When you receive an email from a Nigerian prince, you probably think, “This so-called prince is just somebody who wants to take my money.”
Other types of emails may cause the same reaction. Authors are inundated every week with solicitations from marketing and web site gurus, proofers, webinar hosts, and more. It could be easy to become jaded to the constant barrage of offers.
However, one email that isn’t a scam is the one from an audiobook narrator who wants to collaborate with you on producing your audiobook. The reaction to that kind of email should be one of giddy excitement, such as, “This is somebody who wants to MAKE me money! What a prince!”
Although narrators routinely work with audio publishers, we are independent, freelance business owners just like you are. We don’t have agents who deal in audiobook work. Each narrator is on her own for ensuring she has a steady workload.
Until recent years, only about 5% of all books were made into audiobooks. Even though audiobooks are the fastest growing segment of publishing and have had double digit growth for the past 3 years, the overall number of audiobooks is still a relatively low percentage of the number of available books.
Consequently, the majority of authors do not have audiobooks of their titles and may not know how to create one. Narrators frequently do outreach with authors to help them learn about the production process. We speak at authors’ conferences and workshops. Some of us (ahem) write articles to share our knowledge and love of this medium.
We also prospect to line up projects on our own. We look for authors who are prolific in writing and releasing their books and treat their writing as a business. Once we find an author of interest, we research her work to find a book that:
- isn’t already available as an audiobook
- is a good fit for our voice, skills, and interests
- contains content suitable for an audiobook in a genre that is successful in audio
- could be expected to sell well in audio
With the research complete, the narrator will contact the author — usually through email — to inquire about the possibility of creating the audiobook.
If you’re on the receiving end of an unexpected query email from an audiobook narrator, you might initially think it’s a scam. What should you do?
1. Research the narrator.
You already know that you can learn a lot about a person by Googling them to find their web site and social media accounts. I would advise you to look at the narrator’s web site for testimonials from previous clients and professional reviews.
In addition to those sites, you’ll also want to look at the narrator’s credits on Audible.com. You can easily see the number and type of audiobooks they have recorded, as well as listener ratings and comments about their performances.
While looking at the narrator’s audio portfolio on Audible from your desktop computer, I’d suggest that you also look at the length of the recordings, which is shown on the left side of the screen. Someone who has only recorded short books that last 1 hour or less may not have the experience to produce on time and within budget a full novel that would have a run time of 6, 8, or more hours.
2. Educate yourself about the audiobook production process using my Audiobook Resources for Authors page.
Once you start thinking about creating an audiobook, my curated list of articles and resources will help you quickly learn the language and landscape of audiobook production. Don’t worry — you don’t have to learn how to actually DO it! 🙂
The only thing you need to get started in audiobook production is ownership of your audio rights. Check any contracts you’ve signed with traditional publishers to determine whether the audio rights were included. If they were, you may be able to request that the publisher revert those rights to you. This article will give you inspiration, this one will give you some ammunition, and this PDF seemingly will explain everything you could possibly want to know about rights reversion.
3. Ask for an audition of your text.
Just as you wouldn’t buy a car without test-driving it, you can and should ask the querying narrator to send you an audition of your text. It’s helpful if you select the passage(s) of no more than 2-3 pages and give notes about characterizations. Use my 10-point checklist to help you determine whether this narrator is a good fit for your book.
4. Listen to other narrators on ACX.
Don’t be so in love with hearing your words read aloud by a professional narrator that you cast someone who isn’t the best fit for the book. You can use ACX.com to search for narrators based on a variety of characteristics. Listen to some samples and do some more narrator research. If you hear some good possibilities, you can always send a query email directly to those narrators without setting up an ACX account. Believe me, we LOVE to hear directly from authors!
5. Explore other options of exploiting your audio rights, including licensing them to the narrator or an audiobook production company.
Of course, you don’t have to add audiobook production to your already overflowing to-do list. You could leave the job to someone else and still benefit financially. Prior to the advent of ACX in 2011, audiobook production was reserved for only the top-tier authors and bestselling titles. The traditional publisher might publish the audiobook, or they could license the rights to another party.
Now, indie authors are also licensing their audio rights to audio publishers or narrators. Blackstone Audio is a large audiobook publisher, and you can learn about their process in this informative article from my friend and colleague Ann M. Richardson.
Last year, I hosted a unique webinar for narrators who want to license audio rights from publishers. My guest was Jessica Kaye, who is both an audiobook producer/director/distributor and intellectual property attorney. Indie authors would find this discussion to be extremely useful when negotiating licensing with an audio publisher or narrator. If you’re interested, you can obtain the 1.5-hour recording, a sample license agreement from Jessica, and my exclusive list of links to aid in rights research and distribution options on my Shop page.
6. If you decide to independently produce your audiobook, figure out how you will pay for production and how you want to distribute your book.
This step could require an entire series of articles or even a course! Here are a few to help you along the way:
- Authors, Can You Afford to Produce an Audiobook?
- How to Afford Your Editor, Proofer, or Narrator TODAY
- ACX Payment Options Chart (ACX isn’t the only site for independent audiobook production, but it is the best-understood.)
If you have questions about the audiobook production process, I’d be delighted to answer them. Head to my Shop page if you’d like to set up a private 30- or 60-minute consultation.
Maybe you haven’t received an email from a narrator. When you do, I hope you will think “revenue stream!” instead of scam.
Great post, Karen! You covered all the points so well — as usual.
Karen Commins says
Thanks, Lee Ann! A recent discussion on Facebook inspired the article and made me think differently about how I approach authors.
I saw that discussion on FB, Karen, and figured that might have prompted this post. Perfect timing!
Ken Cowan says
As usual I love your posts Karen! It must be our initials? I will share your comments with Meg’s Facebook audience. Thanks! KC
Karen Commins says
Thanks for the kind words, Ken! Please feel free to share this article on FB and beyond.