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audiobook production

Audiobook Production Audiobooks Narrator Interview

How to Get Talented Voice Actors to Audition for your Audiobook.

I recently taught at Storymakers Writer’s Conference about audiobook production via ACX. And one question I was asked was how to get narrators to even audition. I guess many of them are listing their books and no one is showing any interest in auditioning even if they send a message to the producer.

Top 3 reasons why you’re not getting auditions:

#1 You don’t understand the producer’s perspective in this, and when they understand stand that, they will likely have more auditions than they know what to do with. Watch this video to get the producer’s perspective from an actual producer:

#2 You don’t understand that on ACX, you basically have two industries coming together, which is seriously awesome if you ask me. ACX is giving actors the opportunity to earn royalties on books when they were almost always only paid for their time in the past. (Not even Jim Dale got royalties for Harry Potter!) This article in The New York Times explains this rather well: http://www.nytimes.com/2002/01/31/books/making-books-when-acting-speaks-volumes.html And independent authors rarely had the chance to ever see their books produced into audiobooks due to productions costs. ACX has opened those things up to actors and authors. And what a great opportunity it is!

#3 You’re not showing that you value the actor’s time, talents, and skill like you should. Getting continued payments on work already done is a wonderful thing and it’s why so many people want to be published authors. However, you’re basically asking an actor to believe in your book as much as you do when they didn’t even write it. You’re also asking them to do hours and hours worth of hard work that takes specific time, talent, and technical knowledge for free—risking not getting paid at all if the royalties don’t cover the production costs. You might try to argue that you wrote the book for free. But how much did it cost you to write the book? As far as I know, there is little if any cost to writing a novel, but there is cost in producing an audiobook. And would you expect a professional artist to produce an amazing cover for you without paying them? You know what your sales are like. Would a portion of the royalty be enough to make it worth the artist’s time? In most cases, probably not… But acting is an art and unfortunately many narrators have been burned on royalty share deals. So many of them will not do royalty share deals without some sort of compensation for their time. I mean how do you honestly expect them to even feed their families? If you just have your book listed as a royalty share deal, this is one reason why you are not getting auditions.

To finally get auditions, follow these simple steps:

#1 Don’t consider audiobook production until you have at least three books published and are making enough from royalties to fund all or most of the production cost. And yes, even if you traditionally published the book, you could have or might be able to get audiobook rights for your book. Being able to choose your own narrator is huge for success in this growing market, and the payout can be awesome. To be honestly, most publishers don’t care about the narrator chosen for your books, they just hire someone, and that someone might not suit your story. I’ve listened to several traditionally published audiobooks where the wrong narrator was chosen for the story, and I find it difficult to even finish listening.

#2 As you list your book, show producers that you value their time and talent by offering to either pay a decent rate for each finished hour, or offer a royalty share along with a slightly reduced rate for each finished hour. The budget for the project is what they look at first before they even consider auditioning. To do this, check both “Royalty Share” AND “Negotiated Hourly Rate” for the project’s budget. That way it will say “Royalty Share or Negotiated Hourly Rate” on the listing of your book.

#3 Don’t neglect the comments section. I see so many authors who leave this blank, but this is your chance to sell your story to the producer so they actually want to work on your book. Also make it clear that you have an open mind, that you consider them the expert, and that you want them to have some creative freedom as they perform.

#4 Have a marketing plan listed in the comments section too. If producers see that you’re willing to market this book, they’re more willing to work with you and even help you market the book.

#5 Find a great scene that shows tension and quality writing. Also make sure you have a male and female voice in the sample.

#6 Also remember that the most talented producers are actually in high demand and because of that, they don’t even have to audition if they don’t want to. However, many of them will take the time to audition if you’re offering to pay them, you display good writing in the audition sample, your Amazon rank and reviews look good, and you ask them to consider auditioning if they like what they see. So if you find one you really like, and you’ve heard their work before, then just message them about wanting to make an offer.

Note: ACX allows you to just make offers, but I think it’s best to message the producer first to see where your book would fit into their schedule. If you don’t do that, you will probably have to redo the offer.

