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Have you put your books into audio yet? Today I interview Simon Whistler about his new book, Audiobooks for Indies.
I'm in New Zealand on a family visit! Delirium is now available as an audiobook, you can find it here on Audible or please email me if you'd like a review copy.
This podcast is sponsored by Kobo Writing Life, which helps authors self-publish and reach readers in global markets through the Kobo eco-system. You can also subscribe to the Kobo Writing Life podcast for interviews with successful indie authors.
Kobo’s financial support pays for the hosting and transcription, and if you enjoy the show, you can now support my time on Patreon. Thank you!
Simon Whistler is an author and voice talent/audiobook narrator, as well as a podcaster – he runs the very popular, Rocking Self Publishing Podcast. His new book is Audiobooks for Indies: Unlock the potential of your book.
You can listen above or on your favorite podcast app or read the notes and links below.
- Simon talks a bit about his background, with a degree in business, then working in Sri Lanka before moving to Prague. He started narrating audiobooks and working with indie authors, and then started his podcast, Rocking Self Publishing, before deciding to write a book about audiobooks to help authors get their books out there. We talk about the creative hub that Prague is turning into … We discuss entrepreneurship and the mindset shift from writing a book to running a business as an author.
- Why the audiobook market is growing so fast. Basically because Amazon is behind it, plus the advance of digital technology. People can consume while they do other things, and it's on demand now through wireless technology. It can also help you stand out as there are far fewer books available in audio, plus Whispersync means people can combine editions on their Kindle.
- On ACX and how it works. You can also read more about my experience with ACX in publishing and marketing here. We talk about pricing, ACX bounty, marketing, Whispersync and how the various payments work, as well as how to select a narrator.
- Best practices for working with a voice talent. We talk about adaptation, interpretation and respecting creative expression – as well as balancing it with how you want the book to be.
- On fiction and non-fiction audiobooks. Often listeners want to hear the author read non-fiction, so if you can, narrate it yourself. For fiction, you need to do voices and things, so it's best to get a professional. Simon talks about using basic equipment for audiobook narration – you don't need to complicate things and it will only cost you a couple hundred $ to get started. Before you do anything, read your book out loud and see how you feel.
- Getting over your voice. We talk about becoming a narrator and how it can become another income stream, on when to take royalty split deals, and more. I am considering getting further into narration in 2015, only for non-fiction though.
- On podcasting and when authors should consider it. We talk about the commitment in time per episode as well as how long it takes to get some traction with an audience. Like writing, it's a long term game! We also talk a bit about video and YouTube – the most important thing is regular content. Most successful vloggers are doing videos several times a week. We also mention Skype Translator – which translates as you speak – only in beginning stages, but wow! It's like Star Trek!
You can find Simon at RockingSelfPublishing.com and on twitter @RSPPodcast. You can get Audiobooks for Indies: Unlock the potential of your book, here on Amazon.
Transcript of interview with Simon Whistler
Joanna: Hi everyone, I'm Joanna Penn from thecreativepenn.com. Today, I'm here with Simon Whistler. Hi Simon.
Simon: Hey Joanna, how are you?
Joanna: I'm good, and I'm very excited to have Simon on the show. Just as a little introduction to those people who haven't heard Simon before. Simon's an author and voice talent and audiobook narrator, as well as a podcaster, running the very popular – RockingSelf Publishing Podcast. You may well have heard Simon before. His new book, ‘Audiobooks for Indies: Unlock the Potential of your Book,' which is brilliant and we're talking about that today.
So Simon, tell us a bit more about you and your background. Especially, how you developed your very plummy English accent.
Simon: Over education, I guess, that I have put to good use becoming a podcaster, I suppose. I started off with my podcast. In that introduction, you made me sound like I do a lot. I'm like, ”Wow! I really do all of those things? I'm a podcaster and very recent author'.' I started RockingSelf Publishing, a year and a bit ago. Spoken to some 70 authors. There's a new interview every Thursday. You've been on once and you're coming on again, very shortly, which I'm looking forward to.
So, yeah, lots of education. I developed a plummy accent, apparently. Before I was doing the podcast, as you mentioned, I was a voiceover artist, actor, narrator — it's hard to put a job title on that. It's always difficult to part these. I was narrating a bunch of books and doing a lot of freelance for adverts, for video tutorials and stuff. And then, I was working with indie authors a lot, on books, and thought, ”I should interview some of these guys.'. One thing lead to another, I never really expected. I was listening to your show way before I did mine. I was saying before we started on the call, ”I'm like a little bit nervous. I've done like 70 interviews talking to these big time authors and I still get the butterflies talking to Joanna Penn.'. I've spoken to you several times before. The podcast took off and went from there. And now, here we are, heading towards episode 70.
Joanna: I know, that is amazing. You have a particular format. You do interviews as well, which I like. Your's go into the in-depth of indies, which is brilliant.
Before that, what did you do at college?
Simon: Yeah, totally unrelated. I did three years undergrad business and then I did a years traveling, which probably cause problems later in life; I'll explain. I went back and I was like, ”I'm going to do the legal conversion course.”‘
Joanna: Oh no!
Simon: Yeah, so I went back and I spent a lot of money doing that or getting in debt to my parents doing that. That was around 2009-2010. Economy wasn't so brilliant on graduating. Some of the firms, where I did internships on open days basically weren't hiring as many people as they used to. And I was like, ”Okay, what shall I do?” I mentioned I did a year's traveling abroad between finishing the business degree. I was like, ”I could do some more traveling but combining that with work, that would be a good idea.” There's a fantastic student organization called, ISAC, which organized internships for students and people who have recently graduated. I went and spent a year in Sri Lanka, which was amazing. I was working for six months, through this internship.
And then I started freelancing when I was there. It was one of these, I guess you know, ‘The 4-Hour Workweek,' by Tim Ferriss. It was like, ”Huh, you can make pretty good money working very little and spend it in your rupees.” I read this book and I was like, ”This is awesome.” So I spent six months there. I met my girlfriend there. She was through the same organization. She is Czech. And after that, I moved to Czech and I've been here since, sort of. I've done traveling. We spent some time in Mexico as well. Yeah, just doing bit of that, doing a little bit of podcasting, doing a few audiobooks. That's my story.
Joanna: No, I love that. You're in Prague along with David Gaughran.
Joanna: I met Derek Murphy. He's coming over as well. He's my book cover designer.
Simon: I met Derek, in Bangkok, like two weeks ago. We were hanging out. We went to this co-working space together and he was talking about all of this stuff. You came up, of course, because I know he does your book covers, which was crazy.
Joanna: I know, it's such a small world. I said to my husband, ”I think, we should move to Prague. It seems to be like, it's becoming this kind of hub”.
Simon: David and I are going to make it a hub. It's going to happen.
Joanna: Yeah, although, David's now saying, he wasn't to go back to South America and all this stuff. But, what's so interesting… I bring up your background because the business aspect comes through to me. You do have a business now. You've had a proper education and unlike me; my degrees in Theology. But, that comes through in everything you do.
Simon: I think it does. Although in a business degree, they do teach you, with the expectation that you graduate and go work for Delois or something, and go up the ranks. At that point, they actually teach you how to do business. Whereas, at university they're more like, ”Have you read Hofstede's books' on something or other? Or there's something about an onion.” I was, apparently, not a very good student.
Joanna: Well, I don't know, I think it's even a language. Even thinking about income… it's come to me lately that a lot of authors don't even think about money when they start writing books. When their mindset shifts from writing a book to running a business as an author, it's quite different.
