Book Reviews, Writing & Publishing Articles

Indie Book Review: Audiobooks for Indies

audiobooks for indiesAudiobooks for Indies: Unlock the Audio Potential of Your Book by Simon Whistler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

For the sake of full disclosure, I need to say that I received an advanced reader copy of Audiobooks for Indies for being a listener of The Rocking Self-Publishing Podcast. A review was not a condition of receiving the ARC, but it was requested as a favor. In all honesty, even if I had purchased this book, it would have been worth every cent.

Audiobooks for Indies by Simon Whistler will soon become the definitive go-to guide for independently published authors looking to expand their streams of income by breaking into the audiobook market. Whistler’s guide is comprehensive and clear, and his instructions and advice are easily implemented. Whistler covers nearly every aspect of audiobook creation and his guide truly helps the reader which production methods (if any) to pursue with his/her novel(s).

The core content of Audiobooks for Indies revolves around the various audiobook production methods. Whistler fully explains how to execute each method, provides multiple pros and cons of each method, and even gives a case study detailing why another author chose this method and how it worked for him/her. The chapters are to-the-point but still packed with information, and they empower the reader to choose which (if any) method to implement.

Besides how to produce an audiobook, Audiobooks for Indies also explores why and when to pursue audiobook production. Whistler pulls no punches: he gives an honest opinion on when creating an audiobook will be profitable and worthwhile, yet he remains optimistic to his reader. Likewise, Whistler outlines several options for what to do after the audiobook goes on sale, listing several audiobook-specific marketing strategies and giving honest feedback on how well the reader can expect them to work.

Perhaps the most helpful parts of Audiobooks for Indies are in the details. Whistler begins and ends the book with definitions of important industry terms used throughout the text. This is a huge asset for any individual who is not experienced in audiobook creation and its retailers.

Additionally, throughout the text, Whistler directs the reader to resources that he has created. These include tutorials on how to create the best recording space, a detailed spreadsheet for calculating the financial costs/benefits of creating an audiobook, among others. In short, Whistler does everything possible to educate his reader on the basics terminology and functioning of the audiobook industry and then expands this into more in-depth material that the reader can customize to his/her own needs.

Personally, I only knew the most basic information about producing audiobooks (gleaned from The Rocking Self-Publishing Podcast which Whistler runs), but after reading this book, I feel fully confident in my ability to make an intelligent decision regarding when and how I will create an audiobook and what I will do with it afterwards. I even feel like Whistler gave me enough technical knowledge that I could narrate my own books (but I also know enough about myself to know that I will not). My only critique of the entire book is that I wish Whistler would have expanded on the areas he deemed “outside the scope” of the book.

If you are looking for a guide to tell you when, how, and why to create an audiobook, Audiobooks for Indies by Simon Whistler is worth a read. It is the best audiobook production guide that I know of to-date, and it is only a matter of time before it is held up alongside other indie guides as a “must-have” book for all independent publishers.

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audiobooks for indiesIf you are interested in reading Audiobooks for Indies and would like to help sponsor my writing and research, you can purchase it at my Amazon Associates Store. By doing this, you will not pay a cent extra, but I will receive a small commission on the sale. Simply click the book’s title or the book’s image.

Thank you!



Fiction Blog, Writing Updates

Moving On: The Next Steps in My Writing Journey

Okay, I have been vague and not at all enlightening about the upcoming changes in my writing journey. Today, I want to tell you all exactly what my plans are and how I will be sharing them on this blog.

Point blank: my goal is to begin my own author-entrepreneur business through which I will publish my books and offer other services. 

Now, this is a long game. I am not going to just slap my NaNoWriMo manuscript up on Amazon and call myself a published author. No way! The journey to publication will take me several months, and the journey to being a full-time author will probably take me several years. However, now that I have my first drafted manuscript, I am ready to begin.

Below is the list of steps that I will be taking to move toward publication by November 2015. They are in rough chronological order, but there is some overlap and flexibility based on how my journey unfolds. For those of you who are also looking to independently publish, I hope these steps will serve as a very rough guide for one approach to the process.

