Becoming an Audiobook Author-Tony Guerra
HB: Alright, so today, we have a special guest on the Talk to Your Pharmacist podcast. Our guest, Tony Guerra, is a Maryland pharmacy graduate that teaches college chemistry and pharmacology. He precepts in academic rotation focused on face-to-face classroom teaching and educational publishing. He’s published and/or authored 14 audiobooks and is finishing a pharmacology textbook for a national publisher this summer. His primary goal is to make complex science both engaging and accessible. Tony, welcome to the Talk to Your Pharmacist podcast!
TG: Hillary, thanks for having me.
HB: Well, thanks for being here. And you know, as a fellow podcaster, if our listeners have heard of Tony, he’s over at the Pharmacy Leaders podcast. Go check out some of his information there. So Tony, now that our listeners have heard just a little about your background, maybe you can share a little bit about your personal life.
TG: Well, I’ve got triplet 7-year-old daughters, and that’s kind of a big part of my life. They were born a little bit premature, 29 months and three days — or 29 weeks and three days. And it was a bit harrying from there, but otherwise, it’s super fun. And then other than that, I like running. And the CrossFit Open starts — well, they announce it tonight. So CrossFit, running, and triplets. That keeps me busy.
HB: Yeah. I know that you’re a big runner and are always getting in miles, whether it be at a pharmacy conference, you’re fitting it in or, you know, trying to raise three kids with your wife. So that’s awesome. So Tony, you’ve gotten a lot of awesome work doing audiobooks, which is a very unique space for pharmacists. So yeah, I just wanted to dive in a little bit more about, you know, how did you decide to start doing audiobooks? And maybe share a little bit more about how that’s been successful. I know you’ve been able to add a whole additional pharmacist’s salary, even, by doing that. So share maybe some of the steps and how you were able to start doing the audiobooks. That would be very interesting.
TG: Well, the only way things like this fit into somebody’s life, especially somebody who has kids and things like that is that it kind of aligns with my job. And it actually was somewhat required because under the new ADA guidelines, anybody who has federal money has to provide multiple ways of getting the content to the students. So you can’t just do the lecture if you’re going to teach an online class. You have to have the audio, you have to have a way for them to read it and things like that. So it was at first just something to fulfill a requirement that they needed to be able to hear it. But what I found is that students really don’t have much time, and they started picking it up on the way to school. And if you can make something engaging that is normally something that’s a lot of work for them, a textbook to read, then it’ll be something that works well. So I didn’t mean for it to do so well. It just happened to do so well. I just got lucky in some sense. But I had written a book three or four years before that. And it just was a matter of putting it into audio. And in terms of competition, there’s significantly less competition in the audiobook space than there is in, for example, like the Kindle where you have millions and millions of people against you. And if you can get a niche, you don’t have very many people competing against you at all. And I was going to talk a little bit later about some of the collaborations I’ve had with other pharmacists that have social networks and that have kind of missions that were similar to mine. And we’ve been very successful, having over 1,200 sales in, gosh, just a couple of months, with Blair and Brandon and Eric from various platforms.
HB: That’s amazing. And I mean, I just personally, how many times have you seen students or, you know, you were a student, and you’re trying to get your workout in or you’re trying to do something and how amazing would it have been to be able to study those textbooks if they were in audio format. So I think you’re really onto something there. So Tony, tell a little bit about maybe how like time and how much is invested in actually creating an audiobook. Did you have to get a publisher or anything? Or yeah. I mean, I think a lot of people are just, that’s such a new area. Maybe just a few little tips might be helpful.
