Friday, May 22, 2015

Adventures in Audiobooks

My first audiobook just came out this week, and I’m thrilled! ACX (now owned by Amazon) made it pretty easy to do at no up-front cost.

I first checked with my publisher about the project, and she was completely behind it. She said she’d wanted to see how the process worked. However, for several of our other books, the publisher owns the audio rights, so we are unable to create audiobooks for them.
ACX is like a dating service for authors (rights owners) and voice artists. Authors can choose to record their own books, but professional equipment is required. The final book is reviewed to make sure it meets ACX’s standards.
Here’s how it’s done:
1.   Create an account and add a book. Then designate how you want to record it.

2.   If you choose to use a vocal talent (producer), indicate your book is available for audition and upload a selection from the book.

3.   When you receive an audition, listen to it and decide if this is the right person to read it. We had three auditions for our three books. Two were fabulous, but the third wasn’t a good match. (Even she agreed.)

4.   Once the sample is approved, negotiate the payments. In the case of both our books, we chose to split the royalties, but it is also possible to agree on an up-front payment to the vocal talent. The royalties on the audiobook then belong to the author. (We agreed on a royalty split with both our producers.)

5.   Create a contract. This spells out when the first fifteen minutes of the book and the final book are due. Both parties must agree.

6.   Provide the manuscript to the producer. And wait.

7.   The producer creates the first fifteen minutes of the book for approval. The process is one of dialogue between the parties.

My book, Ghost Writer, is set in Laguna Beach, California and contains quite a few Spanish words. The ghost has a pronounced British accent. I had to correct the pronunciation of a couple of words, but her voicing of the ghost was spot-on.

The producer for The Memory Keeper had me on the third sentence with his pronunciation of San Juan Capistrano. He used just a hint of accent, and the correct pronunciation rolled off his tongue as if he had lived here at the time of the book. However, we threw him lots of Spanish and Acjachemen words as well. We located an expert on the Luiseno language, who recorded a guide for the producer to use. This book took longer, in part, because we have had to discuss how certain words are pronounced.

8.   After the first fifteen minutes are approved, the producer has time (usually several months) to complete the recording.

9.   Meanwhile, the cover art has to be addressed. ACX requires a square image, but it cannot have any colored borders or frame. The book cover is rectangular:

The CD cover must be square. So it took some work in Photoshop to create the one for the CD, and some of the cover art had to be eliminated:

     10.   Finally, the producer began to upload the chapters. I reviewed each of them and found a few minor issues. A flurry of correspondence took care of the problems.

11. At last, we both agreed on the final version. Then we waited while ACX reviewed the project.

12. After a couple of weeks, they approved the audiobook for sale, but it took another two weeks for it to appear on Amazon.

13. Now we wait to see how many copies we sell.
I’m excited because I have several friends with macular degeneration who have not been able to read our books. Now they can listen to them.
Ghost Writer is now available and The Memory Keeper should be finished in June.

Do you like listening to audiobooks? When and where do you listen to them? Please let me know if you have listened to the book and how you liked it.


  1. I have two books that I would like to convert into audio books. I have the rights to both of them. You have given me the incentive to look into this.

  2. I have wished to turn at least the first of my books to audio as my sister (totally blind) has never had the chance to know what I do - as she has surported me all through the process it would be good - I always assumed it was too expensive to pay for anyone else to read them or to get the specialist equipment needed to do it myself - are these people very expensive? - I'm on very limited income

    1. There is NO cost! (I'm the queen of cheap.) Do you own all the rights for your book? Make sure your contract with your publisher doesn't own the audio rights. If you own them, go to ACX and follow directions. Post an audition text. (Make sure to find a dynamic passage with several characters.) Offer it for audition. Hopefully one of the fine voice artists (called producers) will create an audio audition. If you like the audition, you can agree to a royalty split with them, and the whole process is free to the author. They will record the whole book. You will preview each chapter and let the actor know about any necessary corrections. When it is finished, it will show up on Amazon, and you will share the royalties. So far, we're delighted with the ability to share our books with friends who also have vision problems. THE MEMORY KEEPER will be out in the next few days.