Book narration and voice work | Books & Beer

New ways to get naked by Daniela Vladimirova

New ways to get naked by Daniela Vladimirova

Professional narrators Chris Snelgrove (Darkfire Productions) &  Veronica Giguere (Voices by Veronica) discuss the challenges authors and publishers face when creating their own audio books on this episode of The Books & Beer Hangout. Narrating audio books is becoming an increasingly popular option for indie authors and publishers large and small. Here are some of the juicy nuggets and choice bits you’ll takeaway from the show: 

  • How to use narration to get a tighter, better edited book
  • How audio requires additional edits to existing books
  • The difference between narrating a book and telling a great story
  • What types of books work best in audio
  • What POV works best in audio
  • What you need to make the right recording environment
  • How to use your body to enhance your voice
  • How to eliminate page noises
  • Dealing with multiple character voices that stay true to the book
  • Tips to help communicate the style of voice you want to your narrator
  • Budgeting to have a pro narrate your audio book

Oh, and we drank some beer! Beers! Jeff had a Green Flash Palate Wrecker. Evo had the Sheltownee Hop-a-Lot IPA. Veronica had a Sam Adams Summer Ale, and Chris drank root beer. Hey, at least it’s “beer”.

Want to hear from Chris and Veronica? Check out The House of Grey and The Secret World Chronicle as good starting places. And they have much, much more.

The Books & Beer Hangout is broadcast live every Thursday night at 6P/9E as a Google+ Hangout on Air and on YouTube Live! Circle ePublish Unum on Google+ to watch live, and to join The Books & Beer Hangover right after the show to chat with hosts and participants live!

Can’t see the link above? Download the video or watch it on YouTube.


The Value of Free – Why you should give your work away

George Stares by Jeff Moriarty

George Stares by Jeff Moriarty

It may seem strange to encourage you to give your hard work away for free, but it may be the best business decision digital authors can make.

Specifically, make one version of your work available online for free, like a PDF or a serialized audio book, to reach new fans. And make sure you have plenty of fee-based editions (print, ebook, downloadable audio book) in every marketplace someone may opt to use.

Don’t laugh. It works.

“…I haven’t lost any sales, I’ve just won an audience. A tiny minority of downloaders treat the free e-book as a substitute for the printed book–those are the lost sales. But a much larger minority treat the e-book as an enticement to buy the printed book. They’re gained sales.”

Cory Doctorow, Forbes, 01 Dec 2006

Cory Doctorow, blogger and writer, talked about giving away his work to drive sales back in 2006, which is eons ago in Internet-Time. Cory made a PDF of his book “Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom” available for free online, and the resulting downloads drove a huge surge in awareness and sales of his other formats. It carried over into sales of his subsequent work, and Cory remains a huge believer in the practice.

In 2010 a New York Times article on digital publishing talked about how sales of Lauren Dane’s books “jumped exponentially” when she put a version up for free. This was a price reduction, and not an alternate format like Cory’s, but the idea remains the same.

Free versions of your work…

Generate buzz and awareness – You’ve given people something to talk about that doesn’t cost them anything. Anyone can participate. Google notices things like increased mentions, and you may find yourself showing up in more search results as your reach grows.

Make it easy to share – Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and all their friends down at Social Media Town work through sharing. A free version of your work is something that can be easily passed around through Likes, Tweets, Shares, or a million other ways people communicate. “I just read this great book, check out free right here…”

Don’t cost you anything – The writing is already done, and unless you are writing your own version of the OED, posting your free version on your website won’t kill your bandwidth costs. If you’re worried, there are places that specialize in hosting digital files with nearly-free bandwidth.

Entice new readers – As word of your work winds its way across the Internet, people who see it now have just one little click to check it out. Super simple with no purchase decision required. In one minute they can be deciding for themselves if they like you or not.

Don’t stop real customers from buying – People will pay for your other versions. People watch TV shows for free, but still buy full seasons on DVD later. People who would never buy your book anyway aren’t impacted, but others will happily convert to paying customers if they like what you have to offer.

Traditional publishers are still clueless

Cory made his move in 2006. The NY Times article was from 2010. In between (and since), countless others have done so to great succes. So why are publishers still baffled by this idea in 2012?

