Monday, March 27, 2017

Creating an Audiobook: The Easy, the Challenging, and the Unknown

By Tracy Weber

I’ve been clamoring for an audiobook version of my Downward Dog Mystery Series since before the first book came out.  Unfortunately, my agent was unable to find a buyer for the audio rights to the series, so I recently self-published the audio version of my first book, Murder Strikes a Pose using ACX, an audiobook self-publishing platform.
The process was simultaneously easier and more challenging than I could have imagined. For those considering the same path, here are some of my learnings.
Let’s start with the easy:
·        The ACX process.  ACX breaks the process of creating an audiobook into a few easy steps:

1.      Set up an account.
2.      Make sure you have rights to the title.  (If you’re traditionally published like I am, check your contract.)
3.      Create an audition script. (That’s a blog article all by itself.)
4.      Post the title and script on the ACX site for audition. Interested narrators (producers) submit audition recordings based on your script. You can either offer producers a set dollar amount per finished hour or a royalty split.
5.      Make an offer to your favorite producer.  This includes both agreeing to a schedule and contract terms. The contract template is provided by ACX, which I found super helpful.
6.      Start production. ACX recommends approval after the first fifteen minutes have been recorded and then again after the entire work is complete.  I chose a different process.  (See below.)
7.      Upload a cover
8.      Finish production and submit to ACX for quality review.
9.      Start selling.

Kind of reminds me of a Staples button.  Wow, that was easy!
Well, not exactly …




Now for the Challenging:
·        Hiring the right producer.  If you’re a fan of audiobooks, you know that the narrator makes or breaks the listening experience, perhaps even more than the writing. Some authors choose to read their own books, but I wanted to use a professional. I assumed hiring a producer wouldn’t be that big of a deal.
I was wrong.
Recording an audiobook is a ton of work; doing it on a royalty split, a huge gamble. I didn’t get a single audition for the first two weeks. Week three, auditions started trickling in.  Most potential narrators used soothing, yoga voices. My protagonist, Kate, may teach yoga, but she’s spunky!  Yoga voice would never do. 
One narrator was quite talented, but she could only speak with a British accent. Kate is a Pacific Northwest girl through and through.  I was about to give up when I received an audition from Anne James.  I knew she was right for Kate the minute I heard her.  I made an offer, she accepted, and off we went!
Whew!
·        Creating the cover. I thought creating the cover would be a no-brainer, and it sure started out that way. My publisher kindly granted me cover rights, as long as I got permission from the artist.  She agreed, but for a fee that was, to be honest, way too expensive for an unproven audiobook. 
Still, covers are important and I love my cover art, so I paid it. The dimensions needed to be changed, so my husband spent a few hours massaging the original artwork until we created the cover below.  It’s pretty cool, don’t you think?

https://www.amazon.com/Murder-Strikes-Pose-Downward-Mystery/dp/B01KBC9JTO/ 
·        Finding the time. My narrator was wonderful to work with.  Simply wonderful. She recorded a chapter at a time, then sent it to me for review. I listened to it once or twice, wrote up feedback, and sent it back to her for revision.
Ana pup waiting for me to stop working and play with her.
Sometimes a chapter was perfect on the first take. Most times, however, we had to do two or three versions.  The finished product is a little over eight hours, but I spent approximately twenty hours listening to the recordings. Add the time spent thinking and typing up feedback, and pretty soon I’d used up a pretty big chunk of my puppy’s playtime.
And the unknown.
Hello, is anybody out there?
·        Where are the listeners? I’ve spent a lot of time building the audience for my series, and I’m learning more about book promotion every day. An audiobook is proving to be a whole different animal, however. I joined groups, arranged blog tours, held launch parties, and offered giveaways.
I’ve definitely sold copies, and I hope to sell more.  As I write this, the audiobook has 49 reviews which are generally quite positive. But audiobook promotion has its own unique challenges, and frankly I’ve stumbled up against most of them.  Still, I’m learning as I go and am optimistic about the future.
Finally, the question my fellow authors might be asking:

·        Would I do it again?  The answer is a definite yes.  Anne and I are currently working on Book 2 of the series, A Killer Retreat.  We don’t have a launch date yet, but hopefully we will soon. Stay tuned!
 
