Thursday, 12 February 2015

Narrator Catherine O'Brien talks ACX and Audiobooks

By Gillian Hamer

As indie-authors become more involved in the world of audiobooks, the focus on narrators will intensify. Here, I talk to Catherine O’Brien, who narrates my first novel, The Charter, which is available on audio via ACX now.
Audiobook of The Charter

Catherine, welcome to Triskele Books blog. I’d like to ask first a little about your background and how you became a professional narrator?

Hi Gill, thank you for inviting me to the Triskele Books blog. I was born and educated in England, and always had a love of storytelling and the dramatic arts. I worked for several years at the BBC and then moved to the US in 2010 to get married to an American! My husband encouraged me to take a course in Voice Acting at a Studio in New York, and while doing this I auditioned to produce a novel for ACX. Somewhat to my surprise I was awarded the project. That started me on my career as a voice actor, and I still narrate audiobooks for ACX, as well as my other voice acting projects.

What do you enjoy about narrating novels? 
Everything! I absolutely love the whole process – the excitement of reading a new novel (or a much loved classic); the background research, for unusual names and places (especially for you!), etc; then the actual recording, which is the most fun of all; and I even enjoy the editing process! I really do have the best job in the world!

Obviously, with the creation of ACX there’s now more focus and opportunity for indie-authors to get involved in audiobooks, how do you see this change in the process affecting the market? 

I think it is a fantastic opportunity for indie-authors to find a whole new audience for their books. Especially now it is so easy to download audiobooks on mobile devices, audiobooks have become essential entertainment for commuters, runners, etc, and even relaxing bedtime listening.
Catherine O'Brien

When you’re searching for a new project, or considering author approaches, do you look at whether they are indie or traditionally published and would this affect your decision? 

Yes, it certainly is a consideration, but my main criteria is whether I like the book or not. It is very exciting to discover new talent, and I have been incredibly fortunate to work with several brilliant new indie published authors, and this also gives me the opportunity to work directly with the author on marketing projects as well.

What do you look for in a book to narrate?

I narrate books in a wide range of genres, but the main thing I look for is something that captures my interest and makes me want to know what happens! I then look for the quality of the writing – some writing styles are easier to narrate than others – yours is particularly good, and a real pleasure to narrate.

Do you think audiobooks will become more popular, and so more profitable with easier access to services like ACX? 

Absolutely. As I said earlier, now Audible and iTunes, etc, have made it so easy to download audiobooks to pcs, mp3 players, and even discs, this has attracted whole new audiences.

What do you think makes a successful relationship between author and narrator?

Communication! It is great to be able to get direction straight from the author. It really helps to discuss things like the characters’ voices and to get the whole tone and spirit of the novel as closely as possible to the way the author intended them to be.

Personally, I’ve found the whole experience of working with yourself via ACX stress-free and enjoyable. How have you found working within the new service via ACX? 

 I totally agree, working with ACX is very straight-forward, and makes it easy for authors and narrators to work together.


  • "I have to tell you that you amaze us. Your ability with different voices and being consistent with them throughout the book is phenomenal. Also, the emotions you express while reading is outstanding. I couldn't be happier." J Dawn King
  • "I feel like it's Christmas! I can't imagine a better choice for narrator." Danielle Ackley-McPhail
  • "Catherine O'Brien is tops in her readings for audiobooks. #ATTMPress loves her renditions!"
  • "Wow, what a great job you did with this piece. Your voice is smooth and engaging. Once I started to listen to the story you had my complete attention. And you did each character and emotion switch superbly. You created noticeable tension between husband and wife and the two cousins. Had me wondering - what happens next? Very believable." Larry Terpening on DARK IS THE SKY, by Jessica Chambers

Friday, 6 February 2015

The Ocean of Independent Publishing - Interview with Diego Marano of Kobo Writing Life

Diego Marano of KWL talks to Catriona Troth about first literary loves, Kobo Writing Life, and the book he is most looking forward to seeing published in 2015.

Diego, can you start by telling us a bit about your own background? How did you come to join KWL and what had you been doing before that?

I’d regard my background as being a little restless even though it entirely revolves around the publishing business. Before moving to the UK in worked in the academic publishing across different publishing companies and roles. That was a valuable experience especially in terms of digital publishing. For instance, Elsevier has been one of the first publishers remarkably investing in digital content and online platforms back in 2005. Working there really helped me broaden my horizon. In 2010 in came to the UK, I did a masters in digital publishing after which worked in and eventually in Kobo Writing Life.

What is the first book you remember falling in love with?

In youth I used to read prominently educational books with a predilection for History. I used to regard fiction titles as a waste of time, what a miss!

What I found riveting in reading History was the wonder and upset caused by the awareness that those stories I was reading, albeit absurd and disturbing, had factually occurred. What got me to change my mind was Nabokov’s Lolita, and that was love at the first sight. The incipit is masterfully crafted, both disturbing and moving. That reading changed my perspective, not only on novels, but also about the notion of love.

When and why was KWL set up? What is the relationship between KWL and its parent company, Kobo?

