Some Thoughts On Audiobooks

So I spent part of my afternoon reviewing the audio for one of my titles.  And it was kind of painful.  Not, thankfully, because of my writing, but because narrating a story is a tricky thing and trying to decide how much a narrator needs to fix things is hard to do.

This is the sixth title I’ll have put into audio (two are live, three are pending approval.)  (Shorter works, only one novel.)  But I think at this point I’ve learned a few things.

So without further ado, some thoughts:

  1. I’ve seen more than one person mention that you shouldn’t bother with audio unless you’re selling well in ebook. And for a novel that may make sense.  But I decided to put one of my non-fiction books in audio to test it out and I’ve sold (without promo) more copies of that title in audio than I have in ebook and print combined.
  2. You can sometimes get a narrator for less than their stated rate.  For my non-fiction, I put the audition up with a pay range of $50-$100 and had auditions from people who listed a rate of $200+ but were willing to accept $100.
  3. Fiction is far harder to narrate than non-fiction.  With my non-fiction it does require personality, so the narrator can’t just be anyone.  But it doesn’t require multiple character voices that need to be consistent across hundreds of pages.  That, it turns out, is really hard to do.
  4. Download the audio files and listen to them with a headset.  One of my narrators took great big gasping breaths between every sentence, but it wasn’t audible until you downloaded.
  5. I’ve chosen to do pay-for-production deals with the thought that then I get the upside of the sales.  But that makes it a more expensive project up-front and I wonder if that means a narrator is less involved in making sure the work is the best it can be.
  6. Even if someone else is producing the audio, as a self-publisher there’s a significant time commitment required to review the audio and recommend changes.
  7. You have to pick your battles.  I acknowledged with my first narrator that I couldn’t expect them to read everything exactly the way I would if I were reading it.  Instead I focused on places where a slipped word just didn’t work or where the tone or pacing of the sentence just didn’t work as opposed to trying to make the production exactly how I would’ve done it.  It’s not easy to do that, but it’s the only way to keep both of us sane.

Overall, I’m glad I’m branching into audio.  And it’s nice that I can do so with smaller projects first before I try to get a novel out there.  (A cost of $1,200 minimum minimum.) I may try to narrate a few things myself later this year (with all that free time I have, ha!) because there are certain works that I think do need a very specific delivery or tone and I won’t be able to train a narrator to read them that way.

But it’s a slog, too.  Yet another skillset to learn on this indie publishing path (which is probably part of the reason I’m still writing and publishing–because I like to learn new things and find new challenges).

About M. H. Lee

M.H. Lee is a speculative fiction writer currently residing in Colorado whose stories are sometimes dark, sometimes funny, sometimes darkly funny, but hopefully always thought-provoking and entertaining.
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