The Writing Sparrow Episode 34 | The Different Paths to Audiobook Creation with Dana Fraedrich

This week, I had a chat with Dana Fraedrich about her experience of creating audiobooks with FindawayVoices, ACX, and by herself! 

If you’d like to read more on the topic, I recommend Dana’s blog posts:

ACX vs. Findaway ~ My Audiobook Creation Experience 

Hiring an Audiobook Narrator Through Findaway Voices 

You might also be interested in my Audiobook Diaries, where I blogged about my experience as it happened, and last week’s episode, where I talked about my experience of working with FindawayVoices.

To find out more about Dana, check out her website find her or Twitter , or follow her on Instagram.

Listen to the Episode

Read the Transcript

[Writing Sparrow theme]

Sarina: Hello, and welcome to The Writing Sparrow Podcast. I’m Sarina Langer and this podcast is all about writing, publishing, and marketing your book. You can find transcripts on my website at sarinalanger.com. Let’s get started.

[music]

Sarina: Good morning friends and Sparrows. It’s the 3rd of May 2021. This is Episode 34. Today, Dana Fraedrich is back with me on Zoom to talk about creating audiobooks. Last week, I told you about my experience with Findaway Voices. Today, Dana is here to tell you about the many other options because unlike me, she’s done a bit of everything. Welcome back, Dana.

Dana: Thank you so much for having me back, Sarina. I really appreciate it, and I’m really excited.

Sarina: I’m really excited to talk to you about this as well, because as I’ve just said, [00:01:00] you’ve done a bit of everything. My episode was very much focused on just my experience, because I’ve only really done the one thing, but you’ve really done a bit of everything in audiobooks, which is very exciting. We’ve also got one question in for later from Instagram.

Dana: Excellent.

Sarina: Hopefully that will help our listeners’ lives. [chuckles] Then, yeah, really excited to get sucked back in and see you again too, because it’s been a while.

Dana: It has. Yeah. Basically, just to give a little bit of a background, for those who do not know me. I am a Steampunk fantasy author. I’ve been doing this for many years now. I have made audiobooks, through ACX, through Findaway. We did it ourselves once, which I’ll talk about a little bit later. Then also I have recorded short stories myself for my newsletter subscribers, Patreon supporters, [00:02:00] things like that. Little bit of everything.

Sarina: Well, good job. You’re preempting my first question.

[laughter]

Dana: Sorry.

Sarina: No, you’re fine. I was just going to ask if you could just talk us through how you have created audiobooks so far. You’ve really don’t everything. ACX is Amazon’s imprint, if you can call that, for audiobooks?

Dana: It’s under their umbrella. Yeah. I don’t always know how the business tiers work, but yeah, let’s call it imprint.

Sarina: Yeah, because ACX is Amazon basically. You’ve used Findaway, which I have used as well, and you’ve done it yourself, which is very exciting. I will have lots of questions about that in just a second. You’ve also found your own narrator, so more excitement there. [chuckles] Yeah, maybe to kick off, just to tie it [00:03:00] into last week’s episode, where I talked about my experience of using Findaway Voices. It’d be really great to hear what your experience was like working with them, and how many books have you done with them?

Dana: I’ve done three through Findaway now. Honestly, I love Findaway, they are my preferred path for audiobooks at this point. Like I said, since I’ve done so many paths, I feel I can say, of all of these options, this one is the one that I have found that best works for me. Findaway has, in my opinion, the best distribution. Whereas if you go through Amazon, especially if you have used one of Amazon’s exclusive contracts, which we’ll talk about later, I’m sure, they only distribute to Apple iBooks, well, themselves, basically Audible and Amazon. Whereas Findaway, I think there’s 24-ish different platforms that they [00:04:00] distribute to, including one of their own, including Amazon, including Apple iBooks.

Sarina: I think it’s 40.

Dana: Oh, those are over 40 now?

Sarina: I want to say it’s 48, but I would need to check the exact number, but I’m pretty sure it’s over 40 with Findaway.

Dana: Yeah, it’s a whole lot of them. They basically are trying to just be as wide as possible and distribute your books as many places as possible.

Sarina: Which is very exciting and very daunting. [laughs]

Dana: Yeah. I will say too, their customer support is really great. I’m not a professional audio anything, and so I didn’t really understand a lot of what I was doing, but they were super great in both their automatic email communications as you go through the process which, Sarina, I know you’ve experienced this too, of like, “Okay, great. you’ve just done this step. Here’s what’s coming next.” Then, of course, if I had any questions [00:05:00] or things I wasn’t sure about– For instance, my narrator, Shaina Summerville, and I had talked about doing, like, all of the Broken Gears books together but I wanted to pre-contract her for the other ones after we had signed our first contract together. I emailed Findaway, I was like, “Hey, I want to make sure I get her fast. Can I do anything about that?” They were really helpful with that. I was basically able to line up Shaina pretty quickly, I think we got everything done– what was it? It was a matter of a handful of months, and it was really great.

Sarina: That’s fantastic. I had a very similar experience with that. I haven’t done the other books on my series yet. So far, I’ve only done the first book, but Findaway– I don’t remember if it was the narrator directly who got in touch with me via the platform or whether it was one from their team, [00:06:00] but someone involved just let me know that she would be happy to do the other books as well in the series, which is fantastic because you then have that continuity of the same narrator all the way through.

Dana: Yeah. Like I said, their customer service is really great. I will say too, and you might have discussed this in your Findaway podcast last week as well, I haven’t been able to listen to it yet.

Sarina: Because I haven’t recorded it yet at the time we’re doing this interview.

[laughter]

Dana: We can cut that out if you want, we’ll just edit that. [laughs]

Sarina: No.

[laughter]

Sarina: Nope, it stays in. If anything goes wrong, it stays in. [laughs]

Dana: I love your transparency. You’re the best.

Sarina: Thanks. [chuckles]

Dana: Yeah, I will say there’s a questionnaire that the producer, basically, because you are a producer, when you start this process have to fill out. The more you fill out that questionnaire, [00:07:00] the closer a match they’re going to find for you for narrator. For instance, the Broken Gears books, for those who have not read them are– excuse me. [clears throat]. Apologies.

Sarina: You’re okay?

Dana: Yeah, I’m good. Just– hello springtime. Basically, the Broken Gears books, like, they’re a mix of whimsical and fun, but then there’s some very dark parts and it gets really– ooh. It gets a little bit sad in parts too. So, I really wanted to make sure I had someone who can do both things. When I filled out the form, I made sure to include that. I tend to overexplain things, which I think is a good thing, especially when you are working on any kind of project with other human beings because human communication is difficult. Like I said, I think more information is better. She ended up being really, really great. [00:08:00] As soon as I heard Shaina’s interview– or not interview, but audition, I was like, “Yes, she gets it. Awesome.”

Sarina: The auditions. for me at least, were possibly the single most exciting experience of my life. [chuckles] Just to have a professional voice actor narrate my book and ask me, or basically say, “I like this. Could I please read it?” Yeah. It was such a bizarre moment, but it’s also the best. Honestly, just for this alone, if you’re considering having your book as an audiobook, it’s so intimidating. I think we both get that, don’t we, Dana?

Dana: Mm-hmm. It’s real.

Sarina: Just that moment of listening to auditions, of hearing a professional audition to read your book is so exciting. I can’t tell you and how exciting this is. I was sitting here, I was possibly shaking a bit. [00:09:00] I’m just like, “She’s reading my book [unintelligible [00:09:00] crying and she’s actually crying. This is ridiculous.”