Let's get into your book because you've actually subtitled it as, ”Unlock the potential of your book,' which, I assume, is a business aspect.
Simon: It was actually, very much, a subtitle that I put out to send out with my advance reader copies. I was like, ”I'm going to think about this when I think about my product description.”
Joanna: Oh, what is the real subtitle?
Simon: I'm still working on it. I liked the fact that you read it, and you reading it made it sound so professional. I was like, ”Wow! ‘Unlock the potential of your book,' it actually sounds better when Joan says it.” So, maybe I'll stick with. But basically, the idea is that there are so many rights associated with a book more than just the digital or the print rights. Not all authors are exploiting these. And I think that comes down to, not a lack of business but just focusing on some stuff. I'm all for people focusing on writing and ”Write the next book, just write the next book.”
But somethings aren't easy and audiobooks are relatively easy. They are relatively expensive to produce, which I'm sure we'll get into and often times can be done with no upfront cost, as I'm sure we'll get into. There are potential there to be unlocked.
Joanna: Let's go into that a bit more because I agree with you. A lot of people start with ebooks these days. Then they do print. And then it's like, ”Yes! Now, we should do audiobooks.”
And why is audio such an expanding market right now?
Simon: I think because Amazon's behind it. Amazon are putting a lot of money into it. You have so many things. They're putting these stipends on books, which is where a narrator gets paid upfront as well. They're expanding into international markets. They launched in the UK earlier this year after a few years in the US. And I think when Amazon gets behind something and they set their sights on, like, ”We're going to make audio a thing,” they're going to make audio a thing. It's just simply because of the advancing digital technology.
Now, everyone has a smartphone in their pocket. With 3G, you could be listening to an audiobook. And I'll be out and about on a run and it would be like, ”Oh! You haven't got the next chapter.” And I'm like, ”Well, that's okay.” It says, ”Do you want to stream it live, 3G?” I'm like, ”Yes.” Anywhere you want, it's completely on demand. There's no holdups. What was it? Ten, fifteen years ago, you had to have 30 CD boxsets.
Simon: Or even before that, tapes, I guess. I don't think they did it on records. This technology is really neat. It's a viable thing. There's no need to print up. When you looked at books, books were fine. But audiobooks were 30 CDs, which is expensive. And so I think, this is something that will be changed as much as has been changed as much as books.
Joanna: The other thing, I think, is from a standing out perspective. I really feel there's so much text in the world, actually having audio can help you stand out. If you look at the number of books on Audible, compared to the number of books on Amazon.com, it's not comparable.
Simon: Yeah, and there's also people who really want to listen to audio. I'm surprised of this myself. I prefer reading despite my profession. I would rather just sit down and read a good book. But there are people, they just prefer listing. If they have a long commute, they'll listen to books in their car. And then they get home from a long day at work and they go to sleep. Or now, they can just continue with that book on their smartphone and listen. So, yeah, there's a whole market of those people as well.
Joanna: And the aging demographic with people.
Simon: Yes, who are losing their sight. They want to buy bifocals or something.
Joanna: That's another one. Actually, I have a friend who's blind and that is how reads. Obviously, that is how he reads. What was so funny was when he said to me, ”Can I get your audiobook?” I was like, ”You can.” We were talking about it. Up until recently, the main market, for audiobooks, has been literary fiction where publishers have paid for the narration. There's been very little genre fiction in audiobooks.
Simon: It's really interesting, yeah.
Joanna: Because publishers have not paid for it. What's interesting to me is how things will change because, he's used to having famous actors read books.
Joanna: Now, things are changing. Because you read a lot of them, do people look for the next Simon Whistler?
Simon: I have to say, I fall down on the side of, it's much more about the book than it is about the narrator. Well, there are some big names in narration and these will attract people to the book. For the most part, people are interested in the book and they can let a lot slide with narration. I think, a good narrator can really enhance a book.
But, I typically don't think, people go out there and look for the next great narrator. I think, that's a good thing for authors, generally. Because I think there's a large pool of narrators who aren't charging insane rates. Once you're over $200, per finished hour, so that per delivered hour, you're getting really good results. There's just a lot of narrators who are doing fantastic books.
Joanna: Let's talk about, ACX, being the biggest thing. Just briefly explain ACX for anybody who might not have heard of it yet.
Simon: All right, so ACX, is the audiobook creation exchange. It's an Amazon company. And it basically allows an author, particularly indie authors, to go there, claim the rights to their books. They login with their Amazon account, and they say, ”Hey! I'm the author of, How To Market a Book.” Then, you can open up Auditions, and you could say, ”Hey narrators, I want to make this book. I am willing to pay this amount of money,” or, which is important, ”I will split the money with you for seven years.” So, you share the audio rights with the narrator for seven years.
They go away. They narrate the book. There's a little bit of intricacy there. There's like an audition process. There's a sample process. There's a proof process by the author and ACX. Then, eventually, you have this book produced and it goes on sale. ACX allow you to reach. Again, it branches here again. There's two separate options. I think I put a diagram in my book for this. You go down an exclusive path or a non-exclusive path.
If you go exclusive with ACX, they will distribute through Audible, Amazon, and iTunes, which are the biggest markets. And then, the author and the narrator will split 40%. Or, if the author has just paid the narrator upfront, they take all of that 40%. And then if you go non-exclusive, that means, the books do go out on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes, which partner with ACX but then you also have the rights to sell direct if you want to. Or, get it made up into CDs and send it out and sell it to your fans and all of this stuff. Then, you do take a hit and you will only get 25%. So, there's a 15% drop off if you decide not to give ACX exclusive rights. I know there's a few branches there, did that lay it out clearly?
Joanna: Yeah, it did. And I think, if people are confused, all you need to do is logon to ACX.com. And it is actually much easier. It's like trying to explain, KDP or any self-publishing. If you just go to the website, it's easy to just do it.
Simon: Yeah, I think that's the important thing to get across. It is pretty easy.
Joanna: Yeah, it is.
Simon: And they have diagrams as well.
Joanna: They do. Personally, I've chosen to go, royalty splits, with narrators, which means, I've paid nothing. And also, exclusive with ACX, which is essentially, the easiest option and no money down.
Simon: It's your minimum investment, maximum return. There are reasons you might want to go non-exclusive. But typically, for most authors, the easiest, most profitable route is to go exclusive.
Joanna: Yeah. Obviously, I have put a few books up, in terms of my translations that haven't been picked up by a narrator yet, which I don't find that surprising. It's like a Spanish book. Because at the moment it's only open to US, UK, anyone else?
Simon: That's it, right now. I've got Canadians emailing me saying, ”Hey Simon, in the book, anything about Canada?” And Australians, in their accents.
Joanna: People in Germany. I'm really hoping we'll get Germany because apparently the market for audiobooks in Germany is bigger than for ebooks.
Simon: Really? Wow, I did not know that.
Joanna: Yeah, I read that and just went, ”Wow! I really hope they open.” And I actually have got a German narrator, who is in America who's going to do ‘Pentecost' in German next year if that opens up. One would expect, because it took them a year to open up in Britain — it was a year or two years, I think. We would hope that they'll make enough money that they'll want to expand, right?
Simon: Well, you wouldn't be able to do royalty split with them, but you could hire a German narrator and pay them upfront and then load the book in yourself through ACXUK. Because then, the German citizen wouldn't need to be a part of the program.
