"Roundheads and Ramblings"
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"Roundheads and Ramblings"

audio books

Will Audio Books Work in Your Market?

I've been noticing a heavy push toward audiobooks on various writing blogs lately.  I have no idea why it is suddenly "THE THING TO DO," but before too many of you run off to find the nearest microphone, let me tell you about my own experience.

Ugh! I've tried using audio books as a marketing plan, too, and it was a spectacular failure.  I chose to try out this format on my best-selling book, Beyond All Price. My choice of a production company was ACX, the Amazon affiliate, because they handle the contracts between author and narrator and do all the final formatting. I got to audition several possible readers and selected a talented and experienced woman who seemed to be a perfect fit. She agreed to do the job on the basis of a 50/50 royalty split. If I had had to pay her on an hourly basis, the cost would have run into several thousand dollars.
 
Too late, I learned that royalty splits are a bad idea because the narrator does not have any immediate hope of getting paid. As a result, the project goes to the bottom of her list of priorities.This project stretched out for over nine months because the narrator had other paying gigs and concerts (she was also a professional singer) that took up her time. The whole thing was easy for me, but I, too, found myself losing some of my enthusiasm as time passed.
 
All I had to do was listen to the tapes at the end to make sure there were no obvious errors, and I think we ended up with a great product. However, it simply has not sold. My readers are not the kind of folks who listen to audio books, apparently.  They don't drive cross-country, or go to the gym or do other mindless things that would give then the time to listen. If they travel by car, they also have a spouse and children who aren't interested in historical biographies. (Beyond All Price runs for over 13 hours.)
 
ACX sent the narrator and me 75 code numbers apiece; those numbers could be exchanged for free copies. The idea was to distribute them to our friends so they would write reviews for the website. I soon learned that I couldn't give the audio versions away, even by running contests.  I still have over 50 left.  My narrator had the same problem. And then we realized that we would receive no royalties on those give-away copies.  So we had exhausted our small supply of readers by giving the product away.  The result after six months of publication? There are exactly 18 copies in circulation beyond those we gave away, and the narrator and I have each received payments of approximately $50.00 total.  I feel really bad for the narrator because she did all that work for free. At least I only spent a few hours on the project. But I'll never do another one. 
 
Maybe it's a great idea and I just did a lousy job of marketing. Maybe I don't really believe in audio books (I've never purchased or listened to one), and if you don't believe in something, you can't sell it. Maybe I'm just an old fuddy-duddy who's stuck in a rut, but I've gone back to writing the next book, where I know what I'm doing. 

Lesson learned:

Once again, you have to know a lot about the people in your audience before you can decide on the best way to reach them.

Good Idea Gone Awry: Audio Books



Ugh! I've tried this one, too, and it's a spectacular failure.  I chose to try out this format on my best-selling book, Beyond All Price. My choice of a production company was ACX, the Amazon affiliate, because they handle the contracts between author and narrator and do all the final formatting. I got to audition several possible readers and selected a talented and experienced woman who seemed to be a perfect fit. And she agreed to do the job on the basis of a 50/50 royalty split. If I had had to pay her on an hourly basis, the cost would have run into several thousand dollars. The project stretched out for over nine months because the narrator had other paying gigs and concerts (she was also a professional singer) that took up her time. The whole thing was easy for me.  All I had to do was listen to the tapes at the end to make sure there were no obvious errors, and I think we ended up with a great product.

However, it simply has not sold. My readers are not the kind of folks who listen to audio books, apparently.  They don't drive cross-country, or go to the gym or do other mindless things that would give then the time to listen. If they travel by car, they also have a spouse and children who aren't interested in historical biographies. (Beyond All Price runs for over 13 hours.)

