Today we welcome author Ron Vitalie – who brings with him some awesome tips for indies.
How to Get Rich in Indie Publishing: Marketing Tips for Authors
By Ron Vitale
Catchy title, right?Unfortunately, only a tiny number of indie authors have cracked the $100,000+ club on Amazon. In his May 2016 report, Data Guy reported that “1,340 authors are earning $100,000/year or more from Amazon sales. But half of them are indies and Amazon-imprint authors.”
With millions of ebooks competing for readers’ attention, there is a lot of supply, and demand is hot or cold—depending on your genre. A literary memoir? Probably isn’t going to earn you $100,000. Putting out one military science fiction book every month over the next year, odds are better that you’ll earn money with this strategy (for the short term).
I’ve been an indie author since 2011 and continue to struggle to make a profit off of selling my books. With my full-time day job, I release a book once or twice a year. My strategy has been to slowly build up my backlist and increase my readership over time.
I only know a few people who have struck gold being an indie author and many of them have since left the industry. Fads come and go. But writing good books and learning effective marketing strategies will help you succeed for the life of your author career.
Long gone are the gold rush days of indie publishing. The market has matured and what worked then (free days on KDP select), does not work today. Instead of getting frustrated, you have three options:
- Adapt and learn new skills
- Give up
- Or worse: keep doing the same things and don’t change
Write and Keep Writing
The best advice that I can share is for an author to keep writing. This advice is often given, but I don’t know if authors take it to heart. Writing means that: Keep writing books. Devise series, different genres, experiment and allow your creativity to fly free. If the only reason why you’re writing is to make money, well, there are much easier ways to be successful.
Writing novels or short stories is great, but an author also needs to know how to write effective book descriptions, ad copy, email autoresponders and other marketing promotional materials. If you can’t do that, then hire a virtual assistant, learn how to do it or barter with another author.
In my experience, the authors who are doing the best (yes, this is a generalization) are those who are publishing books on a regular basis.
For me, this means that I don’t just write when I feel like it. No. I have a schedule and stick to it no matter what. If I’m sick or something comes up with the kids, I make the time up. To hold myself accountable, I do two things:
1. I tell my family and friends that I’m writing a book.
2. I track all the words I write in a Google sheet.
I used to write when the “muses came to me.” Then I wised up. I don’t go to work at my full-time job when I feel like it. I go because I want to be productive and earn a paycheck to provide for my family.
It took me a long time to understand this and to wrestle with not wanting to put my butt in the chair and do the work. But now I have 8 novels published and 2 more in the works.
Writing, like tennis or running, is all about mind over matter. It’s like a mental game.
If you believe you can’t do it, then you’ll fail. But if you work hard, get better, keep plugging away, chances are that you’ll still fail (since few authors earn back the money they put out to make the book), but that’s where marketing comes in.
First step is to write books and to keep on doing that.
Be a Unicorn
Now that you have a book ready to share with the world, what do you do?
Write the next book and then the third.
If I could pass anything that I’ve learned to new authors, it would be to think like a marketer.
When I published my first book, Lost (Cinderella’s Secret Witch Diaries), I fantasized that I would release it and I’d be raking in the money. Everyone would love my book. I worked hard, published the book and my dream fell flat. I think I tried to fly without wings and hit the concrete hard. Thankfully, I could still pick myself up, learn from my mistakes and keep writing.
The mistake I made is a classic one: I only had one product to sell. I used my five free days on KDP Select to give my book away and there was nothing else for readers to buy. I didn’t have an email list, I didn’t have autoresponders created, a funnel, an editorial calendar or email strategy that would help promote my brand.
I had none of that.
I only had a desire to write, but no idea how to get there. For the last five years, I’ve read, studied, experimented and watched more training sessions than I can remember. And that learning is never going to end. I need to keep evolving, learning and growing.
I like that because that fits nicely with my personality. I love learning.
To succeed, I recommend becoming a unicorn: An author who not only can write good books, but knows how to connect with people and apply that to marketing.
Email Equals Love
If you’re looking where to spend your energy, then the choice is simple: Build your email list. I use Mailchimp, love it (though it does get expensive) and I took the time to build out a 6 part autoresponder chain.
Either through Instafreebie or my website, I offer a reader a free book if they sign up on my email list. Once they signup, they receive (over 6 weeks) an email every week on topics related to what my brand is.
My mission (branding statement) is simple:
I believe that, no matter how difficult our childhood, we can use imaginative stories to heal ourselves and lead lives filled with love and hope.
The characters in my books reflect and live that theme. After users receive my emails, I then start sharing my bi-monthly newsletter. Some readers love it and write to me while some unsubscribe. But that’s a good thing because I want to make certain that my list contains people who are into what I stand for and what I write about.
It’s taking much longer than I had expected, but building the list organically is a slow burn.
To start out, ask yourself: What value can you give to readers that will make your emails stand out?
How does one actually do that with readers? It’s pretty simple if you stop and think about it.
- Ask people what they want.
