I can hardly believe that FLASH
IN THE DARK is my 25th book produced on Audible. My very first
Audible book, Smoky Mountain Tracks was produced and narrated in 2014 by Donna
Postel, who has since gone on to narrate eighteen more books for me, including
Flash in the Dark. That first audiobook not only changed my life by making my
Raine Stockton Dog Mysteries available to a much wider audience than I ever
imagined, it changed the way I write.
Before I heard Donna reading my words I was frankly a little
baffled as to why people even liked Raine Stockton. But when I heard Donna’s dry, sometimes
self-deprecating and often humorous take on Raine’s character, I suddenly got
it. By George, I actually liked Raine a
little better myself. Since then,
whenever I write a Raine Stockton mystery, it’s Donna’s voice I hear in my
head. She has become, in my mind and in
the minds of thousands of readers, the voice of Raine Stockton. The same became
true when she took over the Dogleg Island/Flash series. Ryan Grady, Aggie Malone and Flash are
entirely different characters and the tone of these books is not at all the
same as that of the previous mystery series, but she has managed to put her unique
stamp on the voices of Dogleg Island as well.
And I’m not ashamed to say she made me cry with Flash in the Dark.
These days when I write a book I am acutely aware, not only
of how my words read on paper, but how they will sound. I use more dialogue tags to identify the
speaker, because its often difficult for a listener to determine who is talking
without them. I am trying very hard to
eliminate my bad habit of writing sentences with long pathetical asides. After all, there are no parentheses on
audio. I try, although I’m not always successful,
not to give characters names that sound alike, because they’re difficult to
distinguish on audio. Perhaps most
importantly, I’ve learned to keep the movie that’s generated in my listeners’
heads going without interruption by emphasizing the drama and minimizing long
narrative sections. I think all of this has made me a better writer.
Personally, I love audiobooks. They are all I listen to when I’m on a long
drive, and I always have one going when I start a big project around the house,
like painting a room or finishing floors.
I actually started my local library’s first collection of audiobooks
back in the nineties by donating my books-on-tape after I’d listened to them. They proved to be so popular with library
patrons that audiobooks became a regular budget item for the library within a
couple of years. The most common
question I get from readers when I release a new print book is, “When will it
be out on Audible?” The second most
common question is, “Why does it take so long for the audio version?” If you really want to know the answer to that
question, read on (it’s a lot!). Here’s
how it works:
Audible has set up a website for authors, publishers,
narrators and producers called ACX. If
your book is available on Amazon, all you have to do is type in the title and
the search engine will find it for you. Obviously, you have to own the rights
to the book you’re seeking to produce. You will then be asked whether you already
have a recording of your book, or if you’re looking for someone to record it
for you. Most people who come to ACX are looking for someone to produce and narrate
their book for them (in the lexicon of ACX, “producer” and “narrator” are the
same thing). Once you click “looking for
a narrator” you will fill out a brief questionnaire about your book and about what
you’re looking for in a narrator—male or female, young or old, what kind of accent,
what kind of storytelling style. They
make it really easy for you! You will
then set your budget. This is where it
Back in the old days, taking a book from print to voice was
a major undertaking that cost publishers tens of thousands of dollars, which is
why only very successful books by bestselling authors were regularly
distributed on audio. This is still the case with some traditional
publishers. But ACX gives publishers a choice
of what they want to spend—which is, in return, tied to how much royalty they’ll
be paid. You basically have two options: Pay the producer/narrator either by
sharing your royalties when they start to come in or with a one-time payment of
her fee. Most producers charge $200-$400
per finished hour, so if your book is 10 hours long you will owe
$2000--$4000. Or, if that’s beyond your
budget, ACX offers the option of allowing you to contract with one of their
producers who is willing to take a smaller amount up front to cover production
costs, and share the royalties with you 50/50.
If even that is beyond your means, there is always the option of doing a
strict royalty share and offering nothing up front. Be warned, producers who are willing to accept
that offer are few and far between, but it’s entirely possible that, if your
book is already selling well in print, someone will be willing to take a chance
on you. Audible pays 40% royalty to the
author for exclusive distribution rights, and 25% if you want to retain the
right to sell your audiobook to other venues.
Your audiobook will be sold on Amazon, Audible and I-Tunes websites.
Once you’ve decided how you want to pay for the production (and
get paid), ACX will calculate approximately
how many hours long your book will be and you’ll decide how much you’re willing
to pay the producer per hour. ACX helps with this, too. You then submit 1-2 pages from your book for
the audition, and the information about your book and your payment offer goes
out to all the narrators who have signed up with ACX. There are over half a
million of them. Those who are
interested will send you an audition, and that’s where the fun begins!
Once you’ve listened to all the auditions and chosen the
narrator who best suits your vision for the book, you will offer a formal contract
(prepared by ACX) specifying how much you’ll pay, and when you need your
project completed. Assuming your offer
is accepted, you will send the final, as-published version of your manuscript
and the audiobook is officially “in production”. Keep in mind that your
producer may not be able to get to your book right away, so it’s important that
you negotiate a deadline that suits you both.
The best producers can be booked six months to a year in advance (yes, that’s
why it takes so long to get an audiobook out!) so if you don’t want to wait,
you may not get your first choice.
The narrator/producer will submit the first fifteen minutes of
your book for your approval so that you can spot any potential problems with
accents, pronunciations, etc. that might
slow down the process. Once this is
approved, the next you hear from your producer will be when the manuscript is
completed. For a 10 hour audiobook, 100 hours or more of actual work can go
into it. The producer not only records and
formats the book, she also hires a proofreader who actually reads the
manuscript as he is listening to it to make sure every word and sentence sounds
on audio exactly as it was written. Despite the enormous amount of time and effort
that goes into production, I have never
had the process of recording the book take longer than 45 days once work is
begun. The audiobook will then be
submitted to the author for approval, and you will have one of the most amazing
experiences your life—hearing your own words read out loud.
ACX allows two re-records in case you spot mistakes in your
audiobook, but I never ask a producer to re-record something unless the mistake
materially effects the story—i.e., a wrong character name is used or an
essential word is left out (if “She was
not guilty” is read “She was guilty” I’d ask for a re-do). I like to take a whole weekend to listen to
my book, so it sometimes takes me a week to approve it. When you’re satisfied with your audiobook,
you check “approved” on the web page, upload your cover art if you have not
done so already, and pay your producer (assuming you’ve chosen to pay a flat
fee instead of a royalty share). Most
producers accept PayPal, but some are members of the Screen Actors Guild or
other organizations that have different payment protocols. ACX will not release your book until the producer acknowledges
payment, so any delay here will keep your book out of listeners’ hands.
But wait! The process
is still not finished. The good people
at ACX will now check your audiobook for technical errors and production
quality, and—as I understand it—have an actual human listen to the book all the
way through to make sure it meets their standards. This can take from 10 to 30 days. This is another reason it takes so long to
get an audiobook out, but it is an essential part of the process.
All told, from the time you list your book on ACX to the
time it appears on Amazon as an Audible edition—and assuming everything moves
along without a glitch—you’re looking at six weeks (rare!) to six months.
Having worked for seven years now with the same producer, I can usually
count on getting Audible editions into the hands of listeners in 2-3 months
after I contact her. And when you consider all that goes in to producing
an audiobook, this is lightning speed.
It is also, in my opinion, worth every minute of the wait.
|Now on Audible