As part of our Audiobook Month series with FindAway Voices, we have a conversation with Sci-Fi Author Kyla Stone.
Kyla Stone writes apocalyptic and dystopian fiction series novels. She loves writing stories exploring how ordinary people cope with extraordinary circumstances, especially situations where the normal comforts, conveniences, and rules are stripped away.
You can learn more about Kyla on her website: https://www.kylastone.com
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E.S. Curry 00:02
Welcome, everyone, to Findaway Voices’ and Draft2Digital’s series of live author events celebrating June audiobook month. Today is our last event in the series and we are super excited because we saved the best for last here, folks. We have author Kyla Stone with us. Welcome Kyla.
Kyla Stone 00:22
Hello, I’m happy to be here.
E.S. Curry 00:24
And our co-host Kevin Tumlinson from Draft2Digital.
Kevin Tumlinson 00:27
I’m also happy to be here. A little sad that we’re coming to the draw of the whole thing.
E.S. Curry 00:34
Me too. These have been great.
Kevin Tumlinson 00:37
We’ll have to do it again.
E.S. Curry 00:38
Yeah, that’s right. Well, welcome, Kyla, we’re so glad to have you today. And you know, where we usually like to start, first a little bit of housekeeping, everyone that’s here, we’ve got the chat going. We’ve got some members of Findaway Voices in there answering questions. But if you have a question for Kyla, please put it in the Questions tab down in the lower right, and we’ll be sure to get to them at the end of the program. So very good. Well, Kev, Kyla, where do you want to start today?
Kevin Tumlinson 01:08
I’m just here to learn and to enjoy. So, you know, we generally start talking about craft. So I think you can give us some very good perspective on this. But let’s start with just talking about like, what’s your general process? What’s your writing process?
Kyla Stone 01:28
Okay. So I do think craft is really important. I try to write the best stories that I can. I’ve used like Larry Brooks story engineering, save the cat. So I do plot. The very first novel I ever wrote was when I was 17, I wrote my first 300-page manuscript, which was my honors thesis to graduate high school. But I wrote that with, like, no plot, no idea where I was going, just pantsed the whole way. And ended up having to cut like 150 pages of just, you know, random story going off in directions that didn’t end up working. And so after that, I was like, I do need to plot. So I do use story structure to plot things out. But I like the creative process as well, the things that, the serendipity that just kind of happens that you discover as you write. So when I plot stuff out, I usually only do like, say, a sentence or two per chapter. So that gives a huge range of creativity that can happen during the actual writing of the first draft. And so it keeps it interesting for me. I think if I wrote out ahead of time every single thing that was going to happen, that when the actual story writing process, when it was time for that, I would get bored. So for me, that’s a good mix of knowing what I’m writing towards, like having the spine of the story ahead of time, but still allowing some serendipity and some creative things to happen during the process.
Kevin Tumlinson 03:08
That’s pretty good advice. I think that’s been my problem when I’ve tried to plot in the past. Dedicated pantser. For me, it was always, I felt like if I plotted, then I lost the energy of the story. It felt complete, and so I didn’t want to write it. Is that a problem for you?
Kyla Stone 03:31
Yes. And I think that if you write three, four pages per chapter in your plotting, then there’s nothing new, fresh or exciting for you to discover as an author. I think that does come through on the page , for me anyway. I need to have some kind of surprise still happening as I’m writing. Some discovery.
Kevin Tumlinson 03:55
Yeah, there has to be right? What’s the phrase? If you’re bored as the writer, they’ll be bored as the reader?
Kyla Stone 04:02
Yes. I’ve heard that before.
Kevin Tumlinson 04:06
So do you have like little rituals and things that you practice for your writing? Do you like certain going on in the room when you’re writing?
Kyla Stone 04:15
So I listen to music. I love to listen to music, and I have different Spotify soundtracks. One thing I do that will drive my family crazy is, if I’m writing a scene or a chapter, I will listen to the same song over and over again. So I just put it on repeat if it gets me in that mood, it has the beat, it has whatever I need for that entire chapter, I listen to the same song until I’m finished. So my kids will be like, yeah, so I heard like 100 times Imagine Dragons Bones today, like I’m so sick of that song, mom. I’m like, sorry.
Kevin Tumlinson 04:51
I do that for fight scenes.
Kyla Stone 04:54
Yes, I find in action scenes especially, or like dramatic high emotion scenes that you need to get in a certain mood for. It’s a big ritual for me.
E.S. Curry 05:05
I always kick off with a little Nina Simone Sinnerman. Every time I sit down to write, I pop that on. Yeah. Music going along with your writing is fantastic.
Kyla Stone 05:17
And coffee. I’m a big coffee drinker the whole time.
Kevin Tumlinson 05:22
You can always tell a kindred soul. You have that slightly caffeinated spirit about you. So are you a morning writer, afternoon writer, nighttime?
Kyla Stone 05:36
I am not a morning person. So, I do try to get up and get writing by 10. But I cannot get up at like five o’clock in the morning and write. Like, I’m dead. Like, I’m a zombie in the morning. My kids are like, stay away from mom before like nine o’clock in the morning and two cups of coffee. But I can say up till like 1am or 2am and write. So I would say definitely not early morning.
Kevin Tumlinson 06:05
Or technically early morning, just starting from the other side of it. Like you’re the earliest of early mornings.
Kyla Stone 06:10
Yes. If I’m still writing at like 2am, I’m like, yeah, it’s morning.
Kevin Tumlinson 06:14
Yeah. No wonder you can’t get up till 10.
E.S. Curry 06:27
Kyla, I’m curious, writing in the genre that you do, do you have like an approach to your character development? How do you do that?
