Are Audiobooks Worth It for Authors?

It’s not enough that Mary Ann Pérez released a paperback, hardcover, and e-book of Running in Heels, her autobiography of grit and grace in the shadows of her mother’s choices and her own abusive marriage. And it’s not enough that she has been visiting book clubs and appearing at book signings around Houston since its release in 2016.

Her audience wants more. They want an audiobook.

But is an audiobook worth the investment for an author?

Some say yes . . .

The popularity of audiobooks is on the rise – and not just with Pérez’s followers. Fifty percent of consumers say they’ve opted for an audiobook in the last year. They like the ease and ability to multi-task. Seventy-seven percent of people say audiobooks help them finish more books.[1]

Advocates of audiobooks point out that it’s become the fastest-growing segment of the digital publishing industry, as e-book sales have slowed. Forbes reported annual audiobook sales nearing $1 billion, a figure that has seen double-digit growth every year for the last seven years.[2] And with the rise in smart speakers like Amazon’s Echo or Google Home, sales will likely continue to increase.

Chris Lynch, president of Simon & Schuster Audio, confirmed the upward trajectory. “More audiobooks are being produced, and more people are listening than ever,” he said.

It’s a new way to meet readers’ needs – and fans say that’s enough to make the process worthwhile.

. . . But some say no

Some people are skeptical of the practicality of audiobooks for self-published authors for two reasons.

First, they say the numbers aren’t as impressive in light of the publishing industry as a whole. Of the nearly $26 billion net revenue in the publishing industry in 2018, audio accounted for only six percent of sales. They were out-performed by e-books (17 percent) and especially by paperback (34 percent) and hardcover (36 percent).[3]

Second, critics warn that the return on investment is a problem. An audiobook can cost several thousand dollars to narrate, edit, and process. Narrating your own nonfiction isn’t necessarily less expensive because an author without audio experience will likely take significantly more time to complete the process. And without the help of a professional, the audio may lack quality or not meet the requirements of online retailers. In addition to these factors, some online distributors keep a substantial portion of revenue.

For these reasons, critics of audio advise that – unless a self-published author has a large following – any investment is better leveraged with print books.

What’s best for you?

Ultimately, the decision on whether to produce an audiobook is like every other self-publishing decision: It depends on your goals.

If budget is an issue, then it’s best to focus on your paperback and hardcover, perhaps adding an e-book. If you have room in your budget and have other goals in mind besides ROI, then an audiobook may help you meet your goals.

In Pérez’s case, she was happy to oblige her readers with an audiobook.

“I couldn’t ignore the demand any longer,” she said. “During book signings, more and more readers were asking for audio.”

So Pérez took the time to listen to the diction of several narrators and ask questions about budget. When she found the perfect voice to bring to life her Puerto Rican roots, she paid attention to the editing of the audiobook as closely as she had to the print book. The audiobook for Running in Heels was released in 2018.

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The decision made sense to Pérez for a few reasons. She had a following who was interested. She had the budget. She knew she’d promote the book with the same diligence as her print books. And, ultimately, it aligned with her primary goal: The purpose of Running in Heels is to share her story of hope and healing with as many people as possible.

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“Not everyone cares to read a book. It’s pretty cool to be able to offer audio to people who would rather listen to my story,” she said.

And for that, Pérez says it was worth it.

Ella and MaryMary Ann Pérez (right) is the author of Running in Heels: A Memoir of Grit and Grace. Her audiobook is available at most audio retailers, including Audible, Nook, and iTunes. Contact Pérez to book a speaking event, book club presentation, or book signing. 

Ella Ritchie (left) is the founder of Stellar Communications Houston, a nonfiction book publishing team that works with self-published nonfiction authors, business leaders, organizations, and federal government agencies. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Facebook, or the website.

[1] Steven Spatz, “Why Audiobooks Are A Bad Investment For Most Independent Authors,” BookBaby, January 4, 2019, https://blog.bookbaby.com/2019/01/audiobooks-are-a-bad-investment-for-independent-authors/?utm_campaign=BW1947&utm_source=BBeNews&utm_medium=Email#.

