SPS-275: How Free Audiobooks Can Make You Money – with Lindsay Buroker
Lindsay Buroker is a prolific author who is not afraid to try new methods in order to get her books in the hands (and ears) of new readers.
- On writing prolifically in Fantasy and Sci-Fi
- Using YouTube as a way to draw listeners to audiobooks
- On the appeal of selling direct from an author website
- Trying to keep the readers of two different genres happy
Resources mentioned in this episode:
PATREON: Self Publishing Formula Show’s Patreon page
MERCH: Are you a ligneous beetle or a yawning hippopotamus? Get your SPF hoodies and t-shirts in the brand new SPF Store.
SPS-275: How Free Audiobooks Can Make You Money - with Lindsay Buroker
Speaker 1: On this edition of the Self-Publishing Show.
Lindsay Buroker: People tell you like, "Oh no, you've got to get a degree in business or computer science or something." So it's really a cool time to be alive and be an author. I still think that's true for people who are starting out today. There's great opportunities out here.
Speaker 1: Publishing is changing. No more gatekeepers. No more barriers. No one standing between you and your readers. Do you want to make a living from your writing?
Join indie bestseller, Mark Dawson, and first-time author James Blatch as they shine the light on the secrets of self-publishing success. This is the Self-Publishing Show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.
James Blatch: Hello and welcome to the Self-Publishing Show with me, James Blatch.
Mark Dawson: And me, Mark Dawson.
James Blatch: You're very welcome along. We have a good show today with none other than Lindsay Buroker who's been killing it in the indie space for some years now. A great person to talk to. I really love Lindsay and what she does. Good, thoughtful. I think a very dynamic person, Lindsay, as well. She manoeuvres quite quickly and finds new territory. She's got one really interesting thing she's doing with audiobooks.
If you're interested in audiobooks, or thinking about it, listen to today's interview. We'll talk about it after the interview. But a very, very interesting thing that I hadn't heard before and is making money. So we'll bring you that news in the interview and talk about it afterwards.
Before then, we want to welcome our Patreon supporters, Mark. We have a couple this week. They are Valerie Weisen, I'm going to say, W-E-I-S-E-N, Weisen, from California, and Thomas T.
We also are going to mention that if you are a Patreon supporter and you have a book out, and you would like to enter the Book Laboratory, that is an episode really built around your book, how it's presented to the world, a look inside in terms of the words, the cover, and the blurb on Amazon.
If you get selected, you go into the laboratory and experts dissect each area of a book and hopefully give you, in front of everybody else so we all learn from the process, all the tips and pointers you need to correct things that might be stalling sales and push you in the right direction.
So we're going to do another one of those episodes very soon. We are in the process of choosing somebody, Mark, obviously you choose somebody in the end, but we do need some candidates. We've got a few at the moment, but we could do other few more and you have to go to patreon.com and become a gold subscriber. Is that right? Let's have a look. One book currently for sale on Amazon, and you're a gold level Patreon subscriber, if you go to patreon.com/selfpublishingshow-
Mark Dawson: That reminds me. Speaking of reading names out and how interesting that could be for you. I don't know if you saw this, Nigel Farage. He's a famous politician in the UK is on cameo now. You've seen this?
James Blatch: Oh, is he?
Mark Dawson: You've seen this?
James Blatch: Cameo, which is where you pay a celebrity to say hello, happy birthday to you.
Mark Dawson: Yeah. I've done a couple of Cameos. I did one of my brother with Bret The Hitman Hart, the wrestler, which was great. And then I did one for Lucy with... I can't remember what his name is now, but there's a guy on Britain's Got Talent. I think he's been on another talent shows. He's a Japanese guy. He removes handkerchiefs and things and napkins, leaving teacups in his delicate areas. He was great.
But Mr. Farage was on and he's already been trolled. He didn't apparently realise that Hugh Janus might be a Moe's Tavern type situation. That's quite entertaining if you want to laugh.
James Blatch: Yeah. That's worth paying for, isn't it?
Mark Dawson: Oh yeah. Yeah, I'd pay for that.
James Blatch: That Cameo fee. One day you'll be on Cameo, Mark, and people will get to-
Mark Dawson: Unlikely.
James Blatch: ... be able to pay you to say happy birthday to them. Good. Well, it's launch week for me. Let's fall launch week, and it's four launch weeks.
We are recording this the day before, but my book, The Final Flight, goes live on Amazon Kindle tomorrow. And as soon as I'm certain that all the books have gone down via PublishDrive, I will enrol it and select. Probably be a few days' gap between that. So it's been a very exciting process.
I've really enjoyed this... I'm not sure I got the launch quite right, and I made one mistake, which was that I was persuaded that it didn't need a proofread just because the copy editor had been through it twice. I did speak to him last week and he said, "Yeah, that was a mistake in hindsight, because we've had quite a few typos, probably 20, 25, something like that, which I've had to go through and correct.
I had a couple of people, my friend Paul, turned out to be brilliant at reading these typos. He would send a sentence to me that I would look at and still think, "I can't see what's wrong with it." And it's only really when you read it word for word, you realise that one word like "the" is repeated or something, that the eye just skipped across in the brain fills in for you if you're not doing it word for word.
Somebody else actually emailed me a bunch of changes and I employed a professional proof editor. I went on to reedsy.com. I got four good looking, British proofreaders... Not good looking, as in-
Mark Dawson: Good looking as a date?
James Blatch: Looked good at their job. And said, "Look, can anyone help me this week?" And one person, Tom, put his hand up and said, "I can do it this week for you." So that was brilliant.
So the good news is on Friday, virtually everything was sorted out and went up. There's just a few left, but they're almost comma moving now, that Tom was very good at finding just little bits of how quotes end and so on. So I'll just do those next week.
But that was my one mistake, was the proof side of it. Won't make that mistake again. Be absolutely polished on my next book going through. Otherwise, go wide first. I think probably worked as I hoped. I've seen those sales.
