Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Story Behind the Audiobook

It’s finally time to tell you the story behind the audiobook for Life After the Undead. I wanted to wait until it was available so I didn’t jinx it. 


I had been contemplating for a while that I should make my books available as audiobooks, but I wasn’t exactly sure about the process. Plus, I had to decide which book I wanted to do first and how I wanted to do it.

As with most things in publishing, there are a lot of options out there for turning your book into an audiobook.  Deciding on a platform means you have to decide how much you can and are willing to pay for the audiobook’s creation. Then, you have to decide if you’re going to do the narration yourself or if someone is going to narrate it for you.

I had a friend who had used ACX a while ago, so I decided to check out that site. It wasn’t the only one I checked out, there were several others I looked into. They all had their pros and cons, including price.

At first, I figured that I would do the narration myself. I have a sound mixer on my computer, and I figured it couldn’t be that hard, so I started recording a few chapters. It didn’t take long for me to realize this probably wasn’t the best route to take for my book.

Like most people, hearing the sound of my own voice makes me cringe. Plus, my equipment isn’t exactly professional, and I was sure that would come across in the recording. I wanted to give my audiobook the best chance to be successful, and I figured narrating it myself would set it up for failure. Thus, I decided to find a narrator.

Since I didn’t have a lot of funds to work with, I decided to use ACX as my audiobook platform. It gave me the option of choosing a range of prices per recorded hour or doing a royalty share with the narrator. It cautioned that if I chose the royalty share option, there was a chance my book wouldn’t be picked up by a narrator. I’ve also worked for royalty shares in the past, so I know that it isn’t as beneficial as it sounds. I wanted my narrator to be compensated upfront for their hard work—even if it wasn’t a ton.

I found an investor (hi, Mom! [Don’t judge. It’s nice to have support for my writing]) who was kind enough to help me with my dream of developing an audiobook. I then decided to develop Life After the Undead because it’s my bestselling book. I figured I needed to put the book with the best chance of making sales out there.

When you upload the book’s information onto the ACX site, you have a variety of options to choose from. You can pick if you want a male or female narrator, how old you want them to sound, and what type of attitude they’ll bring to the reading. You can even specify accents. It’s pretty involved.

From there, you upload a sample from your work that will be used as the audition. It doesn’t have to be long, but enough to get an idea of how the narrator will sound reading your book. Then, you wait for the auditions to roll in.

I started the audiobook process for Life over the summer—I want to say at the end of July. By August, I had my first audition. Narrators weren’t beating down my door to read the story, and this one had a nice voice and read well, so I decided to go for it.

The nice thing about ACX is that they have a contract system built in. You decide when the first 15 minutes need to be uploaded, and then when the rest of the book needs to be completed. Since you choose the range of what you want to pay per recorded hour, you can negotiate payment, but I just went with the top of the scale—I felt it was fair compensation. ACX then sends the contract to the narrator to sign.

All in all, it was an incredibly simple process. The narrator then sends you the first 15 minutes, which you approve or send back with notes, then they work on the rest of the recording. On average, it takes about 1 to 2 months to complete a recording (depending on how long your story is), so I gave the narrator 6 weeks to get the final recording back to me.

Through the entire process, you have the ability to talk to the narrator through ACX’s internal messaging system. I didn’t want to bug the narrator while she was recording, so I limited the amount of messages I sent. I was so excited to hear the final version, though. I couldn’t wait.

The deadline came and went, and only a few chapters had been uploaded to the site. I messaged the narrator to see if she needed anything from me to finish the project, and I didn’t hear anything back. I let a few days pass, then I messaged again. Still nothing.

In the contract, there is a clause of what to do when something like this happens, so I contacted support. They had me send another message with a specific date of when I needed a reply from the narrator. If I didn’t get it, I was supposed to let them know, and they would send a message from their end.

I sent my message and waited, but still nothing. I let support know, and they sent their message. I was supposed to wait a week, then contact them again if I still heard nothing. I did, and they told me to wait another week. I did. I emailed them again, and they told me to wait another week.

At this point, I was incredibly frustrated. It was apparent that the narrator wasn’t going to respond to any messages, so why did I have to keep waiting? I wanted to get my project back out there for another narrator to pick up. I sent another email to support, worded very nicely, that conveyed my frustrations. They emailed back and said that the contract should have been terminated weeks ago. They took care of that, and the project was back on the boards for another narrator.

During the entire process, I was looking into other recording platforms. I felt that I didn’t want the frustration and hassle of dealing with ACX, but I didn’t have the funds to go with some of the other places. I decided ACX would get another chance.

And that’s when Cheyenne walked into my life—or rather spoke into my life.

Hearing her voice read the audition sample gave me goosebumps. It was perfect! I didn’t hesitate sending her the contract. She was excited and eager to get started. Again, I gave her a little over a month to finish the recording, then I gave her time and space to complete her task.

I’m not going to lie: there were numerous times during the project that I thought I was going to get burned again. Cheyenne and I talked more than the other narrator and I talked, so I had a better idea where she was in the process, but every so often, days would go by and I wouldn’t hear anything. I tried not to panic, but I was gun shy. Ask my book manager (hi, Pam!); she’ll tell you about the emails I sent trying not to freak out and only barely succeeding.

The final recordings were due at the end of November, but a delay caused them to be late. I tried not to panic, and told myself that the book would get done, but there was anxiety. I told myself that if I got burned again, having an audiobook wasn’t meant to be.

The chapters were all eventually uploaded and approved by me, then they were sent to ACX for their approval. There were some issues with the decibel levels, which made me think for sure that the book wasn’t going to get published, but Cheyenne was able to figure out the issue and get the new chapters uploaded.

Now, this whole process is history since the book is available on Audible and iTunes. Like everything in publishing, you have to be patient and flexible when having an audiobook made. The road had some bumps and unexpected twists, but in the end, everything worked out.

Since I want to remain consistent, Cheyenne has agreed to narrate the second book in the series, and work will start on that at the end of the month. We’re both convinced that the process will go more smoothly since the first book was a learning process for both of us.

I can’t wait for the second book to be done. Cheyenne does such an amazing job and brings Krista to life in a way I never imagined. It’s weird and amazing to hear the words I wrote coming out of someone else’s mouth, and I’m hooked on turning all my stories into audiobooks. I just have to find the funds…

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