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Audio Books: What Indie Authors Should Know by Rachel Rueben

I recently looked into making my books into audio versions, but then I read this article!
If you are looking into adding your book for sale as an audio book you might want to read this article as well by YA Author & Novelist, Blogger, Podcaster & Investigating Journalist, Rachel Rueben.

Audio Books: What Indie Authors Should Know

Over the past few months indie authors have been discussing audio books and many of us have questions such as; how do you make one, should even you make one, and where do you promote them? So I went on a quest to learn the ABCs of audio books but before I begin let me be clear.  When I refer to audio books I am talking about both MP3 files as well as CDs.  Yes, there are people still listening to CDs!

90’s humor! Pic by Nick D. Clements via Flickr

Major Misconceptions About Audio Books

Despite what you’ve heard, audio books aren’t for the blind or small children who are struggling to read. Lots of people listen to audio books at the gym, in their cars, and even at work. The numbers reflect this, because every major publisher has reported increasing audio sales since 2012.  This explains why it’s become standard for publishers to demand audio rights these days.
Another big misconception is that the bestselling audio books are all nonfiction. But not according to the APA (Audio Publishers Association) 2014 Sales Survey which says adult fiction takes 77% of the audio book market.  Don’t believe me? Just go over to Audible, the biggest audio book retailer, and look at their bestseller list.

The Pros and Cons

Pro: Right now Audible (which is owned by Amazon), has only about 180,000+ audio books for sale as of this date. However, that is predicted to explode as Google and Apple aim to make their software standard in new cars. This has the interest of many indie authors and it was the talk of many book conferences this year. There’s no doubt that the market has potential but it’s still small.
Con: The sad thing is, the most popular entry into the market is through ACX (also owned by Amazon), which makes producing audio books easy for authors but it all comes at a price. ACX has both exclusive and nonexclusive deals and none of them favor authors. For example, if you decide to go exclusive, you’ll get a royalty of 40% but you’ll have to remain exclusive with them for seven years. No, that wasn’t a typo, I said seven years, as in almost a decade! In that time, they will distribute your work to Apple iTunes and Audible however, there is no mention of Barnes & Noble, or Overdrive nor any of the other retailers in their FAQs. They also set the price of the book, not the author.

Pic by Jeff Golden via Flickr
Pic by Jeff Golden via Flickr

It only gets worse, indie authors who decide to go nonexclusive, will only get 25% royalties but they can sell their audio book(s) anywhere, even their own websites. Now before you despair, ACX isn’t the only deal in town, not long ago on Jane Friedman’s blog, one author talked about going to CD Baby to circumvent ACX’s undesirable terms. This may not be such a bad idea for the author who actually wants to make money from their audio books!
Keep in mind, there will be expenses associated with this as CD Baby does not provide narrators like ACX.  The average narrator can charge per hour or according to the length of the book.  Even if you decide to narrate the book yourself, you’ll need the proper equipment like a quality microphone and recording software. Another thing to note is CD Baby also has its own service fees ranging from free (minus 15% of your royalty) to $89.

Promoting Audio Books Can Be A Challenge

Recently, Goodreads (Another Amazon subsidiary) opened its doors to audio books so things are changing albeit slowly.  It’s also been rumored that Kobo and Google may be looking to get in the audio game so things are evolving. If this continues the supply will meet demand and we will begin to see marketing services catering towards audio books but right now, there aren’t that many options to promote an audio book.  Don’t get me wrong, there are several small advertising outlets for audio books however, there is no BookBub for audio books. (For those who don’t know, BookBub is the go to for online book advertising.)
On the flip side, getting a review for your audio book isn’t as challenging. I discovered several groups on Facebook, and Goodreads for audio books and reviewers. Below is just a small list of reviewers and online magazines catering to audio books.
Reviewers for your audio book
• Audio File Magazine
• Audio Book Jukebox
• Eargasms
• Books for Ears
• Audio Book Reviewer (Giveaways & Reviews)
• Audio Book Jungle
• Library Journal
As you can see, there are many things to consider before committing to publishing an audio book. If you do manage to produce one, you have to make sure the quality is just as good as your print or ebooks.  If listeners don’t like the quality of your book, it won’t sell. Another thing to consider is that this is a burgeoning market so it’s unrealistic to expect your ROI to be as high as your ebooks or print editions.  Indie authors have to see this as a long term investment and treat it as such.
So how about you, have you produced an audio book or are you on the fence?



