Meeting new-to-me authors often happens at conferences like NINC (Novelists, Inc.) and sometimes, there’s the opportunity to present information about audiobooks! Forty-five minute sessions never seem like enough time to talk about every aspect of the process, so this is a summary and extended resource post for things that might not have made it to the presentation, or that needed a bit more explaining.
Audiobook investments are never a snap decision for authors. For all intents and purposes, the audiobook is a performance of the work that is available in print… which means that it’s a new experience for current and potential consumers. Some superfans may get both the print and audio. Some people may only read print books and e-books, while others prefer to listen to their stories. One of the biggest takeaways is that audiobooks will expand an author’s audience; the size of that expansion depends on a lot of things, including the quality of the narration and the distribution of the work to various storefronts.
Let’s paint the elephant in the room fuchsia and get the uncomfortable parts out of the way… audiobooks require a sizeable investment of money and time. While it is possible to hire a narrator to work just for royalty share, authors are far more likely to get an experienced, qualified, and talented narrator by paying a Per Finished Hour (PFH) rate. It is possible to hire narrators to share royalties, but most experienced narrators who do this will request a PFH stipend to cover the cost associated with audio proofing, editing, and mastering. These are the audiobook equivalents of copyediting, layout, and formatting for the print version. The other reason to hire a narrator and pay a PFH rate is to retain all rights and royalties for yourself; as an author, having the freedom to distribute the work across a variety of platforms is a key reason why I personally recommend authors to budget for PFH contracts with narrators.
One of my favorite parts of being a narrator is learning about the worlds and characters that an author creates. When authors work with narrators, they are entering into a partnership with a person who wants to know about the story and its nuances. Authors who provide information about the book and characters in a structured format help their narrators bring out the best performance of the story. Many narrators and audiobook publishers ask authors to provide summaries of the book and characters as a way to prepare the script. While the narrator always reads the script and makes notes prior to recording, additional information helps the narrator know the characters and world that they’re going to emotionally inhabit for the length of the project.
There are several ways authors can bring their books to audio. Some authors want to be more hands-on with everything from casting to marketing and distribution. Others would prefer to have an audiobook publisher manage some or all of the process, allowing the author to focus on writing. This choice can affect where an author might look for a narrator as well as the distribution options available to them. Some audiobook publishers also provide assistance with marketing, depending upon how much the author wants to invest in that aspect of the project.
(Quick note: links here will go to my own narrator profiles on certain sites. If I mention an audiobook publisher in this post, it’s because I’ve either worked with them as a narrator on projects or I’ve met the owner(s) and know that they put out quality projects and treat their narrators well. Please do your own research!)
Options like FindawayVoices and ACX allow authors to solicit auditions from narrators based upon a variety of parameters, including budget for PFH or royalty share projects. There are different distribution options, and some provide a higher percentage of royalties for exclusivity. Audiobook publishers like Pink Flamingo Productions and Spectrum Audiobooks provide options for authors to use their services for casting, production, and marketing, as well as full production and distribution.
There is a wealth of information online about audiobooks and audiobook production. The following links were part of the presentation and are an excellent starting point to learn more.
- Findaway for Authors – https://findaway.com/authors/
- ACX for Authors – https://www.acx.com/help/authors/200484540
- 2022 Guide to Audiobook Distribution (Scribe Media) – https://scribemedia.com/audiobook-distributors/
- Karen Commins’s Audiobook Marketing Cheat Sheet – https://audiobookmarketingtips.com
And if you’d like to see the packet that I give my new authors, you can download the PDF here.