The dashboard went a bit funny on PublishDrive end of last week, so I couldn't see how many I'd sold. But it came time to, on Thursday, I think I said, unenroll them, if you know... Take them down, the eBook version. And that should be enough for tomorrow, but I will double check. I'll go to the school.
There's a lot of stores to check, isn't there? What I don't want to do is fall foul of Amazon's contract, when you enrol in select and find out that it's lingering as an ebook for sale somewhere. I'll check all the big ones like Apple, and Kobo, Barnes & Noble. Barnes & Noble almost went down almost instantly. The paperback's still on there.
Mark Dawson: That's okay.
James Blatch: I don't know how the paperback's on Barnes and Noble. I guess through IngramSpark, because I put it up on IngramSpark. Is that how it's there? It's very confusing.
Mark Dawson: Yeah. I think so. Yeah. It's a while since I've looked into that. But yeah, I suspect so.
James Blatch: So I put it on IngramSpark and it's looks like that's the version that's available on Barnes & Noble. I don't know how that's connected. I don't know how that happens. You don't know either?
Mark Dawson: No, I'm not sure. As I say, it's a while since I've had to think about that. So I don't know either. It probably is through that, but yeah.
James Blatch: I've got a friend in the UK who wants to support his local bookshop. So I've given him the ISBN and he's going to go in there, and I assume that will come through Gardners. But I don't know what Gardners are going to get... Will they get it from IngramSpark?
Mark Dawson: Yeah. Gardners a distributor, so that they will then send it. So it will go store will contact Gardners, Gardners either will have it in stock unlikely or will get a copy from IngramSpark. And then they'll ship it. Then it goes back up to the shop and then your friend can buy it.
James Blatch: It's all new to me. This all happens in the background. But it happens fairly easy. It's not that arduous to upload these books, these various sites, and then... I'll tell you what, it's slightly annoying because the proofreading thing is it costs you $25, I think, to revise the IngramSpark version. Everyone else is free but not IngramSpark.
Mark Dawson: Yeah. I don't really understand why that is. It's not costing them anything to change the file. So yeah. I suppose that's an incentive for you not to cut corners next time.
James Blatch: Yes. Well, I'm of no need of more incentive on that front. Good, but so, yeah, it's great. So I'm very excited and this, I guess, is finally it, Mark. I am a published author. Look at that.
Mark Dawson: You are. Yeah. That's right. Yeah. We have to think about changing the intro, won't we?
James Blatch: Oh, yes. Still a first-time author. I've had three reviews. Still waiting for that one star to come along. One star. I haven't read the book yet.
Mark Dawson: I just haven't finished it yet. I'll do that later.
James Blatch: Good. Okay. Look, I think that's probably it on our intro. So whoever wants to write in the comments on the YouTube, programme starts at four minutes or whatever it is. Eight minutes. They can do that, and we are going to talk to Lindsay Buroker.
I remember meeting Lindsay for the first time I think in Florida. I think you introduced me to her. Picked up one of her books actually at the time, which I read three or four years ago, because I used to read a lot of style Sci-fi.
But Lindsay writes across... Should be fantasy as well. She's a bit of a machine in the modern indie way of writing quite a lot of books quite quickly. But more than that, as I say, I really like Lindsay because she's very switched on marketing-wise. I don't know how quite she divides her day up. I don't think she leaves stones unturned, and she likes to try new things.
She's on top of her figures all the time. I think she's a bit of a role model, actually, for how we should set about being a writer and publisher combined. Without further ado, let's hear from Lindsay, and then Mark and I will be back for a chat.
Lindsay Buroker, welcome to the Self Publishing Show. You've been on before, I think. I either interviewed you at NINC maybe, or we arranged to interview you. I can't remember. We met at NINC the first time and we interviewed you not long after that. Is that right?
Lindsay Buroker: I've definitely been on before. I can't remember. I think it was at home. But yeah, we definitely hung out a little bit at NINC at the Tiki Bar as everyone does.
James Blatch: Oh, the Tiki Bar. It's just a distant memory now, but hopefully on the horizon again.
Lindsay Buroker: Oh yeah, I'm sure. I don't think I signed up for this year. I did sign up for 20Books, but hopefully everything will be semi normal by the fall.
James Blatch: Can't wait. Well, we've booked everything. We've booked flights, SPF will sponsor the welcome reception this year at NINC, and we're just still crossing fingers and stuff, hoping we're going to be able to go. But yeah, desperate to be out and about again. Anyway, we are going to talk to you about your prolific writing career, your very successful authorship career.
You have to remind us a bit about how you got going and how you got started, and your genres that you straddle. I know you've moved to within a realm, you've moved a little bit within them.
Why don't we start at the beginning? When did writing start for you, Lindsay?
Lindsay Buroker: Sure. I've been writing ever since I was a kid. Didn't really get serious and start finishing things until 10, 12 years ago, I guess, it's been now. I joined a writing workshop and that was very motivating and educational, and I saw a lot of other people finishing their books, a good thing to do, and finding some success, which was traditional publishing then. But then in late 2010, I was just getting ready to try to get an agent. I had a couple of books done, and I got my first Kindle.
About that time, J. A. Konrath was blogging about how much he was making on Amazon with his 80 books or whatever he had. I was like, "Whoa, what's going on here? He's making like a hundred thousand a month." I assumed I would not make that with my first book, and I did not. I made a little, just enough to get excited and see the potential. And I just kept going.
By the end of my first series, I had replaced my day job income. Took about two years. I quit and went full time and I've been doing well ever since. I've gotten a lot faster. The first book took about seven years to finish, off and on, starting and stopping as you do.
James Blatch: I love to hear that. Thank you very much, because that's about how long it's taken me.
Lindsay Buroker: Yeah, well, you're learning too at the same time and you have to rewrite it at least five times.