Audiobook Production

How to Choose the Best Royalty Share Deals on ACX

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Advice for Narrators/Producers (Voice Actors) from an Author about Publishing & How to Choose the Most Profitable Royalty Share Deals

(So you can earn money while you sleep too, without writing the book.)

Do you want to learn how to make money from royalties like authors do, basically earning money in your sleep?

 

Understand how royalties in the book industry work.

While producing audiobooks is a production, produced and acted out by one actor, it’s also book publishing. And to be successful at narrating audiobooks, you should also understand that industry so you can make better choices on royalty share deals. You need to understand what authors understand and why you might actually want more royalty shares in your list.

Writers can earn royalties on work they did years ago. Hard work they’ve already done can earn them money while they sleep. This is why pretty much everyone wants to publish a book. There is a huge difference between the royalty of independent authors verses traditionally published authors, though. Most traditionally published authors only get 15% of the sale of their books in any format. With audiobooks done through ACX, this basically means only 15% of the 40%. Granted, if they happen to be selling millions of books, that can add up to be a lot, but very few authors are selling that much. Independent authors get the entire 40%, or 20% if it’s a royalty share, which is still more than a traditionally published author gets. With eBooks they can actually earn up to 70% of the sale. The more formats an independent author gets their books into the more money they’ll make.

Understand the affect of digital shelf space on sales.

Most authors know that the more titles they have out, the more royalties they’ll make. And they know that royalties don’t pay off overnight or even in a year most of the time. They also know that if they just have one book out sales are not going to be very good, if at all. In my experience, producers assume if book one doesn’t sell hundreds of copies within the first month or two it will never pay off and so they drop the rest of the series, or ask for more money. I understand their fear, but there are a few things they just don’t realize. When they drop book one, they actually hurt sales of that book because listeners will either drop or not even bother with a series that changes narrators. The audience doesn’t care why that has happened, they hate it anyway. Digital shelf space sells books and audiobooks.

The funny thing is that many authors keep doing the same thing. They have one book produced into audio, sales are slow, and so they don’t produce any more. It’s like they forgot what sells books in the first place, or they’re assuming the audiobooks will sell just as much as the eBooks are. I’ve discovered, however, that the audiobook market and the eBook market don’t always overlap, so it’s actually a different audience. So then you have a new audience who only sees one book listed. Why would they buy? They won’t just like they wouldn’t likely buy just one eBook. But with each audiobook you publish, the sales will start to snowball and increase with each new release.

To me it seems that many producers, or at least the best-qualified ones, have stopped taking any royalty share deals because they never seem to pay off. But it’s this digital shelf space that is the problem. It’s not that audiobooks don’t sell…it’s that the author and the narrator don’t know how to sell books.

Understand why ACX is giving actors a chance to earn royalties they never would have had before.

In this industry, narrators are typically hired to do the work, paid an hourly rate and nothing more. Even Jim Dale was paid for his time and didn’t get any royalties from sales of the extremely popular Harry Potter series. I don’t know for certain, but I’d wager Zachary Webber didn’t get any royalties for his work on Grey either. Any narrator hired to work on a popular book is only going to get paid by the hour because there isn’t enough profit in the formula to give them royalties, even if their name on the book as the narrator will add to the number of sales. So they have to keep doing the same work to keep earning the money. They have nothing to show for the work already done except more recognition. However, it they choose to work with independent authors, they can actually earn half of the royalties on the sales, or 20% of the total sale. As mentioned above, 20% is even more royalty than traditionally published authors get. It’s like being able to write several books on your own in a short period of time. You get to benefit off other people’s work—that took months and maybe even years to do—when you never could have done that before.

There are tons of very successful indie authors, and believe it or not, but most of them are actually making more money than traditionally published authors. They typically understand how to market themselves better too, which means they do most of the marketing for you. All you have to do it balance your time between paid per finished hour jobs and royalty share jobs as you build your list of books earning royalties. Imagine if you had 10 titles that were getting good royalty sales. Even if each book was only selling 20 copies a month, earning about 6 dollars per sale, that comes out to be about 1200 a month just in royalties. So imagine if you had 20 royalty shares or 40… If you’re doing paid per finished hour work at the same time, then you’d be doing pretty well for yourself and earning money while you sleep just like authors get to do. But you didn’t have to write those books to do it.

