 second round.

Mel Robbins: Okay.

Scott Jacobi: So I have, and you have not seen these, so I’m-

Mel Robbins: I have not seen these.

Scott Jacobi: And they’re not difficult. They’re not gotcha questions, don’t worry.

Mel Robbins: Okay.

Scott Jacobi: But yeah, favorite place to write?

Mel Robbins: My favorite place to write? Into a microphone. I don’t like to write. I dictate everything.

Scott Jacobi: You dictate everything.

Mel Robbins: I’m an editor. I’m not a writer.

Scott Jacobi: So who puts it down for you?

Mel Robbins: Siri.

Scott Jacobi: Siri?

Mel Robbins: Yes.

Scott Jacobi: Okay.

Mel Robbins: Or Dragon Dictate, I use those two.

Scott Jacobi: Okay, all right. Cool. What is your favorite time of day to dictate?

Mel Robbins: Any time.

Scott Jacobi: Any time?

Mel Robbins: Yes, because I’m not a writer. If a thought comes to me, it’s like, I just puke it out right now.

Scott Jacobi: You gotta get that out right away.

Mel Robbins: Before I forget it. Remember, ADHD, dyslexia. You gotta work with what you got, people.

Scott Jacobi: So along those lines, coffee or tea, or no caffeine at all?

Mel Robbins: Coffee for sure with whole milk, except for when I have bronchitis, which I get every fall and spring, and then it’s tea.

Scott Jacobi: Okay. All right. Favorite pizza topping?

Mel Robbins: Mushrooms.

Scott Jacobi: Mushrooms?

Mel Robbins: And sausage.

Scott Jacobi: Together? Mushrooms and sausage?

Mel Robbins: Yes, mushrooms and sausage. More mushrooms.

Scott Jacobi: Okay. Favorite place to go on vacation?

Mel Robbins: Eleuthera. We had our best family vacation there.

Scott Jacobi: Eleu, where is that?

Mel Robbins: Bahamas.

Scott Jacobi: Bahamas, okay. Great. What item would you bring to a desert island?

Mel Robbins: A tent.

Scott Jacobi: A tent?

Mel Robbins: Yes, a water well.

Scott Jacobi: That’s a very … some people would say their favorite book or a locket from their mother.

Mel Robbins: God, no! I want to survive. Are you kidding?

Scott Jacobi: I like that answer. I like that answer. What was the last movie that you saw? Do you have time to see movies?

Mel Robbins: Yes. I watch movies on planes. I watched Wind River last night on the plane here, and it is a very upsetting movie. It’s a riveting story. I bet it would make an incredible audiobook, but it was very upsetting to watch.

Scott Jacobi: Last question. What is one thing we didn’t ask you about today that you would like our listeners to know?

Mel Robbins: I have no idea. Join us on social media. We reach 20 million people a month on social, and we bring you behind the scenes, and I don’t think I’m an expert in anything. I am a professional over sharer. I am intellectually curious. I’m a nerd about personal development, and I love sharing the stuff that I’m learning that’s working, not because I think that it’s what you should do, but because I hope it makes you think about what you are doing and how you could do it better for you.

Scott Jacobi: Great. Well, thank you for sharing that everything you’ve shared today with us. Definitely, definitely, definitely go check out The 5 Second Rule on Audible.

Mel Robbins is a serial entrepreneur, best-selling author, internationally recognized social media influencer, and one of the most sought-after motivational speakers in the world.

 

 

This Week in Links: December 19 -December 23

FOR RIGHTS HOLDERS:

How I Chose a Narrator for My Audiobook – via Josh Steimle – Josh provides great advice on how to pick the right narrator for your project and how to choose when you receive numerous auditions.

Build An Epic Visual Strategy for Your Author Brand – via Your Writer Platform – Branding has become as important as the words contained in your book. See how to properly brand yourself to ensure you reach your target audience.