- Provide good and useful content on a regular basis.
- Open up to your readers: Be authentic (and sometimes vulnerable)
I like to think of things this way: If I meet someone for the first time and they shake my hand and say: “Would you like to buy my book? It’s on sale for $.99.” Well, I’d slowly walk away from that person.
Just because someone gives you their email address doesn’t mean that they want to be spammed by you.
Not only is that type of marketing unsuccessful, but most readers tune that out. Especially in the area of social media, there’s the 90-10 rule:
90% of the time, share content that’s helpful and useful to people. The other 10%, you can promote your own work.
I highly recommend that you sign up to Seth Godin’s email list and read his books if you haven’t already. His marketing style is honest, helpful and is a great model for what works. Every single day I read the short email he sends out. Over time, I’ve come to look forward to his emails because I learn something and find them useful. It’s not just him trying to sell me a book or a class. Yes, he does do that (very infrequently), but he provides not only good content, but writing that causes me to question why I’m doing what I’m doing. He’s upbeat, personable and extremely relatable with his posts.
When I first started my email list, I sent out emails when I remembered. I was scattered, had no editorial plan and no idea what to write about. I’ve come a long way in the last year. I now send an email out every two weeks (I chose this because the majority of my readers picked this option in a survey I had sent to them) and I share updates on my creative process, but have found that the most popular emails are those that relate to my brand—personal stories about my upbringing that I share with readers.
I’ve had people from all over the world respond with their own stories and it allows me to see how interconnected we all are. I’m not alone and neither are those who also went through difficult childhoods. That commonality is a thread that binds us together and by sharing our stories, we own them and can heal rather than being poisoned and trapped by the difficulty we grew up with as kids. That’s a heavy topic to sometimes discuss and share, but it’s also what I believe is needed in today’s world. I was tired of feeling ashamed and decided to talk about my past in a way that was not only healing for myself, but for others. The benefit is that I not only get to connect with people from around the globe, but readers get a glimpse into what my writing style is like and what I write about. It’s honest and true.
I once believed that if I just wrote my heart out that my book would be “discovered” and I’d be selling copies easily. That didn’t happen. Yes, some authors have had success like that, but that’s not happened to me and to thousands like me. The reality is that authors need to juggle multiple hats and not only need to know how to write, but we need to also market our books.
Today we have Amazon (AMS), Facebook, Google, Bookbub and dozens upon dozens of other options out there. Some authors swear that this one technique on this certain platform works. Others say it doesn’t work.
Unfortunately, the only way to know what does (or doesn’t) work for you is to experiment. I’ve not had success with Facebook ads, but know that others have. The possibilities are tremendous because we can target people by demographic, location and interest. You could even send an email to your readers and then retarget them via Facebook, so that they’d see an ad for your book that way as well.
The big question is: How much are you willing to invest in marketing?
And when I say invest, I don’t refer just to money, but also to time. If you have unlimited funds, then you can hire a virtual assistant to run this all for you. And if you have that type of money, you probably aren’t in need of this article.
The biggest benefit is that authors can (and do) help each other. Email swaps, webinars, blog posts with actual sales numbers, there’s more information out there than there is time. I find that to be my biggest challenge. As I learned back in 2015, I can’t work full-time, raise two kids with my wife, be an author popping out books every few months and learn everything I need to know about marketing. I tried that and nearly imploded. I failed because I tried to take too much on. I need sleep, mental rest, time to have fun with my family and friends, and room to breathe. I can’t have every second of every day scheduled for work. That type of commitment nearly broke me and wasn’t healthy for me or my family.
It’s the dark side to being an indie author that many don’t talk about. We read and see all the success stories, but what about the failures? That’s where I come in. I share what I’ve been through because I think it’s important to give a true rundown of what I’ve experienced (and what many others are experiencing as well).
In my book, How to Become a Successful Author While Working Full-time: The Secret to Work-Life Balance, I go into detail about my personal experiences from the last six years of trying to figure out how to be an author in today’s vastly changed publishing landscape. I share it all—the highs and the lows.
Even if you have had success, maintaining that over years and decades will be hard. The challenge is being flexible and continuing to learn.
In 2017, without a sound marketing strategy, I think it’s extremely rare that a new indie author will find financial success. For me personally, I had some success in the early years, but as I’ve needed to grow my business, I’ve had to spend more on services to keep my business running.
Now I need to pay for website hosting, editing, covers, Mailchimp, advertising, and a bunch of other fees. I track how much I spend and how much I earn and there’s no shame in my sharing that I’m struggling. It’s the truth because I’m making choices to invest in my business and those expenses need to be spent or I cannot grow to where I want to be. I’m investing in my future because I see great potential in the long term.
No matter if you’re extremely successful as an indie author or just starting out, all of us will need to adapt and change. Maybe Amazon will change KNEP again or another service will rise up while others go extinct (I see your days numbered, Nook). We have virtual reality, augmented reality and who know what other “reality” is coming down the pike. Change will continue to happen and disrupters (like the Amazons of the world) will continue to affect the publishing industry.
