Ally Blake Romance Author - Blog

Latest news from Australian romance author Ally Blake, who writes fun, fresh flirty romance novels for Harlequin Mills and Boon.

Friday, 27 September 2013

how audiobooks are made


Today I'm over at the RT (Romantic Times) blog chatting about a guy I met on twitter - or more specifically a gent who voices audiobooks.  Cool huh?!  His name's Noah Michael Levine, he's voiced over 40 audiobooks and here's a snippet of WHEN HONEY GOT MARRIED...  he kindly voiced for moi!



And as a kindly companion to the interview, for anyone who's ever wanted to have a book turned into an audiobook, her's Noah's take on how to go about it.  Take it away Noah!


For all of you authors out there – if you haven't gotten involved in getting your work done in audio format – I highly recommend it.  It's a huge business that has been growing very nicely over the last few years.  I am NOT a representative of Audible or their sister branch – ACX – but here's a quick rundown on how the process works.

From what I can tell – All the books done through AUDIBLE are typically negotiated deals with the publishing house that puts out the book – as opposed to the author, themselves.  Under this umbrella – I simply get a list of titles that Audible needs me to record – I record them – send them to the editors – they send back what I need to fix – I fix it – they send it on to Audible and then the audiobook is posted on the site.  I don't know much about how these deals are negotiated or what kind of royalties/rights the author receives/retains.  And I've rarely had contact with authors when narrating books through Audible – so there's usually no involvement or collaboration between myself and the author.
  
ACX is a platform designed for self-published authors to connect with narrators and pay them directly to produce your audiobook.  As an author, you would go to http://www.acx.com and sign up – set up your profile – post your book and cover art – upload whatever audition material you want read and then wait for the auditions to start rolling in.  
There are different levels of compensation for the narrators – Though I don't know how the author determines what level to choose.  Once you sign up with ACX you will have access to their support staff that can help you
  
The different options range from Royalty share (no up-front, monetary outlay by the author, but you share the sales income), to $0-$50 - on up to $400–$1000.  What's important to understand about the dollar amounts is that they are for PER FINISHED HOUR (PFH) of recording.  So it doesn't matter how long it takes the narrator to produce the project – it's the actual, finished run–time of the audiobook that you are paying for.  So – if you post a project in the $100–$200 range, negotiate with the narrator for a rate of $150 PFH and the audiobook comes out to 10 hours – you will pay the narrator $1500
  
 Remember that, with ACX, the narrator is not only responsible for narrating – but also for editing and mastering the project – which makes them considered a "Producer," as well as a narrator.  Also remember – the less you pay PFH – the more likely you will be working with a less-experienced narrator/producer – and vice/versa.  The editing/mastering process is very time consuming and labor-intensive and can make a big difference in the quality and flow of a project.  Also – you can choose to only receive auditions from "Audible Approved" narrators/producers, but bear in mind that those people will cost more PFH.
  
 For your audition material – select a 3-5 minute piece of your work that you feel would give you a good sense of the narrator/producer's abilities.  Once you select a narrator, you make them an offer through ACX.  They might accept right away – or they might counter offer.  Once you agree on a rate they have to record the first 15 minutes of the book – upload it to ACX – whereupon you will have to approve it before they continue.  Once that is approved – they continue with the production, upload the finished files and then you will need to approve the final production.  Once that is approved, you pay the narrator.  Once the narrator has confirmed receipt of payment – the audiobook can then be posted on Audible, Amazon and iTunes.
  
The turnaround time can be as short or as long as you and the narrator agree upon.  But I've seen, typically, that it's about 4 weeks from accepted offer to finished product.
  
 You also need to decide how involved you want to be in the process – and that might vary depending upon your faith in the narrator and time availability.  For example – Liliana Hart and I emailed a lot – but she was not involved on a chapter-by-chapter basis.  (Partially, I'm guessing, because she's one of the busiest, most-traveling authors around!)  We established some basic character issues up front – I sent her some samples – and she was, like … "Go for it."  She was great – and really supportive.  Other authors have been much more intricately involved.  I worked with Stephen Carpenter very closely – as well as, currently, with Debra Holland – talking frequently on the phone about characters and voices – going over every chapter.  They want(ed) to be involved in every step – and I think that's great.  I can't speak for how any other narrator works – but I enjoy both "going for it" and collaborating closely with authors.
  
I use a laptop computer with wireless keyboard and mouse, on which I use Audacity recording software (a free download), an iPad (or other tablet) for reading the material, a good-quality USB microphone with a wind-screen and a 3TB external hard drive to keep all my files safe.

I don't read the book before I perform it.  Honestly, it would take too much time.  I just go in, sit down, and start reading.  The prose and the characters make themselves known – I hear it a certain way in my head – and it comes out of my mouth.  And, for me, not reading ahead of time gives me a level of inspiration that I don't think I'd have otherwise.  I make lots of mistakes along the way – that's for sure.  But that's the beauty of working with software.  If I don't like something I've done – I stop – delete the errant line – and start again – right from where I left off.  It's called a "punch-in" and I do a LOT of them.  And, again, some books flow off my tongue way more easily than others – so there are less punch-ins.  It's such a great feeling when I get on a roll – really feeling the author's work – getting into the characters and the flow and the dialogue.  It's very cool.

In the collaboration process I typically send the author a chapter or two at a time – as I finish them - using Dropbox or Hightail – they give me notes – I make the corrections and then the chapter is done.  This, I believe, actually saves a lot of time on the back-end, since you, as the author, would not, then, have to listen to the entire audiobook AFTER it’s been recorded – and THEN have the narrator do the fixes.  With the "as-you-go" process, by the time the narrator is finished recording last chapter, the audiobook is pretty much good-to-go.

I've been asked by authors if they are supposed to A) Send a message to every person who auditions to let them know you’ve received their audition and B) Send a message to all those who auditioned to let them know you've selected someone else.  All I can say is … A) No and … B) No.  Unless you want to.  It's certainly nice – communication is always great, but not, I feel, necessary in this instance.  In all my years acting – hundreds of auditions for theatre, film, television and voiceovers – I have never, once, EVER had a casting director contact me to let me know I DIDN’T get a part.  That's just not the way it works.  And a couple of ACX authors have told me they've received messages from narrators who auditioned demanding to know what was going on.  I don't feel that's a professional attitude.  In my mind – you audition – you forget about it – and move on – unless you hear otherwise.  But, as always, go by what you think is right for YOU to do.  :-)

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