Monday, January 27, 2014

My Next Adventure: Creating an Audiobook

A few years ago, I made a personal challenge to read 100 books in 12 months.  I succeeded, but only because I added audiobooks to my bookshelves.  I was driving around a lot in those days, going to doctor appointments and physical therapy, and figured listening to a book during my travels would boost the number of books I'd read.  It turned out to be addictive.  I always have a book on my iPhone to plug into when I'm taking a long trip, working out, cooking, or doing house and garden work.  I'll even listen to a story when floating in my pool or lounging on the beach.  Most times are a good time to listen to a great read, and it beats channel surfing on the radio.  

So, it is with great pleasure that I embark on my next adventure in publishing: creating an audiobook of Blue Hydrangeas with actor Elinor Bell and ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange, an Amazon company.)  ACX is a marketplace where professional authors, agents, publishers, and other rights holders can connect with professional narrators, engineers, recording studios, and other producers capable of producing a finished audiobook, as well as with audiobook publishers. With ACX, I am in control of my project, choosing my producer/narrator, the time frame for the project, where it will be sold, even the royalty structure.

More than twenty producers/narrators auditioned for Blue Hydrangeas.  I chose Elinor Bell because of her professional approach to the audition and because I liked her voice and the way she read the sample script.  I was looking for a mature reader, without any regional accent, and someone who appreciated the story of Jack and Sara.  Elinor met all of my criteria and more.  We had a lovely discussion on the phone to finalize details of our contract and I learned she has first-hand knowledge of dementia as her mother suffered with it.  She also loved the book, which is very important to me as the author. Elinor has extensive experience on stage, in film, and in commercials, voiceover, and audiobook narration.  She also swims and sings (mezzo soprano), which are talents I greatly admire. 

Production has started and I am waiting for Elinor to deliver the first fifteen minutes of the book, which should be a good indicator of what I can expect for the remainder.  We will work closely together throughout the process, communicating chapter to chapter, with her recording and me reviewing and revising as we move along.  Our goal is to finish within sixty days. 

Once complete, the audiobook will be available for digital download on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes.  I chose an exclusive distribution option, which guarantees the book will be for sale on these three sites at a minimum, as opposed to the non-exclusive distribution option, where I would be able to distribute the audiobook to any additional retailers, in digital and/or physical format, on my own.  Since these three leading digital retailers reach the vast majority of audiobook buyers, I felt comfortable going the exclusive route.

I will write about this project as it progresses.  Please follow this adventure in publishing.  Sign up to receive emails on blog updates or join my mailing list by emailing

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Join Me in The Mad Reviewer Read and Review Challenge

I've heard it hundreds of times: If you want to be a great writer you must be a great reader.  

I've always been an avid reader, often jockeying 3-4 titles at the same time, so this year I accepted a challenge from The Mad Reviewer, a book reviewing blog, to read and review a minimum of 26 titles. This makes me a Slightly Sane Reviewer, as opposed to a Crazy Reviewer, who takes on 52 titles, or a Mad Reviewer who tackles 104.  If you're concerned about time constraints and commitments but still want to get in the game, you can be a Sane Reviewer and sign on for just 12 books.  I settled on 26 to give myself a little wiggle room, because I'll also be writing my own novel and revising another and may not have time to read more. The reviews can be posted on the venue of my choice, i.e. my blog, Amazon, Goodreads, Library Thing, iBooks, Nook, or wherever else I choose to post. At the end of the year, if I meet my goal I'll be entered into a drawing to win some great prizes (more books!) 

Care to join me?  Serving as a reviewer is an excellent way to learn about the structure of a novel, how story works (or doesn't), and hone your own writing skills.  And don't worry - you don't have to be especially bookish to comment on an author's work. All we're looking for is your honest opinion, praise when deserved, and criticism when needed.  All we ask for is some kindness because we have feelings, too.  You'll also be helping fellow readers, because they appreciate reviews that steer them to books they'll enjoy, which helps them to use their reading hours wisely and productively. 