James Blatch: Exactly. Yep. Welcome to my life. That's great.
Was that science fiction, your first series?
Lindsay Buroker: Fantasy. Kind of a mishmash of not quite epic fantasy, not quite steampunk, somewhere in the middle. I didn't know, as you don't when you get started, that you should pick a genre that has a category on Amazon and the other stores. It's easier to sell it then. But I'm still not all that great at doing the write to market thing.
I think we might have talked about that last time. I'm more just write the story I want to tell, and then I try to box it up into a product that can fit in one of those categories. And then that seems to have done okay for me.
James Blatch: Well, it has done okay for you, isn't it? Because you've got a huge fan base now. You seem to be everywhere when I look, and I think we can probably say...
Don't know how you quantify this numbers of books shifted or whatever, but you've been very successful.
Lindsay Buroker: I certainly can't complain. If you get to the point where you can do this for a living, even though maybe you don't enjoy the marketing side as much, or the admin stuff, being able to write stories for a living is just, I don't know. I think it's the coolest job anybody could ever have. I thought that when I was like five, but it took me a long time to...
Because people tell you like, "Oh no, you've got to get a degree in business or computer science or something." So it's really a cool time to be alive and be an author. I still think that's true for people who are starting out today. There's great opportunities out here.
James Blatch: Definitely. Never been a better time to be a writer, as somebody once said. Your stories, let's talk about those for a bit. Let's talk about the books.
How many series do you have now? Has every book you've written been in a series?
Lindsay Buroker: Almost. I've done standalones, but I'm such a character lover as a reader and a writer. Once I create characters, I want to do more with them. So even the ones that started as a standalone, like my Dragon Blood series in fantasy was my second big series, it was just supposed to be a standalone fantasy romance I was trying. Somehow it became an eight book series with a side book, a side novella, and a five-book spin off. It's a challenge if you do the romance in book one, because you have to give them conflict.
James Blatch: Yeah. They get divorced in book two.
Lindsay Buroker: There you go. There has to be something continuing to evolve as the story goes on.
James Blatch: How many series do you think you've got? I say, "Do you think you've got," you might not be able to say straight away?
Lindsay Buroker: No, I haven't counted for a while because I also have done a couple on our pen names. So I would say there's at least 10 series that are five books or more. And then I've done a couple of duologies, and there may be trilogies laying around, or some that I need to finish. I'm much better now about committing to writing from start to finish.
In the beginning, I'd put them out, and if they didn't do as well as I thought, or the fans weren't as excited, I would get a little discouraged and move on and try something else. So now that's left me with... I've finished a couple, but I still have like two left that I have to go back and do a couple more.
James Blatch: You're talking about completing the series arc.
Lindsay Buroker: Yeah.
James Blatch: Yeah. Okay.
Lindsay Buroker: I don't want to be one of those authors that readers are like, "Oh, she never finishes anything." So I guess I'm much better now, but I still have a couple I have to go back and finish.
James Blatch: I don't think Ian Fleming ever finished James Bond. So I don't think you have to necessarily finish a series, do you?
Lindsay Buroker: No, you just wait till HBO comes and picks it up and they'll do it for you if you're George R.R. Martin perhaps.
James Blatch: Yes, exactly. Although they didn't finish it very well, I have to say.
Now, the stories themselves, your worlds that you occupy are a character in themselves, you might say, people say, a big part of the book. So I'm very interested in... Because I've written a book, was completely grounded in reality, apart from the fact it took place 40 years ago. But that's fairly easy for me to know how people operate, what they do, what their thoughts and moves are.
It allows me to concentrate on what your books are about really, which is the story arc. But when you've got a more complex environment, one that you're making up, as well as the characters, I do wonder what comes first with you.
Do you get excited by that universe and then plug people in them, or are you always thinking about, it doesn't really matter about the universe so much. This is what's going to happen to this person?
Lindsay Buroker: My favourite stories tend to be the ones where the characters come to me first and then I create a world that makes that character make sense for them, to have the adventures I want to give them. I'm working on an epic fantasy series this year, and I definitely had the idea first. It was a little more challenging with book one. I'm getting ready to publish that one. It took more editing than usual because I didn't know the characters as well.
And you have to be careful not to fall in the trap if you're a plot or world-first person, not to have the characters just doing the things because the plot requires it. You always want to make sure that the characters have their internal motivations and they are doing things that make sense for them, because otherwise the readers can tell and they get cranky about that. I've done both ways. My favourite is when the character just comes to me first, and then I make it up to go with them.
James Blatch: Do you plot generally, Lindsay?
Lindsay Buroker: I did not start out as an outliner. I was a pantser for probably the most of my first series. I can do it, but I found that I started outlining before sharing the first book. It just helped me not get stuck along the way, because with the earlier books, you'd end up like taking out scenes, rewriting scenes. The first novel I have published now, the whole like last half, I didn't end up liking it. I ended up rewriting it all from scratch.
I find, with the outlining, I figure it out ahead of time. And so that I'm less likely to get stuck. I'm not super pedantic about sticking to it. Like if some new idea comes along, I will give myself the leeway to go off and explore that. But it really helps if I'm very solid on how the book will end before I get started. And that keeps me from getting the characters stuck in a dungeon and not being able to figure out, "How the heck do we get out of here?"
James Blatch: Yeah. It must be a bit draining if you do get to the point where you realise it's not working for whatever, and you perhaps could have plotted it. But then there is another way of writing. Of course, the Marie Force way of... She always describes it as being quite excited to know what's going to happen today if she starts writing. Literally no idea how her characters are going to behave.
But you can do both. I think we all do a bit of both. I plot, but I think I still am wondering how he's going to react today or what's she going to do?