Kyla Stone 06:38
Character development is, I write characters that I like to read about. I like really complex characters. I like characters that are flawed, that have weaknesses that they have to overcome. Demons or stuff from their past that they have to work through. So I always have those kinds of characters in my books. And I think with like post-apocalyptic world ending disaster type things, it’s a great opportunity to opportunity to have huge character growth in your characters, because they are facing life and death situations. And like, extreme moral and ethical situations too. Like your kids haven’t eaten for three days. Are you going to steal from your neighbor to feed your kids? You know, where are your ethical boundaries when everything’s on the line? I think that creates a great atmosphere for characters like taken to the edge, which I really enjoy. Like, who are you when there are no rules anymore? Like there’s no society? There’s no consequences of being arrested, for example. Are you still moral and ethical? Or are you going to do whatever it takes to survive? Like, I think those are really interesting questions that I like to explore with my characters.
Kevin Tumlinson 07:59
I agree. That’s good story right there. That’s the stuff. And it goes deeper than just entertainment too, because it does allow the reader to sort of question like, well, what would I do? Very good. So what’s the, talking about craft, but let’s expand a little to the more practical stuff. Like, for you, what’s a book? How long is the book? How do you know a book is finished? I didn’t mean for that to be a stumper. I’m sorry.
E.S. Curry 08:39
Did we lose her?
Kevin Tumlinson 08:40
Oh, we may have lost her.
E.S. Curry 08:41
Yeah, she looks like she’s a little frozen.
Kevin Tumlinson 08:43
She’s either very deep in concentration, or she has frozen. There she is. Are you back?
E.S. Curry 08:52
We heard you for a second.
Kevin Tumlinson 08:53
Okay. Well, that happens sometimes. So we’re gonna work on getting her back in. Let’s see if she, we had a little bit of trouble just before the broadcast as well. So we’re gonna keep an eye out and see if she pops back in. In the meantime, I mean, I had posed a question maybe I should answer. Let’s ask each other that question.
E.S. Curry 09:18
There you go. For me, what a book length is is what the story needs to be served well. So it depends on the story that you’re writing.
Kevin Tumlinson 09:30
Do you have consideration for things like, you know, what’s the market looking for?
E.S. Curry 09:38
Yeah, I think if you’re writing within a genre, you take a look at the other books inside that genre, what the average length seems to be. You want to be like your genre, you know? But then again, you know, we live in a whole new world where an ebook length can be whatever you want it to be.
Kevin Tumlinson 09:58
Yeah, that’s true. Seth Godin said that effectively. He said the nature of what a book is has changed. You know, because now in the world we live in, like for decades, we lived with a definition of what a book was that was established by traditional publishing primarily, and based primarily on what their cost and overhead was going to be to produce that book. When you’re working in nothing but pixels, and you’ve got no real limitations, a book can be any length you want. So, you know, a book becomes whatever it takes, as you said, to tell the story, to encapsulate the idea. I do aim, for mine, I aim a lot toward what is considered a typical length for my genre, which is primarily thrillers. But I also, when I first started this whole thing, I used the definition from the guys at NaNoWriMo. Because I had read No Plot, No Problem before I ever knew what NaNoWriMo was. I read No Plot, No Problem and they said, you know, we had to pick. Basically, they said, we had to pick a length, we had to pick a definition for book. And so we said, write your novel in 50,000 words. There she’s back. You can now relax. You don’t have to listen to me pontificate any more.
E.S. Curry 11:23
Kevin and I were just riffing there.
Kyla Stone 11:26
I’m sorry, I’m a bit rural. And occasionally, once in a while, internet just goes out. And I was like, ah, why now? Why now?
Kevin Tumlinson 11:34
That happens all the time. And it’s no problem. So I don’t know what the last thing you heard was.
Kyla Stone 11:42
We were talking about characters and how great the post-apocalyptic scenario was for creating good questions that the reader asks themselves, and then I was out.
Kevin Tumlinson 11:56
So just before you dropped out, or as you dropped out, and Scott and I had been discussing this amongst ourselves, so it’ll be good to get your perspective. We were discussing like, what actually is a book? Like, how long should it be in your mind? And how you determine that? And how do you know it’s finished?
Kyla Stone 12:15
Good question. So my Edge of Collapse series, all seven books are between probably 70 and 85,000 words, they all kind of ended at a good time. This series I’m doing now I’m on Book Two, it’s 140,000 words. I was like, how did this happen?
E.S. Curry 12:36
That is a tome.
Kevin Tumlinson 12:38
That’s a leap.
Kyla Stone 12:40
I know, I was like, we’re cutting.
Kevin Tumlinson 12:43
Taking you back to your high school exit days.
Kyla Stone 12:47
Yes. You have to have an arc, and you have to give your readers a satisfactory ending, which can be difficult to figure out in a series because you have your whole series arc, right? But each story, each book has its own story within, like smaller arcs leading up to a big overall arc for your series. I think each book has to present a problem. And then you have to solve that problem. And then your character also has to face and overcome some inner struggle, weakness, demon, also within that story, and learn and grow. And then if it’s a series, there are smaller problems that they’re facing. And then there’s also an overall like, big bad guy that they’re not going to face, or not going to defeat until, say, the last book in this series. And that danger keeps escalating and getting more and more intense with each book. But I do think you have to give the reader something that satisfies them, some part of the story that is tied up at the end of each book, otherwise it won’t feel satisfying. It’s like a course of a meal. You have seven courses. Each aspect has some satisfying part of it, but you’re getting more, right? As the story progresses. I hope that makes sense.
Kevin Tumlinson 14:28
Oh, absolutely. That’s a much better answer than either Scott or I gave. So I’m always curious, because I will confess I am a fan of post-apocalyptic fiction. I don’t write it. I mean, I think I’ve maybe written something that could be considered that, but that’s not the draw for me. But I do enjoy those stories for some reason. What is it you think is attractive about the end of the world, or just after the end of the world, for readers?