My first review is up, Tara R. Alemany's,  "The Best is Yet to Come."  You can follow my progress here, under the "What I'm Reading" tab.  Let me know if you've also accepted the challenge.  I'd like to follow your reviews, too.  Happy reading and reviewing!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Why I Give Away My Books - Get One Now

On a Sunday morning, while nursing a cup of coffee  and reading the newspaper, I turned to one of my favorite pages – the books page – and perused the list of that week's bestselling fiction authors.  I sighed.  No surprises.  I saw only one author I had not read, and she's on my to-be-read list for this year. 
"Listen," I said to my husband, who is definitely not a book reader.  "I'm going to read you the names of the authors of the top ten bestselling books.  Stop me if I mention someone you've never heard of."  I read the names: James Patterson, John Grisham, Mitch Albom, Tom Clancy, and a few more, all big-time authors with huge followings.  I came to Donna Tartt, author of The Goldfinch.  
"Stop," he said.  “I don't know that one."
 Neither did I, until the book became a bestseller and is now on everyone's list. 
I finished my recitation and he said," "I know all those names even though I've never read any of their books."
Interesting, I thought, that someone who is not a lover of books can listen to this list and be familiar with 90 percent of the names.  This is because the bestseller lists include the usual heavy hitters who are sure to strike gold with every book they write, many of them “celebrity” authors.  I wonder if any of them had to give away their books to potential readers in order to gain recognition. 

People ask me, "Why do you give your book away?"  I've done a few free Kindle promotions for my debut novel, Blue Hydrangeas, you see, and given away thousands of books.  It seems dumb and a sure fire way to complete failure, but there's a method to this madness.
The two major reasons for doing a giveaway are reviews and rank.  Readers are more willing to take a chance on an unknown author if it doesn’t cost them anything, and if they love the book authors hope they'll take the time to write a review on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, their blog, or whatever website led them to the book.  Perhaps they’ll tweet about it or post their thoughts on Facebook.  Favorable reviews might help the next potential reader decide to purchase the book, and slowly the author develops a following.
As the number of sales climbs, so does the author’s rank in the bookseller’s most wanted list.  The higher the rank, the more attention paid to the book (similar to how the bestseller lists work - everyone wants in on the winner), leading to more sales, more reviews, and even more royalties. 
So, when I see an opportunity to get my books into the hands of readers - even if I have to give it to them for free - I don’t walk away if it seems like a winning proposition.  That’s why my book is currently available free on Story Cartel through January 18th.  All I ask is that you please give it a fair review on the venue of your choice. 
For book lovers, Story Cartel is “a resource to discover great books and fresh authors; for authors, it's a platform to build deeper relationships with readers.”  Books in twenty genres, including romance, mysteries and thrillers, literary fiction, and non-fiction, are available.  Both traditional and self-published authors participate, including New York Times bestselling authors.  Simply sign up for an account and each week you’ll receive an email with that week’s offerings.  Choose the book (or books) you want, download them, and start reading on your Kindle, iPad, or other reading device. 
According to their website, “Since October 2012, 16,400 people have downloaded 37,000 books, helping over 500 authors get reviews on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, and blogs.”  It’s a win-win for all of us book people. 
Promotions such as this allow authors to create an audience, to start a buzz, to get in the game. 
Readers benefit, too.  You may discover a book or a new writer that you love; expand your reading selection; investigate new genres; and grow beyond your own literary boundaries at no personal expense, other than the time it takes to read the book and put together a few lines (or more!) about what it meant to you and why you liked it. 
What if you didn’t like it?  Write about that, too, letting the author know why it didn’t appeal to you, or explain that something about it just doesn’t work.  Negative reviews can be helpful (once the sting has passed) in showing the author where he or she went wrong, messed up, lost the plot, ruined the character, or screwed up the ending. 
Of course, if you choose not to write a review, no hard feelings.  You don’t have to, but it’s a nice way to say thanks for the free book.
Imagine this: by taking advantage of a free read and then writing your own few words about it, you could help develop a new name on the bestseller lists.  Shouldn’t there be room for more names, some unrecognizable to the nonreader, the casual reader, even the well-read reader?  This is how literature thrives.  We can all be a part of it. 
Learn more about Story Cartel here.  Download your free copy of Blue Hydrangeas here.