After repeatedly hearing from people who no longer have the time or inclination to sit and read as many books as they would like to (or in a couple of cases who have physical limitations) I started toying with the idea of turning The Novel Life Of Coral Ambrose into an audiobook.
Listening to the spoken word seems to be replacing some music listening. You can listen while commuting, working out, and in many cases doing your job. Podcasts and audiobooks fit well into our current culture.
It was so easy to turn my book into an audiobook that I kept looking for a catch. There are several services but the one I went with, https://www.acx.com, is so simple that I’m not even going to get into the particulars except to say the website leads you right through it.
I was initially undecided whether or not I should record my own voice. I do have acting experience and felt confident I could record it in an entertaining way. And I didn’t want to spend a lot of money hiring someone.
On the other hand, even though I had access to decent recording equipment it would have involved spending a lot of time trying to fiddle around with unfamiliar hardware and software and learning the ACX requirements. It has been my experience that there’s always a steep learning curve with, well, nearly everything in the world.
But the minute I saw that many of the ACX narrators work on a commission basis I knew that would be the way to go. I wouldn’t have to pay upfront but could allow the narrator-producer to earn a cut of sales. It’s a big cut but totally worth it when you factor in the amount of work they put into one of these projects.
My next concern was, what should the narrator sound like? The book is written as many different genres, some of them requiring specific accents. It seemed unlikely that Meryl Streep would be hiring herself out to do audiobooks for self-published or indie authors. Could I expect to find someone able to shift genre gears from chapter to chapter?
ACX has the author submit a book sample to available narrator-producers who decide which projects look interesting. They submit a sample reading. Authors can hear the vocal tone and expression and production quality by listening to these auditions.
The sample I submitted to be read included American English, British, and a couple of other genre specific sounds. I received several auditions and one stood out. Her voice has a natural warmth and she did well with the accents. She also expressed an excitement about this particular project, something that became important down the road.
Heather Jane Hogan (https://www.imdb.com/name/nm7631268/) and I stayed in communication during the process to make sure we were on the same page. Everything was going smoothly until we hit a snag.
It was my fault because I was being my usual post-hippy artsy self and breaking up a chunk of writing into several tiny chapters. In the book Coral jumps into a techno-thriller, but like many of its genre the book has a whole bunch of important characters whose storylines do not intersect until well into the book. Coral finds herself jumping into chapters in which she’s not even present. She quickly bails out. This gives us a series of very brief chapters.
Unfortunately, ACX’s requirements include putting a big break between each chapter. This meant that one part of my book, that looks fine on the written page, sounded disjointed by ear. The listener would assume it was glitched. But I couldn’t just change the chapter divisions for the audiobook because they have to be identical.
I tried getting in touch with tech support but had no luck. Fortunately, my producer used her experience to find someone to talk to and the problem was resolved. If I hadn’t found someone who had already recorded many audiobooks or who didn’t really care about this project things could have ended badly.
My main takeaway is to get that audiobook done before releasing the paper and e-book versions. People expect all formats to be available. It’s such a pain to promote books and it’s better to not turn people away who are interested but prefer a different format.