Kyla Stone 15:02
I think we talked about it, touched on it a little bit when we were talking about characters, which is, you are bringing your characters to the brink. Life or death questions, morality questions, like really, who are you when everything else is stripped away? And I think that people are fascinated by that idea. I think people are interested with disasters of any kind, small and large. And, you know, what would I do in that situation? Would I know how to survive? Could I purify water? Could I find food without poisoning myself with botulism? You know, whatever, like, could I face down a bad guy? Would I have the courage to do that? I think we like to live that out in the comfort of our own house on our couch. We like thinking about it, but also being safe. Not living it, no one wants to live it. But I think those kind of ideas are very primal. And I think that’s something that appeals to people.
Kevin Tumlinson 16:10
Yeah, I have to agree. I mean, fiction in itself is escapism. And that’s just what it was always is. Not in totality. I mean, fiction serves other purposes in our culture. But that type of fiction in particular has always been kind of fascinating to me. It’s like, what is the draw? What is it? I think it’s exactly what you said. And you were right. We already answered that question, really. But we looped back around.
E.S. Curry 16:39
So Kyla, when you’re when you’re writing … Oh, we lost her again.
Kevin Tumlinson 16:44
That’s okay. That’s okay. So what question were are you asking her?
E.S. Curry 16:49
Well, I was gonna ask her about, does she think about the audio version as she’s writing?
Kevin Tumlinson 16:57
We definitely want to get her to answer that. So what we’re gonna do is, when we get her back, because we will, because I have faith. We’ll ask her all about audiobooks. And then I’m interested to hear her take on marketing too. But we can talk a little bit about author marketing, just to kind of keep things rolling. I, of course, think about marketing quite a bit. You do, too. I mean, that’s our roles at our respective companies. But I saw someone post on Twitter today, an old friend of mine posted on Twitter that he wanted to figure out marketing, and I’m gonna try to do this justice. He said, I want to figure out marketing so that my kids can start benefiting from what they create now, rather than later, which I thought was an interesting kind of take. Yeah, so basically, he’s saying, you can create, and you might benefit from it eventually. But if you’re good at the marketing part, you can start benefiting from it now, like marketing is what enables you to enjoy your creation now. And I think that extends further too. I think that goes to the audience. You know, I remember interviewing someone years ago. And I can’t remember who she is right now. It’ll come to me later. But she had said that, you know, basically, you have a kind of obligation as a novelist, or any kind of author or painter or whatever, to market your work, because you are creating this for an audience. And if you’re not marketing, then you are not reaching that audience. So that’s a why for marketing, that’s why you should do it. The how is where people get hung up. And I always had a definition of marketing that was, marketing is ensuring that what you’ve created gets to the right audience at the time that they’re most willing to buy, or most able to buy. And I still kind of operate from that principle, even at this level, marketing to authors, it’s still the same, essentially the same.
E.S. Curry 19:06
Yeah, I’ve always looked at marketing as very much storytelling. And you know, even like, with my seven-year-old, I’ve really focused on helping him become a storyteller. Because no matter what your role is in the world, or what job you do, if you’re a person that’s good at telling a story and captivating someone’s attention, you’re able to go far.
Kevin Tumlinson 19:31
I agree. Yeah. And as storytellers we should have a natural proclivity for it, but I think what happens is authors kind of fool themselves, because they think marketing is hard. Because you have to determine, what is my particular strength and what are my weaknesses? Some people love numbers, love data, and that’s their strength. And the misnomer is marketing or authors will think, well, if I want to be successful, I need to shore up this weakness I have. If I’m no good with numbers and data, then I need to shore up that weakness so that I can get better and succeed. But that’s not always the case. John Maxwell is a sort of thought leader on success, leadership, things like that, his whole thing was, if you were putting everything on a scale of like one to 10. And you can kind of accept the idea that if you’re going to improve on something, you’re probably gonna improve by maybe like two points, right? But if you’re weak in data, if you’re weak on the point of data, and you were like a number two, that means you would improve to like four. But if your marketing strength is something like writing blog posts, and doing TikTok videos and things like that, and you’re an eight there, well, you would improve to 10. So you’re going to gain a lot more by improving on your strengths than on your weaknesses. So the idea is, go find somebody whose strength is your weakness, and get them involved, find some way, you know, trade services, pay them, write something for them, whatever it takes.
E.S. Curry 21:13
And when we were talking to Eddie Rice in one of these sessions, that was his advice too. If you’re not a numbers guy, hire a numbers guy. Partner up.
Kevin Tumlinson 21:23
Yeah. For those just tuning in, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt, I saw your note. And I immediately wanted to respond, because we’re sorry, Kyla is having some internet issues. And so she’s dropped off, and we’re on the lookout, and we’re hoping she’ll be back. But until then, I hope we can bring some value to you. Thank you for tuning in, we’re going to do our best to make sure that you get something of value out of the webinar regardless, and we might just have to do a do-over with Kyla at some point.
E.S. Curry 21:56
We may have to do that.
Kevin Tumlinson 21:59
This is our last day for audiobook month, too. Oh well. That’s okay.
E.S. Curry 22:02
Yeah. She did say she’s in a rural area and that her internet does go out. So that happens.
Kevin Tumlinson 22:11
What we could do, everyone, if you look down right now in bottom right corner of your screen, there’s a little tab that says Questions. And if you want, you can ask. We can’t necessarily give all the questions to Kyla at this point. But if you ask some questions there, Scott and I can chat with you and hopefully help you out. And it can be audiobook-related. And it can be marketing or craft or anything you want. So yeah, ask us anything
E.S. Curry 22:38
This has turned into an AMA with Kevin and Scott.
Kevin Tumlinson 22:41
Yes, that’s okay. I’m used to doing this kind of stuff. Janet says, I don’t write sci fi. But all the sessions have been great. And not everyone we interviewed was a sci fi author.
E.S. Curry 22:55
No, Jamie Davis was fantasy lit RPG.