The challenge for us as authors is to hold two incongruent ideas in our mind at the same time: We need to be as creative and inspiring as we can with our fiction but also need to understand marketing and its implementation in the real world.
Sometimes those two ideas will war with each other. I personally don’t believe that we only write to market. Someone will need to take a risk and try something different. Remember Harry Potter? The Twilight Series? Fifty Shades of Gray? Times and tastes change and I don’t always want to be following the herd. I need to write what moves me and inspired me to be an author from the start. The honesty that I write about in my books is what enables me to get up at 5:30 a.m. to write. Sometimes my main characters make mistakes, just like me. I like displaying the truth and complexities of my characters’ lives. But everything can’t just be about creation. I also need to take my author career and treat it like a business. I need to show up, write regularly, publish books and market them well. Having the tension between creativity and selling can be a challenge sometimes, but I choose to see it as a healthy struggle. I hope you do as well. Have questions? Feel free to contact me.
Ron Vitale is a fantasy, science fiction and nonfiction author. He’s written the Cinderella’s Secret Witch Diaries series, the Witch’s Coven series, book one in the Jovian Gate Chronicles, and the Werewhale Saga. His first nonfiction book, How to Be a Successful Author While Working Full-Time: The Secret to Work/Life Balance is also now available. When not writing, Ron loves spending time with his kids even when they beat him in the fun card game Kittens in a Blender.
#Bookcovers #Indiepublishing #cover design
You glance across a crowded room and lock eyes. You are inspired, beguiled. Suddenly, “love-at-first-sight,” makes sense and you feel the spark of a love affair blossoming with …
the BOOK of your dreams?…
Ok, that might be taking the metaphor a bit too far, but work with me on this. The ultimate goal of your books cover is to grab your reader’s attention and tell them in an instant, “Take me HOME, I’m just what you need! Pay no attention to all those other books, I’m the one!”
Think of it like your favourite little black dress that shows off your curves, and accentuates your …assets. 🙂
Let’s face it, there are really only two reasons to write a book. 1. To say you did, and 2. To sell it.
Unless you only wrote your book so your grandmother could read it, and your target audience is your crazy cousin Emma, Auntie Eileen and Uncle George, the cover does matter. Let me say that again, in case you missed it in all the humor — If you want to sell your book, your cover DOES matter, a LOT.
So, let’s assume you wrote your book to actually sell a few copies. The key then is that you must treat your writing as a business, your book as a product and the cover as its packaging. The cover is your most important marketing tool, and as such, must be properly packaged to be visually appealing to your target market.
A successfully designed book cover, like that little black dress, will convey the tone of your book, give hints about its content, and entice readers into actually picking up your product to read your meticulously written and diligently edited words. Metaphorically, you’ve just been asked out for a first date. Only then can your inner beauty be discovered.
Let’s have a look at some examples and see what they tell you about what’s under the covers… (Ok, I’ll stop.)
Ponder on this cover package for a moment. What does the colour story tell you about what’s inside? It’s fresh, clean, green grass, blue sky. How does it make you feel? Cheerful, hopeful?
What’s under the cover, you ask? A letter from Pope Francis about caring for our common home, Earth.
The cover I created for the Pope’s Encyclical Letter is designed to make you think about our environment, ecology, and our children’s future. The fresh greens, calming blues and flesh tones are used intentionally to evoke a feeling of newness, and concepts of youth, growth, and springtime rebirth.
What about these next two. How do they make you feel?
The colour red in both of these images tells us they might be about death, but the fonts also tell us a story too. Notice that the bold modern font on The End Of Snow tells us that the story is based in modern day. If you zoom in close, you’ll also notice the texture of the font feels like a blizzard.
With Rebel Nation, we can surmise from the font that it has something to do with history. The rebel flag also gives a historical clue… but why is there a modern day rifle site? Hmmm, intriguing.
In the case of these next two the softer font tells us this is a more feminine story. But what else can we discover about these two. Do they belong together? What clues tell you this?
With a sequel, it’s important to have consistency in the overall look and feel from one book to the next so your readers (or searchers) will know these stories belong together. This is known as “branding.” Typically, the colour story will likely match and text treatment is usually similar.
Notice the repeating elements. The spherical object at the top of the design space, the light source just below, the city-scape in the foreground, and the similar text treatment. All these elements let us know that these are part of a sequel.
Another important thing to note is that there should be a strong contrast between the text and the image behind so that your words are legible.
And, you should always keep in mind that the cover will be displayed on digital browsers at a thumbnail size, so it is important the elements are minimal. Including every detail from your story only serves to make your cover busy and confusing, and gives away too much, too soon. Remember our little black dress and keep it simple and classic.
One final little tid bit of advice I always give new authors is if you are beginning to write a book, start saving from day one so that when it’s complete, you’ll have a tidy little nest egg to invest in what it takes to make your product look professional.
Because it matters. A lot.