Evo Terra, my cohort in ePublish Unum, has been fighting this exact battle with Audible, the audiobook company. Evo runs, a site for authors to offer free, serialized audio versions of their books, and was excited to hear Audible might be embracing indie authors through their new Audiobook Creative Exchange (ACX) program. Alas, his hopes were dashed cruelly upon the stones.

It turns out that Audible is okay with multiple prices, as long as they are all above free. Even $0.01 is okay. ACX clearly does not understand the new marketplace, and it’s ridiculous.

How you can use free

It isn’t difficult, and many successful authors have been doing it for years. Here’s how you may get started:

  • Check your current agreements to make they don’t prohibit giving away free versions of different formats of your work. You can’t give away the exact same ebook for free that you’re charging for on Amazon (they don’t like that), but you can give away a different format, like a PDF or by serializing the book on a blog.
  • Develop a free version of all (or part of) your book. I recommend putting the whole thing out there, but you can try giving away a few chapters. (Check your genre first to make sure that the current bar isn’t set at “everything”.) It’s OK to change the free version in small ways, like adding an introduction that explains the book/series/idea to new readers, but many authors release the free version unchanged but just in a different format (like PDF).
  • Apply a clear Creative Commons License to your free version that makes it clear who still has the rights, and what you are allowing to be done with that version. If you want to be on the safe side, consider the  Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs license.
  • Make yourself easy to find. If you’re about to release a free version of your hard work to get in more readers (and customers!) make sure they can find you when they come looking. Are you easy to find on, or in a Google search?
  • Share the heck out of it. Put links to the free content in obvious places, then let everyone know it is out there. Encourage them to read it and share it with their friends. If you ever hear someone had trouble finding your free version go back and make it even more obvious. You want this to be something anyone can stumble upon and enjoy.
  • Make sure your for-fee version is in all the marketplaces. Some of those with raised awareness prefer the convenience of a book in their hand or mixed in with the rest of their ebook content, or easily found in the iTunes Audiobooks section. Make sure you give them a chance to give you money.

Maybe some publishers never will figure out why free can bring so much value. Perhaps it will be something they ponder as the digital world moves on without them and they can’t figure out why.

Digital Author Profile – Nathan Lowell

Image courtesy of J.R. Blackwell

It’s difficult to describe Nathan Lowell as a writer. Technically, he writes science fiction and fantasy stories, but that doesn’t quite do it justice. As an author who attributes 100% of his success to digital publishing, he’s the perfect choice for our first ever Author Profile. He began his writing career by fully embracing the cutting edge of digital publishing at the tender age of 54. Three short years later, this family man from Colorado made the transition to full-time writer status. And he’s not just getting by; he’s doubled his income from what he used to make as a PhD.

ePU – When I ask around about what makes you successful, I hear the same thing from a lot of smart and talented people. In short, they say you tell a good story. I note how they all said “tell” and not “write”. I don’t think that was by accident, and I certainly don’t see it as an insult.

NL – I think that’s pretty accurate.

“I think Nathan’s success is due to a shocking, unheard-of, inexplicable phenomenon known as “telling good story.” He’s not doing anything unique in social media. He hasn’t built up a huge audience in another medium, such as television, then leveraged that audience to sell books. He didn’t create a big, well-trafficed blog, then move into writing books.

He gave away his stories, and people liked them.

People listen and read to his books, then they want more. They buy through his series and tell other people about it.”

– Scott Sigler, New York Times best selling author

I’ve said for some time that I view myself as a story teller, not a writer. I don’t really care what words I use as long as I can tell the story. I also try to tell “different” stories. My stories are responses to what’s out there now and an explicit attempt to tell “small” stories about “real” people. I try to use the tropes in ways that make the stories unmistakable members of a particular genre, but also unmistakably “Nathan Lowell Stories.”

ePU – Your peers marvel at your ability to connect with your audience. Audience is a big word that’s not very specific. Did you have a specific audience in mind when you started, or you cultivate one along the way?

NL – The connection comes naturally. I tell stories and the intimacy of being in the listener’s head translates naturally to a connection. I make myself available and try to answer every question/comment on my blog and the blog at I think that’s important. I’m also on Twitter and regularly talk to the fans who seek me out there.

