Audiobooks are one of the fastest-growing segments in publishing and the expansion of podcasts onto every major platform means there are more ways to market to audio-first consumers (which increasingly includes me!)
In this episode, Derek Doepker gives some tips on why audiobooks are so important as a format, self-narration, working with a narrator, plus, production and marketing ideas.
In the intro, Amazon Music now includes Podcasts [The Verge] so you can find this show and Books and Travel on your various devices; New audiobook promotion site, AudioThicket launches [Written Word Media]; ALLi has a podcast episode with Amazon representatives about Amazon Advertising [Ask Alli]; Publisher Rocket now includes UK data and German ebook data [Rocket]; Orna Ross and I discuss 1000 True Fans and what it means for authors [Ask ALLi]; Solo Long-Distance Walking with me and Holly Worton.
Today’s podcast sponsor is Findaway Voices, which gives you access to the world’s largest network of audiobook sellers and everything you need to create and sell professional audiobooks. Take back your freedom. Choose your price, choose how you sell, choose how you distribute audio. Check it out at FindawayVoices.com.
You can listen above or on your favorite podcast app or read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and the full transcript below.
- Using a ‘failed’ book to create a successful one
- Multiple streams of income as the business model for non-fiction authors
- Why audiobooks are so valuable, especially for reaching audio-first consumers
- Tips for recording your own audio and equipment
- Some of the mindset issues that you might face in self-narration
- Tips for hiring a narrator
- Effective ways of marketing audiobooks
Transcript of Interview with Derek Doepker
Joanna: Derek Doepker is the bestselling author of seven nonfiction books on peak performance, habits, fitness, and entrepreneurship. He’s also a content marketing and digital marketing consultant. Welcome, Derek.
Derek: Hey Joanna. Great to be here.
Joanna: It’s great to have you on the show.
First up, tell us a bit more about you and how you got into writing.
Derek: I did not expect to be a writer. That’s the first thing. My whole life was planned out that I was going to become a rock star. So, I started playing guitar when I was 12. A couple of years into it, I’m like, ‘That’s my dream. That’s what I’m going to do.’ So, I went to school for music. That’s what I went to college for.
Shortly before that, I got into fitness as well. So, those are my two big passions is music and fitness. And so, getting into writing came after I moved to LA. I was sleeping on an air mattress, valet parking cars, typical starving artist scenario. And I got into personal development and I learned about this whole world of entrepreneurship.
My dream was like, if only I could use my talents, the things that I’m passionate about to earn an income. I didn’t mind valet parking cars, but I’m like, ‘I don’t think I was put on this earth to sit here and park cars for the rest of my life and struggle to make it in music.’
So, I got into writing. I started blogging about fitness and creating YouTube videos and different things. And it was all really just a means of supporting myself while I pursued my passion for music.
What ended up happening was I fell in love with this process of helping others with the idea of writing about personal development, writing about fitness, talking about it. And eventually, I published my first Kindle book middle of 2012 and I was inspired because I won a Kindle e-reader by posting on a blog. So, I thought, ‘Okay. I’ve been writing on a blog. Let’s see if I can turn this into a book.’ I did. The first book sold about three copies in that first month.
Joanna: Well done!
Derek: Thanks to my mom for one of those sales! And then a second book made about 70 to 100 bucks in that first month that it went on sale a few months later when I published that. Now, this is where it took me months of writing.
So, I’m like, ‘Okay. If I’m spending months writing this plus what little money I’m making to even get the book out there, I’m pretty sure I’m losing money when I did the math.’ And so, I would have, at that point, I would have gone on to my next shiny object except that I went to a seminar in November of 2012, learned about relationships and influence and these deeper skills, not just book publishing, but these really essential entrepreneurship and life skills. And I got so inspired, I decided, you know what, I’m going to write another book.
And the reason that there’s a lesson in this story, that third book — I wrote it in about a week, published it within three to four weeks after I had the idea, it was live on Amazon and hit number one bestseller in weight loss. Generated almost $6,000 in royalties in 11 days.
At that point, I go, ‘Okay. This is the moment.’ It was surreal. I’m like, ‘I can’t believe this is happening,’ and then at the same time, I’m like, ‘I’ve been trying this for years, finally it has actually worked out.’ And so, I realized I’d cracked the code to this whole self-publishing thing and marketing.