What Are You Thankful For? (Here’s Why Each of Us Is a #ThankfulWriter – via Writer’s Digest – Tis the season to be thankful for all the things we have. Take a moment to reflect on what makes you a #ThankfulWriter.

Is Your Plan For Success “I Just Want to Write My Books”? – via The Book Designer – Marketing a book once it’s completed can sometimes be harder than actually writing the book.  TBD has helpful advice for what happens after “The End”.

FOR PRODUCERS:

9 VO Hacks to Sound Better and Save Money – via Voices.com – Who doesn’t want to sound better while being more productive and saving some money all at the same time?

A Client’s Guide to Selecting the Right Voice-Over Talent for Your Project – via Debbie Grattan – Getting picked for a project can be difficult. Check out this great article about how to turn that audition into an offer.

Drink Up for A Better Voice – via VoiceOverHerald.com – Magic potions, snake oil, bizarre concoctions? Nothing works better for your voice than a tall glass of H2O. Discover the benefits of being (and staying) hydrated.

4 Ways To Get From Good To Great – via Nether Voice – Paul shares tricks of the trade that you might have overlooked or never thought of that can make you a better narrator.

The Elements of a Well-Reviewed Audiobook

Today, we’re joined by Robin Whitten, Editor and Founder of AudioFile Magazine, one of the industry’s top sources for audiobook news and reviews. Robin is here to demystify AudioFile‘s editorial process, teach ACX Rights Holders how to cast the best voice for their book, and share how to submit for a review.

The Elements of a Well-Reviewed Audiobook

AuON14_cover_300dioFile has been around the block with audiobook reviews. I started the magazine in 1992 when I could not find any reviews that considered the audio performance or the listening experience. What started as a 12-page newsletter has morphed into a multi-platform audiobook review and recommendation source. We review nearly 200 audiobooks per month, and now have 36,000 reviews in our Review Archive.

Listeners, library selectors, authors, narrators, and publishers access AudioFile reviews in our print bi-monthly magazine, in weekly e-newsletters, on the AudioFileMagazine.com website, at AudiobookREX.com, and featured by content partners who sell audiobooks.

Audiobooks come into our Portland, Maine, offices in a steady (digital) stream. We receive review copies from all major publishers and in increasing numbers directly from authors, rights holders, and narrators. Our AudioFile reviewers –about 120 individuals from all over the country with a few scattered around the world—help us create 40-50 professional reviews each week.

What’s a professional review?

A professional or editorial review is often different from a user-review. Editorial reviewers step back and consider each audiobook from a wider perspective. They use their audiobook listening experience to evaluate and assess the quality of the narration, the overall performance, and the alignment with the author’s intent. A professional’s critique is considered alongside the many other audiobooks they’ve experienced.

There’s always a place for user-reviews. The candid enthusiasm and satisfaction (or lack thereof) offers immediate feedback and is easy for others to react to. AudioFile reviews are more than just one reviewer’s opinion; they’re deliberate and collaborative. At AudioFile, we encourage discussion of elements like successful emotional tone & dramatic style more than a rating system. Our reviews are carefully edited and meet strict standards. Three editors see each review, and the grammar and the sense of the language have to pass them all.

The Focus of AudioFile Reviews

Robin covers

Robin Whitten, AudioFile’s Founder and Editor.

AudioFile reviews very specifically focus on elements of the performance, and what sort of listening experience to expect. Obviously we have to discuss the storyline, but we are not there to critique the author’s written work, or to give a plot summary. Each AudioFile review should make clear to the reader that it’s an AUDIObook review. We may be critical of a performance choice, or the success of an accent, but we do not trash titles indiscriminately.

What Should Authors Listen For?

The most critical element for an audiobook review is the casting. The choice of the right narrator is essential. The skilled narrator can fulfill the intent of the written work and give subtle layers of brilliant storytelling. However, the narrator is not just a voice. The narrator has to get inside the words, and thus into the head of the author. Experience shows, and reviewers can spot the pros.

