Summary: In just a few weeks I’ll be speaking at Digital Book World, the premier event for digitally-aware authors taking place from Oct. 2 – 4 in Nashville, TN. I’m excited to be talking about how authors can take advantage of growing smart speaker adoption to broaden their audience.
Voice first technologies offer a huge new opportunity for writers. Over the past couple of years I’ve been exploring different ways authors can harness the powers of speech-enabled devices to enhance stories with two-way conversation. Here’s a little preview of what I’ll be discussing at DBW.
Studies of smart speaker usage show that most people enjoy passively consuming music and other audio from their Amazon Alexa, Google Home, or Apple HomePod devices. Since many readers are already choosing to enjoy books in an audio format, the easiest way for authors to reach smart speaker users is to release their titles in audiobook format. Consumers can access an audiobook by simply asking their voice assistant to pick up where they left off.
Audiobooks are a great first step, but they don’t take advantage of the true interactive capabilities of natural language-capable devices.
Most interactive fiction is built on the concept of variable storylines. Instead of presenting a story with a linear path from start to finish, the interactive story offers multiple branches, each one resulting in a different outcome or ending. Interactive narrative is also the bread and butter of many popular “story-driven” video games.
Conversational fiction hasn’t yet been defined, but I think it’s a good fit for voice assistants on smart speakers. I envision stories that offer natural opportunities for the storyteller to interact with the listener, perhaps by asking for their opinion or input. This input doesn’t necessarily have to be used to change the direction of the narrative. Instead it might be an opportunity for the storyteller to draw the listener deeper into the action, get the listener thinking, or make subtle adjustments to the story based on what personal experiences the listener brings.
Conversational storytelling, built atop speech-enabled devices, could offer a new opportunity to engage with listeners. Even if an author chooses to craft a story following a linear path, it’s still possible to add interactive elements that encourage listeners to become more reflective and engaged, ultimately increasing their overall enjoyment.
Microfiction, especially bite-sized stories that lend themselves to being heard, as opposed to read, are a great fit for voice assistant platforms. Many smart speaker users are looking for quick entertainment they can enjoy while preparing a meal, eating a snack, or relaxing after work or before bedtime. Authors can use highly “tellable” short tales to whet readers appetites and direct them to titles available in audiobook, eBook, or print format.
I look forward to exploring these ideas further during my session on voice first fiction, currently scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 3, at 10:45am as part of DBW’s New Media Book World break-out session, presented by Amazon.
If you’d like to see how we’re starting to apply the concepts of conversational storytelling and bite-sized fiction to our latest Amazon Alexa skills, I invite you to take a look at what we’re doing at Tellables. We have some exciting announcements planned to coincide with DBW! I hope to see you there.