As part of our Audiobook Month series with FindAway Voices, we have a conversation about writing Fantasy with author Jamie Davis.
Jamie Davis is a nurse, retired paramedic, author, and nationally recognized medical educator who began teaching new emergency responders as a training officer for his local EMS program. He loves everything fantasy and sci-fi and especially the places where stories intersect with his love of medicine or gaming. He has authored multiple series and his book Accidental Thief was a 2019 Independent Audiobook Awards nominee.
You can learn more about Jamie on his website: https://jamiedavisbooks.com/
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Jamie Davis, E.S. Curry, Kevin Tumlinson
E.S. Curry 00:01
Welcome, everybody, to Findaway Voices’ and Draft2Digital’s series of live author events celebrating June audiobook month. Today we’ve got with us here, co-host Kevin Tumlinson and author Jamie Davis. Welcome, guys.
Jamie Davis 00:19
Howdy everybody, it’s good to see you.
Kevin Tumlinson 00:23
Always good to see you, Jamie.
E.S. Curry 00:25
Yeah. So I want to do just quickly introduce myself. I am Scott Curry, marketing strategist for Findaway Voices, advertising guy. And we have here our co-host, Kevin Tumlinson, best-selling and award-winning author and content creator, known as the voice of indie publishing, and he’s the director of marketing and PR for Draft2Digital, the world’s largest distributor of books for indie authors and publishers. And our guest today, Jaime Davis, loves everything fantasy and sci fi and especially the places where stories intersect with his love of medicine or gaming. He has authored multiple series and his book Accidental Thief was a 2019 independent audiobook awards nominee. Welcome, Jamie. Welcome, Kevin.
Kevin Tumlinson 01:15
I love the title Accidental Thief.
E.S. Curry 01:18
Yeah, it’s so cool.
Jamie Davis 01:20
I call that my accidental series. Because every book starts with Accidental in some sense.
Kevin Tumlinson 01:27
You did that on purpose. And that’s the irony.
Jamie Davis 01:31
Try to get that branding for the series together. Yeah. Yeah.
E.S. Curry 01:35
What does it Bob Ross says? Happy little accidents?
Jamie Davis 01:38
Yeah, that’s right. That’s actually, that’s kind of what the series is about. Accidental things that happened to somebody.
Kevin Tumlinson 01:48
We could start there, actually, if you want to talk a little bit about that series?
Jamie Davis 01:53
I’ve been a gamer all my life, played a lot of D&D growing up, video games, too. And I actually collaborated with my son on that series. He’s an IT professional, and heavy duty gamer. Way more than I do. I mean, he’s got like a liquid cooled gaming computer. So.
Kevin Tumlinson 02:12
Jamie Davis 02:15
I’m glad he’s spending his own money on that stuff now, instead of mine. So that’s a good thing. But we decided to work together on writing a lit RPG series. And the first book in that series is Accidental Thief. There are six books in the series separated into two trilogies. All of them start with Accidental, so it’s easy to find them when you look them up. But it’s a story of a guy who accidentally gets sucked into his computer game. And he’s kind of unlucky in life, but finds that he can leverage his luck in the game. And that’s kind of his theme is when he leverages luck in the game, he gains skills that he can take home and use in his real life, real world applications. So he starts doing better at his job, you know, he starts getting along better with his wife and family, and you know, all these things happen accidentally because he got sucked into the game.
Kevin Tumlinson 03:09
So is that a, like he’s learned a skill that is transferable, or that there’s a kind of magical component that travels back with him?
Jamie Davis 03:20
It’s more like a magical component that travels back with him. He gain skills in the game, Accidental Thief, then Accidental Warrior, he has to change classes and become a warrior for the second book. Accidental Mage, he becomes a mage. And then the second trilogy picks up with his daughter as a teenager, going back and accidentally finding her dad’s old computer and getting sucked into the game. And she’s a competition fencer, so she becomes the Accidental Duelist. And then she goes through and has pirate adventures, sails the high seas. That was my chance to be a swashbuckler for three books.
Kevin Tumlinson 03:58
That’s very cool.
E.S. Curry 03:59
I’m gonna need to read them, I’m a fencer myself. Love that.
Jamie Davis 04:02
Well, I hope you appreciate it. It was fun. Fun doing the research into what she was learning and actually, because you’re an author, you can do these things, I actually bought an actual rapier and fencing dagger, so I have all of that. And I wrote it all off.
Kevin Tumlinson 04:20
Yeah, see, I’m a fencer, too, but it’s more of a dig the post hole, drop in the post …
Jamie Davis 04:27
Me too. You know, growing up around my uncle’s farm and helping out a lot in the summer times, I did a lot of fence work.
Kevin Tumlinson 04:35
Jamie, before we started the show, you revealed that all this started for you on a dare and I promised you that we were going to talk about that. So can you tell me, or tell us rather, what was the dare? Like, how’d that get started?
Jamie Davis 04:53
So I’m a nurse in actuality or real life or whatever. In my past life I guess. And a nursing friend of mine … I was a nurse journalist. So I did a lot of nonfiction writing. A nurse friend of mine challenged me to write a book during NaNoWriMo. And I’d never heard of NaNoWriMo. So I quickly looked it up. This is like, the fourth week of October. So. But I was always telling stories and had an active imagination. And I had an idea for something that kind of been floating in my brain for a long time. So when she told me that, I looked up NaNoWriMo and I was like, this looks like a fun challenge. I can buckle down for a month and do it. So I actually banged out a first draft of my first book, during NaNoWriMo. It’s called Extreme Medical Services. It’s about supernatural paramedics, they take care of supernatural creatures. So we call 911. The supernatural creatures can’t do that. And they have all the same problems we do, because they’re mostly human. So you know, if a werewolf diabetic starts getting his blood sugar too low, he might shift in the wrong place. So he has to call for paramedics to come help him, so.
