Kelly Lytle from Findaway Voices shares his takeaways from the 2019 Smarter Artist Summit in Austin.

The 2019 Smarter Artist Summit wrapped last week. I was reminded, as I am following every conference, how rewarding it is to speak with authors and feel the energy of their creativity and enthusiasm as we get to discuss plans and strategies for what they’re creating next.

After every conference (or Summit in this case) I try to distill the time into a single thought or idea that both captures the show’s theme for me and inspires me forward. This year—following hundreds of insightful conversations and hearing countless valuable insights—the one thought most resonating with me is a short quote from Johnny (Truant) and Sean (Platt), two of our hosts for the Summit.

They shared a powerful, three-word message in their presentation kicking off Tuesday morning. The quote said simply, “Create the future.”

I scribbled the words into my notebook and now have that note pinned above my desk. I love this quote. It’s crucial to what we’re up to with Findaway Voices this year.


Create the Foundation

The business of being an author is complex. Markets can change sharply and sprinting to keep pace with the next big idea quickly becomes overwhelming. Paths to success that seem crystal clear in the morning somehow become so murky by afternoon.

There are hard questions requiring nuanced answers from each author (or business, in our case). Questions like: How many new titles should I release in a year? Or in a month? Should I go wide or be exclusive? What mischief are the algorithms up to today? What tricks will they unveil tomorrow? How can I compete in a crowded advertising market? And for us: how can we best help authors succeed with audio?

As I considered how these and other similar questions fit into a somewhat esoteric idea like the future, another thought from the Summit grounded me: to create what’s next requires hard work on the foundation today. And while speakers shared several foundation-building tactics, I’ll focus on three that stood out to me.

Set your strategy

Your strategy will be unique to you. It could borrow heavily from other’s success (tip, read Steal Like an Artist) but it must fit with what works for you. Not every trend is worth following and many shiny objects need polished once you’re up close. As several speakers discussed, success comes from building a framework to win over the long-term, while still offering enough freedom to experiment smartly with new tactics and ideas.

Form great partnerships

Put simply: work with people who will help you create long-term, sustainable success. Hearing this reminded me of an example from our business. Last year, a narrator had a rough experience with Findaway Voices. We screwed up, and he was not happy. Thankfully, the narrator and I met at an industry conference. We had a beer and shared a bucket of laughs commiserating over past screw-ups. Speaking in person created a relationship. We’ve since worked on several amazing audiobooks together, and he’s one of my closest friends in the industry.

Cultivating genuine, personal relationships through meaningful conversations will always be a cornerstone for success. And if you’re ever bored and wanting someone to chat with, just send me a clip of your favorite southern soul song. It’s guaranteed to start a lengthy back-and-forth. I'll also be at a good portion of the 19 shows and industry events currently on our schedule for 2019... I hope our paths will cross!

Commit to the hard work

It might be setting a forward release schedule and sticking to it by making small, incremental progress each day. Or finally reading Tami Labrecque’s must-read Newsletter Ninja and deploying the tactics she shares because—if implemented—they will help you grow your authentic voice with current and future fans. Hell, maybe it’s just waking up 15 minutes earlier, so you have more time to read before the day starts (yours truly). The real work that will help you succeed is often-mundane, typically not glamorous, and rarely seen. But, as the Summit did a nice job emphasizing, attending to these small details compounds into long-term success.

Create the Future

This is true, too, for Findaway Voices. We’re committed to creating a future that isn’t owned by a single retailer, especially one whose focus is on promoting its own content at the expense of creators. We believe creators should have more control over where and how they reach listeners—and receive fair royalties based off prices they’ve set.

For us, this means a relentless focus on working together with authors, narrators, and our industry partners to build a future in audio with more opportunities than exist today.

It means never wavering on giving you more—more direct sales partners, more markets, more flexibility, more creative freedom, and more control over how your audiobooks are priced, promoted, and marketed to listeners.

It means creating easier paths for authors and narrators to connect, create new works together, and have these works reach listeners around the world without the exclusivity or price restrictions meant to preserve Audible’s status quo.

I left Smarter Artist thinking about the future we're creating and the foundation we're building together.

So, what’s next? Well, we keep working to create the future.

Kelly Lytle
by Kelly Lytle

Kelly works closely with independent authors and small to mid-sized publishers to connect them with a community of world-class narrators, create audiobooks, and market and sell those audiobooks everywhere in the world.