Audiobooking, Part Whatever … by Debbie Bennett

It’s been a long road, this process of converting a novel into an audiobook. So far, it’s taken me over two years to get to this point. Looking back on my AE posts, I started way back in June 2014, when I met my first narrator.

How does one meet a narrator? On ACX – one of the biggest sites/distributors (and yes – you’ve guessed it – part of Amazon. Isn’t everything these days?), it’s a bit like a dating agency. Authors upload samples of scripts and hope to get picked by narrators; narrators upload samples of their work and hope to get picked by authors. Each can search listings of the other, filtered by genre, book type, voice type, gender etc etc. People make approaches and get rejected. Eventually you meet somebody whose voice/story you like the sound/look of, they feel the same way about you and think you can work together. It really is like a dating agency …

So way back in 2014, I met Cliff. He was a singer with a great voice and liked my novel, and we signed a contract. There are two basic types of contract on ACX – either the writer pays for the narrator’s time, then takes the results and owns them (the audio equivalent of the writer’s work-for-hire), or the narrator does the work and then both parties split the royalties down the middle after ACX takes their cut. I went for the latter. It’s harder to find narrators who work this way, as they are putting in hours of work with no guarantee of seeing any returns. Sound familiar? That’s how us indie authors work too!

Cliff and I got on well. We were bouncing chapters back and forth and we were maybe halfway through the novel when he vanished. He stopped replying to my emails and a month or more passed with no contact. I tried again – but nothing. I sent him a final message via ACX and when I got no response to that, I had no choice but to ask ACX to cancel our contract. I’ve never heard from him since. I have no idea what happened; it’s a shame – if he’d had problems, I’m sure we could have resolved them.

So here I am, summer 2017, and finally I meet Tim Dalgleish. Tim’s an actor amongst many other things – a man of many talents. And we’re off again on this audiobook journey. It took Tim a few weeks to fit me into his busy schedule, but then he hit the ground running and I’m having trouble keeping up. I’ve just finished the first round of edits and am about to embark on checking the corrections. It’s a lot of work – for both of us – and it’s not easy to get into the zone when you can listen to the words rather than the story.

What surprises me yet again, is how much more powerful stories can sound when you hear them rather than read them. I write some deep, dark and gritty stuff and it makes me squirm hearing it back! What also surprises me is that after six years or more (I published Hamelin’s Child in 2011), I can listen to the audio and spot a word – nay, a syllable, even – that isn’t right. To be fair, there are moments when Tim has narrated it better than I wrote it to start off with, and I’m not going to argue with that!

Would I write things differently if I did it again? Hell, yes. I hope I don’t write too much waffle, but there are occasions when I’m listening and I know I could have cuts bits without affecting the story. But hindsight is always 20/20, isn’t it?

I do wonder what people think. I was sitting on a bench by the river Dee in Chester yesterday, waiting for Andy who was canoeing on the river. It was a beautiful afternoon and the elderly lady sitting next to me gives me odd look as I’m plugged into my phone listening while also ready a paperback and making notes in a notebook!

The end is in sight. I’ve just messaged my cover designer to tweak the original cover I bought, Tim’s nearly finished and hopefully the audiobook will be on sale in a few weeks. It’s been a long journey and it’s only the first book of six, so I hope this one makes enough money for Tim to want to do the other five!


Anonymous said…
Debbie, I'm fascinated by this. I'd no idea you could commission an audio book in this way. I'd love to make audio versions of my books but have been put off so far by the cost - even if I read it myself, the cost and hassle of hiring a studio and making a professional recording seem to far outweigh the benefit of projected sales. I'm guessing doing it through Amazon is still expensive but at least there's a system in place I can look at.

Sorry to hear of your problems at the start - very frustrating of your actor just to disappear! I'm so glad it's all now working and will soon be ready. Well done for persisting.
Debbie Bennett said…
That's the point, Griselda - it costs nothing. The narrator gets paid from his share of the royalties from sales. Of course it's harder to find narrators who will work this way rather than get paid up front - but they do exist. It's cost me a lot of editing time - I've had to listen to it all and edit/manage corrections etc, and I had to pay for a resized/tweaked audio cover, but that's it really.
Umberto Tosi said…
Another informative and well put post, Debbie. You've inspired me to redouble my efforts to produce an audiobook version of Ophelia Rising and several other works. Thank you!

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