The Growing Trend of Audiobooks

By Cammi Woodall

We have come full circle. Humankind’s rich story telling tradition started with nomads huddled around a campfire, listening to the elders spin tales and lore. We graduated to words written on animal skins, papyrus, clay tablets, paper, and even a digital screen. Now, with the popularity of audiobooks, the spoken story is once again skyrocketing in popularity. With sales in 2017 reaching multi-billions of dollars, oral story telling has once again become the norm.

Audiobooks started out as a reading alternative for the visually impaired. In the early 1930’s, the American Foundation for the Blind and the Library of Congress joined to create vinyl records. Now the blind could enjoy works by William Shakespeare, Helen Keller, and Edgar Allen Poe, along with selections from the Bible and the Declaration of Independence. These early recordings were about fifteen minutes long per side. To help with distribution, the United States Postal Service agreed to send ‘talking books’ free of charge through the mail. This allowed people across the nation to benefit and enjoy literature with ease.

From vinyl records, the recordings graduated to cassette tapes. During the 1970s, most audiobooks were abridged books produced for the visually impaired, but companies began to see other opportunities for a wider customer range. Professional voice actors were hired and studios were opened to produce better quality recordings. By the 1980s, new technology allowed twice as much recording on a single cassette. This allowed unabridged versions of classics and best-sellers. Audiobooks became more mainstream and available through such places as Time-Life or the Book-of-the-Month club. Soon CDs became the standard as technology marched forward.

In 1997, Audible.com (pre-Amazon) introduced the ‘Audible Player’, a mass-market digital media player dedicated solely for audiobooks. Retailing for $200, the device held two hours of audio. Up to this time, people were limited by the physicality of cassettes and CDs. You had to go to a library or bookstore to get one, or wait for one to come through the mail. Digital downloads meant you could get a book anywhere and anytime you could get online.

Then Amazon came along and bought Audible. The two companies combined to become the biggest seller of audible downloads. On the chase behind them is Apple iTunes, Google Play, and Japanese-based Rakuten. Healthy competition benefits the readers – I mean, listeners – of audiobooks. More titles are released each year, with publishers pouring over backlogs or asking authors for original works.

So who listens to audiobooks, and where do they listen to them? Simply put, everybody listens everywhere. Approximately 54% of listeners are 18 to 44 years of age. They read or listen to 15 books per year on average, with the most popular categories being suspense/thriller, romance, and science fiction. At home and in the car are the most common places to listen, usually on a Smartphone.

Audiobooks have achieved sales increases in the double digits for the last six years. With advances in technology, these numbers are expected to keep growing over the next few years. So what does this mean for an author? New avenues for your stories. Today’s technology means we no longer have to rely upon traditional brick-and-mortar publishing houses.

Those nomads around the campfire would be overwhelmed by the technology we have to access information and entertainment. I think they would be glad however, that we have returned to the voice, to a tale enriched by the human emotions and nuances that bring a story to life.

 

Prompt – She jumped as she heard the crashing sound behind her. Pulling out her earbuds, she spun around.

Copywriting 101

By Cammi Woodall

Think about your day so far. Have you seen a television commercial? Listened to an ad on the radio? Picked up a brochure for a new travel destination? Looked at a billboard? Logged on to a website for the newest restaurant in town?

Did you answer yes to any of these questions? Then you already have experience with copywriting.

So, what is copywriting? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a copywriter is a writer of advertising or publicity copy. As a copywriter, you are responsible for hooking the consumer with your words. How often do you skim advertising material without a second thought? Occasionally, though, something will catch your eye. A certain phrase or slogan can pull a consumer in, and a good copywriter will keep them there by using persuasive text. You as a copywriter want to make sure that customer feels they can’t live without your product!

What does this mean for you as a freelance writer? Don’t most businesses have a staff that does this for them? Not necessarily. Business today is very different from twenty years ago. There are thousands of companies that conduct business strictly online and more small businesses than ever before. Most cannot afford to have their own advertising department. That’s where you and your unique perspective come in.Writer journaling in a book

Copywriting jobs can range in size from writing the script for a 20 second radio spot to handling all media material for a new product launch. This could include brochures, media copy, social media content, television or radio script, educational material, demonstration videos, product packaging, and more! Every piece of advertising ephemera for a campaign or product is the result of a copywriter’s work.   

How do you get one of these jobs? There are several different ways.

–                      Network. Ask your family and friends. Dear Aunt Irma might know just the person you need to know!

–                      Apply for a job at a physical business. Go to your local newspaper office, radio station, or advertising agency. This could result in freelance work, but you might also become a staff member!

–                      Online job boards – I have never used one of these boards (I am learning about copywriting along with you), so I cannot give any personal advice. The ones that came up most in my research are Problogger, Contena, All Indie Writers, Blogging Pro, and Writers Weekly. My advice is to look at each board and see which one fits your style. On most, companies post freelance positions. You probably won’t get a large job right away, but the smaller jobs are a great way to build your portfolio.

