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Welcome to Season 2 of The Book Marketing Action Podcast with Becky Robinson, where we give you information that you can immediately implement to increase your influence and market your books more successfully. In this episode, we are joined by Tina Dietz—CEO and co-founder of Twin Flames Studios, award-winning and internationally acclaimed speaker, audiobook publisher, podcast producer, and influence marketing expert.

About Tina Dietz

Becky: I am so thrilled today to be interviewing Tina Dietz. Tina is a friend I made, actually, as a result of this podcast. A previous guest, Jenn T. Grace, introduced us, and I’m so glad she did, because I’ve already learned so much from you, Tina. So before we dive in, I hope you’ll take a moment and tell our listeners about your work in the world.

Tina: Well, my company Twin Flames Studios focuses on getting more great voices out to the world. So really the mission behind the company is that audiobooks and podcasts are some of the lowest hanging fruit for people to start to change their lives. So particularly with audiobooks, and certainly with podcasts, they tend to be low cost or free. They’re available in multiple countries, a lot of them can be in multiple languages, and their stories are what keep us all connected as human beings. So the more that we can help leaders, subject matter experts, and people who have lived extraordinary lives in the nonfiction space, which is our specialty, tell their stories and get it out to the world, the more we can make a difference and leave our own legacy, as well as help with the legacies of all these authors that we work with. So what we’re talking about today is mostly our audiobook division, which is strictly nonfiction audiobooks. And we do full, done-for-you production, publishing, and distribution, both for professional narration as well as author narration, which is something we’re known for.

Have you noticed a trend of people buying audiobooks vs. other formats?

Becky: Tina, that’s really intriguing and I look forward to hearing more about that author voice narration. But let’s talk for a moment, first, about audiobooks as a genre. I’m curious to see what you’ve noticed about the trend of people buying audiobooks rather than other formats.

Tina: It’s been an interesting art because audiobooks are certainly not new. The first audiobook was produced during the Great Depression, and I believe it was a Christmas story. They’ve always been around. Those of us who are a little bit older will remember books on tape and getting them out at the library, things like that. But up until the shift in the market about six, eight years ago, where audiobooks became digital, the production of audiobooks was generally relegated to traditional publishing. It was very expensive to do and very expensive to distribute, because everything was in a hardcopy, and first on tape, well, first an album, then on tape, and God forbid, on 8-track, and then ultimately on CDs. So when everything went digital, and Amazon and Audible became the same company, when voice acting and narrators became available more online, we had the rise of the gig economy, all of these things kind of created a perfect storm for the rise and the renaissance of the audiobook. So audiobooks have risen in sales year upon year, in double digits for the last eight years. And some of those years, it’s been a 20% to even 25% rise in the sales of audiobooks. So it’s a billion dollar industry in the US alone, and the accessibility of it is largely what makes them so so so popular.

What are some reasons an author would consider investing in an audiobook?

Becky: Well, as the wife of a man who only consumes books via audio, I know that there are many people who really are drawn in a big way to that ease of being able to listen while you drive, or listen while you get something else done. And I think in a way, you already answered this question, Tina, but I’m gonna ask it anyway. What are some reasons an author would consider investing in an audiobook?

Tina: Well, you definitely have to look at what your purpose is, and I’m really glad you asked this question. So on the nonfiction side of the equation—fiction is going to have a different answer, and I can touch on it if you’d like—but on the nonfiction side of things, an author wants to look at doing an audiobook to access a wider audience, first of all. A lot of executives, C-suite folks, people who are decision makers or at high levels in their career, often listen to audio, or listen to audio and buy a copy of the book so that they can switch formats because they can multitask, and also because audiobooks you can listen to at faster speeds. So I know lots of people, including myself, who might put an audiobook up to one and a half time speed, in order to be able to consume the information and get what they need, and then maybe have a hard copy of the book to reference back or make notes in as they go, using it as a learning tool. And they use it to keep your brain juicy as you go. So having an audiobook does open up those markets. An audiobook is also a marketing tool and it is an evergreen marketing tool, just like your book is. So using snippets of your book, in audiograms, in book trailers, in different parts of your material, or even potentially as material to create a course or modules in the backend membership site that you might have, you can use your audiobook in all of these different ways as an asset, not just distributed on Audible.

Why might an author choose to narrate their own book?

Becky: So Tina, this might be a good time to talk about this idea of an author narrated audiobook. Why might an author choose to narrate their own book?

