Category Archives: audio publishing

This, that and audio marketing …

In a delightful departure from what was rapidly becoming the norm, I have no rodent-related shenannagins to report this week. Well … unless you count having a tetanus jab, which I did … you know … just in case.

To be honest, I haven’t done much. Partly because it’s been very windy here, I’m not sure what we’re onto now, we’ve had Brian and Chiara who segued seamlessly into Dennis and now we have Jorge who is Spanish and has pipped Ellen to the post. Snortle. But the weather is chuffing bogging a lot of the time.

Ellen. I had so hoped they were going to call it Windy Ethel. Never mind, can’t win ’em all. Whatever it’s called, it makes sitting in the conservatory like being underwater in a submarine. It’s about as dark and about as wet. I have not ventured out today and I don’t intend to any more than is necessary. Needless to say I have a packed social programme with school parents’ evening and some corporate wifing to do tonight. Bastard Ellorg or should that be Jorgllen?

Apart from an ambivalent effort at metal detecting on Sunday – right metals, wrong objects, clay pipe fragments but a nice medieval pottery shard, I seem to have been running around like a blue arsed fly all week but can’t really remember what for. It was mostly crises of my own making, delivering the iPad to the Apple shop to be fixed, picking it up and then setting it up. I was lucky enough to have a lovely visit to Mum’s on Wednesday. The gardening team was there as well as the career and Mum was very switched on. We chatted and watched telly.

While we were there, I played her a couple more of the audio voices. There is one character, Big Psycho Dave, he’s called, who I just can’t listen to without giggling. As you know, because heaven knows I’ve banged on about it enough, The K’Barthan Series is currently in production for audio, along with Unlucky Dip, which kind of acts as a prequel to everything.

At some point, I need to talk about the process, or at least, do a kind of dummies’ guide for Morons Who Are Unable to Grasp the Blindingly Obvious (as I call myself in these situations). Blimey but it’s taken me a while to cotton on. I’m still not sure I have.

One of the problems is that many of the people doing and talking about audiobooks are big hitters. I’m guessing some have little people to do the being an idiot bit for them and spit out the things they need to know at the end. But when it comes to what they do, they don’t want to talk about it. This may well be because they’re still experimenting and have no clearer idea of a successful strategy than I do. Alternatively, it may be as a result of legal advice in case someone says, ‘I did what you said and it hasn’t worked’ and sues them. Terry Pratchett had to stop visiting his own forums because people were starting to suggest things and, worse, say, ‘so, you used my idea then?’ And he’d be thinking, ‘What?’ And his lawyers advised him to make a sharp exit before the ‘so, you’ve used my idea’ bit got to the point where they started adding, ‘how much are you going to pay me?’

Actually, that’s not my approach, demanding compensation if it goes wrong. I’d just love to riff with people about what they’re doing and pick up some pointers. That’s what I’ve always done with the ebooks but there’s not much riffing going on as far as I can see, apart from on two Facebook groups where I’ve picked up a lot of interesting information. But, ideally, I need more points of view.

You may begin …

Some of the muted nature of the debate may be founded in that, if you go exclusive with ACX you have no control over the price of your books, so there’s not much you can do to market them, really, other than tell people they’re there. Obviously with Findaway, you do have some control over the price, you can set it at zero and folks are able to download the book for free in some places, but other sites will set the price at 99c. It’s a different model, I suspect, in that the data transfer costs must be very high, so free is probably not great for business, even if it leads to more sales in the long run. The royalties are smaller too, no 70%, anywhere.

Whatever the reason, I’ve failed to uncover much of the information I’m looking for out there or at least, not in as much detail as I’d like. Although there is a wealth of technical stuff about making your own sound booth, recording your own books, how to set the levels etc etc. If that’s the way you want to go, you’re laughing. As for what I have discovered about marketing audiobooks … well … here are my thoughts.