1. Begin writing my next novel.

2. Edit and revise my NaNoWriMo novel.

3. Find beta readers for my first novel.

4. Start my author-entrepreneur business as an LLC.

5. Hire professional editors (developmental, copy, and proofreading) to help me polish my first novel.

6. Hire a cover artist to design my first novel’s cover.

7. Refine and expand my online author platform (starting with an update to this blog!).

8. Create an email list.

9. Expand my online writing community through guest posts, book reviews, and forums.

10. When my first novel is ready to publish, send out advanced reader copies (ARCs) in return for reviews.

11. Market and publish my first novel on multiple platforms.

12. Diversify my income by turning out more products (not just books!).

13. Continue researching, self-educating, and keeping up with industry changes.

If you do not know what I mean when I refer to these steps, or if you are interested in learning more about how to take them, don’t worry! I will be detailing each step as I take it on this blog, and I will also be rewinding the clock to explain the steps I have already taken.

That’s my plan in the broadest of strokes. There is a lot to do, but luckily, I can take it one step at a time AND I have you all for support.

If you see anything that I may have forgotten, have any questions you cannot wait for other blog posts to answer, or want to share your own plans and tips, please hit me up in the comments!

Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Craft & Tips

NaNoWriMo 2014: Lessons Learned and Post-NaNo Plans

This will be my last NaNoWriMo post until next year’s event. However, before I put NaNoWriMo 2014 to bed, I think it deserves a bit of reflection.

When I consider where I started in October, I am amazed by the progress I made in my writing career – in only 30 days at that! If you want to read my pre-NaNo post, you can do so here. But, long story short, I began NaNoWriMo as someone who called herself a writer without a steady writing routine or finished manuscript, but with a lot of hope, determination, and a Bachelors of Arts in English. For me, NaNoWriMo was a chance to prove to myself that I studied the right subject in university, to justify my decision to postpone graduate school, and to show myself that I have the discipline and the guts to turn writing into a full-time career.

In case you have not been following my NaNoWriMo journey (and have a lot of free time on your hands), you can catch up here or simply read my final day recap here. Again, long story short, I won NaNoWriMo on Day 19 and finished my manuscript on Day 30.

Here are my totals:

Total Word Count: 80,060

Average Daily Word Count: 2,668

Total Hours Spent Writing: 56 hours

Average Daily Writing Time: 1.87 hours

Average Words per Hour: 1,430

While all these numbers are nice for reference, I know: we writers aren’t normally numbers people. So, here are my qualitative NaNoWriMo results, aka, my lessons learned.

  1. The only way to write a novel is to actually sit down and write it. Yes, this is entirely self-evident, but a lot of writers tend to do a lot more talking about writing than actual writing (myself included until November).
  1. When you stop worrying about every word being perfect, writing is easy. Okay, this may not be true for everyone, but I found that the moment I shut off my mental editor, the words flowed through my fingertips, and I produced a huge volume of work very quickly.
  1. Speaking of this, I learned that I am a prolific writer. I have never thought of myself as a fast writer, but given my averages, I feel like I can call myself one now.
  1. Writing is so much more fun with a community. Having that NaNoWriMo community on Twitter and WordPress was awesome! I loved cheering on my fellow writers and receiving support in return. While I know the enthusiasm will die down as writers crawl back into the woodwork, I hope that some writers stay out and social and keep the spirit alive!
  1. Writing a first draft is only the beginning. This is not something I learned during NaNoWriMo, but it is something I feel now that it is over. The first draft is step one. Then comes editing, revising, marketing, branding, publishing, etc. The fears of draft writing may be gone, but now they are replaced with a whole new box of nerves and excitement!

So now what? In a previous post, I offered suggestions for what do post-NaNoWriMo. You can probably already guess, but I fall into the final category: “I won NaNoWriMo, my manuscript is complete, and I want to seek publication.”

Currently, I am working on my plans to transition into writing as a career and start my own author business. Of course, this will be a slow project, and I will probably be working a day job for several more years.

I won’t go into much detail in this post, because there is simply too much to discuss! However, I will say that this is going to be the main focus of my blog from here on out. I will be sharing everything I learn about business, independent publishing, marketing, and of course writing. I will also still offer “Feedback Fridays,” but I will focus on reviewing books for writers related to craft and business. And, of course, I will share tidbits from my personal life as well.

If this sounds useful, entertaining, or interesting to you, I hope you keep coming back and reading my blog. I don’t want this to be a place just for me, but also for you all to learn, be entertained, and engage in discussions of all things writing. Thanks for reading and staying with me through the next steps of my writing career!

