Anyway, if you’re an author and would like to turn your book into an audiobook, ACX.com is one of the main players to go with and that’s who I went with to turn Loving Ashe and Everything She Ever Wanted into audiobooks.
I signed up for the site, entered the ASIN of my book and filled in the required information as the Rights-Holder (RH). Then I listed the requirements I wanted for the narrator. In the case of Everything She Ever Wanted, I needed two narrators – a male and a female – because the book is written in first-person viewpoint, alternating characters every chapter. That would be considered dual narration versus a duet, where while there may be a main narrator, let’s say the heroine is the viewpoint of the chapter, the hero’s lines are narrated by the male narrator.
After you fill in the information about your book and narrator (or producer since they’ll be producing the audiobook) requirements, you choose sections of your manuscript for them to audition. Don’t pick the first chapter. Pick key scenes where you need to see how the narrator may handle emotions and key scenes. For Dax and Harlow, I picked their first meeting and one scene in bed. It’s usually a 1 – 2 page excerpt. Then you submit it and wait for the auditions to come in.
With dual narration, you’ll get auditions from single narrators as well as narrators who work together. Listen carefully and make sure you like their narration before putting an offer for them to narrate.
I haven’t said anything about payment yet but somewhere along the way where you fill in the information about your book, you have to decide whether you want to pay per finished hour (PFH) or do a Royalty-Share (RS). PFH is where you pay the narrators/producers up-front and keep the royalties (40% of retail price which varies between Audible and iTunes retail prices, sale prices and Amazon Kindle sale prices which can go as low as $1.99 and you have no control over that). Royalty-share is where you share the royalties for up to seven years with the narrator (so that would be 20% each for the author and the narrator). Royalty-share also means there is nothing for the author to pay up-front however some narrators will request a reduced rate to cover certain production costs. So, let’s say, their PFH rate is $300 oer finished hour, they may charge you $50-$90/per hour to cover editing and proofing. They do this because sometimes, audiobooks just don’t sell and that’s work they haven’t earned anything for.
When you choose to pay per-finished-hour, you can choose to be exclusive or non-exclusive with Audible (meaning you want to sell your audiobook from your website and other retailers outside of Amazon, Audible and iTunes) but the royalties go down to 25%. Royalty-share is only available with an exclusive contract.
Once you decide on a narrator, you sign a contract and he/she will narrate the first 15 minutes of the book. This is where you can approve or provide feedback on their narration. As an author, it’s good to have some sort of idea what your characters sound like but at the same time, try not to micro-manage the production. Having an inspiration board helps in this case and Tracy Marks, who narrated Loving Ashe, asked me to provide one and I did. I even put up the pictures of who I had in mind for Ashe, Riley, Paige, Gareth, and all the characters. Unfortunately, I didn’t do this for Dax and Harlow and everyone in the book (and there are a lot of characters in their story, so this was a hard lesson learned in this case).
Once you approve the first 15-minutes, the narration of the complete book can begin. Some authors have the narrator submit the chapters as they go so they can review and suggest changes while others like me, wait until the whole book is done before uploading all the files to be reviewed. I’m not sure if this is a good thing or not but in my case, it was a huge distraction because I couldn’t proof an audiobook (two, in this case!) while trying to complete Falling for Jordan.
Is it necessary to proof? I’ve heard that some authors don’t even listen to the audiobook at all. They just click approve and the book heads to retail. But I’ve been listening to audiobooks since 2001, ever since they were in cassette tapes. I need to listen to my books before anyone else out there does. So in my case, I proofed every chapter to make sure names like Diogenes (its Spanish pronunciation) and other words were pronounced correctly or no words or sections were missing. That takes time and it also takes time away from whatever it is you may be writing… or in my case, whatever I was writing.
Once you approve the narration, you click Approve and the audiobook goes through Quality Control at Audible. It may take up to 14 days before your book gets approved and you’ll suddenly see it for sale on Audible, Amazon and iTunes.
And then you promote the audiobook!
So as an author, these are a few things I learned:
- Make sure your manuscript is free of any errors. And I mean FREE OF ANY ERRORS. Some narrators will read whatever is on the page regardless of how the sentence sounds. You have two ‘just’ in the sentence? It will get read the way it’s on the page. Granted, some narrators will stop and email you to clarify whether it’s supposed to be that way, but not everyone does.
- Don’t micro-manage the production. I don’t micro-manage so I don’t know how that is like but I like seeing how someone else interprets my words. I want to give them some freedom but of course, if I find something off, then I tell them and we try to fix it.
- Have an inspiration board handy. Give the narrator(s) an idea of how the characters may sound like. I wish I had this down for Everything She Ever Wanted but at the same time, sometimes I don’t go by celebrity or character pictures. I go by a feel for the character – which actually doesn’t help a narrator lol
- When I wrote Loving Ashe, I used so many dialogue tags it was ridiculous. I used “she said/he said” and “she thought” A LOT. So moving forward, I tried to eliminate dialogue tags like I saw many of my author friends were doing. And so Everything She Ever Wanted doesn’t have a lot of dialogue tags, sometimes hardly any at all. WELL… dialogue tags are important in an audiobook. How do we know who’s talking if most of the dialogue tags were removed? So lesson learned. Dialogue tags are coming back if I intend to have my book turned into an audiobook.
- Paying up-front for an audiobook can get pretty expensive but worth it because you get to keep all the royalties. PFH fees can range from $50 per performance hour to $500 and up. The average going rate for a good narrator is within $200 – $400 PFH so a book that’s 80K words may cost you up to $2500 – 3600 at 8 to 9 hours long. How long is your audiobook, you may wonder? Well, 9,300 words usually is an hour so I go by that.
- Royalty-share sounds like a great option but as an author, plan on promoting the audiobook so it actually sells. You may ask, well, who cares? I have an audiobook! I don’t know but as an author, promoting the different ways people can get my book is automatic. Also, if you happen to have a series and may need that narrator again, they may not continue to narrate the rest of the series because the first audiobook hardly sold. But whether you have a series or a standalone, promote the audiobook. I’ve heard of narrators who’ve yet to earn anything from an audiobook done on a royalty-share arrangement years after they narrated it.
So that’s it for now. I need to go back to writing.