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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 & 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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