To enter to win a copy of your choice of my Downward Dog Mysteries, please comment with the answer to one or more of these questions:
1.      Do you listen to audiobooks?  If so, why?  If not, why not?
2.      How do you learn about the audiobooks you purchase?
3.      If you’ve produced an audiobook, what advice would you give to me and my readers? 
Comment with one or more answers by midnight on Sunday, April 2 to be entered in the drawing.  Be sure to include your e-mail address (i.e. Tracy(at)WholeLifeYoga(dot)com) so I can contact you if you win.  Good luck!

Tracy Weber

All four books in the Downward Dog Mystery Series are available at booksellers everywhere!
 
 

34 comments:

Laurie I said...

I loved your post. I'm a fan of audiobooks. I listen to them continually. I have a unique subscription to audible. I pay a very small annual fee to keep my account active, and it enables me to purchase audiobooks. I admit I look for the daily deals where I can purchase one I like at a drastically reduced price. I don't pay a monthly fee for credits. It works wonderfully. But honestly, I get most of my audiobooks from the library. I download them right onto my phone from the app. It's introduced me to many new authors and I've subsequently purchased many of their books. All the best to you with getting yours off and running.

Tracy Weber said...

Thanks, Laurie! I must admit, I'm addicted to audiobooks now. Sure beats listening to the news on those long car drives....

Keith Raffel said...

Tracy, congrats on the audiobook. And congrats on the sale of the first 49. How many do you have to sell to get to break even on your expenses?

Tracy Weber said...

Thanks, Keith. The 49 are reviews, not sales. Sales are higher. ;-) I paid too much for the cover. I needed to sell 200 to pay for that. Other than that, expenses are mainly my time.

Keith Raffel said...

Not so bad then. Good luck!

Tracy Weber said...

Thanks!

nrlymrtl said...

Congrats on your first audio. I am indeed a big audiobook fan. They keep me sane. I first started listening years ago on my long commute and then my listening time grew as I took up a home business. I love being able to do house work or play a simple computer game while I listen to a good story.

I learn about audiobooks mostly through Facebook groups at this point. I follow some book bloggers than specialize in audiobook reviews (like myself). Also, I participate in a few blog tour companies that offer audiobooks for review. Plus I love those Audible sales.

nrlymrtl at gmail dot com

Tony Perona said...

Hi Tracy--

I enjoyed your post. I've been wondering about whether to do audiobooks or not, so this post was instructive.

I only listen to audiobooks in the car on long trips, which, honestly, only occur a couple of times a year. Because my wife is also in the car, we need to agree on the book, which involves negotiation. We can generally find something at the library to check out, so I have to say that I've never purchased an audiobook.

Glad you didn't go for the soothing yoga voice. We tried a culinary mystery one time on audio, and the dialogue was mostly interior and not energetic, and it was so boring we gave up after just a few chapters.

Good luck with your series!

Kathleen Costa said...

I love audiobooks. It was a fortuitous accident that I learned about them. I had never paid close attention to the offer Amazon makes to get the audio version of a book you have already purchased. I decided to try it...it was a marvelous experience. Then I decided to join Audible, enter some contest giveaways, and say yes to a few authors who needed some reviews of their audio product. Although the story is the same, the audiobook can be greatly enhanced by the narrator. I've 'heard' some misses, but most have been extraordinary. I did listen to Murder Strikes the Pose and it was excellent!

Celia Fowler said...

I have enjoyed audiobooks during commutes to work, waiting in carpool line and taking long trips. The narrator can definitely make or break the book in my opinion. There was one book where the main character was a college student from the South, and the narrator sounded like she could have been her Mom -- I just couldn't listen to it. Then there have been some audiobooks with wonderful narrators such as Bel Canto and The Poisonwood Bible -- the Poisonwood Bible narration just blew me away. I'm glad you found the right fit for your first audiobook, and now I understand why a lot of audiobooks have different covers than the original book! Thanks for sharing this journey with us. bobandcelia@sbcglobal.net

Tracy Weber said...

Thanks, Everyone! The narrator is absolutely crucial. Thanks, Kathleen for listening to Murder Strikes a Pose. I'm delighted you enjoyed it!

Marlene Ezell said...

I enjoyed this post immensely. I listen to audio books as I travel on long trips in the RV or van. My dogs have become well read because of this also.
marlene(dot)ezell(at)gmail(dot)com

cj petterson said...

