Amanda Palmer on Recording Her Audiobook, the Weird Places She Writes, and Fear

If you already follow Amanda Palmer, author of The Art of Asking, on Twitter, then you probably know that lately she’s been busy grieving, battling Lyme Disease, recording with her father, and preparing to have her first baby with her husband Neil Gaiman. So we were incredibly pleased that she took time out from her nonstop, go-go-go life, to answer a few questions for us via email.

[Judy Oldfield] My understanding of the way audiobooks are made is that narrators—even when it’s the author narrating their own work—are given a script that they can’t stray from. It’s hard for many authors. Was it hard for you?

[AP] No, it wasn’t hard. It was actually really helpful to be in the recording studio at that exact moment. I was in New York for three straight days of recording and the book itself was in final editing stages, which meant that I was sitting there with a pencil, changing lines, scratching out repetitive words, saying things like, “Wait . . . that doesn’t actually makes sense, does it?” And I’d stop and ask the audio engineers, “Does that makes sense?” And they acted as editors along with me.

So in a sense, I was still finishing up the script, and lucky for me. Because reading aloud brings new problems into light that silent reading just doesn’t highlight. And it also really solidified my own personal relationship with the book, to just sit there for three days and read the whole thing, in front of an audience, even if the audience was just audio engineers and a rep from the publisher. It was like doing a live performance and seeing how the emotional arcs actually hit me, and hit the people listening. Truth be told, there were two or three times I looked out the studio into the control room and made sure they were crying . . . or at least close to crying. I choked up at least three times.

[JO] In The Art of Asking, you wrote about needing a lot of privacy in order to create. What’s the most unusual place you’ve written something (be it blog posts, your book, or music)?

[AP] Ha. Well—I’ve written in a lot of strange places, especially since getting a phone and being able to leave myself notes and voice memos anytime. Bathrooms everywhere. Friends’ homes. Subways. Closets at parties. One of my favorite birth-spots for a full song was in a keg room of a nightclub in Portland, OR, where I wrote “Astronaut”. I held a gun to my head that night because the guy I was writing it about was in the audience for one night and one night only. And so I just did it. An immediate audience has often been my mother of invention.

[JO] People have very strong opinions on you and your work. I have a friend who says that listening to your former band The Dresden Dolls got her through her divorce. But I’ve also read critics who’ve dismissed you for anything from your appearance to your mistakes (real or perceived). Any idea why you provoke such strong responses from people?

[AP] Sure. I think people with strong emotions elicit strong emotions. It used to bother me more, but I’ve come to realize that it’s just part of the game of life. It’s especially true when you’re a woman, and the more of the world I see, the more I see people being fearful of women who live out loud, mistakes or no. And I figure my job is just to get on with it, and not to cower, and not to try to please people.

[JO] Your TED Talk has 7 million views. Your book, The Art of Asking, is a bestseller. What’s the most surprising thing that’s happened to you because of the talk or the book?

[AP] The most surprising? Honestly the most surprising thing is when I’m walking down the street in New York and a super bad-ass looking hoodlum-esque teenager passes me on the street, takes his headphones off, and says, “Wait, are you that TED girl? I just saw your TED talk and I loved it. That asking shit is dope.” That’s happened multiple times. And I’m always astoundingly happy.

[JO] You’ve recently gone back to crowdfunding, though in a newer, more sustainable way. How has Patreon helped you as an artist?

It’s liberated me. There’s 5,500 people currently entrusting me with their credit cards basically saying, “Go ahead and make art, and charge as needed, forever,” which feels like a massive relief and responsibility at the same time. It’s like I got access, suddenly, to a magic highway spur that bypasses the entirety of the mass media, the music industry, and the entire establishment.

But there are moments when it just feels surreal to be so far off the grid, with absolutely nobody in the “real world” paying attention to the madness that is going on outside the city.

But then again, that’s the modern world. There’s always so much going on nowadays that you don’t know about. Sometimes it feels like me and my fans live in a cave, and I worry that we need more air.

[JO] is a new company. We’re the independent bookstore for digital audiobooks. As a writer, an entrepreneur, and an advocate of independent bookstores, what advice do you have for us?

[AP] Don’t let Amazon and Audible get you down.

[JO] What challenges or fears are you facing right now? What are you doing to overcome them?

Oh dear lord . . . nice timing. I’m eight months pregnant. I have NO IDEA what is about to happen to me, I feel like I’m about to fall of an existential cliff, and I’m just bracing myself for an unknown reality over which I will have little control. And what am I doing to overcome them? Nothing, really, except trying to put every piece of zen wisdom I’ve ever lean red into practice. There is only now, now and now. And now. Whatever happens: birth, death, change, catastrophe . . . it will still be now, and it will still be fine. There is never ever any space for regret or fear. It’s poison.