Joanna: Just for anyone listening who isn't in the US or the UK. Sorry guys. In terms of those people who aren't, what are their options?
Simon: There are a few and they are difficult. I was in this situation a year ago and I went through all of this trouble. I looked at setting up a US company. I looked at a company called, eBookIt. There's a couple of others. And then they came to the UK. I was like, ”Awesome, all of this trouble!” It was trouble, and it was research, and it was all of effort to see how I could make this work. And I was like, ”Fantastic, let's just do it in the UK.” I don't know, it's a really hard call because I don't know when they're going to launch in these different countries and territories. I would wait and see.
Joanna: That's a good point because I didn't wait and I signed with a small press in the US and let them do three books for me. And I've lost basically half my royalties because of that. So, yeah, it's difficult. Let's talk about some more things. Fiction and non-fiction; my feeling, as a listener, I don't listen to fiction audiobooks. I do listen to non-fiction and I love to hear the author reading. Like, Steven Pressfield — I want to hear his voice reading.
What do you feel about non-fiction for authors?
Simon: If you can, narrate it yourself. I'm in exactly the same boat. In fact, I don't listen to much fiction audiobook. I do listen to a lot of non-fiction and I do like them read by the authors. Sometimes, if I don't think about it and you don't know what that author sound like, that's cool. If you can narrate it yourself, you should seriously consider it. It's not this crazy hurdle where you have to go into a studio and pay some guy with a big board with 600 little dials and screens and those soundproof glass windows that you see in the movies. I'm not using it right now.
But I can swing in this mic and anyone who listens to my podcast, this is where I do my books. Of course, you've got an audio show as well. But I'm swinging in like a podcast microphone with a pop filter in front of it. This thing's $200. I'm pointing at the big curtain that hangs behind me because that stops the echoes going around the room. Other than that, I'm sitting at my desk. And this is a good setup and you don't need something as complicated as I have. I think, $150 on microphone. Software's free; you can use a program called Audacity. And just see how you're going; see how easy it is to do.
Before that, have a read of your book. Sit down and read it out loud and see how you feel reading it because if you hesitate and if you're like, ”Oh, I'm not very good at this,” there's definitely a learning curve there. If you're a speaker… I know you've recently narrated your own book, ‘How to Market a Book.'
Joanna: No, I did, ‘Business for Authors.'
Simon: ‘Business for Authors.' Sorry, that's right.
Joanna: For a launch. But what's so interesting, so I did it myself. Is it called, unabridged, when you make up extra stuff?
Simon: When you read it for the full thing?
Joanna: You read the full thing and you add bits.
Simon: I don't think that has a word. I call that, ”breaking whispersync.”
Joanna: That's the thing. What I thought was, to give people a bonus, I'll read the chapter and then I'll add extra stuff and that'll make people happy. Then, of course, you're saying this stuff, I'm thinking. We should explain, whispersync means that people can just stop on the eBook. It has to match 99%, or something, with the text, right?
Simon: Yeah, the reason I say breaking is because, again, there's a debate going on about whether it's good or bad for the amount of money you make. But because you can take an ebook you've bought, you can get the audio version for $2, which is significantly cheaper than a normal audiobook, so it can hurt your audiobook sales.
Joanna: So, almost, you don't want whispersync?
Simon: It's debatable. Some people say it's good. The numbers are all up because of quantity. But some people are like, ”It's not been good for me.”
Joanna: That is actually really interesting, I have noticed. We're jumping around a bit, here.
Simon: Yeah, sorry.
Joanna: No, it's my fault.
You can't set your own price?
Joanna: Which is really weird, right?
Simon: If you want to jump around again. The whole marketing thing, and not having price control, as an indie is like, I get emails about this all the time. People are like, ”So when I put my audiobook out. I'm thinking about lowering the price and then I'm going to do the rest of the series, and I'll take the hit on the first book.” I'm like, ”No you won't because you can't control the price.”
Joanna: Yeah, I don't even know how they work it out. Do you know how they workout the price?
Simon: I identify price points in my book, just for the US store. So that would be exclusive through Audible, iTunes, and Amazon. I think, I came up with 12 different price points because they have a subscription model.
Simon: The standard fee is, you pay $15 a month and you get one credit, which is one audiobook. But you can have a free-trial month. You can get three months discounted. You can buy 24 months upfront. Of course, you could buy books if you're not a member, so there's an a la carte price. There's just so many price points.
I tried to work it out and I came up with an average figure. Then, I looked at what a lot of different authors were making off their books and then came up and was, ”Okay.” I know it sounds confusing because it really is confusing.
Joanna: It's definitely confusing. All I'd say again is…
Simon: Don't worry about it. There's nothing you can do about it.
Joanna: You have to not worry about it. I've got seven, I think, now. But it's Let's go back to the fiction and non-fiction thing. This is just a personal question. I've got this ‘Business for Authors' that I've narrated. It's in six hours of MP3 files. But what scares me about the ACX platform is the sound quality page, which I read and go, ”I just don't understand this.” Is there a way of, if I uploaded those, do they just reject them if they don't work.
Simon: They'll tell you what's wrong.
Simon: They'll be like, ”The sound floor on track six is a little high or low.” Honestly, I'm a bit confused by it and I know a bit about audio.
Joanna: Because it reads like some foreign language.
Simon: It's aimed at technical people. And I understand that page because I've had to get books through that. Now, I'm like, ”Okay, you just need to do this and this.” And I'm thinking, I haven't done it yet, but to compliment the book, I'm going to put together a video on YouTube, which will just take people through and be like, ”Step one,” where it says, ”You need no more peaks above -3db.” For people who are like, ”What does -3db mean?” I'll just be like, ”It just means, this in Audacity. So just follow this and you'll be fine. I think they should do this but I'll make it a free video for the book.
Joanna: Wow, that's great. And I should say that your website, RockingSelfPublishing.com, does have a whole load. I send people to your, build a website, off the website special.
Simon: Thank you.
Joanna: You've got all kinds of stuff now, which is great. You're really providing a lot of more technical help, I would say. That video would be amazing. I would love that. Because I've resisted loading up, ‘How to Market a Book.' It's 75,000 blooming words. I know to read it myself is a big job but I've just updated it and I feel like I really want to read it. So, that's interesting. Let's get back to fiction. I don't read my fiction. I don't want to because mainly because of the different voices, right?
Joanna: So, let's just explain that if anyone who doesn't now. When a narrator reads a fiction book, explain that.
Simon: Like you say, you've got the narrative. So it will be, ”It was a dark and stormy night” or whatever but then when the captain of the ship speaks, you want to hear it in a pirate voice. At least, most listeners will be like, ”Well, I want, Captain Jack, to sound like a pirate and I want the woman to sound like woman,” even if it's a male narrator and all this stuff. As I say in the book, my general advice to author's with fiction books is, unlike non-fiction, where sometimes, the narrator likes the author to read the book — 99% of cases.
And I don't know if you know Nathan Lowell, who did his podiobooks. He is an exception to the rule. Generally, I would recommend against doing your own fiction books unless you are feeling particularly theatrical. And even if you are, record some and then make sure your friends also agree that you are feeling theatrical because it's a much harder job to narrate a fiction book than a non-fiction book.
Joanna: No, absolutely, I totally agree with you. Then, how do authors find the best narrators for their work?