Understand marketing so you can choose the most profitable royalty shares.

This is very important. If you don’t choose the right royalty shares, then you won’t be making as much as you could be.

Look for authors doing these things because they understand marketing: (I’ll be posting a more detailed post about marketing soon.)

  • Do they think commercially, meaning do they know what their audience wants and do they give it to them?
  • Do they have or are they building a lot of digital shelf space? Do they have or are they working on more than one series of books?
  • Do they use social media, paid advertising, and have a professional-looking blog/website? (Most of this should be listed in the comments section for the book on ACX.)
  • Have they moved their marketing efforts into video, which includes YouTube? (You might want to read my “Stop Marketing like Your Grandma” post to understand what I’m talking about here.)
  • Look for series of books in a variety of the most popular genres.
  • Look for mostly good reviews and good sales rank.
  • Just because they’ve become a USA today bestselling author doesn’t mean they know how to market.
  • Be wary of authors who are complacent, meaning they have a lot of books out so they don’t think they need to market because they’re content with book sales. These authors won’t go to the trouble of marketing the audiobook either and that will affect your royalties.
  • Know that both traditionally published and independent authors have to do all of their own marketing. The only authors big publishers do marketing for are the biggest selling authors, like J.K. Rowling or Stephen King. So if you can do royalty share work for authors who understand how to market themselves, you pretty much get to go along for the ride, not needing to do as much as the author does. Although, you’ll only help yourself if you do jump in on that.

Understand that royalty shares don’t always have to be done for free.

If you’re choosing the right royalty shares, then you’re probably choosing books that qualify for a stipend, and many authors who understand marketing also understand that to get a quality producer they need to be willing to pay something for production. Which means even if there is a stipend, they’ll probably pay you more on top of that, bringing the compensation for your work almost up to what it would have been for a paid per finished hour job. But you need to be willing to ask for it. If they value your time and skill, they will say yes. Let’s be honest, authors who just want you to do the work for free don’t understand the need for a more experienced professional and don’t understand how poor quality will affect future sales.

This is why I feel like ACX needs to add a third payment option of Paid Royalty Shares. Authors want to get a stipend because it means less money out of their pocket, but to use the stipend it has to be a royalty share deal. As it is now, if an author wants a quality producer, they have to pay the hourly rate because the best ones won’t do royalty share deals for free. Is this dichotomy with how ACX is set up making sense? Can you see how this is causing problems for both narrators/producers and authors? Authors can’t afford to quit their day job while they build their list enough to quit, so how can anyone expect audiobook producers to do the same thing? They need to be compensated for their very specific talent and time while they build the list of audiobooks earning royalties.

Please, don’t misunderstand what I’m saying here. ACX is providing a great opportunity for producers/actors to make money on royalties that no one else is. That’s seriously awesome in my opinion. But since authors don’t understand what actors need and actors don’t understand the book publishing industry we’re not all benefiting from this set up like we should be, or could be.

To see an author who is doing well as a narrator because he’s choosing the right royalty share deals, read this blog post on ACX: https://blog.acx.com/2016/02/03/picking-the-right-royalty-share-projects/

(Except, I give you even more suggestions than he does…)

Audiobook Production

HOW TO choose the BEST ACX Narrator for your Audiobook ~ Part 2

Voice-Over Artist, Tristan Hunt, and I have started a YouTube series of How-To’s to help authors with the audiobook production process of their books.

The number one question I am asked about audiobook publishing at writer’s conferences is, “How do I choose a good producer/narrator for my book?” THIS IS PART 2

Please comment and let us know if this is helpful to you, or if you have any other questions for us. Thanks for visiting!

The next thing to ask yourself as you begin to look for a producer/narrator is:
If it’s written in third person, how many male and female characters are in the story?

If there are a majority of male characters in your story, then you should probably choose a male narrator. If there are a majority of female characters in your story, then you should probably choose a female narrator. But be sure to listen to the samples from the narrators you’re considering to see if you like how they do voices for the opposite sex. You want your listener to be drawn into the story and held there by the voice of the reader, if a strange sounding voice is too jarring or distracting, it will yank the reader out of the story and they won’t enjoy the experience as much as they could have.