Sound quality is also something noticed by all listeners. Lapses in QC, like extraneous noise, sloppy edits, and varying sound levels will always be called out by reviewers. All of these are controllable issues, and not perfecting them is a black mark.

Unpredictability comes into reviews primarily because all performance choices or all stories do not appeal to all reviewers. Part of the professional review process is to match reviewers with audiobooks appropriate to their tastes and skills.

AudioFile reviewers are given criteria for their evaluation, criteria we take seriously enough to outline on our masthead: Narrative voice & style; Vocal characterizations; Appropriateness for audio format; Enhancement of the text. We have great respect for the narrators and authors. To get top marks with our review criteria, here are some specifics:

  • Listen for more than “a great voice.”
  • Choose a narrator whose vocal style and tone is aligned with your written style and tone.
  • Make sure the narrator emotionally connects to your intent.
  • Think about how much “performance” you want from your characters. (Note: at Audible, we recommend a subtle performance over a “cartoonish” one.)
  • Consider whether big accents will define your characters or distract from them.
  • Consider whether your book has visual elements like maps or charts, essential footnotes or multiple time-line shifts? These present extra challenges in audio production.

How Do We Choose Audiobooks to Review?

The audiobook publishing floodgates opened a few years ago when ACX added their titles to the already expanding lists from traditional publishers. AudioFile receives announcements of upcoming titles from traditional publishers and starts our selection process there.

CoverBest of-300We make one pass after looking over basic title merchandizing sheets; references from various book scouts in the library and publishing industries; and whatever publicity we find. If an audiobook comes out after the success of a print or eBook title, reviews and buzz can bring these into focus. We take recommendations from narrators, and authors, as well as standard publicity information.

Rights holders, authors, and narrators can submit titles to AudioFile by sending an email with information about the title to editor@audiofilemagazine.com. AudioFile’s managing editor, Jennifer Dowell, will coordinate the review copy and make sure we have all the relevant details.

Why a Good Review is Only Half the Story.

A good review can go a long way, but you need to get out in front of the crowd with the good news. Marketing audiobooks is one of the toughest parts of the process. ACX gives rights holder’s good tips and resources. AudioFile’s broad listener audiences are eager to find their next audiobook. Our readers depend on us to find and review gems that might otherwise be missed. To give listeners an additional resource we started the Indie Showcase for independent authors and publishers. The advertising program gives prime print and online exposure to individual titles. To find out more about the Indie Showcase, email Michele Cobb, michele@audiofilemagazine.com.

AudioFile strives to find the best audiobooks to recommend to our subscribers and visitors. If you follow our advice above and end up with a great audiobook, we’d love to hear it! Please send it in for review.

Robin Whitten is the Editor & Founder of AudioFile Magazine.

ACX Storytellers: Zhanna Hamilton

Zhanna Hamilton is an ACX user doing double duty: she plays both roles in the ACX equation as an author and  audiobook producer, with a Master’s in Marketing to boot. Her combination of education and experience has enabled her to achieve success marketing over 90 ACX titles and generating hundreds of valuable $50 Bounty payments. She joins us today to share her story and her tips for audiobook marketing success.

Zhanna HamiltonThe Zhanna Hamilton Story

As an Audible Approved Producer on ACX, my virtual studio and I have had the pleasure of recording, editing and mastering over 100 audiobooks. Some of these audiobooks have been my own books, with others for authors and small/medium publishers. Thanks to ACX, I’ve been fortunate enough to have my audiobook “Rewire Your Brain: 300 Affirmations for Positive Thinking” hit number one on iTunes in the self-development category in February 2014

As a child, I’ve always had an inclination towards writing. One of my first poems was about the psychology of a cat (it wasn’t as sophisticated as it sounds), prompting my mother to gift me a journal so I could keep my poetry in one place. As an adult surrounded by the growth of technology and the availability of the ACX platform, creating audio books was a natural extension of my love for words. The best audiobook production comes from a team of dedicated people with one goal in mind – to produce quality audio books. After building up a rock star team of voiceover artists and sound designers to produce my own audiobooks, I opened up our services to other authors and publishers.