Are you a DIY cover designer? I am offering a cover critique on my new
blog. Show me what you have and I promise an honest, kind and
constructive insight into how you might make your cover better before
you display it to the world.
Take a peek at what other authors have shared…
Beyond Design International
Video Trailer: http://bit.ly/1k4NppT
Reckless Traveler – By Walter Rhein #Travel #adventure #memoir #Perseidpress
Reckless Traveler on Amazon
Reckless Traveler on Goodreads
Reckless Traveler on Barnes and Noble
‘Reckless Traveler’ is part travel writing, part humor, part tour guide and part memoir. It began as a collection of anecdotes about expat life that the author used to tell whenever he returned home from his travels, and grew into a narrative of personal growth. Every now and then it’s valuable for a person to hit the pause button on their life and assess their choices and progress up until that point, especially if they’ve been making some radical decisions. To sell everything you own and move to Lima, Peru certainly qualifies as a radical decision. ‘Reckless Traveler’ is a novel for anyone who finds themselves disenchanted with following the status quo. If you are a young person, or you’re young at heart, and you are faced with an imminent future of debt from student loans, or a life of drudgery in a job you despise, pick up this novel for a glimpse of an alternate history. There are some who would have you believe it’s reckless to set off on a journey with nothing but a back-pack and a spring in your step. Walter Rhein’s personal experience will assure you that if you have the courage to take the leap, you’ll return renewed and enriched.
I’m coming off of a very good month of writing and exposure. I continue to get emails and messages of support from my “Speaking Spanish in America” article, for which I am very grateful. In addition to that, I have fallen into a very nice rhythm of submitting articles for Silent Sports magazine (I even had a cover image not too long ago).
The writing life is certainly a slog rather than a sprint. I’m turning 42 in February and sometimes I look back and think that I’m about twenty years behind where I should be in terms of literary stature. However, I’m a very stubborn person, and above all I’ve always elected to write what I want, not what necessarily might pay the best.
It’s interesting to assess the articles you see while scrolling through your Facebook feed. Inevitably, one of the trash headlines sucks you in and you spend the next frustrating twenty minutes clicking through a story that’s little more than a framework for pop-up advertisements. The fact that articles like these go viral demonstrates that virality is more often a completely artificial construct than a meritorious response.
As a writer, you get to decide whether you want to play the game of deceit and produce content of little to no value. The alternative is to aspire to create something worthy of the time of your readers, but which is not likely to be widely seen. Even if you do write something that stirs people to the soul and inspires them to share your words, your content will eventually get buried by the clickbait nonsense that people spend large sums of money to promote. The coffers of those entities never seem to run low. Or maybe it’s an illusion and they’re nothing but thin gold plate on a mountain of debt. In any case, the deafening vapid masses will never go away.
I’d begun to suspect that the idealistic notion that quality will find a market was a myth, but then my ‘Spanish’ article went viral. Perhaps that will be the most attention I ever receive for something I’ve created, but at the very least the experience has rejuvenated my enthusiasm to keep writing. I’ll continue to strive to get better, and there are a lot of things I wish to convey so I don’t see the well drying up anytime soon.
For those of you who’ve had the opportunity to read something of mine, please interact with me! Leave a comment, post a review, send me a message on Facebook. The lessons I’ve learned from the responses of my readers have done the most to improve the quality of my content.
Thanks to all of you, and best of luck!
Short Author Bio:
Walter Rhein was raised in Northern Wisconsin and received his degree in English Literature from the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire. After graduation, he moved to Lima, Peru. What began as a two week vacation stretched out into a nine year residency in the land of the Incas. Peru was a great destination for an aspiring writer because in 2001, it was extremely inexpensive to live in Lima. Rhein spent his time writing for small publications, translating, working as an editor and as a teacher. In 2009, he returned the US with his wife and currently resides in Chippewa Falls WI. He writes regularly for SilentSports.net, Singletracks.com and his personal Peru blog StreetsOfLima.com. He also occasionally sends in an editorial to the local paper. In 2016 his article Speaking Spanish in America was the most read article for the Eau Claire Leader Telegram with 242,000 views.
A great interview with Talfor Var, the troll.
We’re so excited because Talfor from The Shining Citadel – The Light Beyond the Storm – Book II by A. L. Butcher is here. He’s the main character in A. L. Butcher’s The Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles fantasy series and one of our favourites. It took some convincing to make the journey but he relented. Please welcome him to the POTL blog. Introduce yourself, Talfor:
I am Talfor Var, Hirik Lord of troll tribe of Var. Varris is my home, in what the humans call the Jagged Peak mountains, the Helmerri plateau. I am son of Shaman Kherak Var, and brother of Shamania Mirandra. I am Captain of the Hirik and thus, to your way of thinking third only to Shaman and Shamania. I can never rule – as that is woman’s role – but I can advise, I can fight, I can lead.