Kevin Tumlinson 22:58
I think, didn’t we have, see everything’s bleeding together. I do so many webinars and podcasts, I can’t remember who specifically was interviewed on this series. You know, podcasting, by the way, and these live streams and stuff. This has been a really interesting experiment over the past couple of years. It really amped up starting in 2020, for some reason that we won’t go into. But you know, I’ve done this for more than a decade at this point. And I used to work in radio and TV and stuff like that. And it’s really interesting the opportunities that come for authors, when you’re doing this kind of thing. You know, if you’re an author, if you have any opportunity to be on any podcast, I say go for it, you know? And not just to try to sell books. In fact, my first podcast. or the podcast I was most known for, the Wordslinger Podcast, I had started it in the hope that I would boost my own book sales. But the truth was, I was speaking to an author audience instead of a reader audience. Not necessarily totally off base, but it did give me an education just by being in contact with all these entrepreneurs and authors. I learned a lot from that experience. And then when I started going on podcasts, it was kind of the same thing. So like, you don’t necessarily, you’re not necessarily going to promote yourself or your work when you do a podcast, but it’s always an opportunity to learn something new and give you some material to work with.
E.S. Curry 24:40
Yeah. I don’t know about you but I’ve learned a lot from all these authors we’ve been talking to this month.
Kevin Tumlinson 24:47
We got questions popping in. There’s one in the regular chat from Mariah Stone that says, “I wonder, should we publish our books on Spotify?” Should we, Scott?
E.S. Curry 25:00
Well, right now, Spotify does not have audiobooks. But I do hear they’re coming into that.
Kevin Tumlinson 25:07
That’s what I hear. Yeah.
E.S. Curry 25:09
That’s the word on the street, they’re gonna be …
Kevin Tumlinson 25:11
I’m gonna say, and I’m not a representative of Findaway Voices. And so they have their own perspective on this. But I would say the moment that you can publish books on Spotify, you should. Any time you have an opportunity to go wide, you should go wide.
E.S. Curry 25:31
Kevin Tumlinson 25:31
I’m a little biased as the representative of Draft2Digital. But let’s look at some of the questions. Let’s see what we got.
E.S. Curry 25:37
Yeah, we got it one right here that I think would be good to answer.
Kevin Tumlinson 25:41
And we’re also keeping an eye out for Kyla.
E.S. Curry 25:45
She’ll pop back on when she can. From Jodi, “What are some of your favorite extras to include in your books? And to discover in books you listen to?” Well, Jodi, I can tell you right off the bat, I am a massive fan of alternate endings. And I wish more authors would do alternate endings. I just love, if they went down this path and went down this path, how it ends differently.
Kevin Tumlinson 26:08
It’s like those old Choose Your Own Adventure books.
E.S. Curry 26:10
Oh, man. That’s what got me hooked on reading. I loved those.
Kevin Tumlinson 26:12
Yeah. Something extra that I include in my books, in my print books at least, is something I call “stuff at the end of the book,” or “a note at the end.” It has evolved. It’s now a note at the end, because that sounded more authorly and professional, but it’s a kind of author’s afterward. But it might be specific about that book, or it might just be something I’m writing, kind of stream of consciousness about my writing process, whatever. And what I discovered was, I did it a couple of times, just for the heck of it. And it turned out to be one of the things that gets cited and quoted the most by my readers in reviews. They really enjoy getting that behind the scenes. I was always a huge fan of behind the scenes documentaries and stuff on DVDs. And that was kind of how I thought of that note at the end. And turns out that is something readers really like.
E.S. Curry 27:18
Another thing we see, Jodi, are little character stories, like kind of offshoot stories. You know, bonus content. Could be bloopers from the narration. If you got your narrator, say, hey, can you put together a little blooper reel? Fans really like those too. Deleted scenes, you know, very common too. What you cut out of the book, didn’t make the final manuscript. That’s always fun.
Kevin Tumlinson 27:49
Well, let’s grab another question. Lots of people are liking your alternate ending suggestion, which tells me that I need to give that a shot.
E.S. Curry 28:06
Oh, that’s fantastic. Yeah. I mean, I don’t know why more authors don’t do it.
Kevin Tumlinson 28:09
Imagine this, you could do that as a short story separate from the book. Authors, I’m talking to the authors in the crowd. You could write a short story separate from the book and offer that as its own individual ebook for like 99 cents. Get the alternate ending for, you know, I’ve got like 60 books. So.
E.S. Curry 28:29
Oh, there you go.
Kevin Tumlinson 28:33
See, okay, back to marketing. That’s marketing. Okay, you’re thinking about other ways to increase engagement and increase the odds that people are gonna buy the next book or whatever. If people know that you’ve got a whole series of alternate endings that they can turn to and keep the adventure going, then you can have a lot of fun with that. What was your, you were going to ask one of the questions.
E.S. Curry 28:56
Oh, yeah. Let’s see here. Oh, Will actually answered it in the chat for us. So let’s see here.
Kevin Tumlinson 29:02
That’s okay, we can read Will’s answer.
E.S. Curry 29:05
Janet asks, “I got a Chirp deal for August. They are recommending that I lower my other audiobooks for the deal as a way to increase sales. Does Findaway Voices do that for me?” Well, we don’t do that for you. But what Chirp is recommending is absolutely the way to go. So if you do get a deal, you know, you’re gonna want to stair step your pricing on your other books. You got that first book in series, say, as a 99 cent Chirp deal. Make your second one $1.99, second one $2.99, and so on. You’re gonna have a lot more people purchase the full series then.
Kevin Tumlinson 29:43
Yeah, that’s what they refer to as a halo effect. Maybe someone buys that book, or you get a deal on Chirp or a BookBub featured deal or something, and everybody checks out the free or cheap book. And then you give them a place to go. And you make it as easy, you remove as many obstacles and as much friction as possible to get them into the next book. So it seems counterintuitive that you’ll make more money by charging less, but this is one of those instances where that’s exactly what can happen.