Lindsay Buroker: I like to know at least the scene or two ahead of time. I'll think about it while I'm out walking the dogs or the night before. That is sometimes when I'll change things from the outline. But yeah, I'm a little more planned than that. Once I'm writing, I write pretty quickly. So I really need to have it in my head and it just plays out like a movie. And so, I'm not necessarily asking questions while I'm writing. That's how I work.
I've also found that the more complicated the story, the more points of view there are with those longer novels. It really helps to have that outline. And when you're weaving together chronologically and everything needs to seem to be happening one thing after the other, that can be more challenging. And so, with the longer ones, I've definitely found it really helps to have the outline.
James Blatch: You talk about length of novels. If you're writing epic fantasy now, you're having to up the word count for that, because there's a genre expectation, is there not?
Lindsay Buroker: To some extent, there is. I'm not doing anything as big as a Brandon Sanderson's 300,000-word novels. But the first one in the new series is about 150,000 words, and I'm working on book two now, I think that's going to be one 160, 170. That's not necessarily recommended for people who want to publish quickly. Last year I did an urban fantasy series. Most of them were 80 to 90,000 words.
I think I published like 10 or 11 books last year. So they came out really quickly. It was just first-person POV. So it was a simpler story. That's definitely not going to be the case this year. Beginning of April, as we're recording this, I published the last one in the last series. But it definitely took longer to get book one. Book two, I'm working every day, but when you get longer, it just takes a little longer. You're not going to be doing book a month, most of the time, if you're writing over 150,000 words.
James Blatch: No. How do you write?
Lindsay Buroker: How do I write?
James Blatch: Do you do dictate? Do you type? Do you use Scrivener? Do you use Word?
Lindsay Buroker: I do use Scrivener. I had to do dictation like 15 years ago. I was having carpal tunnel stuff, and I came to really hate it and resent it. The little bit I've tried since then hasn't convinced me... I mean, it's better, but there's still... It seems to be, you need to edit a lot more if you dictate. Whereas when I write, I still have to do an editing pass, but it's not frustratingly slow because I have to fix all the misunderstood words that came out.
I know it works great for some people and that's what it is, just figuring out what works best for you. I think, if you want to become full-time and put out a lot of books, figuring out what you're most efficient at... Because I used to write the first draft longhand, and then I'd have to transfer it all over to the-
James Blatch: Longhand?
Lindsay Buroker: ... computer. Yeah. I'd edit it as I was transferring it, and that worked. But it was so much slower than just writing it on the computer to start with.
James Blatch: I think I've virtually lost the ability to write longhand. If I try and write a note for somebody now, it's a terrible scroll because I just don't, like most people, just don't write anymore. I can't imagine writing a novel.
Lindsay Buroker: It's true. Sometimes now, when I write checks and you know how sometimes they're like, 487 and 64 cents or something, I'm doing the cursive and I'm like, "This is the only place left that I actually do cursive." And I'm like, "Wait, is that how the X goes? Let me think about that. I'm not sure."
James Blatch: Now, you mentioned about the breadth of your series. Your distribution is also wide. I think you've been wide pretty much from day one. Is that right?
Lindsay Buroker: I am wide with most of my backlist, all of my backlist, basically. But I do publish new series into KDP Select and Kindle Unlimited. I was always making about 80% of my income from Amazon anyway, even when I was wide with everything. And so, when I switched to putting the new series into KDP Select, you can more easily stick in the rankings for longer if you have a fan base, or if you're writing to market and things do well.
Then I noticed when I was wide, and Kindle Unlimited was the thing and I wasn't in it. I'd release a book and it'd do well for a couple of days, as all the fans went uninvited by... And then, dropped down in the rankings and all these other books in my category, almost all the indie ones anyway, would be in Kindle Unlimited. So I succumbed and I'm doing that now.
I do have Patreon, I think we talked about that last time, as a way to put the books out early, before I put them into KDP Select, so that the fans that are on the other platforms or even on Amazon and want to get them early, have that option, because I do still have so many books wide. I had readers that were understandably frustrated when they were going in Amazon for a year or two before onto the other platforms.
James Blatch: Yeah. That seemed to work really well for you. Because one area, or two areas I can think of, and I think we're going to talk about one of them, is print and audiobooks.
Audiobooks, I seem to remember from the last time we spoke, is something that you've become increasingly interested in and active with.
Lindsay Buroker: Last year was the first year I got quite a bit of my income from audiobooks. It's something I've been doing for a while. I have several series with Podium Publishing, and I have some series I've done my own. But I was always just doing the backlist stuff. And once it's not selling as well anymore, of course, the audiobooks probably aren't going to take off either. But I've done now a couple of series where I've just done them with my own narrator, produced them.
I started going wide instead of exclusive with ACX. So that's a smaller royalty. Instead of the 40%, you're only getting 25%. They were doing pretty decently, especially since last year was a big hiccup. The launch in my urban fantasy series coincided with that three months or whatever were ACX was just not approving anything. I had grand plans. I got it submitted before I published the ebook. And it was like three months later before it actually came out.
But despite that, it did reasonably well. Since I'm wide, I can do whatever with the audiobooks. I started a couple months ago, I guess, around Thanksgiving, putting them on YouTube. I just take the audiobook cover and throw the MP3s into one... Make one big video file. Pretty quickly, I decided I was just going to experiment, put the first one of two or three series on there. But I realised I was getting enough subscribers and watch hours that I could apply for the AdSense advertising as a YouTube, I guess, creator you call it. I was like, "Well, let me keep putting the series up and see how much I can actually make from YouTube," on something I'm also making money from selling on Findaway Voices and ACX.
I ran out of the series. I was doing them weekly for a while. I just put a new one up. But I am delaying it so people who buy it, it comes out first in the stores. But I started making over a thousand dollars a month on YouTube.
James Blatch: Wow.
