Wise Ink made it to Nashville this year for the 2019 Digital Book World Conference, the premier industry event for technology in publishing. Besides making a stop to buy some cowboy boots, followed by a quick check-in at Tootsie’s to listen to a country band or two (true story—ask Alyssa about her fabulous new kicks), we also got a LOT of great information to take home to our indie authors! The conference was a great space for us to explore the unique challenges that authors face into today’s media landscape. Here are some of the things we think you should know:
It’s All about Direct Sales
We often say that being an indie author is a lot like running a small business: it requires industry knowledge, innovation, and a creative mindset. Beyond that, it also requires authors to be salespeople. We found it interesting that traditional publishers are doing what indie authors have done from day one: finding new and innovative ways to directly connect with their readership outside of traditional retail channels. For example, email marketing remains a classic and effective marketing tool for all authors and publishers, with a higher conversion rate than many other marketing methods. Besides creating and growing your own email list, now there are more resources than ever to make sure that you’re effectively connecting to your audience over email. Sites like Bookbub, Chirp, and The Fussy Librarian send book recommendations to their users via email. Readers use tools like these to find discounts and stay updated on the authors they care about. Traditional publishers are also developing direct-to-consumer marketing tools like discovery apps (the Volumes audiobook discovery app from Penguin Random House) and artificial intelligence (the Stephen King Library tool on Amazon Echo from Scribner – Simon & Schuster) to reach potential readers .
Audiobooks are the new frontier for publishers and authors. While hardcover and eBook sales are down, audiobook sales are on the rise. Audiobooks have a longer profit tail than other formats, meaning that they continue to sell consistently over a longer period of time. However, it also takes audiobooks longer than other formats to become profitable. The average traditionally published audiobook can take three years to become profitable.
Yet an audiobook, especially on the heels of other successful books in your genre, can be a great way to breathe new life into your readership. While this growing format may take longer to make a profit, it is more likely than print format or eBooks to consistently draw new audiences over time. Releasing an audiobook nine months or more after the initial publication date will give readers a new reason to pay attention to your content. It will also make your content more accessible to people who may be too busy to read your book in print format.
While it may not seem difficult to record your own audiobook, big name publishers continue to raise the bar for audiobook production quality. Even graphic novels are being turned into audiobooks! The standard for audiobooks is going from an author simply reading their book to something that more closely resembles a podcast or radio play. Traditional publishers will often hire A-list actors to voice their books, and add sound effects, music, and extra content like author interviews. A higher production quality makes for a more engaging audiobook, but it can double or triple your production cost. Penguin Random House, for example, brought in the original cast members from Angels in America to voice the audiobook.
Fortunately, there are tools and methods available to help authors add value to their audiobooks. Spotify added audiobooks to their platform, which expands the number of people with access to audiobooks. Children’s book authors can bundle more than one story into the same audiobook. Authors can hire multiple voice actors to bring their story to life, so that their audiobook has a “cast.” It is now easier than ever to source voice actors for your project: Penguin Random House even created an online platform called Ahab to help authors find the right voice actors for their projects.
Exceptional metadata makes your book easier to find. We know that most people leave a site after two minutes if they can’t find what they want, and that people only find the items they’re looking for 50% of the time. It is imperative that you use your metadata to make the most of those two minutes. To optimize your metadata, the first step is to update your keywords, key phrases, online book description, categories, and author bio quarterly. Whether your book is a new release or has been out a few years, updated metadata can increase book sales significantly. When you update your metadata, choose keywords that connect your book to current events or other popular titles in your genre. The more keywords and the more specific they are, the better. Your keywords should center around those things your audience might search for. Some data on who your readers are might already be available to you. Use your website analytics (from Google Analytics, or built-in analytics tools from sites like Squarespace) to determine who engages with your content the most.
Like in every industry, tech continues to evolve. For authors, this means their content can exist in more and more mediums and can be repurposed in new and innovative ways to create more accessibility for their audience. The first place to start is to look at the formats your book is already available in—print, ebook, and audiobook. If you are missing a format, perhaps consider first expanding into a new format. Start with adding an ebook first, as you can then also take advantage of Amazon ads. Second, look at the ways your book is searchable in distribution channels, and consider adding more keywords and throwing some ad dollars behind them in Amazon (eBook only). Third, if you aren’t yet taking advantage of an email list, now is a great time to get started! Direct sales are only getting more common for larger publishers, and though indie authors have always known this to be a tried-and-true sales method, consider looking into new mailing list programs like Chirp (audiobooks), BookBub, and The Fussy Librarian.
Have you tried any of these methods for reaching readers? Let us know how things are going for you! Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.