Kevin Tumlinson 06:09
That’s a cool concept, I like that.
Jamie Davis 06:13
That’s a nine book series now.
E.S. Curry 06:16
Wow, no way.
Jamie Davis 06:18
Yeah, no, all of them are in audiobook. That was the second series I did when I went through Findaway.
E.S. Curry 06:26
Oh, that’s fantastic. For those that don’t know what NaNoWriMo is, it’s National Novel Writing Month. Every November, it’s a challenge to write 50,000 words in 30 days. So it’s pretty cool. I actually did that for one of my first books, too.
Jamie Davis 06:41
Yeah, it’s kind of a right of, like, it’s become a normal thing now. I always plan a project for November every year, just to kind of redo that process in my brain, since it got me started. It took me a year to get the book out after I’d written that draft, but it was something that kind of just kind of lit this fire in me that I hadn’t really opened up to. And now I’m a full-time writer, I sold my business and went into this full time.
E.S. Curry 07:11
So past NaNoWriMo, what’s your process like now? You know, writing books?
Jamie Davis 07:18
I used to be a pure pantser. Now I’m a more of in the center of that continuum. I do some light plotting, maybe a sentence per chapter just to kind of get me started. But I always find plenty of surprises in my books that I didn’t plan out in any way, shape or form.
E.S. Curry 07:43
What do they call it, a plotser?
Jamie Davis 07:45
Yeah. Pantsler or plotser or something.
Kevin Tumlinson 07:49
I’m gonna come up with a new term, because none of these terms are attractive terms. These phrases do not appeal to me.
Jamie Davis 07:58
Yeah, there needs to be something in the middle there. And Kevin, you’re the man to make us that word.
E.S. Curry 08:03
Yeah, we were talking to introverts and extroverts and ambiverts before thisi. Ambivert’s a nice word. You know? Yeah, we need something new.
Kevin Tumlinson 08:10
Yes, we’ll come up with it.
E.S. Curry 08:12
Yeah. It’s on you, Kev.
Kevin Tumlinson 08:14
So can you capture the people watching, everybody watching in the comments? Submit your suggestion..
E.S. Curry 08:21
Absolutely. Like a hybrid plotter pantser. I need something better. So Jamie, do you have like a formula for your books? You know, how long is a book to you?
Jamie Davis 08:37
I tried. You know, when I first started writing, after I’d written the first couple of books, I started trying to read about craft. And a lot of those books broke me, I just like couldn’t write, because I was constantly worried about, was I filling in the void?
Kevin Tumlinson 08:57
Am I saving the cat or not?
Jamie Davis 09:01
Yeah, the cath. What’s the one about the story grid? Yeah, those books just broke me for like, six months after I’d read a couple of them. And I realized that, you know, I read so many books from the time I could read until now, I have been just such a massively consumptive reader, I would just read anything I could get my hands on. And I think I internalized story structure. And the way I write is, even when I’m plotting out things, if it surprises me, if it elicits an emotional response in me, then I know it’s going to elicit that response in a reader too. And I needed to do some work on my endings. So if you read my first couple of books, you’ll say, well, it doesn’t really end, it just sort of stops. It goes into the next book. So I had to work on my endings. That was something I had to consciously work on. But aside from that, I really just kind of go with what feels right, story-wise.
E.S. Curry 10:10
Go with your instincts.
Kevin Tumlinson 10:11
Yeah, yeah, I think that’s a good, good way to run, honestly. And you’ve done, how many books do you have right now?
Jamie Davis 10:19
I just actually sent book 42 off to my editor.
Kevin Tumlinson 10:24
So it’s hard to argue with your track record. You know?.
Jamie Davis 10:27
They seem to be working. So.
Kevin Tumlinson 10:31
Are they well-received?
Jamie Davis 10:34
If the readers like them … And I mean, some of my books fall flat. Like I think for everybody, some of my series do better than others. But, you know, readers in general like my books, and they’re the ultimate test of whether my books meet that goal or not. If a reader got something out of it, and enjoyed it, then …
Kevin Tumlinson 10:54
So you do NaNoWriMo every November, but the rest of the year, how long does it take you to write a book? And how long is a book for you?
Jamie Davis 11:01
Well, pre COVID, I was doing, you know, six to eight books a year. COVID slowed me down, I wasn’t out around people the way I needed to be as really an extrovert and I didn’t realize how it affected me until I started looking at my productivity. So I actually slowed down and only was writing like, maybe two books a year for the last two years. That has amped up again, since actually, since last NaNoWriMo. And I’ve been picking back up. So probably, I would say in the neighborhood of two months to write a book plot to completion and off to the editor.
Kevin Tumlinson 11:41
Now you said, and Scott, I know I’m jumping in. Now, I’ll back off in a second. But I wanted to follow up on this because you said, Jamie, that you had trouble with endings, originally. So, and you’ve presumably you’ve fixed that now? So how do you know when a book is finished?