I am taller than human…
View original post 958 more words
Today I would like to welcome A. L. Butcher to the blog! She is the author of The Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles, Tales of Erana and several short stories. 1. When did you first begin writing? I…
Source: Interview with A. L. Butcher
Hi folks, another ‘back catalogue’ interview. Originally published as http://thaddeusthesixth.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/how-to-make-audiobook-interview-with.html. Do check out this blog and the fantasy books of Thaddeus White – well worth the read.
How to Make an Audiobook – interview with Alexandra Butcher
Publishing has undergone something of a revolution in recent years, with the advent of e-books and e-readers making it easier than ever to self-publish. There’s also been a resurgence in the popularity of audiobooks. But how does one go about making an audiobook? To answer that (and other) questions, I’ve been joined by Alexandra Butcher, who has recently created the audiobook of The Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles.
What’s the premise of The Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles?
The book is set in the world of Erana where magic is outlawed and elves enslaved to the humans. The land is run by the Order of Witch-Hunters – a corrupt organisation who rule by fear and division. Magic still persists. It’s a case of either someone is magical or they aren’t, it’s something a person is born with. How well that person hides their skills can mean life or death. The slavers, too, have a lot of power. Slavery is not illegal – in fact the Witch-Hunters encourage it – the trade of flesh pays well and so the Order gets a cut. It also helps to instil fear in the population.
The book begins with Dii, an elven sorceress who had fled from her Keeper, or slave owner’s, home after years of terrible treatment. She knows next to nothing about the world outside – except it’s a very dangerous place and soon enough she encounters the Order.
We then meet Archos, another sorcerer, who is also a wealthy noble and more besides who, unbeknown to the Order, is working to help the elves and other mages escape from servitude or execution. When the slavers ravage a nearby elven village Archos and Dii set out to try and rescue the missing elves and avenge the village, whilst trying to avoid capture by the Order and other jealous enemies.
It’s been labelled ‘sex and sorcery’ as it’s definitely an adult book as there are elements of romance and erotica. It’s pretty steamy in places 😉 Foremost it’s fantasy/sword and sorcery.
It’s recently, as mentioned, been converted into an audiobook. How long did it take, from start to finish, to create and publish the audiobook version?
Oh gosh – in the end it was about a year – but part of that was because I was revising the book for a third edition and I had to wait for the editor to do her stuff. The narrator – Rob Goll – was the chap who narrated Tales of Erana: The Warrior’s Curse so I had the advantage I’d worked with him before. Rob had several other commitments – including a Shakespeare festival and narration for Heroika: Dragon Eaters which, as I’d recommended him for I couldn’t really complain. Once Rob had made a start it was actually fairly quick – probably about a month.
As I’d worked with Rob before and I liked his work and style I suggested he audition for Light Beyond so I’d pretty much made my choice of narrator already. With another title of mine Outside the Walls we had a couple of people audition and, as the book was a co-write, it had to be someone both myself and Diana liked. It’s possible to have several narrators audition or none. So it can take time to find the correct person.
It’s a lot more time consuming for the narrator – I understand it’s about two hours work per finished hour – and them they have to ensure there are no background noises, the pronunciation is alright, the gaps between the chapters are the right length etc. ACX has strict criteria about how long the silence is at the beginning or end of each chapter and if it’s too long or too short they won’t approve it. Honestly I can’t tell unless it’s really obvious so I have to trust my narrator on that.
I was lucky with Rob – he’s very professional and there was only one edit and that was my fault… That’s a risk, too, as the audio has to match the manuscript perfectly or the whispersync doesn’t work. If there is a difference, or a mistake then that has to be rectified. Also sometimes when listening the author discovers a particular scene or line doesn’t really work – so that needs to be changed in the MS. It’s a great way of finding those pesky typos that might have sneaked in under the radar. Whether Rob had to do multiple records I don’t know – he didn’t say.
Officially once the narrator has uploaded the files the author can request up to two rounds of editing – so the author needs to listen to the files carefully to decide on any changes. Some narrators will do more but as it’s so time consuming the author can’t send them notes on every little thing unless it really is an error/revision.
The cover art – that has to be square (think a CD case) so that has to be adapted. Then there’s a suitable sample…
Audiobooks seem to be enjoying a resurgence as MP3 players are so commonplace and they can be listened to on the commute to work, whilst walking or doing household chores. Excepting your own, do you have a favourite audiobook?
I have a few I haven’t listened to yet (no headphones for my phone and my old phone went into meltdown if I tried to install audible) but I have a version of Phantom of the Opera I love, and Les Miserable – although off hand I can’t remember who narrated. I’ve listened to Chris Morris narrate some work, and other books Rob has done.
I’ve just bought Count of Monte Christo, Dracula and Soul Music, so I need to get listening!
With the classics there are usually a few versions – so the samples are a good way to find a narrator you like.
Self-publishing has taken off in a major way for written books. Apart from (obviously) needing the written text, what else do you need to go down the audiobook route?
Patience! Each chapter which is uploaded has to be listened to, usually a couple of times, and cross referenced with the manuscript for revisions, background noise, dips in volume, odd sounds pronunciation issues – often the narrator will pick up any sound related issues – but some can slip through.
