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jason downs

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

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 2

A series on audiobook production via ACX by Cheri Schmidt.

Here is Jason Downs (aka Tristan Hunt) and Cheri Schmidt (aka that pale vampire) doing a Q & A for a writer’s conference. Second question: Can the author approve the voice of each character?

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

Jason brings up a good point. You’ve already been through the audition process, so there shouldn’t be too many surprises. And you really should trust this person that you’ve hired to know what they’re doing and allow them to do their job without you nitpicking over details that just don’t matter. Let them have creative license with the story. This is a collaboration…

However, I feel it’s important to note that you should take care in the audition sample you choose to post for the book. Make sure you have voices of the two main characters in there, along with some accents that might be necessary. I would also suggest choosing a scene with some tension and dialogue for both a male and female character.

Oh, and there’s one more thing I forgot to mention. If you’ve described your characters well enough, the right voice for each one will be, or should be, pretty obvious to the professional you’ve hired. That’s one thing that changed for me after I first heard my stories “performed.” As I wrote, I could hear how it would sound as an audiobook. I couldn’t do that before. I think it also improves your writing, because you know what will and won’t work better than you did before.

Thanks again for visiting my blog. Check back later for more… And please comment and share. 😉

Audiobook Production

Audiobook Production & Marketing Via ACX

Converting readers to audiobook listeners one bookworm at a time…

“Yes, it’s still reading, just more convenient.” -Cheri Schmidt

Many readers think listening to an audiobook is cheating, that it’s like watching the movie. But if the audiobook is unabridged, then it’s exactly like the original book. The only difference is that the story has been lifted from the page and brought to life for you.

In this new market of audiobooks, we as authors need to connect with our readers and use those free codes that we get from ACX to introduce them to this new format.

Erin from WrathsQueensBooks is one of those readers for me. In this video, she is holding the original copy of Fateful that I sent to her a very long time ago, and she has now just enjoyed it on audio. Her very first audiobook. (I’m grateful to her for taking the time to listen to my story once again after having already read it.)

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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New Cover for Fateful Giveaway

Hello my darlings!

I need your help! I’ve been working on new covers for my books, but I can’t decide on the one for Fateful. I love them both for different reasons. Please take a look and then comment to let me know which one you like best and why.

Here are the choices: (Click on the image to see it bigger.)

Soft Sepia (A)

Soft Sepia (A)

Soft Pastels (B)

Soft Pastels (B)

 

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To sweeten the deal, lets have a giveaway! Post a comment for your choice and then enter on the Rafflecopter form below.

Prize Choices: (Winner will be able to choose one.)

~Danielle’s Fairy Necklace as described in Forever and is. This necklace is handmade from antique brass findings and chain from VintaJ. The aqua crystals are real Swarovski faceted beads. The center drop is a pale aqua, 8mm, Amazonite bead. The beautiful antique brass bead in the back is so pretty you can wear it backwards for two different looks. This Victorian design is unique and will be a piece that people will ask where you got it from. Valued at $29.99. (Note: The three-way connector in the center will be slightly different, seems I can’t purchase that one any longer, but the replacement is equally as nice, if not better!)

~OR~

~An audiobook copy of either Fateful or Fractured as produced by Tristan Hunt (AKA Jason Downs) from Audible, valued at $19.95-$24.95. (Listen to the samples right now.) Note: This prize is available to my USA and UK friends!

Hurry!!! This giveaway only goes until Wednesday!

And remember that your choices are Soft Sepia (A) or Soft Pastels (B)

a Rafflecopter giveaway