Audiobook production: My experience

In my newsletter each month (which you can subscribe to here if you so wish), I usually answer a question from a reader or writer. This month, I had a question from an author who asked me to share my experience with creating an audiobook for my novel The Memories We Hide. But to share my experience in my newsletter would be a little lengthy, so I decided to do a blog post.

Firstly, let me preface this post by saying that this is my very first book and very first experience with audiobooks, so this information is somewhat limited and is purely based on my experience to date.

Where to start?

I think the best place to start isn’t with the obvious – how do you do it? but with the thing that is going to be the biggest issue for most indie authors; money.

My first research proved creating an audiobook isn’t cheap. You need to be able to invest many dollars into the production side of things. You need to pay for a good quality narrator that fits your genre and the tone of your story and then pay for the production, editing, and finalising of the audio. We’re not talking hundreds of dollars, we’re talking something in the vicinity of $2000-$4000 AUD. The range is broad, as it depends on the audiobook production company and also, the narrator.

When I picked myself off the floor after discovering the cost, I had to really consider if this was something I wanted to invest in. Because it’s just that – an investment. As an indie author, I’m the publisher and I need to invest money into my books. So, I did some more research.

Turns out audiobooks are increasing in sales more than any other form of book (paperback, hardback, ebook). According to audible.com.au, over 6.6 million Australian’s listen to audiobooks (2019), and that number is only set to increase. I decided that by not doing an audiobook I was missing out on a share of the market. So, invest I would.

The Narration

Unless you are able to narrate it yourself – meaning you have the time, will, and some good quality recording equipment – you will need to pay for a narrator. Whether this is a freelance narrator or one sourced through the production company. Producing an audiobook is the same as producing a book – quality matters and you want to put a highly professional product out there. The narrator’s voice needs to be easy to listen to, suit the characters, and the quality of the audio needs to be crisp and clear. But, if you are confident you can do it, and have the many hours it will take to not only record but edit the audio, then sure, go for it.

I hate the sound of my own voice (as most of us do!) and I wasn’t gifted with a smooth, warm voice that melts into listener’s ears. And frankly, I don’t have the time or patience to devote to it, so I decided to research audiobook production companies that offer a full service – narration, production and distribution.

I’m an avid listener to The Creative Penn Podcast (with Joanna Penn), and I’d often heard her mention a company called ‘Findaway Voices’. I’d previously researched ACX which is Amazon’s audiobook production arm and to be honest, it was confusing. And being locked in (as was the case then, could be different now) to audible, was a turn-off. So, I looked more into Findaway Voices.

The major plus I found for Findaway was that the finished audiobook is 100% mine. I retain the rights. Really, that was the sealer for me, but for you, it might be different. It’s a personal thing.

Findaway Voices offer a few ways to set up your audiobook. Rather than describe them here you can find out more here and here.

Once I’d decided on Findaway and how I was going to set up my audiobook, it was time to choose a narrator. This was the tricky part. Not as in difficult, but it’s just such an important decision to get right.

Findaway allows you to enter your budget in their platform and then suggests narrators that are within that range and you can listen to audio samples from each one. Once you have narrowed it down to a few who you like, you can then upload a sample of your own book for the narrator to record and download.

Now, this is not a quick process. Don’t expect the narrator to be back to you within a day or so. Many are professional voice-over artists and actors with different projects on the go at once.

Once the narrator has downloaded the sample of your book your job now, is to choose which one you want to go with. It’s not an easy choice. You have to be confident that this person is the right voice for all of your characters and for the duration of the whole of your book!

It took me days of listening, relistening, thinking, and listening again until I chose my narrator, but I’m glad I took time. She is perfect!

The Production

Once you’ve chosen your narrator it’s time to book them in. You’ll sign contracts, make payments and agree on a production schedule. All the boring stuff.

The next step is to perfect the narration. You will supply the narrator with correct pronunciations of names of characters, places, language, any slang or accents, as well as character backgrounds. Preparing for audio isn’t any different from acting. Your narrator needs to become the character so the more information, the better.

Your narrator will then supply you with a longer sample for your approval and providing all is good, you’ll give them the go-ahead to begin production. The process is seamless. Your narrator will provide you with each audio chapter to listen to along the way and you have the opportunity to provide feedback and comments until you are happy with each one.

Once completed, Findaway then takes care of the final editing and production to provide you with a professional audio file. Then it’s time for the final steps.

Pricing & Distribution

The next step is to set up your pricing. The best way to do this is to research the price of similar books on audiobook retailers. It’s important to compare books that are in your genre and around your wordcount to get the pricing right. I made a list and then I worked out the average price and went from there.

Findaway handles the distribution of your audiobook to as few or many audiobook retailers – including audible – as you choose. You don’t have to worry about a thing. Before you know it, you’ll receive the email saying your audiobook is live and it’s time to begin marketing!

So there you have it, my experience with audiobook production. As I said, I’ve only done it once, and things change rapidly so the process may differ slightly, but this info should give you the basics of what the process involves.

My key peices of advice:

  • ACX and Findaway Voices are not the only options for audiobook production and distribution. As with everything Do. Your. Research!
  • Decide on (and stick to) your budget
  • Unless you have a ‘radio-quality’ voice, loads of time, have access to quality recording and editing equipment, my advice is to go with a professional narrator
  • Take your time choosing your narrator (and often your gut or first instinct is right)
  • You don’t have to use a Findaway voices narrator. You can engage a freelance narrator and then upload the files to Findaway Voices for finalization and distribution.
  • Audiobook production is a long process. From memory, it was about 3 months from beginning the process to having my audiobook live.
  • You have to promote and advertise your audiobook as you would your paperback or ebook

Resources

Findaway Voices

AXC

Blog Post from The Creative Penn on Findaway Voices

How To Make an Audiobook (Kindlepreneur article)

Audiobook Production via Jane Friedman blog post

3 thoughts on “Audiobook production: My experience”

  1. Wow what a process! But you are right, I know from working in the library that more people are turning to audiobooks especially digital downloads – we have seen a huge growth in this category! I’ve already read your book Jodie and really enjoyed it – maybe your next book I will listen to rather than read!

  2. Thanks for sharing Jodi – I totally agree that the growing market for audio books is one that the indie author needs to exploit. But, like all aspects of indie publishing, it needs to be done professionally and I think you’ve done all the right things. Mind you, I suspect your voice is more pleasant to listen to than you describe 😉 Btw, if you haven’t already done so, have a look at Bookbub’s audio promotion, Chirp.

    • The only problem with Chirp is it won’t let you buy unless you live in America, such a shame as there are some great bargain audiobooks on there 😔

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