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Shelfari Is Closing! BUT, You Can Merge Your Account with Goodreads!

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If you have a Shelfari account, you can move the content to GoodReads. 
(Shelfari's Notice below.)
To move your Shelfari account to GoodReads, go to:

Here is Shelfari's Notice

Shelfari and Goodreads, both owned by Amazon

For the past few years, Amazon has supported two online communities of readers: Shelfari and Goodreads. Both services share the same mission - helping readers find new books and share their reading - so it makes sense to merge them and create a great experience for readers on just one platform: Goodreads. We plan to complete the transition of the Shelfari community onto Goodreads by March 16, 2016.

We’d like to invite you to now move your books across to Goodreads. To make it easy for you, go to Move To Goodreads and you’ll find instructions on how to do this. You’ll be set up and back to discovering and discussing books in no time!

What will I experience on Goodreads?
If you’re not familiar with Goodreads, the core features you love on Shelfari – keeping track of books you’ve read and want to read, and connecting with fellow readers over your shared love of books – are at the heart of the Goodreads experience. You’ll also be able to enjoy additional services and features including:
  • 1. On-the-go access to your bookshelves and friends’ updates through the Goodreads iOS and Android apps.
  • 2. The ability to use Goodreads on most Kindle e-readers and Fire tablets.
  • 3. Personalized book recommendations from the Goodreads recommendation engine based on books you’ve enjoyed.
  • 4. More ways to share and enjoy your love of reading through the Goodreads Reading Challenge, the ability to write rich text reviews, and enter to win books in our popular Goodreads giveaways program, and
  • 5. Connecting with your favorite authors, including using Goodreads Ask the Author feature.

Can I download a record of my own data?
Yes, you can export your data for your own records by downloading your data in a CSV file
Help! I have more questions.
If you have any questions about moving to Goodreads, please email and our team will be happy to help. 

The Shelfari Team
Move To Goodreads    Download your data in a CSV file    Read the FAQ

Andy Smithson series by LRWLee, In A Nut Shell!


Vision of the Griffin’s Heart, Andy Smithson, Book 5 is OUT!
Andy Smithson series by LRWLee, In A Nut Shell!

Four years ago, Andy Smithson discovered he is the Chosen one to break a 500-yr-old curse plaguing the land of Oomaldee when he unexpectedly and mysteriously found himself there. To do so, he must collect ingredients for a magical potion. Thus far he has gathered the scale of a red dragon, venom from a giant serpent, a unicorn’s horn, and the tail feather of a phoenix. Now he must ask a griffin for one of its talons. There’s just one problem…humans have poached griffin treasure, causing these mythical creatures to attack on sight.
Complicating matters, the evil Abaddon, sovereign of Oomaldee’s northern neighbor, is turning more and more citizens into zolt in his ongoing campaign of terror as he sets in motion the final steps of his plan to conquer the land. Things really start to heat up in book five!
If you loved Harry Potter, you’ll love the Andy Smithson series chalk full of mythical creatures, newly invented animals like zolt, herewolves, and therewolves, a complex plot with evolving characters, and positive themes including responsibility, diligence, dignity, friendship and more.
Purchase Kindle and Paperback

Vision of the Griffin’s Heart, Andy Smithson, Book 5

5 Stars! - “A marvelous book in a great series!” Erik Weibel (Age 14) This Kid Reviews Books Blog

“Readers of this series have come to anticipate a host of challenges, intense battles, and on an epic scale. In Vision of the Griffin’s Heart, you won’t be disappointed. For lovers of fantasy, I consider it a must read.” Richard Weatherly, Author

“One of the admirable qualities I like about the entire series is seeing Andy’s growth from a self-absorbed kid to a more thoughtful teen as he learns how to deal with the various crises which face him, all the while knowing that the future may hold unpleasant consequences. The watchword for Vision of the Griffin's Heart is “courage.” Wayne Walker, Home School Book Review


Blast of the Dragon’s Fury (Andy Smithson, Book One) ebook is FREE. Download a copy at Amazon , Smashwords , Kobo , Google , B&N .
Listen to the FREE podcast of Book 1 by L. R. W. Lee on Podiobooks.
Book one is also available in paperback.

