I entered the world of audio books recently. Not as in I’ve started buying them, but as in I’ve started getting my books into that format.
Embers at Galdrilene is now available in audio and Tears of War is in production. I originally entered the realm of audio because of the many requests I was getting to make it available in that format.
However, after receiving two messages this morning from two different people who were thrilled to have been able to enjoy Embers in audio, it shed a new light on it. One of the messages came from a person who is completely blind and loves audio books because of the worlds it opens up. That alone made the work of getting a book into audio well worth the time. If that had been the only audio book I ever sold, it would have been worth it just for those moments of pleasure my audio book was able to bring to that person and to the other that was kind enough to message me about it.
So, what does it take to get your book into audio?
Lots of time for one. A good narrator for another. Would we all love to read our books for audio? Sure. However, I have learned it takes an incredible amount of talent on the part of the narrator to really bring a book to audio life. It also takes good audio equipment so the book sounds good.
I followed Neil Gaiman and went through ACX to produce my audio book. After loading your book on there and choosing a short excerpt from your book for narrators to read as an audition, you then have to sit back and wait for auditions to come in. This can take awhile.
As they come in, you have to listen to them and decide which auditions you like and which you don’t. I’m thankful to each and every narrator that took the time to audition for my book, whether their audition went into the like pile or not. Once you have a good list of likes, then you have to start going through them, often listening multiple times in an effort to decide which one will be just the right voice for your story. Sometimes it even requires asking if they would be willing to read another short part to see how they would handle another part of the story.
I came down to three narrators I was completely torn between. Anyone of them would have done a great job, but who would handle it the best?
For this decision, I reached out to my readers. Who best to help than those who would be listening to the book? I contacted a group of about ten or so devoted readers and sent the auditions out to them. Although there was some disagreement among them as to who would be best, the votes came down to Valerie Gilbert by a good margin.
So, Valerie became my narrator and I have to say, I am beyond thrilled and happy with how she has brought my books to life. I love how she works closely with me with quite a bit of communication between us. I love how much care she shows in how the books turn out and the time she puts into it.
When out of the blue she gave a brief background character an awesome accent and I mentioned in passing that I wish I could apply some of that to my main characters, she offered to record a test run of those characters with those accents to see if I would really like it. And when I did, she willingly spent the time to go back and rerecord those parts and give the characters the accents.
She is very dedicated to what she does and her talent is extraordinary. I cannot impress upon you enough the importance of a great narrator. It doesn’t matter how good the book is if you don’t have a narrator who can truly bring it to audio life. Make sure its someone you mesh well with and can work easily with. The narrator will become your partner in the creation of audio.
And when wading into audio, don’t make the mistake I did. This point wasn’t real clear when I first signed up, so I’m going to showcase my bumbling. After you load your book into ACX, you will be able to go through various narrators and listen to samples of things they have done. If you want to see if a narrator would be interested in auditioning for your book, DO NOT CLICK THE OFFER BUTTON! Message them. An offer is a contractual offer to produce your book. I did that by accident and had to back pedal quickly, including contacting ACX phone support and fessing up to my mistake. The narrator I inadvertently made the offer to, was kind enough to let the offer expire.
Also, don’t jump on the first audition that sounds good to you. I almost did that and where the guy did a good job with it, on the advice of my editing and design team, I held off for a while to give time for more auditions to come in. In the end it was a good choice to wait because according to my readers, Valerie was the best voice and I concur.
Once production begins, your narrator will post the completed chapters on your mutual ACX board. You then have to break out your book, either in pdf on your computer (my preference) or the physical book and read along in your book as the narrator reads while you listen for mistake. And yes, mistakes happen, the narrator is only human. I can’t imagine reading out loud for that long. I would be tripping all over my tongue.
When I come across a mistake I ‘rewind’ (yes I’m showing my age with that term) it and listen again to make sure I heard right. Then I mark down the time and continue listening. When I finish listening to the chapter, I send the times and whatever the issue is to her. The she corrects them and reuploads the chapter which I then listen to again to make sure all is good. With Valerie it’s usually a mispronounced name. Because I write epic fantasy I have all kinds of strange names and pronunciations. I honestly don’t know how she put up with me and my epic fantasy names. And there are many chapters that are perfect right out of the gate.
Oh, and if you imagine your narrator curled up in a cushy chair with a cup of coffee while they relax and read your book into a headset, you are wrong.
It goes something like this: There are 2 edits (at least) one to splice the pieces together, then to master the audio levels. When changes are made, then all of the audio has to be remastered, which is detailed, and time consuming. It can take 45 minutes to do the first edit of a 28 minute chapter. Recording takes at least another 45 minutes (stops/starts/re-records) then the final audio check (after re-recording corrections/edits/splices) has to be done. One finished hour takes at least 2-3 to produce. Sometimes 2-4 or 5 hours.
^ That is how Valerie explained it to me and I am eternally thankful for everything she does and the hours she spends making sure everything sounds great.
At the end of it all, you confirm with your narrator that everything is good to go. Then your narrator clicks “I’m done” on their end. You click that you approve the audio book and off it goes to quality control. The QC check can run anywhere from 14 to 20 days and then your audio is available on Audible. A few days later it becomes available on Amazon and iTunes.
Listening to Valerie bring my books to audio life has truly been a pleasure. And knowing that people out there are enjoying listening because of blindness or just because they like audio books is wonderful.
So, what are you waiting for?