Thing One: the conundrum …

It’s becoming blindingly apparent that there is no obvious ‘right way’ to sell the ruddy things. Or at least, not that I can see. There’s what works for a particular author and what doesn’t. The only way to find out what works is to experiment. Gulp. And even then it may only work for you. My issue is this:

If you are an unknown tiny fish in the authorial sea – I am – you want social proof on your books, also known as reviews. With ebooks you just approach reviewers, grovel a bit and give them free copies. After a while they read them, tell their followers what they think and bob’s your uncle, five star joy to convince buyers your stuff is magic. (Ideally, but the right kind of one star, I-fucking-hated-that can be just as effective to sell your books.)

The difficulty with audiobooks is that they are massive so you can’t just send them to someone. Except you can with tokens. Both the major players I am looking at; Findaway and ACX, will provide tokens so reviewers can download your books for free and review them. But Findaway won’t provide them to British readers, which may not be helpful to me. Although other authors report their efforts to give away British codes often meet with complete failure, anyway. ACX will only give tokens out if you sign up to them exclusively. ACX exclusivity is for seven years but … if you have uploaded a finished book, rather than used their royalty share scheme (where they find an author for you) they will let you out after one year if you write and ask them nicely.

On the other hand, with Findaway comes Chirp, their own platform, and access to a BookBub style promotion system, and BookBub is extremely powerful. Although I’ve never scored one for more than ‘international’ – that is, promoting a price drop on a book to Canada, India, Australasia and the UK but not America. I’ve never scored a free promo there either. And yes these are the audio versions, but they are still the same less-than-attractive-to-BookBub’s-selection-panel books. On the other hand, you can advertise on BookBub and I suspect that if I can get my advertising shit together, that is where I could get some love for the audiobooks.

Also, there was a massive influx of audiobooks uploaded to ACX just before Christmas, and they are still wading through them. I could still be waiting for my books to go live in six months’ time, I know of authors who have waited five months, already, for their books to go live and are still waiting … At least if I am going direct to both, I have 60% of the market covered from the off … and it matters because it’s not just me, here, half the earnings are Gareth’s. It’d be nice if there were some after he’s put in all that effort.

Thing two: the options …

I think …. Yeh.

I have two cunning plans … although, whether or not you could, strictly, call either one cunning, remains to be seen. Basically, I reckon I need a few reviews for people to buy anything so I may need tokens. The books might get reviews from my lovely fans and friends, they might get reviews from Gareth’s. On the other hand, they might not. The choice is simple:

1. Get my advertising shit together and go wide. Run promotions, submit the books to Chirp, take advantage of being able to control the price, mostly. Give away Unlucky dip for 99c or even free to get them hooked. Use the tokens and try and attract reviews from Canadian, Australasian and American readers. After all, a review is a review, right?

Disadvantages … well … advertising might take more money than I’ve got. Also I might not find many British readers, and Americans might not be able to understand the British regional accents in my books. But, on the other hand, there’s a lot of British slang, and American readers have done OK with that in the ebook version. Also, while the audiobook market isn’t quite Audible-and-the-others yet, or at least, Audible is only about 40%, I believe, rather than the gargantuan slice of the pie Amazon enjoys for regular books, it’s still a big hitter and stymying my books there may cost us at the start.

or

2. Go exclusively with ACX for the first year to get the tokens and bribe people to review the books on the UK site as well as the US one. Get more sales organically because … more punters. Then ask them to release my books and go wide. Because ultimately, I want people to be able to be able to download my audiobooks at the library and in the long run, there is a lot more earning potential there for us. I also want to take advantage of Chirp and advertising and if I’m exclusive with ACX chirp is a non-starter.

The Advantage, ready social proof and the biggest UK market share (at the moment … I think). Also better chance of organic sales. Better royalty rates at Audible – like 40% rather than 25% – which is important if that turns out to be the only place where I sell any books.

The disadvantage of this strategy is that in a year’s time, when ACX release me, there may be a lot more competition for a Chirp promotion and more people advertising audiobooks meaning that traction wide is harder to achieve. In addition, while Unlucky Dip was approved relatively quickly, I have author colleagues who submitted books in December last year who are still waiting for them to go on sale. The upshot being that it may take six months to a year for my book to go live and it may be more like two years before I can go wide. In a market moving as fast as this one, a year feels like a very long time, but if it’s more like eighteen month or two years? Yikes.