Dana: Yeah, and a really good audio narrator as well, they’re going to be able to– if you have anything that’s a little bit different in your book too, they are going to be able to swing with that. For instance, in Across the Ice for my book, I have a section where a character, Rook, he’s reading a letter, and there are bits of the letter that are struck through, which of course, like on a printed page, you can see, but then, and I didn’t even think about it when I was uploading–

Sarina: No, I didn’t.

Dana: Yeah. She just took that, Shaina did, and was like, “Okay, we’re going to try a thing,” and then she added a little bit of narration to let you know what bits were struck through, and it worked brilliantly. It was so cool. I emailed her and I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I didn’t think about this. This is great. You did awesome.” [00:10:00] Yeah, a really good narrator will be able to swing with those funny, unique things.

Sarina: That’s incredible. No, I never even thought of things like that possibly because we don’t see them done that often in books. Wow. Yeah. May I ask what exactly she did to narrate a crossed-out part in a letter?

Dana: What she did? She read the letter in the voice of the character who’d written it, Lenore wrote this. She would read that in Lenore’s voice. When she did the narration for struck-through, she would use like her normal narrating voice to kind of indicate, “This is now narration.” Then, she would start back up again in Lenore’s voice. I heard that and I was just like, “Oh, okay, great. I totally get this. I can see the distinction between narration voice and Lenore’s voice,” and things like that.

Sarina: That’s amazing. [00:11:00] To come back to the different options for how to create an audiobook. We’ve talked a bit about Findaway Voices now. What about ACX finding your own narrator and even doing it yourself?

Dana: This has been a really interesting process because, like I said, I’ve done this in a couple of different ways. I’ll start with ACX. For ACX, I happened to meet my narrator for that. This is the narrator for Raven’s Cry. Her name is Katherine Billings. She’s wonderful. Basically, I met her doing one of the book events that I do in Kentucky, and we started talking, she gave me her card, and then I reached out to her and said, “Hey, so I’ve never done an audiobook before. I don’t know what I’m doing. What do I do?” Raven’s Cry is the very first one that I ever did. Katherine was super, [00:12:00] super sweet. She was really helpful, and she walked me through what the process was going to be.

By the way, friends, who are listening, I have all of this written down in a couple of blog posts on my website, I detailed the whole process. If you guys want a little written guide, that’s there on my website Words by Dana. You can just search audiobook in the search box and those will come up.

Sarina: I’ll be linking to those in the show notes as well, so people can easily get to them. Of course, I’ve done my own audiobook diaries as well with my experience. I think between your posts, my posts, and these two episodes on this podcast, I think you should be all right after this. I think this should be all the information that you need to know to get started with your own.

Dana: Yeah, friends, we have you taken care of, don’t you worry.

Sarina: Yeah, we’ve got you.

Dana: Yeah. Katherine was super helpful. I went through ACX. [00:13:00] ACX has a couple of different options as far as royalty shares, how you can create the books, things like that. As I always, always, always tell people, read your contract and make sure you understand it before you sign it. Basically, Katherine doesn’t do this anymore. But ACX has an option, where you can pay no money upfront, and then it’s just a royalty share between you and the narrator. However, there is a cost for this. Basically, if you choose this option, you are locked into a contract with ACX for seven years, and you’re not allowed to distribute the book through any other platform, the audiobook, through any other platform for those seven years of the contract. Seven years is a long time, y’all. I think I’ve still got three or four left, and a lot can change in that time.

Sarina: [00:14:00] Don’t forget that ACX, don’t distribute to that many places in the first place.

Dana: Exactly.

Sarina: So, you’re limiting yourself potentially quite a lot for a rather long time.

Dana: Mm-hmm. Yeah. For some people, I realized that is going to be the only option for them because producing audiobook is extremely expensive. Honestly, in some cases, it might be more expensive than your initial editing costs when you first wrote the book. That is something to consider.

Sarina: In fact, I would say it’s very likely actually for your audiobook to cost a lot more than your editing. Unless you had all of the plot holes and paradoxes in your book and have no concept of grammar or punctuation or anything like that, and then got an editor who charged per hour, it’s very unlikely that your editing will be more expensive than your audiobook. In most cases, it will be cheaper.

Dana: Yeah.

Sarina: Audiobook, pricey.

Dana: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Of course, Findaway does all also have [00:15:00] a royalty share option but theirs is– honestly, I think it’s a little bit more fair to the narrators because this narrator is spending a lot of time and a lot of energy on creating your book. I’ve personally have come around on this where of course, like I said, I didn’t really understand a lot when I first got started but narrators should be paid for their time. That’s why I’m no longer so much a fan of the ACX, doesn’t cost anything upfront, saying, but like I said, I realized for some people, that’s going to be the only option. You really have to kind of weigh the pros and cons, weigh kind of how you feel about some of these different factors and make the decision that feels best for you.

Sarina: Yeah, that was a thing what swayed me towards Findaway Voices when I was first starting to research the different options, because as you said, it’s more expensive with Findaway to begin with, [00:16:00] but your narrator does a lot of work, it’s quite tiring work, and they deserve to get paid for it, end of story, I thought. Even though it set me back quite a bit, I felt that now even if I don’t sell a single audiobook, I know that my narrator got paid for her time. For me, it was the only fair way of doing it because you have no guarantee that your audiobook is going to sell. You might not sell a single copy, in which case your narrator gets no money whatsoever for her time. That for me is what swayed me because that just didn’t sit right.

Dana: Right, exactly. Then, as far as finding– or doing audiobooks myself, I want to go ahead and preface this and say audiobooks are a lot of work and they’re very time consuming. To get the quality that Amazon and Findaway and all of these other platforms require, you really do [00:17:00] need some specialized equipment. I happen to be in a position where we already had most of the equipment in our house, because my husband studied audio engineering in college, so that’s what his degree is in. we have a studio downstairs. We’re in Nashville, every other person kind of has a studio. There are a lot of voice actors here, there’s a lot of talent. A couple of different times, I’ve hired different people to do various projects for me.

For instance, I have a different narrator between Out of the Shadows and Into the Fire, because the first narrator for Out of the Shadows, she was a vocalist friend of ours, and she came to our house, used our studio and then my husband did the audio editing on Out of the Shadows. Then after that, he came to me and he’s like, “I never want to do that again,” because it’s so much work, y’all. It’s an enormous amount of work [00:18:00] and making sure everything is right, everything sounds at the same level consistently throughout your book. So, yeah, if this is something you want to undertake, I think that’s really great, but just be prepared for how much work it is.

Sarina: Would you say that the audio editing is even more time and effort-consuming than recording the audiobook in the first place?

Dana: Oh, for sure. I think the general idea is that for every– I think every hour of actual audiobook, there’s about six hours of work behind it as far as recording and editing and all that stuff.

Sarina: Bloody hell, six?

Dana: Yeah.

Sarina: Oh my God. I didn’t think it will be–

Dana: [laughs]

Sarina: Wow. Okay.

Dana: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Sarina: That’s a lot worse than I thought, and your husband [unintelligible [00:18:51] saying clearly, and they all deserve all the respect, and all the money and all the love. God, bloody hell, six hours of editing [00:19:00] for one recorded hour, that’s– I’m going to be stewing on that for a little while.

[laughter]

[crosstalk]

Sarina: Sorry, you go.

Dana: Oh, no, please go ahead.

Sarina: It’s worth saying that if you go with ACX or Findaway, then they will take care of the editing. When you consider how much money it is, do also bear in mind that they will take care of what’s clearly the most time-consuming aspect of it. That’s all included.

