As audiobook sales continue to grow, so too do the platforms for sales and marketing. But how do you actually sell audiobooks? And how do you know what marketing opportunities are boom and what are bust?
Join Sacha Black and Adam Croft as they discuss the different platforms for audiobook sales and the ever-growing marketing opportunities for both your fiction and nonfiction audiobooks.
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About the Hosts
Sacha Black is a bestselling and competition-winning author. She writes the popular YA Fantasy Eden East novels and a series of non-fiction books that are designed to help writers develop their craft. Sacha has been a long-time resident writing coach for website Writers Helping Writers. She is also a developmental editor, wife and mum.
With almost two million books sold to date, Adam Croft is one of the most successful independently published authors in the world and one of the biggest selling authors of the past few years, having sold books in over 120 different countries. In February 2017, Only The Truth became a worldwide bestseller, reaching storewide number one at both Amazon US and Amazon UK, making it the bestselling book in the world at that moment in time. The same day, Amazon’s overall Author Rankings placed Adam as the world’s most widely read author, with J.K. Rowling in second place. In March 2018, Adam was conferred as an Honorary Doctor of Arts, the highest academic qualification in the UK, by the University of Bedfordshire in recognition of his services to literature. Visit his website, The Indie Author Mindset, or find him on Twitter.
Read the Transcript
Sasha Black: Hello, everybody and welcome to the Alliance of Independent Authors: self publishing fiction and nonfiction podcast with me, Sasha Black and you Adam Croft. Hello, everyone.
Adam Croft: Yes. Hello, hello.
Sasha Black: And so, this evening, Adam and I are going to be talking about audiobooks, aren’t we Adam?
Adam Croft: We are. Yes, yeah, we’ve been putting our heads together and coming up with some of our tips and tricks from both sides of things, fiction and nonfiction. So, fingers crossed, some of it will actually be useful.
Sasha Black: And just before we start, how many audiobooks do you have published now?
Adam Croft: Good question. You didn’t ask me to prepare that did you?
Sasha Black: I like to keep you on your toes.
Adam Croft: It’s probably somewhere between 15 and 20. I think.
Sasha Black: And you’ve, you’ve created those in a mixture of ways haven’t you?
Adam Croft: I have yeah. I’ve narrated some myself. I’ve gone direct with others as well, gradually going through the process of taking them wide, the vast majority of them now are, and yet we’re going to talk about that as well. And the benefits or drawbacks of going wide with your audio too, because the market is opened up a lot in the last year or so.
Marketing and Royalties
Sasha Black: It really has. So, I don’t have any audio books published, but I am narrating my own. So, I am very keen to pick your brains and see how I can market them. So, let’s start with the basics. What are the creation options for audiobooks?
Adam Croft: In short, you’re looking at either going direct to Amazon audible through their ACX platform or going wide via Findaway Voices.
Sasha Black: Are these publishing or creation options?
Adam Croft: Sorry?
Sasha Black: Are these publishing or creation options?
Adam Croft: Essentially both, in terms of creation and I guess you’re asking whether you do it yourself and whether you are hiring a narrator, and then how that arrangement works with the narrator, There’s a there’s a couple ways of doing it, you can do them yourself, that does lend authenticity, it’s definitely worth doing. If you have, for example, narrative nonfiction, and how to nonfiction, it really does need to come from the voice of the person. Fiction is different, it requires some quite delicate acting skills, is not fun to do. I can tell you that much. It’s an enormous amount of hard work. And if it’s something you fancy doing yourself, I’ll say by all means try it, but don’t expect it to necessarily turn out as well as you think it will. So for fiction, I would say hire a narrator. Nonfiction, consider doing it yourself. Obviously, if you do it yourself, you need the right equipment that is a whole different ball game altogether. You can get quite technical and easily do an hour show just on that. But if you’re using the narrator, traditionally when you go through ACX you have the option of either paying somebody outright to create the audio book and then you keep the royalties, or you can do a royalty share in which you don’t pay anybody up front and the two of you share the royalties on the split.
