Audio Books and More

Hugh Howey had been speaking at the One Book One Watertown event at the Watertown Public Library around Boston last weekend. A couple of Facebook friends (thank you Jill & Patrice) posted about it and there was one picture in particular that peaked my interest. Hugh, who all of us indie authors owe so much for his tireless support and trail blazing, spoke about the “Creative Triangle” of self publishing: CreateSpace for the paperback production, KPD for the e-book and ACX for audio books. I had been working on an audio book version of The Three Feathers for a while. Actually, I did a couple of sessions in my brother-in-law’s sound studio and recorded about ten chapters of the book. I realized that it was so much harder to do than I originally thought. As much as I wanted to save the money, it became clear to me that I needed to do it right.

After I saw the Facebook post, I checked out the ACX website. It sounded very easy: you put up a few pages of your book, set a budget and wait for auditions from producers and narrators. You chose a narrator you like and, eight weeks later, you have your audio book. I listened to about 20 audition samples. One of them stood out. I always envisioned the narrator to be a storyteller – an older gentleman, sitting in a chair by the fire, reading the book to a group of kids who hang on his every word. The narrator of my dreams would get into it and completely loose himself in the story. I was hoping that this getting lost in the book would somehow translate into the sample.

I chose the first couple of paragraphs of chapter one of The Three Feathers for the sample because it is about longing. Joshua Aylong longs for “something bigger, something wider, something…vast”. Most of what I heard from the narrators, stayed on the surface. I couldn’t feel it. It didn’t reach me. The samples were, technically speaking, very good. Pronunciation, rhythm, etc. But in none of the auditions could I feel the longing through the words. Except in one. I felt it right away. In the narrator’s voice, I could feel Joshua’s longing, his pain and his wish to find whatever it was he was looking for.

For the second part of the audition sample, I choose an action sequence: Joshua and Grey, our rooster and his friend, the wolf, are pursued by giant spiders and have to get to the other side of a huge lake before it freezes over. Listening to the sample, I was completely hooked. My heart was pounding and I thought, “that’s it. We have found our story teller.” I let my girl friend, Amy, listen to the sample and she immediately agreed with me. Amy’s two kids agreed as well. Then I sent it to my son in Germany. Max and his girlfriend loved it too.

I knew that we had found someone who could make the book come alive. I emailed back and made an offer (the ACX site makes it very easy to do all this) and one day later, Robert Branch accepted the offer. Robert, as I found out, is a stage actor who reads into a dictation device and then has a professional studio turn it into a “clean” file. I loved the rawness of it and the immediacy of the emotions he was able to communicate. He has started the project and we are expecting the first fifteen percent of the book in a few days. The finished book will follow by the end of October. We agreed on $1,034 for the completed project (that’s $150 per finished hour of audio book time).

As an indie author who has just begun to scratch the surface of the business of self publishing, I can say that, what strikes me most, is the support from other authors or Facebook friends, in this endeavor. We are, somehow, all in this together. It feels like a bunch of people from all kinds of walks of life, come together to help each other through this. That self publishing is a tough path, is clear to me now. But what path isn’t, right? Once you leave the warmth and coziness of your comfort zone, there is danger lurking at every turn. But for some reason, I don’t get the sense, ever, that I’m alone in this. There is always someone around, posting something, talking about a small (or rather large) success story or about a fan who wrote and loved what she read. That alone makes it all worth wile.

Thanks to everyone who is on this path with all of us. You are much appreciated. More than you know.




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