Simon: This is in the ACX process. So when you've claimed your rights, I mentioned there was the audition process. You'll put your book up. You'll say, ”I'm looking for…” You can choose. There's a huge array of accents. Even in America, they're like, Southern, Midwestern, Northeastern, Californian. There's a lot. And then you've got Irish, Welch. You click these different boxes and you say, ”I want Midwest, US accent, female narrator, age range.” And there's a bunch of criteria. You're not going to listening to a lot of auditions. Because if you've got a romance book, typically read by woman. You'll select female and then male narrators just won't audition so you won't be overwhelmed.
And then you'll put that out and assuming you're offering a fair rate or your book is reasonably successful and you're offering a royalty split, you'll get auditions come in. It depends on how long the audition script your upload is. But I'd recommend over ten minutes. Then listen to those auditions. And this is one of the things that most people have most joy with. They get all these auditions and this is before, they've even started narrating the book. You're like, ”It's so cool. I've got all these different people reading my words that I wrote and I'm going to pick it.” It's not as cool as the movie producer knocking on the door, but it's like the same feeling, I here. Sorry, go on.
Joanna: No, no. Well, I was going to say you as a narrator, how do you pick projects?
Simon: As we discussed, definitely the business side comes first in this situation. It's not like writing a book, but narrating a book is a good chunk of work. If the book's 10 hours long, an experienced narrator, you're looking at 30 or 40 hours of work. It's got to have a reasonable rate if it's per finished hour, so I would look at stuff above $200 per finished hour. I actually prefer doing a royalty split on a successful book and that's a lot harder to quantify unless the author is saying, ”I sold ‘X' number of books last month.”
You can look at the historical sales rank. You can see the reviews. And you can even look at the vanity metrics. How many people are following this person on twitter? What are they doing to promote their books? And get a feel about whether this is going to pay off. This is the business thing again, I look for longterm payoffs. You get a paycheck every month from ACX if your book is up there or you're doing a royalty share. And seven years, with 12 months in the year, that's a lot of smaller paychecks but over a long time, so the return can be higher if you're willing to accept that, which I generally am.
Joanna: Yeah. And then, authors with series would be more attractive to you? Because the more books there are, the more likely people are to buy them?
Simon: Yes, but there's also a risk that if you do the first book in the series and it doesn't sell particularly well, then you've got this situation with the author where you're like, ”Want to do my second book on royalty split?” And you're like, ”We sold four copies last month.” So, that becomes difficult. But again, you've got to be professional. You've got to be a business person.
Joanna: It is a difficult thing. I've realized because of my platform, it's been quite easy for me to get people to do royalty split. But all I would say is, I know authors who have paid for it and they've been happy too. So I think that you can go either way. And I also wanted to ask about what's the best way that people work with narrators?
I realize, more and more that a narrator, a translator, adapting film rights, the person is not a passive receptacle for what you've created. It's an interpretation, right?
Joanna: So, you don't want to be a nightmare.
What are your tips for authors in working with narrators?
Simon: All right, it's really hard because you have to hit this balance between being like crazy, over because some authors will be like, ”I want to hear every chapter, once you've done this and I will listen to it.” And they'll pick through every little piece. That is hard work for a narrator. I can't say don't do it because it's your book and you've got to have the result that you want but that is difficult. The way I like it, from a narrator's perspective is when you put the book on ACX, you get these 15 minutes. So you've selected your narrator. You've said, ”Let's work together.”
You signed your digital contract or you clicked the buttons or whatever they do. And then 15 minutes of the book gets produced. So I'll go away and I'll read 15 minutes from the start. And then, you as the author would listen to it and say like, ”It's good, go ahead and make the rest of the book.” Or, which I prefer is really be picky on that 15 minutes. They can do the 15 minutes again, completely. That's completely okay. That's what it's for. Say, like, ”Slow down, speed up. Actually, I'd like this character done this way.” Or, ”Can you put more emphasis on here?” Or, ”More pauses between each paragraph.” Just get really nit picky on that 15 minutes because that's your chance to give direction.
And then, the narrator will go away and produce the book and they're not obliged to come back to you and say, ”How do you want each bit?” A lot will and I think a good narrator will come back and ask questions and say, ”What do you think about this?” If there's a strange moment in the book, they'll come back and say, ”Hey, how do you want me to deliver this?” That's great. As a narrator, when an author is receptive to that rather than just be like, ”Hey, where's my finished book?” But to answer my questions and to help me out. And then also, when you come back afterwards and if you've been really helpful and guided throughout… obviously, when the book's done you can say, ”Go back and correct this and correct that.” It's a better working relationship if there's a bit of to and fro.
I don't think the narrator is just someone who you hand off a project to and expect it to come back perfectly done because there is creative license there.
Joanna: Yeah, exactly. I think that's really important. And I try and be quite, I don’t know, I like to bounce with the narrator's experience as well, especially because I don't really listen to much audio fiction.
Simon: Yeah. I've spoken to a few people… I’ve spoken to a lot of people about audio books, and something that comes out a bunch is that in the end, the narrator has a lot of experience. And if they're saying something… Obviously you get the final call. You're the author. But given the seriousness, I don't think that they're just trying to take the easy route or something. They know what they're doing. And if you've chosen someone who's experienced and has done a lot of books, they do have a bit of knowledge. They know what's going on.
Joanna: Yeah, exactly. And I really only tend to feedback on proper nouns like English place names, like Suffolk, which you know, South Walk. It’s actually a noun.
Simon: Oh yeah. Okay.
Joanna: You know, that's really the only thing I generally come back on or point a few changes where there is not enough breath space or pausing between, that really very little… But everyone listening should know you do have to listen to the whole book. It's quite disturbing as an author. I've just finished this weekend listening to “Delirium,” which is the second in my London Psychic Series. And I'd forgotten the book. And it was weird listening to it because you're like, oh my goodness. How on earth did I write that?”
Simon: How long ago did you write it?
Joanna: Oh, not that long ago. It launched in like August but…
Simon: So many twists and turns.
Joanna: I know. It’s just that I'm writing the other series again now so I've kind of switched entirely out of those characters. And it's so weird listening. But I really like the process and I really appreciate it as a kind of artistic collaboration. Which is another reason I like doing the 50-50 royalty split. I really feel like the narrator is probably more bought into the project.
Simon: Yeah, I would agree. They are a partner. They've got an equal split in the success of this book. And I think that's valuable. I think it's definitely how I prefer working. I'm just like, I have an interest in this. I know whether if this book does well, that's good for me. And a bit obviously, you know, if I put out a bad book, then other people, when I bid for projects in the future, they're going to see it like, oh, this book wasn't very good, and might not go for me. So obviously I have an economic incentive there. But splitting the project is heavily incentivizing the narrator.
Joanna: It's funny that now we're talking about this.
Do you narrate fiction at all or do you just do non-fiction?
Simon: I've done a couple of fiction. I generally prefer non-fiction. I think it seems to go down well in America. I think, as I hear from my podcast, people like a British accent and so I think my books do pretty well in the U.S. And I think British people sound smarter than Americans. I'm not saying I'm smart but I think British people sound smart. So like creating these books and people are like, it sounds like the person reading is intelligent. And I'm like, wow. Really?
Joanna: It's a good point and it's funny because I have actually considered recording other people's audio books, too. Like doing narration like you do. Something that is on my list of what I'm interested in. In terms of the fact as an entrepreneur like yourself, I want to do co-working, or what do we call it? Co-writing or whatever. But I feel like that is less likely than me doing a co-narration. Is that a kind of strange thing? I guess this is coming from nowhere, this question.