Note: ACX is probably the best place to find the right narrator for you story and get production going.

Audiobook Production

How To Choose the Best Narrator for Your Audiobook Part 1 ~Audiobook Production via ACX

Tristan Hunt (aka Jason Downs) and I have started a YouTube series of How-To’s to help authors with the audiobook production process of their books.

The number one question I am asked when I teach about audiobook publishing at writer’s conferences is, “How do I choose a good producer/narrator for my book?” Please comment and let us know if this is helpful to you, or if you have any other questions for us. Thanks for visiting!

I think it’s important to listen to what Tristan is trying to say about this endeavor being a creative “production.” This is a collaboration to create a new product and a new way to experience your story. One reader told me she gets something different out of each format, which I found intriguing. But even reading an eBook is a different experience from reading the same story in print. So it’s important to make sure the audiobook experience is just as enjoyable and unique to that format. And if you don’t take care in your narrator choice, you will hurt sales because that experience won’t be as great as it could have been for your audience.

The first thing to ask yourself as you begin to look for a producer/narrator is:

Did you write the book in first person or third?

If you wrote in first person then you must match the gender of the reader to the gender of the main character. If you wrote first person from more than one character’s point of view, then you need a reader to match the gender of each.

Note: ACX is, in my opinion, the best place to find the right narrator for you story and get production going.

Audiobook Production

Audiobook Production & Marketing Via ACX ~Earning a Stipend from Audible

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Earning a Stipend from Audible

A production stipend is where Audible pays the narrator $100 per finished hour, but the narrator has to agree to a royalty share to get the money from that, and the book has to be finished and approved in 60 days. The total amount available is also limited to $1000. Also, I believe producers/narrators are limited on how many stipend contracts they can take. It’s to encourage royalty share deals, because they really aren’t always all that appealing to narrators. They’re a bit risky and many narrators are getting burned.

You can’t choose if you get a stipend from Audible or not, though. You have to earn it. Fateful was awarded a stipend from Audible within a week of listing the book on ACX. I may have just gotten lucky, but I can share with you what I’d done, and maybe you’ll get lucky too. (Of course, there are no guarantees…)

You need to show that your book has good earning potential. So in “Comments from Rights Holder” I put things like this: (Also, I would say books that have been out longer than others, with a good sales track record, might be more likely to get a stipend.)

Marketing and sales:

A DETAILED Marketing Plan. And I mean very detailed. Like list plans for paid advertising, etc.

Past sales/download numbers. If over 200 thousand ebooks have been downloaded, then put that, even if they were free downloads. You’ve still been able to reach that many readers.

Past sales rank, like if you’ve been in the top 100 on Amazon before.

List future books in the series. Include published books and ones in the plans.

Awards (Highest Amazon rank, New York Times, etc.)

Social Media Stats (Twitter, Facebook fan page, YouTube, even Pinterest)

BookBub acceptance.

Number of 5 star reviews on Goodreads and Amazon.

And then notes for the producer about production like:

Tell them to “show” you what they can do. This lets them know you plan to give them some creative license. Artists like that kind of stuff, I should know…

List accents they’ll needed to perform.

List the point of view for the book.

For me, I also explained why I wanted a male reader. (It was because while book 1 was 3rd person female perspective, future books switched. And I had way more male characters than female characters in the story. And in my audience research, my readers preferred listening to a male.)

Tips for the Audition Script:

Male and Female Characters

Accents

Humor or Tension

Keep it Short

Also, I had a sentence in there that could be awkward if the narrator wasn’t good enough to make it sound natural. I didn’t really do this intentionally, but the one who made it sound natural was easily the one who got the job. The female character said, “Gee, thanks Ethan,” with heavy sarcasm. The others made it sound so awkward I actually cut it from the book, even though the one who got the job managed it just fine…

If you’re curious to hear how my books turned out, check out the audio samples on Soundcloud.

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Thanks for visiting my blog! If you have questions, please leave them in the comments.