Dana: Mm-hmm. Then, I have also done audio work myself. You guys, I’m not a professional audiobook narrator at all. It’s just a fun thing I do for my patrons on Patreon. Or, if you are a VIP newsletter subscriber on my website, Words by Dana, there is one audiobook gift up on there that I did Christmas last year roundabout. You can hear, I’m not great. It’s just a fun little thing I like to give my patrons [00:20:00] and my VIP newsletter’s subscriber. Man, you don’t realize how hard it is to read steadily and clearly, and at the same level for a long, continuous period until you’ve done it, and then you’re like, “Oh my gosh, I don’t know how to talk anymore. What are words?”

[laughter]

Sarina: That’s before you get to a character with an accent.

Dana: Oh my gosh, Yeah, seriously, because that’s another thing, is you have to put life and characterization into all the different characters, and I didn’t realize how many characters I had. God, I’ve got a good cast of characters until I was doing it, like, “Good Lord, I’ve got to do voices for all of these people.”

[laughter]

Sarina: That’s something that a professional writer– ooh. What? Wow. Okay. I’ve been editing and writing [crosstalk] a lot, so clearly, [00:21:00] this is all I’ve got left.

[laughter]

Sarina: A professional narrator will do the accents, for example, all that characterization with how they’re vocalizing everything, they will do that– Well, maybe not necessarily quite easily, but they will do, and it would sound incredible. Ultimately, I think readers will expect that level of professionalism. I think I have read a few times that it’s really great when authors narrate their own books, but I think that’s mostly talking about autobiographies where that makes sense because the author is then basically just talking about themselves because it is their biography. When we’re talking about fiction, or just anything, that’s not a biography, it makes sense to have a professional narrator who knows what they’re doing and the accent. My narrator for Rise of the Sparrows taught herself one or two new accents just to be able to do my characters’ justice, so that is what you might just get, [00:22:00] with Findaway Voices. [laughs]

Dana: Yeah. Lots of options. I just always want people to understand what’s going to be involved on the front end. I have another friend who– yeah, oh, my gosh, yeah. I have another friend, her name is Nicole Jones. She did a short story for me, which is available on my YouTube channel based on Emily Dickinson’s, I could not stop for Death. The short story has the same title. There, you can really hear different personalities in different narrators. Again, choosing that right person is a huge, huge part of this process. But I think personally, when you hear the right person, no, you really know.

Sarina: Yeah, I think so. How did you go about finding your own narrator?

Dana: [00:23:00] Like I said, with one path, I met Katherine Billings at a book event I was doing. Another path, she was a vocalist friend of mine, because again, here in Nashville, you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a vocalist.

[laughter]

Dana: Then, when I went to Findaway, I went through their audition process, which is like I said, where you fill out the form, you put in all the information about your book, and what kind of voice you’re looking for, and some of the requirements that will be there. Then, they sent me a whole group of different narrators, different price points, different skill sets, things like that. I listened to each one because on this first round, you get just their profiles with their preloaded, what do you call them? Auditions, I guess they’re called auditions. Then, from there, you choose, like, “Okay, from this group, who do I really want to hear [00:24:00] do my book?” Then, you’ll give that information to Findaway when you make that choice. Then, those narrators who you’ve chosen will do an audition for your books specifically, and you’ll provide excerpts from your book that will hopefully, one, give you a range of characters because, again, you want to hear how the narrator does multiple characters.

I chose one where there was a scene at breakfast in the morning, and I think there are five characters in the scene. There’s a lot of emotions happening. Lenore is kind of sad, but she’s also excited, and they’re saying goodbye, and it’s all like heartfelt and lovey-dovey, and there’s some funny stuff. There’s a limit on the excerpts because, again, it takes a lot of time to record and then edit and things like that. I uploaded that information.

Then, a week or two later, [00:25:00] I received the auditions. Like I said, when I listened to those, that’s when I knew that Shaina was the one for my book because she hit all the beats, she got the voices, she very clearly got the mood of the scene, all of it.

Sarina: I think that’s quite a good summary now I think that [unintelligible [00:25:18] of all the different options, which will hopefully be very helpful. From all of those, which option would you recommend for authors with no prior audiobook experience?

Dana: No prior audiobook experience at all. Let’s go ahead and say that, you don’t have a recording studio in your basement and the husband who does audio engineering and all that.

Sarina: I think that’s fair to assume. [laughs]

Dana: Yeah, that’s a good assumption. That’s a fairly specific set of situations and circumstances. I always recommend Findaway. I know it’s going to be a much more expensive option. [00:26:00] I realized that is a pain point for a lot of people. But again, Findaway has a much bigger distribution network. I find their customer service to be better than ACX’s because, like I said, I had a lot of questions and how I wanted to proceed and whatnot. Then, if I didn’t hear anything, there was one or two times where I was like, “Shouldn’t I have heard something about the situation?”, I could just email them and be like, “Hey, is everything cool?” Then, they would just write on it, and it all worked out. I always recommend reaching out to customer service, I realize this is frustrating for people, because sometimes customer service groups are not great, but Findaway’s are. Yeah, Findaway, that’s my top recommendation. That’s really in a nutshell as far as that part of it.

Sarina: I think one important thing that [00:27:00] you said that it’s about the cost of it because obviously, it’s not going to be cheap either way. I think there are two important things to consider there. The first is that you don’t need to have an audiobook to be an author. This is something that I’d say maybe consider, maybe if your book is already selling okay, or you feel like you are ready to take that next step. But don’t feel pressured to have an audiobook out there. It’s not necessary, you can totally be an author with a paperback or even just an eBook. Having an audiobook is absolutely not necessary. Only do that if you think that you’re ready to go a bit further with it.

Also, as Dana just said, when you get the different recommendations from Findaway, for example, of the different narrators, they all come with different price points. Some of them are going to be an awful lot cheaper than others, which isn’t to say just go with the cheapest one. But if there are a few in there [00:28:00] that are completely out of your price range, those won’t be the only ones that they suggested. For maybe the cheapest ones, maybe looking at them because money is [unintelligible [00:28:14] because you can’t afford that much and then maybe those additions aren’t quite right, you can request another set.

Dana: Yeah, absolutely.

Sarina: There is some flexibility there, so don’t feel you are definitely going to spend $10,000 to something on your audiobook, which you might do if your audiobook is incredibly long. Yeah, and you get one of the top narrators, but it won’t be that much. I shouldn’t have said that number. I don’t want to panic anyone. [laughs]

Dana: No, yeah. I can tell you my audiobook did not cost near that, and Into the Fire is an extremely long book, I think the audiobook is like 18 hours.

Sarina: [laughs] I think that’s 10 hours more than mine, or something like that. [laughs]

Dana: Yeah. Also, I want to say in regard to [00:29:00] something you said, Sarina, about, you don’t have to have an audiobook. This is something that authors really need to consider as part of their business plan. Ask yourself like, “Why do you want an audiobook?” Yes, it’s super cool, especially when you first hear that narrator bring your characters to life. For me, personally, I made the decision because I knew I wasn’t going to be putting out a book in 2020. Just based on my publishing schedule, and how long I take to produce books and whatnot, I just knew it wasn’t really going to happen, but I wanted another revenue stream. I wanted to create some more revenue streams for my business as an author.

Audiobooks are one of the fastest-growing markets in the book industry. That was why I decided to make this investment. Like I said, if that’s not a path [00:30:00] for your books or, as you said, Sarina, if you’re already like doing really well, from your eBooks and from your print books and whatnot, then that that might not be as much a thing for you. Whereas my books are extremely long, there’s a little bit of length, intimidation factor to go with that, and audiobooks are really easy to listen to, especially for those really long ones.

Sarina: Yeah, what I really liked on Findaway was that you know exactly how much should be paying upfront. You’re not going to make a commitment and then later go, “Ooh, that’s more than I thought it was going to be.” That’s not going to happen. You know before you even ask specific narrators to audition with the script that you mentioned that you then send them. You know right away how much it’s going to cost you with each of the different options. You will know upfront how much money you would need to set aside.