I wanted to make sure, though. So I ended up publishing multiple books that all ended up becoming best sellers in their categories and started working with authors in 2013 to teach them what I learned.
Repurposing a failed book into a success
I share this because I hope there’s a couple of lessons that you can get as a listener for this. And that is, first of all, that third book, I wrote it in about a week, which is pretty quick. At the same time, I had been writing for about two years, a year or two prior to this. And I was actually repurposing my first book that was a failure, right?
So, that first book that seemed like a failure was actually creating the ingredients for a book that later on became a bestseller and my breakthrough book.
That’s why when I see authors who are struggling and they’re like, ‘Oh, what if I put all this time and money into a book and it doesn’t work out?’
Not only are you going to learn from that but you can literally take pieces from that or the lessons from that and potentially reuse it or repackage it and as you gain more skills and have that possibly be successful. That’s one big lesson.
And then the other thing is that as much as I hated it going through that experience, I also realized that I needed so many more skills than I had when I published my first book.
I’m kinda glad it didn’t work out because it really compelled me to go understand marketing, to understand this whole book publishing thing more. And that got me hyper-focused on investing in my skills and learning this, which eventually paid off to not only help myself with my future books but now help all the authors that I work with.
Joanna: I totally agree with you. My first book was the same. I always feel like even though there’s lots of information about things that still, as much information as we put out, people still have to learn their own lessons. And we all have to learn lessons in life. That is life, where you get taught the lesson and then you learn the lesson and then you move on.
That is what you talk about, in all your books I think really, is improving yourself. And we can all keep improving ourselves.
I do want to ask you what happened to the rock star dream? Does music still play a part in your life?
Derek: Yes. I still play music. I was playing in a band and by the time I had my third book, that band broke up, which I was a part of the decision to break up. Most of the band members didn’t want to keep it going, just some disagreements in the direction. And so, then I got focused on my business.
What I found is that this is my passion. I still love music but my passion really is coaching and creating, and writing. And it’s funny because I know talking to authors, I imagine there’s going to be some people listening to this who can relate, who go, ‘And I don’t like marketing. I don’t like the business side of things.’ And for me, that was how I was as a musician.
I’m like, ‘I don’t want to have anything to do with the business.’ I went to school, Belmont University in Nashville, and there was a whole music business curriculum and I’m like, ‘I don’t care at all about that. I just want to write music. I just want to play music, write music, and have someone else handle the business side.’
What I found once I got into authorship and the business side is it actually became, instead of being this separate thing that I didn’t like, I learned to embrace it and go, ‘Oh, this is actually a creative outlet for me.’ The marketing and the ability to get your word out there, it really is a way to be of service to people, to teach, to teach the value of what you have to offer.
I fell in love with the teaching and the coaching side of things. So now, that’s my outlet. And the whole rock star thing, I realized I love being on stage in front of people and entertaining them and enlightening them up and it’s, kinda, like Tony Robbins talks about, he wishes he could be a rockstar. I don’t know if that’s what he said or other people said about him, but I found that that’s the same outlet that I have now.
Coming on a show like this or speaking in front of an audience, it gives me that same feeling that music gave me. And now, I get the added reward of people coming back and saying, ‘Hey, here’s how your advice helped me. Here’s the breakthrough I made. Here are the books I’m selling now.’ So, it’s become my new passion.
Joanna: That’s really great to hear. And I actually think that is the secret of being a long-term nonfiction author is wanting to serve a niche and to keep becoming better in that niche and serving more people over time. I feel like that’s a really important part of it.
In terms of your business, because the other thing about being a nonfiction author, it’s not just about book sales.
What are your multiple streams of income? What does your business look like right now?
Derek: Books play a role in the income. It’s not the primary source of income. And it was I guess when I first had some success because that was the first thing that took off, but I didn’t get into writing books because I thought I could make a full-time income from writing books.
To me, I didn’t think I could make much of any money from writing books, but I thought, ‘Well, this will be a brand-building, authority-building effort.’ And it just so happened that yes, you actually can generate a nice income from books, especially if you’re a very prolific fiction or nonfiction author.
I think of the Steve Scott’s of the world and some of my other friends that are authors that just publish book after book.