But do you just apply for books on A.C.X. as a narrator?
Simon: Yes. When I first started out on this, I literally Googled, “how do I make money with my voice”. So I was like recording things on like a $15 microphone and sending them off to like agents and stuff and one guy took me on. And so I did some books like this way and I get a really small amount of money. But it was a totally different world and this was maybe 2009. So it's five years ago. And now it's like, you just go on to A.C.X., you can sign up for a narrator profile, look for a book and download the audition scripts and be like, “Here you go. Do you want to pay me?” And it's just so easy and amazing. From the narrator's perspective, when this launched in the U.K. I was like, yes! I’m like doing excessive movements right now.
Joanna: Someone was very excited. Do you know what? I'm going to seriously think about that for next year because it would satisfy my desire to do co-stuff, with royalty split work, which I like because I like the scalable model.
And also I think, when you first start doing audio, like when you first start podcasting, you hate your voice. Right? You hate it.
Simon: Totally. Do you ever think when now, when you speak into the microphone or listen to your voice, like when you speak, it sounds the same.
Joanna: Yeah, maybe that's what happened. Over time you get so used to it and it doesn't bother you. I really hated my voice and I thought I sounded like a child, like a kind of stupid child and…
Simon: Everyone does. Many people had to tell me that my voice was nice until I Googled “how do you make money with your voice” and I was like, really? Really? Uh-huh? Who's going to listen to me?”
Joanna: Well, I get the same as you. People email me all the time and say on Twitter how much they like my voice. So I don't know. It's definitely… Anyway, here you go. You heard it here first people, I may well be narrating books in the new year.
Simon: It's so easy to get started if you're interested. And I think also you have a podcast and stuff so you must be like into getting your voice in front of the crowd and being listened to.
Simon: It's kind of narcissistic but it's kind of like it's kind of cool. I mean, I definitely dig it. And then say, oh, so many thousands people listen to me. It’s like, hmm. I like that.”
Joanna: Yeah, it's quite nice. And it's definitely a very different kind of way of doing things. But I do like it. And we're so lucky in this digital world now. You're in Prague and I'm in London and we sell. Most people listening will be in America or wherever they are. And it's very exciting. There really is no limit to what we can do, which is cool.
Simon: It's exceptionally cool.
Joanna: It is. We're so lucky. Okay. What else did I want to ask? Well, people may ask about technical equipment. I guess that's probably best to be in the book, isn't it? Because there's no point in listing off a whole load of stuff.
Or is it really just the mic and your little sheet there?
Simon: Honestly two pieces of equipment; microphone, pop filter. Microphone, $100. Pop filter, you can make it with a pair of tights and a coat hanger. But seriously just go onto Amazon and spend £10, $10. I have these blankets up because I'm in an echo-ey kitchen where I work. Very high-tech. And that's it. And you can use a software Audacity, which is free.
A lot of this big debate going on about whether you need… There's the U.S.B. microphone and then this kind of the more what people in the studio would use, which is like X.L.R., which is like a much more, you know, it's where the guy has the knobs on the board. It's much more complicated. I'm like, I think my show sounds good. I think my people tell me my audio books sounds fine. I'm like, I'll stick with you U.S.B. It's just easy. So yeah. But there’s this debate going on. I outlined that in the book about which ones you want to go for, the pros and the cons. And I do give it an equal thing, I hope.
Joanna: Yeah. But I think this is the other thing. I mean, when I started my podcast, I know that's different, but my very first interview, I phoned somebody up on a phone and put it on speaker phone and held a recorder.
Simon: I remember the story.
Joanna: And that was my first podcast. And maybe not with audio books. But basically you can do audio stuff with more basic equipment. And video stuff like our video. You know, I'm just using my webcam. It's not a big deal. And I think technology's changed that much, hasn't it? It’s gotten so much better that you don't need to spend that much money to get high quality stuff.
Simon: I do agree. I think you only need to spend a minimum amount of money simply because you need to meet those A.C.X. submission requirements and they won't accept stuff that doesn't meet them. So low-quality stuff might not make it through. Although some of the books I've listened to, at least, maybe they used to be a little bit more slack on what they let through. And I might have recorded a book with a $15 microphone back at the start. I'll just leave that as a might. But yeah, like you say, it is much easier than it once was.
Joanna: Right. So we have an audio book. How do we market it?
Simon: Right. Okay. So as we mentioned, there's no price control. So all of those wonderful indie 99 cents free runs, forget them because you can't do it. I'm probably going to do my book a disservice here, but the marketing section is short because there's little you can do. However, there are a few things. Now, when you get your book done, and it's finished, and A.C.X. has said yes, it's good to go, it's up on the store, you get 25 codes, which basically allow you to give away the book. So if someone can go to Audible and plug in this code, they can download a free copy. You must use this for reviews.
It seems the Audible algorithm and like how books rank is nowhere near as developed as Amazon's. And the whole site is less developed. There's no real way to track ranks and see who's selling better other than kind of clicking through and seeing. So it's like you want to see what the 30th bestselling book is or where this book sells, you have to click through all of the things. Anyway, I'm getting distracted.
So you take these codes and you can send them off. And the reviews, they make your book look, you know, if it's five-star reviews, it's going to sell more. But also apparently, it makes the book appear higher in rankings. So if you get a lot of early reviews early on, that's going to push the book up, and more people are going to see it, and more people are going to buy it, which will lead to more reviews. Getting 25 people to listen to an audio book and review it is harder than you think.
Joanna: It's really hard.
Simon: So you must know about these codes. And you send them out and you're like, yay! It's in reviews. So my advice would be hustle people because there are few marketing opportunities so you must make the most of this one. If you have a big audience like you do, as well, you can go back and say, hey A.C.X., how about 25 more codes? And if you've sold you can say, hey, A.C.X., how about 25 more codes? And they pretty much always oblige, as of now. They might stop doing that because it just seems like they just give them away willy-nilly.
Joanna: I think they're very generous with those at the moment. As you say, we are at a point where they're trying to grow the platform. So if you give someone a free code, they may like it so much they might join as well.
Simon: That's a good point. Yeah, aggressive expansion. So yeah. Either way they give out these codes away and you should use as many as you can. I just gave away my book as odd copies. I sent it out as… I said on my podcast, “If you email me before the book goes live, I will send you a copy for free.” And I would just do the same thing for an audio book.
Even more if you don't give your e-books away, just try and get rid of those audio books and exchange them for reviews. I kind of make it clear, you know, like an audio book is a $15 item. So giving that away is big a deal. So kind of say to people, you know, audio books are expensive. It's more than just I'm giving you my $3, $4 book. I'm giving you something that I've paid for. I've paid for a book in editing and stuff, that you've actively spent thousands of dollars, or you've given away half of your rights for seven years to create this product. So come on guys. I'm passionate about this. Give me your review.
Joanna: We should interrupt this podcast to say that if you would like a free copy of any of my fiction, you can email me joanna@TheCreativePenn.com and you can email Simon for anything you like.
Simon: You can? My email inbox! Seriously though, yeah.
Joanna: Presuming there'll be an audio version of “Audiobooks for Indies.”
Simon: In fact, I’m planning on that. I mentioned that thing about meeting the A.C.X. submission requirements. I'm probably going to commit myself to something big here, like you can see yourself to appearing in audio books next year and narrating them. I'm going to kind of document the process. So I'll be getting my webcam out and saying like, Here's me, and I'm setting it up, and I'm plugging in the microphone, and I'm opening program. Just kind of a real walk-through so people can do that. But yes, 2015, there will be an audio version. I'm going to let the e-book sit for a few months before doing prints and audio.
