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    You Can be an Audio Book Author!

    Patrika Vaughn is a successful author of audio books. In this interview, Patrika shares tips and insights on how to become an audio book author.

    The e-Writer's Place (TeWP): When did you start writing? When were you first published and at what genre/market?

    Patrika Vaughn (PV): As soon as I could hold a pencil! My first job out of school was for a neighborhood newspaper, where I wrote a weekly column. This was my very first paid-for publication. Later, after years of marriage and child raising, I began freelancing. Over a period of 15 years my works appeared on more than 100 national journals and magazines. I finally got tired of writing stuff that ended at the bottom of the birdcage every 30 days, so at that point I began ghost-writing books.


    TeWP: What genres have you written for, and how do you assess each in terms of ease of writing articles/stories and getting published?

    PV: I've written for all kinds of trade magazines -- everything from Motor to Physician's Management to Finance and Business Week. They are all simple to write for. The formula is to write for the specific audience and tell readers how they can either make or save a buck. I've also written for consumer mags such as Ms., New Woman, Parents. Again, the trick is to put yourself in the readers' minds and write to them, on subjects they are interested in and from a perspective they can appreciate and empathize with.


    TeWP: How many audio books have you had published? What are they and why did you choose to create audio books?

    PV: After my long career as a feature story writer, ghostwriter, book editor, teacher/lecturer and literary agent, I decided to help new writers get a leg up -- to use my knowledge to save beginning writers the time and pain of learning the industry the hard way.


    I first wrote a regular book, Everything You Need to Know to WRITE PUBLISH & MARKET YOUR BOOK ( available at bookstores and at http://www.acappela.com ). I needed to make more information available to the public but had limited time, so I said to myself, "I'll do it the quick way, through audio books."

    This was ignorance talking! I first wrote the scripts for a moderator, a narrator (myself), and a professional actress who was to read book excerpts I had mentioned in the tapes as examples of good craftsmanship. When I had completed the scripts I read them aloud to myself - and realized it sounded awful. This was my first lesson in the difference between what works for the spoken and the written word. So I went back to my computer and, speaking aloud, re-wrote the whole thing.

    Then I arranged for studio recording time. The many "takes" required to get it right came as a surprise, but it was fun. Then there was working with a musician to get the musical interludes that provided introductions and audible breaks between parts (I started by trying to get permission to use some recorded music, but this proved too expensive.)

    To make this long story short, I now have two audio books -- How to Write Your Own Life Story (or Your Family's Saga) and The Writer's Tool Box. They have both gotten excellent reviews and I've gotten happy feedback from those who have used them.

    The whole process was great fun. Working with an actress, a musician and a studio technician sparked my own enthusiasm and creativity -- it was a very different experience from the isolation of working alone with my computer on the written word.


    TeWP: Why did you choose to be a writer of audio books?

    PV: Initially - ignorantly - because I thought it would be a quicker process than book writing. Once I'd done one, I was hooked on the added dimensions audio offered.


    TeWP: How different is writing an audio book from a regular book? Is it easier?

    PV: Very different. The spoken word communicates much differently than the written word. I can't say harder or easier....just different. For anyone with a good speaking voice who likes to ham it up, it's more fun.


    TeWP: How about selling and marketing audio books? Are audio books easier to market and sell than hard copy books, in your experience?

    PV: I think they're harder to market, because the channels for doing so are fewer. In my case, I knew my audiences (writers and autobiographer/memoirists, genealogists, libraries) so I've been able to target them. A lot of my audio sales have evolved from networking with web sites for my targeted audiences, often through offering them free excerpts and/or articles for their sites.


    TeWP: If I am a writer with an audio book ready, where do I go to have it published? What copyrighting/trademark/protection issues are involved in producing audio books?

    PV: By "ready" do you mean that you have a written script only? If so, have you "tested it in the air" by reading it aloud to see if it sounds as good as it reads? If it doesn't, do some editing. What auxiliary stuff is needed for the final production -- music? voices? background sounds? It isn't easy to find a publisher for any kind of book by an unproven (unsold) author. Currently the big publishers are making deals with audio production companies for putting major authors' books on tape. The production companies then make arrangements with professional actors/actresses to perform them, and they sell them usually through audio book clubs and bookstores.

    I think it's a good idea to self-publish your audio book and to then market it over the Internet to targeted sites. If little auxiliary material is required, it's just a matter of locating a quiet recording studio to make a master tape and then reproducing copies and packaging them. An audio book requires the same sort of copyright a written book does. I don't think trademarking is much of an issue.


    TeWP: As a writer of audio books, are there any problems you encounter? What are they and what do you think are the causes of these problems?

    PV: Again, writing that's good for the ear must be very different from writing for the page. To sound user-friendly, the material should be simplified and spoken casually.


    TeWP: How easy or difficult is it to be an audio book writer? What are the pitfalls it entails? What are the benefits that come along with it?

    PV: It isn't difficult, just different. It probably takes someone with a stronger orientation to sound rather than to concept (although of course concept can't be ignored.) Probably anyone who has taught or lectured understands this difference.

    The pitfalls include the need to coordinate your own material with the input of all the folks involved in the audio production. The benefits are the extended audience you can reach (all those non-readers) and the wonder of creativity that comes when you work with a good crew, as you spark off of each other and create as you go.


    TeWP: If you can recommend three books on the subject of writing audio books, which ones are they going to be? Why?

    PV: I'm embarrassed to say I've never read one. I just winged it, relying on my acting and lecturing background to supply me with the common-sense elements to succeed.


    TeWP: What does a writer need to do and/or need to have if he/she wants to be a published audio book writer?

    PV: The most direct route is to become a best-selling author of a book. Other than that, I think faith in yourself and a good sales pitch to publishers, or enough entrepreneurial spirit to self-publish and market yourself.


    TeWP: Can you give some getting published tips in the field of audio book writing and publishing?

    PV: When approaching publishers, present them with a good, statistical analysis of the market for your product. Then tell them what your marketing program is. They will want to know if you are available for appearances and book signings, and what marketing you will do on your own to help sell the product. If your audio book is non-fiction, it helps to be a well-known expert in the field you've covered in your audio book.

    [For further details on marketing to publishers, see WRITE PUBLISH & MARKET YOUR BOOK or take the online course, Is Self-Publishing For You? These plus the audio books mentioned above are available at A Cappela Publishing.]

    Copyright © 2001 Shery Ma Belle Arrieta-Russ

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