An Interview with Paper Raven Books’ founder and CEO, Morgan Gist MacDonald
In this interview with Morgan Gist MacDonald, the founder and CEO of Paper Raven Books, MacDonald discusses the benefits of audiobooks for increasing accessibility, tips for author-narrators, new audiobook releases, the clarity that comes through writing a first draft, and the value of taking the long-view of success.
Morgan Gist MacDonald began her career in academia, as a Sociologist, but soon found the entrepreneurial pull to take her skills as a researcher, writer, teacher, and leader into building a publishing company, from the ground up. With more than 15 years’ experience in writing, editing, and publishing books, Morgan leads the Paper Raven Books team in developing the best practices for publishing successfully in the modern, digital age.
Tell us about Paper Raven Books.
We are a team of editors, designers, publicists, and marketing gurus.
We take authors through the whole process of publishing their book: from concept through comprehensive editing to professional publication and launch.
The people who work with us, at Paper Raven Books, like all of the advantages of self-publishing but do not want to publish solely on their own. If they’ve already written a manuscript and are ready to start editing, we help them get the book finished and done, published, and launched. We meet people where they are in their process. Predominately, we do publish e-books and audiobooks for independent authors.
Increasingly, audiobooks are becoming more of a part of that process because authors realize that people are buying audiobooks at a much higher rate. Typically, after we launch the ebook and the physical version, authors come back to do the audio version.
Why did you decide to start working with Audivita Studios?
I realized it would be best to partner with professionals.
I had my own audiobook produced years before I learned about Audivita. It was hard to work with a freelancer and oversee the audiobook creation process myself. I wasn’t sure what all the bits and pieces of sound engineering meant, and the whole back-and-forth process was time-consuming. My skillset in editing word files is totally different than editing audio files.
I met David Wolf, the founder of Audivita Studios, and I knew it was a perfect fit. I decided it’s best to partner up. I thought, let’s make it easy, and work on projects together. Fortunately, we both have similar values of being a high-touch service – doing customized work and aligning with the client’s vision.
How have audiobooks benefited your authors?
Audiobooks are reaching a completely different market. There’s a whole segment of people who are now readers because audiobooks are available to them.
On the one hand, in the book world, we consider readers to be a certain type of person: the stereotype of someone who enjoys sitting down with a book by the fire, relaxing in a cozy corner with a cup of coffee. On the other hand, audiobook listeners are on the go. They’re walking, doing chores, jogging, and commuting to work, and they’re listening to books while they do it. Consequently, audiobooks reach a new demographic of book lovers.
Of course, there is overlap. Some people like physical books, ebooks, and audiobooks. Admittedly, I am one of those people. Depending on the context, I will read an ebook, a physical book, and listen to an audiobook at the same time.
Most notably, there is a much more expanded readership demographic available with audiobooks. Namely. the accessibility of audiobooks today opens the door to a wider market for us to transmit ideas and stories to those who may be prevented from reading physical books.
Admittedly, some people cannot read physical books. they may be physically challenged, visually impaired, have dyslexia, or simply do not have the time to devote to reading; there could be any number of things that have prevented them from reading books in the past.
Similarly, this wider demographic extends to younger audiences. For instance, my 12-year-old has been listening to audiobooks on her Alexa since she was nine years old. From youtube voice commands to podcasts to voice memos, so much of the next generation’s engagement is voice first. Basically, they are audio trained from a young age.
Because of this, all books are eventually going to be put into audiobooks, whether that’s an AI or a human reading the audio.
What success tips do you have for people who are considering recording an audiobook?
When you finish your book manuscript, before you send it to the printer, read your own book out loud to practice.
If you publish your book, then later decide you’re ready to start making an audiobook, the process is going to drive you up a wall if you find something that is awkwardly phrased. Similarly, if you end up hiring a professional voice actor, having already read the entire book aloud will make it easier for them to narrate as well.
On another note, if you are going to narrate your own book, you can be creative about it. You can play with the medium. For instance, when Mike MiChalowicz and Gary Vaynerchuk narrate their own audiobooks, they’ll just go off on a rant. Something mildly related to whatever they’re reading. It sounds like they just put the book down and start talking into the microphone. Then they pick the book back up and continue.
It’s great because now there’s this cult following. Now people really love Mike MiChalowicz and Gary Vaynerchuk when they release a book. In fact, I always buy physical books, and the audiobook is going to be different. People can buy multiple versions of the same book.
Are there any upcoming titles from Paper Raven Books that you are particularly excited about?
There are several audiobooks we are making with Audivita Studios. Dave Stolz is releasing an audiobook called Women, Divorce, and Money, about women seeking financial freedom. It is an issue that’s on a lot of women’s minds who are in the process of negotiating a divorce.
Another book that Audivita Studios produced for us is Alpha Dogs by Doug Bowers, a parable business book. There are seven dogs on a farm. The narrated version had seven different voices, all recorded independently, and were pulled together into one narrative story.
It goes to show the different avenues of creativity you can follow with audiobooks. The how-to instructional, inspirational kind of self-help book, and the playful seven dogs on a farm. They are totally different experiences.
Are there any insights that you would like to share with our audience?
If you have an idea, start writing today.
My encouragement is if you feel like you’ve got a book on the brain that you’re still figuring out, sit down and start writing! There’s clarity that comes through thinking, and there’s a different type of clarity that comes through writing.
I have worked with writers directly for 15 years. Most writers, by the time they get to the point that they are writing their first draft of their book, look back and say, “I wish I had started earlier.”
Often, they feel intimidated by the process, challenged with thoughts like, “ I don’t know enough. I haven’t done enough research. I haven’t done enough thinking. I haven’t figured this out yet.” Consequently, they delay writing the book for quite a long time.
There will be a lot of clarity that comes through that messy first draft. Often, it’s not until you sit down and commit yourself to write that all of your ideas start to come together in a much more coherent picture.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career as a publisher?
Stick with it.
I have learned that the breadcrumbs to success are sometimes smaller than we want them to be. Often, we have this idea of making it big. Consequently, there has to be this big splash, and certainly, the book world has a lot of that anticipation that builds up for the launch.
I have noticed that the people who actually achieved long-term success didn’t mind starting small and growing steadily. It might take a few years to feel that traction.
Nevertheless, that does not mean that your idea isn’t great. It does not mean that you are not a talented author. It just means that the world is a busy, noisy place.
The folks who stick it out month over month, year over year, decade over decade. Those are the ones that really create a lasting legacy. You don’t have to know exactly what legacy you’re going to build; you just have to keep taking steps to discover it along the way.
Learn more about Paper Raven Books at https://paperravenbooks.com/