Sasha Black: A couple of things that I will just throw in here are a couple of really good resources that I found if you do want to create your own audio books. So, the first one is narrated by the author, which is both an audio book and a paperback and ebook, which is written by Renee Conoulty. Another one is storyteller by Lauralye King, and I believe there is another name on that one, but I can’t quite remember it. And the last one is called writing for audio first, for rhythm and flow by one of our Alli members, Jules Horn. So, if you haven’t got any of those resources and you are interested in generating your own audiobooks, I highly recommend those.
Adam Croft: As always saying you can pay somebody up front for your audio you can do a royalty share where you split the, the royalties and even if you go if you go direct and you pay out your, your narrator up front, you also have the option of being direct and exclusive with ACX and getting a higher royalty rate or a lower royalty rate awesome 40 to 25% if you don’t want to be exclusive with ACX, if you take the exclusivity box, you’re locked in for seven years, technically, although after one year. If you ask nicely, they might let you out before one year they just won’t and they do have the right to lock you in for seven years.
Sasha Black: And I suppose there’s payout clauses as well if you have done royalty shares and if,
Adam Croft: Yeah, if you’ve done a royalty share, you need to sort out with your with your narrator outside of ACX if you want to buy them out at a later date. I have done that again and the narrator can say no, if the book is doing really well on royalty share and they know they’re gonna make more money that way. They can say no, they can hold you in for the full seven years and there’s not really a whole lot you can you can do about that you have to sort of outside of ACX and in both parties let ACX know that you’ve come to an agreement, and that you’re happy to null and void, the royalty share. Sorry, my voice is going today.
Sasha Black: And, and I think there’s something to be said that about the fact that, you know, in seven years if we look back seven years or so, if we look back 12 years that, you know, the iPhone hadn’t even been invented, let alone all of the changes that we’ve had in the indie world. So, locking yourself in for seven years is a big, big consideration. And, you know, we are probably quite biased about being wide I would say,
Adam Croft: Yeah, yeah, I mean, I was just gonna say Adrian Hobart is a comment in the feed and I know Adrian, he actually does my audio books for my books. And he quite rightly says that he now offering royalty share plus, which is some upfront cost and also royalty, as in the rate I think find the ways got a similar system in place. And something else you can also do is set it up as a, your own production on ACX and sort something outside of ACX with the narrator. So have your own contract in place for an arrangement that suits you. The financials can be sorted out outside, and then the files uploaded later.
Sasha Black: Yeah, make sure you’re very clear about who owns copyright, and who, you know, the copyright and the IP because the terms and conditions are really important. I know I’m not the best person at reading terms and conditions, but I do try these days. Yeah. So, shall we, we’ve, we’ve kind of talked about the publishing options as well. So, should we move more into the marketing now let’s say we have an audio book completed because we can’t go into the detail of mastering and editing and all that stuff here. How can we actually market this audiobook there aren’t as obvious platforms you know at the moment for advertising as there are just for paperbacks and ebooks so, so how do we publish and market them.
Adam Croft: If you are only through ACX, then you are really, quite limited. And I’m not saying that as somebody who advocates going wide it’s just a fact there’s not a whole lot you can do, because you cannot amend your price. There aren’t any real direct marketing opportunities, I guess you can do the usual Facebook ads and things like that. You can market to your existing readers, those kind of traditional methods, if you are wide, and if example you use Findaway Voices they have just a day in fact, a few hours ago announced the new promotions dashboard, which you can use to apply for promotions at any time for upcoming stuff they have going on throughout the year. And you also have access to Chirp, which is one of the retailers that Findaway Voices distributes to ship is owned by BookBub. And this is actually pretty crucial. If you’re wide, then Chirp can be the real difference is something you can really take advantage of. They run deals a little bit like BookBub feature deals, but they last a lot longer. They last for about a month, and they’re featured in their emails, I think for a few days. And that can shift a large number of units. It involves, of course, because it’s BookBub discounting your book pretty heavily the audio book, but is it’s definitely worth it. I’ve had a couple of these now I’ve been using it while it’s been in its testing period. And that is is very useful indeed. Especially when it’s combined with something else and this is another BookBub product. And they are focusing heavily on audio at the moment and they are actually pulling that side of the industry apart and really opening it up. So, it’s very exciting. It’s something else I’ve been testing for a month or two now. It’s audio ads, BookBub audio ads, and this is something with their opening up shortly. BookBub has an audience of about 1 million audio customers. This is based on their customer database and people that they know listen to audio books because they bought books from Chirp, which is BookBubs audio arm before any ads that you set out or sets up just like BookBub ads in the exact same dashboard. And they go directly to Chirp as the retailer, which is why you need to be wide and why ideally, these be three finally voices. So, you need to be wide to take advantage of that.