A book I have just bought on audible is over 50 listening hours so you can imagine the work that went into that!
As I said the cover art has to be reproduced – it’s a bit fiddly – especially if the author has purchased a cover and needs to go back to the cover artist and ask them to do it.
How does a writer go about hiring a narrator, and how does the pricing work (is it a fixed fee or does the narrator get a royalty per copy sold)?
There are two payment options available for author/narrators price per finished hour or royalty share. From what I’ve seen quite a few narrators will only offer price per hour – after all the book may not sell many copies so they may not ever a great deal of money for all the work. I can see their point. I’ve not worked with anyone who has only asked for pay per finished hour but I understand the fees vary – so it is up to the narrator and author to negotiate. If the author opts for pay per hour the royalties from the sales belong solely to the author – after all the narrator has already been paid. I think it works out at about 40% royalty rate.
Royalty share is what it says on the tin. The narrator isn’t paid up front – they get a share of any royalties for the audio book sales. It works out at 20% for the author and 20% for the narrator.
This is for the exclusive production on ACX – there are other sites which produce audio so if the book is sold elsewhere then I think the royalty rate is dropped. I can’t recall exactly but I think it’s a seven-year contract.
Once the book is submitted to ACX the author fills in the required info – genre, preferred narrating style, royalty options etc. An author can request a specific type of narrator – British, male, middle aged, West Country for example – of course that limits the potential narrators but it is possible. I’d say it was better to be a bit more flexible. Narrators can then audition by reading the uploaded audition script – usually a five minute chunk of the MS. Sometime the narrators can approach the author with questions. ACX will contact the author/rightsholder and say there is an audition waiting for approval. In theory the author could wait until there are a few or take the first one that comes in if he or she likes it.
If the author likes the audition then he/she can make an offer to the narrator – so royalty share, time scale etc. If the narrator has a lot of other work on, and many of them are actors so may be working on shows, then obviously time scales are important. A 30 hour book would take 60 or more hours to produce and so that is unlikely to be done in a week.
Once both parties are happy the narrator accepts the offer and off you go. There is a lot of legal contract stuff to be considered – it is a contract between the narrator and author and ACX – If the narrator doesn’t turn up with the goods, or the quality is awful then the offer can be rescinded. If the author doesn’t pay up – or there are issues there, then the contract can be rescinded. It’s hard to do – and I think ACX have to mediate but it can be done. There is a 15-minute sample produced by the narrator – and this can be refused by the author, but that’s the only early get out. It’s worth the author reading these rules carefully as it IS a contract with all that entails. So make sure you find the right person for your project.
There are bounty payments too – basically if someone joins the audible members club with the subscription and your book is the first book they buy then the author (or author and narrator for royalty share) get a $50 bonus ($25) for royalty share. I think it’s an incentive to try and persuade people to get fans to sign up.
How long does the process take, and what level of direction to the narrator is needed? Did you provide a style guide for unusual fantasy terms?
The initial set up is pretty quick – sign up with the ACX account and claim the relevant book, produce the ‘audition script’ and upload it and wait for narrators to audition.
How do you like to listen to audiobooks?
I tend to listen on my laptop, but recently we were listening to Good Omens, Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy and Dune played on a tablet via a speaker before bed. My partner tends to listen to them more than I do at the moment. That’s the beauty – audio books are pretty versatile and one can dip in and out, just picking up where one left off.
Are there any pitfalls newcomers to making audiobooks should know about?
Make sure you read the FAQ and the contract carefully. ACX actually has a good set of FAQ but their contact customer service is a bit lousy. I’ve had to deal with them a few times – mostly regarding payment of the bounty payments – and once when we discovered an issue that had got past both author, narrator and the quality control. They told me it would be fixed in a week – more like six and with questions regarding the bounty payments the person I spoke to seemed clueless and I ended up having to take screen shots of the issue – namely bounty payments were listed which I hadn’t received and apparently they couldn’t see them on the invoice… no because I hadn’t received them. That took a couple of months going back and forth before it was sorted. It pays to be polite but persistent.
AL: Audible Listener – purchases made by members with membership credits.
ALOP: Audible Listener Over Plan – purchases made by members with cash (not with membership credits).
ALC: A la carte – purchases made by customers not in an Audible Listener membership.
There are royalties for books bought outright by people not in the membership plan, books bought by members using their membership credits, books bought by members NOT using their credits and so the author has to work out what that relates to in actual payments – I get 68c for a ALC sale and a 55c for an AL sale on the same short story. But honestly it’s not always that clear. But they do pay monthly and the royalties usually do turn up on time…. Well except the bounty payments…
The reporting of sales is a bit flaky – it’s supposed to update daily but often doesn’t.
What’s nice is the author gets promotional codes to give out – usually for home store (Audible.co.uk OR Audible.com but can ask for the ones from the other store. It’s a useful way of getting reviews or being able to offer the books as prizes in events.