Dana: Yeah, absolutely. They’re very transparent [00:31:00] about all of the costs and whatnot, so you can budget that.

Sarina: Yes. I don’t know how that works with the other options, like ACX, but on Findaway at least, it’s very transparent. There should be no surprises.

Dana: Yeah. Like I said, when I went through ACX, I did the no-cost upfront. That didn’t cost me anything but I will say when you upload your information to ACX, they’ll ask how many words your book is and then they’ll give you a prediction of how much that book is going to cost to produce based on the different narrators and stuff that they give you. One thing about the ACX process, because we haven’t really talked about that very much, I will say it’s a little bit different from Findaway. With Findaway, you fill in the form and they send you narrators that kind of match your specifications. With ACX, it’s a little [00:32:00] bit the other way around, where you put it in your book’s information for how long it is and then, you basically get a list of all the narrators and then use their filter options to filter it down. For instance, if you want a female narrator, you can just say female narrators, you can filter it by royalty share option, you can filter it by a couple of skill sets, but that part really gets kind of muddy really fast. Like, “Do they do accents?” “Okay, cool.” “Yes or no?” Then like, “Okay, what accents are we talking about? I have an American accent, you have German and English accent.” There’s just a lot, a lot of things to consider, and that part gets a little bit muddy.

Yeah, that part, honestly, I still prefer Findaway’s process for that. Maybe you do like to go through all the [00:33:00] options, instead of Findaway is telling you, “Hey, these are the ones we think are best for your book.” That’s fine too. Yeah, you have to play with it. One thing that’s kind of nice with ACX is you can start a project– that’s what they call uploading an audiobook, you can start a project, and then kind of see what your options are, but you never really have to finish because I did that with Out of the Shadows. I wasn’t quite sure what path I wanted to go down for that one yet. I got in there, and I started it, then I looked at my options and whatnot, and then when I was looking at the narrator step in the process, is when I veered away and went the direction that I did. But I was at least able to get that far without signing any contracts or anything, so I was able to change my mind.

Sarina: Which is always very good. Coming on to the question that we’ve had on Instagram from @grthomas2014. [00:34:00] “Where do you even begin?” I really feared his question because journeying into audiobooks is so intimidating. I almost didn’t do it, honestly, when I first considered it because it’s so terrifying. I nearly talked myself out of it. I really get where this question is coming from.

Dana: Absolutely. Number one, like I said, as an author, if you’re trying to decide even if you should do an audiobook, like I said, look at your business situation, examine the reasons why you want an audiobook. Your reasons are going to be yours, it’s going to all depend on your situation, on your particular business plan, all of these things. I can’t really guide anybody in that way because, like I said, everyone’s business is going to be different, and only you know what’s best for your business because nobody knows your business like you do.

Let’s go ahead and say, [00:35:00] all right, for whatever reason you’ve decided, yep, going to do an audiobook, this is the right choice, let’s do it. We talked about money is, of course, going to be a big factor. What can you afford? Like I said, Amazon as ACX has those various royalty share options, there’s one that’s no money down.

One more thing I want to say about that, in addition to, I do think narrators should be paid for their time, is that the whole saying “you get what you pay for,” that’s also a factor. Professionals who have built up their resume, they can afford to charge more, because they’re more in demand. Whereas somebody who’s less experienced, maybe it’s just now getting into it, that’s not to say they should not be given a chance, because I definitely, definitely, definitely support giving beginners a chance, [00:36:00] that’s happened with me. When I first got started, I have a lot of help from other people. But you may not have somebody who’s as experienced, and you have to make that choice as well. You get into ACX, you can see how much your audiobook would cost to produce based on narrators. You can also start that process with Findaway, and here’s some of the results that they give you back.

I would say at that point, where you start to audition your narrators, hear their voices for the first time and whatnot, I think that’s the point where you have to start making hard and fast decisions. Again, when you hear a narrator’s voice, you as an author, because you know your book better than anyone else, you kind of know who’s going to be best then you can make those decisions based on pricing and money and [00:37:00] things like that.

Then, distribution is a huge part of that decision. I like Findaway’s distribution a lot more than I like Amazon’s distribution options. That’s why I go with them.

Sarina: Yeah, for me, I started with research, because it is so intimidating and because I like to be prepared, in general, anyway. I read books on how audiobook creation works. I think I had some YouTube videos lined up that explained the process. I’m pretty sure I’ve read your blog post as well. I’m linking to all of those things in the first post of my blog series on my experience as well. It’s all in one place if you want to start with research. I think because it’s such a big thing, you never know exactly what you’re going into until you’re doing it anyway, but I think because of how much money is involved, it’s definitely worth just doing at least a little [00:38:00] bit of research first. Then from there, you can then decide which option is right for you. There’s a lot to consider, so also don’t rush it.

Dana: Yeah. Sarina makes such a good point. I’m very much like an A, B kind of tester, I want to press the button and see, “What are these buttons do when I press them?” Which, admittedly, number one, is intimidating for a lot of people. Two, maybe isn’t always the best method. I fully admit that. Yeah, do your research. YouTube is an incredible resource. Lots and lots of people on there doing all kinds of stuff. Sarina has her blog posts on how she got started. I have recently also put up a resources page on my website, so you can go to the resources page, and there’s a section that’s specifically called Audiobook Creation.

Sarina: I will be linking to that.

Dana: Yay, fantastic. Definitely research, if that’s the [00:39:00] way that you do your thing, super cool.

Sarina: Yeah, and hopefully, with this episode now, the one from last week, all of Dana’s blog posts, and then also all of my blog posts, and then also the things that we are both be linking to in our blog post for more research, I think by the end of all that, you should have a fairly good idea of whether this sounds like something that you would like to do, and which path you want to take. Hopefully, this is helpful for you.

Dana: Yeah. One other thing I want to say about this whole process, especially if you’re– this goes for whether you’re new to it or not. Communication. I tend to overexplain things. One might say I even tend to overcommunicate, but honestly, communicating with your narrator is an amazing thing, because there are going to be things they’re going to have questions about. I always try to be really open when I’m first meeting people, whether it’s virtually or otherwise, and just say, “Hey, let me know if you have any questions.” I always try to be really welcoming and [00:40:00] create that environment where I want to make people feel comfortable with questions and whatnot. Always communicate.

Usually, when I first “meet a narrator,” I will introduce myself and say hi, just a like getting-to-know-you kind of thing because you are going to be coworkers in the future. That’s a huge part of working together, is just keeping that open line of communication and everyone feeling okay to express, “Hey, this doesn’t really work,” or, “Hey, I have questions about how do you want me to approach this?” Weirdly, I tend to put onomatopoeia in my books as well, which Shaina handled perfectly, including there’s a panther snarl in one of the scenes, and I was like, “Oh, whoops, I forgot about that.” She handled it great. Yeah, anytime there’s anything like that, just approach with respect and knowing that they’re not really your [00:41:00] employee. Like I said, they’re working together with you.

Sarina: Yeah, and one thing that I would add to that as well is bear in mind that your narrator knows what they’re doing. Maybe they are pronouncing or just reading a sentence slightly differently to how you would do it, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Don’t overedit them and just don’t be too overly picky of it, because, again, your narrator knows what they’re doing. Ultimately, them reading your book is just their interpretation of your book. Just leave them to it, they know what they’re doing. If they’re really not sure how to pronounce something, they will very likely ask. In general, they’re narrators, so you can rest assured that they know how to read a book. They will do a professional job of it. They don’t have to read everything exactly as you would for it to be correct.

