We hear so much about eBooks these days that’s it’s almost easy to forget that long before the eBook, there was another form of reading: audio. And you talk with audio book lovers, they are passionate about their books, and most can’t recall the last time they actually read a book, as opposed to listening to one. I spoke to some cross-country truck drivers who go through as many as five books a month. What do they read? Anything from world history, to self-help and fiction.
Audible has been around for a long time; we see the deals everywhere – “Get three months free” to try and coax people into the system. Now, however, Audible’s technology has made some great advancements – Whispersync allows people to both read and listen to books, making it a popular option. This type of book delivery is quickly becoming unstoppable.
Additionally, about three years ago, Amazon launched ACX, which is a means for anyone to turn their book into an audio product.
Now, for indie authors that have the budget, anyone can turn their book into an audio product. And, perhaps surprisingly, it takes very little effort. So if you’re considering turning your book into an audio book, here are three of the most important decisions you’ll make.
1. The Importance of a Good Narrator
If you’ve ever listened to an audio book you know that the narrator can make or break a story. I was listening to a book recently and, though I liked the story, I had to stop the audio because the narrator was just not right for the book and read in a way that was too distracting to the story. This is why you want a professional narrator. You should never, ever read your own book, even if you do voiceover. Having taken voiceover classes and done some voiceover work myself, I can tell you first hand that having a “voice” and being able to do an audio book are not the same thing. For audio to work in a book format, the narrator needs to have some acting experience, because you’ll want inflection, emphasis, and drama – even if it’s non-fiction. These are things you just can’t get if you just have voiceover experience or just “have a good voice” – you may save some money in the production, but it’ll be a waste of time and effort and it could ultimately taint your book. Imagine a bunch of reviews on your book page complaining about the narrator? Not a good scenario. So if you’re going to do this, spring for some good talent. And talent isn’t terribly pricey, especially when you consider how much work is involved to produce a finished book hour (which often requires several retakes). Typically, six hours of work are needed to create one hour of audio and most narrators will want $300 per finished hour. Typically books take 8-10 hours to complete.
When hiring a narrator, it’s important to make sure you like them. If you’re doing a series or have more than one book, you’ll want the same narrator for all of these books. When I spoke to readers, they told me this was a major pet peeve when an author swaps out a narrator, and this is because audio books create a very personal environment. The listener is inviting the reader into their car and their world, so it’s important to respect that connection.
2. Setting a Production Timeline
Once you’ve hired your narrator (more on this in my next article), the process from start to finish moves along quickly. Once you confirm who you want to hire, you’ll make them an offer, and then give them a chance to respond and accept it. From there the experience is now between you (the author) and the narrator.
They’ll record a 15-minute session and upload it to ACX for your approval and sometimes, though I don’t know how often, your narrator will request the entire book right off the bat to read it through, and go over any difficult names to ensure flawless pronunciation. I think those two things are key and will, in the long-term, speak to the integrity of the book.
Once you approve the 15-minute sample, the actual recording process will begin. Keep in mind that you’ll define the dates for production, meaning you need to tell the narrator how much time they have. Most narrators will tell you right off the bat when they can start so there are no misunderstandings around timing.
3. Deciding If You Want To Go Exclusive
So should you go exclusive with ACX? While the royalties may be higher, it may not make sense to sign over your book sales rights for a year, which is the duration of their exclusivity. Once you go exclusive you’re kind of stuck and new audio book sites are popping up all the time. While a lot of people do default to Audible, because of Amazon, these other audio book sites are giving supremely great deals to get new customers:
Audiobooks.com is a great example of this. They have a great selection, a thirty-day free trial and their monthly membership rates are slightly lower than Audible. Audible is, however, adding in more free stuff for users who are also part of the Prime membership. They know the competition is growing out there for audio books.
If you want your book listed on Audiobooks.com, you first have to sign up with Author’s Republic (www.authorsrepublic.com) and once you do, you’ll need to decide where you’ll let them put your book. If you let Author’s Republic sell through all channels, your book will be featured on sites like reado.com, audiobooksnow.com, talkingbookz.com, and about twenty others. If you aren’t going through ACX, so if you’re doing the audio book on your own, they’ll also list you with Audible/Amazon, too.
Ultimately, audio books make a great companion to your print or eBook so consider this as a potential component for your launch, or perhaps do the audio book later, after your book has been out. I know a lot of authors who will often do different “editions” of the book which is then considered a new release and keeps the book, and publication date fresh.
Stay tuned to learn more about deciding which narrator is best for your book, and how to hire the best person!
Thank you for spreading the good word about audiobooks! I would add that, as an audiobook publisher, there are a couple other points to consider. One is that even if you’re not publishing a new book, audiobooks are a great way to revive an old title. And for authors who are working with a publisher, make sure you negotiate your audio rights as part of your contract so you protect your royalties and intellectual property.
As for ACX, authors also need to know that this platform is only available if you’re in the US or UK, which is why we created a work around for our international authors so they don’t miss out on the benefits of audiobook publication.
Tina, thanks so much for your input — great points!