Jamie Davis 12:04
My wife told me I learned how to end the book. She’s my alpha reader, I call her an alpha reader. She’s saved a couple of characters that she said shouldn’t have died. So I went back and made them alive again, somehow, some way, figured out how they didn’t die when something bad happened to them. But she’s also been the person that’s really told me when things fall flat, and I’ve had to rewrite some things. And it’s just such a valuable, I’m so grateful to have her as part of my writing process and my life in general. But, you know, the writing process is so important. And, you know, she started to tell me, you know, you just need to figure out the endings of these books. So I started thinking about story structure in that sense. And maybe I did pick up some of those things from some of those craft books I read, you know, and internalized them in some way, and started to really come around to that return to normal, that return home that the characters follow. If I’m writing a quest story, or a coming of age story, you know, what is the new normal for the character at the end of the book, once they’ve gone through everything and had the big climactic moment and the aha, and all the things that happened to them? What is new normal? And so I return to normal, and that’s the end of the book, and it seems to work.
E.S. Curry 13:31
That’s cool. Talking about characters. You know, what’s your approach to character development? How do you do that?
Jamie Davis 13:38
Um, a couple of things. I really base my books on characters, I think, because the books that that I remember most, especially from growing up, have characters that I’ve identified with, and have really had an impact on me. So I try to, I figure if readers care about the characters, they’ll go with them anywhere. And so I really focus on a character almost first. I might have an idea for a story of some situation. But the next very next thing I do is, who’s the character in that situation? And how does it affect them? And what is it they’re trying to do, and what are they missing that they need to find? And all those things kind of come to mind. And then I cast the character. And a lot of people, I don’t think do this, but I think of an actor or actress in a specific role. And say, if I were to cast this character in a movie, who would play them? And it would be this actor in this particular role. And that helps me visualize, because I’m very visual. It’s almost cinematic when I’m writing. I see the action in my head and I need to be able to see what does that character kind of look like? You know, they aren’t completely that actor, but you know, do they have brown hair? What shade of brown? What kind of mannerisms do they have? And those kinds of things help me think up the personality of the character and things like that, that kind of carry me through. And so once I’ve cast the main characters, you know, the four or five main characters in a story, then I’m able to really write it and hit the ground running.
E.S. Curry 15:34
Do you write all that out?
Jamie Davis 15:36
I actually use Plotter. So it gives me the ability to write up a little bit of something about each character, maybe a small paragraph, and put an image in there as a placeholder. And that’s what I do. And then generally I write on two screens when I’m at my desk, and I always have Plotter open on the lower screen. So I can just glance down and see the timeline or look at the characters or whatever I need to do. And then I have, I write up top on the second screen. So.
Kevin Tumlinson 16:10
I envy your discipline there. I just can’t do the plotting thing. I just can’t do it. I’ve tried for years. What’s your tip, if someone wants to embrace that?
Jamie Davis 16:27
I think it’s a misnomer, because I think even pantsers have some inkling of the plot in their head, of what’s coming next. Maybe they don’t have the ending yet, or how the ending gets solved. But they’ve thought through some of the process. It’s just up here. And so it’s more malleable and more subject to change. So that would be, I think for me, the big shift for me was just, I sat down, I’d say alright, this book is in this genre. So it needs to be around 80,000 words, I write 2,000 word chapters. That means I need 40 chapters. And I make a list of 40 chapters, and then I write a sentence about each chapter and kind of go through and sometimes I’d skip a few and say, well, in the middle, this has to happen, you know. And then the last couple of chapters are generally Big Fight, Big Fight Part Two, you know, that kind of thing. It’s not even a sentence. Because I don’t really know what’s going to happen at that point. But I have some, there will be some action sequence of some sort going on there.
Kevin Tumlinson 17:36
Yeah, that’s cool.
E.S. Curry 17:38
Well, Jamie, I’d love to talk about audiobooks a little bit, Kevin, unless you got something else?
Kevin Tumlinson 17:43
No, actually the words that were about to come out of my mouth were, let’s start talking about audiobooks. That is why we’re here. Audiobook month.
E.S. Curry 17:54
Yeah, celebrating audiobook month. Yeah, for sure, Jamie. So when you did your first audiobook, how did you choose your narrator? That’s always a big question I get from first time audiobook authors.
Jamie Davis 18:06
I went through Findaway Voices. I think it was right after Findaway announced they’d launched, I think I ran into maybe Will or Kelly, back when Kelly used to work for the company. I ran into the two of them one of the Smarter Artist summits, right after Findaway had become active. Findaway Voices had become active. And I they were saying, you should check this out. And I went back and the whole process of having a curated audition process. Because I had no way, I had no inkling where to start. You know, my first couple audiobooks I really needed that help to find somebody and I liked the idea of somebody else kind of doing that homework for me. So it really helped out quite a bit. So I used that process and you know, went through a list of like eight narrators to listen to their samples and decide which one sounded the way I thought that I would want them to be and selected the three or so that were the best or closest and sent them my sample from my book to say this is what, you know, test this out. And I found my first narrator, Roberto Scolotto is his name. And he’s fantastic. He actually was the one that was nominated with along with me for that indie author audiobook award for Accidental Thief and he just he just did a great job all the way through, is fabulous to work with, the whole process was great, you know, and Findaway handled all the details. So I didn’t have to worry about the legalities and things and how that was gonna work. So yeah, that was how I got started. And I had committed to, I would take my most popular series and start with that one. And I would only start Book Two once Book One had paid out, because I was treating it like a business and wanted to be able to fund my audiobooks, and I’d invest in the first one. But after that, I needed to really either have some other windfall come in from the other from the ebooks side or whatever, before I go and start another audiobook. And luckily, you know, it only took—and this is unusual, so your mileage may vary—but it took me about seven weeks for Accidental Thief to pay out, which is which is unheard of. I mean, not everybody has that experience. But it was a popular book. We now know lit RPG gamers, generally a lot of them prefer audiobooks. So those books do really well. And so I immediately reached out through Findaway again, got Roberto signed up for the second book, and got him started. And that became an ongoing process of, I did like one audiobook. And then the next year, I did two audiobooks. And then all of a sudden, I was doing audiobooks constantly until I had a lot of my series out in audio, because I would just roll that money back in to making more audiobooks. And that’s been profitable for me. I mean, between like Chirp deals and things like that, when you have a bunch of series to work with, you have opportunities to really take that marketing, and I know we’re going to talk about marketing later. But you really have more opportunities to take that marketing and do things with it if you have more audiobooks available once you’ve been able to afford to do that.