E.S. Curry 30:21
Yep. So it looks like Kyla might be back. There she is.
Kevin Tumlinson 30:26
So what we did is, Scott put on a wig and just pretended to be you.
Kyla Stone 30:37
Awesome. I love it. I’m sorry I missed that.
Kevin Tumlinson 30:40
We’re happy to have you back.
Kyla Stone 30:43
Comcast went down, and it’s having issues in our neighborhood. And my cell service is connected to Comcast as well. So I couldn’t even get on on my phone. So hopefully, we’re okay now.
Kevin Tumlinson 30:57
Now we’ve all learned some lessons. That’s what’s happening. Don’t put your phone service on the same service as your home internet.
Kyla Stone 31:06
Again, rural, that’s the only option. There’s benefits to rural living, but when you want technology, sometimes …
Kevin Tumlinson 31:13
Starlink will come to your rescue.
Kyla Stone 31:16
I do have friends who use that, so I need to look into it.
Kevin Tumlinson 31:23
Well let’s hurry and answer some questions.
E.S. Curry 31:26
We had some good stuff come out of this though. Kyla, while you were gone. Alternate endings. I think we got a whole new thing here. I basically said I wish there were more alternate endings to books for bonus content. And Kevin had the thought like, I’m gonna go back through all my books and write an alternate ending, sell them for 99 cents apiece. Do you do any bonus content?
Kyla Stone 31:49
I have one bonus content at the end of, Edge of Collapse is a seven book series. And then after that ended, I wrote a four chapter epilogue for after the ending of the book, and readers can’t get it unless they join my newsletter. But then I give it to them for free. So that’s helped increase my newsletter subscribers. And then it’s also something that’s exclusive just for my super fans. And so I think they appreciate that as well.
Kevin Tumlinson 32:22
Yeah, very good.
E.S. Curry 32:24
Cool. Well, before you popped off, we’re about to move into audiobooks, and wanted to have you talk a little bit about audiobooks, you know, how you got started in them, how you chose a narrator, publishing in all three formats. Can you talk a little bit about your experience with audiobooks?
Kyla Stone 32:44
Okay, well, I know how important a narrator is. Like, it can make or break a book. My husband and I, we listen to audiobooks on road trips, for example, like every time we get in the car for more than an hour, let’s put an audiobook on. We’ve like started like New York Times bestselling books, but the narrator, we just couldn’t listen and ended up turning it off. So I knew that the narrator was critical to an audiobook’s success. So instead of doing on ACX, or you can do auditions, you can put a call out for auditions. But I decided not to do that. What I did was I listened to a whole bunch of audiobooks and listened for narrators that I thought would fit the post-apocalyptic genre in my style of books well. So that’s what I did. And then I reached out to like three different narrators and said, hey, I love what you did in this book and this book and this book. Would you be interested in working with me? And then narrowed it down to one, Stacey, and I’ve used her for 14 audiobooks now. And my readers really like her a lot.
Kevin Tumlinson 34:08
Does she have a following of her own?
Kyla Stone 34:12
She’s building a following. I mean, she’s not like one of the huge narrators like RC Bray or whatever, but most of us cannot get the superstars.
Kevin Tumlinson 34:21
What, you don’t have RC on speed dial?
Kyla Stone 34:24
Yeah, I know. I wish, I wish. But she’s very, very talented. And she does well. Some of my audiobook reviews, like the narrator, she always gets five stars, like they’ll give me worse reviews for the story, but they like the narrator. So I’m like, okay, well, I did that part well.
E.S. Curry 34:46
Yeah. So while you’re writing, are you thinking about the audio version at all? Do you read your manuscript out loud? You know, is that any consideration while you’re writing?
Kyla Stone 34:58
I do sometimes read the manuscript out loud. And I think that’s great for editing and revisions as well, because you catch a lot when you read it out loud or listen to it than when you’re reading, right, it uses two different parts of your brain. I have not changed my writing style for audio, except to make sure that the books are at least 10 hours in length. I think it was somebody from Findaway, actually, who told me that they looked at sales of audiobooks that were less than 10 hours and sales that were more than 10 hours, and it was like a 30 or 40% increase if you could get to that 10 hour mark. Because, you know, a lot of … Audible is still number one, and with that subscription service, they feel like they’re getting a better deal with that credit if it’s more than 10 hours. So some of my earlier books are shorter, but really the last several, I’ve tried to at least get to that 10 hour mark, which is like 85, 90, 95,000 words, depending on how fast your narrator reads.
Kevin Tumlinson 36:14
I just put a little bit in the middle of the book that says “pause for one hour.”
Kyla Stone 36:23
Can you speak slower in this one chapter just to get …? I do have book that was nine hours and 57 minutes, and I was like, ah.
Kevin Tumlinson 36:30
You don’t think that’s close enough? Do you think that matters, that three minutes?
Kyla Stone 36:35
Well, the thing is, readers will search. If you search based on time, there’s a like six to nine hours and 10 to 14 hours, and 17 hours and up, so they may not even see your book if they’re only searching in 10 hours or more. So I do think you miss out on part of your audience if your books are shorter.
Kevin Tumlinson 36:57
Yeah. Which we’re working to change. Findaway is working hard to change that, we all want that to change, because you shouldn’t have to, credits are a terrible system.
Kyla Stone 37:09
Right? And I agree, and I like that Findaway allows you to choose your own pricing and do your own sales. Like, that’s the frustrating part with Audible, that you don’t have control over any of that. I do appreciate that a lot.
E.S. Curry 37:25
Yeah, for sure. So talking about audiobooks, is there something that you could tell a new author getting into audiobooks, what have you learned? What kind of wisdom could you bestow upon an author that’s getting into audio? What’s maybe a lesson that you that you took away from it?