[2] Adam Rowe, “U.S. Audiobook Sales Neared $1 Billion In 2018, Growing 25% Year-Over-Year,” Forbes, July 16, 2019, https://www.forbes.com/sites/adamrowe1/2019/07/16/us-audiobook-sales-neared-1-billion-in-2018-growing-25-year-over-year/#3f98c8a46050.

[3] Steven Spatz, “Why Audiobooks Are A Bad Investment For Most Independent Authors.”

Author Interview: The CEO of The Bell Tower on 34th tells about Houston history, a devastating betrayal, and the ultimate comeback

If you’ve been invited to The Bell Tower on 34th, then you know it’s an unforgettable wedding and event venue in Houston, Texas. Inside are Italian archways, 19th century brick from Chicago, marble floors from Turkey, and sweeping stone staircases.

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Around the grounds are lush gardens, a 30-foot cascading waterfall, and a classic, 1960s Rolls-Royce.

 

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The venue is the epitome of elegance and intrigue. But it wasn’t always effortless luxury.

In the new release, Keep On Going, President and CEO Roger C. Igo unveils the story behind the venue. It’s a behind-the-scenes look at the history of The Bell Tower on 34th, from pioneering Texans to a disastrous betrayal and, ultimately, Igo’s triumphant comeback.

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In honor of the 10-year anniversary of The Bell Tower on 34th, we asked Igo about his journey in Keep On Going.

You and your team are busy hosting so many special, private events. What prompted you to take the time to write Keep On Going?

Well, several reasons. First, there were so many misconceptions out there about how The Bell Tower got its start, so many versions that were inaccurate or plain false. I wanted and needed to set the record straight so anyone interested can hear it directly from me.

Another reason is to memorialize what happened so that we can ensure that tragedy never happens again.

Finally, it’s part of my job as founder and CEO to make sure my successors, employees, and stakeholders remember where we got our start and what we are made of.

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In Keep On Going, you’re honest about the hurts and disappointments you experienced with certain people along the way to establishing The Bell Tower on 34th, including your stepfather and other businesspeople. How did you navigate the decisions to withhold or share certain details?

It took me a while to finally realize that if this book is going to truly be about the history of the venue, it needs to include the real history. All of it. The good, the bad, the ugly. I want the readers to understand that what we went through, what I went through, was not easy.

Writing a memoir can be an emotional process. What was it like for you to put your story into words?

At times, writing this story was agonizing. Writing brought back so many painful memories that, in some ways, made me almost re-live what happened. For the same reasons, it was also therapeutic. And it was uplifting and gratifying to see the story from a new and fresh perspective, realizing all we went through—all we had to overcome—to get to where we are today.

There are several memorable moments in the book. Which is your favorite?

I love the part where the antagonist in the book gets a small taste of their own medicine. My heart races every time I get to that part of the book.

Of all of the events held at your venue, does a favorite event come to mind?

Yes! Once we were opened and felt established, we gathered twelve of our closest friends, shut down the venue on a very cold night, and spared no expense for an event we called, “Thank you for our friends.” We wanted to show our gratitude for the love and support we had received through it all. It was probably the best event ever held at the venue. I think they enjoyed it as much as I did. I will never forget how they kept us going through some of the toughest times of our lives, and I will never forget that special night.

You endured a lot on your way to becoming the CEO of The Bell Tower on 34th. Of all of the resources available to you as a business owner, what was most helpful in establishing the venue?

It’s important to emphasize the never-ending love and support from friends and family. Especially the support of my wife, Angela, the prayers of my mom, and blessings from God.

The book contains some interesting trivia about The Bell Tower on 34th, including a memorable wedding theme. Is there a theme or event you hope to have an opportunity to produce?

I love it when I am left to design the event, when there is no budget and the sky is the limit. Each one is different . . . over the top and amazing. I hope you get an opportunity to attend one of those productions, which can be life-altering if you let it be.

