By Lindsay Buroker
As an independent author (okay, as any kind of author), it’s a struggle to get noticed. You’ve written a wonderful book, but how do you get the word out? How do you “build a platform,” “turn yourself into a brand,” and [insert other appropriate catch-phrase here]?
I’ve been self-publishing, in particular e-publishing, my books for a little over two years now, probably not a long enough time to claim any vast expertise, but I have been making a living from my work for the last year. I have seven novels and several shorter works out and sell about 3,000 ebooks a month. In other words, I’m not a huge bestseller (I believe the industry term is “mid-list author”), but as an indie, those numbers aren’t too shabby since you keep a much higher percentage of earnings than you do when you’re traditionally published.
What’s my strategy? It’s been a combination of giving away some of my work for free and of trying to have it available everywhere. You know, in an evil-genius take-over-the-world kind of way. In addition to having my free ebook available at Amazon, Kobo, Smashwords, Apple, Scribd, Wattpad, Feedbooks, and other stores and writer hangouts I’ve forgotten, I also have free audiobooks out there as “podcasts” (meaning people can subscribe to the book at iTunes or Podiobooks and listen to the episodes one chapter at a time). As of last autumn, people can also purchase the audiobooks at Audible, but I’ve kept the free versions out there to help bring people into my world.
If you’ve ever thought of turning your book into an audiobook, here are a couple of reasons why I’m a fan of the practice:
1. There’s less competition in iTunes and at Podiobooks, so it’s easier to “be found.”
I’m not going to lie: creating a high-quality audio version of your book will either take a lot of time or a good chunk of money. I’d dabbled with podcasting and knew I didn’t want to spend the required time on narration and editing (I’ve heard it can take a new narrator ten hours of work for everyone one hour of finished audio that comes out). I decided to hire the folks at Darkfire Productions to handle my books. They are a small and fairly affordable outfit, but they still had a number of voice talents to select from. They suggested Starla Huchton, and I thought, yup, that’s my Amaranthe (Amaranthe is the heroine and main point of view character in my Emperor’s Edge books). And she does a good job with my male aristocratic dandy, Maldynado, too!
In addition to narration and editing, DP handles the file uploading for me, as well as the contracts with Audible. Some indies may wish to keep more control over these things, but I’ve found it great not to have to worry about them.
For authors on a tighter budget, or for those who simply enjoy the thought of narrating their own books (Nathan Lowell did his whole series this way and built up a huge fan base before he ever released his first ebook), you can check out Podcasting for Dummies or another “getting started” book. Everything that’s true for podcasting will apply for audiobooks. You can get a decent equipment setup for a couple hundred dollars, and then it’s just a matter of finding time and a quiet place in the house (I’ve heard of numerous podcasters who record from the closet!).
2. You reach an audience who might otherwise never have heard of you
The world is full of people who don’t have a lot of time to read but who do spend numerous hours a week commuting to their job, working with their hands, exercising at the gym, or perhaps even walking the dog. Those are activities that are tough to do while holding a book but that are perfectly suited for listening to something in the background. I know because I’m one of those people. I listen to 5-10 podcast episodes a week, and I’m usually listening to an audiobook too. When I think back over recent books I’ve finished, four out of five of them have been in audio form.
These busy people might not spend a lot of time digging through Amazon for new books (and when they do, they’re more likely to stumble across bestsellers, not obscure new indie authors in a very crowded marketplace), but they may love your story, if they simply have a chance to find it. As audio fans, they might browse at Podiobooks or iTunes (sites with, as we mentioned, fewer options in any given genre) and find your work if its there.
3. But do “podiobook” listeners become book buyers?
You might be thinking, but what’s the point of courting these readers if they don’t buy books? First off, I think you’ll find that there’s some crossover (I’ve had people email, saying they’ve enjoyed the EE audiobooks, but since I write and publish ebooks faster than the audiobooks are produced, these folks have gone on to purchase the later ebooks in the series). Even if some listeners never buy anything, they can become an active part of your fan community, recommending the books to friends, some of whom will buy them.
As I mentioned earlier, you’ll also find that there are ways to get professional quality podiobooks into Audible, where you can charge people for complete forever-theirs versions. I haven’t made a fortune that way yet, but I am making some money, and every bit helps when you’re looking to make a career as an author. In addition to helping you increase your fan base, audiobooks can be one more way that you can add to your author income.
Lindsay Buroker is a successful self-published author with a background in blogging, search engine optimization and internet marketing, among other talents. You can find her at her own website or on Facebook, and don’t forget to check out Emperor’s Edge and her other books on Kobo!
Thank you for posting this for me, Kobo Folks! 🙂
I’m one of the people who came to your work via the audiobooks (and then proceeded to buy up the entire collection).
I spend 1-3 hours a day walking and audiobooks have become essential.(I’ll also use them at work if I have something relatively mindless to do).
It really is important to get the right reader though, Starla Hutchon does a very credible job but I’ve heard other readers make some appalling mistakes (some attempts at accents can be almost physically painful) and they really do jolt the listener out of the story.
Absolutely. I’m in the process of recording all of my novels this way, and already have one podiobook out (soon to be in the Audible store).
If you decide to do it yourself, my only advice is this: you really got to love it. As a new narrator, ten hours per produced hour is MINIMUM. I think it probably takes me longer than that, actually. The learning curve is steep.
A 100,000 word novel will run 14-15 produced hours. So if it’s your first, you’re looking at 150-200 hours of effort. That doesn’t include researching microphones, reading how-to books, and talking to people online to learn how to get started.
That said, if you’ve had some acting or speaking training, and you’ve got enough technical nous to learn how to use sound editing software (or better yet, a DAW), then go for it!
For me, I look forward to finishing my morning word count, then locking myself in my closet and spend an hour or two recording every day.
A good place to start is J. Daniel Sawyer’s Making Tracks.
As an audiobook narrator, I stumbled across this blog in a search. I enjoyed reading it from the author/rights holder perspective. There are lots of truly talented writers out there – just as there are truly talented voice over/narrators – who can benefit a great deal from this kind of marketing: great customer service. If you’ve got something great to offer, let a little of it go for free and they’ll come back to pay for more! I’ll share you article on LinkedIn and Facebook. Thanks for sharing!