Dana: Yeah. Oh, and one more thing, I want to tell people about the amount of work [00:42:00] that is involved with this. You do also then have to kind of proof-listen to your book. All of the narrators I’ve ever worked with, have gone by this rule of– for the really long projects, we’ve gone chapter by chapter. The reason for this is because, God forbid, they mispronounce someone’s name or they’re doing an accent wrong or something like that. Then, over half the book is done, and then you listen and you’re like, “Oh, wait, no. This is wrong. I need you to redo all of it.” That’s awful for everyone involved.

Like I said, with all of the narrators I’ve worked with for the really long projects, we’ve gone back and forth. We’re like, “Oh, hey, I just uploaded. I just finished this chapter. It’s ready for you to listen to.” I would listen, and I would let them know of any fixes or anything like that, which honestly, there really weren’t that many. They would [00:43:00] then fix the things and then they would move on to the next chapter. You do have to spend that time proof-listening to your book to make sure everything is the way it should be, but like I said– or rather like Sarina said, these are professionals, they’re very good at their job. I think anything I had to correct was basically along the same lines of when you’re writing a book and maybe there’s a typo, kind of the audio version of a typo here and there. I think there was maybe one place where I asked her to redo something because, again, onomatopoeia, I had totally intended for this onomatopoeia noise to come out very differently than the way she did it the first time. Then, we had a chat about what is this actually supposed to sound like, and she fixed it, and it was great. That’s another really important part. It is time-consuming, but again, it’s just one more thing that’s going to make your audiobooks that much better.

Sarina: Yeah, and at least that [00:44:00] way, you don’t actually have to do any of the sound editing yourself.

Dana: Exactly.

Sarina: You just listen to it, you tell them whether everything is fine, which most of the time it will be or that maybe for some reason, your narrator maybe skipped over a word, which can happen, because in a professional as we all are, we are also just human, so mistakes will happen, and that’s fine.

Dana: exactly.

Sarina: Then, it goes back to them and then someone has to take care of it. [laughs]

Dana: Yeah–[crosstalk] Okay.

Sarina: I was just going to say it’s a lot of worry off your shoulders.

Dana: Oh, yeah, for sure. Like I said, honestly, most of what you’re going to have to deal with as far as corrections, and this is very likely going to be next to nothing, are going to be those audio versions of typos. To give you guys a scope of how often I think these happen, there would be like four or five, six chapters in a row where I wouldn’t have any corrections and then there might be one tiny little correction in a chapter, [00:45:00] and then another three with no correction. This is the level of professionalism that your narrators are going to be hitting, especially through Findaway when they’re doing this professionally and they’re being paid for it.

Sarina: I think that’s a fantastic place to wrap it up on. Thank you so much, Dana, for coming back, and talking to me about your very vast experience with creating audiobooks. I hope it’s been very helpful for everybody. As I said, I will be linking to your blog post and everything in the show notes, so it’s very easy for everyone to access if you want to read more on this.

Dana: Awesome. Thank you, Sarina. I really appreciate you having me back.

Sarina: And I really appreciate you coming back. Thank you so much and have a fantastic day everyone. Bye-bye.

Dana: Bye.

[music]

Sarina: If you enjoyed today’s episode, maybe learned something along the way, hit the subscribe button. You can also connect with me on Twitter [00:46:00] @sarina_langer, on Instagram and Facebook @sarinalangerwriter, and of course, on my website, at sarinalanger.com. Until next time, bye.


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The Writing Sparrow Episode 11 | Book Fairs for Authors with Dana Fraedrich

This week, steampunk author Dana Fraedrich joined me on Zoom to talk about attending book fairs as an author. Last year alone, Dana has attended around 20 book fairs and events, which makes her a bit of an expert.

Guest-starring Bruin, Dana’s dog.

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Sarina Langer 00:08
Hello, and welcome to the Writing Sparrow podcast. I’m Sarina Langer, and this podcast is all about writing, publishing and marketing your book. You can find transcripts on my website at sarinalanger.com. Let’s get started!

Sarina Langer 00:26
Welcome back friends and Sparrows and hello! This is episode number 11, and this is the 16th of November 2020, and I have the wonderful Dana Fraedrich with me, who I’ve been very lucky to meet last year in Winchester before the world went to shit.

Dana Fraedrich 00:47
Thank you very much. I super appreciate you having me here.

Sarina Langer 00:51
Yeah, and I’m really appreciative that we’ve managed to meet up before everything turned a little bit weird.

Dana Fraedrich 01:01
But you know what, one day we’ll be able to meet back up again. So you know, one day we’ll travel again.

Sarina Langer 01:07
It’ll be amazing. What I would like to talk to you about is things like book fairs, because before COVID I swear you were doing a different kind of book fair every weekend. It felt like it to us anyway. Every now and again, when Bev and I met up in Winchester, we were saying, did you see she’s doing another book fair? How does she have the energy? It’s incredible. How many have you done?

Dana Fraedrich 01:33
Oh my goodness. Um, it’s a lot. Um, so I don’t even know how many I’ve done in total, but I do know that I was probably doing somewhere around like 20 or so a year.

Sarina Langer 01:51
That sounds about right.

Dana Fraedrich 01:52
Yeah, it was, it was a lot. Um, so yeah, like, and like, like, we were just saying, like, we will, we will travel again one day, book fairs and cons and things like that will be, will be a thing again, one day, once it’s safe, and all that kind of stuff. So this is going to be good. But yeah, I will say they are very labour intensive as far as… physically, emotionally, mentally. I personally really love it. But I’m very much a people person. I really like love talking to people. And I really enjoy being physical and getting out there and all that kind of stuff. So I always caution people if they’re thinking about doing anything like this to really consider like how much like mental and physical bandwidth they have, and emotional as well.

Dana Fraedrich 02:44
As far as like… okay, you’re in there, you are probably going to be working for like 10 to 12 hours a day from like set-up to tear-down and then all the talking in between. So I, yeah, like I said, I definitely recommend people really think about this before they try to jump in. But if you, if you are that kind of personality, it’s great.

Sarina Langer 03:04
Yeah, well, I am more of an introvert, and I found it very stressful. But I didn’t, I’ve only done the one. I have nothing like your very extensive experience. And it was a slightly strange experience for me because, well, it… The way it was advertised was that it was a family friendly thing with all kinds of genres welcome. So I thought great, I’ll do my first one, it’s kind of just down the road for me in Brighton. I’ll go do that. And my, my parents were there, they had flown in for it, and my partner came with me, and we all drove down there together. And they were able to have a look around the entire hall long before I did because I was just setting up and just trying to people in an adult way. And they came back around to my table after having a look around and my partner looks at me and just goes, did you know it’s all porn?

Sarina Langer 04:01
And I said, no, I was, no, I, no, this is interesting, no one told me that.

Dana Fraedrich 04:07
Yeah, erotica is a very popular genre. And a lot of like romance writers and erotica writers and things like that, these sort of events are really great places for them. And there’s a lot of really great networking and stuff. And a lot of them are family friendly. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the books are family friendly. And that’s always something to think about and, like, kind of look into when you are preparing is look at the other authors attending, usually on the websites that are promoting this event, they’ll have a list of attending authors. And then you can go to their website and see kind of the, the various genres that are around, and this is something I learned the hard way.

Dana Fraedrich 04:48
Not all events are going to work for your book. So for those out there who don’t know, I write steampunk, and while there is usually like a romantic thread in the background, they’re not romance per se. And I’ve done some cons that were like, pretty firmly romance genre, and I didn’t do very well there. So that’s always a good thing, to do that research beforehand.

Sarina Langer 05:13
Yeah, no, I agree. That’s something I didn’t do. I was just really lucky that I got in, I think. One of our mutual friends, Grace, she said she was going to go originally, and then she had to cancel it. So she said to me, would you like my spot? So I was like, Yes, Yes, please.