–                      Social media. Does anybody remember when getting in touch with other people meant a phone call or a letter? Twitter and Facebook are both good sources of information. Look for boards that posts jobs, but also advertise yourself.

–                      Newspaper Classifieds. Yes, there are still paper newspapers out there.

–                      Pitch directly to a business. Is there a new store or boutique opening near you? Make a friendly call. New business owners might be more interested in stocking and construction. They might not be thinking about newspaper ads, business cards, Facebook pages, radio spots, or promotional brochures.

This article only covers a small portion of the expanse of copywriting. The internet has dozens of websites and thousands of articles on how to get started, how to create effective prose, how much to expect to earn, and more. Copywriting might not have been something you’ve thought about before, but I recommend you do some research. You could create the next ‘Where’s the beef?’ campaign!

 

Prompt – She squared her shoulders and took a deep breath. This was one meeting she never wanted to attend. She opened the door and entered the room.

What Has Happened Within the Last Twenty Years?

By Jennifer Hallmark

Twenty years. A long time?

It depends how you look at it. To a ten-year-old, it’s forever. To a mother with four  children, it flies by. Think perspective. In today’s world, a LOT has occurred within a twenty-year span.

So much that it boggles the mind. We, here at the blog, are going to discuss the subject in depth. Some will look at inventions or products that have changed our lives. Others will talk about the path their own journey has taken them. Either way, we’ll get some interesting posts we’re sure you’ll enjoy.

Two things came to my mind when we decided on October’s topic. The search engine, Google, and cell phones. Here’s my take on them.

Google. The Google story begins in 1995 at Stanford University, the brainchild of research students, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. The project was incorporated in 1998 and now has 60,000 employees in 50 different countries.

The positive? Google has made information universally available. If I wonder how many calories are in the sandwich I’m eating, I Google it. Need to find a new nail salon? Google can point the way. Lost in Dallas? Google Maps can direct you to where you need to go.

The negative? Too much information can be crippling. News is instantly available, especially bad news. Tragedy. Devastation. Catastrophe. Complete with photos. And some information doesn’t need to be easily accessed. Want to stalk someone, build a bomb, or disable a motor in someone’s car? You can also Google it. In years to come, we’ll see if the good outweighs the bad with all search engines.

Cell phones. Could we live life today without them? I guess we’ll never know since people from five to ninety-five years old have them. The Motorola StarTAC was billed as a personal cellular phone and put phones in the hands of ordinary people. If you could afford the $1000 price tag, that is. A flip phone,  the StarTAC was one of the first cell phones with vibrate alert and featured a flashing green indicator to show if you had network connection. Later models featured texting.

The positive? Cell phones can go anywhere you can manage a signal, from mountain tops to beach-side to jungles. They are less expensive, depending on what kind you buy, and can act as a mini-computer.

The negative? With cell phones came distracted driving, especially when texting became so easy to do. Medical Daily gives five reasons why cell phones can be harmful.

  • Negatively affects emotions.
  • Increases stress levels.
  • Increases risk of illnesses.
  • Increases chronic pain.
  • Increases risk of vision problems.

As with most things, moderation and wisdom are the key. Use Google and cell phones with this in mind, and they can make life more enjoyable.


Check out our Monday and Friday posts throughout October for more about our last twenty years.

Click to tweet: What has happened within the last twenty years? A lot. #technology #Google http://wp.me/p2YFil-3bD

Writing Prompt: Jill grabbed her cell phone and began to Google the recipe before she…

And stay tuned. In November, we’ll share information about our big Once Upon a Christmas giveaway. You won’t want to miss your chance to win…

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Tech Talk with Debi Warford

Debi Warford Design

ladyofthehavenDebi Warford is a graphic artist who specializes in making authors look good. As you can see by the example here, her book covers capture the heart of the story. Click on the picture to enlarge. Notice the detail? The model was not visiting this castle. Debi set the model’s photograph against the background. The result is seamless. Also notice how she blends the colors and uses tone. She put the light in the window of the castle and stuck a couple of stars in the night sky. The reader’s eye is drawn to detail and they will want to pick it up and look inside. That’s what writers want. Debi’s covers sell books.

So why hire a professional? Why not do it yourself? I asked Debi those questions and more.

Tell our readers three things about yourself.

1. I’m a graphic designer who decided later in life to start a new career.

2. I’m also a jewelry designer with an Etsy site. I specialize in Victorian and Elizabethan style jewelry and rosaries. You can see my pieces at https://www.etsy.com/shop/debiwarforddesigns

3. I’ve been a strong Christian since 1991 and am very involved in my church. I do quite a bit of pro bono design work for various ministries.