And not forgetting that I loathe and detest the subscription model myself – it’s amazing how fast all those £7 a month for different things add up to something big, and cataclysmic, so it goes against the grain because I’d like to have my books available to people like me from the off; people who’d rather buy them outright.

Thing two: different books sell on different platforms.

There’s a suggestion that short books sell better on Findaway Voices than on ACX. The commonly held view is that this is because Findaway supplies more sites where people buy books out right and so those readers will want to try shorter, less expensive books before shelling out for the gargantuan ones. Conversely, readers on subscription sites usually are eligible for a set number of books per month, so they will go for the biggest possible books to get more bang for their buck. ACX supplies more of those, hence you would put your novellas and shorts on Findaway, but not necessarily on ACX (unless legions of your fans are asking) and then the box set – a nice big book for subscription site listeners – goes on both. But again, this would suggest that, if, like me, you’re an author of a novella series and a massive door stop sized books series, ideally, you want to be on both platforms. Or maybe some and some, I dunno. But yeh, I’ve had a brief chat with Gareth about him doing the rest …

Thing Three: there is No thing three.

Every fucking time Mary? Yep. I know. I’m sorry. I can’t help myself.

Thing Four: testing the market.

This is, kind of, where I am now. It’s taken me a very long time to work out how to upload a book successfully. Jeez ACX some coherent error messages would be grand. That said, I have now uploaded Unlucky Dip, the short series prequel to the K’Barthan Series, to all the sites I’m looking at; Kobo, Findaway Voices and ACX. I am also toying with the idea of uploading some snippets, or the odd chapter, up to Soundcloud for you to listen to. That does depend on what Gareth thinks about it. I can’t do it until the audio files are all finalised, anyway.

So we’re nearly set …

Gulp. Here begins stage one of our dummy run.

Unlucky Dip, is on sale. I think it’s about $2.99 and whatever that is in GBP pretty much everywhere, or as part of your sub on a subscription site.

Even more exciting, despite having zero sales reported on either ACX, Findaway or Kobo, I discovered, this morning, that it has an also bought on Audible, which would suggest that somebody, somewhere, has bought it. It’s a decent also bought, too; Jasper Fforde, whose readers sit squarely in my target demographic.

If you’d like to find out more, I have a lovely page, with links to look at it in store for a bunch of places so you are welcome to go and have a listen to the excerpt, or even download it if you like, here.

Unlucky Dip Audio Book

 

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Brief summary of copyright for UK authors

ESTABLISHING COPYRIGHT FOR YOUR NOVEL
Do you need to? How do you do it?

If you’re looking into self-publishing like I am (in this case while I wait for the results of my latest submission) you’ll be amazed at how many questions crop up as you start to explore your options further.  In this case, a few worries about copyright.  It took me a couple of hours of digging to find anything approaching the hard facts on-line in a form I was prepared to believe so… for other authors like myself.  Here are the main points.

As someone who is thinking of self-publishing in the UK, I’m not going to worry about selling different types of publishing rights, thank heavens, because if I self-publish I’m going to be my publisher and unless (or until) I’m are picked up by a bigger one, all the rights stay with me.  Remember to check the small print if you sign up to a POD or distribution sites to make sure of this!

The copyright of your work is yours, from the moment you’ve written it down.  This applies to the words you use or at least the way you express your idea (ie people can’t lift passages from your work) your characters, your plot and the way you conclude it.

So for example if you want to quote someone else’s work in your own; song lyrics, poetry, extracts… you have to seek permission from the owner of the copyright, unless you are using a short phrase of about 14 words… In other words, you’d probably get away with quoting “a long time ago in a galaxy far away” without permission but not the whole schpeil of floating letters that comes after it!

General ideas are different, somebody must have come up with the name tractor beam at some point but this has slipped into the language to the extent that most of us could explain what it is, even though it doesn’t actually exist… yet.  No permission required for tractor beams to appear in your work, or flying cars, cf whichever Harry Potter it was and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang happily coexisting.

However,  I noticed a section of people on forums, info sites, etc were talking about “establishing copyright” of a novel.  Now, in the US you have to do this, as I understand it but in the UK and most of the rest of the world you don’t.