For me, it’s the books build my audience, and what I really love and my main sources of income are courses, coaching, group coaching, going deeper. And I found that as much as I love books, and this is not a knock against books, it’s just they can only go so far.
I started doing more Facebook challenges recently, group coaching calls, feedback, coaching sessions, it just allows me to work deeper with authors and entrepreneurs and that’s what I really love. And it’s the piece that books can’t provide from a fulfillment and value standpoint, and it’s also a much larger source of income. So, I’d say 80% of the income comes from coaching and course sales or affiliate sales.
Joanna: Now, and that is completely correct in terms of a nonfiction business model. And I think it’s all very important. On this show, I talk about it a lot is the multiple streams of income. My nonfiction income streams are also, the books are one of them but they bring people into the affiliate sales, they bring people into the courses.
I don’t do coaching or consulting like you do, but they’re certainly not the only stream of income. And so, it’s great to hear you talk about that. You also have a particular passion for audiobooks and we’re both passionate about that.
Why do you think audiobooks are so fantastic?
Derek: Well, I got in audiobooks probably about 2015 and this answers the why here in a second. And that is what inspired it was I had a friend who I told her about a new book that I wrote. I think it might’ve been ‘Break Through Your BS,’ a self-help book I wrote. And she’s like, ‘Oh great. Let me know when it’s on audio, or I only listen to audiobooks.’
I just thought, ‘Wow, I mean, come on. You can get the print book, you can get the Kindle edition.’ It’s like ‘Read the version I have, right?’ And so, but knowing what I know about business, it’s in service to what your audience wants.
I heard that and then I started hearing more people talk about audio and coming from a music background, it’s, kinda, like, a, ‘Well, duh, some people prefer audio.‘ I myself would drive around another part-time job I had when I was delivering or when I was valet parking, was delivering hot wings. I don’t even eat hot wings but the reason I took the job was that I can drive around and I can listen to podcasts, and teleseminars, and webinars recordings. And so, that was like, ‘I got a whole year or so of just immersing myself in my education by driving around and listening to audio.’
I had a personal passion for it. And when I connected the dots I go, ‘Oh, yeah. Why not get it out there on audio?’ So the first reason why is there’s a whole group of people who will either only listen to audio or they’re primarily going to consume through audio.
And I know you talk about this in your book, Joanna, Audio for Authors. I remember reading about it and you were reminding me like, ‘You might be exercising, or doing housework, or doing different things, and that’s when people, you have to stop to sit down and read a book, but you can listen to audio when doing other things.’
This means more people that you can reach. Another reason why is consumption, right? What actually gets people to consume your book? Yes, selling a book is great. Selling a book makes you short term income. Creating a fan, a customer for a life, that’s your long-term business play. And you won’t get these fans for life unless they actually read your book, and love it, and rave about it, and tell their friends about it, and then buy all your other books.
So, that’s another reason is that people could be more likely to consume the book in addition to buying it. Another reason, so, I mean, you have additional royalties, you have new readers, you have enhanced consumption.
It also is just another asset that you have where you’ve gone through all the work of writing the book, of editing the book, of getting the cover design, of marketing and driving traffic to the Amazon page or the different pages that it’s on.
Why not just take one extra step and make sure that the audiobook edition is there? And we can talk about some of the how-to and technical things, but for me, one of my approaches, what I choose to do is record it myself. And I have a book that is…it’s one of my shortest books, it’s like about 47 minutes in audio. Less than an hour. And this is one of the highest-selling books of mine on audio.
I remember there were months where it’s selling well over 100 copies without really any extra marketing. So, it’s sold thousands of copies, I guess, by this point. And it took me about three hours once I knew the process start to finish to create the audiobook.
So, I just do the math. I’m like, ‘Three hours for thousands of additional book sales without much of any extra marketing and promotion.‘ That to me is a no brainer. And even if it took me 10, 20, 30 hours, it’s creating this asset that you then have as a bonus you want to offer it to people, it’s an incentive to say, ‘Hey, get my book during the launch and I’ll throw in the audiobook.’
If you get it during these next few days, if you have the rights to do that, it’s something that you can sell on its own. And so, there’s just all these multiple benefits that you have. And again, you’ve already have done the hardest work of creating the audio. So, that’s just probably a few of the benefits off the top of my mind.