What are your post-NaNoWriMo plans? What do you want to know or need to learn about writing, publishing, and creating an author business? Share it all below!



Author Business & Publishing, Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Craft & Tips

The Puffin Rule: How to Make Your Writing Marketable AND Unique

You have the motivation to write your novel, screenplay, or poem. You’ve done your research and are brimming with inspiration and references to help bring your ideas to life. Now comes the fun (and difficult) part: sitting down to write.

Wiliam ShakespeareWithout doubt, as you start writing, you’ll start asking yourself questions. Is what I’m writing unique or am I falling victim to clichés? I think this idea is really cool, but will anyone else actually want to read this story? If you’re like me and you ponder these points as you write, you are thinking of your writing as both art and business — a great first step!

Many writers and readers argue that there aren’t any new stories out there to tell. After all, even Shakespeare borrowed ideas from his playwright predecessors. While this debate warrants its own post entirely, here is what I will say on the matter for the purposes of this post:

While it is possible to write original works, it is almost impossible to keep your work entirely devoid of old themes.

For example, if you have a pair of lovers who face an obstacle to be together, you have produced thematic relatives of the characters, Romeo and Juliet. If your story features a vampire or reanimated corpse, you have crafted thematic relatives of Bram Stoker’s Dracula or Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. 

The point of writing should not be to write something 100% original. It is almost, if not entirely, impossible to write something that does not remind someone of anything else that’s ever been written.

The point of writing should be to write something original to you that is thematically or elementally related to another work in a way that captures a mood, embodies a zeitgeist, or catches some other reader sensibility. You can use other stories or genre staples to your advantage by knowing what they’ve done, and then doing something similar, but different. By honoring literary traditions and then making them your own, you are left with a product that is identifiable and marketable but also unique to you.

penguinsHerein lies The Puffin Rule.

Stick with me on this. Penguins are super fashionable right now. They are adorable, waddling creatures that are in movies, in children’s books, on clothing and accessories, and generally receive a squeal of adoration whenever encountered. I swear, this isn’t just me. People love penguins.

Penguins are popular, and you could easily incorporate them into your writing. However, I wouldn’t advise this. Yes, if you publish your penguin book while they are still a hot topic, you are likely to get a sales boost. However, you are more likely to get swallowed up in the market and lost. Likewise, if you miss the craze by even a minute, you will look like you were simply trying to cash in on the mania and missed.

This is where puffins come in. Puffins are a lot like penguins. They are black and white with orange beaks. They fish and live in cold climates. The differences? Puffins are cooler than penguins (they can fly — even underwater!), and no one seems to have picked up on puffins. Therefore, if you alter your story to be about puffins, you can hit the same general feeling as penguins while being a dash different and a splash cooler.puffins

Okay, leaving the bird metaphor behind, let’s look at a recent literary example. There are millions of vampire books out there. However, to my knowledge, Stephanie Meyer’s vampires are the only ones that sparkle. She took a popular literary creature and made it different. Whether you think this is awesome or stupid, the fact remains: her books exploded. By making sparkly vampires, Meyer cashed in on people’s love of vampires and adolescent girls’ love of “bad boys” and “danger” as well as diamonds and pretty things. (Of course there are plenty of other factors that made The Twilight Series a huge hit — but I would say this twist contributed.)

In short, sparkly vampires were Meyer’s puffins.

Here is the point: by taking well-known literary concepts or trends and reinventing them, you can create something unique and fresh while remaining in a marketplace that sells.

IMPORTANT: I’m not encouraging you to sell-out and only write what you think will make money. I’m also not advocating genre monogamy.

I’m simply saying, if you choose to write about popular topics or in popular genres, figure out how to make them your own.

And, if you choose to attempt a totally new mixture of writing elements, remember to include some literary aspects that will resonate with your readers.

If you mix your art and business this way, you will come out with a writing product that is both marketable and unique to you.

Good luck and happy writing!

What techniques do you use to keep your writing original within its genre? How do you reinvent literary traditions to make your writing fresh? Share your tips below!

Author Business & Publishing, Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Craft & Tips

The Great Debate: Is Writing an Art or a Business?

