While many self-published authors debate whether to offer print copies of their books, I’ve noticed that many don’t consider another format for their work: audiobooks. More and more readers are downloading audiobooks as an alternative to ebooks or print, and they can be a great additional revenue source for writers. I suspect that most indie authors either don’t think about audiobooks or discount them because they don’t have the means to produce and distribute the audiobooks themselves. However, creating a quality audiobook is simpler than you might think, and it’s a great way to maximize on your publishing rights.
I have had success using Amazon’s Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX) service, and I know several other writers who have been satisfied with it as well. (I am not in any way affiliated with the service or being paid to promote it.) ACX connects the rights holders of the book (such as authors and publishers) with professional audiobook producers. If you’re self-published, you already own your audio rights, and you can use ACX to have an audiobook produced by professionals. ACX will also distribute your audiobook through Amazon, Audible, and iTunes.
Creating an audiobook using ACX is fairly simple, so much so that I’m not going to focus too much on the step-by-step process in this post. (They offer a pretty straightforward explanation of how it works here, and you can also check out their FAQ page for more details.) Instead, I’d like to offer some tips on the most complicated part of the process: finding the right narrator for your audiobook.
There are two basic ways to find narrators on ACX:
- Post your own title profile with a blurb for your book and plenty of information about what you’re looking for, and let interested narrators come to you.
- Search for the right voice yourself by using the search function. Narrow your search by criteria like gender, age, preferred reading style, accent, pre-performance direction, etc. Spend some time looking at narrator profiles and listening to samples. Then you can approach your favorites and explain why you think they’d be a perfect fit for your book.
Whichever method you choose, here are my tips for finding the right narrator:
- Provide detail
When you create a new title profile, you’ll have the opportunity to give information about your book and what you’re looking for in a narrator. In my experience, the more details you provide here, the more interest you will have from talented narrators. Be specific about the accent, vocal style, and age range you prefer, for example, and fill in as much information on your title profile as you can.
- Think like a director
When you’re considering what to specify in your profile, think about the narration the way a director might. Imagine that your narrator is a voice actor for a film and provide direction accordingly. In addition to being specific about details, mention the tone that you want. Should it be humorous, ominous, lighthearted, snide…? What should each character sound like and why? What does the narrator need to know about the character’s background? Don’t worry about being picky here; let potential narrators know how you want the book to be read.
- Pitch your book
In the book description section of your title profile, you’ll want to include a descriptive, attention-grabbing blurb that will make your book sound appealing to potential narrators. After all, narrators have to spend a lot of time reading your book, and no one wants to spend that much time on a book they don’t enjoy. Pitch your book to narrators the same way you would to other readers. You should already have exciting cover copy that appeals to readers, so use that to appeal to narrators as well. (For more about writing cover copy, check out this post.) If your book is selling well, you might want to mention that in your profile also; talented narrators will want to work on successful projects.
- Include sample pages
ACX recommends including a page or two from your book, but I’d recommend more than that. Listening to an audition of a single page isn’t going to tell you very much about a narrator’s capabilities. On the other hand, don’t make your sample too large. Narrators won’t want to spend hours recording material just to audition for your project, and keep in mind that even one chapter of your book might equal an hour-long recording that will also have to be edited. Also, remember that your sample doesn’t necessarily have to be your first pages. I’d recommend including sample pages from scenes that you really want the narrator to do well, or scenes that would be particularly difficult to narrate for any reason. Try to include both dialogue and internalization to make sure that your narrator can handle both. Also, if your book contains any graphic violence or sexual material, you might want to include an excerpt of it in your sample, both to see how the narrator handles the material and to make sure upfront that they’re comfortable with that kind of content.
- Specify pronunciations
If your book contains unusual character or place names (or unusual proper nouns of any kind), make sure you specify how they ought to be pronounced. The more of these you can point out upfront, the more time you will save in the long run, as you won’t have to go back and make corrections. This may seem obvious for fantasy authors, but it can apply to everyone. Even if your book is a contemporary set in the U.S., think carefully about whether there might be anything that’s tricky to pronounce. And if you’re using any real cities, make sure you know how they ought to be pronounced.
If you plan to release an audiobook, think carefully about what kind of narration you want in order to create the most pleasurable listening experience possible for the reader. If done well, an audiobook can be a great way to reach a new audience and offer even more options for readers.
Do you listen to audiobooks? What do you look for in an audiobook narrator? Have you created an audiobook before? Let me know in the comments!
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