Kyla Stone 37:47
Okay, um, I pay up front for my narrator, pay per hour, and so then I don’t have to do royalty share. And for me, personally, I’ve earned out every audiobook within three to four months, I know there are some authors who are earning out within a couple of days, and that’s fantastic. And other authors who might take six months or a year. But if you do narrator sharing, you’re giving up half of your royalties for the foreseeable future. And it also means you don’t have as many choices, right? So because I can control my own audiobooks, I could move from ACX to Findaway, right? So if you have split with a narrator, then you don’t have those choices to pivot when you see opportunities. So I like to have that control. And I do think you make more money in the long run. If you can pay up front, it is a significant amount of money to pay, but narrators do a really good job. They earn every penny of that for sure. But if you can afford that up front in the long run, it increases your income and gives you more choices and control, which is what we as indie authors like, right? That’s why we went into this. You want to own your IP, you always want to be able to make those choices and have options.
Kevin Tumlinson 39:19
Yeah, the more ownership you have over your intellectual property, the better that’s going to work out for you in the end. And that’s what this is, if you go to traditional publishing, you’re definitely handing off a lot of your IP, but you’re essentially handing off like a percentage of that intellectual property, not in terms of ownership, but in terms of revenue, when you go to various storefronts, so the more the more you can control that the better. He added nonchalantly.
Kyla Stone 39:58
And I will say too, I did one book with Tantor like four years ago,. They gave me a $700 advance and I have yet to make out that advance. Because their royalties are so little, I think I make like 70 cents per audiobook sale, which is, they’re charging 15 bucks, right? So I have made a lot more income with the books that I have done and control myself. So, yeah, unless they’re offering you an amazing deal, I would not go with those companies and do it on your own.
E.S. Curry 40:42
Yeah, yeah. And we have the tools to do it on your own too. We released Findaway Marketplace. And you can go audition your own narrators on there for free, find the voice you like, it takes you through the whole process.
Kevin Tumlinson 40:55
Audition yourself. You might be the reader for your book, or you might not.
Kyla Stone 41:02
Yes, and know when you’re not, you know?
E.S. Curry 41:10
Yeah, I know. I auditioned myself for my book. And it was, no, I lost the job.
Kevin Tumlinson 41:15
I auditioned myself, and I’m like, well, that sounds good. But that guy is pretty lazy about recording. So I don’t know if I’m hiring him.
Kyla Stone 41:23
He’s not going to meet deadlines.
Kevin Tumlinson 41:27
He’s not gonna meet the deadlines. He’s gonna be like, ah, I got books to write.
E.S. Curry 41:31
I love that. Well, let’s get cracking here into marketing a little bit since it’s been about 40 minutes now. We’d love to know, you know, what’s your approach to marketing? are your thoughts on marketing? You know, how do you how do you get into it? And what are the things that you found have been successful for you and your books?
Kyla Stone 42:01
Well, first, I think, craft the best book that you can, like have the best story, the best product that you can. That’s really going to appeal and reach readers so that they want to read more of your stuff. Because once you bring a reader in, and they love that book, they’re immediately going to go and look for what else you have. Make it easy to find your other books. So at the end of every book, I immediately have the link for the next book, like “Like this? Here’s book two right here.” Here’s the link, you don’t even have to go to Amazon and search for it, you can just click right here, download it, or if it’s the end of a series, hey, here’s the first book in my next series. Like as soon as that book ends, it’s right there, and I think that matters. I have a newsletter, have a link to the newsletter in the back of your ebook. So they can join in, and then you know, you have direct access to them with emailing. Also advertising. I’m a big advertiser, because I’m a big believer in advertising, because I am not a fast writer. There are a lot of writers who can write a book every month, every two months, every three months, and really work those Amazon algorithms in their favor. If you write slower than that, you really need to rely on advertising.
Kevin Tumlinson 43:23
That’s very good advice.
Kyla Stone 43:27
And know what kind of writer you are. Because if you can write a book a month, you may not really need to do very much advertising, because you just have the Amazon algorithms really working for you. But if you know that you’re a slower writer, you may need to put more of your income into advertising. And I mostly do Amazon advertising. Facebook has always been difficult for me to figure out/ And also in post-apoc, for Facebook, like trying to fans of a certain author. There’s generally like, not like a romance writer who only writes romance in traditional publishing. Your big authors, like Stephen King has The Stand, but then everything else he wrote is horror, right? Where Justin Cronin has the Passage trilogy, which is post-apoc, but it’s also vampires, right? So like, you’re not really getting that audience. So, or Cormac McCarthy wrote The Road, which is amazing, won the Pulitzer, great post-apocalyptic novel. That’s the only novel in post-apoc that he has written. So very hard to, in my genre, to find Facebook audiences. So I’ve mostly done Amazon, but I’m also willing to spend like 20, 25, occasionally even 30% of my income on advertising. Which is okay for me, because, you know, I’d rather spend $10,000 a month to make $30,000 than spend $10 a month to make $5. So I don’t mind spending more money if it brings in more money.
Kevin Tumlinson 45:07
I was just about to ask you what the ROI typically is. And so for you, sounds like it’s maybe 150%?
Kyla Stone 45:21
Um, yeah, I guess. And it’s hard too, like once you have 15, 20 books, you’re spending more money to get that first reader. But then that reader is gonna go and read your other books. So the Amazon ad platform makes it look like you might be losing money hand over fist, right? Over $1 per click or whatever, I mean, those are terrible to look at when you’re like, oh, my word. But overall, when I see my income going up, and my sales, I know that that reader that I paid quite a bit of money to bring in is then going and reading my other books, so that’s bringing everything up.
Kevin Tumlinson 46:05
Just as an aside, one of the things I took as a sign of my success was when it became more expensive to target me as a name in ads than most of the people who write in my genre. I’ve made it.
