(or How I Did It, a “.doc”-umentary)
Audiobook Part 1
At a glance, Audible (ACX) makes creating an audiobook pretty simple. Their site lists all the steps to guide you through the process
First, I signed up for ACX and created a project page for Phagey. The format asked for a title, a summary, a word count, a budget, and a few other details. Pretty easy to do.
Next, I created an audition script. Basically, this consists of a single Word or text document with a couple of different scenes featuring different characters, listing some basic voice characteristics and character details, so that I could see how the narrator did with accents, pitches, etc. I tried to make my scene selection wide enough to get a good sampling of the narrators’ skills.
I also included a note about the book which listed the names, ages, and simple details for each of the main characters, any important side characters, generalizations about other types of characters, and about the book in general, so potential narrators would have some idea about the project overall. In that list I also noted my social media followings, and any ad campaigns and marketing strategies I had going at the time.
Once that was ready to go, I put out a call for auditions on my project page. Writers can select what pay range they’re aiming for, since some narrators go high and won’t consider lower-paying projects. However, ACX also allows writers to choose between paying the quoted per-hour fee as agreed, or sharing royalties with the narrator, which means they pay the narrator less up front, but the narrator then gets a share of the royalties from each book until their full price is met. I opted to go with paying the full fee.
(Do note that some narrators are willing to wiggle on their quoted per-hour fee. If you get an outstanding audition, but that narrator’s price is a little out of your range, you can always ask about this before making an offer.)
Then I waited. I received the very first audition that same day (ACX notifies you of incoming auditions) but gave myself a week to gather a few more. By the end of my self-imposed deadline, I’d received five. For each one, I kept track of when the audition was submitted, which narrator submitted it, their asking fee, and any specific qualities about their narration that I liked or didn’t like. Keep in mind that if the narrator’s overall performance is good, but they read one of the characters “wrong,” you can clarify that with them later. (And they’ll ask writers to do exactly that. More on this in my next post.)
As I mentioned before, I don’t usually listen to audiobooks because of my hearing loss, so B had to help a lot with evaluating the auditions. We looked for things like intonation, inflection, and differentiation in the characters’ voices and thoughts; appropriate pauses and the raising or lowering of volume according to the tension of the moment in the scene; “mouth noise,” those little “smacky” sounds some people make when they speak that become painfully obvious and can be distracting in a multi-hour audio recording; machine or other extraneous noise, which would indicate that the narrator is not using a sound booth or other professional recording tech; and so on. I tried to imagine (and asked B to do the same) what it would be like to listen to this narrator for the 12.5 hours ACX estimated it would take to narrate a book of Phagey’s length. I also added preference levels—one star for first choice, two for second, three for third. (This was entirely in my own notes, not available to anyone else, and not on the ACX site.)
When the week had passed, and I reviewed my notes from each audition, it was a no-brainer for me. Stacey Lind was my first choice on all counts. We communicated back and forth a bit, with questions and answers via the ACX message portal (and later through email, since ACX doesn’t do threads very well). She was most helpful and clearly experienced. I made her an official offer that same weekend through the ACX portal. We both agreed to ACX’s contract terms and were off and running!
Side note: Writers, be sure to clarify with your chosen narrator *before* you make an offer and sign the contract what their terms are as far as payment, i.e. how much will they require up front as a deposit; how do they prefer to receive payment, whether check, credit card, PayPal or some other online payment source, etc.; what kind of time frame they expect to observe, etc. Also, it’s good to follow your narrator on social media, so you get a little more familiar with them.
Those were the initial steps that ACX made kinda easy. The next part, working with the narrator, adds a few layers of intricacy, which we’ll get into in my next post. In truth, though, Stacey made it super easy and even offers resources on her site.
On a related note, to date I have five ratings and four reviews for the audiobook, rating “overall,” “performance,” and “story,” averaging out to 4.6. I’ll take it, but more reviews are *always* helpful. If you’d like to review Phagey’s audiobook version, please reach out to me at niveymarts (at) gmail (dot) com. I’ll send codes to the first five people to respond. (My access to promo codes is limited. Please don’t request a code if you don’t intend to review it!)
See you next time!
**Please note that I am not a professional. Outside the writing part—for which I have taken numerous classes and workshops, and for which I’ve seen enormous improvement over the years, but which I am still learning—I mostly have no idea what I’m doing. I’m reading everything I can get my hands on, looking at how others who have been successful have done it, and learning this process as I go. I don’t want any reader of these posts to think I’m teaching THE way to self-publish; there are as many ways to do this as there are writers on the path. I am only sharing how I have done it. Your mileage may vary.