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Keep On Going is your first book. What has been the most surprising thing about the publishing process?

Overall, it is a huge undertaking to publish a book. No small chore whatsoever. There is way more involved in professionally publishing a book than I ever imagined.

Your readers may be equally surprised by the story of The Bell Tower on 34th. How do you hope Keep On Going will help others?

Anyone curious about The Bell Tower on 34th, Texas history, or even a little Houston history might find this book interesting. It will help to clarify the story for folks who may have some other impression about how we got started.

I also hope it provides encouragement for anyone in the middle of a fight or a challenge. It’s important that people know there is always hope. Don’t give up. Pray. Keep on going.

Wonderful advice! If you’d like to learn more:

Visit The Bell Tower on 34th website

Check out the book

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As president and CEO of The Bell Tower on 34th since 2009, Roger C. Igo is responsible for thousands of successful events and has continued to perfect his business and leadership style. A former Council Cabinet member of the World Affairs Council of Houston, graduate of CEO Space International, and alumnus of the Disney Institute, Igo is devoted to sharing the lessons he has learned during his career. Contact him at Roger@KeepOnGoing.org to schedule a speaking engagement for your company, leadership course, professional group, or nonprofit organization.

Ella

 

Ella Ritchie is the founder of Stellar Communications Houston, a book publishing team that works with nonfiction authors, business leaders, and federal government agencies. Connect with her on LinkedIn or visit the website.

Beyond Microsoft Word: An App That Will Change How You Write

Holly Wright has always worked with Microsoft Word. As the founder of For The Brokenhearted Ministries, she writes Bible studies, speeches, outlines, and lessons.

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But when she began the journey toward publishing her first book, Wright wanted more. She wanted a writing program that offered more organizational tools and features than in Microsoft Word.

She discovered there are many options out there for writers. There’s Google Docs, Final Draft, Zoho Writer, Script Studio, Storyist, and more.

Wright found her answer in Scrivener—and became an instant fan.

Scrivener is a word-processing program and outliner designed for writers of all kinds. It’s a go-to app that organizes concepts, research, documents, notes, and metadata. Scrivener allows easy access and reference for nonfiction authors, attorneys, journalists, screenwriters, and more.

We asked Wright to tell us five things about her new favorite book writing software.

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#1 “It’s comfortable.”

Scrivener has the appearance of Microsoft Word, so it feels familiar.

I’ll admit, the endless features seemed overwhelming at first glance. But I took a deep breath and decided to download the program. A step-by-step tutorial walked me through Scrivener at my own pace. I also turned to YouTube videos to answer specific questions. I chose the tools I needed, and everything else stayed out of my way.

It cost me an hour and a half of my time, but I found a true treasure.

#2 “It lets me skip around.”

Scrivener lets me see my whole manuscript at one time.

It’s important because I don’t write in chapter order. I tend to bounce around as ideas and inspiration randomly flow. I don’t want to be forced to scroll through my entire manuscript trying to locate specific parts.

On my Scrivener home page, I’m given a “corkboard.” Each “sticky note” on my corkboard represents a chapter from my book. When I click on a sticky note, the chapter opens. I can immediately begin writing and editing, or I can drag and drop the chapter to a new position. No cutting and pasting required!

An overview of my whole book is always just a click away.

#3 “It provides templates.”

Scrivener had a template ready for my nonfiction book. It includes standard elements like a title page, copyright page, dedication page, table of contents, foreword, and endnotes. There are also templates for fiction books and scripts as well as custom templates.

The template is helpful for me as a first-time author because I can put focus all my focus into writing. I don’t have to waste time figuring out the parts of my manuscript. Scrivener provides the organization and structure.

#4 “It’s great for research.”

Scrivener allows me to save and organize all my research.

This is critical because my manuscript is not just my words. It’s a compilation of many people’s stories of miraculous signs and wonders. I’m gathering testimonies on topics like forgiveness, near-death experiences, angelic encounters, and healing that baffles the medical community. My notes on each testimonial are easy to find.