$50 Bounty Payments and Audiobook Marketing

Once the production process is completed, marketing becomes an integral part of the audiobook life cycle. Marketing your titles will expose them to a wider audience and is key to generating those $50 bounty payments (awarded by ACX whenever a new Audible listener buys your book as their first purchase). It can be difficult to think like a marketer if you only view yourself as a writer. In order to sell well, you must be both. Even big publishers don’t do nearly the same amount of advertising for authors as they used to – placing much of the marketing responsibility on your shoulders. If you are self-published, that responsibility triples. Here are some tactics to help you become a successful marketer:

RewireEducate yourself. I learn best through trial-and-error, listening to interviews with other entrepreneurs or authors and self-educating through books, internet searches and tutorials. I do have a Master’s in Marketing, but I’ve found the information from a curriculum can be found on Google for much cheaper. In other words, there is no excuse for anyone in the information age to say, “I don’t know to market my book.” Just Google it!

Don’t just SELL, SELL, SELL. As every self-published author has learned (or will learn), establishing a relationship with your audience is a must. This means engaging with your social media audience, always answering emails from readers, and treating people like respected friends – not wallets. Would you rather buy a product from a friend, or a stranger? The more familiar your fans are with you, the more you will feel like a friend to them. This enriches their lives, and in return, they will be more willing to choose your products over a stranger’s products. Familiarity helps establish trust, both in you as a transparent person, and in your line of products.

Value first, promotions second. In order to gain a real following, you must give immediate value outside of your line of products. “Value” is a vague word, as it means something different to each audience. Your audience might value humor, and that’s why they follow you on social media. If you are a romance novelist, they may value your insight on interpersonal relationships. Giving them more of what they value – with your promotions coming second – lets your readers and listeners know you are there to enrich their lives.

Quality over quantity. When I’m browsing the internet and come across a great article, video, or blog, I think, “My Facebook fans would love this.” The more useful your posts are to your audience, the more they will think of you as an authority in your industry. When I first started maintaining social media pages, I thought posting every hour like those big-budget pages did was the way to go. I quickly learned quality is more important than quantity and am pickier about what I post on social media. Before posting anything, I always ask myself, “would I want to see this in my newsfeed?” Sharing in this way helps me feel more connected to my audience when they ‘like’ what I post.

Learn

Set a schedule. Being an author, producer, and marketer creates the need for a schedule. I like to plan my productivity on a monthly basis, setting milestones and deadlines within each week with the overall goals of the month in mind.

Use those promo codes. ACX will give you 25 free promotional codes upon the publication of your audiobook. Personally, I enjoy offering freebies through my newsletter and social media channels, as these are the places my audience expects me to give such items. For example, I run a book reviewer program on my English as a second language website for reviewers wanting free books. Additionally, I give away books on a weekly basis through my Reddit profile and my newsletter. Sometimes, the books or audio books I give away are in exchange for honest reviews. Other times, they are for gaining a larger readership and come with no conditions. I have done Facebook giveaways, interviews and have shared my knowledge with others with the goal of connecting with my readers, listeners and other like-minded people.

Mix it up. I’ve found the best way to promote a product is to mix up your marketing method, experiment often and let the results lead your marketing plan. You might find that book trailers are a great way to promote audio books, or that Pinterest is where your audience hangs out the most.

My focus for all my audiobook marketing is always the end user and how to best connect with them. This outlook has made all the difference in both attracting new Audible Listeners and keeping them interested in our line of audio books.

To receive updates from Zhanna Hamilton, follow her on Twitter and Facebook. Subscribe to her newsletter on ZhannaHamilton.com for free books and audio books.

Guest Post: Karen Commins on Marketing Audiobooks – Part One

Audible Approved producer Karen Commins is a prolific audiobook narrator who has completed over 20 titles on ACX. She is also a skilled audiobook marketer, working independently and with ACX rights holders to drive sales of her productions. Today, she joins us to share the first installment of her thoughts on audiobook marketing and some of the tactics that have brought her success.

