When I was a geeky teenager I was in love with Timothy Zahn’s Star Wars Trilogy. And by “in love” I mean unhealthily obsessed. I really wanted my grandfather (FaFa) to be able to read them as he was one of the biggest influences on my reading life, but he had recently lost most of his eyesight. So I set out to find the audiobook versions. The good news was that they were narrated by the actor who played Wedge Antilles in the movies (Wedge was a character in these books as well). The bad news was that they were abridged. And by “abridged” I mean gutted. Seriously, it was hardly the same story. So what was totally geeky fourteen year old me to do? Make my own audiobooks! I took two tape recorders, my Star Wars soundtrack, and something like fifteen blank cassettes and read those darn things onto tape sound effects and all. Sadly, I read AT THE SPEED OF LIGHT so I am not sure how much my poor FaFa got of the story, but I know he appreciated the effort and enthusiasm.
Audiobooks have only grown in popularity as more people are enjoying them using modern technology like iPods. You can even buy audiobooks and sync them with your kindle so you can read at home or work and then listen on your commute and pick up where you left off. Because of their popularity, audiobooks present an exciting opportunity for many authors. If you’re self-published you already own the audio rights to your book, if you’re traditionally published make sure to check your contract and find out if you own them.
Don’t worry, audiobook production isn’t going to involve multiple tape recorders like it did for me when I was a teen, In fact, ACX, which is an Amazon affiliated company makes it super easy to get your audiobook produced and distributed to major retailers like Audible, Amazon, and iTunes.
There’s two basic ways to produce your audiobook. 1) Narrate and produce the audio yourself or 2) Hire a narrator (called a producer) on ACX to do it for you.
I thought about narrating mine myself because unlike when I was a teen I’ve learned to read more slowly and I just so happen to be married to someone with an entire recording studio in their office. However, I’m not an actor and I honestly wasn’t sure I wanted to put in the time required to narrate a book. That’s a lot of hours and I’d rather pay someone else to professionally narrate than pay a babysitter to watch my kids while I do it. So I went with option two, and I’m very glad I did because I’ve worked with some great narrators.
Within option two (hire a producer on ACX), there are two sub-options. You can hire a producer/narrator and pay them up front – most of them have stated hourly rates (ACX does the math and figures out how many completed hours the recording will likely be based on word count). Or you can chose to do a royalty share option which means you basically split your royalties 50/50 with your producer. This is an awesome option for those of us (me) who don’t have a lot of money to put up front. There are definitely quality narrators who are willing to do the royalty share option.
I know that the whole process sounds very intimidating and time consuming, but it’s honestly pretty easy. When you first start your project you’ll need to invest maybe thirty minutes or so setting up your project and uploading an audition script (they walk you through everything). You’ll need to invest some time listening to auditions and selecting a narrator. The real time commitment is near the end when you need to listen to your audiobook in its entirety and approve it.
The financial benefit of having my books available in this format, plus the benefit of making it available to people who can’t read it in other formats (my mom for example, had eye surgery and can’t read for long stretches) definitely made the time investment worth it. Also, the excitement of listening to your words come to life is its own reward.
If you’re interested in a more in depth discussion of ACX and the audiobook process you can check out Jennifer Becton’s series of articles on Indie Jane about this subject. Click here and here and here to read the series in order.
And just for fun and to spread the gospel of audiobooks, I’m giving away a copy of my book Attempting Elizabeth as narrated by the fabulous Elizabeth Klett. Just leave me a comment below and tell me what you think of audiobooks…do you listen to them? If so, do you have a favorite?