Today I talk to Nathan Lowell about he built a successful indie career by creating Podiobooks. We talk about how he got involved in this unique market, how he got 8 million downloads, and how he converted this into sales of ebooks, allowing him to take his writing full time. We also chat about why he decided to write something “outside of the box” – a space opera where the universe wasn’t ending every 5 minutes.
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Podiobooks – Serialized audiobooks, delivered like a podcast.
Heinlein – Rules for writing.
2007 Nathan wrote a space opera that wasn’t about saving the universe every 15 pages. He wanted to write something about the life and times of someone living in the future. It’s a long series, covering decades of a young protagonists life. The story is about the characters not the plot.
Nathan had been writing for 40 years before he put anything out into the world. It took him a long time to go from scribles in pencil in notebooks during school, to his first novel in 2007. He decided to get involved after getting into Podiobooks and listening to several. At the time the marketplace for them was not very competitive and he saw them as a way to get his writing to the world without having to deal with publishers, and also thought that they would have a greater chance of taking off as there was less competition. He first heard of Podiobooks because he was working for an organisation aiming to bring high bandwidth content (like audio) to low bandwidth areas (places with internet too slow to easily get large amounts of data).
At first Nathan was only putting his book out as Podiobooks, but later, with the Kindle revolution, turned them into ebooks. Today, things are the other way around, with him doing the ebooks first and then converting them to Podiobooks.
Podiobooks are essetially serialised audio versions of a book. Each chapter is one episode and those can be downloaded for free from the website. They are delivered like a podcast to your preferred audio device.
Building an Audience through Podiobooks
Nathan built himself an audience through Podiobooks and found that when he put the books in the ebook form, people were ready to buy. The number of downloads on the Podiobooks was huge, so he only needed a small amount to convert for the money from the ebook to be decent. That happened.
Nathan has never been worried about people just listening to the free books. He points out that audio is still a very small market and there are plenty of other readers out there who will buy the written book. Even if a person just listens to the audio version for free, he doesn’t mind.
He also doesn’t find the need to do too much promotion around a launch because people are committed to his series. He doesn’t put out more than a few comments on the social networks when the book is released. People tend to talk about it for him, which does become the case when you have a loyal fan base.
Today – “Podiobooks is more viable today.” I was curious about whether the smaller market that was Podiobooks when Nathan started had been saturated, and it was no longer really possible to break in through them. Nathan disagrees, saying that there are way more listeners who can access podiobooks today, meaning the opportunity is bigger than ever!
Nathan was in talks with Audible about getting his Podiobooks up on that platform so they could reach another audience. He intially agreed that he would go non-exclusive, so that he could continue to give the books away on Podiobooks, but Audible can back to him saying that that would be an “unacceptable user experience.” Because a user would not appreciate buying the book and then finding out they could have got it for free. Nathan does point out that many authors still do this, and that Audible doesn’t always seem to mind…
You Need More than One Book
Nathan says that you need more than one book to really get traction. He found that it took 5 books, or around half a million words before things really started taking off for him.
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