The audiobook market has come to the attention of indie authors, but many hesitate to take this step because they don’t know how to go about it or what it will cost.
There are different approaches an author can take. However, most are costly and require knowing someone who can read well and who has audio recording equipment and a quiet place to do it. What I’m going to talk about here is taking the easy way; going through ACX, the Amazon company that supplies Audible.
There are two basic ways of using this program. One is to pay an hourly rate for a voice artist to read your book. The other is to agree a royalty share. If you’re in a position to pay, it will cost a few hundred dollars to have your book recorded. As a voice artist will get paid regardless of the genre or quality of the project, this is a work for hire situation and you can pretty much guarantee that someone will agree to read for you.
I chose the royalty share option for my book, The Wake of the Dragon. For a narrator to agree to this, they have to believe in the project or at least be looking to chalk up some credits as a narrator on ACX.
The process itself is made very easy. You sign up and put a project up as available, providing a sample of the manuscript. You tick a few boxes to indicate what sort of voice would be right for your book. In my case, I wanted someone who would have the right sound for a Victorian setting with mostly male characters. The boxes I ticked indicated a gentle, male, English voice.
The first audition I received raised a lot of excitement… until I listened to it. A booming, male, American voice greeted my ears. Perfect for American radio, but all wrong for an airship pirate adventure in the English countryside. Don’t feel like you have to accept the first audition! It’s worth holding out for the ‘right’ voice for your story.
I was lucky. The second audition I received was from an English actor with just the right tone of voice. He also has a talent for accents, which was very useful with the diversity of characters in my story. The sample can be heard HERE
In a royalty share deal, ACX considers the narrator to be the producer and the first thing they do is to submit a short reading for approval. If you, the author, are happy with what you hear, you offer a contract with the click of a button. This is legally binding so don’t treat it lightly! I expect this part of the process is the same with the hourly pay option.
The narrator accepts the offer and goes on to record the book, which you’ve provided. Then you wait. Allow plenty of time for the recording process. It’s not just reading a book into a microphone, the narrator has to edit several takes and produce a clean recording of several hours of text.
They upload the recording in chapter files and the author downloads and listens through. Yes, all the way through. My book is a little over eight hours of listening pleasure. I got up early for a few days so that I could sit and follow along with the paperback version of the book in front of me.
Chances are the narrator will get a word wrong here and there. If it doesn’t significantly affect the storyline, I suggest letting it go. There was only one mistake that I felt required correction. If changes are needed, you click a button that indicates this and the narrator is then able to resubmit any files that have been re-recorded.
Also at this stage, you might want to discuss sound effects. As my narrator and I were both new at this, we experimented a little and agreed that less is more. There are minimal sound effects at the beginnings of chapters and at scene changes within chapters to add flavour. Considering the airship pirates do their raids at storm’s edge, a little rain patter and occasional rolling thunder can set the scene well, but you don’t want to overshadow the narration. It’s not a radio play!
Once you are happy with all the files, you click the button that indicates that you have accepted the recordings. Then you sit back and let ACX do the rest. It takes about two weeks for the audiobook to become live on Amazon. It’s worth checking to see that the page for it is combined with your book page so that all formats show on the title! A polite request to Amazon customer service was all it took for me.
They provide codes for free copies that you can offer to reviewers. If you’re English, like me, they will probably be for the UK Amazon site but you can request American codes. There is no charge. I’m currently in the process of seeking audiobook reviewers and waiting for the results of those I’ve placed. Reviews on audio will focus a lot on the quality of the narrator, so be sure that you chose well!
There is an option to record your book yourself, but I recommend only doing this if you have a very good reading voice, proper recording equipment and an editing program for sound. Free sound effects can be found online, but your voice recording needs to be very clean.
That’s all there is to it. If you think your book would benefit from audiobook format, just sign up and away you go!
Jaq D Hawkins