Lindsay Buroker: I'm trying not to be obnoxious with the ads, but about half of the money, for me, comes from the actual ads, and then half from subscribers. I'm a subscriber to YouTube Premium, so that when I watch the videos, I don't have to listen to ads because I hate ads myself. There's some super obnoxious ones on there. So you can see the split where it comes from, and it's about 50/50. So it's actually the first subscription audio programme for audiobooks that nobody's really even talking about yet.
James Blatch: That's amazing. I am amazed by that because we do a bit of YouTube work ourselves and we get a few thousand views here and there. But I've never come close to seeing the type of use you need to make serious money from it.
How many views does that equate to, to make, as you said, a thousand bucks a month?
Lindsay Buroker: Gosh, well, it's funny as the audiobooks do so much better than... Because I've also put up a few videos for the fans, Q and A, just me talking about author stuff. And yeah, those make like five cents.
James Blatch: Right. Yeah. That's my experience.
Lindsay Buroker: But I just noticed, when I got YouTube Premium, all of a sudden I was listening to way more content. I don't watch the video. I just listen to like a podcast. You can stick it in your pocket and just plays.
That's when I decided to look for audiobooks and see like, okay, are people listening to audiobooks on YouTube? And I saw, "Okay, Harry Potter. Here's a pirate copy that's got a million views." And you know yourself, the views don't really mean that much. Probably only one in 10 people.
James Blatch: It's minutes listened, isn't it?
Lindsay Buroker: Yeah. They'll actually listen to the whole thing. I'm sure lots of people just see it, listen to two minutes, and like, "Not for me," and bounce away. I haven't checked lately, but I've got over a hundred thousand views on the first book in that series and I figure maybe 10% of those people are actually listening to the end. So ends up being a couple hundred a month from the more popular audiobooks.
James Blatch: Wow. As you say. How long chunks do you put in a single video on YouTube?
Lindsay Buroker: I saw that most people were just putting up the whole audiobook. So that's what I've done. And it's really fun with my rural internet. I have satellite internet. So I just started uploading before I go to bed and hopefully, nothing happened. It continues and is up the next day.
I think that people like that. I've actually read a lot of the comments, which I don't usually read reviews and things. But they encourage you to on YouTube, to actually check in and answer comments.
There are a lot of truckers, the same people that listen to audiobooks, that are maybe on the road and don't want to sit there and try to flip to the next video while they're driving. So I just assume that people want to do that. I know if you have the premium, it's pretty good about remembering where you left off if you leave and come back to a video. I have seen people that will comment and put the... I'm at seven hours and 32 minutes. And so they can comment and start.
James Blatch: Right. They're using your comments for their own personal bookmarking.
Lindsay Buroker: Yeah. It works for me. The first one was confusing. I was like, "Is this a code? Is it something I have to decrypt? 6:28. What is that?
James Blatch: Funny enough, about two months ago, I finally acquiesced to the demand to become YouTube Premium myself. Also fed up with the adverts. I have to say, we also run YouTube adverts. But there you go. I don't have to watch them. So that's quite interesting.
I honestly didn't know very much. I think I had heard someone talking about YouTube with audiobooks. So I think I stupidly thought they were just adverts on there, they were doing promos or trails.
This is a whole world you've introduced me to, Lindsay, of uploading the entire book and making money from it.
Lindsay Buroker: Well, most people just put up their first chapter or something like that, because they want to use it as a teaser to get people to buy, which is perfectly understandable. But those don't get a lot of views because people are like, "17 minutes of epic fantasy, that won't be any good." But I wouldn't necessarily recommend everybody put up a whole series. With me, I have a lot of books to play with at this point.
It's not as much as I make at Findaway for these two series, but it's up there. Over a thousand dollars month is nothing shabby, and it's maintained. I stopped posting when I ran out of the series. I didn't have a new video up for a couple months. It fell off some, but I was still getting organic search traffic, people looking at urban fantasy audiobook.
Maybe in two or three years, a lot of authors will be doing it and it will become another place where you can't get organic traffic. But at least for right now, I've been getting some and I'm happy to tell other people about it because it's like, maybe that's the thing. When I got started, people were doing the audiobooks on iTunes as podcasts, audiobooks. I did that early on, and I did get some fans that way. Everybody's in Amazon right now doing Amazon ads, as you guys know.
James Blatch: Yep.
Lindsay Buroker: So that's very competitive and you're paying the try to get the traffic and hopefully you get a fan that way. But over here I'm not paying anything.
I actually increased my income on ACX. I'd have maybe three up on YouTube and people would want to get the rest of the series. So I've had some of my best months, even over there, even only being at 25%, non-exclusive on these last couple series.
I don't know if it'll last forever. Things get more competitive and they don't work as well. But it's been fun to play with as a big listener to YouTube myself. I listen to the finance stuff, not necessarily people's audiobooks. That's probably the worst for listening to ads. They have one like every two minutes.
James Blatch: Do you listen to those long discussions about Bitcoin? Is that your normal thing?
Lindsay Buroker: I have some Bitcoin. Yeah, I do have a little bit. I did not get in when it was $200. So I can't say that I have made a fortune. But yeah, I try to pay attention at least for investing stuff, what's what's going on in the world. I don't necessarily watch cable news or anything like that. So I just pop in over there and get Jim Cramer's latest eight minutes spiel.
James Blatch: Well, that's really interesting, Lindsay. You must have done the maths on the... Is it 25% if you're wide with ACX? 25 or 20?
Lindsay Buroker: It's 25%.
James Blatch: 25.
Lindsay Buroker: Whether you're 25% or 40, you're getting so little. There is that breakdown recently I think Alliance of Independent Authors did. Your book is $30 to buy or $15 over the credit, and most of the time you were lucky to get three or four as an author out of that.
So it's funny that I actually need to sell more audiobooks to make the same amount of money as I would selling 4.99 e-books. But I've definitely noticed that some people that are into audiobooks, that's their thing. They really don't want to read the e-books.