Kyla Stone 46:22
Totally agree. You’re like, oh, I’m five bucks a click, I cannot afford to advertise on my name.
Kevin Tumlinson 46:28
Can’t afford to target my own name in my ads, right?
Kyla Stone 46:32
And I feel like too, like when the ebook is doing well, that the audiobook sales follow along with it.
Kevin Tumlinson 46:39
That’s interesting. Why do you think that is?
Kyla Stone 46:43
Overall awareness, I think, or like they’re seeing the ads for the ebook. And then the audiobook, of course, is right there that you can click when they’re looking at your sales page. And like, oh, this looks interesting. I’m going on a road trip, I think I’ll do the audiobook or whatever. So I think overall awareness. And then if the audiobook has a sale, and it’s doing really well, I see ebooks go up too. So I think they work together with great synergy.
Kevin Tumlinson 47:10
Because there’s always, the push is always, or what we talk about a lot, maybe the Findaway guys are different. What I talk about a lot is that they can essentially be two very different audiences in the way that you market to them. But I agree, I think I have seen that trend and just didn’t really pay attention, that there’s a reciprocal relationship between the two. That makes sense.
E.S. Curry 47:35
Well, that’s why we recommend always publishing, you know, all three formats at your launch. You’re gonna take advantage of that. Don’t leave the audiobook for later. I mean, if you can do it all at once, do it all at once.
Kevin Tumlinson 47:48
Yeah, I wish I had done that.
Kyla Stone 47:50
Yeah, no, I was like, I should have started doing that.
Kevin Tumlinson 47:54
Yeah. Maybe what I should do is pull all my books down, go to zero income for a year or two. And re-launch the right way. Now, I’ll be doing that from the street. But I could be wealthy beyond the dreams of avarice at that point.
Kyla Stone 48:15
Yes. Well, I think that’s a good point, too, is that we’re always learning new things. And there’s always new things that we can add and improve. And no one author has all the answers or is doing all the tricks. So I think for new authors, they can feel overwhelmed. Just start with one thing at a time. And then, you know, just add as you go, and as you learn. You don’t have to get it perfect.
E.S. Curry 48:41
Yeah, you’re literally echoing what MK Williams said two days ago. That’s fantastic. That’s such good advice. So with a newbie author, if you had to bootstrap from $0, or you just have a very limited marketing budget, you’re just getting going. What would you do? What would you recommend to that new indie author?
Kyla Stone 49:00
Okay, I would spend as much money as you can on great covers. Because your cover really sells the book, it attracts the eye, it telegraphs genre, it tells the audience this is your kind of book, like that is the number one thing you can do. And then if you can, you know, find a cheap proofreader or get some beta readers to go through it, even if you don’t have enough money for a really good editor yet. I would spend money on proofreading and editing so you have the most professional product that you can. A couple of bad reviews for like terrible editing, proofreading, spelling errors can tank a book. I think readers really expect professional quality at this point in the indie game. And then like ten or 15 bucks a day on ads. Like start small, you don’t have to come in with like $100 or $200 a day ad budget, you can start are very small, and then work your way up as your income increases. But I think you do have to do some ads if you possibly can, even if it’s ten bucks a day.
Kevin Tumlinson 50:10
Oh, really? That would be effective?
Kyla Stone 50:14
It’s pay to play. It’s unfortunate. And it’s frustrating, but I think the market is [inaudible].
Kevin Tumlinson 50:21
That’s really what you’re talking about is, yeah, you don’t have other advantages. If you don’t already have a platform, if you don’t already have that audience built up, then you have to rely on something to get that in front of people.
Kyla Stone 50:34
Yes, yep. You have to get your book in front of people. Otherwise, it’ll just slide into oblivion, because there’s so many. Aren’t there like a thousand, more than a thousand? How many books are published on Amazon a day, does anybody know? I think it might be in the thousands now. But like, you’ve got to do something to get noticed.
E.S. Curry 50:57
Yeah, the nice thing about audiobooks is there’s a lot less audiobooks being published out there. So you have less competition by the nature of the market.
Kevin Tumlinson 51:05
Yeah, there’s like …
Kyla Stone 51:08
Audiobooks are just growing year over year, like, exploding. People really love audiobooks.
E.S. Curry 51:13
Yeah. double digit growth every year.
Kevin Tumlinson 51:16
You have like a thousand books a day going on Amazon. And that’s just James Patterson.
E.S. Curry 51:22
That’s just too good. Kyla, can you talk a little bit about, you know, email is a big topic for us, for Kevin and I and other authors. What’s your approach to email marketing? What’s kind of your formula emailing your fans? What kind of content do you give them? Or, you know, talk a little bit about how you approach email.
Kyla Stone 51:46
So I don’t email them as much as some authors do, I do about twice a month, and just kind of give them updates on like, what I’m working on, what book is in process, doing cover reveals. If I’ve got some friends in the genre who have some sales, like, hey, while you’re waiting for my book, you know, this was a good book that I enjoyed and read that I think that you will, that type of a thing. Um, when new audiobooks come out, I obviously put that in there and talk to them about, hey, the narrator is starting now. We’re really excited. There was one time, the narrator gave me some bloopers, some funny mess-ups or mistakes that she made. And so like, I uploaded and sent that to the newsletter, and they really enjoyed that and thought it was really fun. So just things like that.
E.S. Curry 52:42
That’s cool. Awesome. So talk a little bit about what success means to you. What’s your vision for success? You know, how do you approach that? What are your thoughts there on what success means as an indie author, for you personally?
