Summary: The new generation of smart speakers offer a fantastic opportunity for fiction authors to share their stories and gain new fans. So what’s all the hype about Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant and why should independent writers pay attention?
If you’re a writer it’s time to start paying attention to voice first devices. I’m talking about the Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant line of smart speakers. Ignoring these odd-looking cylinders and muffin tops that are popping up in more households every day, could end up costing you an untapped source of avid new fans.
You probably already know that people are consuming fiction in all sorts of new ways. While most people still engage with stories by reading physical books or ebooks, a growing audience listens to stories on podcasts, reads bite-sized episodes in mobile apps, or lives the story via a chat app or game. Especially fiction fans under the age of 30 are seeking stories via these “alternative” channels.
You can now add voice assistants living in smart speakers to the list of alternative channels for the consumption of fiction.
Stories could be heard on Amazon’s Alexa platform almost from the start. Amazon quickly realized it made sense to connect Alexa to a user’s Kindle books and Audible account. She can play any Audible book you’ve purchase (or one that Amazon has made available for free) and she can read any of your Kindle books aloud (though you have to overlook the lackluster performance of her not quite human-sounding voice).
Other types of “voice-driven” stories started sounding off on Echo devices almost as soon as Amazon opened its toolset to third party developers. Alexa turned out to be a fairly good storyteller. There were some issues and constraints with her performance, but it was clear that people expected a talking voice assistant to be able to tell original stories.
Listeners enjoyed hearing their Audible books and podcasts. But it was apparent that they also craved shorter snackable stories. The internal team at Amazon authored some original content for Alexa. But there was a big gap to fill.
Third-party creators stepped in to start offering all sorts of interactive stories. Some of these offerings have been wildly successful and have grown large followings. The Magic Door by the Huntwork family is a sterling example. Millions of people have engaged with this imaginative interactive storyworld and the fictional adventure continues to expand as a lucrative franchise.
So is it too late for you to get in on the game? Absolutely not. The world of voice first fiction is just starting to take shape. Now is the time to begin exploring the opportunities. One of the main goals of this blog is to help writers understand the potential and provide useful resources for crafting a successful voice first fiction strategy. You can check out my previous posts What is Voice First Fiction? as well as a short primer on Voice First Fiction Categories. I also look forward to exploring this topic at the Digital Book World conference this October.
Head over to Florian Hollandt’s awesome Medium publication Voice Games for more great insights into the world of voice first fiction. Florian has been analyzing popular voice games on the Alexa and Google Assistant platforms. His in-depth reviews highlight the winning elements of successful story-driven voice experiences. I look forward to referencing his work here, as it provides a wealth of helpful tips to voice first fiction creators.