Naturally, the next question that came up in my mind was should I do something to officially ‘establish’ my copyright, even though I live in the benign UK/rest of the world (the US is a bit of an anomaly on this one)?  So… I looked into it and discovered that there are several ways to establish your authorship just in case it turns out to be a hit – after all, I read somewhere there’s a saying which goes, ‘where there’s a hit there’s a writ’.

  1. There are people you can e-mail or post your book to who will store it on your behalf to prove you’d written it from well… the day they process it but you need to watch out as this might be as much as several months after you’ve submitted it.  Sites such as the Writers’ Copyright Association will do this for you, for a fee (around £60 I believe).
  2. You can put it in an envelope and deposit it with a bank or a firm of solicitors – recommended by the Society of Authors, that one.
  3. You can put it in an envelope and post it, making sure it has a legible date franked on it, to yourself; amusingly, that one was recommended by the firm of solicitors I approached after reading the advice from the Society of Authors.  Apparently, you can ignore people who say this method doesn’t stand up in court, one of the UK’s leading IP lawyers told me that actually, it will.
  4. Keep a paper trail, keep the rejections, notes you make, etc.  Back up and keep old drafts on your computer and on an external storage device.

Clearly as I am not in the US and any self-publishing I do will be on a shoestring, I think 3 and 4 are my tickets!

For more information on copyright there’s an excellent article on the Writers’ and Aritst’s Yearbook blog here.

Another thing to remember, if you publish a book with an ISBN number in Britain (which you need to do if you want to sell it on Amazon) is to send it to the six Legal Deposit Libraries within a month of publication.  This also helps establish you as the original author.  The Legal Deposit Libraries are:

Well that’s handy, Cambridge isn’t far away, I could drop that one in and yes, clearly, if you have one, your publisher does do a little bit more than print up your book.

That’s very much an ‘in a nutshell’ guide but I hope it’s useful.  Apart from the Writers’ and Artists’ yearbook blog.  Initially, I found absolutely bugger all about any of this on the web that wasn’t specific to the US. I’m hoping this may help other British authors who are researching self-publishing.  I’ve done the digging so you don’t have to.

I am looking into ISBNs at the moment, where you get them, how many you need, whether one fits all versions of a novel or whether you need a new ISBN for e-book, audio or revised versions.  I’ll post a quick summary of my findings on that when I’ve finished.

Please note, I’m not a lawyer but what I’ve shared here might be enough information to help you ask the right questions.  I hope it is useful and if you spot an error, please let me know.

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Audio publishing…

Hmm… so what I really need to find is a Smashwords for audiobooks…

I was thinking I could read it, myself, Scott Sigler style.

He is the guy who gave his books away as podcasts and ended up getting picked up by Orion after he had 50,000 downloads.  Something like 60% of the people who downloaded his book for free went on to buy a paper copy.  He did put in a long day around the internet taking part in forums, writers’ groups and the like ‘soft’ selling his books.

For the moment, I think I will stick to the e-shorts for this.  I’m starting on another one so I would be reading the first… so long as the police cars who drag race up my street, my son and my husband could keep quiet for long enough to allow me to do so… yeh… it’s going to take a long time.

I do have a good programme for doing the recordings… It’s made by a company called CFB Software and you can find them here.

LP Recorder – really a specialist thing for recording records onto your computer so you can make them into MP3s.  HOwever, it works very well when you change the input channel to mic as opposed to line in.  If  you combine it with LP Ripper which helps you split the recordings up into tracks, you get something pretty powerful.  It’s a reasonable price, too.  They quote $70 for the two programmes together or $40 for LP Recorder on its own.

So, same deal as my current e-publishing venture, give away my short stories for free and try to build up a following.

About 250 people have downloaded my first short story from Freado, Scribd and Smashwords although it’s probably all my mates and acquaintances… not sure…  Clearly the next step is to read this and put the recording on a new podcast page, here, with a link from the entries on scribd, freado and smashwords.

I’m crap at short stories so it isn’t easy and it isn’t necessarily going to help sell my book, which is rather better, I hope.  Even so… it will be interesting to see what happens.

As always, I’ll keep you posted.

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Filed under audio publishing, General Wittering, Marketing Ideas, Useful Resources