There seems to be this weird divide in the writing community. There are writers, who view the act of writing as a means to earn their living by publishing their articles, stories, and books. And then there are writers, the artistes (in the French accent and everything) who pour their soul onto the page and hold immense disdain for the evil necessity of selling their literary children to heartless agents.

Greed_by_muffet1In my personal experience, these two categories are often distinguished by genre. The artless journalists peddle their pens for the dollar, while the artful creative writers weave imaginary worlds to describe the indescribable human condition. And you know, in the days of Shakespeare, maybe even as recently as Hemingway and Fitzgerald, this may have been the case. However, for those of you clinging onto this stigma, I hate to break it to you, but…

NEWSFLASH: The days of writing as an art OR a business are over.

With the current hyper-competitiveness of the traditional publishing market, a writer must be both artful and business-minded in order to secure a readership, attract an agent, and produce a respectable quantity of quality writing. At the same time as traditional publishing is becoming even more cut-throat, the independent publishing industry is booming.

For independent writers, the art vs. business balance is even more crucial. These writers have more freedom in their art, as they do not have publishing companies censoring their work. However, they also don’t have publishing companies around to help manage the business side of writing. Therefore, they must learn to self-edit and tame their art, while at the same time creating and managing a business plan that still leaves room for their art.

All this being said, is there ever a time in which writing can be only an art or only a business? Let me offer a few rough guidelines.

Writing as Art

Who should do this? – Hobbyists

my_writer_II_by_cactusowaWriting is art and art only when the writer has no intention of profiting from his or her writing. If the writer is writing for enjoyment (as merely a hobby), for therapeutic purposes, or for any other purely personal reason, with no intention of monetary gain, that is writing as art. As with any artistic venture, the writing may gain monetary value and may result in profit. However, if the intentions are to create and enjoy, not to earn money, then the writing is done as art.

Of course, there is always the debate of what exactly constitutes “art” — but that is a whole other post.

Writing as Business

Who should do this? – Writers/Publishers (Big Business)

Writing is a business when an individual intends to profit from the writing. I believe it is difficult for writing to be purely a business, as there is usually an aspect of art in the creation of the writing. To this end, I would argue that writing is purely business when the writer does not gain emotional or spiritual enjoyment from it, when the writer cares more about the profitability of a work than the quality, and/or when the writer lets the market dictate what type of works he or she writes. Additionally, I would argue that writing is strictly business for several individuals in the publishing industry, who care more about the marketability of a book than the quality.

Writing as Art and Business

Who should do this? – Contemporary Writers (especially independent writers)

As described previously, writing should be considered an art and a business. As someone who cares deeply about the field of writing, I know it is an art form. While the techniques of writing can be learned, it takes great practice and some natural talent to be able to write artfully. Writing artfully shows integrity and respect for the field. However, writers cannot get too wrapped up in artistic sensibility. They must be mindful of ways to market their writing and themselves, cognizant of what readers want, and careful in their expenditures.

Michel_Roux_-_Book_signingAs they say in the business world, time is money. Likewise, money is time. You need both to have the freedom to pursue writing. When you treat your writing as a business, it generates the money that gives you the time to practice your art. The time crafting your art creates marketable writing product, which you can sell to make more money and time. You get to be artful and profitable. It’s a win-win.

The fact of the matter is: in today’s market, a writer must be good (artful) and business-minded. You can wax poetic, drink coffee, and wear fedoras all day long, but if you don’t have a business plan (to get published or to publish yourself), you won’t have any time to craft your art in those coffee shops — because you’ll be the one pouring the coffee to pay rent.

Do you consider your writing to be more of an art or more of a business? Do you think the form of publishing a writer pursues impacts the art vs. business balance?


Business For Authors. How To Be An Author Entrepreneur by Joanna Penn – This book is all about the union of art and business in writing. In Penn’s words, this book is meant “to take the result of your creativity into the realm of actually paying the bills.”

Your First 1,000 Copies: The Step-By-Step Guide to Marketing Your Book by Tim Grahl – This book teaches you how to turn your writing into a business by marketing responsibly and with morality. I highly
recommend this one for anyone who feels like a jerk when trying to get people’s money. You can check out my review for more information.

Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World by Michael Hyatt – This
book walks you through the process of setting up a social media platform and gives advice on creating a product that will sell. I recommend it for both traditionally-published or independently-published authors. You can check out my review for more information.