Independent Author Toolbag: Publishing an Audiobook Pt 1

This is mostly aimed at other authors, but for those who are interested in what goes into it, perhaps this will be entertaining.  This first part is about the process I went through to market my books, The Fallen Race and Renegades: Deserter’s Redemption to a producer all the way through to the selection of a narrator/producer I wanted.

It all started, for me, when I got an email from amazon about ACX.  The email informed me that it made it fast and easy for authors and publishers to find narrators and producers for their books.  It seemed relatively straightforward, so I dove in. One thing ACX does well is that it sets everything up in a simple order to follow. I claimed two of my books, but the next part stumped me… I had to post what pay bracket I wanted to pay in.  Part of my confusion, at the time, was that I didn’t realize that it is pay per finished hour.  Luckily, after reading through the help section, I figured that out.  Still, what’s a ‘fair’ price for this?  I’m doing SF, so there’s lots of weird names.  Also accents and strange dialog.  So I finally just selected one of the brackets in the middle $50-100.  ACX calculates the rough novel length for your stuff, so that put the production cost at between 600 and 1200 dollars for the work.  Still, it seemed a good price to pay if I could get someone good to narrate.  Out of curiosity, I looked at audiobook pricing.  I was somewhat annoyed to learn that ACX establishes a price that they think is fair.  Thus, I’d have no control over the sale price.  The last part of the process is where you upload a sample section for a narrator to read, it suggests the first few pages, and I went with that. That was my first mistake.

I got my first reading the next day.  The narrator read it well, though not quite what I was looking for.  That’s where I made my first mistake.  I figured that since this guy was pretty good, I should go with him first.  I made an offer right away, and got a response right away, they wanted more money, or a share of the royalties.  I balked at the latter.  Then came several other readings from other narrators.  The thing is, I couldn’t give them offers because I had the outstanding one.  Until it was rejected, accepted, or expired, I couldn’t make an offer to one of the others.  In the meantime, the first narrator was willing to work down their price somewhat, but I just didn’t know if they’d work for the project as well as some of the others.  I talked with them, and suggested they read for my other project.  This is where my first mistake came in, the narrator read that part well, but the first pages didn’t have much dialog with other characters.  I picked that narrator for that project, then selected a different one for the first project.

If that sounds confusing… well, it was for me as well.  I had around a half dozen narrators read for the part.  Apparently I picked a good bracket.  Still, most weren’t near what I wanted.  The lession I learned there was that I should have waited a few days, listened to the various ones, and then selected after some time to think.  I should have also have either written a section of text that includes a variety of characters in discussion or selected that from the novels.  That part came back to bite me later.

The next part, after selecting a narrator, is the first 15 minutes is generated.  This is to make sure the narrator/producer and the author are all seeing the same vision for the project.  Project one, The Fallen Race, was going well.  Project two, Renegades: Deserter’s Redemption went well… right up until the author tried to do Anubus’s voice.  It wasn’t what I wanted, but there were options for that.  In this step, the author can ask for corrections, sometimes multiple times.  If it works out, then everything proceeds to production.  This one didn’t work out.  I tried to discribe what I wanted, but it didn’t work out.  It was mostly my fault, I’d admit, I should have had dialogue from other characters in the sample, but I hadn’t.  The narrator tried, I tried to adjust my expectations, but it just didn’t work.  Thankfully, since it’s a relatively small amount of time spent between one another, both parties can cancel the contract at this point.  I did that, and I’m started over in the process to get Renegades: Deserter’s Redemption as an audiobook.  The Fallen Race has continued to production, and my goal is to get that one out near the end of March.

So, this is what I’ve learned thus far: think carefully, very carefully, before you make an offer.  Do some research on pricing and don’t be afraid to haggle a bit.  Overall, I’m happy with how things went, preproduction.  I do caution other authors to read the contract terms carefully and to only enter into it with the best of intentions and a clear vision of what you want to accomplish.

Part 2 here, part 3 here.

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