Lend Me Your Ear: Audio Books, A Sound Investment for Authors

dog voice

What kind of “voice” does a German Shepherd have? You’ll have to listen to find out!

This is an updated post that was first pub’d about three years ago. But after taking time off to actually WRITE new books, I’m once again back in the closet recording the new ones.

Do you listen to audio books? I’ve previously had discussions with some of my colleagues. Not all are happy with the voice artists chosen for their books. *sigh* That’s one reason I decided to take on the challenge myself. If you’re a reader, do you also listen to books? Why? Why not?

If you’re an author, do you pursue audio publishing? While it’s still a fraction of print or Ebook publishing, it’s a viable and growing platform and one I think you shouldn’t ignore. Many publishers have the means to exploit audio rights, and that can add sales to the author’s account and offer fans more ways to enjoy their favorite books. You might want to consult with your agent or editor, though, about getting the chance to approve the voice over artist to be sure you’re on the same “listening” page.

studio1

My recording studio…a walk in closet in my office with sound foam on walls and ceiling, mic stand, and place to set up the laptop with ProTools software, etc.

ACX and DIY Audio Books

When your publisher doesn’t purchase audio rights, or you decide to self-publish, Amazon makes it easy to exploit those audio rights yourself. They have a self-publishing platform called ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange). Your book must already be available on the Amazon site to self-publish with ACX which makes it available on Audible.com and iTunes.

At ACX, you can advertise for a voice over artist, audition talent and choose the right person to bring your book to life. Options include paying the talent up front, arranging to pay by sharing future royalties, or other “hybrid” contractual arrangements. It’s pricy to get it done but your royalties and potential income are typically much higher than with other platforms because Audible sets the price (usually pretty high), and for an exclusive contract you garner about 50 percent royalty.

UPDATED: that royalty has since gone down somewhat but is still a significant percentage of 20-40 percent. See details here. 

"Cat got your tongue?"

“Cat got your tongue?”

FUNDING HELP

Sometimes ACX will help you with a stipend of sorts to pay for the production cost, particularly when the book is popular and they want it out there for their clients. You also decide what contract to sign with ACX…an exclusive for a finite amount of time in which case your royalties are a bit higher, or nonexclusive so you can also publish on other audio platforms.

So far, I have FOUR titles out via ACX/Audible, and until recently, the nonfiction has sold better than the fiction. That changed, after my recent BookBub advertisement when LOST AND FOUND sales went through the roof (and I made the Ebook free). More than 800 folks bought the discounted audible book when they got the Ebook (that’s a deal routinely offered) and now all four books continue to be purchased. You can see all four books at this link.

The individual Amazon pages for each book also include a link to the audio version. And the iBookstore also offers them in iTunes.
KittenAudio CompetCatAudio CompetDogAudio

DO YOU HAVE THE SKILL?

In In another life I’m a stage actor, and have done voice over work myself. So I know why it’s so pricy to hire getting a book published as an audio file. It takes a BOATLOAD of time! Yes, I voiced and published all four of these books via ACX but I had to put the rest of my books audio recordings on temporary hold to get the next thrillers written

Now that there are three fiction books in the September Day thriller series, I’m again recording. Currently, I’m working on HIDE AND SEEK, and will follow that immediately with voicing SHOW AND TELL. Otherwise, I fear that I may forget what voice I used for the various characters…and that’s jarring to have ’em sound different between books, don’t you think?

WHAT’S THE COST?

Say that your book, in a straight nonstop read, takes 10 hours…and nobody can read for 10 hours straight…what would you charge to spend 10 hours recording someone’s book? First you must read it to become familiar, THEN you record it–with good equipment, of course. Then you edit the audio to take out all those lip smacks, swallows, tummy rumbles, overhead airplanes, thunder, the furnace turning on and off…you get the picture.

To hire a VO artist, it’s not unusual for the fee to run $250/finished hour. So if it takes 20 hours to record, edit and master, you’re talking about $5000. And yes, that’s why I decided to do it myself, and invest the funds in a one-time outlay for hardware and software I could use for multiple books.

DO YOU HAVE THE TOOLS?

The audio software matters, and there are different types. You can get the Avid Pro Tools Express with Mbox Mini but I got the Pro Tools 10- Professional audio recording and music creation software along with the MBox because it interfaces so well with my Sibelius music writing software Granted, some of these I purchased while a teacher at a discount, and ACX also has “packages” that you can get at a lesser cost.  The correct mic package is very sensitive. Mine is similar to this but I got a much better deal!