Joanna: Yeah, which is another good point. As in, when reading it, you want to make sure it's kind of perfect.
Simon: Yeah. I should mention, sorry, about promotions. There was something I did that I want to mention. And that's kind of using Rafflecopter and stuff to give away copies because you have do have these codes and if you can team up with other offers. One of the few seemingly effective promotions I've seen is where you find a few other authors who have recently put out audio books and still have these codes. And say let's get together and give away a 10-pack of our audio books to a lucky winner. And that's also got the benefit of you can also say, hey, I'd like your email address, and build up your mailing list, which is good for your next audio book and all of that stuff. Again, it's kind of scraping here because…
Joanna: No, you're right. No, actually I’m just checking. I did write a blog post on marketing for A.C.X. and there were a couple of things I do. One is you must have a webpage which is audio. So I've got JFPenn.com/audio, which has got all the links, but also, it's got SoundCloud audio clips.
Simon: Yes. And you can do 15 minutes off-platform.
Joanna: Exactly. So you can use that percentage to basically point at the audio. And SoundCloud, if people don't know, is really easy to share. You just click it and it will play within Twitter or within Facebook. And you can also have a hyperlink within SoundCloud to the audio book. And also another sneaky income thing, if you use Amazon Affiliate, you can link just to the Amazon page where you get the audio linked to, and you can get an affiliate payment.
Simon: And not to mention Audible have a way more favorable affiliate programs than Amazon.
I'm not sure what it is these days because they cut it down a while ago. But I believe it's still $10 per free trial sign up. So if you have an audience, you haven't been into audio before, make sure you sign up for the Audible affiliate program. Because if you send someone across and they buy your book, you'll make $4 or $5, or I guess more if you’ve paid for your production in upfront. But you also get a $10 affiliate commission.
Joanna: Is that different to the Bounty?
Simon: Yes. So you can do both.
Joanna: Explain the Bounty.
Simon: The Bounty is when a new Audible customer buys one of your books, you get, is it $25 or, I think, they changed it to $50.
Joanna: Yeah, I think it's $40 or $50. I've had a few of them. Not too many but, you know.
Simon: I think it was $25. And then when they cut the royalty rebate from 50% down to 40%, they upped the bounty payment. The bonus when someone buys, when your book is one of the first books purchased, they upped that up $50, I think. So that's pretty great.
Joanna: I see what you mean. So for example, so the Bounty, they have to buy your book first. If they buy your book first and join, you get a bounty. But if they buy anyone else's book, you'll get an affiliate payment.
Simon: I need to check my book if it's…
Joanna: The details of making income online. But essentially there is a reason we point to this stuff from our websites. And if you put extra little codes in, you can get more money. And as you say, it builds up every time. I mean, this time last year, I was making zero from audio books. And I just got like £500 last month. I was super thrilled. That's amazing.
Simon: And as we said at the top of the show, it is just, you know, unlock the potential of your book.
Joanna: Yes. Unlock it.
Simon: Because it can be money just sitting there and waiting.
Joanna: Yeah. The other thing on marketing is promoting where audio is consumed. So podcasts, being an obvious one. I mean, right now, there are not a lot that many genre fiction podcasts. It's actually easier to advertise audio when you do non-fiction, I think, because you can get a lot of podcasts interviews, and you can say my book is available in e-book, print, and audio book. That's kind of just a basic thing now, I think. You should be saying that everywhere.
Simon: Yeah, I think audio's big portion. It's becoming a bigger thing. So digital prints and audio.
Joanna: Yeah. Just say that. Okay. You go long on your interviews.
Simon: I go long on my interviews.
Joanna: So I'm allowed to go… I just like to check. We can go a little bit long, can’t we? Is that all right?
Joanna: Yeah. Okay.
Because you've been podcasting a while, just tell us, like, why did you start podcasts? And do you recommend it for the authors?
Simon: It depends what you want to get out of it. I think I started it and it became a success kind of by accident. I started it because I thought the people who I was narrating books for were cool and I wanted to talk to more people like them. And one thing led to another, and a year later, here we are, nearly 18 months later, here we are.
I think if it's this big, and people make the mistake with blogging, and they make the mistake with podcasting or whatever, it's like, if you are writing about writing, and you're writing fiction, I think you'll agree with me people, you know, that's not attracting your fiction audience. And I think you've seen this recently with JFPenn and TheCreativePenn. They're separate entities. So if you're starting a podcast about writing, either write about writing or start a podcast.
And as you said, there are genre podcasts popping up. It's not that many of them. It's not many. But I think if you're looking to sell books for your podcasts, I don't know if that's effective. it's not something I've done. But it's going to be more effective than having a writing podcast.
However, there are huge other benefits.
Like two years ago, I would be listening to what? Not even two years ago, even less than that. I'd been listening to your podcasts and here I am talking to you, on yours. I've had you on mine once. And again, we’ve met up twice. And this is amazing. And this is just one example of the people you meet and the connections you make through bringing up podcasts, right? I can't remember which show I heard it on, but there was a guy who was interviewing people and he was like, yeah, I started a podcast because there's no way I'd ever be able to get like an hour of consulting chat from someone. So I started a podcast and just framed it as an interview.
Joanna: Exactly. Well, I've said that before. That's why I started a podcast.
Simon: Maybe it was your show then that I heard.
Joanna: Yeah, and you can't pay most of these people.
Simon: No. Because it's like consulting. If I was doing it, there's no price I could charge so that people would pay for this. But I'm podcasting, too. I could do that.
Joanna: Yeah, exactly. It's seen as marketing.
Simon: Yeah, it is. And it is. And I think me coming on your show, and you're coming on mine, we both have things that each other’s audience is going to dig. And that's great. And I think it is marketing. But it's also for the person who's hosting the show or even in this situation, it's a cool opportunity to get access to information from people who you wouldn't normally be able to. And so I think yeah, if you're thinking about starting a podcast, you don't need to equipment. You need like $10 a month for podcast hosting and a WordPress website, which is what? $10 bucks a month as well. And you're good to go.
Joanna: I think for me, I think because there's a slightly higher barrier to entry with audio, if someone has, generally if they've done 10 episodes. and I can see evidence of 10 episodes I feel like that person is doing a good job. So I pretty much say yes to any show that has over 10 episodes because I think they're serious. Whereas now, I will not do a guest post like a text, an article because it's so much effort. Whereas going on an interview, it’s not that much effort really.
Simon: I used to think like, how long would the guest post for this interview be? Not that I'm saying it has any value whatsoever. But I feel if someone is to write this up… I don't know if you have transcripts…
Joanna: It would be about 15 to 20 pages. How long is that going to take to write as a guest post when you can just see information. But just us chatting, there's so much information. And I'm sure there are people out there on their jogs. So it's more efficient to create, and then it's more efficient to consume because you're out jogging… And I'm sure there are people listening to us speak really fast because they're on two speed.
Joanna: Yeah. I don't understand that. But I know there are people ironing. Like a lot of people say they're ironing when they listen.
Simon: Yeah, driving, ironing, cooking, I hear it all.
Joanna: At the gym.
Simon: Yeah, the gym, for sure.
