Almost a year ago I had a couple of conversations with friends about the possibility of turning my Bloodlines Series novels into audiobooks. Admittedly, I almost dismissed the idea as I had not listened to, nor heard of any audiobooks since 1990. The last audiobook I had listened to was "Interview With A Vampire" written by Anne Rice (I cannot remember the narrator). I had purchased the book on casette tape, and there were several tapes, if I remember correctly.
I had enjoyed the story, and listening as I drove from Toronto down to Myrtle Beach, SC, helped the endless hours pass by pleasantly. After I returned from my trip, I never purchased another audiobook. The multitude of tapes that an average book required, and the hours required to listen to the book just did not appeal to me. I carried that stigma of audiobooks (or books on tape as they were known back then) until last Fall.
It was during a discussion with friends that the idea of an audiobook took root; they pointed out to me that a large number of potential readers could not read a book, due to issues with their eyesight. I had not taken this point into consideration, but I left their place that night with a mission to investigate the viability of making an audiobook.
I did some research, as I always do, and discovered that audiobooks were more popular than ever. Not only were audiobooks popular with the visually impaired, but millions of others were now buying and listening to these books on the iPads, laptops and, most importantly, their smart phones. It was a way to enjoy a good book while they commuted to work, while they were at work or while they did other things that occupied their time, but not their minds.
Today's audiobooks are no longer recorded on a myriad of clunky casette tapes, which made portability an issue. Today's audiobooks are quickly and easily downloaded to any number of electronic devices and are completely portable. They are still expensive when compared to a traditionally printed book, or an e-book, but the audiobook brings a whole new dimension to a story. But only if the narrator is engaging.
When I first started investigating having one of my books made into an audiobook, I was immediately discouraged by the cost of hiring a narrator. A good narrator, one that could tell a story in a compelling manor, is EXPENSIVE. My initial research indicated that a professional narrator would cost me upwards of US $10,000.00 to turn my first novel into an audiobook. That was too rich for my blood, so I put the idea on the back-burner, at least for the time being.
Then, several months later, I came across information about a website called A.C.X., an acronym for Audiobook Creation Exchange. ACX is a subsidiary of Amazon, and they were introducing a program that would allow authors like myself to connect with voice actors who were interested in making an audiobook. Even better, ACX offered 2 different ways to pay a narrator, either through the narrator's hourly rate or through a 50/50 royalty share program.
The narrators on ACX post their biography, a sample of their voice work, and an hourly rate for their work. Many also indicate that they will consider a 50/50 royalty share as compensation. For authors, you can either post your project or contact a narrator directly. Since I wanted to initiate a 50/50 royalty share, I posted the book I wanted to turn into an audiobook, set up an audition script, and then waited.
I did not immediately receive an audition to narrate my book, but I kept the posting live on ACX. Then, approximately 3 months after I posted the book, I received my first voice audition. I didn't care for the audition; it sounded like the narrator was reading a list of ingredients to make a cake rather than tell the story of Cove Point Manor. Rather than just give up, I emailed the narrator with a polite list of concerns and hoped he would resubmit his audition. He did not.
I was somewhat disappointed, but I didn't pull the project. I waited patiently, and then my patience was rewarded when a 2nd narrator auditioned. The 2nd narrator was vastly better than the 1st, so I decided to give him a chance. We agreed on a 50/50 royalty share program and then got to work on the audiobook.
What followed was an interesting exchange for a couple of months. Bill would submit chapters as he finished them, and I would review the narration. If I wanted a particular change made, Bill would make the change, resubmit the chapter and then I would approve it. This process was repeated for each chapter until the audiobook was finished, and then the completed copy was submitted for a technical review by ACX.
The technical review passed the ACX quality control checks, and then ACX approved the audiobook for sale. ACX also set the price of the audiobook and, because I had selected the exclusive distribution through ACX, the book was released for sale on Audible.com, Amazon.com and on iTunes (and their subsequent international partners). The time from technical approval to having the book available for sale took more time than I would have liked, but that was my only complaint about the entire process.
My audiobook, Bloodlines: Cove Point Manor, has now been available for sale since March 7th, only 4 days ago. I, of course, immediately downloaded a copy so I could listen to the book uninterrupted for the first time. I loaded the audiobook onto my iPhone and then listened to the narration as I drove back and forth to my office each day, a 2 hour round trip, on average. I was impressed with how the story was brought to life in a different way, listening to another person tell me the story that I had written. Strangely, I even found myself laughing at some of the funny scenes and dialogue that I had written.
Sales of Bloodlines: Cove Point Manor's audiobook are coming in at a fairly steady pace which is also encouraging. Unlike advertising an e-book or a print book, ACX does not have an advertising program available (at least at this time). This makes getting word of your audiobook out in the market more challenging, but not impossible.
I am now in the process of finalising a narrator for my 2nd novel, Bloodlines: Of Noble Blood. This book, as my readers now, is based in England and has a large number of English characters in addition to Alex and Maggie, the main characters of my first novel. The narrator that I am working with is British, but she can also do American/Canadian accents. She is also VERY good, and I was impressed by the narrative she had done on another book. I think that she will do an excellent job at bringing Of Noble Blood to life, and I am excited to be working with yet another talented narrator.
Audiobooks bring a different dimension to a story. While I will always think that a book is generally better than a movie or TV adapation, an audiobook, correctly narrated, can be even better than the original book. The only thing that I think would make an audiobook better is to be able to narrate the book like an old radio show. Maybe one day that will be possible, but for now I am pleased with the results of my first audiobook.