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:
- Approximate age of your narrating voice
- Whether you want any accents used
- Voice variety (such as whether you want multiple actors to voice different characters, or have one voice over (VO) actor play parts by changing his or her voice).
- The more voices you use, the more expensive this project becomes, not only in the need to pay more talent, but the additional scheduling and studio times you may need
- Voice quality (youthful? mature? melodious? dry?
- Be prepared, unless you’re shelling out a bunch of money, to allow your VO artist some artistic license. They may not read one sentence the way you always envisioned it in your head. Micromanaging will get pricey, and also frustrating for everyone involved. This is not unlike getting your book made into a movie. The director and other actors will have their own way to portray your characters and you wouldn’t get much of a say unless, say, you’re Diana Gabaldon.
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 protected].