Thursday, May 25, 2017

Producing Your Books in Audio Part Two: Auditions

By Angela Quarles, @AngelaQuarles

Part of the Indie Author Series

Last month, in Producing Your Books in Audio Part One: Should You? I covered some advice for determining whether getting into audio would be a smart move for you.

In today's topic, I'm going to cover some tips for getting the best auditions.

Tip #1 Pick a representative sample

ACX advises how short your sample script should be, but within those confines, it's best to find elements that would give you a good idea whether a narrator can handle your story. Here are some parts to include:
  • a selection that showcases your story's tone (especially if you have humor)
  • dialogue from your main character
  • dialogue from both male and female characters
  • internal dialogue (some narrators don't do well with differentiating internal thoughts/dialogue and it can sound like spoken dialogue).
  • maybe an important turning point, especially if it's emotionally charged. Are they able to convey that emotion?
  • a selection that has a parenthetical aside, commonly set off in fiction with em-dashes (again, some narrators suck at these)
  • if a character has a dialect that's important to get right, include a dialogue snippet and indicate in your audition notes the type (and strength) of the accent. Be prepared for some horrendous caricatures. I said my character had a slight Southern accent and I now regret saying that because, yeah, some of the auditions were downright painful for this Southern gal. And waaay too strong even though I said slight.
  • And for those who have sex scenes, include a snippet of your most graphic scene. You absolutely need to know if they can handle it.
If you can't find a whole passage, cut and paste several to make up your audition script. Also, put any kind of direction they might need to know in the script (age of character or how you'd like them to read it).

Tip #2 Be specific about what you want in the Audition Notes section

Here's what I had:
There are snippets from several places in the book with notes in brackets that are directions for that part.

But real quick--this is a dual POV romance, so the female's POV will need to sound in her 20s, American, upbeat. I picture her voice on deeper side of feminine (not high-pitched, but not sounding like a guy either). If she has a slight Southern accent, even better. Read the narrative parts of her POV in your natural voice, British or American, and her internal thoughts and dialogue in American.

The male will need to sound 19th century English aristocracy. All secondary characters are English, with some working class characters. Narrator will also need to be comfortable reading sex scenes (snippet included in script)

Production costs: I will be doing Proofing anyway, so just noting that, in case it lowers your pfh rate.

Note on 12/1 - I'm still open for auditions, but please note--only a mild, mild Southern accent for Isabelle or none at all! Many of the ones I've been getting are waay too strong and cliché/hackney

Tip #3 Be proactive in finding narrators

Many indies will upload their script, open up for auditions, and sit back and wait. I strongly advise you not do this. Only one of my top 10 narrator picks was unsolicited (And I ended up with like 65 auditions). The rest auditioned because I'd reached out to narrators I liked, or narrators I'd seen had a big following (reader favorites) in my genre, etc. The one I picked was someone I sought out, and so I would never had the awesome Mary Jane Wells if I had simply waited for auditions.

I spent a lot of time reading audio reviews at places like AudioGals to get a feel for what listeners wanted and who were favorites.

Once you have a list, you can go on ACX and use their Search feature (Producers for Hire) to see if they're already set up on ACX. If you have your heart set on one and they aren't on ACX, you can always email them to see if they'd be willing to get set up there. You can use an outside narrator and upload the files yourself, but that's a little riskier because they won't be signing the ACX contract, etc.

Then message them through ACX saying you'd like them to audition. Be upfront with your pfh (price per finished hour) rate so they can see if it's worth it. ACX has a wide bracket for the narrators to pick for their rate to display on their profile. For instance, $200-$400 PFH is the range used for the narrator bracket I'm looking for. My budget is about $350/pfh but some of those narrators might be a firm $400/pfh and so they'd know not to audition.

Here's a copy of one of my invite messages:
Dear X,

I have a project, a time travel set in 1834 London, with an American heroine and a British hero, and I was going to see if you'd be interested in it? It's called Must Love Breeches, and it recently hit the USA Today bestseller list.

Here's the link to the project--[gave them the full URL to the ACX project page]

My budget is in the [put my range here] per finished hour range and it's a roughly 10-11 finished hours project... Since it would be going through ACX, the pfh rate would need to include the editing and mastering.

