Marketing Audiobooks Through Product Photography

A while back, I admitted that I’ve starting playing around with Instagram. It started off as a collection of random photos of my life, that then incorporated a handwriting challenge (I think mine’s gotten worse. Oops.), and has stretched to incorporate favorite quotes and shots of the outdoors to help break up all of the handwriting posts.

In between, however, I’ve started creating pictures featuring my voiceover work that I like to call “Audio Fiction in the Wild“. (Pinterest board. Also available on deviantArt.)

Among the Instagram accounts I like to spy on, there are a fair number of publishers, book nerds, and tea houses. I followed them in part because their pictures are cool, but I also followed them to see how they use Instagram to promote their own (or favorite) products. What I noticed was that they promote their wares with a photo that features the product in an attractive setting.

And I became curious. Could I do the same thing for my audio fiction projects?

I’ve been working on the Audio Fiction in the Wild project for a couple of months now, and the short answer is, “Yes.” Not enough to fill up an Instagram account frequently enough to be interesting. (See my other account for proof of this.) But people who see the photos do seem to like them, and I have seen the smallest shift in how well my audiobooks are doing. (It is a very tiny shift, and it mostly centers around books that don’t have their own In the Wild shot.)

So, let’s get into how I’m doing things for the moment (because this is a work in progress). While I’m working on a project, I make notes on aspects of my character or the story that might make for an interesting shot. Once I have the cover art (which is fairly early on for my own projects, but has to wait until release day for projects I work on for other people), I download it to my phone and plug in my headphones. Then, I take my notes and build a scene around my phone (displaying the cover art on the screen), and shoot several pictures (because I’m compulsive like that).

When the project is released (-ish, depending on how long it took me to get everything together), I upload the picture and caption it, complete with hashtags, to Instagram, Pinterest, goodreads, and deviantArt.

As I said, I don’t know that these pictures are having a direct influence on my sales. I don’t have access to those numbers. But I do know I’ve seen the tiniest increase in audiobook sales, and more importantly, I know that none of the publishers I work for have given me the boot over these photos. So, I’d like to think they’re serving some purpose beyond really fun photography practice.

One of the best benefits of working on this project is that I’m gaining practical experience in product photography – thinking about staging and context. And I think that’s a pretty big benefit.

Anyway, that’s how Audio Fiction in the Wild got started, and why I will probably continue working on it as long as my schedule allows.


Still the Little Kid in the Room

I studied ballet growing up, and one of my favorite things to do (when I was old enough to be in shows) was to sit at the studio door and watch the company girls rehearse. I’d watch them carefully, and then go home and figure out how to do what they did. I learned so much by copying those older girls.

Sadly, that copycat behavior did not follow me into voice acting. I suppose it can be forgiven. The little girl who spent her time away from school and the ballet studio watching cartoons never actually expected to be in a position to be a disembodied voice herself. I watched, fascinated by the optical illusion that is animation, and I listened to the voices, trying to connect them to characters in other cartoons I watched. But it was never anything more than that, because it was never going to need to be.

As I write this, I’ve been a working voice actor for five years (as of August 1), and really starting to wish I’d paid closer attention to all those cartoons. I’ve recently completed work on an audio drama where I play two of the main characters. For a girl who’s narrated over two dozen audiobooks with anywhere from a handful to nearly a hundred characters, this shouldn’t have been that big a deal. But in audiobooks, it’s understood that one person is doing everything. In an audio drama, not so much. These voices needed to be some shade of noticeably different.

I sat there, skimming scripts for moments where the two characters talk to each other to see exactly what I was in for, and thinking back over years of voice chasing and of smarting off every time I found a voice actor effectively talking to themself (or a screen actress talking to her disembodied voice). As the horrible thought that I would be engaging in that very behavior myself started sinking in, I panicked.

Memories of my past life as a ballerina kicked in, and I started thinking back more critically over all the times I could actively remember hearing someone talk to themself. (I even did some research. It’s amazing how much Darkwing Duck you can watch under the guise of “research”.) I’ve listened to experienced voice actors doing it. (I still do, actually.) I can recall or re-watch them. In the strangest copycat crash course ever, my inner grown-up voice actor tried to connect with my inner younger ballerina to sort out how to get through the project.

But I survived. And while it took a bit of work to make sure I was separating the characters enough, it was fun. Of course, I haven’t made it to the episode where the characters have a conversation yet, but I’m ready to mock myself when it happens.

The Reward of Exploring Practice Opportunities

Let’s start with a little background. I started dancing when I was three years old, and it quickly became the gateway to my participating in choirs and picking up a handful of instruments throughout school. I desperately wanted to act, but drama and I struggled to get along. Eventually, I decided I was meant solely to interact with music and made my peace with the situation. But the older I got, the less time I had to engage in the performing arts, and I drifted away in pursuit of a career in education…that ended up not panning out all that well.

In those last few years of trying to pull some sort of rabbit out of the hat to stay in my field, I ended up with a roommate who couldn’t tell the difference between a voice chaser and someone wanting to give voice acting a try. I explained it to him, repeatedly. I explained to him that drama was the one performing art I’d never been successful with, repeatedly. He wouldn’t listen, eventually banding together with a mutual friend to strong arm me into a pair of voiceover workshops they’d found at a local college. I thought they were crazy, but I was working on Dead Bunny at the time and figured it couldn’t really hurt. It was actually kind of fun, but nothing more came of it.

A few years later while at a particularly low point, I remembered I’d meant to investigate the local Talking Book & Braille Library. A week later, I was narrating for them. And it was fun! (Lifelong avid reader and teacher. It was kind of a good fit. *wink*) As I continued narrating for them and exploring other places to narrate, I realized I struggled a lot with characters. With my low-key personality, the small animation projects that trickled through Voice Acting Alliance at the time weren’t an option, so I decided to give audio drama a try. The idea was if I could just focus on developing and playing characters, I’d eventually be able to carry that back over to my narration work. I didn’t expect to stay in audio drama long, and I didn’t expect to be any degree of successful at it. I just wanted the experience, and maybe a little training from the audio drama groups I met.

That was three years ago. I’ve been in nearly two dozen audio dramas at this point, some of them with groups I’ve previously worked for. The drama that eluded me in childhood has finally found me, I guess, or maybe it just needed time to take root. Either way, something has changed. In November, after a couple of years of being part of award-nominated and -winning ensembles, I was nominated for an individual award in Pendant Productions’ annual Pendy awards for this scientist character I had a really good time getting into and playing.

Well, I won. The girl who couldn’t act her way out of a paper bag as a child has now won the 2015 Pendy for Best Actor in a Seminar Short. Who knew? 😉

And I’m even starting to figure out audiobook characters!