In May, I wrote about Audible’s launch of the Audiobook Creation Exchange, or ACX.com. Audible, the leading company in downloadable audiobooks, created the site because they determined their listeners are voracious readers, and the demand for new audiobooks continues to increase. Currently,only about 5% of books are made into audiobooks. Since ACX is open to authors, I thought a narrator’s perspective might help you decide whether to list your title on ACX for audiobook production.
ACX is a marvelous tool to help you exploit the audio rights to your book, especially since the audiobooks will be distributed on Audible, iTunes, and Amazon. However, you should be aware that all books are not suitable for audio. You’ll want to consider these factors when deciding to create an audiobook of your book:
1. The 2010 Audio Publishers Association (APA) Consumer Study shows that audiobook listeners are very likely to be doing something else while listening to the book: driving or traveling, housecleaning, creating crafts, exercising, or working on the computer.
2. The Consumer Survey also showed that most people would not buy both the print and audio versions of a book. Any kind of interaction that is needed with the physical book in order to understand the content probably is not a good choice for an audiobook.
Some info could be provided as additional download material, such as illustrations in a PDF document. Still, you can’t assume that the listener has a device with a display or that they will take the time to download or view the additional material on their computer.
3. Some printed content just doesn’t translate well to audio. A narrator would be challenged to do justice to material that relies on visual aspects like photographs. This kind of material could be a turn-off to the listeners. Examples include:
- Questionnaires with a point scale or essay questions — Many personal development books contain assessments and quizzes that need to be worked on paper.
- Statistical graphs
- Textbooks with problems to solve
One of the ACX FAQs lists other types of books that would not make good audiobooks.
4. Audiobook narrators read your book as it is written. You may need to make some changes in the text to make it more friendly to the ear, which keeps the listener in the moment. For instance, if your printed book says “you’re reading this book”, you might change the verb to be “you’re listening to this book.”
Assuming your book is a good fit for audio, you next have to decide whether to narrate it yourself or hire a professional voice talent to narrate it for you. ACX has a wonderful FAQ for authors who want to narrate their books.
I wouldn’t presume to advise you on this important decision. Instead, I can report two observations from an on-line discussion that is no longer available. Many people expressed a preference for authors as narrators on autobiographies or books written by comedians. An important comment in the thread was “how is the book best served?”
More often than not, you may decide that the book is best served by hiring a professional narrator. If you take this route, here are 4 more pieces of advice for the casting process on ACX:
5. You can query for a particular narrator’s name, like “Karen Commins”, or for certain narrator characteristics, like accent, genre, and pay rate. After you listen to the narrators’ samples, you can contact a narrator directly. For your easy reference, here’s the link to my ACX narrator profile.
6. You can post your title for auditions. In this case, narrators will record a short segment of text that you specify. You could pick a section with conversations or straight narrative text. It’s a good idea to establish a cut-off date for auditions in your mind. Otherwise, you could receive a staggering number of auditions in a short period of time.
7. You might get more auditions if you post your project as a pay-for-performance rather than a royalty-share title. While a royalty agreement is highly attractive to an author, many narrators are reluctant to enter into a royalties-only deal because the narrator bears all of the risk.
Past experience taught me that I need to narrate a book that I love. I won’t voice any kind of project just for the money, but I am even more selective about audiobook gigs. Audiobook narration tends to equate to a much lower hourly rate than narrations for corporate videos or e-learning projects.
As a narrator and producer, I would be spending a large amount of time with the book — at least 5 hours for every finished hour of narration. Therefore, a book with a finished time of 10 hours requires 50 or more hours for me to research, record, and edit the recording. For a full explanation of the time needed for audiobook preparation and production, I refer you to this article.
Given the time involved to narrate and produce an audiobook, I would consider a royalty deal if I’m passionate about the book and want to promote its message in the world. The narration can be its own reward in those instances.
8. Pick a narrator whose vocal qualities best match the way you hear your book in your head. Just as all books are not suitable as audiobooks, all voices are not suited to read the same material. Wanna hear what I mean? Read this article titled Read Me a Story Brad Pitt: When audiobook casting goes terribly wrong.
I look forward to your comments the blog. If you do decide to post your book on ACX, let me know. I just might audition for it!