Thank you!

Notice the last qualifier (editing and mastering)--I had some narrators quote me their rate and it turned out they didn't realize it needed to include this (some of them might be on ACX but haven't done a lot through them). It seemed that the bigger narrators weren't used to needing to do this (typically they work for publishers, etc). That editing and mastering can take up a significant chunk of the pfh, so be sure your narrator has included this.

Tip #4 Resist the OMG factor

Not going to lie, hearing the first audition come through is super, super exciting--you're hearing your words performed! And it's possible that this OMG/Squee factor could make you decide that first audition is perfect. Don't get me wrong, it might end up being so, but don't jump the gun. Wait until you've got a good selection, including some of the top narrators in your price range. Technically, this bleeds into a future post (picking a narrator), but I think it's worth giving a heads-up here because of the temptation to stop at the first one.

Tip #5 Pick a narrator with a following

You might decide this is outside of your budget, but like I advised in Part One, I feel like if you're already investing a good chunk with hopes of making it back, I believe you have a better chance if you up your budget enough to get a narrator who has a following. If you don't listen to audio, the benefit might not be readily apparent, but there are narrators out there who will bring readers to you. And I don't mean because they actively promote you (though some do), but rather that there are listeners who will listen to anything they narrate. Wouldn't it be great to extend your reach in this way?

How can you know who has one? If you stalk their reviews you'll see this come up a lot "I love XYZ and listen to anything they narrate" or some variation. Another place to stalk listening preferences is to go on Goodreads and see if there's an audio group for your genre. In romance, I got great intel from Romance Audiobooks, which not only has discussions on books, but also specific threads on various narrators.

Tip #6 Be an audiobook listener yourself

I wasn't one when I first tackled this and it soon became apparent that there was a lot of knowledge I needed to make up for. Go ahead and get a subscription to Audible and start listening to some of the narrators popular in your genre who are on ACX. This will give you a feel for how they handle a book in its entirety and the production quality. It will also help you get a feel for the industry and what you like and don't like. At the very least, do this for the the top one or two you're trying to decide on. Now I listen to them when I have to drive out of town. And recently I've been needing to find a different narrator for my contemp series, so I've been listening to ones I've been considering.

What about you? Do you have any questions, or do you have tips to add? I'd love to hear from you!

Angela Quarles is a USA Today bestselling author of time travel and steampunk romance. Her debut novel Must Love Breeches swept many unpublished romance contests, including the Grand Prize winner of Windy City's Four Seasons contest in 2012. Her steampunk, Steam Me Up, Rawley, was named Best Self-Published Romance of 2015 by Library Journal. Angela loves history, folklore, and family history. She decided to take this love of history and her active imagination and write stories of romance and adventure for others to enjoy. When not writing, she's either working at the local indie bookstore or enjoying the usual stuff like gardening, reading, hanging out, eating, drinking, chasing squirrels out of the walls, and creating the occasional knitted scarf.

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About Must Love Kilts: A Time Travel Romance 

The Jacobite Rebellion--not the best time to get drunk, hook up with a guy, and lose your sister.

A drunken bet...

When computer game designer Traci Campbell gets too close and personal with a bottle of Glenfiddich while vacationing in Scotland, she whisks her kilt-obsessed sister back to 1689 to prove hot guys in kilts are a myth. Hello, hundred bucks! But all bets are off when she meets Iain, the charming playboy in a to-die-for kilt.

Wrong place, wrong time, wrong name...

Iain MacCowan regularly falls in love at the drop of his kilt. The mysterious red-haired lass with the odd accent is no different. But when his new love is discovered to be a Campbell, the most distrusted name in the Highlands, his dalliance endangers his clan's rebellion against King William.

It’s all hijinks in the Highlands until your sister disappears...

Traci thinks men are only good for one thing--thank you, Iain!--but when she awakens once again in Ye Olde Scotland and her sister is gone, she must depend on the last person she wants to spend more time with. He wants to win a heart, she wants to keep hers, but can these two realize they're meant for each other before the Jacobite rebellion pulls them apart?

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