I enjoyed the post and have it bookmarked. Currently traditionally published, all this good info is for future reference should I decide to self publish my current WIP: Re your questions: 1. Do you listen to audiobooks? If so, why? If not, why not?
I have to sit down and concentrate on an audio book, so it's not a convenience. However, the worse my eyesight gets, the more attractive that option is.
2. How do you learn about the audiobooks you purchase? I've purchased only a few, and mostly listen to the other few I pick up in the library. When I like a voice, I put the name in a file and look for others by the same speaker.
3. If you’ve produced an audiobook, what advice would you give to me and my readers? (Doesn't apply to me.)

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on an up-and-coming medium, especially with the aging boomers out there. Marilyn (aka "cj")

Joy Jensen said...

I listen to audiobooks regularly with my 2-3 hr/day commit.

Dianne Casey said...

I enjoy listening to audio books while in the car. It makes the driving time more bearable if stick in traffic. I learn about audio books on Facebook and emails for Audible and checking Audible for my favorite authors and books.
diannekc8(at)gmail(dot)com

Dianne Casey said...

I enjoy listening to audio books while in the car. It makes the driving time more bearable if stick in traffic. I learn about audio books on Facebook and emails for Audible and checking Audible for my favorite authors and books.
diannekc8(at)gmail(dot)com

Anonymous said...

I do enjoy audiobooks, mostly for long car trips. I'd love to try yours. Good luck with the sales!

jparker39@verizon.net

Tracy Weber said...

Thank you, all!

Laura said...

I definitely enjoy audiobooks. I appreciate the time authors spend choosing their narrator, even if I don't necessarily like each voice that narrator performs. Doesn't stop me finishing listening to the book. I enjoy when authors perform their own books but totally understand why some - probably most - would choose not to.

lauraalbert@hotmail.com

Tracy Weber said...

Laura--I thought about recording my own, but it takes a lot of talent to do all of the voices. Beyond my capabilities for sure!

CentralEast2 said...

I love audio books and like the chance to listen to an entire series that way. I am able to listen to some though our library and purchase others. I have listened to and enjoyed (and reviewed) your audio book. I do like it when there is one narrator that does all the voices as well as the entire series. I have sampled some audio books to see if I could stand listening to the narrator when I am purchasing the book as there are some narrators that I do not like listening to as they are too bland or have an accent that does not go with the book.

CentralEast2 said...

sorry forgot my email centraleast2 at gmail dot com

Ian Hughes said...

I love audio books. Why? Because I'm Dyslexic and I find reading the printed word takes me a long time to read, unlike listening to a book done by a narrator.
How do I learn about audio books coming out? I check Audible UK's site daily to see what has been released and even go onto Audible.com to see what I'm missing. As you might have guessed, I live in the UK, and not all audio books are available to us here as in the USA.
I can't answer question 3, as I'm not a producer.
I just listen, read (when I have to) and blog about books on my blog, Goodreads, Facebook and Twitter.

AmyShojai said...

Congrats on the audiobook debut. Having that number of reviews is terrific! The sales will come, too.

I'm one of those authors who VO'd and produced my own titles (but in another life, I've done VO professionally as an actor, and have a home studio). Also...couldn't afford to hire someone else to do it. *s*

There is a learning curve. One thing it's taught me is to be very careful about the number of characters in my fiction, especially in a given scene. Each one must have a distinctive voice. Voicing nonfiction is easy, but the fiction characters take a lot more to be consistent and distinctive.

Dana McNeely said...

Congratulations on your audiobook debut and best wishes! Your series sounds fun, and I agree, your cover is great!

1) I listen to audio books, sometimes when exercising or driving, but mostly at night when my eyes are too tired to read. The problem with this is, I finally fall asleep and then have to find my place the next night. I sometimes will buy both the ebook and the audio book, and if I do this I love the Whispersync option--except for the falling asleep issue mentioned above, which kind of defeats Whispersync! But it's also nice to be able to find my place in the ebook and I like to read print if I can find the time.

2) I mostly learn about the audiobooks I purchase through Audible (I'm currently a member) or through Amazon advertising the availability of Whispersync.

Dana McNeely said...

Sorry, just noticed you asked us to post our emails - mine is dana.mcneely@yahoo.com.

