Thursday, July 11, 2019

Developing an Audiobook: An Indie Author’s Perspective

By Ray Flynt

Part of The Indie Author Series

JH: Audiobooks are hugely popular, but not every author knows how to create one for their novels. Ray Flynt is back in the lecture hall today to walk us through the process of creating an audiobook. 

In its purest form, writing a novel is storytelling. The world’s first books undoubtedly had their genesis in timeless stories once told around campfires. We also know that children learn to read and develop their own love of books by being read to, whether from those first Golden Books or hearing about the adventures of Harry Potter.

Thanks to (an Amazon company) Indie Authors can see their stories come to life as an audiobook. It makes sense to have your books available in as many formats as possible to appeal to a broad audience. I’m always puzzled when I see Indie Authors say, “I only have my novel available as an eBook, since a print version would be too expensive.” It’s my contention that if you’re willing to spend time and a modest amount of money, you can easily develop a trade paperback. In this article, I’ll provide my perspective on adding an audiobook format to your available mix.

A few years ago, Fiction University carried an article by Heather Smith on “How to Create an Audio Book.” I don’t plan to reinvent the wheel, so here’s a link to that good information.

While audiobooks are the fastest growing segment of the publishing industry, they still account for only six or seven percent of the total market (NOTE: Expect that percentage to increase). Getting into this market provides an opportunity to separate yourself from other Indie Authors.

My first exposure to audiobooks occurred in the 1970s when I volunteered to record books on tape for the blind. I did so as a volunteer. A non-profit organization provided me with a reel-to-reel tape recorder and I could narrate any book I liked. Changes in audio technology and the way in which we now download music, have opened up opportunities to listen to books in our cars, on our phones, or during a morning walk. In urban areas especially, workers often face an hour or more of daily commuting time—enough that it makes sense to fill that time listening to a good book.

On the downside, developing an audiobook is more expensive than print or eBooks, thus extending the time it takes to ensure a return on your investment.

My approach to audiobooks:

Last year, I decided to launch a second series featuring Ryan Caldwell, a veteran of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, who entered college at the age of 26 to pursue a career in journalism. As I issued the second book of the series (Anchor on My Soul), I decided to turn the first one, Cold Oath, into an audiobook. Unlike my other series comprised of eight books to date, I figured I could jump into the audiobook pond and keep up with it on this new series.

Rather than post my project for auditions on ACX, I decided to review the information and sample audios from among the thousands who have profiles on ACX. I searched using a variety of factors including genre, gender, language, accent, vocal style, voice age, and compensation requested. I decided to pay in full for the finished product rather than do a cost share arrangement.

After listening to sample audios, I reached out to the person whose voice I liked the most. He happened to be a radio broadcaster by profession and—in my opinion—had an easy-to-listen-to voice. My books have lots of characters, so I wasn’t seeking a person who could create myriad voice styles, but merely wanted someone who could give a good reading of the story. I also knew that listeners would have to remain comfortable listening to his voice for seven hours. Though not a cost share project, I still felt it was important to treat the process as a collaboration. After all, my baby would be in his hands.

In my opening email to him, I made it clear that I wanted him to take a look at the body of my work, including samples available on Amazon, to determine if he’d be comfortable recording my material.

My Preparation:

Before initiating the above contact, I returned to my original manuscript to ensure that it was READY to become an audiobook. Although I read aloud as part of my editing process, I went back and re-read the entire book to remove any clunky passages that didn’t pass easily through my lips.

While doing so, I jotted down words (mostly proper names or places) that the narrator might not know how to pronounce. For example, Cold Oath is set near Reading, Pennsylvania. A person unfamiliar might not know that it is pronounced REDD-ing. When I sent the script to my narrator, I included that pronunciation guide.

As Heather’s article notes, once you strike an agreement with your book’s narrator, their task is to record the “first fifteen minutes.” This affords you an opportunity make sure that the narrator you’ve selected is doing the kind of job you expect. Mine actually sent me the first eighteen minutes, stopping at an appropriate chapter break. Hearing this recording only confirmed my choice and made me more excited for the finished product.

I mentioned collaboration. It doesn’t necessarily have to work this way, but I’ve been listening to portions of the finished product as they have been recorded. I listen while following the script and make notes on any pronunciation issues, missing words, or wrong words. None of the errors have been earth shattering. In one case, a sentence had been skipped over. In another, “he” had been read instead of “she.” I returned my notes to the narrator including the page number from the script on which the error occurred as well as the time stamp from the audio (making it easier for him to find and correct).

At this writing, all of the Cold Oath audiobook has been recorded and final edits are underway. I’ll then have the opportunity to listen to the completed narration just to make sure it all flows smoothly and give my final approval.

Once ACX approves the final version, it will be available on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. I’m happy to report that we’re already having a conversation about recording that second book in the series.

(Here's more on Producing Your Books in Audio Part One: Should You?)

Two additional points:

As an Indie Author, you also have to provide a cover to ACX for your audiobook. Unlike a print or eBook, the cover must be square at a minimum of 2500 pixels on each side. I adapted mine from the print cover artwork. My narrator’s name is featured prominently.

Once finalized, ACX provides the author with 25 free downloads of the audiobook. These can be given to friends, used to encourage reviews, made available to contests, or other ways to boost your marketing efforts.

Final thoughts:

Audiobooks may not be right for every Indie Author. I’ve found the experience to be both interesting and exhilarating. If it exposes a few more people to the content of my novels—so much the better.

Feel free to share your own experiences with audiobooks or to pose questions about the process using the comment section below. 

Ray Flynt authors two series: Brad Frame mysteries, and one featuring journalist Ryan Caldwell. He’s also written a political suspense, Kisses of an Enemy. A native of Pennsylvania, Ray wrote and performs a one-man play based on the life of Ben Franklin. Ray is a member of Mystery Writers of America and active with their Florida Chapter. He is a life member of the Florida Writers Association. Ray retired from a diverse career in criminal justice, education, the arts, and human services.

Website | Goodreads |

About Unforgiving Shadows

Brad Frame lived a serene but aimless existence on Philadelphia’s Main Line until his mother and sister were kidnapped and murdered.

The tragedy transformed his life.

After helping the police catch their killers, and with the aid of his mentor, Philadelphia Detective Nick Argostino, Brad opened his own private detective agency vowing to help bring justice to others whose lives had been turned upside down.

Eleven years later, Brad is invited to the execution by lethal injection of Frank Wilkie, one of two men responsible for the death of his mother and sister.

Thinking that Wilkie might have something to say, Brad reluctantly attends. Wilkie remains silent, but as Brad exits the prison the chaplain races after him, thrusting the condemned man’s Bible into his hands.

Within hours another man is anxious to get his hands on Wilkie’s Bible, and Brad suspects the motivation could involve the still-missing ransom money.

But as the reason becomes clear, Brad’s world is once again turned upside down. Aided by his associate, Sharon Porter, Brad unravels an eleven-year-old mystery that casts new suspicion on family, neighbors and business associates alike.

UNFORGIVING SHADOWS is the first book in the successful Brad Frame Mystery Series.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble |Indie Bound |

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