Tina: Well, speaking as an entrepreneur myself, I would say that we all have egos, so that’s really the first truth. You have to know that it feels, if you’ve gone through all of the process of writing a book that is part of your soul on paper, and it is in your voice and of course, you want to have the experience. And I hear this all the time, “I’m the only person that could narrate this book.” Now, that’s not actually true, but an author may actually feel very strongly about that. We should probably also, if we have time, talk about why an author wouldn’t narrate their own book, because most of our authors come to us assuming that they are going to narrate their own book. But for those who do want to have that, if you are going after speaking gigs, if you want to have your voice known in a particular industry, or if your voice is already highly associated with your work, you have a popular podcast, you’re a TED speaker, so on and so forth, there may be some congruency to having your voice on the book. At least in part, not every author narrates their entire audio book, sometimes we do what I lovingly call a Tony Robbins sandwich, which is a hybrid version of the book where the author introduces the material, does the introduction or the first chapter, and then kind of hands it off to a professional narrator who shares similar vocal qualities as the author, and certainly has similar energy as the author, and then the author comes back at the end of the book to wrap things up. Sometimes there’s a happy middle ground between the two, given how busy most of our authors are.

What are other reasons an author may not choose to narrate their own audiobook?

Becky: Well, that’s an amazing idea. And so in addition to being maybe too busy to narrate your own audiobook, Tina, what are some other reasons an author may not choose to narrate their own audiobook?

Tina: Well, not every expert has, first of all, a great voice. Not every expert has the desire to do it. That has a lot to do with it, because it feels like a slog behind the microphone. Because narrating an audiobook is no joke. It takes time. It takes discipline. We fully produce and direct our authors through the process. We remote into their home offices, make sure that we get great sound quality, all kinds of great stuff to support them. But ultimately, if you aren’t feeling it, you’re not going to have a good audiobook. And so not everybody is a verbal communicator. They might be really strong in writing, but not really enjoy a lot of speaking, particularly in long form narration like an audiobook requires. So there’s a really important cocktail of desire, skill, experience, and time that go into whether we determine it’s a best path forward for an author to have their own voice on the book, versus a professional narrator on the book. And not for nothing, but some authors may actually have either physical or other issues happening, that it’s not a good fit for them, depending on what they have going on in their lives or their abilities.

When is the best time for an author to release their audiobook?

Becky: That’s really helpful. So when do you find is the best time for an author to release their audiobook?

Tina: We tend to have authors come to us in one of two areas, or one or two timeframes, I should say. One is that they’re getting ready to launch a new book. And if it’s an author narrated book and they’re planning on doing preorders for their book, there are some technical caveats to when you can actually get your audiobook launched, particularly on Audible. Audible is the 500 pound gorilla in the room when it comes to audiobook distribution. They do own about 60% of the market share in audiobook sales. So not being on Audible is going to be a problem for you if you’re not there. So they have some rules about when you can get your audiobook out. But generally we can get pretty close, with an author narrated audiobook, to your launch date. And that’s kind of one scenario, you’re launching a new book and you end up putting the audiobook out, either at the same time as the other versions of it, or it’s a staggered launch anytime generally, within the first six months of the launch, there’s a lot of advantages to doing it that way, because it extends the life of the launch and you can get the same audience excited about a new format, or reach people that you haven’t reached before. So it’s a nice marketing technique to stagger your audiobook launch after the hardcover or ebook versions of the book that might come out first. 

The other version of audiobook launches comes into play when we have a book that could use a second life. Many authors come to us and they say, “I wish I could relaunch my book, knowing what I know now.” They may have had a difficult relationship with their original publisher, or they didn’t have the chops that they have now in marketing. So an audiobook is a way to give your book a second chance, and basically have a second launch, and that’s really valuable as well. Some folks even want to do a second edition of their book or add new material to it, so that comes into play as well.

Becky: That’s all really great advice and aligns to what I’ve coached authors to do. So I’m glad that we’re on the same page. It’s encouraging to hear. 

What does the process look like?

Becky: Tina, I’d love for you to explain to our listeners about the steps that you take, as you coach authors through this process. Obviously, you mentioned that it’s done for you. So you’re creating the audiobook for and with them. Tell me about those steps and about the timelines, so that if our listeners are considering investing in an audiobook, they know what to expect.

Tina: Yeah, let me talk about timelines first. So generally, we’re looking at about 90 days in either case, whether it’s author narrated, or professionally narrated. Some of this highly depends on the availability of the author, certainly in the case of the author narrated, but also in the case of professionally narrated, because there are key times that the author is needed to make choices. So for example, in the professionally narrated case, we have an audition process that is very robust, and we get about 150 auditions, per book, on average. We curate all of those auditions, first for sound and goodness of fit, and also the energy. Can we actually believe that this narrator is delivering this material? All of that gets done on the first round.