Joanna: I totally agree with you. And I think many people get discouraged because it feels like audiobooks are such a big deal because we’re writers. We write stuff and we know how to do that. And there are so many things that potentially you have to learn when you become an author. And obviously, that didn’t take you very long but that’s because you know how to do it. So, let’s talk about tips.
What are your tips for self-narrating audiobooks? And when is it a good idea, and when is it not such a good idea?
Derek: I’ll start with the second one when it could be a good idea or when it’s not a good idea. So, when it’s not a good idea is for fiction authors in particular. Usually, the standard is the sex of the protagonist will be the same sex as the narrator. So, female protagonist, female narrator, male protagonist, male narrator. That’s the standard.
And there’s usually going to be multiple characters in a book, and it’s typical to have one narrator. So, that’s fine that you’re going to have different characters. You don’t have to get a different narrator for each character that you think about who your main protagonist is, and that can influence the decision.
Second thing is I hear people with accents and it’s totally fine. As long as you can understand the voice, that’s something that people are wondering about. I get questions about that. And I think it’s fine.
The only question is how easily can people understand you? And if you’re not sure, and this also applies to, ‘Well, what if I don’t like the sound of my voice?’ And I hear that a lot. And the thing is it’s pretty normal to not love the sound of your voice, right? That’s a very common thing because when you hear yourself on recording, it’s different than what you hear in your head.
That it’s the mismatch that your brain goes, ‘Oh, I don’t like that. It’s not what I’m used to. Is that really what I sound like?’ But in truth, there’s a good chance other people are totally okay with your voice. They may even enjoy it. And I experienced this when I have people send me samples and they’re like, ‘I don’t like my voice.’ And I’m like, ‘Your voice sounds great. I enjoy listening to your voice.’
And so, if you’re really not sure though, I do recommend not just relying on your own opinion, record a sample, and you don’t need high-tech equipment to do a basic sample. Just record a sample and send it to some readers if you have some. Send it to some listeners. You can even not mention it’s your voice if they don’t know and get their honest feedback. ‘Hey, would you listen to this person narrate the book?’
When you get that objective feedback, then it’s no longer about your personal opinion. It’s about what new people actually think and feel whenever they hear your narration. So, that will help decide if it’s a good idea to do your own book. And the reason why it is generally, I like doing your own book, in many cases is that you’ll save a lot of money.
It’s hundreds to thousands of dollars to hire a narrator for an audiobook. And for probably less than 150 bucks, certainly less than 200 bucks, you can get all the equipment you need for not only audiobooks but then if you ever go on podcasts, if you ever do videos, audio is important, if you do really anything with audio and nowadays, so many things are virtual, so many things require having a good audio setup that it’s going to make sense to just go ahead and invest in the setup one way or another to do audio.
So, that’s a few ideas, but that being said, if a person just can’t do their own audiobook, some people… I think the time, we’ll talk about the tips. It’s not actually that much extra time to do your own audiobook, at least to narrate it and then you can outsource the editing, but that could be a factor.
If you’re super busy, you got 20 projects going on and you just want to outsource it to a narrator, I can appreciate that. So, those are some general guidelines. Before I get into tips, any questions or comments on that?
Joanna: No. I think you’re right. And I did narrate a couple of my short stories for fiction, but I have outsourced all the rest of my fiction full-length. I’m actually doing another one right now, Map of Shadows, because I just decided that I don’t have the time and the bandwidth to do fiction, which I think is much harder than nonfiction, but I have narrated my last four or five nonfiction audiobooks.
I think probably, the first thing is especially if you write nonfiction is definitely easier. If you write fiction and you want to give it a go, I mean, I always point people to Matt Buchman, M. L. Buchman who is a romance author. He’s been on the show and he does his own romance novels, and his readers, many of whom are women, obviously, love to hear his voice narrating the romance.
[Check out Matt’s book, Narrate and Record your own Audiobook]
I think you can definitely do your fiction, but I think it’s probably a larger proportion of nonfiction authors who can do their own.
Derek: I’ll second that and say that with fiction, you also have the consideration, I wouldn’t say it’s absolutely essential, but your artistic choice may be, ‘I want to have more acting chops, going into the narration, more acting ability, more ability to really get into these characters.
