I’m Samantha A. Cole, a USA Today bestselling and award-winning indie author of suspenseful and seductive romance novels. The first book in my Trident Security series launched in April 2015 with little fanfare and expectations. Like most indie authors, I had to learn the business from the ground up. I diligently researched formatting, cover designs, Kindle Unlimited vs. wide markets, print options, marketing, and more to figure out what worked for me and what didn’t.
As my reader base grew, I released more books in the series — it now has 13 books and five spinoff series! — as well as another series and a standalone novel. It didn’t take long before readers were asking when my big series would be available in audio. I dove into the world of audiobooks just as I’d done with everything else — with research and trial and error. Royalty share vs. PFH (paying per finished hour), single narrator vs. dual or duet narrators, exclusive vs. non-exclusive distribution — it’s enough to make your head spin.
What I didn’t expect was to end up switching one of my audiobooks from single narration to duet narration and rereleasing it nearly four years after its debut, resulting in an increase in sales and positive reviews! In this post, I’ll explain why I made this switch, how I did it, and what my results looked like. I hope this helps other authors looking for ways to boost their audiobook sales!
Producing the first audiobook edition
In July 2016, I decided to list a book on ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange, which is Audible’s publishing platform) in search of a narrator willing to do a royalty share. Being the first book in my largest series, Leather & Lace was the obvious choice. Since I was still new to the book world, I couldn’t afford or justify the expense of a PFH narration. At the time, ACX was the only audiobook production site with a proven track record of sales and a royalty-share option.
Over the next few weeks, narrator auditions trickled in. If you don’t have a large following yet, the more experienced and popular narrators either won’t do a royalty share at all (why should they when they can get paid up front?), or they won’t take the risk with a newer author still struggling to grow a reputation and fan base. In a royalty split, if the audiobooks don’t sell, the narrator did all that work for nothing.
Out of the few auditions that were sent back to me, none of them were dual or duet narration, which are popular in romance genres featuring m/f couples:
- Dual Narration: Two narrators, usually one man and one woman. The man will read the chapters from the male character’s POV and voice both male and female dialogue. The woman will read the chapters from the female character’s POV and also voice both male and female dialogue.
- Duet Narration: The narrators will read the POVs the same as in dual narration; however, the man will voice all the male characters’ dialogue and the woman will voice all the female characters’ dialogue, no matter what POV the chapter is in.
I finally decided on a female narrator and agreed to the production through ACX. When it was complete, Leather & Lace was listed as exclusive with ACX on Audible, Amazon, and Apple, as per their TOS for royalty-split contracts.
With only one audiobook listed, sales were slow for several months until I could afford PFH narrations of the next few books in the series. And after the fourth book, I took ACX out of the production process and worked directly with the narrators. Meanwhile, feedback started coming in — while many reviewers stated they liked the first audiobook, some weren’t thrilled with a solo female narration for a romance and left lower star ratings for “Performance” on Audible. Others posted in my reader group or sent me private messages that they would’ve preferred a male narrator or a duet narration.
While sales from Leather & Lace went up a little bit with some marketing, the follow-through to the next book wasn’t where I’d hoped it would be. The original series and its spinoffs had grown in popularity in ebooks (with good follow-through), so it was obvious I needed to do something with the audio version of Leather & Lace to increase the follow-through to the rest of the series. I started to think about having the book re-narrated, but first I had to buy out my current narrator to dissolve the royalty-split contract.
Making the switch to duet narration
After having the next 13 books produced by solo male narrators, the primary narrator for the Trident Security series told me he was stepping back from audiobook production for a while. I thought that was the perfect opportunity to look for a duet team to continue the series.
I found Gunnar Qualen and Jenna St. Claire, a husband/wife team, through several recommendations (from both readers and other authors) and hired them to narrate my next two books. They sat down with me on a video conference call and went through all my characters, learning how I saw and heard them in my head, helping them bring my characters to life. My readers loved the duet as much as I did, and I now knew I wanted them to re-narrate Leather & Lace.
Around the same time, I decided to take my audiobooks wide, which meant changing their distribution from ACX to non-exclusive and listing them with Findaway Voices. It also meant I had to make sure I could get out of the royalty split, since it made Leather & Lace exclusive to ACX for another four years. Thankfully, the narrator and I agreed on a buyout price, and the full rights were reverted to me. In the meantime, I moved the books that weren’t related to the Trident Security series to Findaway Voices to try and develop an audiobook following on their distribution sites, including Chirp.
Once Leather & Lace was live on several sites via Findaway Voices, I started posting the links on all my social media platforms and announced them in my newsletter. I also ran a BookBub Ads campaign for the new edition. Members of my Facebook reader group loved the new narration, and more listeners were finding my books through the sites Findaway Voices distributed to. The average rating for this book also improved.
Promoting the rereleased audiobook
Now that more than half the Trident Security series was available in audio on Chirp, I decided to try for a Chirp Deal for Leather & Lace to get the series noticed. I was elated when it was chosen for a deal on my first try, even though it had been so recently rereleased. Since the audiobook was retailing for $9.95, I was open to discounting my book between $0.99, $1.99, and $2.99 discount options, which allowed the editors at Chirp to pick the price they thought was best based on previous deals in the romance/suspense genre. They listed the sale for $2.99.
The deal went live on Chirp’s website on January 29, 2021, and ran in the daily deals email on January 31. The deal ran for one month. Prior to that, I’d only sold eight copies of all my audiobooks on Chirp — clearly, no one knew they were there. (I was getting more sales on other sites.) The Chirp deal drove 750 sales of Leather & Lace at $2.99 over the next several weeks.
I also sold over 100 copies of my other audiobooks at full price on Chirp during the month the deal was live. I probably would’ve sold more if I’d followed a suggestion from the Chirp rep and lowered the price of the second book in the series to under $4.99 — discounting other titles during a Chirp Deal increases the chance that members will buy them since discounted books get the most visibility on the Chirp website — but live and learn.
In the month after the deal ended, I sold another 100 copies of my other audiobooks on Chirp, also at full price. Almost a thousand sales from one deal on one site where barely anyone had ever noticed my audiobooks before! There was also an increase in sales for my audiobooks on other Findaway Voices distribution sites, even though the sale was only on Chirp. Many members of my Facebook reader group said they grabbed the deal, even though they’d purchased the original narration. Aside from announcing the deal on social media and in my newsletter, I didn’t run any other advertising campaigns, wanting to see the results from that one deal.
Happy with the results, I immediately submitted another book for a Chirp deal, and I was lucky enough to get a second one for the first book in an unrelated series: Don’t Fight It: Hazard Falls Book 1. This one went live on April 7. As of April 17, I’ve sold 593 copies of that audiobook at $1.99 on Chirp, with 20 more days to go in the sale cycle. I’ve sold another 144 copies of my other books on Chirp during that same time period. I took the rep’s advice this time and lowered the second book in the series to $4.95.
So, here’s my advice:
- If the ratings of your audiobooks are low for performance, consider investing in having the book re-narrated, especially if it’s the lead-in to a series and there’s little follow-through.
- Research your genre. What narration styles are popular for it?
- Pop into the multiple Facebook groups for audiobooks and find out who the listeners’ favorite narrators are for your genre.
- Consider going wide with your audiobook distribution to help broaden your reach.
- If your audiobooks are wide, send in a submission for a Chirp deal and keep trying until you get one! This is the best time to try for one because their deals are still free, so there’s no risk involved.
If you’ve developed a following for your digital and print books, then your next step is to get your stories into audio as soon as possible. Audiobook sales are at an all-time high — don’t get left behind!
The views and opinions expressed in this guest post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of BookBub.
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