Dana Fraedrich 05:30
That’s so cool!

Sarina Langer 05:31
I’m gonna have so much fun. I’m gonna be doing this. It’s gonna be great. And, um, I didn’t really look into it beyond that, because I figured if she would have done it, our books aren’t that different. I mean, she wrote more, you know, urban fantasy, so you know mine is more epic fantasy, but it’s still fantasy. So I figured it’d be fine. But I could definitely tell on the day that most of the readers who were there, they, they were there for the erotica. I think I, I had a few readers who came up to the table and just said, Does your book have any sex in it? And I said, No, not really. And they said, okay bye, I’m gonna, I’m gonna go over to the corsets and the penis-shaped biscuits.

Dana Fraedrich 06:15
Yeah, and that is, that is always um… That can be really disappointing. One thing I found, or rather something else I always tell people, is like, be prepared for disappointment, because there are going to be people who are not interested in your books for any number of reasons. Or if they are interested in hearing about them, then they hear the pitch and they’re like, no, I’m good. thanks anyway, bye. And that, that sucks. Like, that’s really disappointing. So it’s like I said, it’s very mentally and emotionally draining, especially when you have something like that going on. But honestly, it’s just, it’s kind of part of it. That’s just going to be your experience sometimes. And then there’s going to be events that are fantastic. I really always recommend, like, trying to find your niche. Sometimes that requires going to the event, especially if it’s like far away, but if you, if it’s like a local event, you can always kind of go one year beforehand and kind of check it out. That’s what I did with our local book festival. It’s called the Southern Festival of Books here in Nashville. And like, I went with a friend of mine, it’s actually my best friend, Sally, who you know,

Sarina Langer 07:26
Yeah, I’ve met her, she’s lovely. Hi, Sally.

Dana Fraedrich 07:31
You know what I’m going to, I’m going to make sure to send this to her. But she happened to be over during that, that week. So she and I went to the Southern Festival of Books together, had a wander, kind of got to like, see everything. And that was really, really helpful, because then I knew what to expect. And that was one of the bigger ones I do. It’s like, three days long, you have like, your own tent and whatnot, it was really cool, but it’s also outside, which has its own challenges. And, you know, it’s rained every year that I’ve done it, so you kind of have to be prepared for weather.

Sarina Langer 08:04
Lots of mud!

Dana Fraedrich 08:06
Yeah. So… and honestly, I live and die by my checklist. Um, you and I are both very similar really personality in that, like, we like our lists, we like our, all of our planning and stuff

Sarina Langer 08:18
And it needs to be colour-coded, thank you.

Dana Fraedrich 08:21
There you go. Exactly. I have, I have rainbow colours in my planner. It’s not, it’s not quite as pretty as your washi tape, but still.

Sarina Langer 08:30
What I found really surprising when I went to my one book fair, which in hindsight I really should have researched more – hindsight is a beautiful thing – is that so many of the readers… it’s almost like they kind of go on tour with them. So they kind of start at the top of the country, and then they go to all of the book fairs until they’ve made their way down. So they obviously, they have a certain budget, and they only have so much space in their cars and in the suitcases. So you need to consider that people don’t necessarily not buy your book because they’re not interested, it’s just that they do not have any more room. But I think a lot of them end up taking a note of authors. And also, you might end up creating a lot of merch for it like bookmarks, for example, or totebags or maps, and you might think that maybe you can make a tiny bit of money that way. People are just gonna take them off your table. These are not things that you’re going to be selling, they just expect them to be freebies.

Dana Fraedrich 09:28
Yeah. And any kind of like, uh, like swag like that, that you have, if you are going to give it away for free, I would always recommend things like bookmarks, paper products, stuff like that, because it, it can get very expensive very quickly to be like having all this cool swag and then giving it away for free. But one thing you can do with that is you can basically use them as like marketing. So you can have like, you can print a QR code for free from Google, and I actually print them on like little paper labels, and I stick them on my bookmarks for whatever it is I’m trying to promote at that time. So like, for instance, you mentioned the issue with people having space in their suitcases and stuff, and I know you’ve got an audiobook, you’ve got all your books in e-format and stuff, same here. So like, you can direct people with that QR code to either your Amazon site or a different place. So then I’ll be like, oh, it’s available in ebook, and it’s available in audio, and then you know, that’s not space that they have to take up in their suitcases or else.

Sarina Langer 10:31
That is so clever. I had never even considered that. This is why you’re clearly the professional and I am the very, very green newbie. The weird thing is, I remember when I was there, there was, there were two guys sitting opposite us. There was so many people in Brighton who’d come over from America.

Dana Fraedrich 10:49
Oh, wow.

Sarina Langer 10:49
Authors who must have, well, who clearly carried all of their books across the world, hoping to get rid of them in Brighton, so that, that was so amazing to me, because I was just glad that I could go somewhere so close to me. And they had literally travelled across the world just to be there. And I made, I was complaining because Manchester is too far away from my home, but one of them said to me, oh, I can’t believe this is your first one, you look like you really know what you’re doing. But actually, you know what? I think it must have been obvious that I had no idea. She was being nice to me.

Dana Fraedrich 11:28
I bet that you, you know, because we were talking earlier about this whole like professional voice thing. You know, the kind of like fake it till you make it. So even if you don’t know what you’re doing, like, if you kind of give that presence of like, yeah, no, I’m good, I know what I’m doing, it’s cool.

Sarina Langer 11:43
Yeah, just pretend. They don’t know.

Dana Fraedrich 11:45
Exactly, yeah, no, this is just your normal style, it’s cool.

Sarina Langer 11:49
We’re always this calm and confident. We totally know what we’re doing. I have a podcast now, don’t I? I must know what I’m doing.

Dana Fraedrich 11:57
Only professional people have podcasts!

Sarina Langer 11:59
Well, absolutely.

Dana Fraedrich 12:03
Um, but yeah, and then one thing I do want to make sure to mention, so you don’t forget is I have, as you know, a blog with helpful tips and things like that. And on there, I have a couple of different blog entries about doing shows, and I have a lot of information packed into those. So this, if this is something that people are interested in, I recommend going and looking those up. You can just go to my website, which is wordsbydana.com, and type in like live shows or anything like that. And those blog entries will come up from the search bar. And like I said, those are, those are really helpful. I packed a lot of information in about, like, display, because you want your space to look inviting. I talked about sales, I talked about marketing, I talked about… I’m trying to think what else… kind of like dealing with things like weather and networking and all that kind of stuff.

Sarina Langer 12:58
Well, I know from personal experience that your blog is incredibly helpful, I got so much out of it when I was first looking into how to do an audiobook. So I can only second that. And we will definitely be linking to your site in the shownotes as well, so you don’t have to go hunt it down. You can just click on a link and there it is. It’ll be nice and easy.

Dana Fraedrich 13:17
Yeah, that’s awesome. Thank you. And yeah, and shows are also a really great way to meet other authors. Author communities are, as you know, I know you know, so important and so encouraging to have because sometimes, you know, you get those feelings of like, I am the only one feeling this, I am the only one going through this. And it is in a way yay that it’s not true, but also in a way boo, it’s not true, because I hate that more of us are going through these sort of things.

Sarina Langer 13:45
We’ve picked a difficult industry, haven’t we? But also, let’s be honest, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Dana Fraedrich 13:52
Exactly. Yeah. We can’t help living the author life. It’s true.

Sarina Langer 13:56
It’s chosen us. Yeah.

