June 23, 2020
Note From Rochelle
Today I’m delighted to welcome Elizabeth Cole back to the blog. She’s the author of oodles of wonderful historical and paranormal romance novels and a frequent guest. She’s here today to write about expanding your work into an audio book!
Listen to This:
Adding audio to your booklist
By Elizabeth Cole
As an author, you want to make your books work as hard as they can for you. The good news is that after completing a book and publishing it as an e-book or a physical book, you can still use what you have written in new ways. One of your options is to create an audiobook. Due to the popularity of podcasting and the length of commutes, more people are listening to the content they enjoy. It is more common for indie authors to offer their books in an audio format, and the process of creating an audiobook is easier than ever.
Work with a Company
Unless you are a talented voice actor and have your own recoding studio, you’ll want to hire a narrator. The most common way to do this is to work with a company like ACX (the branch of Amazon that creates audiobooks for Audible), which has a well defined process for creating an audiobook and then publishing it and making it available to a large number of customers. There are other companies out there, such as Findaway Voices, so it’s worth it to explore your options and learn about not just pricing, but also how widely available your audiobook will be. Is it important to have it on sale in many stores, or are you ok with an exclusive contract with Audible? There’s no right answer here—it depends on what you’re comfortable with.
What Book to Start With
Personally, I would recommend creating an audiobook from the first book in your most popular series, or your best-selling book (if you write standalones). If you start seeing sales results you like, you can work with that narrator on subsequent books in order to increase your catalog. The best thing about audiobooks is that it only takes a little time from your schedule because all you have to do is upload a few files, listen to samples and work with the narrator to get started and then listen to the final file to make sure everything is correct. It’s a way to make your previous work into something new (and it takes way less time than writing an entire book over again!)
Let me tell you how I did it. For my first audiobook I chose A Heartless Design, which is the first book in my historical romance series The Secrets of the Zodiac. I uploaded the first chapter so that narrators could read it and submit their own samples for me to listen to and select my choice. I knew that I wanted a woman to narrate these romances and I knew that a number of English accents would be necessary, so I stated that in the initial form. Within a week I had several samples to listen to and I was lucky to find a narrator in that group who I knew I wanted. I worked with her to answer her initial questions and I filled out a form she gave me which listed all of the characters, some personality notes, their accents, their vocal tics, and any other information she would need in order to represent them properly.
We agreed on a schedule and deadlines, and then she started recording. It is common for narrators to charge by the finished hour, so if an audiobook is 11 hours long, you’ll be charged for 11 hours even though the narrator might have spent considerably more time in the studio as they were recording. In some cases, you might work with the narrator on a project basis (where they charge a flat fee no matter how long the book ends up being). Once she gave me the finished audio files, I listened carefully to the whole book to make sure that there were no mistakes or issues. After I did that, we submitted the files to ACX for final approval, and the audiobook went up for sale shortly after.
The Cost in Time and Money
Honestly, it’s a very easy system. All you have to do is upload a sample of your work to Audible (or wherever you choose) and make a request for narrators to submit an audio file that you can evaluate. You can specify whether you want a female or male narrator, you can request certain accents or certain vocal styles, and in fact you can even request specific narrators if you have someone in mind. It’s important to know that the pricing can vary a lot based on the narrator’s experience, popularity, and availability. But expect to pay no less than $1000 for the average length audiobook, and you may pay up $4000 for a longer book or a narrator who is particularly sought after. If that number alarms you, remember that the typical price of an audiobook is much higher than that of an ebook—around $15 or $20, so you’ll see a larger payout per sale. Also, Audible has a system for those people who listen as subscribers (i.e. they’re not purchasing individual titles outright), so you’ll still be compensated! Note that you’ll also need a new version of your cover, because audiobook covers are square like old-timey CDs or records. Most cover artists can easily convert a cover into the needed size for an additional fee.
Overall, creating an audiobook is a significant investment and it may be a while before it pays for itself, so this option is definitely not for everybody. However if you have the budget, it is an excellent way to reach new readers and offer your products in an additional format with minimal effort on your part. I reserve the profit from my audiobooks to make more audiobooks, with the goal of eventually making ALL my books available that way.
Done correctly, audiobooks offer increasing returns: the more you have, the more profitable each one will be, since readers who listen to their books can be voracious and often like to consume an entire series if they can. Over time, you may discover that that new revenue stream will deposit a very nice amount of funds into your account while you are happily working on your next project!
About the author. Elizabeth Cole writes both historical and paranormal romance. In some of her former lives, she was a bookseller, archivist, cubicle drone, and popcorn popper. She adores tea, basketball, and cats, not necessarily in that order. She was born and raised in Wisconsin, where people are nice even to their enemies. She now lives in Philadelphia, where everybody just grunts. A grunt could mean I love you. It usually doesn’t.