TG: Oh, OK. Yeah. So it actually, everything’s self-published. I do have one book, which is a textbook, and I wrote half of it that I got paid a certain amount for the actual book. And then this new one that’s coming up, I actually get a percentage, which is pretty rare these days. They’d prefer to just pay you x amount of dollars. But this one, I’ll get a percentage. And I’m not saying I’m going to end up as Koda Kimble or anything like that, but when it comes to picking an audiobook narrator, you’ve got many, many choices. But the magic number tends to come around $300-400 per finished hour. And what a finished hour means is that at the end of their time making it, producing it, putting it all together, that hour is done. So the one book that sells the best is seven hours long. So at $400 per finished hour, it costs me about $3,000 to do it. And that was a big bet. And it just worked out. But I kind of wanted to do it, so at the same time, I got lucky at the same time that it worked out. But $300-400 per finished hour is what you would expect to pay. So let’s say you had a book — and you don’t have to have a print book, so it’s a lot easier than that. All you need is a Word document and every 9,300 words becomes a finished hour.
TG: So if you’ve got a book of 9,300 words, then you’ve got a finished hour. But one kind of tip for your listeners is that audible listeners like to use their credits. So the higher you are over 6 or 7 hours, the more value they feel because they all pay the same for each credit. So it’s kind of better to have a book that’s somewhere about 60,000-70,000 words. That’s really where you want to be.
HB: Wow. That is fascinating. And so “Memorizing Pharmacology” has been one of your biggest ones, and I know you’ve even got a YouTube channel. So we definitely want to chat about that as well because you’ve been able to maximize that. Do you find that you’re able to generate I guess promoting your books by making your YouTube channel available? Or maybe share a little bit about that.
TG: Yeah, that’s actually where all the sales came from. And I was really — I had no idea at the time that this was happening. So I just did a two-hour video, which was a 2-hour short of the actual book. And the first thought is, oh my gosh, I’m giving this away for free. No one’s ever going to buy the book. And YouTube is actually I think the third largest search engine or second largest search engine in the world, and you don’t necessarily think of it that way. You just think, oh, if I need to know how to fry an egg, I just pull it up on YouTube. And I don’t think, OK, well if I put this up on YouTube, and it gets a bunch of views, then people are going to say, “Wow, I’d really like to listen to you in the book,” or “I’d really like to have the book.” And that’s what I found out. So there are two kind of YouTubers. There’s the YouTuber who has a lot of views per video or there’s a YouTuber like me that has so many videos that I get a lot of views. And I have just short of 1,500 videos.
HB: Oh, wow.
TG: And that’s why I have close to 5 million views. I wish I was popular. Matthew McConaughey says, “Alright, alright,” and he gets 3 million views. So I wish I had that popularity and celebrity. But I saw somewhere that you want to put I think 1,000 videos out to get 1 million views is the easiest way to do it.
HB: OK. Just keep producing content then, huh?
TG: Yeah, just keep grinding it out. And I had no idea that I would actually get any money from it. And I just one day, I was like, let me go see if I have any money in that Google account or whatever it was, and there was $1,500. And I was like, “Cool!” I just have to put in this pin or something, and then there’s the check for $1,500. So it was kind of cool to get that extra money. But the money is not in the YouTube. The money is having something to do, something to promote on YouTube. And Blair, for example, is very high-end, very high quality products that cost a bit more, where I have good products, but I have to sell a ton of them. Many, many products. So we just are in different spaces. So it kind of also depends on what space you’re in. So I’m definitely a volume space. And then someone like Blair is kind of the opposite where she’s a premium space.
HB: Yeah, so talk — since we’re on the topic of collaborations, and just for our listeners — Blair Thielemier, she’s with BT Consulting and has Pharmapreneur Academy and Elevate Pharmacy Virtual Summit. I think was the very first virtual summit, which is pretty amazing. And that’s usually every spring. So that’s coming up here soon. Be sure to check that out. Tony, tell us a little bit about the type of collaborations that you’ve been working on with some of the other pharmacists in the profession.