Dana Fraedrich 13:58
Yeah. But honestly, I’ve met some of some really great author friends through these events and stuff like that. My, my, honestly my biggest tip is just like to be friendly and be nice. You’re not going to get along with everyone at author events. I’ve also had a couple of situations where I was like, please get out of my space right now. But of course you can’t say that. So yeah, always be nice. Always be friendly. And you can meet some really cool people doing that.

Sarina Langer 14:25
I feel like that’s very good life advice in general. So one thing that, one thing I wasn’t really sure about when I was preparing for my first and so far only event was, how many books should I take with me? Because I had no idea like, is this, is 10 books a lot or is that way too many? What should I expect? How many books should a new author take with them to an event like that?

Dana Fraedrich 14:50
That is such a good question. And firstly, of course, this is totally dependent on your budget. Some people might only be able to afford to bring, you know, 10 or 15 or 20 books. It gets expensive fast, it gets really heavy fast, because books are very heavy. But I will say like no matter what your budget is, always bring probably twice as many of the first in your series if you do have a series, then the second and the third. I always sell way more copies of Out of the Shadows than any other, who starts the first in the series.

Sarina Langer 15:29
That’s very good advice, thank you. I just had another question I don’t know… ah no, I know. So you’ve probably done both of those things by now given your very extensive experience, but normally… Oh, hello! Sorry, I’ve just spotted a dog in the background. Hello. Oh, he’s adorable.

Dana Fraedrich 15:49
Bruin was hanging out with us. Hey baby!

Sarina Langer 15:51
I’m a bit disappointed because I promised that my cat would probably say hello sooner or later and so far I haven’t heard a single meow from her while I was recording, but I’ve seen your dog now. She’s extremely shy. Anyway, back to the question, back to, back to the point we’re here. So quite often, when you book one of these events, you get the choice between either booking half a table and sharing it with another author, or booking a whole table. I’m sure you’ve probably done both of those options by now, so what would you say are your pros and cons for both, and which one would you recommend if you have a favourite?

Dana Fraedrich 16:27
Well, again, a lot of this is going to be very budget dependent. Of course, budget is a huge part of book shows and travel and all that kind of stuff. So I personally like having a whole table, but I have a lot of stuff. Not only do I sell books, but I sell crocheted kind of things, dice bags, things like that. I sell– I’ve made handmade candles and I sell those. So I need a lot of space generally. But if you are doing a half table, that’s also really cool, and that can work really well in conjunction. So basically, if you’re going to do a half table, doing it with someone you know and have good communication with is always really helpful. For instance, I table-shared with an author by the name of Jeffrey Mandragora a couple years ago, and he also writes steampunk. But I always want to caution people that like, firstly, other authors are not your competition. And having that kind of vibe is really toxic. If authors are competing against each other, it gets ugly really fast, which is why I mentioned communication being key. But Jeffrey is really great. So like I said, he also writes steampunk, but he writes more like espionage and thriller kind of stuff. And my stuff is more, it’s young adult, and it’s a little bit more mystery, it’s a little bit more whimsical. And so what we would do is when someone would come over to our table, we would ask them, you know, what do you like to read? And if they were like, a financial thriller, I would be like, Jeffrey here has stuff for you. And then likewise, if they really liked YA, then he would point them to me. So yeah, like we were able to work in conjunction that weekend, and it was really great. So yeah, like I said, if you know the other author and can communicate well with them, that’s really, really helpful and, you know, help each other out, like, find out what, what readers want. I’ve been in situations where like, there was a whole table of us, I think there were like five or six of us, and again, same kind of thing. Like when we worked in conjunction with each other, it was awesome. You know, same kind of question, what do you like to read? Because, yes, I understand, we all want to like sell our book to every single person who comes along, but not every book is the right fit for every reader, and I’m a big advocate of getting the right book into the right reader’s hands. And so like I said, finding out what they like, engaging with them to really connect and build a, like, a little bit of a relationship during that short time that they’re there at your table is really, really, really helpful. And that, that way they can connect with you as the author as well. Like, you’re not just a salesperson, like you are representing yourself in that situation.

Sarina Langer 19:24
And I think what you’ve touched on there is really important, it’s that you will be talking to a lot of people and just one day on both events. But just as on social media, you’re not going to sell any books if you just say hi, this is my book, please buy it. Not interested? Please move on. That’s not gonna work. So you, you know, as you said you’re there to represent not just the book but also yourself. So making that connection is really important, but I think it’s also quite hard on those during these events because readers kind of really just want to move on and see what, what the next author is selling and what kind of cool freebies they have. I mean, we had people who I think they had made chocolates, handmade chocolates on their table. I mean, I had nothing like that. What really surprised me was that one of the first people who ever came up to my little table, I think she just came up to me and just expected to be able to take a picture with me for her scrapbook. Because a lot of readers who go to these things, at least in my tiny experience for whatever that’s worth, is they have scrapbooks of the events. So they will get every author to sign and have some goodies in there as a memory, which is a lovely idea. But that’s, that was something that I had no idea was a thing. So that was quite interesting. So they really just came up to me just like, can we just take a picture together? It’s like, Oh! Does this mean I’m famous now? Yes, we can take a picture together! Please, please.

Dana Fraedrich 20:50
You are famous. But ya know, a lot of, a lot of events and stuff like that, like they, it’s got a very friendly kind of vibe. We’re like, hey, we’re all friends here. We’re all hanging out together. It’s all very casual kind of thing.

Sarina Langer 21:04
I think the lovely thing about the bookworm community in general is that it’s, you know, as you know, it’s such a warm,

Bruin, Dana’s dog 21:11
barks

Sarina Langer 21:11
… welcoming– Oh hello!

Dana Fraedrich 21:14
Yeah, give me just a second. I know, you’re gonna have to edit this. I apologise. I will get Bruin of my room.

Sarina Langer 21:20
Not at all! Nope, this is staying in. You cannot see this, but Dana has the fluffiest, most excited dog. Oh, he’s just dancing on the bed, he’s so cute.

Dana Fraedrich 21:33
He will probably make a noise again, and I apologise for that. I tried, I tried stuffing him into the bedroom with my husband this morning. My husband’s still sleeping. It’s early for us here. And that didn’t work, he started barking in there. So I apologise.

Sarina Langer 21:47
I think many readers and authors are also animal people, really, so I don’t think anyone will be insulted that we’ve just heard your lovely dog. But I’ve kind of completely forgotten what I was going to ask

Dana Fraedrich 21:59
You, you were talking about how the bookworm community is really tight knit, we’re all really friendly.

Sarina Langer 22:05
Yes. And I think those kinds of events also reflect that. So I, you know, even though I didn’t write porn, and maybe therefore didn’t fit in on the day, I still felt like, you know, I didn’t, I wasn’t made to feel like I shouldn’t have been there. You know, all the readers were still very friendly. And there were so many who came up to my little table and just said, hi, how are you doing? What’s the book about? Can I just quickly look inside it, can I just have a look at the first page? Your cover is great. Can I take a bookmark, please?

Dana Fraedrich 22:34
Hmm. Yeah. And I mean, and sometimes that is just going to be part of the learning process and figuring out like, which events are the right fit for your books and you as an author, but I love, I love that even though like your your genre didn’t match the genre that was predominantly represented at that event, like you still felt like, you weren’t being like shunned or anything.

Sarina Langer 22:58
No. And I should say that I did sell some books. So even though I think most readers were definitely there for the erotica, there were also some readers there who didn’t mind maybe reading something else, and maybe who was specifically looking for other things. I wasn’t the only author there who wasn’t writing erotica. There were a few others. Just not most of us. So I found one– No, you go.

Dana Fraedrich 23:22
No, you go ahead.

Sarina Langer 23:23
Okay. So I think one thing maybe that’s worth considering before you go to the event yourself is how you’re going to decorate your table. Because they don’t really give you anything at all in that regard. They literally just give you a table with white cloth and say this is your space, make it your own. Go.