Tracy Weber said...

Thanks, all! Amy, you continue to impress me. You are so talented!

Nancy J. Cohen said...

I am working on my third audiobook via ACX. I've done my own how-to blog series on the topic, having learned many of the same things you did. I am still trying to find the audience. That's the most difficult part.

Tracy Weber said...

Thanks, Nancy. I'm pretty sure I read your blog posts and found them super helpful.

tarafarah7 said...

Hello! I LOVE audiobooks! I have an Audible subscription, and my obsession with audiobooks happened about 5 minutes into my first book! In fact, I have your audiobook, Murder Strikes A Pose, on Audible. I am one of the 49 glowing reviews! :-)

1. I love audiobooks because I am able to multitask...well, try to at least! I can listen at home while cleaning, in the car while driving, and in bed next to my dog and kitty! I swear they love listening to them, too. Hehee!

2. Once I realized that the Cozy Mystery genre was my absolute favorite, I headed to social media to hear what others recommended (mainly Twitter). I also subscribed to some newsletters and sites of specific authors and attended a few events on Facebook (I'm still not the best with FB), so I could learn more about their books. I also entered some audiobook giveaways with the hope I would win and could listen to more books until my next credit from Audible was available (my 1 credit from Audible only stretches so far into the month with the books I enjoy most ☺). I also joined the mailing list for Audible so that I can see their Daily Deal each morning. They also mail out info on new releases, books in a series, sales, and other helpful info I might be interested in based on my wish list, Kindle purchases, and authors I follow. Doing this has helped me find authors and books that I never knew existed! I have made a few purchases without reading the reviews and realized later that I this is something I shouldn't do! Sometimes the narrator ruins the listening experience and/or book, altogether. Now, I make sure to read the reviews and listen to the sample of the audiobook on Audible before purchasing it. Even after all the books I have purchased with my credits, as well as my "extra buys" through sales and daily deals, Cozy Mysteries are still my favorites! If you keep writing (and recording), I'll keep listening! :-)

tarafarah7 said...

3. My advice to the readers would be to always leave reviews!!! And, when they leave reviews, if they don't like the book, explain why, rather than just saying they didn't like it. Same goes for what they did like about it. The reviews help make my decision so much easier when buying an audiobook (or Kindle or Print). This is why I have left reviews for 100% of the audiobooks I have listened to! I'm not sure if my reviews help everyone, but I think it is safe to assume they have helped some. If no reviews are available on Audible, I then go to Amazon and read the reviews there. If Amazon has good reviews and I like the sample provided on Audible then I feel it is safe enough to make my purchase! I also would tell readers to give audiobooks a try, if they haven't yet! It's a whole different experience! I would not have been able to finish as many books as I have this past year if it wasn't for audiobooks.
My advice to you and other authors is to keep going strong because without you, our lives would be booooring! :-) I love that you outlined the process for what it takes to produce an audiobook...there is quite of bit of work involved, especially in the editing process. It is AWESOME that you take the editing of your audiobooks serious because some other books that I have listened to seem...well, unedited. There have been books I've read and loved, so I bought the audio for it, too. Unfortunately, not all of them have been just as good on audio. :-( It is difficult for a listener to want to finish an audiobook with a narrator who pronounces words wrong. From inconsistent pronunciation of names throughout the book to incorrectly saying well-known places in the Spanish speaking city the character has supposedly been to a million times, it is all a distraction and takes away from the listening experience. Thank you for NOT making that an issue in your book, Murder Strikes A Pose! I also LOVE the covers and titles of your books! I tend to be drawn toward the fun, "cartoon-type" covers, rather than the "real-life" look. Plus, who can resist Bella!!? I love it! :-)

Obviously, I'm a bit loooong winded because I had to write 2 separate comments in order to post!! Oopsie! Sorry if I have gone on too long. Thank you for this giveaway opportunity! I appreciate all you do for us, readers and listeners! :-)
tarafarah7(at)gmail(dot)com

Tracy Weber said...

Thank you! And yes, reviews are super, super helpful. I totally appreciate them. Every one!

Tracy Weber said...

I'm late on posting this, but the winner is Amy Shojai! Amy, contact me at Tracy@WholeLifeYoga.com with your address and I'll get the cards in the mail to you.

tarafarah7 said...

Congrats, Amy!! :-)