Book marketing tip – Audiobooks: next big phenomenon after e-books?

My last car had a CD player which would hold and revolve up to six different CDs. But newer cars don’t even have a CD player. It’s all about using your phone or iPod. What’s coming next though is audio-streaming into cars direct from the internet. This has big implications for authors. Think of all those long car journeys. The traffic jams. The need to keep the driver and any passengers from getting stressed. There’s a captive market there for your book. Audiobooks are set to become a big phenomenon, as e-books have.

Audi_TT_2014_(13558812864)

Picture source: wikipedia: virtual cockpit, Date 18 March 2014, Source Audi TT 2014, Author Robert Basic (image was originally posted to Flickr by RobGreen)

So I decided to give Audio a go. My non-fiction’s not very suitable for audio but I’m the editor/curator for my (late) Dad’s book Night Mission: Seven Short Stories from the World War 2 era. It’s not too long and I have published it as a paperback (through Amazon’s Createspace) and as an eBook (through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing). How easy or how difficult would it be, I wondered, to turn it into an AudioBook as well? What I have found is that it’s perfectly possible to do this yourself – and for for little or no cost.

I did it through Audible. Audible is an Amazon company so its audiobooks are marketed through Audible.com and Amazon.com – but also through ITunes. That adds up to a big marketplace.

To start the process, Audible sends you to its Amazon platform ACX.com. You’ll find the process of turning your book into an Audiobook explained there – though there are one or two things that I found needed a little more explanation.

If you’re in a hurry, my tip is simply this: if you have written a novel (or a suitable non-fiction one), have a think about turning it into an Audiobook – and Audible offers a do-able way for the non-expert to do this.  

If however you’re interested in the detail of how it’s done, read on.

First I had to decide on a narrator. (NB Audible’s narrators are referred to as “producers” – don’t let that confuse you). The first decision then, is who is going to read your book out loud. You can, if you choose, read it yourself. Not a good choice for me because (a) some of the short stories are in the first person (male) and I’m female and (b) I’m not a particularly confident out-loud reader.

I considered friends and relatives (I thought I could probably bribe them with a bottle or two). But ACX predicted – from my word count – that the full recording would take 1.6 hours. That’s a lot to ask of a friend – and doesn’t count any time for corrections etc. Also I wasn’t too confident about the mechanics of actually recording the stories.

So I opted for one of ACX’s narrators. You can get a narrator for no initial outlay if you offer them a share of the royalties. Night Mission the eBook has not (yet?) exactly earned huge royalties so I thought the option to pay a flat fee would be more tempting to would-be narrators. You can, if you prefer, offer a combination of royalties and fee. The next step is to create a book title profile, describing the book. Then either search for would-be narrators on ACX or simply state that you invite any interested narrators to “audition”.

For me, the auditioning process was the part with the steepest learning curve. Tip: I discovered the hard way that you do need to specify carefully what you want.  Night Mission has some RAF stories so I’d requested a male narrator with an “English” English accent, aiming for the old-fashioned way of speaking in the 1950s. Five would-be narrators submitted their reading of a short extract from my book. It was enormous fun listening to them, with an added poignancy (since I was hoping for something close to my father’s voice). The extract has some some effects (plane engines) and all five narrators voiced these well.

I was very lucky with my final choice of narrator. He quickly and efficiently recorded all seven stories, plus the foreword, the para about the author and the short free sample that Audible makes available to potential buyers.

Finally, you need a cover – and it has to be square. Tip: there are some other specs too for the cover – you need to follow these to the letter or ACX won’t accept it. I got an expert to adapt my eBook cover.

nightmission audio cover

Once it was finished and approved, ACX’s process took a few days and now it is on sale.

Oh yes, and remember, on average, Audiobooks tend to sell for significantly higher prices than eBooks. Why not give it a try?

Three self-publishing tips: things to avoid when choosing your title

As many “how to” bloggers and writers have stressed, choosing your book’s cover and its title can seriously help or hinder your sales when you come to the marketing and publicity for your book. But even when you have the perfect cover and you think you have found a pithy, attention-grabbing title that promises a really good read in your chosen genre and style, it pays to do a bit of thinking and research before making your final decision. There are some pitfalls to avoid.

Here are three things you can learn from problems I’ve had:

  1. Try to include your key word(s) in the title rather than only in the sub-title. My first book is a non-fiction one about horses in film and on TV. My title: “Lights! Camera! Gallop! The Story of the Horse in Film.” Yes, search engines will pick up “horse” and “film” even though they are in the sub-title. But the mighty Amazon machine which sends those helpful alerts along the lines of “you might also like” picks sometimes picks a whole set of lighting products….
  2.  Avoid any word that is spelled differently in American English from how it is in UK English. [I was going to write “spelt differently” – but apparently that’s a UK English option – it must be “spelled” in American English. See what I mean?] My third book is called “Horse and Pony Colours: which would you choose?” You notice I’d learnt from mistake number 1 above: my keywords are in the title not the sub-title. And I’d followed a suggestion I’d read that non-fiction titles should show the reader what it is that your book offers them. But “colour” is of course spelled “color” in American English. The search engines still find the book from either side of the Atlantic – but they flag up “Did you mean Horse and Pony Colors?” So now there could be a tiny suggestion at the back of the reader’s mind: can’t this author even spell?
  3. Do your research first – how many already published books have the same or a similar title? You don’t have to avoid duplicating an existing title if there’s only one other book with the same title or a very similar one. I edited some stories recently: “Night Mission: 7 WWII era stories” by Clive Lodge. The “Night Mission” bit came from one of the strongest stories. I nearly called it “The Tunnel” after one of the other stories and I’d chosen some great cover pictures of mysterious tunnels. But the cover then seemed to hint at science fiction rather than second world war adventures. “Night Mission” – with a Spitfire in the evening cloud on the cover – fitted much better. A quick search only threw up one other “Night Mission” – and since that one was about one night stands and sported an obviously sexy cover I doubted there would be too much confusion. But with “Lights! Camera! Gallop!” I discovered after I published that there are very many books beginning “Lights! Camera!” and at the moment they mostly seem to come up before mine on search pages.