Audiobook Production

Audiobook Production Via ACX Q&A ~Part 3

Audiobook Production and Marketing by Cheri Schmidt –royalty shares

Note: I hope you don’t mind me joking about the fact that I look like a vampire. It’s actually something I hear ALL OF THE TIME. I take it as a compliment, because vamps are considered good-looking, right? The other reason people might say this is because I do look quite a bit younger than I actually am…um, did you think I was going to tell you my age? Nope, you’ll just have to guess. And actresses like Nicole Kidman made pasty white acceptable in Moulin Rouge. At least I thought so…or maybe I just hoped so. And, okay, I guess Nicole does look like a vampire in this picture. What can I expect really, when I have such fair skin I only freckle or burn in the sun and brown hair so dark it’s almost black? And my guess is that people usually say vampire instead of Snow White because of the widow’s peak I have? It’s all right, I give you permission to laugh at me and my paleness… (This picture was found on Pinterest. I’m not sure where it’s from, but I think it was promo for the movie. Although this pic of Nicole does inspire me to wear red in the next author portraits I plan to have taken…)

(Note: We’re in the process of re-recording these interviews for the next writer’s conference…so please stay tuned!!)

Anyway, on to the questions! Two of them this time…

Question: Do you prefer to be paid an hourly rate or in royalties or in both?

Answer: (There was a lot to talk about with this one. I cut it down so this clip wasn’t too long which is why it starts partway through.)

Basically, Jason said of course he’d prefer both, but it isn’t always easy to work it out that way with ACX’s business model. Which is fine. I do not regret going through ACX for audiobook production. I’d actually recommend it to any author wanting to reach a new market with their stories. Which is why I’m doing this blog series on audiobook production via ACX.

Also, as I recommended in my post about choosing a narrator, it might be best to select both Royalty Share & An Unspecified Hourly Rate when listing your book so that you can attract quality producers. Don’t go into this expecting to get a well-produced audiobook without spending some money to compensate the artist for their time. Because this is a new market, we don’t know enough about selling this product to guarantee royalties will be enough to cover the time and cost of production.

I can personally attest to the fact that Jason does care about quality a great deal. It’s obvious to me that he puts a lot of hard work into what he does. And I love how he acts out each character. As he said, it is why I chose him out of the auditions I got. I will also say that Jim Dale sort of ruined me in terms of listening to audiobooks. Because of how he performed the Harry Potter series, I don’t enjoy audiobooks unless they are done that way. Being able to distinguish between the different characters really pulls me into the story. My stories have been compared to Harry Potter because of the magic and wonder in them, but there is also a great deal of romance that the Harry Potter books didn’t have. Because of that, I wanted someone who wouldn’t baulk at the high level of romance in my stories, so for me, Jason fit the bill for both. Anyway, I hope everyone else gets as lucky as I did with Jason.

Question: Is doing a royalty share for a book ever worth it?

Answer: I like that we get the producer’s perspective on this from Jason. For me as an author, I’m willing to take the risk of doing the work and waiting for the royalties. I foot the cost of editing and cover art, and the time to write, etc., expecting to make it back with royalties.  Of course it will take a while, but not too long. I guess I was sort of torn, I didn’t feel it was fair to expect the producer to take that same risk on my book, but I also wanted them to have the benefit of making money on work already done. Maybe this is because I’ve done commissioned, work for hire before, and sometimes that feels like you’re doing a lot of work that you’re paid for, but then to make more money, you have to do that work all over again. With a book I can do the work once and then sit back and collect royalties. And I can see that the work a producer does is creating a new product, just like I did when I wrote the book, so I want the producer to be able to enjoy that same benefit if they want to. The eBook of Fateful has been really good to me since I first published back in 2011. That one story has made me quite a bit of money. I’ll even tell my girls to say, “Thank you, Fateful,” when I buy them something special using my royalties. I know it’s probably silly of me to think this way. Many would say, it’s my book, so why don’t I want all of the royalties? I guess I also know that I would not have the enjoyable audiobooks that I do if not for Jason’s talent and hard work. Does that make sense? Please tell me what you think in the comments. I’m curious to know.

