One of the first things I considered after I had finished publishing Modern Persuasion, was producing an audiobook to go with it. I love audiobooks. In fact, the vast majority of the books I read are on audiobook. I can listen while I knit, while I clean, while I drive, or while I get ready for bed. I love being told a story just as much as I love reading for myself. As the market for audiobooks grows between Audible, iTunes, and even Overdrive (for libraries), a smart author won’t dismiss the option. I took the chance and a fantastic audiobook was created for Modern Persuasion, my first book. Soon production will begin for the audiobook of Phi Alpha Pi. Here are my tips for creating an audiobook.
Who will be the voice?
Who is the voice of your narrator? Is it your voice? Is it another’s voice? Is it more than one voice? This is something to consider. Being your own narrator does save money, but are you a good reader? Do you have the tools needed to create a quality audiobook? I’ve listened to a number of good authors read their own books, but it takes skill for both the reading and production. It might be worth the investment to buy the hardware and software to do it yourself. You can certainly learn to be a better speaker and reader (I suggest Toastmasters to build those skills). It doesn’t have to be you. It can be someone else and there are amazing readers available to you. Do you want more than one reader? It was something I considered given that I had two narrative voices in Modern Persuasion.
Keep in mind, for every hour of an audiobook, it takes about 2 hours of recording time. Your audiobook’s length depends on the length of your book. The average reader can read about 9.300 words an hour, so do the math to find out how much work will go into your audiobook.
Paying Your Reader
This is the main concern for indie and self-publishing authors. A read is not cheap, but it doesn’t have to be a huge, upfront cost. The most popular option for managing the entire process is using ACX, an Amazon/Audible option. One of the strongest reasons for me was their royalty sharing option between the Reader and the Author. The basic explanation is that, after your fees to ACX are taken from each sale, the reader (ACX calls them Producers) and author split the profits 40/40 (assume 20% is going to ACX). Your reader has an equal share in the investment of your audiobook and an enticement to promote it themselves.
Paying up front will vary in cost based on the experience of the reader, the amount of work they will have to do, the cost of their tech, and the time they will dedicate to the production. ACX requires a minimum of $250 an hour. Not all readers will be interested in a royalty share option, but on ACX you identify what you want when you set up the project.
Yes, if you are the reader, you can still use ACX. You just identify yourself as the narrator.
Picking a Producer/Reader
From this point forward, I’m going to focus on ACX. I recently began the process to create Phi Alpha Pi’s audiobook, The audition process, for both books, took me a while to get any activity and I was worried that my book might not be enticing enough. With both books I got lucky and the first auditions they received were perfect. You can provide all sorts of information from the gender you want for your reader, the characters age, the accent needed, and vocal styles. There are two key things others suggested to focus on: my comments about the project and my 5-minute sample. My comments would be my enticement to a reader to take a chance on my book. As a new author with my first book, I focused on my genre and the potential for future collaborations. I also talked about my marketing plans.
The 5-minute sample is the reader/producers way to entice you for a longer audition. It’s important to pick the right passage. I picked 3 paragraphs that I felt gave a good example of my POV character’s voice. The full audition script won’t include the same content. I picked from different sections of the book, so I could hear how she would treat my secondary POV character and a few specific vocal choices like one with a strong Boston accent. It was about 2.5 pages of text for her to read.
Keep auditioning until you hear the right voice.
Once in Production
You set deadlines for production and it’s important to not only be realistic but to expect delays. I wanted to promote the audiobook for the holidays, but we got pushed back. Keep in mind that each hour of your book takes two of production. Don’t be rigid with your deadline and remember these are people with lives that happen! Modern Persuasion has 41,000 words and ended up being a little over four hours. I didn’t have the audiobook eight later. I had to approve the readers’ choices for the first 15 minutes of the book, the sample. Then I needed to approve each file she uploaded. This takes time for you. You aren’t listening as a fan but as a critic. You need to listen for stumbles, mistakes that weren’t cut during the production, reading problems that ruin the meaning of lines, and more little mistakes. I found myself getting pulled into the story as a fan and decided to re-listen to all the files a second time just to make sure. Once you approve the files then you need to wait another week for ACX to approve them too. In all my research about audiobooks and ACX, that approval phase was something nobody bothered to mention and I still don’t see discussed.
The timing of your release
I had a lot of internal debate about the timing of Phi Alpha Pi‘s audiobook release date but that wasn’t the case with Modern Persuasion. The saga of my first book involved the closure of my publisher a month before the book was set to be released. When I decided to self-publish, I didn’t have the brain power to deal with an audiobook until after it was released. I was tempted to have the audiobook ready for Phi Alpha Pi’s release but decided to wait for a holiday release again. Most major releases all come out at the same time or with a short delay on the audiobook. Its hard enough for them to time it all right. A friend with one of the big six publishers had her audio book come out over a month before the book was released. It wasn’t leaked, it was a simple accident. I had to decide if it was important enough for all to be ready on the same day that I would risk the audiobook being ready early or late? I decided to see if I could do the holiday release better and only promote the audiobook for the second six months of publication. Think about what makes sense for you!
You’re Done, Now What!?
The production is the biggest part of the process, but distribution and sales are important to discovery. ACX has exclusive distribution if you use them. They will distribute to Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. They are the biggest ways people get audiobooks. I was disappointed that there is no collaboration with Overdrive for distribution to libraries. ACX does help you get started by giving you about 25 free codes that can be used on Audible. I used them as giveaways on my Facebook page, in my newsletter, and other events I did around the holidays. Romance readers can also participate in a package service similar to Kindle Unlimited. You get royalties based on how much of the audiobook is listened to. I enrolled my book, but I have yet to see a response. They still seem to be working out the kinks in the program, but its another way to distribute.
Don’t want to use an Amazon service?
There are plenty of reasons to not want to use ACX. There are other options, but I can’t speak to them. Author’s Republic (https://www.authorsrepublic.com/) will help with distribution and suggests services for the recording (https://www.authorsrepublic.com/creation). They seem to have a much wider distribution, including libraries. ACX seems to be the only service that does everything in one place (production and distribution). It is worth exploring all your options and picking the one that’s right for your budget, timeline, and sanity.
What’s your experience with audiobooks? Where are you getting them to read? What other services have you used to create them? Share them bellow!