How to Create Your First Booktrack (and Get 2,000 New Readers)

Photo by Jeff Golden / via Flickr

Photo by Jeff Golden / via Flickr

Today’s guest post is by author Laurence MacNaughton (@LMacNaugton).

When I first heard about from my literary agent, Kristin Nelson, I was fairly skeptical of the idea. Ebooks with music and sound effects, really?

But then I tried the Booktrack of the short story Dagon by H.P. Lovecraft. I’ll be honest—I was blown away. Hearing the waves lap against the side of the castaway’s lifeboat, hearing his footsteps trudging through the sand, listening to the ominous music building to a crescendo as he explored the ancient ruins …

It was a fantastic experience, and I was instantly hooked.

The first thing I did was email Hugh Howey and every other author I know, and say, “You have got to do this.”

Not only is it a bold new way to share your story, it’s actually wickedly fun to create a Booktrack.

From radio DJ to Booktrack star

Many years ago, I was a radio DJ, and I used to sit in the sound booth between shows to record promos. I’d spend hours tinkering with the tapes to get a sound effect or music clip just right, trying to make it funnier or snappier. It was grinding work.

But now, you can let software handle the drudgery, and that leaves you more time to be creative. Although the interface on Booktrack doesn’t look sophisticated, it’s more than powerful enough to get the job done, and do it well.

Plus, it’s easy to upload your text. If you don’t want to commit to using one of your own stories right away, you can select a classic like Dracula or A Tale of Two Cities from the Booktrack archive.

Choose your sounds carefully

Just highlight some of your text and a pop-up window allows you to instantly add music or sound effects. You can search through Booktrack’s well-appointed library, or upload your own sounds and music.

If you’re picky like me, you’ll spend hours sorting through sounds to find just the perfect one. The sound of footsteps scraping across gritty concrete is distinctly different from the sound of someone walking through tall grass. 

Use a soft touch

When you’re creating your first Booktrack, the biggest stumbling block is a tendency to be too heavy handed with the music and sound effects. A little goes a long way, and you don’t want to abuse the reader with a muddy overload of noise. Season the story with just enough sound to bring out its full potential. You want to end up with something that’s greater than what you started with.

Remember: there isn’t any dialogue

The slightly odd thing about a Booktrack is that there aren’t any voice actors to record dialogue. While you have plenty of excellent sounds, you have no actual voices. That’s why the stories that make the best Booktracks usually start with at least a page of action and description before we get to any really thick dialogue.

You want to give the reader a chance to become emotionally immersed in the story, and comfortable in the soundscape, before the characters start talking on the page.

Hook new readers with your story

On average, more than 1,500 readers check out each of my Booktracks, and rate them an average of 4.5 stars. And those numbers are going up. As I write this, my new Booktrack The Spider Thief has been read almost 2,400 times. One reader, Shelley Lee Riley, commented, “Wow. I’m hard to please and I loved this. I’m going to have to buy the rest of it!”

If you have a short story or a dramatic opening chapter, consider turning it into a Booktrack to catch the attention of new readers.

The sound of the future

As you become more comfortable with the sound of your stories, you may find yourself occasionally rethinking your scenes as you write. You’ll want to include more description, atmosphere, and action. It’s much more cinematic that way.

Creating a Booktrack is an exciting process. I admit that I could happily spend all day adding sound to my stories, if I didn’t have more books to write. Give it a try, and you’ll see what I mean.

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Laurence MacNaughton is the author of The Spider Thief, Conspiracy of Angels, and the Jazzy St. Clare supernatural mysteries. You can hear his Booktracks here. To learn more, visit his author website.

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