Many people prefer to listen to stories rather than read them. They may have poor eyesight, or they may just want to enhance their hours spent commuting or exercising or doing chores. Whatever their reasons, this market is big and growing. Even without the prospect of additional income, having your story narrated is a treat!
Getting your story recorded in professionally may be a goal, but how do you do it? Amazon now provides the Audible Creation Exchange (ACX.com), a platform for authors and producers (people who narrate books) to get together. This article will cover much of what you need to know to profit from ACX, but many of the principles apply to other recording situations as well.
Unless you’re recording your book yourself – and recording requires talent, expertise and technology – you’ll have to find someone else to do it. The Audible Creation Exchange has two types of arrangements for connecting authors with producers
You can hire someone to do the reading, at a fixed sum per hour. By “per hour,” Audible means per hour of finished book. To calculate the estimated hours: take the number of words in your book, divide by 9,300, and you’ll get your answer. In my experience the formula is accurate. I estimated that my novel, The Meryton Murders, would take 10 hours to be read aloud, and it clocked in at 10 hours and 2 minutes.
The amount charged will vary with the narrator’s experience, but ACX points out that the minimum $250 per hour is required for meeting certain industry standards. This may seem like a lot, but remember that the “hour” of finished reading time may take much longer than an hour to record.
You can royalty share, meaning you split any royalties with the producer. This requires nothing up front but there’s no guarantee that you’ll find someone.
How should you decide which route to take?
Hiring someone makes sense when:
- You have the money to pay someone.
- You believe your royalties will be sufficient to cover your expenses.
- You know what you’re doing (your producer may not have as much vested interest, so you may be more responsible for quality control).
- Your project does not generate interest from potential producers, either because they don’t think it will make money or because the project does not appeal to them.
- You want to work with a producer who will not royalty share.
Royalty sharing makes sense when:
- You don’t have the money, or don’t want to risk the money, to pay a producer.
- You’re not sure what you’re doing. A producer getting paid via royalties will have an increased interest in creating a quality product.
But before you advertise for a producer, you need to be ready. And what needs to be most ready is your manuscript.
Prepare Your Manuscript
First, your book needs to be finished. If it is not finished, but you want it to be narrated as well as available on the page, then consider how your words would sound aloud. For example, asides in parentheses, although they work well in print, don’t translate easily to narration where your audience can’t see the punctuation. At any rate, your story must be done before you offer it.
Second, you need the rights for audio production. If you have self-published, you have the rights, unless you somehow gave them away. If you work with others, clarify the matter with your agent, publisher or co-author, and get those rights in writing.
Third, if you have several novels available, you have to make a choice. Sometimes the choice is obvious. If you have a series, you have to begin with the first. Otherwise, you should probably go with the most successful (you’re more likely to acquire a producer and it will generate the most royalties) and/or the shortest (you might as well start with a shorter project).
Fourth, you’ll need to choose a sample for the audition. The audition sample, only a few pages long, should consist of one or more of your novel’s passages, which will allow you to judge potential producers, especially with tricky pronunciation or voices given to important characters.
When you’ve done all this, you’re ready to enter ACX and start the process. You’ll have to do some bookkeeping with them, submit your project and guarantee that you have the rights, then post your audition sample and wait. You can also specify that your producer must meet certain criteria, such as gender or accent.
Evaluating potential producers
Auditions may take a while to arrive, or they may appear at once. The first audition I received for The Meryton Murders arrived only a few hours after I posted, before Audible even had time to approve my financial forms, but the first audition for Jocasta did not appear for a couple of weeks. When an audition arrives, you need to listen to the recording and decide if you wish to move to the next step. Here are some things to consider:
- How well can that person say what is needed?
- Do you like the voices of the characters?
- Has the producer done other projects? You can see by searching on the producer’s name at Audible. Experience is always a good sign. Also, check the reviews.
- If the potential producer has done other projects, does it fit in with your genre and target market? There’s nothing like cross sales. On the other hand, if your novel is being used by Roman Catholic high schools and your potential producer narrates erotic literature, you may want to reconsider. Note that something like this does not have to be an automatic disqualifier, but you may want to specify that your producer appear under a different name.
Meet Your Producer
You can proceed without meeting your producer, but a conversation is a good idea. You don’t have to do this in person – he or she is probably somewhere else on the planet – but try to arrange a phone call. After all, you’re considering a partnership with this person – a partnership that could earn you both plenty of money!
Here are points worth discussing during your conversation:
- How long will the book take to produce? Some producers do this full time and can turn around a project quickly. For others, narration is weekend work. Also, producers may have other projects they need to finish before starting yours.
- Why is the potential producer interested in your project? You want someone who loves your story nearly as much as you do.
- Is your producer willing to edit your audio files? For example, if you wish to record the Author’s Note yourself, can the producer give you feedback and improve the quality?
- How should you exchange files? Although ACX provides a method for doing this, you may want to use another platform, such as Dropbox.
- Does your producer have any ideas for promotion? Is he or she willing to participate in promotional efforts?
Here are points worth considering, even if you don’t discuss them:
- Does the producer seem professional?
- Do you like how the producer sounds?
- Do you trust the producer?
- Do you like the producer?
If you feel good about your answers (and the producer feels good as well), you’re ready to move to the next step, which is making an offer to the producer at ACX.
Production and Direction
After your offer has been accepted, you need to send the producer your story. Consider what exactly you want read aloud. Of course you want the story narrated, but what about the dedication? The Author’s Note? Acknowledgments? Since listeners won’t be able to see what is on the printed page, do you want to direct them to a website where they can see illustrations or maps? Should any of these items be read by you instead?
Your producer will start work; audio files will appear in your account, and it is your job to listen. This task is as important as copyediting. Pay special attention to the following:
- Did the producer read everything?
- Are pronunciations correct?
- Do you like the interpretation? If you’re not certain, get a third person to listen, and see how he or she reacts.
Note that it’s better to give feedback sooner rather than later, especially during the beginning of a project, so that your producer can apply your direction to future scenes as well. Also, when you give feedback about something specific, indicate exactly where in the audio file the problem is located. The producer is responsible for volume and audible quality control, but if something sounds wrong, report that, too.
Prepare for Release
In a short while you’ll have a book on Audible, so you have to get ready. Here are must-do and should-do tasks:
- Create a cover. Because Audible thumbnails have different dimensions than regular books, you’ll need a new cover. It should evoke the cover of your novel, and should include the name of your producer.
- Make some buzz. The release of the Audible book is news, meaning this is an opportunity to promote. Find outlets that might be interested and prepare a strategy.
Not only is the extra revenue you’ll receive welcome, having your book read aloud – knowing that others can listen to it – is an incredible experience. Your story, narrated by another, will have a life of its own.