Joanna: But no, I agree with you. For me, it's about relationship building and the relationships that I've built through the podcast because we get to hang out for an hour as well. I'll just mention Steven Pressfield, having Steven Pressfield on my show, that was the moment I just felt, right now I can't give up because he was like the pinnacle. So now I'm aiming for Stephen King. So I'm starting to put this out right now. I want Stephen King on my podcast. So if anyone knows Stephen, point him in my direction.
Simon: All right. What's the date now? Its late 2014. I'm looking forward to this.
Joanna: Yeah. It's November 2014. And I basically will not consider giving up my podcast again up until that point. Then I will revisit the whole idea. Because it does take a long time. We should say this. I mean, you have to research. I know you do very good research on your guests and I do as well, and then you do the interview, and then you have to edit it, and then you do the bit of technical stuff.
So how long does an episode take you generally?
Simon: I am super fussy. So I will like do an hour an hour-plus of research on the person, plus maybe 20 minutes in emails back and forth to set things up and get a bit of a background. Then an hour-and-fifteen to an hour-and-a-half for an hour of recording, and 15 minutes to just chit-chat off depending on if the person wants to hang out and talk. Most people do is just talk to the person for an hour, and you get off the air and you're like, Oh, that was fun. What do you think about this?” They feel like it's, you know… Rather than just a thanks, bye.
Joanna: Yeah, yeah.
Simon: So an hour-and-fifteen, an hour-and-thirty there. Then afterwards, the work begins. I record everything separately. I process all the tracks separately and run like different things through them so they sound nice. Then I mix them together and then I listen. And I go through and I cut out bits that are kind of dragging on, or I remove long silences. If people cough or put the dog out, that kind of stuff I cut that all out. So maybe two hours in post-production, including writing the show notes, because I kind of do that at the same time. And then I have my V.A. take that and mix in the intro and outro, and put it up on to HitCast, which is my host, and then blog out on WordPress. So my time spent is probably three hours, and then my V.A. probably spends an hour and bit on that as well.
Joanna: Yes, I was going to say I’m probably three to four hours per show as well.
Simon: Yeah. It really does add up. You think it's just two people having a chat. No.
Joanna: No. I mean, you have to have a reason, like you say. So I would urge people to consider what is the end result that you're looking for from a podcast. Now, I do quickly want to ask you because audio is one kind of multimedia. But you're a bit of a YouTube star as well. Bit of a pro on the video, too. And audio quality is obviously critical for video. And there will be people who are watching this on my YouTube channel, which I just haven't optimized at all. So I literally just put the videos up there. I don't really do much about it. What can authors do with video? And how can one have a good YouTube channel?
Simon: Good question. But the cool thing is, and I think authors will dig this, is that whole S.E.O. and optimization stuff is really 20% to 30% of the game on YouTube. It's not like… I don't know with blogs, and keywords, and thinking about this, and what are people going to be searching for? I need to put that like three times in my show notes and in the header, which I regularly don't bother with anyway.
But on YouTube, the cool thing is like you say you put up the content and the content is really so important.
And as well as making good content that people are going to like and comment on and even dislike, as long as people are engaged, that's what really matters. But having good content, number one is regularity. If you want to kind of build up a following, you need to look at what people are doing similar to you, and then do it more often, and do it as good or better. And once you've kind of optimized that, it's not that hard. There are a few things you need to do each time, like get a good introduction, get a good, you know…
Once you've got your setup and you're comfortable in front of the camera and comfortable in front of the microphone or whatever you're doing, it becomes very easy to kind of roll through it. And if your setup is more professional than someone else's, then your video will probably be better.
And then also some other things around that, like coming up with good titles. And thumbnails are super important.
Like you do this well. You have the faces of all the people you interview in the thumbnail and the text next to it. I can't remember when they allowed it, but YouTube started allowing you to do custom thumbnails. Don't waste that opportunity. It is gold. Like if you've got your video up there, take the time to go into like Paint even, or Photoshop if you have it, or whatever your editing program is, and make a thumbnail that looks cool, big texts, someone's face. And people just like that.
And also a title. Come up with a catchy title.
And while I hate those click fake titles, people really forgive you if your video is awesome. So it’s like if they clicked on it for like the eight reasons, the xyz, but then there are eight good reasons, that's cool. If there are eight crap reasons, then that's not cool. And people will dislike it and the YouTube comments, I don't really get down.
Joanna: I don't even look.
Simon: Don’t. You don’t want to.
Joanna: But they're now Google+, aren't they? So things have changed, yeah.
Simon: As well, yeah. I mean, the overwhelming thing is regularity of content. If you can do it more than once a week, that's really great, and that's a major advantage because most people don't. And getting a good setup. And once you’ve made one professional video, it's easier to see the process and continue to create professional videos.
Joanna: And I kind of double up with the podcast. I record the video, I edit the video and then I just turn the video into the MP3. So it doesn't take me double the time to do video and audio. Just once.
Simon: No. There's an amazing tool that takes your MP3s and puts them on YouTube. Do you use it? What is it called? Or you just…?
Joanna: I put the MP4 on YouTube.
Simon: Of course, sorry. That one's implied because you have the video as well. I was thinking all of my podcasts, just the raw MP3, and there was a tool that took my podcast feed and turned it into a YouTube video. But I wasn't really convinced about that so I stopped doing it.
Joanna: Yeah, well this is the thing, I've really used it as a very passive channel. But I seem to have, well, and I know it's not a big deal on YouTube, but I've got like 4,000 subscribers on YouTube or something.
Simon: That's really a lot of subscribers. Don't discount that. And you can reach them. Subscribers to like a YouTube Channel are not like likes to a Facebook page because you can message all of your subscribers.
Joanna: This is something that I think authors should be doing. Again, it may help you stand out. There are a lot more people doing podcasts than they were when I started. It's like I tend to be a little bit early on these things, you know. My podcast started in 2009 when podcasting was not trendy. Self-publishing was not trendy.
Simon: Whereas I'm always like, oh, that seems cool. People are doing that, I'll just copy them.
Joanna: See, you've benefited from not having to go through the really slow up-curve that mine has gone through, which is ridiculous.
Simon: I don't have a podcast in 2009, sorry.
Joanna: Yeah, exactly. And I was way too early on that. And again with YouTube, I'd started at a similar time. And the early videos are shocking. But I do think that doing more videos… Because Google, of course, has the Google Glass voice recognition stuff as well now, right? And Google owning YouTube, do you think that there will be more voice recognition technology used with YouTube?
Simon: In what context?
Joanna: Well, in that I have hundreds of hours' worth of interviews on my YouTube channel that don't have captions. But if the automatic captioning stuff worked, then I would get that S.E.O. benefit of voice.
Simon: Oh, yeah. Because YouTube will caption all your stuff. And I was experimenting with transcripts with that. This is, in fact, the reason I uploaded it into YouTube in the first place, was to take advantage of their awesome captioning. And then I would download the captions and have my V.A. turn them into transcripts. But it was really messy. It was not a good idea. But I think that we all get better… Because yeah, you mentioned the S.E.O. there. And because it's video, people kind of look through that and then find the keywords that you want, and so you can't rank for them as easily as you would like a blog post. But yes, you take advantage until that really sorts itself out. And I think it will become… I mean, it's a technology that will advance and it will become awesome at some point. And it will just get it right. But until… Sorry.
Joanna: Well, I was going to say I think Google Glass is the beginning of the start because Google Glass is all voice recognition. So it’s really starting to get there.
Simon: Yeah. And they gather that information and they build their algorithms and then…
Joanna: Yeah, it's going to be amazing. This is what I'm counting on. And the other thing is, have you heard that Skype translate?
