Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Rigors and Rewards of Making Audiobooks

I can’t tell you how many times I hear from another author, “Wow, your books are in audio, I wish I could have that.” Or actors say to me, “Wow, audio books, I wish I could do that.”

I tell them, ‘you can’, and I wave my magic fairy wand and direct them in the direction of ACX. If you don’t know who they are, time to do some homework. Because all those wishes and wants start with them. They make it easy for the Indy and small publisher to get their works out in audio books.

It’s this simple. Check this out. You register. You click ‘add a title’, you fill in a few blanks, upload an audition script and post. That’s it. Then wait for auditions. Narrators, it’s the same way.

As of now, I have 15 live audio books titles out there. Here are a few things I have learned.

Pick a good, but not long audition sample. Tell the narrator if it’s in the middle of the book or the beginning. If your book has a lot of dialogue, pick a part with dialogue.

Fill in the section ‘Audition notes’ tell the narrator why they should audition. And for God’s sake, look for narrators if you don’t get auditions. You never know.

There are some downsides. One being, I still feel Audible treats the ACX titles like the red headed step child. But ACX is still in infancy and I think its time will come.

It’s a gamble for narrators who pick the 50/50 split. A book can be doing great on Amazon and tank on Audible (There’s where the failure of the red headed step child comes in). Audible needs to recognize these sellers on Amazon and maybe spotlight them. For example, I have one title that did fantastic on Amazon, was featured on the History Channel just last month, the narrator did a superb job, yet, it’s one of my lowest selling titles.

Authors, do not treat your narrator auditions like online dating. These are real people who took time to audition. Acknowledge their audition or send a nice note if you aren’t using them.

Think you want to narrate your own book? You can, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Leave it to the professionals. I did one and I only did the reading, my producer did all the other stuff and still. Even with a sound room, it was impossible. I hated my writing, I heard every noise and I realized my house is haunted because I picked up EVPs.

Give someone a chance. Say you hear a narrator. You like them, but they don’t have any books out. Instead of waiting for ‘the next best thing’ like most online daters, discover a gem. I use ABW Voiceovers a lot. Why? My first audiobook was his first. He did a great job. But now, Andrew Wehrlen is freaking amazing. I love Andy, he knows me and my writing now. He’s in my head, I hear him when I write. DavidDietz, an actor I have known for years wanted to try ACX. I gave him Peacekeeper. He did a fantastic job. He’s on a second one for me and it’s blowing Peacekeeper out of the water. He’s magnificent.

A good narrator can make a good book great. They bring it to life. I like ‘1st’ book narrators. They listen to what I suggest, are so eager, and sure they make errors, but they’re all fixable. If you work with them, you not only help them, they help you and it’s a great experience.

Listen to the files the narrators send you or post. Download them, burn them on a CD, take a drive. You can pick up things they may miss.

Be realistic narrators. Don’t take on a project you cannot do. I have two titles in the queue that are overdue and I haven’t heard back from the narrators. Drop a line to the author. I hesitate to contact ACX because I don’t want to get these narrators in trouble.

Join Audible club, use that book credit each month as a promo. There are some good audio book reviewers, too. Contact them, gift your book to them.

Authors – push your audiobooks as much as you do your Kindles. We are not Gods and our books are not the Holy Grail. Not everyone is going to want to buy it, remember, especially if you picked the 50/50 split, try your hardest to make sales. The narrator counts on it. Trust me it is not easy to be a narrator.

Marketing Tip - Join groups and discussions relevant to your books topic. Do it as a PERSON, not narrator or author. Nothing more annoying than someone interjecting with ‘Buy my Book’. If people like your posts and you, they’ll find out what you do. It’s a arduous process but it pays off.

Another and final ‘be realistic’. Your book, despite our best efforts and promoting may not sell. The narrator, you, put a lot of hours and hard work and you can’t catch a bite. It happens. BUT, remember, today’s flop can be tomorrow’s great seller. New Readers emerge daily. My book, Dust is proof of that. For years, maybe five sales? All it took was one person to start talking about it … and Dust rose from the ashes.

Hope to see you on ACX with us!


  1. Thanks for the good words, Jackie. I owe much of my early success to you. ACX has opened the door to both writers and narrators to reach a whole new audience. Writers must be willing to take chances on newer narrators. Narrators must be willing to throw out dozens of auditions and be willing to wait for a reply. But once you get that first one, things can get busy fast.

  2. Jackie, I came to blog post this TOTALLY by accident from another blog!! Thanks for some very timely and pertinent words -- definitely ones to adhere to for both writers and narrators.

  3. The only one I've fully listened to is Dust, and you did a fantastic job on it. I believed that I was there with you when the bombs hit, when you first ventured out, when little Simon died. Your passion totally made the audiobook.