Written by Roland Ladley
An apology. There are many avenues to delivering an audiobook and I only have experience of one – the audiobook equivalent of self publishing – more of which in a second. There are other ways. ACX, the audiobook production arm of Amazon/Audible, offer you the opportunity to use their services, including a process to nab a narrator. I have absolutely no idea how that works. Or, if like me you are a mostly self-published author, whether or not that avenue is open to you.
There are also other companies who will deliver the narrator, the technical editing and stick it through ACX for you … at a price. That’s smacks a little of vanity publishing but, if you have a decent novel and you can’t afford to go your own way, it might be an option.
So … you’re on your own. What do you need?
How To Get Started
First you need a book. Preferably one which has been edited and proofread. I chose the first in the Sam Green thriller series, Unsuspecting Hero. There are six (soon to be seven) more. It’s seven years old, has been through the mill with regard to editing and proofing, so I assumed it would be workable. In fact that was only mostly true. During production my narrator found an additional four errors (in an 83,000 word book). Yikes! I have subsequently updated both the ebook and paperback.
Second you need about £1,500 – 2,000 ($1,800 – 2,500) of spare cash lying about, which is no small amount of money, I grant you. It breaks down like this:
- Narrator: I paid my narrator a flat sum of £1100. The alternative is to pay by the finished hour (industry standard is around £100-150/hr, but can rise to £300/hr if you want a celeb), but I wanted a flat fee as I had no idea how long the book would read to. We did discuss profit share, with an introductory fee followed by a 50/50 split, but my narrator wanted cash up front, so to speak. Doubtless everyone else will be different. I paid my narrator a £300 retainer at the start, £500 when the main work was done, and then £300 onc eht edits were complete.
- Recording equipment: I had to provide a portable blogging studio, which included a decent condenser mic, mixer, screen etc. I bought a middle-of-the-road package for £350, which was perfect. I assumed my narrator would come furnished with their own laptop, which turned out to be true.
- Recording software: The recording and editing software, Audacity, is free to use and is perfect for ACX.
- Technical editing: I used my son-in-law to do the technical editing. It’s not a quick process, but I don’t think it’s that complex (I have subsequently snipped some extracts for marketing purposes, and managed). But, if you consider that my narrator made in the order of 70 ‘bleeps’ (I’ve made a mistake, ‘bleep’, stop recording, start again), which all needed to be cut from the tape, then that’s no small amount of work. In addition I asked her to rerecord around 60 clips which I wasn’t happy with. They needed to be cut and inserted. I paid my s-i-l £300. And, because he’s my s-i-l, he also has a minor profit share agreement with me.
Find A Narrator
Third, you need a narrator. This is very tricky. I wanted a young woman … a Sam Green clone. I lost my first choice due to pregnancy (hers, not mine) and went to Twitter and Instagram to find a replacement. In the end a friend of a friend put up their hand – she’s an actress/TV presenter.
I asked for a number of demos – just recorded on her phone – including various accents, male and female, before I was satisfied. Spend some time here. Be brutal with your choice. You cannot afford to get this decision wrong, I feel.
Set A Deadline
Fourth, you need a deadline … and you need to know how to manage people in that time. This was also tricky. I imposed a deadline of 1 November. In the end, publication was 10 December, and I was happy with that. All-in-all it took three months.
My narrator would read a chapter. I would listen to it and then send it back with edits. She would rerecord the edits and then, shared on a Google Drive, my s-i-l would do the technical stuff. There were 20 chapters, a prologue, an epilogue, beginning and end credits … so you can see why it took some time. I can’t really comment on the technical edit, save to say ACX will turn anything down which doesn’t meet its high standard.
From my s-i-l, the advice is: record in mono, in a quiet room, do a little and often, and record in chapters. It’s very easy for narrators to miss words, mispronounce words, speed up, not leave big enough gaps, etc. Here’s where managing people comes in. You’re paying for a service. Expect the best. The good news is my narrator and I are still talking to each other.
