Your Book’s Narrator is Your First and Most Important Marketing Choice
By Karen White
“You pay peanuts, you get monkeys.”
To me, hiring an experienced professional narrator is the most important choice an author makes when she publishes her books in the audiobook format. As an actor who makes my living recording audiobooks, I acknowledge that my opinion may be biased on this. But here’s what I hadn’t expected to learn when I polled my blogger friends in preparation for an audiobook marketing panel I moderated at #RT2017 (including fabulous blogger panelists Felicia Sparks and Viviana Izzo): every single one said that narrator choice is the most important marketing factor as well.
So, why is that?
The great news about the audiobook industry is that it is growing by leaps and bounds. Here’s an overview of industry growth, presented by AudioFile Magazine publisher Michele Cobb at our #RT2017 panel, “Where Is Your Listening Audience?”
- 7,000 titles were produced per year in audiobook form in 2011. By 2015 that number had grown to 36,000 titles
- The industry has seen double digit growth in sales dollars and units every year from 2012 - 2015
- 55 million people listen to at least one audiobook a year
- 41% of the US population has ever listened
- 25-34 year olds were 18% of the listening market in 2015 (and it’s a growing segment)
But the bad news, from a marketing standpoint, is that this means there are a whole lot of books competing for listeners, reviewers, and publicity.
So how do you cut through all that noise and get your audiobook noticed, let alone reviewed? Every blogger I talked to said that the top factor that will get them to review a book by a new-to-them author is the narrator. If they’ve never heard of you, but it is narrated by a performer they know and love, with a proven track record in your book’s genre -- and even better, if that narrator asks them to review it -- they are highly likely to give your book a listen.
Therefore, when you are ready to cast your book, do some research. Listen to audiobooks! Look for narrators that work in your genre. Look for narrators that can provide a professionally produced product. Look for narrators that get reviewed. Look for narrators that have a social media presence. And then reach out to them and ask them for an audition. (Of course one good place to look is right here at RomanceNarrators.com!)
“Narrator choice is so important! If I don't like the narrator's voice or style, the material they are working with becomes irrelevant.”
Once you’ve chosen the narrator that’s a perfect fit, and they’ve delivered the audiobook and your release day nears, what other steps can you take to market your new audiobook?
Yet again, you’ve got to back it up. While you’re waiting for the narrator to record your book, or even before you begin to cast your book, do some research on audiobook bloggers. Check out the list of reviewers (see the Marketing Resources at end of this blog) and see who reviews in your sub-genre. Then follow their blogs and get to know them: comment on their reviews, Love their Tweets, Like their Facebook Page posts. Offer to write a guest post to talk about publishing your audiobook. Talk to author friends and your narrator to find out what bloggers they like and ask for an introduction. Set the stage so that when the finished product is ready and you have your download codes, you have built relationships and have a better chance of your submission being accepted.
“I get my audiobook news from favorite narrators I follow”
Linda, Reviewer, Reading Between the Wines Book Club
When you’re ready to submit, whether it’s to AudioFile Magazine or to a book blogger, MAKE SURE TO READ CAREFULLY AND FOLLOW THEIR SUBMISSION GUIDELINES. If you don’t, your request is likely to be ignored.
Two things you’ll definitely want to have ready: a high-quality audio sample that really shows off your book and the narrator’s performance. You’ll want an mp3 about five minutes long; Soundcloud is a great place to post it because reviewers can easily download it and embed it in their post from there. Like this:
You’ll also need a SQUARE version of your cover art. Some bloggers said that not having a high resolution square cover made them think they’d be listening to a less than professional production. Plus, they like to have the cover art, as well as the narrator’s headshot, to include in the review post.
Hopefully, several bloggers agree to review your audiobook. Send off the download code and then wait patiently. Many of these reviewers are backed up and may not get to your audiobook as quickly as you’d like. Remember, most of them are doing this for fun, even though they may take it very seriously, so give them the time to get to it.
Once they post your review, which you’ll know because you’re following them, and you’re still commenting on other reviews and features, be sure to share the review via social media and link to it from your own blog or website. Be sure to tag them and your narrator. If it’s not the glowing review you’d hoped for, let it go and know it’s just one person’s opinion.
“Honestly I don't care who publishes the title. The author and/or narrator is what matters to me…But mostly I search for a title I'm excited about to see if it will be available on audio and if so, who the narrator is. If I'm not a fan of the narrator or like them but not sure they are the right fit (for me) for that title, then I'll read the book.” Jennifer, Reviewer, The Book Nympho
What are other places to spread the news about your audiobook? There are Facebook Groups and Goodreads Groups that specialize in audiobooks or Romance Audiobooks. Same story here: join these communities and the conversation before you start shouting about your book. There’s a list of these on the Resource Page (see below) as well.
You can also participate in Audiobook Month in June. Do an interview with your narrator, a video about how it had never occurred to you that you needed to know how to pronounce all the cool place and people names you made up in your world-building, or a blog post about how much you love audiobooks. Do a giveaway with your author friends. And be sure to use the hashtag #LoveAudiobooks when you do.
In case it’s not obvious, make sure you feature your audiobook on your own website. Include buy buttons or links to the audiobook version, wherever it is sold.
Speaking of where your book is sold: Audible is of course the largest audiobook distributor, but there’s a growing list of other companies that sell and rent digital audiobooks. In addition, libraries can be a great way to get discovered by readers/listeners. So you might want to consider distributing via a company like Author’s Republic or Big Happy Family Audio as well as Audible/ACX. Then your digital audiobook will be available to librarians as well as individual consumers. Many listeners try out a new author by borrowing their books from the library, but once they get hooked, they’ll go ahead and purchase them. (This works especially well when you’ve got an entire series in audio.)
More questions? Feel free to contact me, Karen White (firstname.lastname@example.org) or any narrator here at RomanceNarrators.com. We’re all pros and love working in the romance genre and sharing our love of audiobooks with our fans and authors.
To view the Marketing Resources, please click here: MARKETING RESOURCES GOOGLE DOC