TG: Well, like you guys, I’m just super busy. And there’s just a point where I’m like, I just can’t. I just can’t write as fast as I’d like to publish these books. So I started reaching out to three specific pharmacists about their things that they had that were not audio. So Blair had an MTM consulting book, and I was like, why is this not in audio? This would be a great book, great resource. And so I just reached out to her and said, “Hey, can I write, edit the book for the ears?” is how you would say it. So can I make it for the ear so that it’s a little bit more audio. But it actually flowed conversationally, it wasn’t a ton of work. But I think we got a great, great book that came out of it. And for her, it was just, let’s make this audiobook together. Same thing with Eric Christianson, he has had a pharmacotherapy book, “The Thrill of the Case,” which is another pharmacotherapy book. Those are each 7 hours. And said, “Hey, can I make your book for the ear?” And then, you know, we did that, and we had our collaboration. But with Brandon Dyson of TLDR Pharmacy — so there’s BT Pharmacy Consulting and Blair, there’s Eric Christianson with MedEd101.com, and then Brandon is part of a team at TLDR Pharmacy that tends to put out something like mine but at a different and higher level. So mine is really for the freshman/sophomore health professional student or even pre-pharmacy student, where Brandon is chopping down like, OK, here’s what you do with chemo. Here’s what you do with HIV. Those really tough NAPLEX topics. And I said, “Hey, let’s do an interview book for residency,” and we went back and forth, started making some audio files. And this is really kind of the key to getting it done as a busy person. We didn’t write the book, like sit down and type it. We recorded the entire thing, and it was terrible as we recorded it. And then we edited to make it much better. And then that one is done really well, a lot of students have benefited, but what was crazy was I put it on the APhA site for free under Kindle, and it has 2,100 downloads in a single day.
TG: So it would have been nice to get $10 a book for that one. We got nothing. But it benefited a lot of people, and it shows that there’s some definite needs out there that would just kind of go with your niche. It’s just a matter of figuring out what those are.
HB: Yeah. That’s amazing.
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HB: You’re very active on the APhA Engage platform, which for any listeners that are APhA members, that is basically an online ListServ, if you will, to stay up-to-date on all things APhA. They have different communities for the different special interest groups that you can be plugged into. And Tony is often sharing for free resources with students. You’re very pro-student and always, you know, promoting and putting good information out there for other pharmacists.
TG: Yeah, well, thank you. Yeah. I think I saw that you had had a residency, kind of a powwow or webinar that you helped students as well. So while we put out, you know, a couple-hour book, I think you had a much more robust something — I didn’t get to because I’m not applying for a job, but I know that you had something a bit more robust in terms of actually giving them the questions or talking about the questions with a panel.
HB: Yeah. That, I had a panel discussion. It was live, and that’s actually on one of the podcasts, so if anyone is listening to this at a later date applying for residencies, it was pretty helpful. That one’s specific to prepping for Midyear. And then I put together some other resources to walk through the entire residency process. And that’s all on Teachable at residencybootcamp.teachable.com. And so it should be evergreen content, meaning that, you know, next year, whenever students are getting for the process, they can go on there, and it’s an on-demand type course. So they can get in there and check that out. But yeah, I think in talking with students and residents, I feel like there’s just a lot of need out there about — well one, navigating your career, which I think that you and I are able to share some success stories and things about pharmacy leaders in the industry on different career paths and things, but then two is like some of the basics on like how do you interview and just some one-on-one guidance. And Ashley Klevens-Hayes is doing some in-depth one-on-one coaching. She’s with RxAshley. And for those who really want some specific career coaching, she’s putting that available as well. So all kinds of pharmacists doing fun things. So it’s really just about finding your passion and, you know, putting in some hard work and just staying with it. So Tony, maybe share a little bit about, you know, you’re maybe not teaching pharmacy students, but how did you get into the area where you are where you’re teaching pharmacology to — who is it? Like freshman and sophomore? Or you share a little bit more about how you were able to kind of get into that space.
