Planning an Audiobook? Consider These 3 Things

EBooks are everywhere these days. In fact, they’re so prevalent it’s often easy to forget the “other” way to read books—by listening to them. Audiobook lovers are passionate about their books. When you talk with them, you’ll probably hear that most can’t recall the last time they actually read a book word for word. In… [Read More]

audiobook production tips by Penny Sansevieri for BookWorks.com

EBooks are everywhere these days. In fact, they’re so prevalent it’s often easy to forget the “other” way to read books—by listening to them. Audiobook lovers are passionate about their books. When you talk with them, you’ll probably hear that most can’t recall the last time they actually read a book word for word. In fact, some people listen to as many as five audio books each month—this is particularly common in people who spend long periods of time on the road, like over-the-road truck drivers. And you’ll also find that audiobook lovers have a wide variety of tastes, listening to anything from world history to self-help and fiction.  Make no mistake, audiobooks are big and getting bigger. (Catch up on Part 1 and Part 2 of our prior series all about audiobooks for more information, if you missed them.)audiobook production tips by Penny Sansevieri for BookWorks.com

Audible as a company has been around for a long time; now, however, big advancements have been made in their technology.  Whispersync allows people to both read and listen to books, making it a popular option that is flexible for people with crazy schedules. This type of book delivery is quickly becoming unstoppable. And you see audio books everywhere; there are deals where you can “Get three months free” to try and coax people into the system.

Additionally, about three years ago, Amazon launched ACX, which is a means for anyone to turn her book into an audio product. As a result, anyone who has the budget, indie authors included, can turn a book into an audio product with relative ease. If you’ve been thinking about an audiobook as a way to reach more readers, here are three important things to take into consideration.

A Good Narrator

If you’ve ever listened to an audio book, you know that the narrator can make or break a story. If a narrator is not right for the book, it can be distracting and turn readers off, even if they love the story. And, a professional narrator is critical. You should never, ever read your own book, even if you do voiceover for a living. Having taken voiceover classes and done some voiceover work myself, I can tell you firsthand that having a “voice” and being a successful audio book narrator are apples and oranges.

audiobook production tips by Penny Sansevieri for BookWorks.comFor audio to work in a book format, the narrator needs to have acting experience. Inflection, emphasis, and drama are key to an audio book that “reads” well—even if it’s nonfiction. So even if you have voiceover experience only or “have a good voice,” it could be disastrous. What I mean is that although there may be cost-savings in terms of production, your time and effort will likely be wasted, and a poorly narrated audio book could ultimately taint your book. Imagine this: a potential reader sees a bunch of reviews on your book page that complain about the narrator. Most likely, that reader is going to navigate on to another book with better reviews. I don’t have to tell you that this is not good for book sales.

The takeaway is that if you are going the extra mile to create an audio version of your book, budget for some good talent. And talent isn’t terribly pricey, especially when you consider how much work is involved in producing a finished book hour (which often requires several retakes). Typically, six hours of work are needed to create one hour of audio and most narrators will want $300 per finished hour. And, as a rule, books take 8-10 hours to complete.

When hiring a narrator, make sure you like them. If you’re doing a series or have more than one book, you’ll want the same narrator for each book that you convert to audio. When I spoke to readers, they told me this was a major pet peeve when an author swaps out a narrator, and this is because audiobooks create a very personal environment. The listener is inviting the reader into their car and their world, so it’s important to respect that connection.

Your Audiobook Production Timeline

Once you've hired your narrator, the process from start to finish moves along quickly. Once you confirm who you want to hire, you’ll make them an offer, and then give them a chance to respond and accept it.

audiobook production tips by Penny Sansevieri for BookWorks.comA rough overview of the process is that after you hire your narrator, they’ll record a 15-minute session and upload it to ACX for your approval. It’s a good sign when the narrator requests the entire book right off the bat to read it through and go over any difficult names to ensure flawless pronunciation. In the long-term, having this kind of advance preparation will come across to your listeners in the finished product.

After you approve the 15-minute sample, the actual recording process will begin. Keep in mind that you’ll define the dates for production, meaning you need to tell the narrator how much time they have. Most narrators will tell you right off the bat when they can start so there are no misunderstandings around timing. If you have a deadline, it’s important to work backward from that date and factor in each of the steps when setting your production timeline. You and your narrator will work closely together, so be sure to build in plenty of time.

Will You Go Exclusive?

This question is really a business decision, and there’s not a wrong answer, depending on your goals. If you decide to go exclusively with ACX, the royalties may be higher, but you sign over your book sales rights for a year, which is the duration of their exclusivity. Keep in mind that if you opt out of the exclusivity, new audiobook sites are popping up all the time. While a lot of people do default to Audible, because of Amazon, there are some great deals to be had on other audiobook sites.audiobook production tips by Penny Sansevieri for BookWorks.com

Audiobooks.com has a great selection, a thirty-day free trial, and lower monthly membership rates than Audible. Because of this competition, Audible has begun including more free stuff for Amazon Prime members.

audiobook production tips by Penny Sansevieri for BookWorks.comTo list your book on Audiobooks.com, you’ll create an account with Author’s Republic, and then decide where you want them to market your book. Author’s Republic has a large number of available sales channels, including sites like reado.com, audiobooksnow.com, talkingbookz.com, and more. Plus, if you’re doing the audiobook on your own (and not through ACX), they’ll also list you on Audible/Amazon.

Ultimately, audiobooks make a great companion to your print or eBook so consider this as a potential component for your launch. Or if time and budget are limited initially, perhaps consider adding the audiobook later, as a separate “edition”. This will also help keep the book and publication date fresh, which we all know is great for triggering Amazon’s internal algorithms. Now that you’ve got the background on these key decisions, it’s time to get started and boost your reader base!


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