Kyla Stone 53:01
Success can mean many things to many different people. For me, it was that I could make a full time living and support my family. And this is what I can do. There’s an idea out there that writers have to have full time jobs and write on top of that in their free time, because it’s a starving artist profession. But I love that a lot of indies are doing this full time and can make it their single profession. And a lot of them have retired their spouses, you know, like they’re it for their entire family. We’re not there yet. My husband’s like, when can you retire me? Not yet, not yet. But definitely, that financial stability, I think is important and very freeing. And then like, making my readers happy. Every email that I get, every Facebook message. I love it when they reach out and talk to me and talk to me about their favorite characters, or, you know, I was going through chemotherapy and read all seven of your books, and it helped me like deal with that time period, or whatever. When your stories can make a difference in someone’s life, and even just bring them a little bit of joy or distraction, I think that’s really important and really meaningful. And I love that aspect of it. I love hearing from my readers. So if I have a fan base of readers who are happy with me and with my books, and love my stories, and then I’m able to do it full time, that’s success for me.
E.S. Curry 54:52
That’s great. Wow. Stories are at the very heart of our humanity, aren’t they?
Kyla Stone 54:58
They really are.
E.S. Curry 55:00
Touching people. That’s great, Kyla. We’ve got a couple of questions here, I was wondering if you could answer for some of the fans in the audience. From Marie, “I have listened to a lot of audiobooks, but there seem to be two types, the narrated type and the voice acted type. Is one preferred over the other?” I would think sci fi leans more to the latter, especially the more action type of stories. So I think her question is, you know, what do you think works well for sci fi, the voice actor type or the kind of just plain narrated type?
Kyla Stone 55:42
I think voice acted. My narrator Stacy is a trained actor, actress. So she really puts a lot of emotion into her voices. I think that I prefer that to just like, kind of like a flat reading voice. I have seen some audiobooks where they do it kind of like a play type of thing, where they have several narrators each voicing a different character. And sometimes they put music and sound effects to it. I don’t know, you guys, if there’s a specific term for that type of audiobook?
Kevin Tumlinson 56:23
It’s kind of like a radio play.
Kyla Stone 56:24
Radio. Yes. Yeah.
E.S. Curry 56:26
Yeah, they have foley artists.
Kyla Stone 56:28
Yeah. Like that is, I mean, probably costs a lot more money. But, it’s really interesting, too. And I wonder if that’s going to become more popular as we go.
Kevin Tumlinson 56:45
So what I’m seeing, and granted, I only have a narrow window on this particular field, but what I’m seeing is that they tend to do both. They tend to do a stand sort of standard narrator version of the book. And then if it’s really popular, they’ll do a full cast kind of thing. I saw them do that with like American Gods, for example. You know, the original narrator for American Gods was fantastic. But, you know, they came out with this, like, full cast narration of it, and it’s amazing. But there’s two products there.
Kyla Stone 57:20
Right, right. That’s interesting, too. Because the more products that you can make out of your IP … That’s a good idea, too. Probably pricey though.
Kevin Tumlinson 57:35
Pretty pricey, but like you said, it’s like you said earlier, you know, you gotta roll some money back in and you have to basically figure out, is this going to return more than I put in? If so, then that’s an instant yes. Unless it’s going to bankrupt you to try to do it.
Kyla Stone 57:55
Right, right. Don’t bankrupt yourself, we’re not recommending that.
Kevin Tumlinson 57:59
If you take anything out of this webinar, it’s don’t bankrupt yourself. Yeah.
Kyla Stone 58:06
And true. Like we were talking about, like releasing the audiobook and the paperback and ebook at the same time. If you’re a newer author, you’re probably not ready for that yet. Right? You might need to make some money with the ebook before you can put an audiobook out for your next few books. And that’s okay, too. Like, you’re building up. In each step, you can put more money in as you get higher and higher and then increase your reader and listener base. It’s time, it’s not an overnight thing. It takes time to build.
E.S. Curry 58:41
Yeah, it sure does. Yeah. We’ve got a question from Grace Buchanan. “I love the sciences, especially speculation about what might be, and I love intelligent challenges and adventure. Does a sci fi book come to mind that I might enjoy? Especially one that you wrote, and had recorded by an especially talented narrator?”
Kyla Stone 59:06
Okay, um …
E.S. Curry 59:08
She’s looking for a recommendation for one of your books, it sounds like, Kyla.
Kyla Stone 59:12
I would recommend my Edge of Collapse series, starting with book one, Edge of Collapse. It’s seven books and it’s completed and they are all on audio and done by Stacy Glemboski, who is very talented, she does a great job.
E.S. Curry 59:28
Awesome. That’s great. Fantastic. Well, Kyla, we’re at the end of our hour, and I’d love to tell everyone in the audience where they can find you on the internet. What’s your website?
Kyla Stone 59:41
My website is KylaStone.com. I’m on Facebook. I’m Kyla Stone Author. You can message me, you can join my newsletter. You can email me at KylaStone@yahoo.com. Also Amazon, Audible, Findaway, like all the things, all the things.
E.S. Curry 1:00:04
Yeah, that’s great. This has been a super fun hour Kyla, thank you so much for taking the time today with us.
Kyla Stone 1:00:13
And thanks for your patience with the internet.
E.S. Curry 1:00:16
No worries at all.
Kevin Tumlinson 1:00:17
It all worked out just fine. We did have people who were like, popped in a little late who were like, where’s Kyla?
E.S. Curry 1:00:24
Kevin Tumlinson 1:00:25
Why am I looking at these two buffoons? Where’s our whole reason for being here?
E.S. Curry 1:00:34
Yeah. Where’s the talent? Well, thanks again. Kevin. Super sad our series is over. We’ll do something again here soon. Another collaboration between Draft2Digital and Findaway Voices. So thank you so much, Kyla, really appreciate your time today and all your insights.
Kyla Stone 1:00:53
Thank you so much for having me. It was a pleasure.
E.S. Curry 1:00:57
Awesome. All right. Well, everyone have a great rest of your day.
Kevin Tumlinson 1:01:01
And a great rest of your month. Audiobook month is over. We have a whole other year to wait. Take care of yourselves, everybody. Bye.