Let’s talk about audiobooks. Better yet, let’s have a conversation with all of you wonderful authors and small press publishers about how we can work together to create audiobooks. These days, I have the singular pleasure of working with independent authors and small press publishers to bring a variety of stories and characters to life in audio form. So, it should come as no surprise that, if you’re an author or publisher with a title that mirrors some of my established genres (science fiction, fantasy, thrillers, YA) or genres where my voice suits your work (nonfiction self-help, education, psychology, memoirs), we should make time to talk about the possibility of working together.
But wait! You say that you’ve never considered an audiobook for your title? You think that it’s hard to get the project started, or that you’re not sure about details of “per finished hour,” “exclusive versus non-exclusive distribution,” or how this can possibly help you earn more money on your title? You think that audiobooks are a luxury reserved for big-name authors, and you don’t know the first thing about navigating the ocean of options that exist?
Breathe, you wonderful and creative creature. You wrote a BOOK. Maybe you’ve written several books! As a fellow author, I can assure you that you’ve done the most challenging thing already and brought your idea to life, from neurons and synapses to words on a page. Bringing your work to audio format is the victory lap to your marathon.
So, we should have a chat. Many of the authors I’ve worked with didn’t have audiobook versions before they came to me with their books or series. And with a little bit of education and honest discussion, we’ve managed to cultivate great working relationships that resulted in great audiobooks with steady sales and strong reviews.
Do You Hear What I Hear?
The first question should be, “Is this voice right for my book?” The right match of narrator to story can make or break the audiobook, so take the time to listen to what a narrator can do. I have a page of demos here on the site, but you can also go to Audible and search the recent titles I’ve done. Listen to a sample of a recent book in your title’s genre to hear how I’ve managed the material. If that makes you want to hear more, then contact me about an audition or a sample. Five to seven minutes of my voice narrating your work may be enough for you to realize that yes, it’s a great match, or no, it’s not quite what you have in mind.
It’s okay to say no, too. You can even ask if I know of a fellow narrator who might be a better voice for your work. The audiobook narrator community is small and fairly well-connected, and we talk a LOT about great authors and publishers. If my voice isn’t the best fit, I might know of someone who would be a better fit and can point them in your direction.
How Much Does This Cost?
The second question should be, “What am I willing to invest to make this audiobook a reality?” Authors invest time and resources in writing their books, but authors at all stages understand the need for strong cover design, professional book layout, and a great editor. It is rare that one author can do all of these things for one book, and it’s expected that they hire cover designers, layout designers, and editors. Similarly, an audiobook requires a narrator, a proofer, and an engineer to fully realize a professional product. When an author or publisher takes steps to bring a book to audio form, they should consider the costs associated with production. Narrators may be paid by the finished hour (abbreviated as PFH) for a book, with professional rates beginning between $225 PFH and $275 PFH. Some narrators, especially those with union memberships, may have a higher PFH rate. That fee includes whatever the narrator will need to pay to outsource proofing and production, and every hour of finished audio requires anywhere from two to three hours of studio time. There’s also the time spent preparing the book, corresponding with the author/producer/rights holder, and uploading files to the appropriate locations. Narrators may also consider royalty share, where the author/publisher and the narrator split the percentage of sales of the book. Authors and publishers wishing to do a royalty share should budget for the proofing and production of the book and work with the narrator to schedule recording and production to meet the schedules of all involved parties.
Creating an audiobook does cost money, but you’ll make more money from your work by having a well-narrated and well-produced audiobook compared to not having an audiobook at all. For authors who are wondering how to budget for the costs associated with producing an audiobook, consider your current audience and how they can help invest in the audiobook. Authors with Patreon can work with their patrons to raise money for audiobooks, with early releases of chapters and previews of audio as rewards. Indie authors can get creative with their fundraising, and I’ve worked with several authors who have gone this route. If you approach your narrator and have this opportunity and outlet, don’t be afraid to make it part of the discussion. Personally, I’ve approached authors with ideas about fundraising and patron rewards, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
How Do I Market an Audiobook?
The third question should be, “What is my marketing strategy for this audiobook?” For authors seeking a royalty share option for their book, having a marketing strategy will make all the difference in finding a narrator for the title. What’s your current sales data for the print book and other books you’ve published? What’s the Amazon rank for your titles? What do people say about your work on Goodreads? Having that information is critical when approaching a narrator, and it’s the sort of information that we seek out when you come to use with a title. Royalty share is a partnership between the narrator and the author (or small press publisher, or all three!) and it’s important to come to the table with a plan as to how you plan to promote the book. This could be ads on social media, newsletters and mailing lists, or review and promotion services like Audiobook Boom. For my part, I use social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn) to promote my titles and narration services. I have a monthly newsletter to stay in touch with authors, producers, and listeners. And, I have this blog.
Can We Do This Together?
The final question should be, “Am I willing to work with the narrator to create the best product possible?” The working with part is key; when you work with the right narrator, you trust your book with a professional whose job is to create the best possible audio representation of your work. Your narrator’s job is to bring the story to life, so be ready to answer the occasional email about the story or provide a pronunciation guide. Trust the narrator to tell the story and understand the nuances of pacing and breathing, and refrain from micromanaging every phrase and chapter. Ask questions to stay informed about the process, and be available via email for any questions. And, if something does come up, let the narrator know as soon as possible. It could be an illness or a family emergency, and most narrators understand that life happens. At the same time, be understanding when the same thing happens to the narrator. The heart of the solution is open communication for all parties involved, which makes the triumph of the finished audiobook all the more fulfilling.
So, if you’re interested in bringing your written work to life as an audiobook, we should talk. You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, or you can contact me via the form on the site here. Or, if you’re feeling particularly old-fashioned, just drop me an email and say that you want to talk about audiobook awesomeness. I’ll be here, hanging out with my coffee, working with another amazing author just like you.