Someone who has been trained on that is definitely going to have an advantage over someone who has never done that before. And so, yes, fiction is more likely that a person might see the benefits of hiring a narrator.
If you narrate your own nonfiction, you have this added authority. People get to know you.
It’s this whole know, like, and trust thing, and going back to this idea that you might be building a bigger business beyond the book. When people hear you in their head just like here on a podcast, it creates this deeper connection that you’re able to get.
So, it’s not only easier. It also gives you that added connection piece where people can really feel and sense who you are, which can then tie into your bigger business goals.
Going into some tips for narrating your own audiobook, first thing, you’ve got to get the right equipment. Let’s start with the microphone. I recommend what’s called a dynamic microphone. And you don’t have to know all the ins and outs of this.
I learned this in music school and the basic take-home point is that a condenser microphone is going to be very sensitive. It’s going to pick up a lot of background noise. And a condenser microphone, something like a Blue Yeti, a Blue Snowball, many mics are condenser microphones.
That can work if you’re in a very quiet environment. If you’re trying to do an audiobook with one of those mics, though, I find that it will pick up a lot more of the room reverb, it’ll pick up any air conditioners, any outside noise, cars driving by.
Depending on your environment, it can be really sensitive. And I can hear whenever someone sends me a sample, I’m almost always able to tell. I go, ‘Is this a Blue Yeti, or is this a condenser microphone?” And I’m pretty sure almost every time they said yes, when I’ve had a strong suspicion that it was.
A dynamic microphone has a lot less sensitivity to that, which is a good thing. It gives you more of this warm present sort of, sound. Examples of a dynamic microphone, the ATR2100, which is what I use. It’s now the ATR-2100x by Audio-Technica, Samson Q2U, which is available in different countries, and the Audio-Technica AT2005.
Those are a few mics off the top of my head. And most of them, depending on what price you find it at, they’re selling out now more as more people are getting microphones, but 100 bucks or less typically for one of these microphones.
Getting the right type of microphone is going to be key. Next thing is if you can record in a small environment, like a small room, that’s ideal.
Not a bathroom because that’s usually going to have tiles and be reflective, but if you’re in a living room that’s not too big or a walk-in closet, especially if you got some clothes hanging up, kinda deadens the sound, that’s great.
But what if you don’t have an environment like that? I used to live in a big open loft and it was just not good for recording audio. It was terrible. And my attitude was like, ‘Okay, great. If I can figure out a solution in this environment, it’ll work anywhere.’
After racking my brain for a while, I came up with this idea and it worked perfectly. You can set up a patio umbrella. So, imagine you’re just at your computer desk and you put a patio umbrella up, it opens up, and you throw a big thick blanket over the top of it. So, it encloses you. And I know this is trying to describe it through audio. So, you have to use your imagination.
Joanna: I can imagine it.
Derek: Imagine the blanket is wrapping around in front of you, and you’re in this enclosure where you can have your computer screen, you can have your microphone sitting right in front of you. And this created the perfect on-command, on-demand, home studio setup.
I don’t know what I paid, maybe 50 bucks for a patio umbrella, but like, you got that. And now, whenever you’re doing something with audio where you really need a clean, pristine sound like an audiobook, you just pop this thing up, record underneath it, and it sounded great. And then you just pop it down and put it away.
You don’t have to sit there through the whole day with a giant umbrella next to you. You just take it out when you need it. Even if you’re in like one of the worst possible environments, you can do a setup like that.
And I want to make it clear most people will not need to go to that level to do it. This is just if you’re in like a really big open space and you want to give yourself a great quality sound. So, that’s that piece.
I do recommend recording standing up if possible. Obviously, if you have some physical condition where you can’t stand up, then you do your best sitting down.
If you can stand up, whether that’s a standing desk, whether that’s either printing out or taking your book on an e-reader and putting it on a music stand, and then using a microphone stand to elevate yourself, it is ideal to recording and put yourself in proper posture standing up. So, that’s another thing.
I use Audacity which is free, audacityteam.org. It’s Mac and PC compatible. I’ve had some issues with the recent Catalina updates, but I’ve found that students who I’ve taught this to, they are able to use even the Catalina update.
Sometimes they use the workaround has been working, although it technically last I checked wasn’t up-to-date. And so, they’ll probably be updating that at some point. And with Audacity, it includes some different effects and things that help cut out the noise, that help get the volume level right.