I also avoid “being everywhere.” I can’t be everywhere and provide the kind of connection that I want to have.

As for specifics, I cultivated the Podiobooks audience I started out with some explicit strategies in mind.

I think Nate’s writing style is … comforting. And what makes him powerful digitally is he seemed to know exactly how to reach his audience, the unique audience who wanted SF comfort, in the most direct way.

 – Mur Lafferty, award-winning writer and podcaster

First, “A Thousand True Fans.” I didn’t know if I could get 1000, but that was my goal. [ePU note: Nathan’s eight audio books made up 11% of the downloads at in July of 2011. The demand for his most recent book release in December of 2010 was so overwhelming that it literally crashed’s  dedicated webserver, taking the entire site offline for a week while new hardware and memory were installed. When many of those fans — who self-identify as “The Crew”, though Evo Terra prefers “Lowelleians” — learned that their insatiable appetite for the final book in one of his series crashed the site, they rushed to and poured in literally thousands of dollars in donations to help the free site recover. Yeah, you could call them “true fans”. And there’s a lot more than a thousand of them!]

Second, “Big frog, small pond.” I set out to be a significant player in a limited market. I wanted to avoid as many of the problems with obscurity as I could. By going with, I was able to see if there was an audience for my stories without having to fight for attention with a 100,000 other offerings. [ePU note: While there are nearly 550 free serialized audio books on today, there were less than 100 when Nathan released Quarter Share.]

Three, “New Content.” One thing I noticed in the marketplace in general is that new content is rare. (I’m falling down on this one at the moment by failing to produce two books a year in audio.)

He knows how to find his audience, and he knows how to keep it. That, and he tells damn good stories!

– Debora Geary, happily indie author

Four, “Specialization.” I did my homework and listened to a bunch of serialized audio books before I started my own. I made note of those features that worked for me as a listener and those that didn’t. I designed my episodes to use the features I liked and I avoided those I didn’t. For example, I specialized on the “single read” because too many people had too much trouble with variations in audio quality and performance by using extra voices.

ePU – To say you’re a prolific author is an understatement. How much of your success do you attribute to having a back-catalog?

NL – Where most people rely on building a list of readers, I concentrated on building a list of products. Because the majority of my work is in series, each book builds on the foundation of the previous. People who don’t like my work — or who grow tired of it — drop out (usually silently) while those who remain become more and more engrossed and engaged. I focused on full novel length works because that’s what I found most valuable for my own reading and I wanted to “pay it forward” as it were, by providing the longer works.

I wrote the first four books in the first year. The last four have been slower coming. They’re also longer with my most recent, Owner’s Share, coming in at just under 200K words. Prior to that is Captain’s Share with 140K. By comparison, the first book in the series, Quarter Share, has a bare 80K words.

ePU – Did you see an obvious “scale” effect at some point in your rapid-fire release schedule?

NL – My fourth book, South Coast, really kicked things up for me at That was when the subscriptions began multiplying and I was getting enough reviews to stay visible in the charts. It’s also where word of mouth about how different the books were from the rest of the offerings began to pile up. Whether it was a function of time — it took a year — or a function of the number of visible titles, I can’t really say. It *was* remarkable because it all happened in that first year.

At the risk of sounding less than humble, I did something remarkable, and people noticed — and remarked on it.

After that, each new book has gotten more and more attention. The delays between books give people chance to spread the word and to talk about the future of the series and my writing. I think that’s an important factor. While gossip travels at nearly the speed of light, word of mouth is a bit slower.

ePU – But you don’t just give away free audio books. You also sell text-based versions of your titles, those very same titles that people can hear you read them for free. Feel like sharing some numbers with us on how the eBook publishing is going so far?

Nathan didn’t even look for a publisher until after he’d written and produced more than eight books. Asking a publisher to buy your book is a lot harder than asking them to buy your series.”

– Brand Gamblin, author and vidcast creator

NL – When Ridan Publishing first released Quarter Share in print and ebook, it didn’t do much for about six months. But then the big Kindle market explosion happened in Oct/Nov 2010, with my book poised and ready. It jumped up to about #500 overall on Amazon and stayed in the top 10 in it’s genre for weeks.