The final step is called “mastering” and basically smooths out and/or boosts the sound to improve the sound of the recording. That’s where the software comes in–it’s not just for recording but also for improving tone, etc. For a nonfiction book, an announcer voice works fine but for fiction, you’ll want a stage actor able to interpret characters and different voices, perhaps.

You ain’t lived until voicing everything from an autistic child to an old man and even a dog! And then, remember what the character in chapter one sounded like so you can repeat it in chapter 23. And duplicate those same voices in subsequent books when characters reappear.

LostFoundAudio

DO YOU HAVE THE TIME?

For every 10-hour-straight-read, multiply the time by at least 2-3…so thirty hours to record, edit and master the book. Yikes! With ACX you (the author) get to listen as the VO-artist uploads each chapter and check for bad pronunciations or accents or whatever, and request a do-over. Once you’ve approved the final version, and it’s sent to ACX to be published, their gurus also do a quality control listen a couple of times through, to be sure it sounds right and is true to the other published versions. If spot-on, it may be eligible to “sync” with some Ebook versions of the book. Most of the ACX titles are enrolled into the Audible book clubs…and authors get bonuses for sign ups there, too. For instance, the free book (below) is available if you’ve never before joined, and it’s a trial program so you don’t have to enroll, either.

Oh, and you’ll notice the COVERS are square. Yes, you must re-design your book cover to fit the requirements of Audible/ACX, and they won’t let you simply add color “bars” on sides of the existing book to make it square.

MARKETING CHALLENGE

I’ve not been able to get ACX/Audible to provide me with review versions of the books. It’s not like print or Ebook versions that you can purchase multiple copies and distribute. Instead, you may “gift” listeners (at full purchase price), so that can get pricy. However, each time a new audio book is born, ACX will give the author/creator a certain number of free “codes” to give to prospective reviewers of the book.

So if you’re interested in a free audio of one of the above or future books, please sign up for my PET PEEVES newsletter because as the new ones go live, I’ll be giving away a few gift codes in the hopes you’ll be kind enough to share a review.

If this post was helpful and you think other readers/authors might be interested in audio books, please share!


I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!




Comments

Lend Me Your Ear: Audio Books, A Sound Investment for Authors — 7 Comments

  1. Thanks for the mention for my baby. I keep finding things around the house, every time I think I’ve pulled myself together. It’s going to take me a while to stop reaching back over the pillows every time I lay down on the couch, expecting her to be there. I just pulled her treat bowl out of the dishwasher tonight and just sort of froze… And the frustration of trying to explain to coworkers why I’m so upset… trying to explain to them why I look angry when they tell me to just go out and get another cat. She is not “just a cat”. Never was. Never will be. I swear, I’m about ready to try and design a shirt: “Just because my kids have fur, that doesn’t mean I love them any less.”

    She always loved attention. Even from strangers. I swear she thought we took her to the vet just to be petted by more people. You’d be hard-pressed to find a sweeter, more well-behaved cat anywhere.

    Even with the three of us still here, the house feels so much emptier now. Even though she was the quiet one, the house feels so very silent somehow.

    And yet I know, once the wound is healed over, I’ll do it all over again.

    • We’re here–we know the pain, and know she’s not “just a cat” and that they are NEVER “just a …”

      They’re ours, for such a short time. But then they’re ours forever more, inside our hearts. I still find things that belonged to my first dog and it still knocks me flat. And that’s okay, it’s what we’re supposed to feel, an honor to the love we shared.

  2. Great blog as usual. I have sincerely been thinking about trying audio books because I have very small eyes and cataracts that are not ready for surgery yet. Usually need a magnifying glass to read up close and it’s very hard to turn pages with that. Before I retired lots of people at work were using audio books. I never knew it was so time consuming to do them. Your sympathy note to Karyl for Simba was so heartfelt and beautiful. Even though I don’t know Karyl, my heart breaks for her and her family. Only us devout pet lovers can understand that depth of love for them and how much we miss them when they’re no longer with us. My condolences to her and her family.

    • Thank you for the condolences. Simba always loved attention from pretty much everyone, so if comments were pets she’d be purring right now I’m sure.

    • The audio books became really popular for travelers, including truckers. Now with digital books it’s less expensive and more convenient with all the iPads and phones and more. Let me know what you think if you decide to try ’em out.

Leave a Reply