What you do need to know the process and it’s the reason why I teach people and coach people through the process, you do need to know how to cut out the mistakes, cut out the breath noises, background noise, make sure the sentence length is not these super long or super short gaps and get the audio quality right. So, that gets into a little bit more technical sort of stuff.
At least for now though, consider that if you have this equipment set up, whether or not you want to do your own audiobooks or not, just knowing this, good mics to use, and posture, and sound set up, that’s going to be useful for anything that you do, including podcasts or anything else with audio.
Joanna: Great tips there, Derek. I am standing up now and I actually have a booth that I have had built and for people listening, it’s thecreativepenn.com/homestudio. But I do, indeed, have a music stand with my iPad on which I turn off the WiFi and everything.
We talked at the beginning about the lessons that you learn along the way and I feel like with self-narration, again, we can say the tips. Another one for me is you don’t start your sentence with your mouth closed. You start your sentence with your mouth open because it gets rid of lip-smacking noise. It means less editing.
So again, that’s quite a detailed tip, right, but you learn these things by actually doing it. Exactly what you said is great stuff. And sometimes you don’t even know what your environment sounds like until you record yourself speaking in it and then you realize that it’s noisier than you expected.
Because you’re a musician, your hearing will be very attuned, but I definitely found my hearing has got more intense like the more audio I’ve done. Is that something you see?
Derek: Exactly. Yes. And especially when you’re first starting out, you won’t necessarily hear the difference because you don’t have anything to compare it to, right? So, to make sense of that, if I just record an audio sample and play it for someone, they’ll be like, ‘Oh, that sounds fine.’
But then if I record a different sample, with a different mic, in a different setup that sounds way cleaner, then all of a sudden, they’ll go, ‘Oh, now I hear the difference because there’s an A-B comparison.’ Then they go back and hear the original recording which maybe wasn’t as good of a mic, wasn’t as good of a setup, or it just wasn’t not that it’s like a good or bad mic but maybe it wasn’t the proper mic for the job, and then they can hear it, right?
Imagine if I’ve heard hundreds, if not thousands of audiobooks samples and snippets of not just audio but recording music and doing all these things that I’ve done for years, you’re going to start to hear it and you just don’t really have that ability until you start doing it yourself and hearing comparisons to things.
It’s like book covers. Sometimes I see authors, they have a book cover and then like, this looks like a good cover. And I’m like in isolation, yeah, the book cover looks okay and they’ll get feedback from people, they’ll post it in a group and be like, ‘Oh, this is a great cover.’
When I look at it and I go, ‘I know what the covers look like in that genre and I know what you’re competing against. And yes, while if you only look at that cover, it might look decent, stick it next to 10 other books in the genre that are much more professionally designed and polish and you can see how much it sticks out like a sore thumb of a cover that just doesn’t look as good.’
Learning to compare what you’re doing with what other people are used to seeing or hearing, that will help you eventually develop your own ability to calibrate these things.
Joanna: Fantastic. And just in terms of the economics, I’ve found that, for example, for my novel, I’m paying $400 per finished hour. So, it’s going to cost me a couple of thousand to get my novels done. By the time it’s all done, the trilogy, it will probably be around $10,000 and I’m investing in creating an asset, as you say.
But with my self-narration, it doesn’t necessarily cost me the money. It costs me time. I tend to do my own editing and then I pay for a professional mastering of the file. It’s either going to cost you time or money, right? Any other thoughts on the economics of audiobooks?
Derek: Well, let’s look at the time component because if you’re doing your own audiobook, that is going to be the biggest issue. And even if you’re hiring a narrator, there is a little time involved.
And I’ll point this out, and that is you’ll want to audition a few different narrators, listen to some samples of them. And then when they send back the audiobook, I highly recommend you listen to the entire audiobook. You want to listen for any mistakes that they might’ve made.
In my experience, I had one book of mine that I hired a narrator for because it was the first book and I hadn’t figured out how to do it myself yet and there’s just some mispronunciations of names. And he couldn’t have known that, I didn’t really think about it. So, not a big deal. Just let them know, ‘Hey, chapter 7 at 4 minutes and 37 seconds, you said it like this. Can you re-record it and say it like whatever’ and give them the explanation, him or her, the narrator. So, you do want to do that. You want to do some proofing of the audiobook even from a narrator.