E.S. Curry 21:45
That’s fantastic. Jamie, do you when you’re writing, now that you’ve done several audiobooks, do you think about the audiobook while you’re writing it all? Do you read your manuscript aloud?
Jamie Davis 21:55
Absolutely. It’s interesting. After I listened back to the first book, I wanted to say there is nothing like hearing a voice actor perform your words back to you.
E.S. Curry 22:08
We say this all the time to authors that have not made one yet. It is such a neat moment.
Jamie Davis 22:13
Yes, it is almost an out of body experience. Because it is like, I didn’t write this. I’m just listening to somebody else tell a story.
Kevin Tumlinson 22:22
This sounds familiar. Yeah.
Jamie Davis 22:28
And that’s such a blast. So I just say that that’s important. I forget the question, because I got off on that tangent.
E.S. Curry 22:38
Right. When you’re writing, do you think about the audiobook version too?
Jamie Davis 22:41
Right. One of the things I noticed was a lot of tags for dialogue. I noticed that there were some that didn’t need to be there, that were superfluous. Maybe they didn’t show up in the reading, but they definitely showed up in the narration. So I started really dialing back on my dialogue tags and my stories and, you know, giving readers the benefit of the doubt, that when two people are talking, they can understand an alternating conversation, and things like that, or use other ways to tell the reader who is speaking at the time. And that really changed the way I wrote. I also really got into the dialogue a little bit more and really worked on my dialogue. Because that’s such a valuable part of any audiobook is the characterization of the characters themselves, by the voice actor. And I think that that’s so important to really kind of have a good handle on your dialogue to do that, and because it’s gonna really carry your story.
E.S. Curry 24:00
Yeah, absolutely. So what do you wish you knew about audiobooks when you started? Is there anything that you wish you knew or any advice you could give to a new time? You know, new audiobook author, about the process?
Jamie Davis 24:21
You know, just like your books, some of your audiobooks are not going to do as well as others. And so do your research, look into what are popular audiobook genres. If you write in more than one genre, pick the one that’s going to be more profitable for you, to start at least. There are some audiobooks I’ve had made because they were passion projects, but I could afford to do that because I’d made the profitable books first. And I don’t think these audiobooks will ever earn out, but I love listening to the narrators performing those stories. It’s so creatively uplifting to me to have that, that different version of my book out there. And so I would definitely do that. I would also say, do your homework. And we talked about doing your homework on what genre might be more popular. I’d also do your homework on what narrators are out there. There’s a tradeoff. You can pay a lot of money for the super popular narrator in a genre, and they will bring readers to your story. So there’s that. But if you can’t afford to spend that kind of money, you can find a very good narrator, at a more affordable rate, I’ll say, that can do just as good a job. And they’re just not going to have a built-in audience for your book. So that means you’re gonna have to do a little more of the lifting for marketing, for getting the word out, and supporting it with ads or whatever it is you need to do.
E.S. Curry 26:12
That makes a nice transition into marketing there, Jamie. So what’s been kind of your mental framework for marketing? You know, how have you thought about it being an indie author?
Jamie Davis 26:26
I try to make, I try to think of the story in all its forms as a whole. So there’s your ebook, your print book, your audiobook, your audio drama, if that’s something you decide to do, which is a separate type of audiobook. And so really a different version of your audiobook. They all have a place in the whole that is your story. And I think that’s one thing that I try to do is pull that all together. Now I don’t generally release my audiobooks concurrently with my other my ebook, print book release, I’ve tried to do that. It just doesn’t work for my brain, I too much want to get the book out there. I can’t sit on a book for six months while I wait for the narrator.
Kevin Tumlinson 27:25
That is what I call the indie author’s dilemma.
Jamie Davis 27:28
And so I have to break it up into two separate bins. But I still think about it when I’m writing, I think about the audiobook, when I’m marketing I think about the audiobook. I have readers that are in my Facebook group and other channels that I know only consume the audiobooks, because they’ll say to me, when’s the audio coming out as soon as I release the book. The fun thing is, I can tell them, it’s coming out, you know, in this many months or this this timeframe. Here’s the narrator that’s doing it. I also will get from the narrator snippets of the story as they produce them, and release them out to those readers that want to listen to the audiobook version. There are all sorts of ways you can keep that interest flowing from when the release of your ebook, print copy come out to when your audiobook comes out. So that you keep those readers engaged. And I call them readers. I don’t call them listeners because I think that reading is, I think that listening to an audiobook is considered reading in my opinion.
Kevin Tumlinson 28:35
Yeah, they’re ear reading it.
