There’s been a lot of buzz in the indie world lately about creating multiple ‘products’ from your self-published book. Uploading your novel to Amazon’s KDP platform and selling it as a Kindle ebook is only the beginning. POD (Print on Demand) saw the popularity of print editions rise, and through Lightning Source or CreateSpace it’s now easier than ever to make this a reality for your self-published title.
But ebooks and pbooks aren’t the only ways people ‘read’. Audiobooks are increasing in popularity now that technology has moved them beyond the necessity to buy or borrow stacks of cassette tapes or CDs. Audible, owned by Amazon, offers a monthly membership for audiobook downloads, or you can buy your own copies via Amazon.
Who listens to audiobooks? You might be surprised at the wide demographic. Audio isn’t only for those with restricted or impaired vision (although it is a brilliant and important resource for these readers). It’s also popular with commuters, people who love books but don’t have time to ‘sit down and read’, busy stay-at-home and work-outside-the-home mums and dads – anyone, in fact, who has access to a listening device. People listen to books on their phones, tablets, MP3 players, ipods; they listen through earphones, via speakers, in their cars, on trains, while walking (my personal favourite), and while doing jobs around the house.
Many audiobook fans say that the process of being ‘read to’ makes them absorb a book in more detail, and enhances their enjoyment of the story. I tend to read far too fast, and I do find that an audiobook, read well, really forces me to slow down and take in every detail. For a writer (all reading is research and learning) this is invaluable.
So, audiobooks are officially fab and cool. But they’re only for traditionally published books, right? Wrong! For a while now, ACX have been offering a service to indie authors whereby narrators can audition to produce the audio version for a 50/50 royalty split. These audiobooks are then sold via Audible and Amazon, alongside bestselling trad-published titles. With Audible paying 40% royalties on audiobooks, this is a really good source of income for indie authors.
Only problem was, ACX only offered this service to authors, or rights holders, living in the US. In April this all changed. Now UK authors can also participate, and I was quick to take advantage of the opportunity. Two weeks ago I created an account with ACX and uploaded a short audition file – the first few pages of the book – for Murder at the Maples. Then I sat back to see what happened next.
At first, not much happened! I waited for auditions to come in, but none did. Then I searched for a couple of narrators/producers whose voices I liked the sound of, and approached them directly. Of course, the best narrators are booked up with paid-per-hour work – it seems that in order to entice someone into a 50/50 royalty split you need either a massive-selling book or a narrator who is trying to build up her portfolio.
Then, an amazing thing happened. ACX awarded Murder at the Maples a Stipend. This is a per recorded hour sum ($100 per hour in my case) that will be paid to the narrator up-front and on top of royalties. Stipends are awarded to books ACX feel have a good chance of selling really well as audio titles, so of course I was ecstatic they thought MatM worthy of one! Effectively, ACX will now be paying someone $840 to record my book into audio. Which is astonishing, really. This, after all, is what a publisher would (hopefully) do, if I had one.
Now the auditions started flooding in, and from very talented voice artists. It was fascinating, listening to my audition script being read over and over by different narrators. I’d stipulated British, female and an engaging style. I still got a few US accents, but they were still fun to listen to. I narrowed it down to three favourites and sent them to my lovely mother-in-law, Christine, who listens to audiobooks all the time. I needed an expert to tell me if there was anything about each voice that might become grating after, say, five or six hours of listening! This is a key point – you get to choose your narrator based on a small sample, but you have to consider how it will be for the listener after a longer period of time. Particularly if you’re listening on headphones – being read to is a very intimate thing.
Here are some other things to consider when choosing your narrator:
- Differentiation of character voices. I’m one of those writers who doesn’t use a lot of speech attributions (he said, she said etc), and I realised this only when I started to listen to the auditions. If the narrator doesn’t make an effort to differentiate voices it’s hard to tell who is actually saying a particular line of speech.
- Pace. You need to get this right, not only for the listener but for the type of novel you’re producing. A narrator who reads too slowly will not only make the finished product longer, it would also be completely wrong for a fast-paced thriller. Equally, you don’t want someone who rushes through the narrative without giving the listener time to process the information. The best narrator will know how to vary the reading pace for different sections, moods and genres.
- Age and viewpoint characters. The narrator I chose was successful for two reasons: she managed to make the characters sound different from each other (see above), and she sounded the right age for Flora. This last was, probably, the most important point. The other two auditions I liked were equally engaging – one perhaps even more so – but they just didn’t capture the energy of Flora’s voice. But, if MatM was told from different viewpoints, like my debut novel Can’t Live Without, for example (three viewpoint characters, one first-person, one male and one a teenager!), I imagine it would have been even harder to choose the right narrator. I’m currently listening to One Plus One by Jojo Moyles in audio and that has three narrators, one for each main character section. My budget, unfortunately, doesn’t stretch to that.
- Timing and availability. The Stipend has a 60 day deadline, meaning the narrator must be able to produce the book within 60 days of the offer being accepted. This is something you need to check and get agreed up front.
So, you’ve listened to all your auditions – what happens next? The great thing about producing your audiobook with ACX is that someone else now has to do all the work 🙂 Now, the narrator takes over and goes about producing your book into audio format. You can either sit back and wait – or upload your next project and start the auditioning process again …
As of today, the offer to narrate and produce Murder at the Maples has been made to the talented Annette Rizzo of VOPlanet Studios, and I’ll keep you posted about how the project is progressing. If you’ve got any questions about audiobooks feel free to ask them in the comments below. Producing an audiobook edition will be just one of the services I’ll be advising on in my Coaching and Mentoring Service – click here for more about that.
Finally, I’m going to leave you with some thoughts about all the different products we can create from one, simple, slaved-over book …
What other formats can you think of?