As you likely noticed, voice assistant devices have been on our radar lately. This "smart" technology is embedding itself into all aspects of modern life, including how we consume entertainment. If you missed our recent post on Voice Search SEO, you'll definitely want to read that. (And check out the special offer to learn Voice Search SEO at the end of this post.)
We aim for "no author left behind" so are excited to share yet another perspective on how the advance of voice first technology is opening doors for indies. Enter Amy Stapleton and her Tellables app for Alexa, a cool idea for authors who want to get on board.
Now, here is Amy to tell you all about her vision of how writers can capitalize on voice assistant tech to share their writing via interactive stories.
What Are "Voice First" Devices?
With the growing popularity of voice assistants and smart speakers—also known as "voice first" devices—it's safe to assume you have at least a passing familiarity with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple's Siri. If you're like most people, you probably fall into one of two camps; you either embrace voice assistants for their usefulness or view them suspiciously.
No matter which camp you fall into, as an author it makes sense to be aware of how these devices could impact the world of books and stories. This new world also needs authors to pay attention, so that a diverse group of creative minds can help shape the future, rather than leaving it up to developers and technologists.
How Will Voice First Impact Authors and Readers?
Voice first technology makes it possible for smart speakers to understand and respond when people speak to them. Most owners use their devices for just a few tasks, including playing music, inquiring about the weather, and asking general questions.
BW's recent blog post outlined the need for authors to have a Voice Search SEO strategy. When people ask a voice assistant about you or your books, you don't want them to come up blank. Working on a Voice SEO plan is a smart move.
But voice assistant platforms offer other opportunities to grow your audience. Think about how savvy authors and companies have taken advantage of people's attachment to smartphones and tablets. Physical books have proven their resilience, but younger readers increasingly turn to smartphones to consume stories. The writing and reading app Wattpad has cashed in on this trend, as have chat apps offering stories in the form of choose-your-own-dialogue paths.
Could voice assistants be the new untapped frontier for interactive stories?
Voice Assistant Opportunities for Authors
Here's a list of some of the ways you can start leveraging voice assistant devices to reach your readers and potentially expand your audience:
Audiobook: No additional work required
- Got an audiobook version of your title? You're all set! Readers can ask Alexa to play the audiobook from their Echo smart speaker, connected headset, or an Alexa-enabled device in their car.
Flash briefing (Pre-recorded daily news snippet): Some work required, but not a lot
- Already have a podcast or blog with an RSS feed? Create a Flash Briefing for Amazon Alexa or a newsfeed for Google Assistant and link your existing content. Publicize your flash briefing to your network and people with smart speakers can sign up to hear your daily author update!
- Don't have a podcast? Check out tools such as Castlingo that let you record snippets of audio and upload them to a Flash Briefing with no coding required. Short audio snippets--sometimes called microcasts—could be an effective way to reach your audience with updates.
Branching narrative/Interactive story (listener chooses the next path in the story): Lots of effort required (or very little, if you leverage Amazon Alexa Blueprints)
- Check out The Magic Door (on Alexa or Google Assistant) for a lower-tech example of a branching narrative story and Jurassic World Revealed (on Alexa) for a full-blown production example.
- Are you ambitious enough to create a voice interactive adventure on Alexa or Google Assistant (perhaps as a promotion to a new book launch)? Assuming you own an Echo device, take the easy path by using one of the Adventure Story Blueprints offered by Amazon. Use the template to write the story and make it available to people in your household, to friends, or to potentially anyone with an Alexa device (if it passes Amazon's certification process).
- To create a custom experience from scratch, you'll need to do Voice User Interface (VUI) design and coding. But tools such as Voicify claim to help you build an Alexa skill or Google action with little to no coding.
Other interactive story experiences: Lots of effort (or very little, if you submit your stories to a company with a published voice app, such as Tellables)
- My company, Tellables, has been experimenting with "conversational story experiences" that offer a simple way for authors to get published on Amazon Alexa. Our "My Box of Chocolates" voice app offers bite-sized stories by independent authors in a monthly virtual (not real!) chocolate assortment.
- We accept author submissions and choose stories that fit into our chocolate box concept. All the author needs to do is write the story. We do the rest to get it quickly published to Alexa. Our voice app is an early experiment in helping authors explore the world of voice first storytelling.
- If you have an idea for an interactive story that doesn't fit the limitations of Amazon Alexa Blueprints or a Tellables voice app, you can build your own custom experience from scratch. Again, there's lots of effort involved in that route (see above), but it may be the best route for you to achieve your vision.
(You can hear a short excerpt from a My Box of Chocolates selection, "Chianti Cream" part 2, above)
Now's the Time to Experiment
The market for interactive and conversational stories on voice assistant technology is still very early. My guess is that as voice assistants improve, people will be open to more chit chat with these virtual friends, creating opportunities for writers.
We need more authors to jump into the game and explore the possibilities. But be patient and don't expect a large short-term payoff. This is about shaping the future.
Amy Stapleton is Founder of Tellables, a publisher of voice first conversational stories and tools to support authors. Stapleton is a frequent speaker at voice-related industry events, with upcoming appearances planned at VOICE Summit and Digital Book World. Stapleton is also a writer and editor of content for the Tellables voice apps, including "Tricky Genie" and "My Box of Chocolates." She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get the latest updates by following Tellables on Instagram and/or Facebook.
June Special: If you want a comprehensive, soup-to-nuts breakdown of how authors can use Voice Search to help grow their readership and their sales, we've arranged a special deal for BW readers. (If you're not sure exactly what that entails, read the prior post by Miral Sattar all about Voice Search Discoverability).
With our code BOOKWORKS, you can grab 50% off of the new Voice Search Course (plus bonuses) at Learn Self-Publishing Fast, Miral's website through June 30th only. The course includes everything you need to claim your place in the Voice Search revolution.
For a chance to win a free course (and have a bit of fun), check out our Voice Search Contest in the BW Community forum. Entry is only open to BW members so if you're not one already, you can join for free here.