Ironically, however, right after we did this interview and Jason said that royalty shares had not paid off for him financially yet, we did experience an unexplained pop in sales. Like a huge pop in sales. Like from one month to the next, it was an 8000% increase… of course I don’t expect royalties to always be that high. In my experience, it just doesn’t work like that. It’s really just a rollercoaster of royalties for eBooks or audiobooks, which is better than a flat line in sales. So while Fateful was a royalty share with a stipend paid by Audible, it’s one royalty share that has started to pay off in royalties too. I hope it continues to do so. I’m doing everything I can think of to help it along. Note: If your sales have flat lined, then check back for when I get into marketing strategies…

Sorry about the delay in this post. Some family stuff came up.

In my next post, I’ll cover how to list your book so you’re more likely to get a stipend from Audible.

Audiobook Production

Audiobook Production Via ACX Q&A ~Part 1

A series on audiobook production via ACX by Cheri Schmidt.

Here is Jason Downs and an extremely pale vampire—I mean me doing a Q & A for a writer’s conference. First question: How closely do you work together?

(Note: We’re in the process of re-recording these interviews for the next writer’s conference…so please stay tuned!!)

(Good grief! It was really hard for me to post that to YouTube…)

Cheri’s additional thoughts on this question…

I think how closely you work together largely depends on the author and how involved you want to be. But it is a creative collaboration, so perhaps more authors should be more involved. That doesn’t mean that you need to be nitpicky or annoying, though. That just means get to know each other a little so you can make the best decisions for the story, and better market the book after production is finished.

My guess is that producers and authors that have done a royalty share deal are more likely to work together closely during and after production, because they both benefit financially if sales are good.

Jason mentioned that he’s had some authors who just approve the audio without making any changes, and I wanted to comment on that. I don’t know if all producers do it this way or not, but Jason would post chapters as he finished them. Either one at a time, or a few at a time. I couldn’t resist reviewing them right away, but I have heard of authors who don’t bother listening to the chapters at all. And then when it’s finished they wonder if they should listen to it or just approve it. I don’t think that is wise at all, and I was surprised to hear from Jason that some authors actually do that. Yes, producers edit their work, but things can still be missed by mistake. Just like authors need more than one editor, so does a narrator. With ACX, I feel like the rights holder is final QA, and if you don’t listen just to make sure there aren’t any random repeats still in there, you’ll make your producer look bad and that will affect his rating in the reviews. I have listened to audiobooks with repeats in the finished product and it always surprises me, because it wouldn’t have been all that hard to fix.

However, while reviewing the audio, remember that every change you ask for could cause a change in sound. So be very selective. I’ve heard of some authors who feel like that’s how they wrote it so the producer had better not change a single word! Oh please, sometimes that just happens when reading. But if it sounds natural and still makes sense, then leave it like it is. That will be better for sound quality. And you’ll likely have a better working relationship with your producer if you’re not a pain to work with.

Thanks for dropping by, and check back for more videos of this Q & A…

Audiobook Production

Audiobook Production & Marketing Via ACX -How to choose a narrator.

A series on audiobook production via ACX and marketing when the book is finished.

I recently presented at a writer’s conference about this, and I was the only author there presenting on ACX. I was limited on time for my class, and there just wasn’t enough time for me to cover everything. So I’m bringing that info to you via my blog and YouTube. I’ll cover everything I didn’t have time for and share the Skype interview with producer/narrator Jason Downs where he answers author’s questions. (In fact, we’ve decided to do a YouTube series on the subject.)reasons to be addicted to audiobooks

Choosing a producer/narrator:

In this emerging market of audiobooks, marketing is key, and I would say there is a learning curve, because it’s different from marketing books in general. I suspect that’s because this is a slightly different audience. Your first and perhaps your biggest, marketing choice for the audiobook is choosing the right voice. This is also a creative choice. The style of the narrator needs to fit the style of the story. Your choice will make a big difference in the finished product, good or bad.

“The right narrator can bring a story to life in a way that nothing else can, can fully immerse the audience into the story, can make them feel the emotion in the words, and can make the author shine.” Cheri Schmidt

Things to consider:

What point of view did you write the book in? If it’s female first person, then it would be best if you chose a female narrator. Recently, my husband has listened to a few books, and not indie books, where the story is told from a first person male perspective but the narrator is female. It really drives him crazy. This seems like it should be an obvious thing, but apparently it isn’t.