Venom of the Serpent’s Cunning (Andy Smithson, Book Two) 
is available in Kindle and Paperback.
Download the professionally recorded audiobook at Amazon
It’s only $1.99 if you download the eBook first…Savings of $16!

Disgrace of the Unicorn’s Honor (Andy Smithson, Book Three) is available in Kindle and Paperback .

Resurrection of the Phoenix’s Grace (Andy Smithson, Book Four) Kindle and Paperback.
is available in

Power of the Heir’s Passion (Andy Smithson, Prequel Novella) ebook is FREE. Pick up a copy at Amazon , Google , B&N , Smashwords . It’s also available in paperback.
Download the professionally recorded audiobook at Amazon
It’s only $1.99 if you download the eBook for $.99 first…Savings of $1!

L. R. W. Lee

L. R. W. Lee credits her love of fantasy with her introduction to C. S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia. Later on, she enjoyed the complex world of Middle Earth brought to life by J. R. R. Tolkien in Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. The multiple dimensions of the worlds mixed with a layer of meaning, captivated her and made her desire to invent Young Adult Fantasy and Epic Fantasy worlds others could get lost in, but also take meaning away from. More recently, L. R. W. Lee has found inspiration from J. K. Rowling and her Harry Potter series as well as Brandon Mull and his best selling Fablehaven, Beyonders and Five Kingdoms series.
L. R. W. Lee writes to teach her readers principles that can transform their lives – overcoming frustration, impatience, fear and more. She also shows why responsibility, diligence and dignity are the keys to true success in life. She lives in scenic Austin, TX with her husband. Their daughter is a Computer Engineer for Microsoft and their son serves in the Air Force.

1. How did you come up with your main character, Andy Smithson? Did he just pop into your imagination or did you specifically develop him?
Andy is patterned after my son. After our first child who was what I would call compliant and seemed to need little to no correction, our son arrived on the scene. As with most 2nd children, he was polar opposite and provided much fodder for an engaging main character.

2. How did your experience with building a business help with your writing?
It has been invaluable for I understand that writing is only 50% of the writer’s success equation. Unlike Field of Dreams, with so many good books available today, just launching it, even on a well trafficked platform like Amazon, does not get recognition. Because of my corporate background, from day one I began working to build a platform – Twitter and Facebook primarily and now also Book Nerd Paradise. As well, I understand the importance of the author community, for no author can succeed these days without the support of fellow authors. My background has also helped in understanding the need to optimize my books to rank well on the variety of sites they are listed on. There’s much more, but those are the biggest helps I would say.

3. Was there any particular book or author whom you feel had the most influence on your work?
I have to say JK Rowling. The imagination she revealed, the strength of her characters, the world building, the depth of plot over multiple books…she definitely shaped how I think about writing.

4. What do you love the most about writing for young people?
Young people are moldable. My passion for writing is to share with readers principles that from my experience can help them live more peaceful lives. A few of these principles include overcoming fear, frustration and impatience as well as understanding that true success in life is not from riches, fame or power, but rather responsibility, diligence and dignity. If they can finish any of my books closer to understanding these principles, I feel very fulfilled.

5. Which part of the creative process is your favorite? Least favorite?
Designing the story arc is my favorite part of the creative process for you can take a story anywhere your imagination can go. My least favorite part is editing/revising. Even though I know the narrative gets much stronger as a result, it’s still my least favorite part.

6. How long does it usually take you to write one of your stories from when you get the idea to when it’s finished?
Usually about 6 months.

7. I know that most authors love all their characters but which of your many “children” is your favorite (besides Andy) and why?
I have to say Mermin, the kindly old wizard who speaks with a lisp. I love him most after Andy because he’s so warm, humble and approachable. He’s fallible and he knows it, which is why he doesn’t apologize for his mistakes, rather he is comfortable in his own skin.

8. Do you ever plan to branch out into other genres besides middle grade/young adult fantasy?
Funny you should ask. Yes, I’m actually noodling with a story arc of a YA Sci Fi story.