The crucial bit because Chirp is a BookBub product BookBub have all the data they know who clicks the ads, and they know whether they go on to buy the audio so right from AD to purchase completion, that whole process they own. And I have it on authority from them, they’re going to add to the advertising dashboard in the near future and that opens up that information so you’ll be able to log into BookBub you can see your BookBub and your Chirp ads, you can see what you spent on the ads and the exactly how much profit they made. You can see how many sales have resulted directly from those ads. And that’s information that authors don’t get from anywhere else. Even AMS doesn’t get that precise. That just gives you a equals, which is a kind of a rough idea. You don’t really know what’s paperback what’s ebook. What’s Kindle sale, what’s you know, k u is not included? So there’s no other dashboard or platform that gives you that kind of data. One thing I would say, at this early stage, the audience is don’t seem to last very long. They can quite quickly burn out much the same as book bubs. ebook ads can as well so they are things to watch out for. I would say.
Sasha Black: I can. So, I was trying to actually butt in,
Adam Croft: That’s why I kicked you out.
Sasha Black: Yeah, I know. So, so typical, I think so what I was trying to butt in was and say let’s talk pricing. You’ve said that obviously you have to discount. Now when you discount for a book BookBub deal. Usually it’s two 99 cents or two free. And yes, you can do 199 and 299. But typically I tend to see a pattern of traditional publishers doing that and you tend to get a better return, I think, from the ones that I’ve done at that the lower prices. So obviously audiobooks are higher priced naturally. So, what kind of discounts are we talking about here? Just I know obviously, each book is different, but give me a gauge and estimate.
Adam Croft: Well I have only done two of them. So but from memory, free isn’t an option, but the prices are tiered at 99 cents 199, 299,399,499 I think it might go up to so heavily discounted, free not an option presumably because audio has enormous delivery costs and data associations and costs associated with it. But I’ve had a couple ads, I think they were both at 99 cents and they were shifting hundreds of copies a day. So, we’re looking at, it’s well worth doing in its testing phase Chirp featured deals if you like, our free as well. So, there’s ,there’s nothing to lose to be honest with you the sales and the revenues jumps massively with, with both of the ones that I did.
Teaser of next book or first chapter of next book
Sasha Black: And are you seeing read through and from that to your other books and because obviously you have to upload the audiobook, specifically to chat. Do you also add in a little extra so you know how sometimes you’ll do a deal. And you’ll upload a book that will say, okay, it’s got it, you’ve got a pre order for your next one. Do you add in a little thing at the back of the audio to say, read my next book or something like that? How does that work?
Adam Croft: Yeah, I mean, you don’t upload them directly to Chirp. They take the Findaway feed. But the pricing when you have a Chirp deal is only up updated at Chirp so organized that for you with Findaway she don’t need to remember to drop your price like you do with the BookBub. They’ve had a lot of that side of things for you. As soon as you’re accepted, you basically done your bit. So you don’t have to worry about that I do at the back of all of my books have a sample chapter, normally the first chapter from the next book, and I mentioned that it’s available at the usual audio retailers and that they can go and get that now. So yeah, just a little teaser for the next one is normally what I have.
Sasha Black: Awesome. And let’s talk about Kobo for a minute because I hear whispers that Kobe might be adding audio to their promotions tab which,which would make sense because am I right in thinking may they have a platform now?
Adam Croft: Yeah, you can put your audio up directly with Kobo. So that’s the other one that I would recommend going direct to, you know, if you want to go wide and like know the way the industry is being blown open at the moment. I wouldn’t recommend it. For example, audible is not my biggest audio retailer anymore. It’s now fourth. So there are three audio retailers for me at the moment than audible. I’m not the only person saying that either. There’s a lot of authors that I speak to who are seeing the same, especially with all of the efforts you can put into to marketing wide audio. And it’s well worth doing that now, you know, while it’s a, you know, much smaller pond to be a big fish in. Can’t remember what the question was there.