Book two hit print just about the time the final book in the audio series started. It sold 3500 units in less than 10 days. It’s matched the sales numbers of book one in half the time.

Book three hit just before BaltiCon (a regional science fiction convention in Maryland) and it also exploded, shooting up to #212 on Amazon before slowly sliding back down.

Specific to ebooks, each has sold about 12,000 units and continues to sell about 40 a day, giving me a combined sales of 120 .. or $240 a day income. The ebooks are and always have been priced at $4.95.

Book four – Double Share – is due to hit this month (and might make it), and that’s the point where we expect to break into the top 100 of sales rank and begin to generate a more sustained level of sales.

I’ll keep you posted.

ePU – Do you really write every day?

NL – No. I’m a binge writer. When I’m in a writing mode, nothing else happens and I write until I drop. I’ve written as much as 20,000 words in a single day before. It’s not uncommon for me to write 10,000 words a day for days in a row.

In between, I only write blog posts, tinker with web pages, and generally let things build up in my mind until it becomes nearly unbearable and I go into binge mode again.

My family doesn’t like it when I write.


Well, maybe not. But thousands of listeners and readers certainly do. And while we can’t promise you the success Nathan has seen, we can tell you he’s not alone. Is he special? Sure he is. He’s talented, works hard to become better, and works constantly. If you’re looking for some sort of secret recipe, that’s it.

We’ve got a whole slew of authors lined up for monthly Author Profiles. Know someone we should profile? Drop us a line and tell us why you think so. And remember, we’re focused on digital publishing success stories. Hope you enjoy!

Breaking it Down – Five Phases of Digital Publishing

Dice five

Image by doug88888 via Flickr

Getting a book published wasn’t magic, but it seemed that way to many people. All you needed was to get a great idea down on paper, people would realize how amazing it was, and BAM! – it’d be in the bookstore. Well, in the last century anyway. In this century, after the BAM! it appears on Kindles and iPods, and on rather than Borders. The process has changed, but it still isn’t magic.

Unfortunately, since so many people didn’t understand how the old process worked, they’re completely stuck now that the game is changing. All the enormous opportunity out there for authors who want to become their own publishers is lost if those authors don’t know what the publishers did in the 20th Century, let alone how to evolve into the 21st. Fortunately, that process is very possible to understand. Not easy, but not impossible.

That’s the whole reason we’re here – to help you tackle the steps necessary to get your ideas out to your readers in this digital age. To do that, we need a common terminology. A way of describing the different parts of the process as we dive into them and show how they interconnect. At the highest level, we see five distinct phases.

Five Phases of Digital Publishing

Writing – Shaping your ideas, your content, and your story for the digital world. We’ll leave the basics of storytelling and character building to others, but will instead cover the early choices that might impact you later based on the mediums and tools you plan to use.

Editing – Now you have your content, how do you get it ready for the dozens of digital formats available? How will it look on different ebook readers? How could the title, cover, and even the font make a difference in how people find you and make the decision to buy what you have to offer?

Publishing – Your book is done, it’s shiny, and it’s ready to go! Now what? How do you get your work into the channels where people can read it? How will it end up on Kindles from Boise to Beijing? How should you price it? How do you protect the rights to your work before you kick your baby out of the nest?

Promoting – Now your book it out there in all its glory, and if people just had psychic powers they would know where to find it. Sadly, your readers are likely limited in paranormal ability, so you will need to get the word out the old-fashioned way. Well, the new old-fashioned way. How can the digital tools like blogs, Facebook, and Twitter help you spread the word, and build a brand for both your book and you as a digital author? What marketing and promotional tools can you you put to good use whether you’re just starting out or already established?

Interacting – In the digital world your connections with your readers are not limited to a single stop on a book tour. Fans, friends, and collaborators are going to want to keep in touch with your work both online and in the real world. How can you build a strong support base, and leverage it to help you with future work while not taking all of your time?

Five simple areas, each with a whole lot of depth. We’ll be fleshing each step out over the next few days, so please stay tuned. But if you have any questions or thoughts already, let us know!

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