Fifth, you need a new cover, CD-sized, not paperback sized – and it must relate to the ebook and paperback (obs), because ACX link it automatically to the ebook and paperback. I do all my own graphic work, so I knew I wouldn’t have to pay a designer.
In the end my daughter, who has all the gear, helped me out this time and we ended up with a brand new set of covers for all three. (We are now working on the other books!)
And then you need to take a deep breath and upload the audio onto ACX. They ask for it in chapters and check for recording quality as you go. Assuming you already have an ebook published on Amazon, the uploading process seemed much less stressful than, for example, uploading a paperback, with all of the typesetting issues.
Interestingly you don’t get to choose how much you want to sell your audiobook for. Audible and iTunes (ACX distributes to both) choose that based on genre and length. Expect £16 on ACX and £10 on iTunes for an indie book of 80k words. I have yet to earn any royalties, but ACX promise 40%. That means I will need to sell around 400 audiobooks to break even. That’s a lot of books.
Finally ACX come back and tell you that your audiobook is live. It takes between 5 and 10 working days. They provide a number of links to assist with marketing, none of them any different from those you’ve read on how to market your self-published ebook. If, like me, you’re useless at this bit, it all just makes you want to cry. However, they do give you a number of ‘promo codes’ (25 UK and 25 US for an indie audiobook). You can give these to whoever you wish, but the advice is to offer them in exchange for reviews, or as competitions. I have yet to do that.
Has it all been worth it?
I really don’t know. I’m hoping to make my money back, so I can then invest in recording book two, and then three. Without any marketing I immediately sold five books … four in the US in the first weekend – I am hardly Richard Osman. Hopefully, that’s a start. Stepping aside from sales, it has been a lot of angst, especially as none of us knew if ACX would accept the audio. Now it’s out there I am very proud of what we’ve achieved, bearing in mind there are huge companies with plenty of experts doing something we managed in our back rooms. So, even if nothing comes of this, I don’t regret it. And, should I go ahead with book two, I’d do so with real confidence.
If this raises any questions, then please feel free to drop me a line.
About Roland Ladley
Roland Ladley’s detailed, but flowing narrative has been compared favourably to Le Carré and Deighton; Sam Green, his ‘flawed but resolute’ protagonist, to a female Jack Reacher – ‘only more edgy and much more prone to tears.’ His second spy thriller in the Sam Green series, Fuelling the Fire, won a publishing contract with Kindle Scout and went on to become a best-seller in its genre. His other six books, Unsuspecting Hero, The Innocence of Trust, For Good Men to Do Nothing, On The Back Foot To Hell, Blood Red Earth and The Belmonte Paradox, have been equally well reviewed in both the UK and the US.
If espionage is your bag – and you’re after realistic, up-to-date conspiracy thrillers with a strong female lead – then the Sam Green series is waiting for you. Or, if you’re after a softer, female-led action adventure try of Black Bulls and White Horses, Roland Ladley’s first non-Sam Green novel, written during the first covid_19 lockdown. Here teacher Emily Copeland follows her mother’s past to the lawless Camargue region of France. Love … and death follow
To bring realism to his writing Roland Ladley draws upon twenty-five years military service, including complex tours of Bosnia, Afghanistan and Sierra Leone. Subsequent work as a teacher enables him to communicate lucidly to a wide audience, and two grown-up daughters ensure he can laugh at himself and find comic moments in his writing when the tension is at its greatest.
Now a full time writer based in Bristol, UK, he lives an itinerant lifestyle with his wife in their motorhome, posting a travel/writing blog and marketing his six Sam Green novels. With the books’ cinematic style, it’s not surprising that the first, Unsuspecting Hero, has been turned into a mini-series screenplay and is being considered by a well-known British director.
More From Roland Ladley:
Instgram/Twitter – @rolandtheauthor
Facebook – search for Roland Ladley
Travel and writing blog: search for ‘the.wanderlings’, or link here: https://thewanderlings2013.wordpress.com/
My author page on Amazon:
Audible US: https://adbl.co/3DQPYs0
Audible UK: https://adbl.co/3DYhK63
Or email him here: email@example.com
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