Simon: I saw the presentation. That was so cool.
Joanna: Amazing. If people don't know, like, Simon could be talking in Czech and I could be hearing him in English. It's like the “Star Trek” voice thing.
Simon: Yeah. It's like The Communicator. So cool.
Joanna: Yeah, The Communicator.
Simon: Not quite as slick, but really, you can see how this is the path to you.
Simon: Instantaneous translation through a computer.
Joanna: It's amazing.
Simon: I hate it when people say this on my show, I don’t hate it. I like it. But they're like, and you should link up to that in the show notes.
Joanna: I will link up to that in the show notes.
Simon: It's so worth watching.
Joanna: It is. But the thing is, I guess, what I want to say to people is what we've talked about today. I mean, we're in baby year, we're in year one of A.C.X from the U.K. We're in baby steps audio, we're in baby steps video. I mean, seriously. With self-publishing, we're only toddlers. We've been doing it a couple of years. And it's so exciting what's coming. It really is.
Simon: I think about this and people are like, oh, you know with self-publishing, the gold rush is over and stuff. And I'm like, are you kidding me?
This is the future of books. Books.
It's like they've been around forever. Obviously we're biased.
Joanna: Yeah, we are biased.
Simon: But do you really to see it going another way?
Joanna: No. Coming back for the business stuff, you and I both see streams of income everywhere.
Simon: Oh, yeah. I mean, squirm.
Joanna: We really do. But I want more people to think like that, to just think, hey, look at this opportunity. And just have a go.
Simon: So people might turn their noises up for a few hundred pounds or a few hundred dollars a month. But when that comes together with five other things they're working on. So you've got your £500 from audio, and you get your £500 from translations into German, and then you get your £500 from one non-fiction or whatever there was. And then it all comes together and you're like, oh, huh. Suddenly that's decent money.
Joanna: Yes, I say this a lot to people. On Kobo now, I'm selling in 61 countries.
Simon: Yeah. And like one of these countries, it might not be a lot of money. But when you combine it with the other 60, it is.
Joanna: Well that's the thing and I just think, goodness. Think forward. What? Two years ago, I was selling in about 10 countries. And you just think these income streams, yes, there might be a tiny little dribble now. But the more and more there are, the more it becomes a stream.
Simon: Yeah, couldn't agree more. If you start them now, they will grow or they might fail. But then more you start, the better off you're going to be anyway. There’s people who say like niche down, and find one thing, and focus on it. One? I don't know. I don't think this works very well because one, I'm just distracted by stuff and I’ll be bored if I'm just working on one thing all the time. I do YouTube, and I do podcasts, and I do different things because if I did one thing, I'd be bored. And then also I don't get to focus on one thing and make that amazing, but that's okay.
Joanna: Yeah. If we wanted that, we'd have a day job.
Joanna: Well, anyway one of the things you do is now write books. And so where can people find Audiobooks for Indies?”
Simon: I'm going to go and select for the first 90 days, so it's going to be exclusively on Amazon. But it's the best place to find me and find out about that. So if you're listening to this in a few months and just to see what I'm up to, is just to go to RockingSelfPublishing.com, which is the website that hosts the podcasts, and those tutorials, and the guest blogs, and all that other stuff. So just head over there and you'll see what I'm up to.
Joanna: Brilliant. Thanks so much for your time Simon.
Simon: You're welcome, Jo. Thank you for having me.
M. Garzon says
I’ve been wanting to create audiobook versions of my four novels for some time, but I’m in Canada and can’t find a distributor. ACX doesn’t yet offer its services here. If anyone knows of an alternative to ACX I’d love to hear about it.
Simon Whistler says
There are some companies that act as a middle man and do allow you to get your books on ACX, but you lose some of the functionality that you get when you go through ACX. I mention “EBookIt” in my book, might be worth looking into. They also take a slice on top of what ACX take.
The thing is that the timetable on ACX’s international expansion just isn’t know, so you might end up going through a middle man, and find ACX rolled out in Canada a month later!
M. Garzon says
Mgon ♥ says
Helpful & Enjoyable! 🙂
Thank you both.
Simon Whistler says
Sure thing Mgon, glad you enjoyed it!
Enjoyed listening to the show, guys. I really need to get off my butt and get more of my books made into audiobooks. 🙂
Joanna Penn says
You totally should, Lindsay – I suspect you’ll be very happy with the income result, given how popular your books are!
Simon Whistler says
Thanks Lindsey, +1 what Joanna said! Get on it 🙂
M.T. Lott says
Thank you for this episode. I am in the process of having an audiobook done for my first Forgotten Fairies book, and your marketing discussion was really helpful. I had no idea about the ability to get promo codes. Do I just send an email to customer service to get those? Also, I did not know we could use up to 15 minutes of audio for marketing purposes. That is golden. My narrator is awesome, so I think if people can hear her work, they will really want to buy the book.
You guys are the best.
Joanna Penn says
You should get an email with the promo codes a week or two after release – but you can email them anytime and they will send them over. There are more marketing ideas here too: http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2014/05/01/audiobooks-acx-marketing/
M.T. Lott says
I’ll watch my email.
I have done 2 prior nonfiction books in audio (under a different name) and have never received any promo codes. So, maybe it is a fiction only thing? Maybe Audible wants a minimum sales rank before giving out codes without asking for them? I’ll see if I can get some codes for the nonfiction and report back.
Simon Whistler says
I haven’t heard that it’s fiction exclusive before so I imagine you’ll shortly be getting some codes :).
Tari Akpodiete says
i’ve been waiting for this book. will Simon be having any deals/specials on it in the next short while (fingers crossed).
Simon Whistler says
Thanks for the interest! I’ll probably be doing some sort of promotion early next year, around the same time that I get the print and audio version out!
Victoria Connelly says
Really enjoyed the episode! I’ve just finished producing my first audiobook through ACX and it was an amazing experience. ACX makes it all so easy and I’m now lining up more projects for next year! Like you both, I think this is such an exciting time for authors with more opportunities available to us than ever before.
Steve Vernon says
Another Canadian here.
Is there any chance that this book is going to be available on Kobo?
Joanna Penn says
I believe Simon has it in KDP Select for the first 90 days and will then go wider with distribution – you can probably expect it on Kobo in Feb.
Steve Vernon says
That would be awesome.
Now, if only ACX will get their motor running up here in Canada I will be all set!
Joanna Penn says
Fingers crossed 🙂
Simon Whistler says
Yes, as February rolls around I’ll be taking the book out of Select and putting it out on the other platforms :).
In the meantime, if you have any questions, just ask me here, I’m watching these comments and would be happy to answer any questions!
Richard Keller says
The person who narrates a fiction book can definitely mold what readers think of the character. Jim Davis on the “Harry Potter” series is an example. He did such a fantastic job at all the characters that, when I watched the movie, my was reaction was “That’s not how it used to sound.”
I have a book that has many pictures, graphs, charts. How can it be narrated?
Simon Whistler says
The general rule is that books with a lot of elements like this don’t work well as audiobooks. I have some experience of this myself.
ACX have some great advice on what doesn’t work in the audio format here:
I hope that helps :).
Taylor Stonely says
Very comprehensive interview that covered all aspects of audiobook creation. As a voice over talent, I have an interest in becoming a narrator on ACX, so I will definitely bookmark this for future reference!
Joanna Penn says
Great! I do think that being a narrator is a brilliant idea for a new source of income.