Sasha Black: Neither can I. So, let’s just move on.
Adam Croft : Kobo promotions.
Sasha Black: Yeah, yes.
Adam Croft: Yeah, I hear on the grapevine. That that is something that’s, that’s happening. It’s no real surprise that Kobo were at the forefront of these things again, then the first ones out the starting blocks. So yeah, that would definitely be very exciting, if that, if that comes to fruition.
Sasha Adam: So next question, which I also didn’t give you in advance, and libraries, how do you get your audio book into libraries?
Adam Croft: Largely overdrive that’s the primary outlet distributor for libraries there are some others as well Findaway to be honest takes care of most of those that are there things I think Biblioteca I don’t know if that’s linked with libraries there are a few others it depends on the country to be honest some of them are more US focus on war Canada or some are more UK
but to be honest, having them distributed through Findaway is very handy.
I would say still go through ACX because you can have much more control over the Amazon side of things there. And I believe you get a slightly higher royalty as well.
Sasha Black: Okay. So, let’s talk about other marketing tips, tricks, hacks, for promotion. So, first things first, all books be it to audio paperback or ebook need some kind of social proof? How on earth do you get social proof and reviews for an audiobook?
Adam Croft: Asking nicely really much the same way as you do with, with the others I mean personally I don’t tend to seek out reviews much as I did purely because it is such a time drain they do kind of occur naturally obviously slower if you’re not deliberately asking and asking
you can give out free codes for audiobooks ACX do this as well if you distribute your book through them
Sasha Black: I think book funnel do too don’t they? They have some mechanism now for that. Adam Croft: Yep. And I books as well iTunes. You can I mean even for your ebooks it’s worth mentioning here as well you can log into iTunes Connect, and you’ve got free codes to give out ebooks there as well something I don’t advertise very heavily.
Sasha Black: I didn’t know that either.
Adam Croft: No, no, it’s one of these things I iTunes and I books of Apple books as they are now I’ve got quite a lot of nifty little things that they just don’t advertise and don’t push.
Sasha Black: I’m like looking for a pen. Mental note, mental note. Listen up, everybody.
Adam Croft: Yeah. So yeah, it’s much, much the same as you would with ebooks and paperbacks running.
Sasha Black: And what about how useful do you think being a being a guest on podcast is for this? Because obviously audio must audio listeners must like audio. So, what about those kinds of avenues for promoting your audiobooks?
Adam Croft: Yeah, well, it stands to reason that if you listen to things, you listen to things, I guess so yeah, it’s, it’s always worth doing that. If there are podcasts in that niche or you know, the area you’re writing about something which is a lot easier with nonfiction, especially with how to nonfiction I guess, any industry or any kind of niche in that sense. It’s got its it’s got its podcasts and shows that you can go on, perhaps a bit trickier for fiction, although there are some podcasts out there that do focus on fiction. I know because I present one but it’s not something that I’ve done for my fiction, my nonfiction books and courses I, I do regularly frequent podcasts such as your wonderful one as well. So, yeah, it’s a, it’s well worth doing, I would say, particularly if you if you’re writing nonfiction, and that they’re good fun as well, you know, it’s the other side of being an author that you don’t get to explore very often, which is doing this kind of media facing thing and getting to put that face on for half an hour.
Sasha Black: And there were, there was something there that you triggered. And I know that ACX and it enables you to add a PDF. So, in nonfiction, if you have a lot of graphics, graphs, tables, appendences, you can pull them all out in order to make the audio nice and listenable. And you can add them into a resource download, and you can upload that to ACX. And likewise, if in your fiction, you have maps, perhaps or glossaries that you don’t want to include, then you can also upload that PDF type of document into the same.What is it? I don’t know what it’s called it. So, I know that you have the ability to do anyway.
Adam Croft: You can. But I would suggest there might be a better way of doing that,
Sasha Black: Is this mailing list related?
Adam Croft: Yep. Yeah, you guessed it, yeah. direct them not to audible or wherever to download the resource pack, but direct them to a landing page on your website where they can enter their email address, get that resource pack and more, and you’ve got them on the mailing list, then as well, I would, I would suggest that’s probably a wiser way of doing it rather than kind of keeping them in that Amazon ecosystem to get them on your list at the same time, and then you can push future all the books and products to them as well.