The email system they have is a bit rubbish – it doesn’t always work – and I’ve been told that by several narrators as well BUT it is useful to have and means you don’t have to give out a personal email if you don’t want to, and any issues you can email direct to ACX support. Oh and they have phone support. KDP doesn’t and that drives a lot of authors mad.
There are a lot of good marketing tips on the blog and ACX have a twitter account. The author needs to do their own marketing – same as KDP – so don’t expect ACX to market your book for you.
Make sure you have the time to put in to it. It’s not easy listening carefully to each chapter. You’re the author – it’s your book being produced and you need to know that it’s correct and done according to what you want. Keep in mind though that a narrator doesn’t know what’s going on in your head – he or she doesn’t know that you want Bob the Postman to speak with a Geordie accent unless it’s made clear in the MS or you tell them. You may not get the book exactly as you’ve imagined it.
Make sure you keep a good relationship with your narrator – especially if you want them to do subsequent books.
What are your plans for the future?
The Shining Citadel has been revised for a second edition and will appear in audio – hopefully by the end of 2016. (UPDATED ALB)
The Stolen Tower will eventually get produced as well but that will wait until the second edition as well, depending on how well Light Beyond sells.
I have just produced a short fantasy story set entitled The Kitchen Imps and Other Dark Tales and that’s also just been produced in audio by J Scott Bennett, an American narrator.
Book IV of the series is being written and I’m also working on a Tales of Erana novella so that may well appear in audio in the next year or so.
Links and info
- L. Butcher is the British author of the Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles fantasy series, and several short stories in the fantasy and fantasy romance genres. She is an avid reader and creator of worlds, a poet and a dreamer. When she is grounded in the real world she likes science, natural history, history and monkeys. Her work has been described as ‘dark and gritty’ and her poetry as evocative.
The Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles series – an adult fantasy/fantasy romance series, with a touch of erotica.
Name: Deborah Dixon
Location: New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
How do YOU define fantasy/science fiction/heroism?
Fantasy generally involves the use of fantastic creatures and settings. Science fiction involves the use of fantastic (for now) technology. Obviously there can be major overlap between the two; that’s why I like the term “speculative fiction” to cover them both. As for “heroism,” I specifically don’t define it. More on that below.
How pervasive do you think fantasy/sci-fi is in our society today? Why do you think this is?
HBO’s most successful show is a high-fantasy epic. The Star Wars reboot came out as one of the highest-grossing films of all time. SF offers a special sort of escapism that society is searching for today, which puts SF writers in a very unique position.
Are these genres seen in a more acceptable light than they used to be?
I don’t think they were ever unacceptable. Perhaps sci-fi was at first, in the days of H.P. Lovecraft and Harlan Ellison and others (and that’s a very specific sort of sci-fi), but that’s way before my time. I could only offer hearsay.
What makes a ‘hero’? Would you say this definition is different within literature to real life?
Heroism is a concept that I find much too simplified in fiction as well as in real life. The definition varies from person to person – I doubt you’d find anyone over the age of five who would give the same answer. Is it a person who does good things? Perhaps, but what if they use undesirable means to do good things? Is it a person who obeys the law? Perhaps, but what if the person follows the law to the extent that other people are hurt? There is no basic definition one can put on heroism, or on villainy.
If you’re a writer how do you portray heroism in your books?
I don’t. I write characters who act based on their beliefs, their frames of reference, and their own capabilities. Whether any of my characters are heroes or villains I leave for my readers to decide. My first novel to be published specifically deals with this concept – of what makes a hero or villain, and who gets to decide who wears those labels. I personally do not label my characters as either (although for story reasons a few of my characters refer to themselves as one or the other. But it’s based on their perspectives of themselves.)
It has been argued fantasy is full of ‘tropes’ – what are your views on this?
Do you mean tropes or clichés? There’s a huge difference. Tropes are everywhere – in fantasy as much as your favorite romantic comedy and the last reality show you watched. They’re helpful writing tools in any genre or format. Clichés are tropes that are overused to the point of making a reader groan upon spotting one, such as the typical damsel in distress. Some fantasy writers do overindulge in clichés, but I would stop short of stating the whole genre suffers from them. Authors such as George R.R. Martin and Neil Gaiman have made an art of writing fantasy while shunning clichés or turning them on their heads.
Fantasy and science fiction used to be seen as very male-oriented, do you think this is still the case. Do you have any experience of this?
In terms of writers? The field is certainly more even between women and men in fantasy than it was a couple of decades ago. Sci-fi is probably still more male-dominated, but I suspect that’s by choice; the readership of sci-fi absent any significant romantic element tends to be decidedly male, and so men end up writing it as well, just as women are all over romance. I like being an obviously female sci-fi writer; it’s a novelty I can market. But as far as my work goes, I’d rather get past sex and gender and focus on the material.
How important are ‘facts’ in fantasy/science fiction – does something need to be plausible to be believable?