Dana Fraedrich 23:43
Pretty much, yeah.

Sarina Langer 23:44
Do you have any tips for decorating it?

Dana Fraedrich 23:47
Absolutely. So I, this is something I love, I’m not actually that good at it. To be honest, a lot of my table setup has come from my older sister and my husband, who they’re both just better with like arranging space than I am. I am not very talented with the whole like spatial dimension stuff. So yeah, but you know, and I do want to, I do want to warn people, this is going to be a learning process. This is going to be an evolution. My table setup has changed a lot. And as you add more books or other products, it’s going to change again and again and again. So be patient with yourself. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different things. You might have to put items in different places to catch people’s eye more. It’s a learning process, but I always try to do a couple of different things with my table setup.

Dana Fraedrich 24:40
Number one, I try to make it inviting. It’s just, it’s just nice. I want to create a little bit like a warm space, so I have some fairy lights and stuff that I string up and they’re just pretty. I also try to have my, my table do double duty, just like with our words and our books, like we’re trying to give our words a lot of different jobs. So my table or my table decorations, rather, they tend to also communicate that I write steampunk. So like I… This is like two days of my life that was totally worth it, but I’m not getting it back. So I like stamped gear shape since I write steampunk over my big white tablecloth and it like I said, it took me like two days to do, but it looks really, really good. So like white tablecloth, gold gears are just all over this thing. And that, you know, it’s kind of just a quick indicator to people, oh, steampunk gears! Because people who know the steampunk genre know that gears are kind of, you know, the symbol of that. Just like with dark fantasy or like if you have vampires like fangs might be a thing. Or I’m trying to think of another example. Oh, obviously romance, you might have hearts.

Sarina Langer 25:52
And that’s, that’s very good advice. Thank you. What kind, like in your experience, what kind of merchandise and freebies do you think readers most likely to be interested in on those events? Obviously, for your genre, there’s going to be some things that maybe a horror writer wouldn’t really be able to include so much. But is there anything maybe a bit more generic that you would recommend people definitely pack for the day?

Dana Fraedrich 26:19
I find bookmarks really helpful. I printed bookmarks, uh, I had business cards printed for myself. Nobody cared about my business cards, everyone wanted the bookmarks. So I think those are great. And for whatever reason, bookmarks just disappear. Readers always need more of them. So I always recommend those. Generally, anything like I said that you’re going to give away for free, they, they shouldn’t cost you a lot of money. Because that’s, that’s an investment on your part. And things like bookmarks are probably going to get you the biggest return on that investment.

Sarina Langer 26:55
Bookmarks are so handy to use as well, because obviously they might actually buy your book, and then they can also put your bookmark in there. But even if they don’t buy your book, they still have the free bookmark. So if they like the design of that, and then they keep end up using that a lot then they will still see all your information on there. Maybe one day they’ll go, maybe I should check out this lovely lady called Dana, see what she’s writing because the bookmark was pretty, I thought I remember meeting her once.

Dana Fraedrich 27:20
Hmm, yeah. Um, so yeah, and definitely when you, when you do give away free stuff, make sure it has the information on it that you want people to see, like, don’t trust that, oh, maybe they’ll like go to my website and see my name or see my books or something. Like, in some cases, you’re only going to have one shot at, like, maybe getting that person’s attention. So like I said, I think the path of least resistance was probably your best bet. So like, put your name on there. Do, like, a picture of your books or something like that on there or a tagline for like what your books are about. And this is, this is honestly one of the hardest parts, I think, is figuring out a quick pitch or tagline for your book. Like this is why there are professional marketers of which I am not one of them.

Sarina Langer 28:10
And yet you’re doing so well.

Dana Fraedrich 28:12
Well, it’s been a long road.

Sarina Langer 28:16
Just goes to show what perseverance really can do for you in this business. Because there’s a lot of that, isn’t there?

Dana Fraedrich 28:23
There’s like so much perseverance.

Sarina Langer 28:25
I think we’ve talked about this ahead of time, this may go horribly wrong. I apologise if it does. Do you have an action step prepared for our listeners today?

Dana Fraedrich 28:36
I do. Yes. Okay. So basically, um, I know right now with COVID these live events are just kind of out, unfortunately. But like I said, they will be back one day

Sarina Langer 28:48
They’ll be back.

Dana Fraedrich 28:50
Exactly. But so what I recommend is taking this time that we have now to do a little bit of research. Google events in your area, whether it’s book fairs, like I said, our big one here in Nashville is the Southern Festival of Books, like that’s our statewide book fair. And those sort of events are fantastic. So Google what your state book fairs are or your county book fair, I don’t really know how it works there in England.

Sarina Langer 29:13
We certainly don’t have anywhere near as much choice as you guys have. But then we’re a much smaller place. Now I know there is this massive book fair, that’s happening every year in London. I’m sure if you are from Britain listening to this right now you know this. And you know the one that I did, that was in Brighton, but that’s in a different city every year. So it’s worth looking into that.

Dana Fraedrich 29:33
Yeah. So and it may not be a book fair, it might be for instance, I do a lot of comic conventions as well. So there might be a comic convention that happens near you. So like I said, take advantage of this time that you have right now and do some research on the events that are near you, like about what time of the year they occur because you’re wanting to, you’re going to want to do some planning, and maybe make plans for next year like if they have their dates to figure out, okay, which, which event do I want to go visit first? Like I said, I visited this other festival of books before I actually was a vendor there, and it was a very educational experience. So maybe make plans and you know, start thinking about events that you’d want to go check out as possible sites for you to try and sell your stuff and see what, what vendors are there, see what people are selling at those events. And again, that’ll be a really good indicator for if that event might be a good fit for your books, or whatever it is that you’re selling.

Sarina Langer 30:33
I would add to that as well that, if you are thinking about joining one yourself as an author, try to book it early. Because in my experience, they get booked, they get booked up very fast. And you might get in, I mean, you might not get in right away, but you might still get on the waiting list, which you might think probably means that you won’t be able to participate. But actually, for many different reasons, lots of authors might end up dropping out. And then you might, you know, still get in after all. So it’s worth letting them put you on the waiting list, even if you can’t get in right away. But just see if you can maybe get in there right away. Maybe you can set up a notification or something that alerts you when one that you really want to be part of is looking for authors again.

Dana Fraedrich 31:16
Yeah, and I actually, that’s, that’s a great tip, because that is something I do when I want to apply for an event. But maybe applications aren’t open yet. I’ll put a calendar reminder in for either to check on it if there’s no date for when applications are going to open, or if there is a date, then putting that into your calendar, like apply today or whatever. I’ve actually got something like that for Worldcon which you may have, may or may not have heard of. It happens in like a different place somewhere in the world every year, and next year it is near where I grew up in Washington, DC. So–

Sarina Langer 31:54
Oh, wow. How nostalgic for you!

Dana Fraedrich 31:57
Well, we’ll see what happens.

Sarina Langer 32:00
Thank you very much. I think if we leave it on that, that’s a really good spot to finish on I think. Thank you very much for sharing your wisdom with us, Dana. And thank you so much for being here with me.

Dana Fraedrich 32:11
Absolutely thrilled, and Bruin is saying goodbye to all you good people, so say goodbye to Bruin.

Sarina Langer 32:16
Bye!

Dana Fraedrich 32:18
Bye!

Sarina Langer 32:23
If you enjoyed today’s episode, maybe learn something along the way, hit the subscribe button. You can also connect with me on Twitter @sarina_langer, on Instagram and Facebook @sarinalangerwriter, and of course on my website at sarinalanger.com. Until next time! Bye!


Transcribed by Otter

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