Jamie Davis 28:37
That’s how I consume books. So it must be reading. Yeah. And so there are a lot of ways you can kind of, you just have to work with your narrators and reach out to them. And, you know, ask them, hey, is there a funny scene or blooper or segment you can send me that I can tease my audience with? You know, if I can get one of those or two of those a month while you’re working on the book, that would be great. And those things go a long way to keeping people engaged. And that’s all readers want. They, of course, they want you to release faster. But I know plenty of people that only release one or two books a year. And they are very successful. But the thing they do is, they are in communication with their readers the whole time. They release snippets of what they’re writing. They release funny stories from their life that go along with their books, and you know, all the things that keep readers waiting so that they know they’re there for the next release. So there’s ways to do it. You can go fast, you can go slow. But it’s all about engagement.
E.S. Curry 29:52
Yeah, [inaudible]. Go ahead, Kev.
Kevin Tumlinson 29:56
Talking about engagement, I assume you have an email newsletter. Do you have a kind of formula that you use for engaging with your platform on that?
Jamie Davis 30:06
Yeah, I do. So my first series was about the supernatural paramedics. So I kind of do some different things when I’m talking about that series, that series has a different voice. And it’ll be the dispatcher that, you know, the dispatcher will come on and say, oh, you’re back for another tour of the dispatch center. Well, let me tell you about this funny thing that happened. And, you know, and that’s my character that engages with the readers about that series when a new book’s about to come out, or a new audiobook or anything like that. And then I also have different, you know, I’ve just been really honest with people. When it’s me talking, I tell them It’s me talking, and I talk about what’s going on in my life, or what’s fun. I do a lot of the cooking in my house. So sometimes I even share recipes, which, you know, it sounds strange for a fantasy sci fi author to share recipes, but I have a zombie chef in one of my books, and so I just call it Freddy’s recipe for whatever. And that’s the way it gets the word out.
Kevin Tumlinson 31:09
See that’s the secret, though, is that you’re engaging with that audience, and what you’re doing is pushing yourself as a brand rather than always pushing the brand of the books. So the readers are there for you. So they’ll buy anything you put out there..
Jamie Davis 31:26
And especially if you write in multiple genres, that’s the key. Because, you know, people are like, I just released a space opera, you know, Sci Fi series, that first book just came out. And it’s a brand new jump for me, because most of my stuff is urban fantasy, or lit RPG. But I tell people, it’s still fun. It’s still fun reading, you know, it’s still going to be an enjoyable read, the characters are going to be the same kind of characters and the same kind of interactions that you get in my fantasy stories. They’re just not werewolves, vampires, paramedics, or whatever, they’re in space flying fighters around shooting up bad guys and chasing space pirates, but you’re gonna have the same amount of fun. And so when you write in multiple genres and you want people to follow you to the other genres, it really has to be about you as the brand.
Kevin Tumlinson 32:22
Yes. That’s absolutely true. What are some of the ways that you’re doing that, aside from the newsletter and what you’re doing there? Like, what are ways that you are building yourself as the brand first?
Jamie Davis 32:37
Well, I tell dad jokes all the time. So follow me on Facebook or go, you know, I probably drop, I used to, back during the pandemic I was dropping a dad joke a day, because I just needed something uplifting that, besides all the negativity was floating around at the time, and I said, you know, people need dad jokes. They just need a stupid joke that will make them just groan and forget about everything else for a few seconds. Now, I do it about once or twice a week. But I think, I try to be authentically me. And so when I see something funny, I share it in my group, I share in my personal page. I try to, you know, be honest when I’m having a rough time writing and not getting the story done. You know, I tell people, hey, got this going on, share your best dad jokes with me down below to give me some perks so I can keep writing. I think making them part of the process is just as important. And really including them. I did a TikTok video recently, I’m not super successful on TikTok, so I can’t say this is …. But I kind of said, hey, if people respond to this TikTok, I’ll select somebody to write into my next story. I’ll just make you a cameo appearance in the next story, I’ll name a character after you. I had a huge response, like over the top, like, I don’t know how, but all sudden, all these people. So I said, well, there’s such a response. I can’t just pick one. So I picked five. And I wrote a tour bus, like tourists on a tour, scene into my next story. That was hilarious. That was so much fun to write. And it came to me because of that, and it made them part of the story. I think there are a lot of things you can do like that, that really engage with people in a different way. Whether it’s writing them into the story, whether it’s asking them if you had this problem, how would you fix it? You know, kind of getting all the answers of how and then going, well you have to read the next book to see how I fixed it. You know, and those are things that they can kind of feel like they’re contributing. And I have a lot of, you know, I have a select group of really loyal readers who, you know, sometimes I just laugh, I’m like, you know, are they doing anything but just watching my feed? Because they respond back immediately when I post something. And it’s a lot of fun to interact with folks, so I take that and run with it.
Kevin Tumlinson 35:22
Yes. Someone asked a question in the comments just now, that I think would be a good one to ask you. Because you’re writing, all your genres are written under your name. So they’re asking, they said, “I’ve heard that if you switch genres, you should use a pen name for the other genre, but that that loses your personal brand, doesn’t it?” Do you agree with that statement?
Jamie Davis 35:45
I do. In part, I do. This is one of those, don’t do what I do. Because what I’ve done makes it very much harder to market. Because not everyone crosses over. So like, I am starting fresh in the sci fi realm. I don’t have a list for sci fi, I have my urban fantasy list. And I didn’t see anywhere near the bump I was expecting from my urban fantasy, that I would normally expect from my urban fantasy list. And I knew that was going to happen. So I’ve got to, I’m building a sci fi list from this new book, and it’s having a great response. And I’ve used some other, pulled some other levers to get the word out about it. But it’s harder. And it’s harder on Amazon, you know, if you’re on Amazon, that algorithm gets confused. Like, wait a minute, I thought people who like vampires and werewolves would like your book, but I just showed a bunch of people who like vampires and werewolves your spaceship book, and they didn’t buy it. Which means I’ve got to fight against that curve, too. If you have a pen name, a separate author name, then you can build that author brand as its own thing, from an Amazon algorithm standpoint. It can be done.