Sasha Black: So, there’s a couple of other things I wanted to just throw in there as ideas and tips and tricks. So, most of us by now, hopefully have a mailing list and if you have a mailing list, hopefully you also have an autoresponder sequence or also known as an onboarding sequence. Now when we produce a new paperback or ebook quite often we will update our autoresponder sequence. But I heard somebody else talking about this and thought it was a brilliant idea. Why not update it when when you also release an audiobook. Obviously one thing that we do as a, an enticement to get readers onto our mailing list is giveaway freebies, reader, magnets, whatever you want to call them. Well, because we own the IP and the copyrights to our audio, we can also do the same thing with our audio books, be it a one chapter sample, or a short story perhaps that’s set in the world of your fiction, whatever you want to do, and if it is short, and, and you’ve had your audiobook narrated by somebody else, there’s no reason why if it’s just short, you can’t record it yourself. And like we mentioned earlier book funnel is a great distribution mechanism for you guys to that. So that was just one thing I wanted to add. We’ve got about 10 just under 10 minutes left. So, hit me with your best narration tips. I know you said you don’t read it for fiction. But hit me with some narration tips.
Adam Croft: Honestly get in touch with Adrian Hobart is my best narration tip. Yeah, it is not fun if it’s not something you’ve done before, is a lot of very, very hard work and it can take eight to 10 hours of work per finished hour of audio and you know yourself from having done it. There’s a lot of pickups and edits and changes and things and that’s just while the narrator’s in the studio. If you’re editing as well, it can get very laborious there’s really no economy in it. So be honest. By the time you’ve bought the right equipment, which you will need because there are some very, very stringent guidelines you need to meet with ACX. You need to know audio processing and editing and you know how to make sure that sound floors and room tone and decibels are right, so it’s yeah my biggest tip would be don’t. But what I am going to do is let you know a big tip that I do have which actually merges BookBub and audio again, doesn’t mean you need to go wide in fact it’s this one is slightly better if you are exclusive to ACX almost twice as good. In fact, if you get a BookBub featured deal, I would recommend trying to get one on a book you have audio for and a book which is preferable as long as possible so box is ideal, and preferably also a free one reason being, if you have the audio book live as well. Then you’ll notice on a day you have your BookBub featured deal a massive increase in audio sales. reason for this is a lot of people add on the whisper sink, add on so for example, you’ll notice sometimes when you buy Kindle book, it will say add on the audible narration for 2,3,4 dollars. This is something a lot of audiobook listeners use as a bit of a hack to get very cheap audio books. When they’ve used up their audible credits for the month, they will find free and cheap books for you know next to nothing and then add on the duration for 2,3,4 dollars rather than paying $20 for it. And the last couple of times I’ve had a free book about feature deal on a free book. I’ve made a day one profit on audio alone. This is without sale through this is just the book that has been on the free featured deal has been more than paid for by whisper sync add on’s for audio. So that’s a big tip. That’s well worth doing. Of course, it does rely on you getting a BookBub feature deal. That’s not something you can control. But just bear that in mind when you’re thinking about which book to put forward. Shine. Make sure it’s one you’ve got audio for first where whisper sync is active and working. And to really maximize on that, make it a box set. So, it’s more attractive for audio listeners. And make it a free one as well. So you’re maximizing the number of people who are hitting that.
Sasha Black: Amazing. That is a good tip. The hardest bit, it’s actually getting the deal.
Adam Croft: It is Yeah. But once, once you once you’ve got that, once you’ve done the bit, that’s totally out of your control.
Sasha Black: Yeah.
Adam Croft: That’s a good tip. And it can really make some,some very good money actually. So that’s, that’s one way of kind of rinsing a BookBub feature deal, if you like, which, you know, it is getting a bit trickier to turn a profit from those. But that is a very handy way of doing so.
Amazing. Well, I think that brings us to the end of all of our points that we wanted to cover. If you got any other tips or tricks up your sleeve?
Adam Croft: I don’t think so. No, I’ll say I have completely emptied my, my box of tricks there with that one.
Sasha Black: Okay, well thank you very much for listening to the alliance of independent authors, self publishing fiction and nonfiction salon I salon. I was Sasha back and he was Adam Croft.