#5 “It keeps me accountable.”

Scrivener lets me set word count goals.

I can set goals by time. Sometimes I target word counts for each writing session or each day, week, or month. I can also set goal by section. Sometimes I strive for a word count for each chapter within the manuscript.  

Either way, it tracks my progress and offers detailed statistics on how well I’m meeting my goals.

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Wright says there are so many tools offered in Scrivener that she has only scratched the surface. But her decision to take a leap into Scrivener is already paying off. She’s mastered the basics – and she’s well on her way to publishing her first book!

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Holly Wright is an inspirational and passionate speaker, writer, and teacher who leads in the body of Christ with contagious enthusiasm. She is the founder of For The Brokenhearted Ministries, which serves as a hospital for the broken. It’s a place where people come to receive prayer, deliverance, healing and hope. To submit your miraculous story to Wright’s forthcoming book or to schedule a speaking engagement for your next workshop, conference, or retreat, visit http://www.forthebrokenhearted.org.

 

 

Ella

 

Ella Ritchie is the founder of Stellar Communications Houston, a book publishing team that provides a peaceful process and pride in every product for nonfiction authors, business leaders, and federal government agencies. For more information, connect with her on LinkedIn or visit the website at http://www.stellarwriter.com. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can do this with a business mentor

The first time I met Tracey Timpanaro was in 2011.

She was a freelance writer and editor with a successful career in corporate communications. I was a single mother with a tentative dream.

“You can do this,” she said with a smile. I must have looked skeptical because she said it again. “You can do this.”

She saw hope in me before I saw it myself. And she was the first person who told me I could do it. Everyone else I had spoken to said that starting a business on my own was entirely too risky.

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Timpanaro offered an internship, and over the next year, she peppered me with assignments and feedback. Sometimes I nailed it; sometimes I got it wrong. She was always brutally honest.

I watched the easy way she interacted with clients and the meticulous way she tracked hours. I watched how she made possible what others said was impossible.

One year later, I established my own company. I had learned from her the grit and determination it would take to succeed, so I got to work.

Early mornings were spent at networking events. Late nights were spent creating my website. Weekends were spent at business courses. Every day was spent writing and editing.

Timpanaro was there for my first big break. An international pharmaceutical company wanted a database of formulas proofread by an aggressive deadline. She provided the names of freelancers so that I could cobble together a team.

“And remember,” she said, “you’re worth your rate. Don’t sell yourself short.”

Working around the clock for months, the project was a success. It gave me the confidence to keep going — to aim for bigger and better projects.

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Throughout it all, Timpanaro has remained only an email away. I am thankful for the mentor who started it all.

Today, I speak to single parents who feel tentative about their futures. I see hope in them before they see it themselves.

I smile and say, “You can do this.”

*As published by Johnson Press of America, Volume 13, Issue 5, September 2019

EllaElla Ritchie is the founder of Stellar Communications Houston, a book publishing team that provides a peaceful process and pride in every product for nonfiction authors, business leaders, and government agencies. For more information, connect with her on LinkedIn or visit the website. She and her husband, Jason, help single parents find hope and healing through a ministry called DivorceCare.

My book has been pirated! Now what?

Last month, one of our authors spotted something unusual.

She came across her book on sale for $16.99 on a couple of websites she didn’t recognize. It was obvious something was wrong. The regular retail price of her medical training book was far higher than what seemed to be a fake price tag.

She immediately contacted us. “Is this legal?” she wanted to know.

No, it was not legal. These two online retailers didn’t have the authority to sell her book, and their sales were not legitimate. This meant that our client wouldn’t be compensated for any sales of her book through these sites.

Unfortunately, piracy is becoming increasingly common. Here are a few things you can do to prevent it from happening to you — and steps you can take if it does.

Register your work with the U.S. Copyright Office.

According to copyright laws, your work is already considered copyrighted as yours as the author. However, you cannot actually sue someone for copyright infringement until you register your work. This simple step provides enhanced protection.

