What I Learned Doing an Audio Book

I have never been able to get into audio books. I have a huge problem listening to narration and retaining information. I always did better in lectures when the notes followed the lecture closely. I just don’t seem to be able to comprehend audio books in the same way others can, so they have never been on my radar as a reading option.

But audio books are popular, so I elected to try ACX with my non fiction book, Self Publishing for Canadians.

Here are a few things I learned doing my first audio book.

  1. There are two options for paying narrators.
    The first option is paying the narrator up front. The most sought-after narrators will prefer this method, but as it can cost a pretty penny ($100/hr or more), many authors can’t afford it and go with the royalty share option, where you split royalties with your narrator. This is what I elected to do.
  2. I hate hearing my work read.
    I don’t know what it is, but I can’t stand hearing my work read aloud. It makes me so self conscious, and I wanted to edit everything again. I had to get past this because you’re required to listen and approve both a 15 minute sample and the full manuscript. Narrators will never match the internal voice in your head that reads your writing (especially if it’s fiction). You’ll hear emphasis put on a different word than you would have emphasized or something and it will really bother you. Okay, me. It bothered me lol. But as long as nothing was wrong or inaccurate about the reading from a technical standpoint, it’s all about different styles.
  3. It’s difficult to choose a narrator.
    After submitting my script (a few snippets from different parts of the book), and opening up to auditions, I had to listen to the narrators and try and decide whose voice best suit my work. Honestly, it’s not an easy choice. You might like one person’s voice, but another’s inflection, you may not be able to decide between a male or female narrator, or you may not get enough auditions if your books don’t sell well or you’re brand new to publishing. It helps if you have a solid idea of the type of voice you want (stoic, funny, casual, formal etc) because it will shape the type of auditions you receive. You are allowed to describe what you’re looking for so narrators searching for projects can get a sense of the vibe you want in the reading. Take your time picking a narrator. Really listen to the samples and allow enough time for people to submit auditions.
  4. It’s hard to estimate how long it will take.
    My book is 25,000 words. I had no idea how long that would take to record and edit. I had the offer accepted August 23rd, the first fifteen minute check on September 14th and the final files by October 31st, but I had to set the time for the two due dates, and I just guessed. Everything was done on time, but I have no idea if I gave too much time, not enough time, or just right. For a 120K novel, I am still not sure how long that would take. So communicating more with the narrator is something I have to do moving forward.
  5. Non fiction has challenges fiction doesn’t.
    I used my book as the script, so the audio book is literally the book narrated. It made me realize my non fiction book isn’t organized in a way that reads easily. If I ever write another non fic book, I would definitely look ahead to narration and make sure things like chapter breaks, section heads, lists etc were set out much more clearly.
  6. Fiction has challenges non fiction doesn’t.
    The biggest would be dialogue and making sure the narrator you choose is good at differentiating the characters. Another challenge is word count – a fiction book is going to be a lot longer than non fiction and may take longer for the narrator to record.
  7. Make sure you give your narrator any notes you have.
    From pronunciations of foreign words, names, sci-fi/fantasy locations/people etc, make sure you give your narrator some notes on how things should be said. I didn’t do this, and in one instance I realized a picky author might have a preference – the word Nanowrimo. Some people say nano-WRY-mo and others prefer nano-WREE-mo. To me, personally, it doesn’t matter. But if you’re firmly in the “WRY” camp, that’s something you may have to give your narrator a heads up about.

Overall I’m really happy with my ACX experience. I am considering doing my Sin City books in audiobook format at some point. I’m debating between a male or female narrator before I make the decision to go ahead, and it’s proving hard to come to a decision.

If you want to buy an audiobook copy of Self Publishing for Canadians, you can do so at Amazon, Audible and iTunes.

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