So, working on the theory that the more platforms a book appears on, the better its chances of getting noticed, I decided that it was time to create an audio version of my novella, Secrets of the Italian Gardener. (It is already available as a paperback, a hardback and an e-book). As promised in an earlier posting on this site, this is my account of the audio-adventure so far.
It all starts with ACX Audible, (easy to Google up). This company is owned by Amazon – like so many good things in the new publishing world. Once on the site you tell them your requirements and put up an extract from the book which actors can use as an audition piece.
This is the first stroke of genius. The actors can audition for you without any of the embarrassment of face-to-face rejection – you know the scene; the starving thespian gives their all in an empty theatre to a bored director sitting in the darkened auditorium, only to hear the words, “thank you, we’ll be in touch … next!” I did not want to be having to say that to anyone.
Within an hour or two of me submitting the brief the auditions started to arrive in my in-box. Each time a new one was up-loaded by an actor, ACX sent me an email and I was able to listen immediately. Within two days I had received nearly thirty. A large proportion of them were from Americans who did not even attempt an English accent, despite the fact that I had requested it in the brief, so that narrowed the field and helped with the final decision.
Although they are all professional actors/voice over artists, they are also described by ACX as “producers”, meaning that they have some sort of computer/studio set up. They know how to record and edit as well as do the reading. All good news since I had no idea how to do any of that.
ACX also asks you to stipulate the sort of money that you would be willing to pay, measuring it by the number of hours the final reading will fill. Secrets of the Italian Gardener is only about 40,000 words long and would therefore come out at a bit under four hours, (a calculation which ACX does for you). I had said I would be willing to pay up to $400 an hour, so the final bill would not rise above £1,000.
I chose an English actor called Matthew Lloyd Davies, whose audition piece sounded most like the voice I had imagined my narrator to have, and who had a great deal of experience in audio books.
Matt responded with total professionalism. ACX require that the actor/producer first does a fifteen minute sample, but Matt did thirty minutes. I happily accepted the sample and he went on to do the whole book, delivering it nearly three weeks before the promised deadline.
It is not an easy book to read out loud because of the varied nationalities of the characters including a Middle Eastern dictator, an elderly Italian, an English narrator, his American wife and two other female characters, one from an unspecified Eastern European country and the other the product of an Indian father and French mother. Matt negotiated them all with aplomb. I had no hesitation in approving the reading.
The next step ACX required was a cover design and here I hit my first hiccup since it had to be square, (there were other technical requirements which were double Dutch to me), meaning that I could not upload either of the existing cover designs. Matt galloped once more to the rescue, creating a new design which the ACX system accepted.
All that remained to be done was for me to pay Matt and for Amazon to approve the book, a process which may have been completed by the time this posting appears.
A fantastic experience – thank you Amazon and thank you Matt!