E.S. Curry 37:13
But then you’re running two brands.
Jamie Davis 37:17
But then you’re running two brands. So there’s that fight of, you have to have to engage two Facebook groups, or whatever social media platform, I don’t say you have to do Facebook, that’s what I’m comfortable with. Pick one and run with it. That’s what I advise people. But you’re gonna have to have two channels on that, whatever platform that is. And you’re gonna have to have two sets of email lists and two brands for your author. You know, if you’re writing cozy mysteries on one side, and horror on the other side, well, that’s two very different branding aspects of your writer life. And you’re going to have to really be careful about how you set those up so that readers know what to expect from you. Now, some readers will cross over. And if you have pen names, a lot of authors who have pen names will still leak, oh, by the way, I write under this other name, if you want to check out my books, here’s where they are. But they don’t do that until after they’ve done their initial launch, usually. Because they don’t want to pollute the Amazon algorithm. I think there’s ways around that. And I think that you can still get over that hump, but it can make it harder, especially for a new author. With so many books out there, I can take my time marketing a book, sometimes do a launch that’s a little more relaxed, because I have other books that are earning for me in the meantime. I’m not necessarily waiting for this book to be the big one. So.
Kevin Tumlinson 38:51
So you mentioned Amazon, and you distribute wide?
Jamie Davis 38:55
I do. I have a couple series that are wide. Most of my series are in KU, either because I’m with a publisher, a small publisher, or because that series just does better in KU.
Kevin Tumlinson 39:07
So then you’re perfectly positioned to give an opinion on this then. Like, what are the advantages there for wide? Obviously, I push wide.
E.S. Curry 39:20
I push wide too.
Kevin Tumlinson 39:21
But you know, maybe you have a perspective on this, how important is it to …
Jamie Davis 39:23
I’m wide everywhere in my audiobooks, and I advise that. There’s just no substitute for being wide in audiobooks. You’re leaving money on the table, in no uncertain terms. And everything I’ve seen, yes, Audible is the big dog and still represents a significant portion of my audiobook income, but it doesn’t equal even close to everything else compiled together. So I think Findaway is a great resource for getting you into other markets and other platforms. And that will definitely bring in a huge amount of your audiobook stream, so I would definitely be wide in audiobooks for everything. Some series do better, and some genres I think are better represented in like a KU environment on Amazon. The lit RPG stuff. I mean, it just is a KU environment there. First of all, I do more sales in audiobooks than I do in ebooks. But the ebook sales, when I went wide with it, I really struggled to make anywhere close to what I had when I was in KU with that series.
E.S. Curry 40:39
And do you think that’s because of your genre that you write in? You mentioned your fans liking audio more? Or do you think that’s a product of your marketing? Why do you think you have more audiobook listeners than ebook readers?
Jamie Davis 40:52
In that genre, and I think a lot of lit RPG people would say that a lot of gamers just consume audiobooks. They’re used to having earbuds in and they’re listening, you know, they’re doing different things. They’re at work, or they’re doing whatever, and they’re listening to their books.
Kevin Tumlinson 41:10
It’s a way to keep the game with them.
Jamie Davis 41:13
And so they enjoy genre when they’re not playing games, they’re listening to something about it.
Kevin Tumlinson 41:19
Yeah, yeah. For sure. It makes sense. And that is an example of fine-tuning and aiming at your specific market with what you’re developing.
Jamie Davis 41:31
Yeah, yeah. But there are certain, you know, there are a lot of genres that do really well wide. And the challenge, the biggest challenge with being wide is, you’ve got to market to five different platforms. And each one slightly different. There’s some great resources out there for people to kind of understand the different marketplaces so that you can kind of see. Draft2Digital is a great resource if you just want to shotgun it and get it out there without having to deal with trying to upload to Apple and then upload it to the other platforms individually. But I think that you still need to just kind of understand that you’re going to be marketing to five different platforms, and what works on Amazon won’t work, necessarily, on Kobo or Apple points, you know, but they all have their own levers to work on. Kobo has the promotions tab, which is super beneficial, and very helpful. There are other advertising routes that’ll get you onto those other platforms that you can segregate those audiences better for different platforms in different places. So there are ways to do it. But it does take additional work. And you can’t pull out of the Amazon environment and expect to have immediate success going wide, it’s going to take some time to build up, you’re building a new audience, essentially. The readers that listen, read or listen to books on Apple or Kobo or Barnes & Noble, are not going to Kindle. And so they don’t know about you, they don’t know who you are, they don’t know your books, they don’t know anything about you. So you’ve got to take advantage of the things that work a little bit better wide. You’ve got a little bit better chance of getting a BookBub featured deal if you’re wide. There’s other things that you can do to really feature your wide books, more audiobooks, you know, the Chirp side of things. That’s a huge part of my marketing process, is to use Chirp, to apply for Chirp deals on a regular basis for my series. And because I have multiple series, I can do that without flooding the market. For you that have maybe one series, you know, if you get one, then wait six months and do it again, as new readers find you over time. So there are ways to make all these things work for you, wherever you are in your author career.