9. How do you feel your writing has evolved since your first novel?
I can see how much I’ve changed and improved in showing rather than telling my readers what’s happening. I want them to engage and to show – providing sight, sounds, touch, smell, and taste cues is a big part of that. I was particularly thrilled when my editor came back a full week sooner than expected with this current book because I had improved so much between book three and four. My pocketbook also appreciated that. 

If you’re an adult looking for a clean series you can sink your teeth into, Andy Smithson is definitely it! In it I develop four layers simultaneously: 1) Andy Smithson in Lakehills, TX 2) Andy in Oomaldee 3) the Afterlife 4) a meaning layer. A few examples to demonstrate the depth…

Symbolism is used extensively (a couple examples):
 The fog of the curse symbolizes blindness and oppression.
 The magic key unlocks doors, brings stone statues to life, as well as revives. Put another way, it symbolizes bringing forth, opening up, and revealing (aka taking responsibility).
 Methuselah is not only a weapon and helper, but also represents justice as it divides good and evil. Consistent with life, justice requires diligence to uphold.

Names are also important in this series (a few examples):
 Andy means brave or courageous.
 Alden means helper.
 Hannah means favor or grace.
 Imogenia means blameless.

Alchemy used throughout the series (a few examples):
 Alchemy played a significant role in the development of modern science. Alchemists sought to transform base metals into the gold or silver and/or develop an elixir of life which would confer youth and longevity and even immortality.

THIS is Andy Smithson series by LRWLee, In A LARGE Nut Shell!    ~JD

GET YOUR FREE eBOOKS!!free-ebooks/c23mc

Jodie Broom: The Book of the Rose by Author Julie Hodgson

 In A Nut Shell!

Jodie Broom: The Book of the Rose is a wonderful story.
Jodie’s world is centuries from the history she is searches in this time travel adventure. Unbeknownst to Jodie, the search in the past for The Book of the Rose shows the way to her future. Something interesting is always happening as the adventure moves along as a good pace.
The author has a unique way of storytelling with looks into history and the value of books to teen readers with vivid imagery. Julie Hodgson writes a story with a unique insight into the emotions and thoughts of the young teenage. I have no doubt that the other books in Julie Hodgson's series are well worth the read!

That's Jodie Broom: The Book of the Rose by Author Julie Hodgson, In A Nut Shell!    ~JD                           

Another book in this series:

Some of the Other Books by Julie Hodgson
Juno and the Windwalker
As Sete Irmas
Billy Bark A Lot
Earth Child
If I Had
In My Fathers Pocket
   Polly Mae

Find Julie Hodgson and her books at:

Author and Illustrator, Agy Wilson.

Agy Wilson
grew up in a house, filled with paper, Agy’s father was a paper coating engineer and Agy had LOTS of “me” time. Agy had an innate understanding and love of how important books and art are. And yet she grew up with “But what WILL she do when she grows up? She can‘t make a living at art!”

This is Agy Wilson’s story!

Hi Agy! Thank you for being here today!

I give just a little of your writing and illustrating story, Agy. Tell us what else we need to know about you?

Not sure there's anything people NEED to know about me, lol. From what people who loves me, tells me, I can come off as a bit of a know-it-all. But in my defense, I've had a wide range of experiences (perfect for a writer, don't you think?) and I tend to be a bit passionate and opinionated. So I think where that comes from. I of course don't know it all. Just a bit of it.

What drawn you to writing? 
A Short Story

I've dabbled for a long time. I wanted to be an illustrator first, but after entering the Margaret McElderry Contest (I didn't win, there were no winners, but I received a nice personal rejection) and being encouraged by some of my online writing friends, Cynthia Lord, R.A. Nelson and Marian Hale, I became a little more structured and worked on my own things. 

How did illustrating come about?

I've always been an illustrator. When I did my portfolio review for art school the director Bill Collins liked my work, but disparaged it at the same time "You're good, but your an illustrator. We don't offer that here. But I think you'd be good in graphic design (I was not) or painting (I think so)." If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn't have gone to THAT school but one that offered illustration as course work. When I lost my singing voice my husband asked me what I wanted to do. I told him, I'd always wanted to be a children's illustrator (when I worked as a maid in Sedona, I would make sure I could watch Reading Rainbow, boy I loved that show and still find it inspirational). He encouraged me to try and I've been working at it ever since. Because I didn't formally take classes, I've done my best to expand. I've taken a number of Will Terry's classes- he's an exceptional teacher and illustrator. I suspect I will forever be working at it.