A Narrator’s Look at Audiobook Marketing – Part One

Karen Commins

ACX Producer Karen Commins

After picking and performing a great royalty-share title on ACX, the next question many narrators and producers have is: “How do I market my audiobook?” Others ask: “Why do I need to market the audiobook? Isn’t marketing the job of the rights holder?”

Let me answer the second question first. Whether I’m paid per finished hour (PFH) or on a royalty-share (RS) deal, I always publicize my audiobooks because:

  • I want the world to know that I am an audiobook narrator! As a result, I have come to the attention of authors and publishers, and I’ve received ACX offers for books for which I didn’t audition.
  • Marketing is a value-added service that I offer my clients.
  • I have seen my sales numbers and the ensuing royalties for my RS audiobooks increase as a direct result of my promotion.

In addition to these reasons for marketing, I encourage other narrators to promote their books because, while audiobooks are a rapidly growing industry, the majority of people have never listened to an audiobook!

Those entrenched in the audiobook world may be quite surprised by this fact, but people resist audiobooks for several reasons:

  • The earliest audiobooks were only available to those with vision impairments. Some people do not realize that audiobooks are now mainstream entertainment!
  • Some devout readers won’t even invest in an e-reader because they like the feel of the actual book and the experience of reading the actual pages.
  • In past centuries, only the most educated people could read. Even in modern times, learning to read could be a difficult skill to master. Some readers still stigmatize audiobook listeners as “cheaters” if they choose to hear the text instead of reading it with their eyes.

So now you know what you’re up against. But with the right tactics and proper execution, you can become a skilled audiobook marketer who exposes new listeners to your work. Once you’ve decided that you want to market your audiobooks, we’re back to that first question – how should it be done?

Before I offer you some ideas, I want to address one misconception that seems prevalent with those who are new to marketing.

You’ve probably heard or read that it’s essential to repeat your message many times to get the attention of your potential buyer. I’ve seen updates on social media sites where the writer applied that advice literally.

They remind me of a broken loudspeaker continuously blaring the same phrases: BUY MY BOOK! READ MY BLOG! WATCH MY VIDEO! MY BOOK IS FOR SALE! HAVE YOU READ MY BLOG? MY VIDEOS ARE GREAT!

Loudspeaker

“Repeating the message” doesn’t mean that you say the exact same thing every time! If you use the same general words to present the same general theme, people will stop caring what you have to say. TV advertisers know they have to find new way to express their message. They change commercials frequently while keeping the underlying message the same.

“Repeating your message” really means that you are creating an association in the consumer’s mind.You create this association by continually and consistently letting the world know in a variety of clever ways that you are an audiobook narrator and that you have interesting audiobooks that they might enjoy.

Here are 3 ways to create those associations to your message.

1. Be Authentic

I recently read an author’s blog article about book trailers. She commented that other authors feel pressure to do something like a book trailer because “everyone else is doing it.” She wisely pointed out that you should do what is authentic for you. Don’t feel like you have to do it all, or any particular thing if it’s not you. As Shakespeare said, “to thine own self be true.” You’ll find millions of articles and videos from experts and gurus who will tell you all of the “rules” for any type of marketing. Don’t be afraid to break the rules and do things your way!

2. Be Consistent

It helps to view marketing as a system or process, not an isolated action. I certainly don’t do all of my promotional activities in one day or even in a week. The key is to regularly discuss your audiobooks. One way to be consistent is to always promote your new releases.

Narrator Andi Arndt offers this great advice about promoting new releases:

One thing I’ve figured out that seems important is to be sure and tag the author, audio publishers AND print publisher in social media posts.

It has been helpful to think of it as a congratulations to the author and publishers, and to follow their lead. Look up the press they’ve carefully put together for the book and use THEIR quotes, summary, description, so you’re reinforcing their marketing messages. Reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus provide great material. The positive stuff, that is!