E.S. Curry 44:10
That’s cool. That’s really great, Jamie, great advice. So we’ve asked every author that we’ve interviewed here, what’s your definition of success? And what does success mean to you? What does it look like? What’s your vision for it? Talk a little bit about that.
Jamie Davis 44:27
I’ve been lucky enough to be a corporate husband. My wife is a very successful corporate executive. And is great at what she does.
Kevin Tumlinson 44:42
Hold on, hold on. I’m making a note to be a corporate husband.
Jamie Davis 44:49
So I was Mr. Mom for many years, and my vision of success has changed with each different iteration of my life. And I think that one of the things that about being successful is being open to changing your definition of success as the circumstances change. Back when I just wanted to be the best dad I could be and raise my kids to be decent human beings, you know, that was my goal for a long part of my life. Then it was to be a really great nurse and a really great healthcare journalist, and then it was to be a good writer. But what was my gauge of that success? Yeah. And that gauge of that success for me now as a writer, is the engagement with the readers. I hear back from so many people about the impact my books have had on them. And I write mostly really uplifting stuff. You know, spoiler alert, the good guy is gonna win in the end if you read one of my books.
Kevin Tumlinson 46:01
That is a spoiler.
Jamie Davis 46:05
But that’s who I am. My brand is fun fantasy and sci fi reads. So when I hear from somebody that says, you know, I’ve been dealing with chronic pain for the last year, and listening to your audiobooks has helped take me out of myself. You know, as a nurse that touches me deeply, that I found a way to help someone deal with something that medically was challenging for them. So it’s those moments of, you know, when I hear from paramedic students who will say, I want to be like Dean, in your paramedic series, because he cares about his patients, and he doesn’t care who they are, or what kind of creature they are, he’s going to do the best he can for them. You know, that’s the underlying message of that story is that, you know, everybody deserves that kind of care.
Kevin Tumlinson 47:01
That’s, I have to tell you, Jamie, I love what you’ve said, in general. I mean, I don’t know word for word, what you said. But basically, you were you were implying that, whatever it is you’re doing, that you want to be the best you can be at that thing. That’s a mentality I think is fantastic. That’s a good measure of success, or a good definition of success.
Jamie Davis 47:27
And the measure of that is the way I touch people in different ways. You know, we can talk about money, we can talk about, you know, I do have financial goals, I do have things I want to do, you know. We’re working so that my wife can make a decision on whether she wants to be, she’s in the business, and she handles a lot of things financially that, my brain doesn’t do numbers well. But, you know, someday we financially want to be in a position for her to quit her job. But you know, that will come. The real thing of success is how we touch people every day. And I think that if I can keep doing that, and bring a smile to people’s faces, write stories that they can listen to with their kids and enjoy and have something to talk about around the dinner table with teenagers who don’t want to talk to you anyway, then I’m going to keep writing those kinds of books.
E.S. Curry 48:25
That’s awesome. Making a true impact in people’s lives. I love it, Spoken like a true indie author. Well, do we have any questions from the audience for Jamie Davis here? If you’ve got a question, pop it in the Questions tab, down in the lower right, and we have one from Grace Buchanan. “How do you calculate how much money to invest in each audiobook?”
Jamie Davis 48:56
So I think the first audiobook is where you’re going to start. And I think that you should look and kind of find out what the market is going, what the going rate is for an average narrator at this time. When I I started out, it was around $150 to $200 per finished hour. That’s gone up since then. But, you know, per finished hour means that if your book is nine hours long, that means it’s going to be nine times $150 to produce that book, which is a lot of money. I should have made it 10 hours, then I could have done the math. 10 hours and it’s $1,500. So that’s kind of how you have to budget, is kind of know what you’re going to need to spend on that audiobook, and it is expensive. But if you go into it as an investment, I think if it’s something you can afford to invest in, then you wait and let that earn out. And when it earns out, start Book Two, and so on and so forth. It can be a way to afford audiobooks that way.
E.S. Curry 50:14
You answered that really well. Couldn’t have done it better myself, Jamie. Fantastic. Oh, we have a question here from Alison Holt. “How can someone market new audiobooks when Audible and Amazon price an author’s audiobook so high? People don’t want to pay $20 for a new unknown series.” So I can answer that a little bit. Go wide.
Jamie Davis 50:40
Yeah, go wide, absolutely. Where you control the price. That’s the advantage of going wide, you control the price. If you’re wide, you can sell the audiobooks yourself and recoup 90% of the profit. I mean, there’s so many advantages to not being exclusive with your audiobooks that it just does not make any sense to me, as I look at it, to be exclusive anywhere with your audiobooks. And because you can set the price, and because you can run promotions, and lower the price for certain periods of time and do some do some advertising. And if you sell on your own site, you can recoup a lot of that right up front and sell your books for the cost of a credit and keep $13. So it just makes sense to be wide and control that pricing.
E.S. Curry 51:42
Very good. We have a question from Robert Falk, which I can answer real quickly. How many words in an hour? We measure it by roughly 10,000. The actual average is about 9,200. So that’s how many words per finished hour.
Kevin Tumlinson 51:59
That’s good information to have. Call it 10,000 words per hour.
E.S. Curry 52:06
Yep. And you can do that in Findaway Voices marketplace, all the things that Jamie’s talking about, our platform enables you to do. Setting your retail price, your library price.
Kevin Tumlinson 52:19
That’s almost as many words as I write per hour. So that is pretty remarkable.
Jamie Davis 52:24
Good thing I put my boots on before I came on this show.
