5 Ways to Expand Your Market with Free Serialized Audiobooks, by Jan Bear
Oral stoytelling is back. It lagged for a while with the rise of television, but audiobooks have gained in influence, reach and popularity.
Podiobooks.com is part of that trend, offering readers free audiobooks and authors a chance to connect with readers.
These serialized audiobooks are distributed in installments via RSS feed, much like a podcast. Readers receive a polite request for donations ("If you like it, support the author") and authors get 75 percent of the donations.
It's not a job-replacing income, but for the authors of the more than 500 books posted on the site, there's a payoff that makes the work worthwhile.
With more than 80,000 subscribers -- and more readers than that -- Podiobooks offers authors a unique opportunity to build an audience.
Here are examples of five authors whose serialized audiobooks have opened doors for them and how Podiobooks.com helped to expand the reach of their books.
1. Get a Publisher's Attention
SF thriller novelist Scott Sigler's novel EarthCore had made the rounds of the publishing establishment without much success. It was edgy, it was risky, and most publishers don't do risk.
So Scott was one of several writers who came together at the founding of Podiobooks.com and created serialized audiobooks released on a Creative Commons license. (That gives you permission to download it, share it, give it away, but don't claim to have written it or try to sell it.)
Through a combination of solid storytelling and creative promotion, Scott built a list of 20,000 subscribers slathering for the next installment. That reduced the risk for publishers (since 5,000 is a nice print run for a first-time novelist).
Scott's first book was picked up by Dragon Moon Press, whose publisher has become so confident of the value of free podcast novels that she actively encourages the practice.
But when Scott came to negotiate with a big New York publisher, Scott held out for continuing to release his books through Podiobooks. He argued that his fans would feel betrayed and revolt if he didn't. He made the case, and he is now a New York Times bestselling novelist with eight books in hardcover and 11 on Podiobooks.com.
2. Promote the Next Book
Podiobooks founder Evo Terra credits Tee Morris with the original idea that became Podiobooks. He says that Tee had a first novel in print that was past its main selling cycle with the second novel in the series due to launch. He wanted to try recording the first book to help launch the second.
The audio version of MOREVI: The Chronicles of Rafe and Askana was so successful that it persuaded his publisher, Gwen Gades of Dragon Moon Press that it was a workable model for any of her authors.
Tee has 12 books, both fiction and nonfiction, listed on Amazon.com, including his most recent, Phoenix Rising: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, through Harper Voyager.
3. Get a Screenplay Option
Matt Wallace produced a haunting and powerful story, titled The Failed Cities Monologues, in a series of different characters' voices about a city where good and evil fight to the death every day.
On the basis of that story, he got a screenplay option and went on to write an episode for a SciFi Channel television series. He's a freelance writer and a hard-edged writing teacher.
4. Part of a Wide-Ranging Creative Life
Mur Lafferty is the host of several podcasts, editor of the Escape Pod science fiction short story podcast and author of several books listed on Podiobooks, including the 2011 Parsec Award finalist Marco and the Red Granny. Mur is a Renaissance woman of the science fiction community. Aside from her novels and short fiction, she has published articles both on- and offline and written role-playing games, and she is a frequent participant in science fiction conventions.
Tom Lichtenberg writes quirky characters, strange situations and surprising insights into what makes people tick. His short novel, Time Zone, can stand beside any speculation about the effects of time travel. You can get his works for free at Podiobooks, Smashwords, and Kindle and for very low prices at Lulu.com. I don't know what his goals for his writing are, but I know that his books are available for people to read and take in his ideas, and that would not happen if they were locked in a desk drawer.
5. Build a Career as a Novelist
In an interview with podcaster Mur Lafferty, Podiobooks novelist Nathan Lowell said that he wrote his first novel, Trader Tales 1: Quarter Share, as a sort of experiment, to see if he could do it. It's the story about a young man joining the interstellar equivalent of the Merchant Marine. It's science fiction without the aliens, a mainstream story of relationships that happens to occur in outer space.
He produced an audio version for Podiobooks.com. He self-published the print and ebook versions and in four years built a job-replacing income from his prolific writing and great story-telling skills (both in the writing and behind the microphone).
He now has eight books in circulation, and five of them are still in free audio form only. In that interview with Mur Lafferty, he said that he makes more money now than he did in his job.
What about You?
Recording free serialized audiobooks is not a simple, automatic fix for book promotion. There are more success stories than I listed here, but they are the minority.
In a recent interview with Evo Terra, head of Podiobooks, I learned what makes a successful audiobook:
- Good story
- Strong visual detail
- Good dialogue
- Not too much exposition
Fiction or narrative nonfiction works better than other kinds of works. Most of the books on the site are science fiction or fantasy, because those fans are early technology adopters. If your book is mainstream or romance, for example, you may have to educate your audience how to download and enjoy your books.
But if your story can build a loyal audience, free audio fiction can propel your writing career toward your goals.
For more information about Podiobooks.com and whether it might be a good fit for your book, listen to my free interview with Evo Terra, Podiobooks.com founder. The Podiobooks author guidelines are here.
About the Author
Jan Bear helps authors rule the age of digital publishing. New media, new ways of communicating, and new marketing methods make it possible to get your book into the hands of your ideal audience. At MarketYourBookBlog.com she explores authors' strategies and opportunities in the wake of the digital publishing revolution.