AndiTweetWith a little thought and planning, you can find reasons to talk about your audiobooks on days other than the release days. Your growing fan base is interested in progress on your current book, funny quotes from it, etc.

I created an annual event calendar where I can connect the people/themes/events in my audiobooks with something in the news. I can create updates ahead of the date and use them each year.

For instance, my Blue Suede Memphis mystery series is set in – you guessed it — Memphis, and the main character is a tour bus driver. The titles of the books are plays on the names of famous Elvis songs. I can promote the series of books on Elvis’ birthday. On 13 July, I’ll talk about the audiobook Hound Dog Blues because it will be the anniversary of the release date for Elvis’ hit record Hound Dog.

You can also check Chase’s Calendar of Events each day to discover clever promotional tie-ins. Oh, and you should know that June is always audiobook month, so you could plan some promotions around that theme.

3. Be Creative

Think of marketing your audiobooks as yet another way to express your creativity. After you receive that email from Audible with your 25 promotional codes, you can write a fun blurb to give them away, as illustrated here by narrator Christa Lewis.

ChristaPost

She really makes you want her audiobook! And who knows – maybe someone who misses out on the download code is intrigued enough to BUY the book!

If you pay attention to what your publishers and authors are promoting, inspiration for a tie-in promotion may come beating down your door. One day, I noticed that author Barbara Silkstone wrote a blog post where her character Wendy Darlin (who is voiced by Nicole Colburn in audiobooks) interviewed Sasha McCandless, who is the main character in the series of books I’ve narrated for Melissa F. Miller.

I contacted Nicole about her interest in recording her character’s lines. We both obtained permission from our authors to record that blog installment like a radio show. The resulting recording was fun to create, thrilled our authors, and has been something that we continue to publicize.

Coming up in part two, I’ll share some more ways to create those coveted associations to your message. I’ll also give you site-specific social media tactics geared to make your audiobooks more easily discoverable.

You can find part two of Karen’s guest post here.

Help your fellow narrators out by sharing some of your favorite audiobook marketing tactics below!

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.

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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!

Best of 2013: The Best of The Blog

2013 has been a great year for the ACX blog, helping actors and authors become better audiobook production partners. This year, we offered the expertise of Audible’s studio team, merchandising group, top-selling authors and award-winning producers, and you voted for your favorite stories with your clicks. Before we say goodbye to 2013 and get ready for a bigger, better 2014, take a look back at our top posts from the past year.

10. ACX Success Story: Kevin Pierce – Prolific ACX producer tells how ACX helped him make the transition from radio and TV to audiobook production.

9. How to Promote Your Titles & Get on Audible’s Merchandising Radar – Part 1 – The first part of our two part series introduced readers to Audible’s merchandising expert Jessica and her best practices for audiobook marketing success.

8. Alex Hyde-White’s 4 Tips For New Narrators – Winning our narration contest at That’s Voiceover allowed this film and TV actor to start his audiobook career with ACX.

7. ACX Studio Gear Series: Home Studio Setup – Part 1 – ACX actors were more empowered than ever to work from home with expert advice on setting up their personal recording space.

6. APE This: ACX and Guy Kawasaki Launch Open Casting Call – Back in July, We teamed with author and book-marketing expert Guy Kawasaki to cast the voice of his guide to self publishing.

5. Four Questions to Ask Before You Audition – With over 3,000 titles open for audition on ACX, we took a moment to guide actors towards auditioning for the title that’s best for them.

4. ACX Studio Gear Series Part 3: Headphones – No, not the kind you listen to music with! The fourth spot on our list is occupied by this critical tool to help producers better hear themselves.

3. Money Talks – Paying, and Getting Paid, For Your Audiobook – Does money make the world go round? This post gives authors a better understanding of the ways to fund their audiobook production, as well as info on how they’ll be paid once it’s on sale.