So, take choosing your title seriously – avoid my mistakes – and good luck!

coversmallcolours jpeg1nightmissionsmall

Marketing tip for Indie / self-published authors

Have you, like me, been voraciously reading all the advice for self-published authors on how to actually sell your books? My problem is that my books (about horses and film) present a bit of a cross-genre quandary and so are a bit more difficult to market. I’ve been pursuing all the advice about building up social media (shame I didn’t start before publishing…) and so on and I’ve advertised in the horse media and in the film media. I even took out an ad in the UK Sunday paper The Observer but that was definitely not a good return for the cost in my case despite its millions of readers.

A lot of the advice around is along the lines of “go with giveaways”. Amazon’s Kindle Select programme allows you to do just that with the ebook version of your book and you can do it with paperbacks through Goodreads. I’ve done both but got very little back in terms of reviews (though they can lift your book up a little in the ratings and you can make useful connections on Goodreads).   

Anyhow, the latest thing I’ve tried is Story Cartel – and so far, it’s looking good. Story Cartel offers readers free books in return for an honest review.  Story Cartel comment that they are “a home to any kind of book you could imagine, from nail-biting thrillers to tender romance novels, serious literary fiction to self-help non-fiction”. It does cost ($30 – or under £18 at current exchange rate).

It’s important to point out that Story Cartel isn’t about buying reviews. It isn’t about manipulating people into giving your book five-star reviews. But remember, even low star reviews can help your ratings on amazon (and if all your reviews are 5 star, conspiracy theorists might think they’re all written by your relatives…).

Anyway, I’m part-way though the 3 weeks my book is on free offer for and so far I have garnered more reviews than I did with Goodreads and for half the cost. So right now, if you too need more reviews, I’m recommending giving Story Cartel a go. (Watch this space to see if it gets better by the end of my 3 weeks).

You can check out my book on Story Cartel – and find out more about the what Story Cartel has to offer both readers and writers here: http://storycartel.com/books/horse-and-pony-colours-which-one-would-you-choose

Image

 

Self-publishing – and Horse colours (tips please!)

Writing coming off hold! I’ve been a little quiet on the twitter/blog front recently. What happened was that the combination of hungry horse and awful winter weather (not to mention very long winter) here in Bedfordshire (UK) has meant that the grassy green field turned into a sludge brown field. So I’ve sent the hairy cob away to an equestrian centre in the next county over, for some expert schooling and to rest the field. Meanwhile, I’ve been picking up horse droppings, re-seeding the field and laying down fertiliser. Result: a few green shoots and a glimmer of hope for more.

So now, back to focus on the writing. I’ve now read no fewer than five of those books about how to succeed with self-publishing and marketing your e-book. Some of the main lessons in all these books (now they tell me…) are about things you should do BEFORE publication so I’ll be trying these out. One piece of advice many of these books give is about self-publishing on Kindle and then being able to give away free copies on selected days. Now neither of my e-books (“Lights! Camera! Gallop! The Story of the Horse in Film” and the short story book “Because it is Written”) are in my control so I haven’t been able to do the give-away thing. But I’m determined to publish the new one myself through Kindle Direct Publishing.     

So, I’m starting the new book now. The plan is to aim it at a younger audience than Lights! Camera! Gallop! The Story of the Horse in Film and I’ll give it a more playful focus. There will be some horse film stars in it and lots of pictures. It’s going to be about the huge variety of colours horses can have, and the different names for them (sometimes the same colours have different names in the UK and USA). The colour of a horse is often carefully considered in film-making and there’s been a whole raft of theories about the symbolism of a horse’s colour. Just as a director might have definite views about whether to choose a dark haired actress such as Angelina Jolie or a blonde like Reese Witherspoon, he or she would also decide carefully between a black stallion, which might hint at, say, power, mystery, secrecy or even death, or a white one, which would traditionally suggest innocence, light, sun, vitality or resurrection.

Such interpretations of colouring are not set in stone and are sometimes reversed, as for example a pale horse might symbolise death. The star horse in the various Black Beauty films, being all based on the book of the same name, had of course to be black in colour but his character was also very carefully and very strongly shown to be good: brave, faithful and patient. Then there is my own favourite colour: the Palomino. I’m thinking Roy Rogers’ Trigger or the legendary talking Mr Ed.

So, I’d very much value your input as I start this project:

Have you a favourite horse colour?

Have you an anecdote about horse colours?

And – have you any hints on marketing self-published books or on the Kindle Direct Publishing please? 

Image