ACX sent the narrator and me 75 code numbers apiece; those numbers could be exchanged for free copies. The idea was to distribute them to our friends so they would write reviews for the website. I soon learned that I couldn't give the audio versions away, even by running contests and stuff.  I still have over 50 left.  My narrator had the same problem. And then we realized that we would receive no royalties on those give-away copies.  So we were exhausting our small readership by giving the product away.  The result after six months of publication? There are exactly 16 copies in circulation, and the narrator and I have each received payments of approximately $50.00 total.  I feel really bad for the narrator because she did all that work for free. At least I only spent a few hours on the project. But I'll never do another one. 

Maybe it's a great idea and I just did a lousy job of marketing. Maybe I don't really believe in audio books (I've never purchased or listened to one), and if you don't believe in something, you can't sell it. Maybe I'm just an old fuddy-duddy who's stuck in a rut, but I've gone back to writing the next book, where I know what I'm doing. 

Which Would You Prefer -- Reading or Listening?


I've never used audiobooks.  Curling up with a book has always been my greatest pleasure. The printed word -- whether on paper or electronic screen -- is my catnip. So I was first surprised, and then utterly delighted, to listen to my own book being read by a talented voice-over artist. Suddenly I was hearing things in the story that I had forgotten.  The characters were speaking directly to me. Their emotions became mine. 

I loved it, and not just because I was listening to my own book.  The sensation of listening to a story takes me back to my own childhood. The first book I remember hearing was (naturally) a cat story called "What about Whiskers?", and I still have it somewhere. But reading it now, while fun, is no match for hearing my mother's voice reading the story to me. Maybe that's why I'm so pleased with this new release.



Here's  the audio version of Beyond All Price, originally published in 2010. This biographical novel is based on the life of Nellie M. Chase, who served with the Roundhead Regiment as their matron and nurse during 1862. Readers met Nellie for the first time in A Scratch with the Rebels. Now Nellie gets to tell her own story -- how she came to the Roundheads, and what happened to her after the Battle of Secessionville.

The audio version was produced by ACX, the audio branch of Amazon, and is available through several channels: Amazon, Audible.com, and  Apple iTunes.  The book's narrator and producer, Adrianne Price, is a multi-talented voice-over artist. Here's a small sample as she reads a confrontation between Nellie and a wise old slave woman from Beaufort, South Carolina, about the dangers of running away from one's troubles.


You need Flash Player in order to view this.

Want to hear more? Just click on the album cover above to download your own copy.







A Second Look (and a Listen) at "Beyond All Price"

I've been absent and preocupied with one of my own books ever since last Thursday. That's when the audio files arrived for our upcoming audiobook edition of Beyond All Price. The narrator had finished recording and editing all 122,000 words and 14 hours of the original book.  Now it was my turn to read it carefully -- word for word -- and look for any errors, omissions, or extraneous sounds. What a different experience it turned out to be!

I've never used audio books -- my eyesight is better than my hearing -- so it had never occurred to me to do so. But I was impressed. The narrator, Adrianne Price, is an accomplished voice-over actress, and she managed to make each of the characters come alive.  She even managed a very believable cat.  When she meowed in one scene, my office cat raised his head and started looking around for an interloper.

I still don't know when the book will be ready to go on sale, but it will be available soon on audible.com, Amazon's Audiobooks, and iTunes. We'll keep you posted. But in the meantime, you might drop around to the landing page of this website and register to win one of the free copies of the new audiobook that I will receive at publication. 

Here's a small sample of what  you'll be hearing:


Nellie and Bessie the Cook
A small taste of their conversation about how women need to behave.
You need Flash Player in order to view this.

Audio Books and Cats? Who Knew!

Cuteness Overload!

Sometimes a cat picture comes along that just blows away my determination to keep this blog devoted to serious writing and publishing tidbits.  This morning you have to meet Sami, who is helping to record "Beyond All Price" as an audio book. Really!



I showed the picture to Nutmeg, who is one of the Katzenhaus family of cats -- one who now and then sits on my lap and helps me type.  Nutmeg says she is sure that she and Sami are related. So welcome to Katzenhaus Books, Sami! You fit right in around here.