Now, if you’re doing it yourself, yes, this is going to be where you’re now investing time. What I found happened is I wasn’t even thinking about this at first until I did the last book that I published, which I sent out to beta readers and got their feedback and made corrections, I sent it to my editor, the editor made corrections, and then now I got the book, it’s about ready to publish, and I’m going to do a final read-through.
When I read through something, I also highly suggest you read through your work out loud at least for a couple passes because you will catch things that you do not catch in your head. So, then I thought, ‘Well, I’m going to read through it out loud. Why not just hit the record button and go ahead and do the audio narration at the same time?’
So, in that moment, I go, ‘Oh, yeah. I’m doing this anyway. I’m going to be going through the process of reading it out loud.’ And I do recommend, okay, I want to make it clear. You’ve already gone through several rounds of edits. You may have already read it out loud a couple of times where you’re just focusing on the editing process because you don’t want your attention split too much between the narration and the proofing.
But once it got through all that proofing, doing that final proof, read it out loud, narrated it, and sure enough, I caught some mistakes and I just hit pause on the recording, change the wording, and a lot of the mistakes at that point are just like, ‘I don’t like the way that sentence sounds. I want to rewrite that’ or whatever it is.
I was catching spelling and grammar primarily just wording mistakes I would call it. And so, I go, ‘I was doing this anyway. I would have been going through that process and now I got the recording done.’ Then it becomes a matter of doing the editing.
Well, the editing, with the process that I teach, can be very quick if you delete the mistakes after the fact and do this. And so, I realized, well, it will take me, let’s say, if it’s an hour-long audiobook, the whole process I can do in about three hours. So, three hours per finished hour of audiobook.
Now, that’s very quick once you get it down and that’s also with nonfiction because there’s not as much to it. So, what happens is, well, I was going to spend the hour and a half to read through about an hour of material and then an hour and a half for editing. So, I don’t want to get too much into the numbers, but long story short, I realized that it’s actually not that much longer to narrate your own audiobook if you’re going to read it out loud anyway, which again I suggest, and then you can decide either to outsource the editing or do the editing yourself.
Joanna: I think it’s definitely a good point with nonfiction and you are going to have to check it even if someone else does it anyway. I think it’s good because you’re obviously very confident in your reading. Three hours to produce one finished hour is very, very good.
I would say to people, it is not like that at the beginning. You’re probably looking more like 10 hours per finished hour if you’re just starting out from scratch in terms of learning how the mic works, and practicing, and all of that.
But it’s the type of skill that once you upskill, your return becomes more and more, the more you do.
So, that’s fantastic.
Then I just want to ask you about marketing audiobooks because I feel like the scene has changed. It used to be that realistically, the only option was ACX and Audible. But now I use Findaway Voices, we’ve got BookBub’s Chirp has just come on the scene. Obviously, there are different types of advertising.
What do you think are some of the most effective ways of marketing audiobooks?
Derek: Well, the first confession that I have is I have not put as much attention into the marketing side of audiobooks. And the reason being is I don’t distinguish the audiobook marketing and I’m not encouraging this. I’m just saying for me, I have a number of other things that I do.
When I sell audiobooks, a lot of times, it’s just a byproduct of sending people to Amazon, and then people select, do they want to get the ebook, do they want to get the print book, do they want to get the audiobook?
If you do things like Amazon ads, I see an uptick in audiobook sales, and it won’t necessarily show in the dashboard. That’s if you just like test pausing the campaign versus turning it on. I’ve seen this myself, I’ve seen it with students where turning on ads, sure enough, spikes the audiobook sales.
And certainly, email marketing of sending people to the Amazon page, certain people are going to get the audiobook edition because that’s what they prefer.
For me, I’m just like I’m book marketing and then it’s the way I look at it. Like all the things I do to market books. And then if people get the audio edition, that just happens as a byproduct of what they’re choosing to do.
So, I’ll say my tips for marketing audiobooks are the same tips that I give for marketing any books, and that’s what I call the ASPIRE method.
The aspire method, I looked at all the different ways you can market a book, what the most effective ways are from the most successful authors, and I boil it down to this acronym, ASPIRE. And A stands for ads, S stands for social media, I stands for influencers, P stands for platforms. So, going on podcasts just like this, platforms, publications, I, influencers, R, readers, getting readers to promote your book and share your book and E stands for email marketing.