So now I'm developing a fan base at audiobooks is it. I haven't experimented with selling direct yet. It's something I'm looking at, because I think with audiobooks, it's more worth it because you can sell audiobooks for more because the price point's always been higher. So if you're selling direct using BookFunnel to distribute them, or they've got their app that you can use, it seems like it may be worth it more so than I ever thought it was for e-books.
James Blatch: Yeah. People will find them. I had a chat with Dave, and actually the other week, just about that. Can you tell us a little bit about the process of the audiobooks. Lindsay, you're, obviously, YouTube, but you're looking after yourself with this direct long uploads from... Is it Portland? I can't remember where you are now. Is it somewhere out in the West?
Lindsay Buroker: Yeah. Bend, Oregon, about three hours from Portland on the drier side of the state.
James Blatch: The drier side of the state. Not dry alcohol-wise, but dry for the weather.
Lindsay Buroker: It's pretty dry where I live, but it's also close to the mountains. So we've got skiing, and hiking, all that.
James Blatch: Sounds lovely. So you look after the YouTube side. What's your process for where you go wide? You've mentioned Findaway. You've mentioned ACX but wide.
How do you go about getting your book out there, your audiobook?
Lindsay Buroker: Those are the main places right now. ACX, for all things Amazon. Findaway, I'm doing for all the other stores. They get into about 30 or 40 right now. Kobo also you can do direct. I haven't yet, but I probably will with my next series, because I know there are some promotional opportunities available if you upload your audiobooks direct there.
I was on their podcast last year and they're like, "When are you going to start uploading direct?" Same with e-books. How many places you want to upload everything, or are you willing to give a percentage of the cut to Draft2Digital or Findaway? And is that worth it? Can they get you into promos that you wouldn't necessarily have the context for otherwise?
Findaway has been pretty good. Especially Apple, they seem to get quite a few opportunities to do promos with them. Chirp Books, the BookBub, whatever you want to call it, their audiobook division, they work with Findaway. So I think you actually have to be with them in order to get the deals on Chirp Books to apply to be free or 99 cents on a book one, the same as the e-books.
Those are the main places so far. I know Spotify, they keep saying maybe they'll start doing audiobooks. So I'm watching. That would be another subscription type service. At least with audiobooks, since they're so long, potentially we could make more of these poor musicians with their three-minute... I think the Spotify CEO has even said, "Well, just produce more music if you want to make more money. Why don't you have more stuff out?"
But if you've got a 10 hour audiobook, so hopefully they can put their ads in or... It'd probably be the same thing there because I think they've also got the premium subscription model and then the free ad supported model. So I guess YouTube's a preview of that.
James Blatch: Yes. You initially go off to get this recorded through someone, I mean, Findaway offer that service, don't they, where you can literally just come away from Findaway having paid them, with the tapes, the old-fashioned expression, and you then use those recordings to upload everywhere else. They're yours then.
Lindsay Buroker: Right. I originally started with ACX, and it's nice to use these guys to find a narrator, this professional that you really like. They do the audition, so you can pick from quite a few people. And eventually, when I decided not to be exclusive with ACX, I was like, "Well, I'm going to need the MP3s." So I talked to the narrator, I like, "Hey, do you want to just work independently?" And she was like, "Yeah." Because I think that when they're through ACX or Findaway, I'm assuming they have to give a cut to those places.
I think that my rates dropped a little bit when we went independent. I actually just tried Findaway for the first time there, same deal. They'll find you a narrator, give you quite a few to pick from, because I needed a male narrator for a backlist series I was doing that was all male POV. Because otherwise I've been using the same lady and she's great, Vivian Laney.
I've tried to Findaway for the first time and they were pretty good too. I got FLAC files, which I'm now going to have to convert to MP3 files. I was like, "What are these?"
James Blatch: What on earth are FLAC files?
Lindsay Buroker: They played on my computer, so it was fine. I wish they'd given me the option at the beginning to choose MP3, because that's what I need for ACX, to go upload it. And that's what I use for YouTube.
I think that's what BookFunnel, probably what they take too is that's all they take. So I don't think it will be a big deal to convert them, but I was like, "What is this? Are they trying to lock me into their system by giving me some weird file format?" But the process went well. I got a good narrator. Maybe eventually I'll end up... Maybe I shouldn't say this. Is Findaway Voices listening?
Eventually after you do a few with them, maybe you can go and just work independently with them. And then becomes a little easier. You can just share a Dropbox folder or something. You don't have to go through uploading corrections via the platform. But both of them were a good way to find the talent.
So otherwise you're stuck, content, listening to other people's audiobooks and maybe trying to figure out, "Oh, I like this guy. Who's this guy?" And contacting them. And you find out they're booked a year out, with some of the more popular folks.
James Blatch: That's been a really illuminating. So audiobooks now account for a significant amount of your income.
Lindsay Buroker: It's still pretty small compared to my ebook income. But considering I don't do any advertising or anything, it's not bad. Between Podium and my own stuff, I would probably creep up into being six figures from audiobooks eventually here. Because, same with eBooks, I'm building a fan base that way too and getting more people. I actually wrote the epic fantasy thinking... I know on Audible, they still love their credits, and a lot of the income comes from that.
I saw a graph, Podium actually shared it with me, how many more sales came at the 15-hour mark, because those credit people, they want their good deal. I was like, "Well, I always end up going long by the end of a series anyway. So why don't I try make book 150,000 words?" I think I was shooting for 140 and it went above that, to hit that 15-hour mark on book one, because otherwise you end up doing bundles and things like that, which can be great. People enjoy that.
But hey, as long as you're writing long books, anyway, you might as well start out the series and get all those characters. Hopefully get people interested in them.
James Blatch: People like their money's worth, that's for sure, when it's at credit. Good.
What's next for Lindsay Buroker? Epic fantasy at the moment. I guess, you're still writing that series?
