This is part 1 to the audio book creation posting.
The two questions I heard after releasing my soft cover book on August 3rd were: 1) is there an ebook, and 2) is there an audio book. The ebook was very easy to do. As covered in earlier posts I found the right tool, and was able to do all the formatting, leveraging of my existing cover artwork, and re-purposing of my text to create the ebook for no additional cost. The audio book path wasn’t nearly as clear or as cost free. However, I’ve found the experience thus far to be very straight forward and convenient.
While doing research towards an audio edition I came across Audible.com (also known as ACX). They’re actually owned by Amazon (go figure). I’ll say from the first moment I hit the site I was impressed with how intuitive it was to work with them.
I wasn’t sure if I would be limited to an Amazon only distribution like I am with my ebook (to be a part of the Kindle Direct Publishing program). It turns out ACX also distributes on iTunes along with Amazon. PERFECT. You are locked into a 7 year agreement with them, but that’s fine by me (though it does seem a little long).
I was curious how the work would be done and costed out. I discovered there’s a measure called “pfh” (per finished hour) that dictate how many hours your final recording will be. I’m told that, on average, it takes 6 hours of recording the production to equal one hour of final recording. The compensation expectations are clearly listed for each narrator in “pfh.” Most of the narrators I talked to had producers and editors they worked with so, in the end, you literally have your audio book to post. We’ll see how that holds up as I move forward.
The average rates for pfh were between $100-$200, or $200-$400 for more experienced voice talent. I honestly didn’t see any hire than the $400 mark, and only two at $50.
If you go with an exclusive distribution relationship with ACX (again on Amazon and iTunes), you can choose to do a revenue share model. In this approach those that created the audio book get ongoing 50% of your royalties from sales.
If you do an exclusive relationship you would be placed on an escalator royalty rate of 50-90%. If it’s non-exclusive it drops to 25-70%. The final percentage depends on total units sold.
Why isn’t it 100%? Keep in mind that, like with Amazon and ebooks, ACX keeps a portion of your sales as tribute for hosting and providing customers and the download capabilities. Again, 100% on-board with this. It’s totally worth not dealing with the headache of storage, network bandwidth for distribution, etc.
After creating a login I was able to jump into their extensive catalog of voice talent, each with bios and a portfolio. There’s even a detailed search that lets you hand-pick the list. A few of the parameters include: gender, accent, reading style, cost, etc. It’s fantastic. I quickly found a number of potential narrators that I really liked.
I went to add my project to their catalog of works. I was able to put in my ISBN number for D’mok Revival: Awakening and it found it right away. I clicked the “this is my book” link, and it populated all kinds of information. I added some data about what I was looking for, and took three sections from my book and created the audition script each person would read from. After posting, it was a matter of hours when inner ACX messages and auditions appeared. I also went through their library and found 15 others that I specifically liked and used their “request audition” feature to send my interest to them. Within days of starting this process I had 13 great auditions.
I didn’t want to rely only on my ears to select the narrator. There are a number of people that have contacted me about the audio book. So I reached out to them and asked if they’d like to review the auditions and provide their feedback on who they’d like to hear. After all, the book will be around 10 hours of audio (~93,000 words). It’s important they like the voice!
I considered male and female options. It’s possible for a woman to be the narrator but it would be a specific type of confident (more of a military woman) voice that could carry it. I kept thinking the narrator needed to represent Mencari in essence. For the most part the book is from his perspective, so I guess that’s where that intuition came from. But the narrator isn’t Mencari, so that’s why a woman could work. I also wasn’t sure about how a man reading all the female parts would sound. Yes, I realize classic theater was like that, but we’re not in the middle ages anymore. I also considered the option of have one man do all the male parts, and one woman all the female parts. After inquiring to an audio shop (one of my in the ACX catalog of resources) they said it was certainly possible but it could double the hourly cost since there’s more resources (narration and production) needed. I also considered what I’ve come to know as “an audio play” where each character has a unique voice. Given 2 voices double the cost, I’m not going to venture down that path at this point.
I will say this, selecting a voice (much less “The right voice”) is a thrilling activity! It’s fun reviewing voices, requesting they do auditions (using the ACX system), and getting back their version of your audition script. A few of them nailed the “voice in my head” with respect to dramatic pauses and depth of presentation. You can quickly tell who’s “just reading,” and who can “feel” your material. I imagine this is very similar to how casting goes for television and movies. THRILLING!
One of the potential narrators informed me about a program ACX has that could assist in the creation of your audio book. You petition them through a simple email. If they like what they see and believe in the project they’ll offer a stipend of money to those that produce your product at NO COST to you. They are literally investing in the creation of your book on their platform. This is also intended to encourage their innovative “Royalty Share” model. I wasn’t sure about my odds of being accepted given it’s Amazon and huge. I tried anyway, and BAM I was accepted!
Their investment is a major emotional booster to me. It’s like getting a 5 star review from a highly qualified reader! The other aspect of this program is the book needs to be done within 60 days of me accepting someone’s audition and them accepting the production offer. At this rate, it would mean the audio book could be out as of February. That’s exciting too.
So how about the final cost to end-listener? I’ve done some research on Amazon and iTunes. It appears an inexpensive audio book is somewhere around $6.99. And average cost is between $10-$12.99, and the upper ranges around $20-$25. Continuing my low-price, low bar-to-entry approach, I’d stick with the $6.99. Again, I’m not looking to make money. I’m making an investment in market share and awareness. I’ll continue my research and talk to my readership to tune the price before launch. But that’s what I’m thinking right now.
I can completely see how much work I’m going to have to put into this yet. For instance, coordination with the narrator helping them to understand names, personalities, etc. I’m hoping they’ll do a read-through before they do the audio component. I have to find out what “their process” is once the person is selected. I’ll also need to review what’s done and request adjustments if needed. Of course, that assumes I can. The actual production contact with specifications is a bit of a question mark yet.
I’ve been telling those that auditioned I’ll have a decision within two weeks or so. Even with Thanksgiving that gives me and the review team some time to figure things out. I know there are some very strong submissions already, ones that I could see myself going with. That doesn’t mean new ones aren’t needed or would be out of the running. I’m just staying that keeping to the two weeks to select a voice talent IS possible even with what I have so far. 🙂
I’ll write more as things continue! Of the two versions, this one is the most fun. Perhaps it’s because the audio format takes the content off the page and bringing it to life? Regardless, it’s a lot of fun.