Why did you decide to pursue a career in this field? I was in my mid-forties and feeling very stagnated in my job. I decided to try to reconnect with the things that have always inspired me: creating beautiful things, calligraphy and drawing, and my love of books.

Why do people find it so hard to pay someone else to professionally design a book cover? I think a lot of people don’t understand what professional designers bring to the table. It’s more than the ability to use Photoshop. We are trained in the same artistic principles as fine artists, and we bring those principles to every cover we design. We are also trained in marketing principles and the psychological effects of color and object placement to make the reader want to pick up the book.

cover-back_9781939603203_2700What makes a good book cover attract attention to the viewer? Good use of color, the right typography for the subject matter, and placement of images to create the mood of the book are all important.

What are the advantages of hiring someone to help, compared to do-it-yourself templates? The biggest advantage is giving the author more time and energy to do the thing that they do best—write. Knowing that you don’t have to worry about marketing your book, that your team of editor, cover artist, formatter, etc, are all doing what they do best, frees you to write the very best book possible.

What services do you provide for your client, in addition to the artwork? I also design everything that is associated with a graphic designer: business cards, logos, swag, brochures, websites, anything you can think of that’s printed or on a professional website, has been (or should have been) touched by a graphic designer.

Anything else you’d like to say regarding your field? Being able to do what I love is a great gift, for which I give thanks to God. It is my pleasure to bring a book to life by bringing its cover to life. I have met so many wonderful people through this career, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

It is indeed a gift to be able to do what you love and when you do it well, everyone is blessed by the fruit of your labor. Thank so much for sharing your knowledge with us today.

Readers, I hope you will visit Debi Warford’s Facebook page and also her Etsy shop. DebiWarfordIf you decide to use Debi’s graphic skills for your book cover, mention her interview here. The first three customers to mention Writing Prompts and Thoughts and Ideas…Oh My, will receive 10% off the cost of her services. Contact Debi via her Facebook page, or leave a comment below.

Debi Warford graduated from Eastern Kentucky University with a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Graphic Design and a Bachelors of Business Administration in Marketing. Debi is quite adept with employing the most modern technology to the most fundamental artisan methods to create her visual messages. In addition to publishing industry specific designs, Debi also works with commercial arts, graphics, and signage work. She is also a disciplined calligrapher and her illuminated scripture manuscripts hang in many homes. Her hobbies include designing jewelry and firing timeless pottery.

Pop Culture – It’s What’s Happening

by Betty Thomason Owens

Awkward Family Photo

Awkward Family Photo

You saw something horrible on the internet, a picture you can’t get out of your mind or a sentence so badly written, it haunts you. Once you’ve seen it or read it, it’s stuck there. The easy solution is to stay away. Don’t look. Don’t read anything. No Facebook or Twitter. No pictures on Instagram. No recipes on Pinterest. Yes, they’ve even invaded your favorite DIY sites with their pictures and bad grammar.

So what do you do?

All of this may sound silly to you, especially if you’re a little behind on current events.

But it has become a part of our life. It’s called … Pop Culture. Pop Culture is current, it’s trending. It can be edgy, dark, or sensational. As simple as a photograph snapped on your phone and sent instantly to a half dozen social sites. It’s far-reaching. A selfie. You, eating Italian food at your favorite restaurant. You, hanging with your friends on the riverfront. You, posing in front of a burning building. Happening right now.

And while we’re on the subject of picture-taking, snapshots are taking off. Pictures are better than words, right? You see them everywhere, all the time. A photo snapped at just the right moment can make you famous. The day of instant sharing of information has arrived. It’s Dick Tracy’s watch. It’s almost Big Brother.

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The Wall of Gum, Seattle WA — We were here.

I remember when you got invited to your neighbor’s or your uncle’s to view the slideshow of their vacation. Long, boring. But they offered snacks and soft drinks. And they just knew you’d be riveted. Now you’ve almost gone with them on their vacation. You watched as they ascended the mountain or rode the rollercoaster. Pop Culture.

Yes, there’s a downside to all of this, but there are many positive things about it, too. You can talk face-to-face with your loved one on the other side of the world, or seven states away. I remember when that was something you only saw in a science fiction movie. Now we take it for granted. We get upset if our cellphone coverage cuts out and we can’t talk to Mom or send a text to our BFF from the top of Pike’s Peak.

Our cars synchronize with our phones so we can touch a screen or speak something out loud and a call is made or answered, a text sent or received. We’re never really free from distraction. Such is our life, if we so choose. This is Pop Culture.

theresa 173_peSo this is one opinion, my idea of Pop Culture.

Complete the prompt below for an extra entry in our quarterly drawings! Submit your completed writing prompt via Comments…

What is your favorite pop culture? It can be past or present. Share it in the comments below. Or use this picture as a writing prompt. Tell us what you see, give it your own slant. Have fun with it.

It’s Pop Culture!