E.S. Curry 52:32
Are you dictating Kevin, or is that how fast you type?
Kevin Tumlinson 52:33
Oh, no, you don’t get this kind of carpal tunnel syndrome by dictating.
E.S. Curry 52:41
Awesome. Well, Jamie, we’ve got just a couple of minutes left. I’d love for you to just give some words of advice to new authors out there going into audiobooks. You know, what advice do you have for authors that are struggling to get their first book done? You know, how did you get there? Just some advice for the up and comers.
Jamie Davis 53:08
You know, if you’re getting that first audiobook done, you might need to just save your money over time, so you can afford it, if that’s what makes more sense for you. And so that’s the first piece of advice is make it affordable, and don’t get yourself in a hole to make audiobooks. There are ways to kind of make a plan to make that happen for you. And so I would plan it out. The other thing is, your narrator is your partner. And having a great partnership and relationship with your narrators can go a long way towards building just goodwill. And, you know, treating them professionally. They are working with what you send them, so send them a high quality product that’s edited and and checked out. And then your narrator will work with you. I had the joy of being, somehow a lot of my narrators were all in the Chicago area. And I happened to be in Chicago at a conference. So I took all my narrators out to dinner. I had five narrators around a table with me. It was a blast. And I was honored to be in their presence and take them out to dinner like that. They all got to meet each other, they’re in the area, but they didn’t know each other. So that was kind of fun. You know, anything you can do to treat your narrator well, will come back and suit you later on. They will promote your books well after the point where you’ve paid them. So I think that’s something to keep in mind.
E.S. Curry 54:48
That’s fantastic. Thank you so much, Jamie, for all of your time today and all of your insights. Thank you, Kevin. It’s always a pleasure doing these with you buddy.
Kevin Tumlinson 55:01
I’m always happy to be here. You bring me the best people, like Jamie.
Jamie Davis 55:06
Well Scott, it’s great to meet you. And I’m looking forward to seeing you in person at 20 Books. 20 Books Vegas is coming up in November, if anyone isn’t currently attending, I urge you to check that out.
Kevin Tumlinson 55:19
I will be there.
Jamie Davis 55:22
Kevin will be there, I will be there because I have to help run the thing. But if you see me running around, please stop me and just say hi. I might have to keep running after I say hi back. But I will definitely say hi to you.
Kevin Tumlinson 55:35
I gotta say this about that conference. It’s hard to spot somebody, because there’s so many amazing people there. There’s a lot of people there. Where can people find more information about the conference?
Jamie Davis 55:48
So they can go to, I think it’s 20BooksVegas.com. I wasn’t prepared for this. So I’ll have to look it up. But if you’re in the 20 Books Vegas Facebook group, you can ask in there or find the posts in there that have the links to sign up for the conference. So just go to 20 Books Vegas, and look that up in Facebook, and you can join the group and find information about how to go to the conference. There’s still tickets available. It’s the second week in November. And a lot of great vendors like Findaway and Draft2Digital and others will be there to answer your questions to help you understand how to better market and get your books out in front of the readers that want to check them out.
E.S. Curry 56:34
Yeah. And Jamie, before we go, what is your website? Where can where can folks find you?
Jamie Davis 56:41
So you can find me at JamieDavisbooks.com. That’s a pretty great way to find me, there’s contact information there if you need to reach out to me. And you know, I try to be open to helping people out as much as I can. So, like I said, if you see me somewhere, do make a point to stop and say hi. I like to meet authors, I get a lot of energy from meeting other authors and other creatives.
E.S. Curry 57:08
Awesome. Well, good. Well we’re gonna wrap it up for today. Want to plug our next session. Next Tuesday, June 24, we have nonfiction author Eddie Rice talking about toasts, short speeches and big impact.
Jamie Davis 57:24
I can’t wait for that. That’s going to be so cool. I saw that. And I was like, what a great idea for one of these.
E.S. Curry 57:31
And that’s what he does for a living. He writes speeches and toasts and short speeches. He’s done a lot of TED Talk stuff and everything. So he’s really cool guy. And that’s going to be a good one. And after that, we’ve got MK Williams talking about marketing, which is going to be super popular. And so on our blog, there’s a 12-part series on marketing audiobooks that MK wrote for us. So that’s gonna be really good. And then we wrap up the month on June 30 with Kyla Stone, so it’s gonna be really cool. She writes an apocalyptic and dystopian fiction series. So it’s gonna be a lot of fun.
Kevin Tumlinson 58:10
I’m always envious of people who have cool author names like Kyla Stone. Not that Jamie Davis isn’t a cool name too, Jamie.
Jamie Davis 58:20
Well, it’s the name my mom gave me, so I just take it and run with it.
Kevin Tumlinson 58:27
Kevin Tumlinson is not exactly a great name either. No one can spell it.
E.S. Curry 58:33
You crack me up, Kevin. All right, guys. Well, this has been a lot of fun today. Thank you so much, both of you for your time. And thank you for everyone for tuning in. And visit findawayvoices.com to register for our upcoming sessions. And if you need any help with audiobooks or have any questions at all, you can contact our world class support team at firstname.lastname@example.org. And you can reach Kevin at …
Kevin Tumlinson 58:59
Draft2digital.com. That’s draft2digital.com and we will help you get your book everywhere worldwide. That’s what we do. So drop in and say hello. No charge by the way.
E.S. Curry 59:15
Wonderful, guys. Well, thank you so much. Have a great rest of your day. And Kevin, we’ll see you next week on the flipside. Thanks, everybody.