What is your self publishing story?

It's very expensive to submit as a writer/illustrator. The time and effort of creating a book dummy and finished art and sending the Ms. copies of your work, etc, and the wait was anywhere from 6-to two years to hear back. I've been lucky, I've had lots of editorial feedback, and had only personal rejections so I was able to build upon what I did, but it was just too much waiting to hear back and usually to a rejection. You have to be a bit psycho- you have to LOVE your work enough to go indepth and give it what you can, but removed enough that when someone says "no" for whatever reason you can pick it up and move on. It was getting harder to get work in front of people, and when 9.11 happened, it changed the print industry forever. It didn't help either that most houses were corporatized and started using the bottom line as the only measure. A lot of great editors were let go and the midlist author all but disappeared. Meanwhile self publishing was ascending. It was not only becoming easier and easier to self publish, but the terms were far more lucrative. So for time and consideration of my diminutive budget, I started self publishing. I've had to learn a great deal about a great deal (metadata, writing copy, formatting, etc) adding to that knowing-just-a-bit status.

Nana’s Gift is your first book, does it come from your life or background? 

Yes and know. The illustrations are purely my family and those I love. The illustrations were an act of love and I'd often find myself smiling when creating them. The recipe really was my grandmother's for instance. But the story itself was purely fictional. My Gram lived to 92 and at 80 she took care of my then little girl (has since grown and is a mommy on her own). I wanted to not only pay homage to my Gram and daughter (and pets, the cat pictured in the book, Tigrr just passed away last year at the ripe old age of 20), but I think we need to interact more. With animals and with each other. I wanted to strike at ageism. I showed my book to an older lady at the Butterfly House in York Animal Kingdom and asked her if she thought kids would like it. She replied "Yes, but I like it too!" My book has been bought as much by adults as kids, who enjoy the language and the gram depicted. They usually had fond memories of their grandmother. So that felt good.

Agy, your second book, Duke Day For Annie is a special story. Tell us about it?

Thank you! I like to think so too! It's based upon the recollections of my friend Ann Cummings Searcy. She was the first African American certified by the state of Maine to teach. She also grew up in Old Orchard Beach during it's heyday. Though we didn't have Jim Crow laws here in Maine, the bias still ran as deep. So her mother, needing to make a living when she divorced Ann's father, started a bed and breakfast for black people. Anne grew up around porters and maids, true, but she also knew W.E.B Dubois, Cab Calloway and Countee Cullens. But her especial friend was Duke Ellington. She had a life long friendship with him. The story is told in what I call syncopated rhyme (what Duke did with his Jazz), and has quite a few old-timey phrasings. Ann passed as I was working on the book, and her daughters and granddaughters helped me complete it. It truly was another labor of love.

What is the process for you coming up was the illustrations for another author if the author leaves it up to you?

How I work, whether an author has input or not, is to do a quick sketch (or two or three). Then I do a more completed drawing and then I paint it. At each stage I run it by the author, as it's easier to change things earlier in the process rather than later. All told it can take upwards of a week to do one illustration from start to finish. It's about the same amount of time 3-7 days on my coloring pages as well.

You also published a coloring book for adults. How did it come about?

I've always loved coloring books, though I've never really was a "colorer" About five or six years ago, people started sharing with me that they were closet colorists. Two years ago I decided to try do one, which resulted in my first coloring book (out on Amazon) Precious Pets: Kittens & Puppies & Old Places. It was fun to research and do. I'm currently working on two, one I hope to release in the next few weeks, Pieces of Compassion: Variations on the Chalakra Mandala and Angels & Fae: Fabulous & Fantastic Female Forms. I'll be releasing them for a few weeks at slightly above cost in the hopes that people will buy and review them. After that I have bunches of other ideas, for them so I gots goals, lol.

When writing your own stories does an idea for an illustration inspire a story, or an idea, or scene ideas for story inspire the illustrations?