Lindsay Buroker: Yeah. I'm just getting ready to release the first one, probably by... I don't know. You guys usually record a couple of months ahead. So I might be on book two or three by the time this comes out. I'm also doing some kind of a duology and a trilogy in a existing my Star Kingdom Sci-fi world. I have eight books in that series. Really liked how it ended. So I didn't want to just keep going on with the same stuff. But I wasn't ready to completely say goodbye to the characters in the universe.
So I'm doing a couple more things with new characters, bringing in the side ones. We'll see if I successfully make it. So that's an entry point and people can come into the world. It's always nice when you get a reader comes in and there's like 10, 20 books for them to go on and check out if they like. So that is one of the challenges when you write in different genres, is trying to keep writing in both.
I have some fans that will read everything and I have some that like sci-fi, and some that like the fantasy. So it's a challenge to keep writing enough books to keep everybody happy.
James Blatch: Yeah. You will get people who read the epic fantasy, sci-fi, and fantasy.
Lindsay Buroker: I do. I love those people. They're great. They're the ones that sign up on Patreon and just buy everything. Considering how many books I've written at this point, I'm amazed and so happy to have people that read everything. There's authors where I've read everything they've written, but that's still only 20 books because that's the way it is for traditional publishing. And one book a year, it takes a while to build up the catalogue.
James Blatch: Do you know your fans well? You've got your Patreon channels there. Do you have a lot of contacts? You seem to have quite an active fan base, Lindsay.
Lindsay Buroker: To some extent, online. I'm not really one of those people that's going to throw a party at my house and invite strangers-
James Blatch: I was thinking about a San Diego Lindsay con, actually, but...
Lindsay Buroker: I'm that hardcore introvert. I love that I can do my job from my desk at my home. COVID's been a unpleasant experience for everyone, of course, but I was very much just like, "Well still this is my job. This is what I love to do. I'm really not that inconvenienced by having to stay home." So I felt fortunate in that respect, that it was just more of the same, aside from emotional trauma everybody's gone through this last year. But yeah, I'm a homebody for sure.
James Blatch: Yeah. So there won't be a Lindsay con. Okay. But I can still get your autograph when I see you at a conference.
Lindsay Buroker: At the Tiki Bar at NINC.
James Blatch: At the Tiki Bar. Yeah. Indeed. Great. Well, Lindsay, thank you so much indeed for sharing your author world with us. I'm a huge admirer of yours. You're so prolific. I've got queued up on my Kindle.
Having finished my blooming book, I'm now allowed to read some out of genre books, because I was fairly strictly told by my editor, not unreasonably, to get a whole diet of Ludlum, but queued up behind Nathan Van Coops, who really, at the moment, is a Lindsay Buroker, because in the old days, all I read was Sci-fi. So I need to go back to that. I'm looking forward to it. Find out what this is all about.
Lindsay Buroker: Oh, it sounds good. Well, I hope you enjoy whatever you try. And Nathan is great. He writes long books too, so you should be ready for the beast.
James Blatch: Yeah, I should check the pages. It's the thing about the Kindle. You don't know, do you, unless you habitually check down those products. I very often just buy a book and have no idea how long it is. I think as a biopic on Stalin, which I've been reading for two years on my Kindle on and off, and I don't think I'm 15% through it. So if I saw it in the bookshop, it would have been like that, and I probably wouldn't have bought it.
Lindsay Buroker: Yeah. Non-fiction can really get you to you're like, "Wow, I could totally educate myself and make myself smarter by reading this great book." And you're like, "Wait a minute, 15 hours. How many pages is that?" That's a big commitment.
James Blatch: Yeah. I now know the beginning, middle, and end of Stalin now. Brilliant, Lindsay. Thank you very much indeed. Really appreciate it. I'm very jealous of the life there, when you talked about it at the beginning, being is it too bright? It looks beautiful day out, your part of the world. Yeah. Again, makes me miss travelling to the state. So hopefully we'll share a bit that Tiki Bar soon.
Lindsay Buroker: All right. Sounds great. I hope so too. Thanks so much for having me, and good luck everyone with your writing.
James Blatch: There you go. Lindsay Buroker from up there in Oregon in the countryside. Always great to catch up with Lindsay. And so, that was the interesting bit, Mark, that I hadn't heard before, that Lindsay loads her books up onto YouTube. I did wonder who's going to be like, part one, part two, part three, because they're 15 hours, some of her books. But no, it's one long video. I guess, in this day and age, it doesn't really matter what the platform is.
People have their phone in the pocket with the Bluetooth headphones attached to them, whether it's YouTube streaming, and they just listen to the audio while they're walking around, or whether they do it on MP3, it doesn't really matter. But from an author point of view, you get paid on YouTube if you've got ads enabled on it.
She was a bit concerned that she often sees fairly low-rent adverts on YouTube. Although that's a bit cruel because we advertise on YouTube. But I know what she means. It's not quite like watching network television adverts, is it, the ones that pop up on YouTube?
Mark Dawson: No. I mean, they can be. You'll get some. The ones I'm seeing, a lot of them are Google and Audible seem to be advertising quite heavily at the moment. But they will be, depending on what you're looking at on online, Google will serve ads they think are relevant. I've seen our ads quite a lot recently because Google obviously thinks that I am the perfect market for that, which is-
James Blatch: You are.
Mark Dawson: I suppose it's true.
James Blatch: You should invest in the cause.
Mark Dawson: Yep. Yeah, I mean, I heard Lindsay talk about this on her podcast, Six-figure Authors, which I recommend as one of the other ones I listen to. I thought it was pretty interesting. It was why I thought it would be great to get her on. It does actually cast some things into a clearer perspective.
I've had readers tell me that they've seen my books on YouTube, and normally, my view on piracy is, yeah, I can't deal with all of this. So I basically let that slide. But then hearing how much money she's making, and I've got full books up by someone who's copied them and put them up, it makes sense.
