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S2/E31: Audio for Authors: Audiobooks, Podcasting, and Voice Technologies by Joanna Penn

Updated: Oct 22, 2021

It’s our September writing business episode! Today we’re going to dig into Audio for Authors by Joanna Penn.

A little about Joanna Penn (quoting her author page): “Joanna Penn writes non-fiction for authors and is an award-nominated, New York Times and USA Today bestselling thriller author as J.F.Penn. She’s a podcaster and an award-winning creative entrepreneur. Her site, TheCreativePenn.com has been voted in the Top 100 sites for writers by Writer’s Digest.”

So far she’s written 30+ books and sold more than 600,000 books in 149 countries and has been translated into 6 languages. She also runs a small press, Curl Up Press, with her husband and business partner.

She is an international professional speaker, and her podcast/vlog, The Creative Penn Podcast, has been downloaded over 4 million times in 220 countries.

Joanna is an incredibly generous and engaging writer. If you haven’t already found her podcast or her YouTube channel, go find her STAT!

This book is 412 pages, but think of it more like a dictionary than a how-to manual. There are numerous, detailed resources, guidelines, and instructions for the three categories (Audiobooks, Podcasting, and Voice Technologies). This time I’ll be covering each of those topics in one bullet point of my…


1. Audiobooks are having a moment. According to the Audio Publishers Association, audiobooks in the U.S. have experienced seven years of double-digit growth. In the U.K. audiobook sales are projected to overtake ebook sales this year. While Penn shares lots of suggestions and tips on how to collaborate with companies or voice actors to produce your audiobook, she urges you to consider narrating your own book and offers resources and guidance on how to do that successfully. From the nitty-gritty (e.g. always start a sentence with your mouth open to avoid the lip-smacking sound) to the broad perspective (e.g. licensing strategies), Penn provides an embarassment of riches no matter which way you decide to produce your audiobook.

2. Podcasting is more popular than ever. This one should be an easy sell, given you’re listening to a podcast right now! You’re in good company. Over half of Americans listen to podcasts, and they’re listening a lot. Edison Infinite Dial Report found that in 2019, weekly audio listeners were spending almost 17 hours a week tuned in. You may not want to start your own podcast (though she has lots of information if you choose to go that route). If that’s the case, Penn urges you to pitch to podcasters for guest spots and lists off the ways to manage that process. Once you’ve landed a spot, she offers ways to make sure your appearance goes well by suggesting ways to “be a great podcast guest.”

3. Audio as a writing tool. Penn outlines four major ways that audio can enhance your writing life:

  • SPEECH TO TEXT – She spells out how far dictation has come and proposes that you try writing your first drafts of anything (i.e. novels articles, podcast episodes, etc.) using dictation tools, free or otherwise.

  • TEXT TO SPEECH – Once you’ve written that first draft (or even after you’ve made your first round of revisions). Penn suggests you try using tools like Speakd or Natural Readers to listen to your manuscript while editing.

  • VOICE ASSISTANTS AND SMART SPEAKERS – If you’re not already using Siri, Alexa, and Google for research assists, give them a whirl! In addition, you can use these tools to keep up on your reading in your genre. Alexa has read me several books this year from my Kindle library while I was doing chores around the house. (And once your books are published, don’t forget to ensure that your books can be read here, too!)

  • ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE – Penn gives you a glimpse at what’s just around the corner in AI (think “human-level voice for audiobook narration).

HACK: Elbow Room

One of the biggest reasons to give audio some thought right now is that it’s simply less crowded than ebooks or print. While at the moment, the cost of entry into audio is still higher than it is to produce print-on-demand books, it is not prohibitively expensive.


“The process of editing for audio narration has helped me become a better writer and improved my creative work. You have to think about language, sound, and how words will land on the ear of the listener. You have to expand your vocabulary to avoid repetition. You have to structure the flow of the book carefully.” Joanna Penn

I hope this was helpful! Next episode (September 24, 2020) I’ll bring you my three things (and a hack!) from K.M. Weiland’s Structuring Your Novel.



Fellow author Robin Knabel and I recently posted a new episode of our podcast, Unsettling Reads. Come check out our spoiler-free review of Wonderland by Jennifer Hillier. Visit www.UnsettlingReads.com to browse our other reviews of books from the crime, fantasy, horror, literary, mystery, sci-fi, suspense, and thriller genres. And a reminder to look for Robin’s short story in the summer issue of The Raven Review!

Until then. . .

Happy writing, people!



Check out other writing books by Joanna Penn

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