If it’s written in third person, how many male and female characters are there in the story? Looking at these numbers will help you decided if it’s best to go with a male or female narrator. For example, my Fateful Series, which is Paranormal Romance, has a majority of male characters. It is very difficult for a female to perform male voices. Many times they sound like silly caricatures. Plus it’s easier for a male or female reader to add greater variety in voices for characters of the same gender. While the majority of my characters are male, there is one scene where there are 6 females all together. I could tell it was almost a stretch for him to do all of those female voices at once and make sure they don’t all sound alike. He managed it extremely well, but to do that with an entire novel would be a problem.

If you’ve written the book in third person and you have an even number of male or female characters, should you choose a male or female narrator? When in doubt, go with a male narrator, even for romance… Or especially for romance. For Fantasy, Horror, Middle Grade, or Mystery male is usually a better choice every time… This is not the trend. I’ve noticed that many more books are narrated by female readers, and many of them are absolutely amazing! But most male readers have a greater range in their voices and can perform better female characters than females can perform males. I realized this is personal preference, but it’s a major turnoff for me to listen to a woman perform a male character that is supposedly hot. It just does not work. Most women that I know would rather have a male whisper a romance into their ear over a female. And most men that I know wouldn’t want to listen to a woman read an action spy novel to them, or maybe they would… I’m sure there are exceptions, but I personally wouldn’t market a book to the exception.

A few more tips to choosing the right producer:

Should you narrate your own book? If your book is on writing, or a story about your own life, and you know how to produce a quality recording, then yes. Otherwise, I think it’s best to leave the acting and production to the pros.

Choose a soothing voice. This is another reason you should go with a male reader if you can. Female voices tend to grate on the ear. Even so, the male or female voice must be one that readers can listen to for long periods of time. Nothing too harsh, tinny, or high-pitched.

Get outside opinions from friends, family, and fans. In my experience, authors get desperate, thinking they won’t find what they want, so they go with whoever auditions. And authors tend to have bad taste when choosing their own narrator. It’s just a fact you’re going to have to swallow.

Listen to other work done by the narrator you’re considering. And I don’t just mean the samples they have in their profile. Buy one of the audiobooks they’ve done and listen to it. This is the best way to hear what the quality of their work is like. You also might want to contact other authors they’ve worked for to see how her or she was to work with.

Google their name. They’ll Google you before auditioning as they consider whether to work with you or not. This is a great of way of discovering a little bit about the person you’re thinking about trusting your book with.

Don’t forget how much time and effort the producer puts into your book. It takes 5-6 hours worth of hard work to produce 1 recorded hour of finished audio. It also takes a great deal of creative talent. This is not like hiring an editor. Anyone with the skill can edit a book, but not every narrator can bring life to your story in the same way. On ACX you can choose to list your book as either Royalty Share or Paid per Finished Hour. Most authors want to do the Royalty Share so they don’t have to pay the narrator for their work, thinking royalties will cover it later. Sadly, many narrators are getting burned on Royalty Shares. If you want a quality narrator, it would be wise to list the book as Royalty Share OR a Negotiated Hourly Rate. We know the benefits of paying a professional editor to polish off our writing, so why would we then complain about paying a professional artist to produce our audiobook? And even if you manage to get an Audible Stipend like I did for Fateful, pay the producer even more than the $100 dollars per finished hour Audible pays. Happy narrators make for well-produced audiobooks…

However, there are some quality producers out there who are willing to do a Royalty Share even without a stipend. Some of them are just getting into this market and just want to get their name on book titles. I have one friend who didn’t have the money for production and she didn’t earn a stipend from Audible, but she still got auditions and managed to find a really nice and dedicated producer because he liked the genre she was writing and wanted to get his name on more books. (I should also note that she was upfront with him about her ebook sales not being super amazing, so she didn’t think he would make much money. He was willing to do it anyway.) So it isn’t unheard of, and if you do your listing right, it could work out for you too.

Take care in your choice. You’ll be working with this stranger to create a new product…a collaboration of talents.

Up next…my producer and I will answer a question turned in from other authors about how closely we work together during production and marketing via a Skype interview.

(I’ll try to post a new article each week, or perhaps a bit more often so stay tuned!)

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