If they're making four figures a month just off the ads on those books, certainly it's not something that's frivolous. It is something that actually should be taken seriously. I contacted Audible because these particular books there, they're Audible books, and I think Audible took them down. I should probably check, actually, but yeah, it's theft. It's theft. That's money that is worth having, isn't it?
James Blatch: I remember I had a meeting with some Google lawyers once in our old job in the BBFC, and I was chatting to them about this. For copyright stuff, it's quite complex of layers of where they stand with it.
For instance, let's say you are a rock band rather than a writer and you have some famous tunes, and people use your music in the background to their videos. You can have a few positions with Google on this. One position is, it's your copyright. No one else is using it without your express permission, and their algorithm and their machine is designed to pick it out and take it down if it's not put there by you.
Another one is that you don't care, and you understand the benefit of having your music used widely. And so, some people have that agreement as well, and it just sits there, hopefully becoming part of the background noise in people's lives, and therefore they sell more records.
But one in between is that they allow it to be there, but the user who's put it up gets a note saying, "Any revenue from this video is going to go to the copyright holder," which I thought's quite a clever one of doing it, which potentially you could have in the future.
If the machine identified your book had been put up by somebody, if there's any revenue generated for... You automatically get it. At the moment, obviously, they're dealing with people like Universal, Warner music rather than individual level. But in the future, hopefully, that sort of thing will become possible for authors. And that would be a good way around the piracy.
James Blatch: Yeah, absolutely. It's an interesting, developing subjects. Things change all the time. I was going to ask you if you've just been fingerprinted.
Mark Dawson: Yeah. Just now, just noticed them. My hands are filthy.
James Blatch: If you're watching on YouTube.
Mark Dawson: It's actually on YouTube screen. If you're watching on YouTube, I have ink on my hands. It's a terrible segue, but I've signed 350 of these this morning. So that's the second book. Second hard back in the Milton series that comes out end of this month, 29th, I think it is. So I had to sign 350. And 12, they go to WHSmith in the UK. And they'll be winging their way out to readers who've bought them.
James Blatch: To me.
Mark Dawson: To you, yeah. And they're pretty cheap as 6.49 for a hard book, which is very, very cheap. So you can get them for less than 10 pounds, signed First Edition, he says, pimping his books.
James Blatch: That's half the price of The Final Flight.
Mark Dawson: Yeah, and twice as good. So-
James Blatch: I'll see the reviews.
Mark Dawson: Oh, I see. I see. Been doing that over the weekend. Fraya helped me, which was quite funny. I had a little a production line though. I had to undo the boxes. She'd take the books out, stack them on this side of the desk. I'd sign them, put them on this other desk, for her to then take the empty box over to this side of the desk, stack them up again, box them. And yeah, we had, well, 20 boxes to get through. So it's been quite a few of them, but fun to get Fraya involved in the family business.
James Blatch: Good.
Mark Dawson: We should say you and I met up last week, because that was our first time in how long? A year?
James Blatch: Yeah. It must be a year. Yeah. We did. We hacked and slashed our way around a very noisy golf course in Cambridge here.
Mark Dawson: Yes. Over the sweet trunk road next to it, but-
James Blatch: Yeah, it was good.
Mark Dawson: What was the result, James? I have to-
James Blatch: The result was, I have to say, it was close.
Mark Dawson: Yeah, it was close.
James Blatch: We played match play, and it all came down to the 18th hold, and which by the time we were 150 yards in, I think I'd taken five strokes and you were on the edge of the green. So that was the end of that.
Mark Dawson: You got in slightly wide, didn't you? Yeah.
James Blatch: I kept hoseling it out to the right but different fairway. So that was the end of that. You won that. Well done. And then, when I added up strokes afterwards, you won by one stroke as well.
Mark Dawson: One stroke. Yeah.
James Blatch: But that spoke well for future matches together, that we've got some-
Mark Dawson: It does. Yeah.
James Blatch: I've had a busy week. I'm enjoying this because nobody can say the rambling ends at this point, because this is the end of the tape. If you made it this far, you deserve a picture of a puppy. Who doesn't like a picture of a puppy, because we've got a brand new Golden Retriever puppy called Enzo. Enzo David Ferrari is his full name, and there's a picture of him which John's going to put up there, just to make you feel a little bit warm inside if you're watching on YouTube.
Good. Right. I think that's it. That is enough rambling for one week. It's been a fun week for me. Thank you very much for welcoming into the warm bosom of published authors. I'm a published author, Mark.
Mark Dawson: Well done. It's been a long journey. And I hate using that word that I hate so much.
James Blatch: Hey, he used the J word.
Mark Dawson: God, it seeped into me. I've been watching too much Master Chef. There's a J word in there every... Also and people saying enjoy. That annoys me as well.
James Blatch: In what ways do they... Enjoy.
Mark Dawson: Here's the podcast. Enjoy.
James Blatch: Oh, I see.
Mark Dawson: No, it's enjoy it.
James Blatch: Okay. All right. All right, Granddad. Language changes. It evolves.
Mark Dawson: Not in my house, it doesn't.
James Blatch: I've had to reply to a few people about percent per cent. So yeah. Tell me all about that.
Mark Dawson: Oh.
James Blatch: There you go. Okay, good. That's it for this week. We've got some great interviews coming up. I'm working really hard on interviews every day. I've got someone today to tomorrow, I think, and we are filling our cupboards up. So we've got some good stuff coming your way in the future weeks.
Don't forget patreon.com, your last chance if you want to be with a chance of being ushered into the Book Laboratory to have your book analysed by the experts. patreon.com/selfpublishingshow. Right. All the remains for me to say is that it's a goodbye from him.
Mark Dawson: And a goodbye from me. Goodbye.
James Blatch: Goodbye.
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