The Art of Asking is our Book of the Month. Use the code WeLoveAmanda at check out to get 25%.

Book of the Month: The Art of Asking

Each month, the Libro team selects a book that we believe will spark dialogue and discussion for our listeners. Our goal is to create an open space for our audiobook listening community to ponder ideas, pick minds, and talk about what we love most: books. This month we’ve chosen The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help by Amanda Palmer.

I was initially drawn to this novel after hearing about Amanda Palmer’s fascinating life story, one that wanders down many paths but ultimately ends in the single realization that asking is a key component of success in life. Frozen as a living statue, Amanda Palmer posed in a wedding dress asking passersby for their pocket change. As a musician, she asked for the literal support of her audience as she flung herself into their arms crowdsurfing. And when Palmer asked fans to support her independent album, she was met with the world’s most successful music Kickstarter. Amanda Palmer is a singer-songwriter, crowdfunding pioneer, and TED speaker, who is definitely not afraid to ask for help. Her TED Talk, on which this book is based, has more than seven million views.

In her memoir, Palmer delves into a paralyzing fear so many people face, that of admitting to needing and asking for help, and how it affects their lives and relationships (including her marriage to novelist Neil Gaiman). Through her revelations, she discovers the emotional, philosophical, and practical aspects of asking for help.

The Art of Asking will inspire its readers to rethink their ideas about asking, giving, art, and life. There is a piece of advice for everyone here—something to take away, apply, or learn from. Not only do her ideas have practical applications in real life relationships and day-to-day situations, but also in career and business decisions. I loved her thoughts on building community. In asking for help we allow others to support us. Moments like this are the foundation for relationships, communities, and life. Palmer tells us of the value in taking risks by asking for what we want and need, a skill most people shy from. Palmer flips the idea of asking as “weakness” on its head, calls it strength, and shows her audience that some of the best creations are those that are built together.

I also absolutely loved the music this audiobook features. It’s a special addition not found in most books. Hearing both her songs and writing allowed me to grasp the entirety of all that is Amanda Palmer, to see her from all sides as a musician, performer, speaker, and writer.

This is a book that speaks for itself. Amanda Palmer has a unique perspective full of valuable, applicable, and unparalleled ideas on life. Palmer’s story is just plain interesting, so it’s no wonder that her words spring to life and make for a tremendously entertaining listen.

The Art of Asking is our August Book of the Month. Make sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to join our month-long conversation.

In the News

The most interesting people I know keep apprised of the world around them. Not only do they read the news, but they go out of their way to research and discuss what they find in the news.

Politics are ruled by narratives, whether it be on television or in print, so it’s essential to supplement and challenge common knowledge by listening to people’s own stories. Here are some books we’ve picked as essentials for anyone who wants to know more about people and stories that have been in the news recently.

Level Zero Heroes

Level Zero Heroes

By Michael Golembesky

Michael Golembesky covers the story of U.S. Marine Special Operations Team 8222 whose operation was compromised when two paratroopers drowned in an effort to retrieve air-dropped supplies in 2010 in Bala Murghab. This is no doubt a tragic story, but it is also an unmistakably heroic one, in which Team 8222 worked together to reclaim the valley from the Taliban.


13 Hours

By Mitchell Zuckoff

Boston University journalism professor Mitchell Zuckoff is the author of 13 Hours and used extensive research and firsthand accounts from team members to piece together the fragmented stories that surround the terrorist attack on the American Annex on September 11, 2012 in Benghazi. There is a lot of speculation that surrounds the deaths of Navy SEALS Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, so here Zuckoff sets the record straight, in a thrilling and detailed account you won’t want to miss.

[vimeo 121327607 w=500&h-280]

I Am Malala

By Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai has proven herself to be a most-deserving winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, through championing girls’ education, equality, and peace, even while the Taliban threatened to take her life. Most importantly she has become a global symbol for change in a world that many people see as unalterable. This is a must listen because Malala’s reputation as leader for her generation is constantly growing.


Talk Like TED

By Carmine Gallo

Carmine Gallo has compiled nine distinct tactics for being an effective public speaker using TED speakers as examples. TED Talks are certainly a good way to find out what’s going on all around the world, and after listening to Talk Like TED, you will be able to join the ranks of these speakers and tell your own story like a pro.

[vimeo 132454389 w=500&h=280]

American Sniper

By Chris Kyle

American Sniper details Chris Kyle’s experience, both as a family man at home and as the most lethal sniper ever in US Military history out in the field. His life-story is so extraordinary and controversial that you will want to hear it first-hand.


The Intelligent Investor

By Benjamin Graham

Since The Intelligent Investor’s original publication in 1949, it has been constantly circulating the public sector, which is a testament to the durability of Benjamin Graham’s message. If you’re looking for a reliable advisor for all of your investment quandaries, you’ve come to the right spot.