Use a reputable publisher and/or distributor. 

A reputable distributor only partners with retailers that apply digital rights management (DRM) to book files when selling to customers. DRM serves as a means of copyright protection of digital media and prevents illegal copying or re-distribution.

Stay attentive.

Regularly search for your book title, keeping tabs on where it is being sold online. Your publisher or distributor can provide a list of approved online retail partners to help you identify illegitimate sales.

Know the difference between piracy and scams.

In this case, our author did everything right. Her work was registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. We distributed her book through the oldest, most reputable distributor in the industry. And she was checking online regularly.

So what’s the deal?

What appears to be piracy is sometimes simply a scam. There are hundreds of websites that seem to be selling work or giving work away for free, when in fact they are not.

Here’s how they do it: Scammers scrape Amazon and other retailers for inventory then create bogus websites that appear to be hosting your work. To make the sites more believable, they even list a fake number of downloads. When you attempt to download your book, you will be asked to either add your credit card or perform a series of tasks, such as signing up for a trial for software or buying a magazine subscription.

We were fairly certain our author was dealing with a scam, particularly when our emails suddenly landed in our Spam folders. The website links that we were discussing in our emails were flagged as harmful by our email account filters.

So what’s the next step in the case of a scam?

It’s certainly your right to contact the website and ask for your book not to be listed. Many authors don’t bother going beyond that to take legal action because it’s difficult to pin down scams.

As for our author, she is engaging with an attorney to decide whether she’ll take further action. And as for you, be sure to keep these steps in mind for the best protection of your work.

EllaElla Ritchie is the founder of Stellar Communications Houston, a book publishing team that provides a peaceful process and pride in every product for nonfiction authors, business leaders and federal government agencies. For more information, connect with her on LinkedIn or check out the website.

How to lure your audience – and keep them to the end

Remember the old fairy tale Hansel and Gretel? A boy leaves a trail of pebbles in the woods, promising his sister it’ll lead them back home.

Good communication works like that. An audience is lured by the promise of a destination. They want indicators that help them know where they are along the way. And they’re satisfied when they end up at the big ending.

Good communication is really about earning the trust of your audience – and then fulfilling that trust.

This principal applies to books. Readers want to be certain there is a clear path to a worthy destination. They want to know they can trust an author to take them where they want to go.

The key to building the trust of readers – and to keeping your promise – is the structure of your book. The structure conveys a trusted pathway that helps readers reach a worthy conclusion. Readers appreciate when you build in indicators that let them know where they are on the map.

Let’s take a look at a few ways our authors have developed strong structures. While the methods are different, they each follow through on the author’s promise.

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Perhaps the most literal example is Reverend John Miller’s forthcoming book, Journey to Paradise. The cover of the book promises a bold destination: Readers will discover the deepest desires of their heart. Everything about his words and design implies that he and the reader will embark on a trek together.

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As soon as the reader peeks inside the book jacket, Reverend Miller gives a glimpse of the journey ahead.

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And then in the first few pages, a two-page spread shows the complete map. Again and again, Reverend Miller is reassuring his readers that he knows where he’s taking them.

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Along the way, each chapter represents one stop on the trek. As readers are reminded where they are on the map, Reverend Miller is keeping his promise.

Pieces of a Whole

Another example of strong structure is Medicine at the Crossroads, a collection of newspaper articles by cardiologist Dr. Michael Attas. The purpose and promise of the book is to unify the three different parts of a broken healthcare system.

To illustrate unification, his cover design shows three shards of stained glass welded together into one picture.

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Inside the book, there are three sections that correspond to the three shards of glass. These are the different parts of the healthcare system that Dr. Attas promised to address in his book.

Although the book looks at many topics and viewpoints related to medicine, readers are provided a solid structure in which they can explore concepts without getting lost.

Timelines

A third example of structure is Contraflow, by Bill Herrington. Its promise is to tell a gripping eyewitness account of loss and leadership in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005.

The Table of Contents is organized according to the timeline of the events.