TG: Oh, sure. So during the recession, my wife and I were in residency when we moved to Iowa. So I was older and she was new grad. And came here, and there were not a lot of jobs. And one of the jobs that was for a pharmacy technician, person to teach a pharmacy technician program. And the college actually wanted a person to teach it, but the salary was about I want to one-third a pharmacist’s salary if you want to use pharmacist’s salary as kind of a barometer. But in the recession, that was good enough. And we were fortunate that we kind of followed some of the principles the YFP team. If you don’t know those guys, the three Tims that kind of are all things financial to pharmacists. And so we could afford to have, you know, her have a job and me have a job that was quite a bit less. And I got that teaching position because I happened to be a pharmacist, and I kind of looked ahead to know that eventually, the salary would catch up. Eventually, the salary would go up to something that’s a little bit more reasonable or a lot more livable. And after a number of years, that kind of went away with some things that happened with accreditation and with pharmacy technicians. And you may not know this, but as a pharmacist, if you have 18 graduate credits in chemistry, you’re allowed to teach chemistry at a community college. If you have 18 graduate degrees in anatomy and physiology or biology, you’re allowed to teach at a community college. So while at a four-year, Vanderbilt, in your backyard, and places like that, they’re certainly going to have PhDs teaching the chemistry class, but they’re also going to charge you $50,000 a year. We charge $5,000 a year. So it’s a little bit different situation. And in terms of teaching, I’m allowed to teach chemistry and biology, anatomy/physiology. I had enough micro that I could teach that. And it was just kind of a cool opportunity to do face-to-face teaching, and all of our classrooms are under 25 people. So you’ve got a group that I’m very passionate about because my dad’s an immigrant from Peru. I know what it’s like to not speak the language or have someone in my family that didn’t speak the language, so I’ve got a lot of people that are really starting out, trying to do what they can to help their families, and so it’s one of those rare jobs you’d like to keep for the rest of your life. So I’ve been there 11 years, and it’s just been phenomenal. But I do face-to-face teaching, three chemistry sections a semester and then one online pharmacology section. And then I also have another pharmacology section for health information technology students. But it’s just nice to be able to also precept the students in the area, Iowa and Drake, and allow them to get face-to-face teaching in something that they’re confident in. So instead of oh my gosh, it’s acute care rotation, why did I make this Block 1? It’s actually quite pleasant that they know what they’re doing, they’re able to connect with the students, they’re able to work on their public speaking skills. And many people come to me just like, no, not really interested in academia. I just want to speak better in front of people. And that’s totally valid as well. But how do you get a job like this? Many of the community colleges across the country would love to have a pharmacist. I have colleagues that are chiropractors and physical therapists, podiatrists, physicians, dentists, all kinds of practices that went from clinical practice and just decided they wanted to teach full-time. And they’re able to do that at any community college if they have just 18 credits.
HB: Wow, that is fascinating. Thanks for sharing. I think a lot of people probably weren’t familiar with the teaching route. So that’s, you know, for people who have a real passion for teaching, certainly a good opportunity and has been able to open up some doors like creating some books and things for you. So Tony, as our final question, what is some advice that you would share with your younger self or for other pharmacists who are just getting started in their career?
TG: I would record a book as soon as I could. You only need an hour of content to make 9,300 words. So I would have gone back and said, “Hey, don’t worry about sitting in a computer and trying to write a book just to make a recording that’s an hour long or two hours long and cut it down to an hour. And just get the content that you’re passionate about, put it on.” And now I’m pretending that my younger self was not in the ‘90s but was able to upload Kindle. Then I would upload it to Kindle, and then I would make it into an audiobook. But I think that there’s so many pharmacists out there that have stories to tell, that have advice to share and that think that they can’t write. And I’m telling them right now that to be an author, you don’t have to write. Just record an hour or record two hours, have somebody transcribe it. I use TEMI.com to transcribe it for like $3 or something like that. And then you have a book, and you’re done.
HB: That is awesome. Well thank you, Tony, so much, for being a guest on the Talk to Your Pharmacist podcast.
TG: Hillary, thanks so much for having me.
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