2. ACX Studio Gear Series Part 2: DAWs –  A Digital Audio Workstation is the software needed to record, edit, and master your audiobooks productions, and we covered the pros and cons of the most popular options.

1. ACX Studio Gear Series Part 1: Microphones and Preamps – The bedrock of a good sounding recording got the full treatment in our most popular post of the year, as we ran down various options for equipment across all price levels.

What was your favorite post from 2013? Tell us in the comments!

ACX on The Road: Dipped In NINC

In late October, the ACX team had the pleasure of attending the Novelists, Inc. annual conference in Myrtle Beach, SC and hosting a panel of your peers to discuss the audiobook revolution. Novelists, Inc. (or NINC, for the initiated), is an organization dedicated to helping multi-published fiction writers as they write and promote their books. Jasinda Wilder (Falling series), Julie Ortolon (Forever series), Patricia Ryan (Pure and Simple), and Wendy Lindstrom (Grayson Brothers series) joined ACX Marketing Manager Hannah to discuss their journeys through having their series produced in audio and how they are successfully promoting their audiobooks.

Today, we’ve collected the top advice they shared to inspire you, no matter what stage of audiobook production you’re in!

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L to R: ACX Authors Jasinda Wilder and Julie Ortolon, and ACX Marketing Manager Hannah Wall at NINC

On Selecting a Narrator

Julie Ortolon had a very specific vision in mind for her narrator, but she had an unexpected change of plans once she started producing her audiobooks. “Your favorite narrator may not fit your book,” she said. “I waited until the narrator was available to do my book and I didn’t like the audition. Picking the right scene for your audition script is crucial.”  Casting off those expectations, she found a voice that matched the one she envisioned.

Once her narrator had been cast, Julie wanted to be proactive about setting expectations for the different characters in her three book series: “I learned to piece together different scenes for the 15 min checkpoint, so that you can get the most out of that checkpoint with your narrator.” That collaboration at the checkpoint helped drive the tone for all three books.

On Writing with the Audiobook in Mind

Jasinda Wilder is a musician as well as author, so thinking of how her words would sound when spoken aloud came very naturally to her. She has even gone as far as incorporating her original music into her audiobooks after the credits, which helped her capture even more sales; by including exclusive music in her audiobooks, readers of the print and Kindle versions of her books have purchased her audiobook editions.

On Giving Feedback

Wendy Lindstrom opts to give feedback to her narrator directly. “I actually get on the phone with the narrator and have her do several voices for me.” This lets her give instant input on the voices before the recording process begins.

2014conference_logo2On Promoting the Audiobook

Patricia Ryan promotes her contemporary and medieval romances through social networking channels, promoting the audio on her site, and providing readers with links to SoundCloud audio clips. “I also have an interview with my narrator on my site. I put a sexy photo of him with some Q&A’s and it was a big hit with readers.”

Wendy, Pat, Julie, and Jasinda all took the plunge into audiobooks for their series – will you?

What’s the best piece of advice you can offer aspiring writers?

ACX Storytellers: Tim Grahl

Author Tim Grahl recently completed his production of Your First 1,000 Copies, voicing the title himself and uploading it through ACX’s DIY pathway. As president of Out:think Group, Tim has worked with many authors and knows how to speak their language, which makes him the perfect guest to talk about his audiobook journey . Take it away, Tim.

Last week I announced the release of the audiobook edition of Your First 1000 Copies, produced via ACX. I originally had no plans to make an audio edition of Your First 1000 Copies, but my good friend and fellow author Josh Kaufman insisted on it.  Last year he self-published the audio edition of his first book The Personal MBA and has been completely overwhelmed by the success.  And since I do whatever Josh tells me to, I decided to go for it.

tim-headshotWho, how, and where to record?

The first decision I made was to record it myself. I listen to a lot of non-fiction audiobooks and my favorites are always the ones that are read by the book’s author. While they aren’t always as polished as a professional narrator, I appreciate hearing the author’s voice. I wanted listeners to hear my voice and how I talk about the subject. Sure, I made mistakes and wasn’t as eloquent as someone who does this for a living, but it was something I enjoy as a reader so wanted to do it for my readers.

