My latest venture in self-publishing has been something I never thought I’d attempt. If you told me that I’d be creating audio books years ago I’d laugh and show you how I haven’t even figured out my iPhone yet. I first saw a discussion about creating audio books on the Kindlebord’s Writer’s Cafe forum (where I get on all my self-publishing information). I clicked on the thread only out of curiosity and was surprised to hear indie authors report how easy it was to create audio books and if you’re not putting one out you’re leaving money on the table.
My impression was that you needed to be tech savvy to create one or have a lot of money to pay someone else to make one. I knew a few indie authors that narrated their audio books themselves but knew that would never be an option for me. However, these much clever indies had found a site called ACX that helps indies produce their own audio books much like Createspace and KDP have made self-publishing ebooks and print books so simple. I decided to make an account and clicked every tab I could find to answer all my endless questions.
My biggest problem was that I worried my unusual reincarnation fantasy would not make a good audio book due to the fact that I would have to find one very talented narrator who could pull off different accents, different genders, and different ages in a believable way. Yet, what did I have to lose if I put a sample up? So I picked out a few pages of each life from my first book for folks to audition for.
A few weeks went by without any auditions, but then my project got selected for a stipend. I had no idea what that was at first but found out that it is an incentive program that ACX puts on certain books for producers and narrators. Not only will they get the 50%-50% royalty deal, they also get $100 for every finished hour of audio book paid by ACX. Well, the auditions started rolling in. The very first audition I listened to floored me. Completely not what I expected, this narrator took the book in her own direction and I loved it.
What to do now?
Well, I had to read more information on the site about how I make an offer and I was sure to read all the fine print about making an audio book with ACX. I decided I would go with the 50%-50% royalty deal, the exclusive distribution option with ACX that yields more profit for me, and had to select the date I wanted the narrator to complete the first fifteen minutes and the date the whole project should be finalized. Since there was a stipend attached, it was important to see when the stipend time was up since they grant them for only a few months at a time. I checked when mine was up and made sure I gave extra time for my narrator to complete it.
Well, she unfortunately responded that she was busy with another project at the moment and wouldn’t be able to finish it by that date. I was so disappointed and wondered if everyone would sound terrible next to her skill. I listened to a few more auditions and learned that I definitely didn’t like strong accents and glaring voice changes for different characters. The first narrator showed me that subtle was the way to go.
Finally, I got a message from a producer who was interested in my project and gave a list of narrators that worked for him with samples of audio books they’d completed. I picked Jessica Peterson out immediately since she read similarly to the first narrator that I’d heard. The producer had her read my sample and I made the offer which they quickly accepted.
He got to work right away and kept me informed of all their deadlines. It was so nice to work with such a seasoned professional. Since I was so inexperienced it was wonderful to have someone guide me through the whole process. He asked me to go through my whole book and pick out any words that might have difficult pronunciation. Usually there might only be a few words that need to be clarified, but with all my historic names, places, and things this took me a very long time.
An unexpected benefit to making an audio book was soon found out when the narrator found typos (a few missing words here and there). Which was shocking since I’ve had this darn book edited by at least six amazing editors! But since she had to read each word aloud I think it truly cleared up any of those last pesky typos.
The most important step is approving the first fifteen minutes, until then you can walk away from the deal without any penalty. Make sure you like everything: the sound quality, the vocal choices, the pronunciations before this stage since after you approve you’ll have to pay the narrator to end the project if you don’t get along. My first fifteen minutes was wonderful except for the fact that I forgot to specify that my main character begins old and at a certain phrase becomes much younger. It slipped my mind and I felt terrible to tell them that they wasted five minutes at the end since it had to be changed. They were gracious and went back to the studio to change it and I didn’t approve it until it was just the way I wanted.
Now it was definitely happening and I had faith in my producer’s and narrator’s abilities. They finished before the deadline and I listened to every word before I approved the final creation. I had to scramble to get my cover designer to make a square cover for the audition since they would not allow the cover I use for the ebook (so it’s good idea to get that done ahead of time).
It took much longer that I thought before the audio book was up for sale on Amazon (four weeks). I even sent an inquiry on why it was delayed but apparently that is the normal time it takes. I saw that the price was set at $19.95 (they set the price based on how long the audio is), but I wanted to be sure to get the Whispersync deal on there since it gives a huge discount to those who have already purchased the ebook (and since my ebook is free, I hoped it would increase sales). I wrote to ACX and requested the option and after a week the discount was available.
So there you have it, an audio book was created by someone who never thought they could manage it. I’ve already had a few emails letting me know how much they enjoyed the audio book and were wondering when book number two will be out. I went to work on getting that one made and requested a stipend on that book so I could continue to use the same producer and narrator. They actually granted me the stipend and my producer is up for the project, so now I’m busy looking up all the hard to pronounce words…
Self-publishing is truly an adventure.
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