It's a bit of both, actually. My brain is funny (and never shuts up). But I've found that sleeping, showering and walking are conducive to working things out when I'm a bit stuck or need to move to a different level.

Who gave you help and guidance along the way?

OH MY! This list would be so long! There's been people who gave me critiques, like Marileta Robinson, Brian Lies, Peter Jacoby. There's been my various critique groups, with some incredible talent, Sarah Brannen, Lisa Kopelke, Kathy Manchip, Amy Peare, Robert Eberz, Maurie Manning, Abigail Marble, Zeb Deb, Larry Eisenstein, Cynthia Lord, Candice Ransom, Jennifer Ward, Kate Tuthill, Mona Pease, Denise Ortakales. The classes I've taken from Will Terry and Jake Parker. And then the people who have provided emotional and financial support, Christine Stockton, my sister Valorie Snyder, her daughters, my daughters, my grandson who have all provided inspiration as well. Ann Peoples, Penelope Cole, Margot Finke, Verla Kay, Deborah Nourse Lattimer, Emma Dryden. I'm sure there are so many I'm not mentioning, so please forgive me, NONE of us get to a place alone. I've been exceptionally blessed with the people who have helped and taught me.

What suggestions do you have for authors who are also illustrators on getting their combined work published?

Julie Strauss-Gabel once told me she was always looking for the NO. Continue learning, and keep up with what's out there. Styles and preferences change, and though you should remain consistent, it's important to try to be "fresh" and not expected. Illustration is more than making pretty pictures. and make sure you grasp not only your style but color theory and know something of printing. If you're a children's illustrator, be proficient at creating consistent characters who move and emote like children. ONLY SHOW YOUR BEST WORK. If you're unpublished, you're not competing with other unpublished creators. You're competing with the best sellers, if you're traditionally publishing. If you're not, the competition is incredible and there's a lot of schlock to wade through. If you want to rise above, you MUST work with all your talents and tools well. Also be generous with what you do and how you share. It really does "pay". I've been lucky to have all those breaks, but I love sharing good news, so a bit of that I'm pretty sure is that I've shared their work (it's easy, I love their stuff). Don't share or falsely praise though. This isn't a popularity contest, so be professional and realize your credibility is one of your most valuable assets.

Has being published been all you thought it would be?

Hadn't really thought about that. I don't make a living at this (I keep wanting to say YET, but really who knows where any of this goes). I love what I do and want to do the best work I possibly can, so in that regard, I am satisfied.

Who do you read?

I don't read as much as I'd like. I love Jo Knowles's writing. Cynthia Lord, Neil Gaiman, Kim Norman, Marian Hale, R.A. Nelson, Jay Asher. Karma Wilson is very big at our house with the Grand Boy as is Cindy and Kim. But I have so many projects as well as taking care of kids and pets, so I don't read nearly as much as I should.

What illustrators do you admire?

O my goodness, you'd better sit down for this one, because it's gonna be a LONG list, lol LOVE Kadir Nelson, Floyd Cooper, John Steptoe, Lisa Kopelke, Barbara McClintock, Denise Fleming, Maurie Manning, Robert Eberz, Sarah Brannen, Brian Lies, Daniel Kirk, Don Tate, Bweela Steptoe. Javaka Steptoe, Trina Schart Hyman, Chris Van Allsburg, Will Terry, Jake Parker.

Do you have a current project?

I just finished illustrating In & Out, All 'Round About for Penelope Cole (should be publishing with the next week or two). Then I'm illustrating another book for her and one for Margot Finke about Kobi the Koala. Currently I'm working on the Mandala coloring book. Then I finish the Angels & Fae. I hope to do a Valentine's Day- Heart coloring book and one of historical costume paper dolls coloring books, next. Then I'll probably concentrate a bit on some of my writings/books.

What advice would you give to your younger self about illustrating and writing?

Be patient, be more fearless, take more classes and take yourself a little more seriously Except when you're making fun of yourself. Then don't, just giggle. Giggle a lot, because fun and happy is good, especially when you're working. I think it infuses the work.

We're at the end of our interview. I want to thank you, Agy for being here. I enjoyed talking with you, Agy, as always!

Thank YOU And I feel the same way! Happy New Year, Dear JD!



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