The next decision was how and where to record. I read several places how self-published authors were doing it by recording straight through their desktop computer with a microphone, but I know the quality of these final recordings are often lacking. Plus, the idea of doing all of the editing myself seemed very overwhelming. In the end I decided to reach out to a friend I have who works at local radio stations and has a professional recording studio in his basement. It took two sessions that started after 9pm at night (which meant his kids were asleep and the house was quiet), but I was extremely happy with the final result.  It’s well edited and lacks the unpolished feel that would have come from doing it myself.  I’ll admit here that I also got it done for less than $400 which is significantly less than what you’ll spend with a typical studio.  It’s nice to have friends with the right equipment.

The recording process wasn’t too bad.  I printed the entire book out in large font and practiced turning the pages silently before heading to the studio.  I also practiced my volume and tempo a few times into my own computer to make sure I wasn’t going to fast or slow.  Again, while the final product isn’t as polished as it would be by a professional narrator, I’m very happy with how it turned out.

Just like self-publishing your digital and print books, quality matters.  People that listen to audiobooks are used to a certain level of quality, and I wanted to make sure my audiobook met those standards.  I’m happy with the decision to go with a recording studio whose job it was to make sure it was done right.jy2pdlpy1hgvv85n1380831492271

The Money

Here’s where things get really interesting.  The royalty model is unbelievable. On top of the royalties, Audible pays a $25 “bounty” if your book is one of the first three books purchased when someone signs up for Audible.  Again, pretty unbelievable.

I’m traditionally published, should I retain audiobook rights?

My definite answer is “yes!”.  In talking to other authors, the audiobook rights are often sold for very cheap — a couple thousand dollars — or never sold at all.  In the example of Josh Kaufman above, his rights were never sold so he bought them back from his publisher.  In the first week after self-publishing his audiobook, he made back the money he spent buying back the rights.

In fact, if you are still shopping your proposal and haven’t signed yet, I recommend holding back the audiobook rights (most publishers won’t fight you on this) and self-publish it.  There’s all kind of upsides to this, not least of which is all of the promotion for the print/digital sales will sell the audiobook edition as well.

That’s A Wrap!

In my experience, most authors have very little understanding or interest in the audiobook edition of their book. I hope this helped give you some information and insight that you didn’t have before.

Tim Grahl is an ACX author and president of Out:think Group. He invites you to take a free 30 day course on how to build your platform, connect with readers and sell more books by clicking here.

ACX at Self-Publishing Book Expo!

We’re excited to announce that ACX will be participating in the 5th annual Self-Publishing Book Expo Saturday November 9th, located in the heart of New York City. If you’re new to self-publishing (or just new to audiobooks), join us from 10:45-11:45AM as we explore how you can use ACX to create great audiobooks and maximize your royalties.

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Jason Ojalvo, Vice President at Audible and ACX’s fearless leader, will be taking the stage to moderate a lively discussion between top-selling audio authors Mark Tufo (Zombie Fallout), Laura Caldwell (Long Way Home), and Melody Anne (Surrender). Each of these authors has had great success using ACX, and they will share their publishing journeys, plus marketing tips you can start using right away.

Also featured at the conference: a line-up of 18 workshops, lectures and panels, led by some of the biggest and brightest names in publishing. These include a keynote speech on how a leading traditional publisher views the rise of self-publishing, panels on crowd-funding and social media, workshops on creating ebooks, the importance of good book design, and much, much more.

Purchase your tickets here.

WHEN:  SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 9, 2013– 9:00 am – 5:00 pm

WHERE: HOTEL PENNSYLVANIA, 401 Seventh Avenue @ 33rd Street, New York, NY

Can’t make it in person? This year’s conference will be filmed by C-Span’s Book TV, so set your DVR for 10:45AM Eastern!