What books would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments!

Book of the Month: What If?

Last month, we selected Mindset by Dr. Carol Dweck as our first ever Book of the Month. We discounted the book all month long, and brought you additional coverage of Mindset through interviews, guest posts, audioclips, and more.

This month, I’m thrilled to say that we’ve chosen another fantastic book: What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe. The subtitle really says it all. Randall, the creator of the hilarious comic website xkcd, tackles ridiculous hypothetical scenarios with all of the rigor of more so-called serious questions.

For example, one questions asks what would happen if you jumped into a pool of spent nuclear waste. As it turns out, this depends on where exactly you are swimming. In some parts of the pool, you’d hardly receive any radiation at all and would be just fine. But if you were to swim down to the bottom and back, you’d probably die as a result.

Another question looks at the statistical probability of finding your soulmate. It’s a pretty low chance. If the government created a sort of ChatRoulette for potential soulmates, and you spent eight hours on it each day, everyone would get matched up in a few decades.

Other questions involve a mole of moles, how fast a dropped steak would have to fall in order to cook it, an earth with no sun, and much more.

These are the sort of questions that your physics teacher would have sent you out of class for asking. But when it comes to Munroe, the crazier the question, the better. He puts in a great deal of time and effort researching his answers, asking experts, finding the answers to equations, and writing pages-long explanations. Each answer is based firmly in math and science.

None other than Wil Wheaton (Star Trek: The Next Generation, Stand by Me) provides the narration for the What If audiobook. He brims with enthusiasm for the subject matter as he reads.

Check out the TED Talk Munroe did, in which he delves into baseball speeds and the plethora of Google’s data.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to hear all of our What If coverage this month!

Malcolm Gladwell: Entertaining and Insightful

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

Certainly that is the case time and time again in Malcolm Gladwell’s invariably entertaining books. Looking at the world through Gladwellian glasses means homing in on details people don’t often think about. It means asking big and small questions to get at the truth of the matter. It means reconsidering established truths.

One of my favorite examples of Gladwell’s analysis comes from his third book, Outliers. Gladwell presents us with the list of the 75 richest people in the history of the world. This is a list historians have put together and includes everyone from the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt to Bill Gates. Of that list, Gladwell notes, 14 were born in a nine-year span in the 19th-century America. Here Gladwell asks a small question with a big answer. Why is that? Why are nearly 20% of the people on that list so close in age and from the same country?

The answer is opportunity. John D. Rockefeller (Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller), J.P. Morgan, Marshall Field, Fredrick Weyerhaeuser, and nine others were all born between the years 1831 and 1840. Because of the economics of the Civil War and postwar periods followed by the boom of the expanding railways and advent of Wall Street, these 14 were perfectly poised to reshape America and her economy. Those born a decade before were too old, stodgy, and set in their ways. Those born a decade later hadn’t come into their own yet. It always makes me wonder what the next auspicious generation will be.

Of course Gladwell doesn’t lead us to believe success is all about luck. In the same chapter that deals with the above subject he defines the now-famous 10,000-hour rule. This is the amount of time Gladwell believes it takes go from amateur to master. It is also the secret to Bill Gates’s as well as The Beatles’ prosperity. Because Bill Gates had access to a computer and began programming when he was 13 years old at the University of Washington—at a time when this was still unusual—he quickly rose to master computer programming. This sets him aside from many other highly intelligent, ambitious people of his generation who did not become multibillionaires. The Beatles played more than 1,200 shows in Hamburg between 1960 and 1964. There, they developed the skills necessary to become one of the world’s all-time greatest bands at such a young age. Gladwell points out that it takes only 20 hours a week for 10 years to achieve mastery level. In theory, anyone can do it. Gladwell admits that he himself spent about 10,000 hours writing for The American Spectator and then The Washington Post before becoming a master of his craft.

Gladwell was most recently obsessed with the old story of David and Goliath. This is the eponymous story in his latest book. In classic form, he reconsidered the two famous opponents, digging into the details of the tale. Through his critical approach, Gladwell discovered that David was not the underdog at all—Goliath was. David was fast, nimble, and well practiced with the sling, as he used it to defend his herd against predators. Goliath on the other hand was weighed down by his arm, and specifics of the story indicate that he had trouble seeing. Goliath expected David to come to him in hand-to-hand combat, but that was never David’s intention. It goes to show that life, and the stories we tell, are not always what we think they are. Gladwell fills his book with other such insights, sometimes turning what we think on its head.