To create a sense of impending doom, some chapters serve as a countdown to the storm. And to emphasize the urgency of the situation, the digital time is updated throughout the chapters.

The Take-Away

Effective communication is about fulfilling a promise to your audience.

When it comes to your book, ask yourself, “Where do I want to take my readers?” Then consider, “What is the best pathway to lead readers there?”

Maps, pieces of a whole and timelines are only a few examples. There are many mechanisms you can use as “pebbles” to lead readers and bring clarity to your ideas.

Ultimately, when you and reader arrive at the conclusion, you’ll both be thankful for the journey.

EllaElla Ritchie is the founder of Stellar Communications Houston, a book publishing team that provides a peaceful process and pride in every product for nonfiction authors, business leaders and federal government agencies. For more information, connect with her on LinkedIn or check out the website.

Three Things You Should Know Before You Publish Your Family Book

Let me tell you: It can be humbling to experience your own business process. That’s what I discovered when I decided to publish a book for my family.

It’s a bit surprising, considering I have the joy of publishing several books every year for other families. Many are kept private, but some are made public, like these:

So I already knew that a book is a beautiful way to honor a family’s legacy. It captures all of the people, stories and pictures that matter. It’s a perfect gift for future generations.

I also already knew the deep emotions that come with a family project. I walk with clients every day through the highs and lows of the process.

But switching from “publisher” to “author” provided a whole new perspective. Here are a few things you should know – from both perspectives – before you embark on a book for your family.

  1. It takes more time than you think.

A book involves many steps. There’s writing, editing, proofreading, formatting, cover design, and printing. Most authors take a year or two to see their ideas in print.

Now add a family to that process. There are questions to write, interviews to schedule, photographs to collect and people to coordinate. There’s a lot to do.

So begin with the end in mind. What kind of book do you want? Do you need it by a certain date? A publisher can help you set a realistic schedule and expectations based on your goals.

In my case, I was aiming for a big event. In 10 months, my grandparents would be celebrating their 75th wedding anniversary. The entire family – a very large Cajun family – would be gathering for the special occasion. I couldn’t think of a better way to honor my family than to publish a book in honor of my grandparents.

My deadline determined the type of book I could produce. I knew I wouldn’t have time for a comprehensive family history in 10 months. So I settled on a coffee table book. Short stories with photographs were more manageable in the time available.

With my goals in place, I got to work.

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  1. It takes more energy than you think.

You’d be surprised at how difficult it is to gather everyone and everything you need. Especially in a large family. Family members intend to help, but they’re busy.

And when you do gather what you need, it’s a challenge to know what to do with it all. The stories need to be cobbled together, and the photographs need to meet printing standards.

It’s helpful to define the “must-haves” and the “nice-to-haves.” For my book, the must-haves were my grandparents and their 11 children. I pursued them by email and phone until I had an opportunity to connect with each. The “nice-to-haves” were the 30+ grandchildren. I sent a blanket invitation and deadline to contribute to the book.

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So be prepared to set deadlines – and then be prepared to blow past them. Be prepared to drive to hometowns, dig through boxes of old photos, and have long conversations. With persistence, the pieces will eventually come together. And with a little patience, a publisher can help you organize content and images in a way that makes sense.

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  1. It’s more rewarding than you think.

I thought I knew the satisfaction that authors felt when their books arrive. That is, until mine arrived . . . just six days before the big event.

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I carefully pulled open the boxes and looked at my book, reflecting on everything that had gone into the last 10 months. The late nights and the endless scanning of photos. The initial excitement and the growing concern about time. Every big and small decision that went into the design.

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I cried tears of relief and joy. It was worth every minute.

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The family at the 75th wedding anniversary celebration

 

SelfieElla Ritchie (pictured during an interview with her grandmother) is the founder of Stellar Communications Houston, a book publishing team that provides a peaceful process and pride in every product for nonfiction authors, business leaders and federal government agencies. For more information, connect with her on LinkedIn or check out the website.