Do you love audio books — and thrillers? Yep, I also self publish audio books, including my nonfiction and my thrillers. And since my latest thriller DARE OR DIE released yesterday on all Ebook platforms, plus paperback and hardcover, I’m now planning the audiobook version.
And, that’s MY voice reading the story. How (and why) am I the one reading the book? And for authors out there, how can you do it? Read on!
AUTHOR AUDIO BOOKS: A SOUND INVESTMENT
This is an updated post that was first pub’d several years ago. But after taking time off to actually WRITE new books, I’m once again back in the closet recording the new ones. I’ve also launched some writing and publishing courses, and you can find an on-demand webinar on self publishing audiobooks here.
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. Also, it’s very expensive to hire a voice-over talent and I’ve done VO work and stage work professionally, so I spent that investment in creating a studio. 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.
Self Publishing Audio Books with ACX.com
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 40 percent royalty if excusive to their site, and about 25 percent if published on other platforms as well. See details about ACX self narration here.
FUNDING HELP FOR PRODUCING AUDIO BOOKS
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 nineteen (19) 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 six of the thriller series books continue to be purchased. I’m in the process of creating book #7 DARE OR DIE. Your individual Amazon pages for each book also include a link to the audio version. And the iBookstore also offers them in iTunes.
DO YOU HAVE THE SKILL TO VOICE AUDIO BOOKS?
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! It takes more than just reading and recording. As with print books, audio requires editing plus something called “mastering” to make sure it sounds good and meets audio standards of the industry. With my first books, I edited and mastered myself, but now I hire the mastering out to someone else.
Now that there are several fiction books in the September Day thriller series, I record each new story as it releases. I have to keep track of what each character voice sounds like, so they match from book to book. That also taught me to limit the number of characters, LOL!
For recording nonfiction books, no worries–you need no special character voice. Those recordings take much less time for me.
WHAT’S THE COST TO PRODUCE AUDIO BOOKS?
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. Finally 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. And finally, the mastering process ensures the volume and “good sound” equalizes across the entire book. (Chapters are recorded and uploaded separately).
To hire a VO artist, it’s not unusual for the fee to run $250/finished hour. A rule of “paw” says however long it takes a reader to consume the book–say, 8 hours–multiply that times three to get your “finished hour” that includes editing and mastering. So if it takes 24 hours to record, edit and master (that’s 8 to read, times 3), you’re talking about $6000. 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.
TOOLS FOR AUDIO BOOKS PRODUCTION
The audio software matters, and there are different types. I got the Avid Pro Tools 10- Professional audio recording and music creation software along with the Universal Audio Apollo Twin 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 may have “packages” that you can get at a lesser cost. The correct mic is very sensitive. Mine is similar to this, plus I got a mic stand. I use my office walk in closet, and covered the walls, door, and ceiling with sound-canceling foam.
There are also different mics and headphones, and depending on where you record, some will be a better fit than others. the ACX site has recommendations. I use the Sony Dynamic Professional Stereo headphones (on Amazon here), and I have two mics from Sweetwater. I use my Rode studio mic for recording audiobooks, and my AKG mic for recording with video and webinars–and zoom. *s*
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 and editing 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. Once you have completed files, you upload them to the ACX or other audiobook platform, hit “publish” and wait for approval and distribution to kick in.
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.
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, you send to ACX to be published, their experts 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.
I’ve not been able to get ACX/Audible to provide me with review versions of the books. If you are exclusive to them, you may get codes for this to share with reviewers, or earn “bounties” for luring new subscribers to the platform. 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.
Spotify & Findaway & Chirp, Oh My!
Spotify just purchased Findaway Voices, the other self-publishing audiobook platform. They distribute to EVERYONE…Audible, Kobo, Apple, GooglePlay and many more. They also offer you free codes to share with listeners for review. If you already have your Ebooks on Draft2Digital (the Ebook distributor), with the click of a button you may place your book on the Findaway platform. From there, you can upload the audiofiles you’ve created, or audition voice talent to record your book. They also have deals with Nook Audio, Apple, and Chirp books (which partners with BookBub) for discounted promotions. I’ve had several Chirp “deals” that really moved the needle on getting the audiobooks noticed.
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!
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Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!