Facts provide a basis on which the writer can build plausibility. For example, if you take the care to explain a hierarchal society in ways that relate to the real world, that will make the action in your high-fantasy novel much more sturdy, and then you’ve built up trust with your reader once you decide to whip out the dragons and magic rings. The same goes for sci-fi; introduce some technology or science your readers are familiar with, and later they will be more likely to accept that the spaceship just traveled from Earth to the galactic north in two hours. Don’t just dump phlebotinum on them with a “they can do that because that’s how this book works” hand wave. You have to establish why they should accept the rules of your world/galaxy.
How has science fiction changed from the days of Mary Shelley and Jules Verne?
I personally consider Shelley and Verne to be general literary authors, not science fiction, but that’s due to technology pressing forward and the concepts they worked with no longer holding the novelty of impossibility they did when they were published. Hey, it’ll happen to me too some day. “Oh, the Singularity. I remember that fondly. How quaint.”
Fairy-tales, anthropomorphic personifications, mythical beasts and cultural fantastical persons are all about us – such as Santa Claus, St George, dragons and fairies – how vital are these for our identity? Are we who we are because of the myths our cultures hold?
It’s the other way around. Our myths and creatures exist as they do because we are who we are. There’s a reason so many widely spread cultures have such similar stories – we as human beings have a need to believe in a higher power, to create an origin story, to explain away the best and worst in ourselves through benevolent and malevolent beings. Agricultural societies always have nature deities. Hierarchal societies always have pantheons. And they’re still vital to us, even as psychology and science explain many of these things, because they appeal to our sense of imagination, and they give us something to lean on and hide behind.
What myths have influenced your work?
All the myths I know. My own background means my works focus most on Abrahamic stories, but I’ve included and toyed with elements from Celtic, Norse, Greek/Roman, and West African mythologies, and feature anything from shapeshifters to kami and all in between. One of my own characters sums this approach up succinctly: “Everything is true, at least in part. All anything needs is a believer.”
What are some in YOUR society/cultural identity, how are they perceived and why are they important? Why have they endured?
Jamaica’s stories as they exist now are mostly those brought over from Africa in the slave trade, such as Anansi, the spider who weaves all webs and tells all tales. The reason for those enduring probably has to do with African slaves needing to bring something over from their own lives (including vodou, which is not practiced in Jamaica, but it is in Haiti. Just for the record). Unfortunately, the mythologies that existed before European colonization are not enduring; they were oral traditions and very few of them were written down before the native islanders were wiped out. A large part of my ancestry is made up of people who were extinguished before their stories could be immortalized; I suppose that has something to do with my interest in writing and helping others to write as well.
Bio: Deborah Dixon is a lifelong writer residing in New Orleans. She has written nine novels, five novellas, and numerous short stories. She is also one of the three founders of Shalamar, a publishing company designed to help new writers. Aside from writing, she also composes music and promotes small business in her hometown.
http://shalamarmedia.com (Shalamar, my publishing company)
https://twitter.com/Deboracracy (my professional Twitter)
https://shalamartanara.wordpress.com/ (our blog about writing and publishing)
https://www.facebook.com/shalamarllp/ (our Facebook Page)
My latest interview!
As many of you know, I’m a big fantasy reader, have been ever since I read Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis. Fantasy allows me to escape the hum-drum world of Earth and travel to a place where anything is possible. So when I meet a fantasy author I love, I want to tell you all about him/her. It’s my great pleasure to introduce you to British Fantasy Author A. L. Butcher. You may know her better as “Library of Erana”. She agreed to sit down with me for a candid interview. She reveals all sorts of sage advice and fascinating facts. Take it away, A. L.: 🙂
What book do you wish you could have written?
The Count of Monte Cristo. It’s a masterpiece of revenge, historical drama, intrigue and redemption. Fantasy wise – Soul Music, or Thud by Terry Pratchett. The late Mr Pratchett was a…
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1 in every 68 children is diagnosed with Autism. 1 in every 42 Boys
The LIFT Campaign is a charitable initiative rallying the romance reading community around Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) families in April, Autism Awareness month. Experts estimate that many ASD families spend up to $60,000 out of pocket each year on medical and therapy expenses. This year we’re raising funds to assist families struggling to manage these staggering costs. All profits go to the family scholarship program of Talk About Curing Autism (TACA).
The online auction is LIVE! There are too many items from authors and bloggers up for bid to list here, but we have full signed collections from some of your favorite bestselling authors. We have non-book items like Kindle Paperwhite, Amazon Echo, VIP Tickets to the Mile High Denver author signing, and so many other goodies! So start bidding while doing good!
(Bidding closes Friday, 4/29/16!)
Even if you don’t want to bid, you can still make a tax-deductible donation to the scholarship program through our efforts HERE!
Don’t miss a thing! Join the LIFT 2016 Facebook Group for bidding alerts and campaign information.
Wanna stylishly support the LIFT Campaign? Buy your LIFT T-shirt before it’s too late!
All profits benefit TACA!
A special thank you from Lisa Ackerman,
Founder & Executive Director of Talk About Curing Autism (TACA)