There are a few specific strategies I’ve done with audiobooks certainly letting people know that you can get it for free. If it’s their first time they sign up for Audible, you can get a bounty sale if someone gets your audiobook for free on Audible. Another thing is letting a person know if is Whispersync, ‘Hey, if you get the Kindle edition which is on sale, you can also pick up the Audible or the audiobook rather edition for only, maybe it’s a 1.99,’ depending on how Amazon sets it up.
Letting people know you have the audiobook and also when you produce the audiobook, it’s another thing I do, it’s again primarily through email. I just think email marketing is my whole umbrella term for that. And then saying, ‘Hey, the new audiobook edition is out.’
That gives you a reason if you launch the audiobook later, let’s say it comes out a month, or a few months, or maybe even a year or two after your first edition print or Kindle comes out or ebook, then saying, ‘Hey, the audiobook is now available. You can get it here.’
And this is again just general book marketing. Anytime you can offer bonuses for picking something up for a limited time. And then I also use…it’s not just marketing the audiobook. It’s the flip side of that using the audiobook for marketing by saying, ‘Hey, when you get this book, I’m going to include the audiobook as a bonus.’
I did a thing where I sold the ebook on my own website and I sold the audiobook and then I said, ‘You can bundle them together and get the ebook and the audiobook edition at a discount.’ Selling directly on your own website the audiobook. And so, there’s a number of things there.
I will say again though, I’m not the master of all things audiobook marketing. I approach it like I’m marketing all my books and then letting people know about the audiobook edition if that’s the one that they want.
[Need more tips? Here are 16 Ways to Market Your Audiobook]
Joanna: I totally agree. And I think that every time you do a promotion on your ebook, for example, then you do get audio sales. You’re exactly right.
I think there are audio-specific things, but what you’re saying is the bulk of them I think in that area.
You have a really good course. And the reason I liked your course is because it’s not too complicated. I think some of these courses are like super overcomplicated, but yours isn’t. And also you help people, like you said, with their samples and stuff like that, which the technical side I think is very scary when people primarily think of themselves as creative as opposed to technical.
Tell people a bit more about your course on audio and where they can find you and everything you do online.
Derek: My course is called ‘Audiobooks Made Easy.’ And the reason I created it was I realized that a lot of people are going to need this step-by-step walkthrough, especially when it comes to doing the editing and things like that.
And also, they need some personal hand-holding because what I’ve seen happen with some authors, even students in my course, they’ll go through, they’ll learn everything, but they run the risk if they didn’t have coaching, they could record their entire audiobook, not realize something was messed up, and it gets rejected. They have no idea why it was rejected.
And then they find out that they have to re-record the entire thing all over again which is not fun. That kind of a nightmare scenario. So, what happens is with students who get ‘Audiobooks Made Easy,’ you would send a sample to me, and not only do you get the training but then I listen to it.
And this is where I catch like, ‘Oh, you don’t have the right microphone selected,’ which happens quite often. Even though the instructions were there, again, if you’re not techie, you might overlook it, not realize the volume is not at the right level and all these things.
So, we catch it early on with a two-minute sample and then you have the confidence to go, ‘Okay. You got the green light, I’m doing everything properly, I’ve applied all the effects properly, it’s edited the way it needs to be done, all of this with a short sample,’ then you have the confidence to go forward and do your entire audiobook.
If you are considering doing your own audiobook, then that’s something I would invite you to check out. And you could go directly to audiobooksmadeeasy.com, and I’m going to do a masterclass. Either it will be live or it will be on a replay depending on when you hear this, and you can get the masterclass to learn more about what the options are, see if doing your own audiobook is right for you, get your questions answered, happy to answer anyone’s questions if you email me, and that will help you to make a decision if this is right for you and all that I’m going to be putting at bestsellersecrets.com/joanna.
Joanna: Fantastic. Well, Derek, that was super useful. I always think that as much as you know about audio and doing this kind of production, it is a skill you have to learn. I really appreciate your tips. Thanks for coming on the show today. It’s been great.
Derek: Thank you so much for having me, Joanna.
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Author: Joanna Penn