The second round is professional vetting. Can they meet the timeline? Can they meet the budget? How are they to work with? So we do all of that, before we present our authors with a list. Generally, we have about eight to twelve choices of our top picks, with their auditions in our notes on why we think they’re great. But we need the author to have a little time to listen through those things, and make a choice. So depending on how busy the author is, we can throw timelines off based on how much time they take, or God forbid, if they decide to make decisions by committee, which could happen. But the author is one of the couple of key things that we do that are important, because the author has creative choices, we’re not taking over the process like a traditional publisher would. We also don’t take any rights or royalties. So we keep our authors involved in the creative process, one way or another. 

So in the case of professional narration, once we have a narrator selected, and we’ve produced kind of the first 15 minutes or so with the book, and everybody’s on board with the tone and the pacing, the characterization that the narrator is using, the process goes quite quickly. And we, of course, handle all of this, not just the narration and the direction, but the proofing, the editing, the mastering, and after the author has had a chance to sign off on everything and it’s all good to go, it goes into a quality control process. Quality control on Audible can take up to 30 business days, so that’s all part of that 90 day period that I’m talking about. 

Similarly, on the author narrated side of things, I mentioned before we do sound checks, we do all of that. And then it’s a matter of scheduling the recording times, and you cannot bang out an audio book in a day. Most professional narrators don’t record for longer than two to three hours a day. So a non professional—like even a professional speaker—very, very rarely do we run into authors who can narrate for longer than two hours at a time. More likely it’s 90 minutes without losing gas, without their energy dropping into their feet, and that’s okay. But you do have to account for that in the schedule.

What is the average length of an audiobook?

Becky: What would be the average length of an audiobook, in this nonfiction kind of thought leadership experts space?

Tina: A lot of our books are right around the 30,000 to 50,000 word mark. When you get into really short books, 20,000 words or less, they don’t tend to do as well in sales for audiobooks. There are some exceptions, of course, simply because audiobooks are generally sold on a membership basis. So when you are an audiobook member of Audible, and you have a credit that you can use on an audiobook that is an hour and a half or two hours long, versus eight or 10 hours long, the perceived value is higher on the longer book. Now, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t do an audiobook version of a shorter book, but we might tweak the distribution strategy, and talk with you further about how that audio is going to be used to the best advantage.

Becky: Wow, I am learning so much today! I am sure our listeners are as well. 

What’s the range of investment that an author should expect if they want to create an audiobook? 

Becky: So my final question as it relates to audiobooks, Tina, is what’s the range of investment that an author should expect if they want to create an audiobook with the type of support that your organization provides?

Tina: Sure, absolutely. I think that for most books, on average, we look at somewhere in the $3,000 to $5,000 range. Sometimes less for shorter books. Sometimes more if somebody wants multiple narrators and they want music added. We’ve had a few specialty books that we’ve done that have even incorporated the audio from video clips and things like that, that have happened from major events, and whatnot. The average kind of cost of an audiobook with everything included, including the distribution, is definitely going to be in that three to five range.

Becky: I appreciate that transparency, because I think it really sets people up to consider whether this is an investment that they’re prepared to make. 

Action Steps

Becky: So, Tina, our listeners are used to us always giving them action steps at the end of every podcast, because this is the book marketing action podcast. I know you have a couple of action steps that you’d like people to take today. 

Tina: Oh, yeah, for sure.

  1. Read your book out loud. The first thing is, have you ever read your book out loud? Take a couple of chapters of your book and just try reading it out loud. See how it feels. See how you like the material. Most of our authors, when they read their book out loud, which we have them do before they step into any kind of recording situation, they have a series of reactions to their own work. We all do. You also have a series of reactions to the sound of your own voice, and that’s okay too. But try it on, try it out and see what that’s like for you. If you’re in the process of writing a book, definitely read the book out loud before you finalize your editing, you will find all kinds of things there to make the book more narrative, maybe to shorten up sentences a little bit. And you’ll even catch errors that you didn’t catch when you were just doing it visually. So that’s really the first thing go read your book out loud. 
  2. Download the step-by-step guide. The second thing is, is that a lot of the things that I talked about today, we’ve put into a guide. And we also have frequently asked questions and all kinds of good information, best practices, and a full kind of step-by-step guide on how to get your audiobook done. And you can find that at Launchyouraudiobook.com.

Resources

  • Learn more about Tina Dietz’s company, Twin Flames Studios, here
  • If you want to learn more about how successful authors leverage their books, download Tina’s free guide here
  • Connect with Tina on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram
  • Connect with Twin Flames Studios on LinkedIn and YouTube

If you found value in today’s episode, we hope you’ll take a moment to share it with someone else who might benefit from it. If you have any questions or topics you’d like us to cover, please email Becky Robinson here.

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