But Gladwell doesn’t just concern himself with historical story or lofty anecdotes. He uses data to take on real-life problems. In his first book, The Tipping Point, Gladwell uses epidemiology to approach topics like the drop in crime rate in 1990s. He believes that crime is contagious. In the 1990s in New York City, police started targeting small crimes such as jumping the turnstiles in subways. Gladwell concludes that this directly correlates with a drop in larger crimes. Because, like disease, if crime is contagious, then reducing smaller crimes snuffs out the crime epidemic.

Through all of his data studies, anecdotes, and theories, Malcolm Gladwell remains immensely enjoyable. His writing feels like a conversation (even more so with audiobooks!) and not like a textbook.

What’s your favorite Gladwell anecdote? Let us know in the comment section. Also, check out our Malcolm Gladwell author page, where you’ll find all his audiobooks.

Watch Malcolm Gladwell’s other TED Talks here
Read Malcolm Gladwell’s work at The New Yorker here.


The Tipping Point

By Malcolm Gladwell

Gladwell’s first book, which looks at issues big and small through the lens of epidemiology. Here you’ll find a wide variety of topics from the seemingly inconsequential (shoe trends) to those that affect society as a whole (crime rates).



By Malcolm Gladwell

We think without thinking. Using scientific evidence, Gladwell examines our biases and hunches that lead to sound decisions.



By Malcolm Gladwell

What makes someone successful? Gladwell looks at this question from every angle, from someone’s date of birth to early access to education and technology, distinguishing the most successful people from everyone else.


What the Dog Saw

By Malcolm Gladwell

Gladwell selected 19 of his articles previously published in The New Yorker to fill this book. Topics include the fall of Enron, late bloomers, the variety of spaghetti sauces, and the inventor of the birth-control pill, just to name a few.


David and Goliath

By Malcolm Gladwell

In typical form, Gladwell flips everything we think we know on its head, looking at the stories of underdogs and success. Besides the eponymous Biblical story, Gladwell details Northern Ireland, revenge scenarios, civil rights leaders, and more.

To hear more about Malcolm Gladwell and similar authors, sign up for the newsletter. We’ll send great audiobook news right to your inbox.

Book of the Month: Mindset

At we believe in the power of online communities.

We’ve all seen people, separated by geography, come together to do amazing things on Twitter, blogs, and forums. With this in mind, we’re selecting a Book of the Month each month.

Every month, we’ll focus on a particular book and generate discussion on our blog and social media around it. Think of it like an online book club that lasts all month long. We’ll pick books from all walks of life and all genres, mixing up fiction with nonfiction, and all of the subcategories therein. 

First up, we’ve selected Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Dr. Carol Dweck, a book that I’m very excited to discuss. I’m also especially excited that we will offer Mindset at 60% off the retail price, throughout April.

Mindset is the sort of book that I’ve been hearing about for years, one that I’ve always meant to pick up. When my friend and colleague Tracy Cutchlow wrote about Mindset for The Huffington Post, the post went viral, racking up more than 212,000 likes on Facebook. As the publisher of John Medina’s Brain Rules for Baby, I received more feedback about Mindset than any other topic. Po Bronson, author of NurtureShock, wrote about it for New York Magazine. It’s the most read article in the history of the magazine. Clearly there is something to this book and Dr. Dweck’s research.

Dweck believes that people possess two types of mindsets: fixed or growth. Those with a fixed mindset believe that talent is innate, that people are either good or something or not, and if they are not, they have failed. People with a growth mindset, however, believe that steady dedication will see results. These people love a challenge because it is just that—challenging. They do not believe in inherent intelligence or skill. Not only are people with a growth mindset happier and more satisfied than those with a fixed mindset, but they are better at achieving their goals too.

And yet, Mindset hasn’t acquired that household name that some other psychology books have.

Going into Mindset, I had it in my head that this was a parenting book. After all, Dweck’s fabulous TED Talk is mostly geared towards parents and teachers. In it, she speaks about disadvantaged kids and whole schools who were able to shoot to the top of their studies when these same kids were encouraged and “praised wisely”—that is to say that they were praised for their work, not their intelligence.

I don’t have kids myself, but thought maybe there were some ideas in Mindset I could extract for my own purposes.

I quickly discovered that while, yes, this is a parenting book (there are several great ideas in here for parents), it is so much more than that. Dweck covers coaches, teachers, athletes, CEOs, musicians, artists, and, in the end, every ordinary person who reads her book. Take the following audio clip, for example. Dweck examines confidence and uses the real-life examples of athletes to demonstrate her points.

Over the course of Mindset Dweck illustrates how to respond to others in order to encourage a growth mindset, as well as how to think about things in one’s own life.

Even if you are already in a growth mindset, you can still learn something from Mindset. But if you are in a growth mindset, I don’t have to tell you that. You know that there is always something to be improved upon; there is always room to grow.


Visit our Mindset page for more great information about this book. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter, where we’ll be discussing this book all month long.