Sara Dahmen will be presenting at RWA Nationals in Orlando, Florida on Friday, July 28th from 2:00-3:00 PM during the 20/20 Expert Hour: Historicals. She will be discussing the Historical Kitchen: A meaty look at the roles and power of women in the kitchen: how their status and the era affected the foods they prepared and impacted their world.
Now that I have an audiobook, I thought I’d share how I did it. My process won’t necessarily work for everyone, and that’s OK. But hopefully, reading about my experience will provide you the confidence and willingness to at least get started in the process!
As someone who comes from a production background in television and radio, I know I have a bit of an advantage over where to look for voices and what kind of talent I am looking for. I’m no expert, but I have some working knowledge and connections that I’d be glad to share. I am happy to talk to any of you lovely authors about your questions on how to get into audiobooks.
Not everyone’s journey to creating an audiobook is the same. There are a lot of pre-packaged studio and narrator options available to indie and self-published authors, and while I’m not going to list them all here, a simple Google search will turn up a majority of those choices compiled in one place. An excellent starting source is this article by Allison Schiff on the Publisher’s Weekly blog.
When deciding to produce your book into an audiobook, you need to decide what kind of voice you’d like to have narrate it. Unless you understand studio time and are willing to pay fees for access, I highly recommend you don’t sit at home and record this on your computer yourself. It will result in poor quality audio that will likely be rejected by most outlets. This leaves you with looking for voice talent.
You must know the following:
Once you know what you’re looking for in a VO actor, you may start to search. Some authors prefer to work with a one-stop-shop such as ACX with Amazon, or other larger production houses. They’ll have some great talent voices for you to choose from. I preferred to have more control over my choices as well as my production (as well as save some money).
I also wanted to use non-union talent because it gave me, the “buyer,” far more purchasing power and say in pricing. Union talent will have required costs for their time and set prices for their hours. They’ll also retain some license over the finished work, usually getting a percent of the profits of the audiobook sales in perpetuity (that’s fancy speak for forever). Without the “in perpetuity” clause, you may have to re-up their contract with you after a given number of weeks or months, which can result in a re-negotiation of their pay-out. I’ve worked with the likes of John Corbett and others when it comes to licensing voice overs and it’s a big paperwork headache. A lot of people need to get paid (by you) to have access to a union voice after the usage time has run out.
Thus, I went here to search for non-union voices. They have a ton! The trickiest part is listening to so many and making sure you pick someone who doesn’t sound too much like someone who makes happy-go-lucky cereal commercials for a living. You want someone who is going to take your project seriously and invest some time into it. I find it helps to close my eyes, stop thinking, and really let the voice hit me viscerally as I listen to each one. Go back and re-listen to them several times, giving yourself a few days to digest.
After you’ve created your book project, you can allow people to bid on it, or you can ask your favorite voices to bid. I did a little of both, and was very happy when my first choice said she was in! We signed a very simple contract and I received all rights in perpetuity to the finished audiobook, and gave her a single, one-time flat rate (it came in under $600 for a 85K word book). I did give her a substantial cash tip of $150 afterwards for all the additional work she did on the book, and because I hope to work with her again in the future.
You’ll be listening to the book through at least twice – the first time to listen for errors, and the second time to make sure they are all caught – so plan for many hours of sitting and taking notes. It goes faster than you realize.
Then, make sure you have the files in a few ways – Amazon/ACX asks for each chapter to be sent separately, and has a lot of rules, so when finishing the project, make sure the files comply. iTunesConnect is another publishing option. I also asked for the files in bulk so the book is in two big separate files instead of a bunch of little ones. It’s always nice to have options. You can use online file drops to save your inbox such as DropBox or even Google Drive.
In my next post, I’ll dive into the process of uploading files to ACX.
by Sara Dahmen
Sara Dahmen is the award-winning author of Doctor Kinney’s Housekeeper, a metalsmith, American cookware designer and manufacturer, and a mom. You can reach her @saradahmenbooks or at email@example.com.
I think we can all agree that doing the proper research makes or breaks a book. Glaringly obvious mentions of places, events or details that haven’t happened yet are akin to all of us Wisconsinites watching Titanic and realizing that Jack Dawson could not have been ice fishing on Lake Wissota in Chippawa Falls in 1912…as there wasn’t a lake yet.
Alright, maybe I’m one of the few that is obsessed with accuracy in any movie I watch, but you get my gist. Research can not only authenticate your world building, but it can imbue your characters with truth, and a genuine placement in their surroundings. Even if you only mention something in passing, it adds a rounded, 3-dimensional depth to protagonists and antagonists alike.
If, say, your novel is set in the Civil War, even if your characters aren’t fighting in battles or even on the same continent, they’d likely hear about it in the news, or people would discuss it in passing, much like we do about major political or social news today. (If I had a quarter for every time my husband came home with a tidbit of celebrity gossip I hadn’t had a chance to hear because…babies…I’d be so rich!) Using research to allow characters to notice details, such as the pattern on the spongeware china, or the particular cut of a bodice, tells your reader that not only are they learning something, but that you did your homework.
I don’t suggest we all dive in as deeply as, say, Jean Auel did. But we can all probably create just one more small layer of richness to our novels. Those handfuls of tiny additions can really add up to one accurate story whether it is the ins and outs of a wedding planner’s job, a more involved description of a hunk’s financial schemes and clients, or the daily lifestyle of an obscure tribe in Antarctica. (I don’t think there are any…but then again, I haven’t done any research.)
So where do we get that research? Certainly the first thing that pops up in Google searches these days is some sort of Wikipedia link to potentially faulty information. But the internet is still one heck of an amazing tool with which we can supplement our information, check our facts, and hone our craft from the comfort of our laptops and pajamas.
With some time, you don’t even need to head to the library, though I’m a full-fledged believer in checking out at least one or two original volumes that might help you with some in-depth research on your most detailed subject. The internet can be completely used for research as long as you do a handful of things:
Beyond the internet hunting, however, discovering information for your book can also be a lot more interesting and interactive. Want to know exactly how to write the language of Pocahontas’ tribe? Reach out to the nation itself and ask for help. Care to get a taste for life in Revolutionary times? Go to a local reenactment (or better yet, ask if you can join in for a weekend in costume). I know Molly Maka has spoken to that notion and I wholeheartedly agree with her. Or at the very least, reach out to a few of the groups on Facebook and inquire about your needs – many old-timers will be more than loquacious enough for you.
Do your characters have a specific trade or job? Run in circles you don’t touch? Reach out via Facebook, LinkedIn, or even through your own network to get some good insight. We are authors, but we are also observers and questioners – we wonder, wait, watch and then write.
Remember when you do reach out to be:
This is not to add to the never-ending list of requirements aspiring or published authors have already. I’m merely hoping that this is just a nudge to remind you of easy and relatively painless and quick ways to incorporate accurate details in your novels and manuscripts to add flavor, desire and depth.
by Sara Dahmen
Sara Dahmen is the award-winning author of Doctor Kinney’s Housekeeper, a metalsmith, American cookware designer and manufacturer, and a mom. You can reach her @saradahmenbooks or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her next novel, a romantic drama, Wine & Children, is due out by November 2016.