Kobo Writing Life started in 2011 as the Kobo’s self-publishing platform. Through KWL independent authors can publish free of charge and sell their ebooks on the Kobo Store across 190 countries and various languages. I can see two main reasons behind this move. As first, there is a profound need for many independent authors to be given the possibility to publish outside the traditional routes. On the other hand, technology gives today the opportunity to develop and utilise such a service in a convenient and profitable fashion.

You yourself spend a lot of time with author-publishers, at events like the London Author Fair and Chorleywood’s Indie Author Fair. What excites you about the world of author-publishing?

Diego Marano with Orna Ross (left) and Ricardo Fayet (right) at IAF14
Independent publishing is an ocean. What we can catch online, on forum, blogs and social media is just the surface. There is a lot going on beneath that surface, especially when it comes to print self-publishing. Many local communities of writers, although understanding the importance of the Internet, like acting offline. They enjoy events such us the Indie Author Fair for they get to meet not only readers but also other authors and share their experiences with them.

Those communities represent the actual backbone of the self-publishing business. Each of those has an entire world in his head and they are all mainly driven by passion. Dealing with those worlds is one of the best parts of my job.

What do you believe KWL offers author-publishers?

We offer the opportunity to get in touch with millions of readers around the world. Being a self-published author is a demanding business in terms of time and energies required. Our platform is praised for being open, intuitive and convenient. The authors are in control of their business with no strings attached such as exclusive programs.

What is the difference between publishing directly on KWL or, say, using something like Smashwords to manage distribution to Kobo?

Distributors are convenient in such a way authors can sell their titles on different stores without opening and managing multiple accounts at the same time. The distributor does it for them. On the other hand, distributors act as filter between authors and the market.

If you directly manage your KWL account you have the advantage of a superior control. You can access your sales stats first hand and make changes on the go. This gives you a higher degree of flexibility.

Does KWL have any editorial input in the books you publish?

When authors open a KWL account they become publishers in charge of the entire process, including editing. Many authors learn from their mistakes and keep improving themselves. That’s the beauty of our business.

Does KWL offer any help to authors in terms of say, formatting or cover design? Are you able to link your authors up with editors and designers?

We do not directly provide those services but we work in collaboration with a few trusted services providers. On the KWL blog we have a section called Resources where authors can find them listed.

Typically, what does it cost to publish a book through KWL?

Publishing on KWL is totally free of charge. We have a royalty scheme by means of which authors get 70% from the RRP if the price is above £1.99 and 45% if below this threshold. Kobo monetises only when the book is sold.

How easy is it to make changes to ebooks on KWL post-publication?

All ebooks are scalable products. Authors can make changes (e.g. cover, text, price, etc.) in a matter of minutes and see them activated in a matter of hours.

How does the payment of authors work?

Kobo offers a standard Independent Publisher Program contract through Kobo Writing Life. You can receive royalty payments from Kobo via EFT (Electronic Fund Transfer) directly in to your bank account. Authors are paid 45 days after the end of each monthly period provided you have met a minimum threshold of CAD 100 (GBP 55). If your content has not generated the minimum threshold listed above, we will provide you with payment every 6 months.

How does distribution work with KWL? Presumably books are only published on the Kobo platform. What countries can you currently publish to via Kobo?
Once you have opened an account and uploaded your titles on KWL, you are ready to publish and sell in 190 countries through the Kobo Store. Authors can also establish geographic restrictions in case they needed to exclude some regions (e.g. US, Canada, Australia, etc).

That’s really handy as many authors can sell globally even if they have a contract with a trade publisher in their countries. It goes without saying it depends on the type of contract you have signed. However, just to give an example, let’s pretend you have a contract with a UK trade publisher but you retain the right to sell your books abroad. If you publish on KWL, you can sell them globally while keeping the UK territory excluded. Your books will never show on the UK store and you won’t infringe the contract you signed with your publisher.

Are books published via KWL given any sort of marketing by Kobo? How do readers discover books on the Kobo platform (other than by searching for a book or an author they already know)?

Promotion and visibility are amongst the most frequent requests from our authors. In KWL we respond to this sensitive need by providing our community with periodic opportunities.

The Kobo store features two pages dedicated to independent titles: Kobo Next and Free eBooks. Kobo also runs a newsletter for KWL titles with periodic special sales. Authors subscribed to KWL can apply for all these initiatives through the KWL author newsletter they receive on a monthly basis.

Tell us some of your success stories at KWL? What are you particularly proud of?
There are many stories I could mention but there is one I particularly hold dear. In KWL we foster translated books both from and to the English market. We recently helped one Italian author, Andrea Atzori, publish the first instalment of his fantasy saga The Amulet of Sleep.

We did that in collaboration with whitefox and released the book before Christmas. We are still at an early stage but the book is scoring excellent reviews as a testament to both its value and the quality of service provided by whitefox. In the light of this we are now going to promotionally support this author on the course of the coming months.

And finally –what is the most exciting book you have read in the last year, and why?
The most exciting read is still a manuscript. I hope it will count even if it is not a published book yet.

Last fall we run a writing competition in collaboration with SilverWood Books. Amongst the many excellent entries I got to read one manuscript that is absolutely brilliant. I cannot go into details as the reviewing process is not finished yet. However, I really hope to see that manuscript published and for sale, on the Kobo Store, one way or another.

How intriguing! We look forward to hearing more. Thank you, Diego.