Congratulations on joining the exciting world of audiobooks!
Getting your title into audio is very exciting, and this is your baby so of course you want it to be done right!
Nothing derails an audiobook production faster or causes bigger headaches for narrators and authors alike than confusion regarding the author’s role in independent audiobook production.
One of the best ways to understand your role as an indie author is to compare each step to that of a publisher reviewing, selecting, and sending a title to print:
Step 1: Posting a title for Audition = Call for Submissions
More detail brings better matches
A publisher that is specifically looking for Speculative Fiction with minority characters that is 60-120k words long should not simply post an open call for submissions, but rather specify exactly what they’re looking for. Similarly, the more detail you include in your ACX audition posting — male or female, accent, vocal style, age, etc. — the more likely you will avoid auditions that aren’t even remotely appropriate for your title.
Better Rates bring more auditions and better narrators
Imagine you’re an experienced, highly talented author with a large following and history of success who prefers traditional publishing. You’re looking for publishers accepting manuscripts; one is offering an advance of $500, another an advance of $5,000. Which one are you more likely to submit to?
While you do want to make sure you can afford to pay your advertised rate, know that the lower the rate offered the fewer auditions you are likely to receive and the fewer quality auditions are likely to come in. At the professional rate of pay ($200-$400pfh) you will get far more auditions including top talent, while at lower rates you are going to get fewer auditions and likely left hoping for a lucky break with a talented newcomer.
Step 2: Reviewing Auditions = Perusing Manuscripts
Let’s be honest; no publisher reads every submitted manuscript all the way through. Often they can tell within the first couple pages if a manuscript is definitely not a good fit for their company.
Similarly, you don’t need to listen to every single audition all the way through. More often than not, you can tell within the first few seconds if an audition is definitely a bad fit for your title.
The biggest difference here is that you will ultimately need to choose a single audition for moving forward with your production, while a publisher could choose multiple manuscripts.
PRO-TIP: Your audition script should be 500-800 words long, which will result in an audition 3-6 minutes long.
There is no need for an audition longer than about 5 minutes, and even 3 minutes is usually plenty. If you insist on providing a longer script, do not immediately dismiss auditions that only record part of the audition script, as most professional narrators on ACX keep their auditions to that 3-5 minute length.
Step 3: First 15 Minutes = First Draft Edit and Review
When an author submits their first draft for editing, the publisher is looking not so much for line edits but rather big picture editing needs: plot holes, inconsistencies, unnecessary diversions, etc.
Similarly, when you’re reviewing the “first 15”, that’s the time for creative re-direction. Listen for pacing, tone, character voices, etc. This is your chance to change the big picture approach your selected narrator has taken with your title. This is also your last chance to cancel the contract without penalty, if it turns out that the narrator is not as good of a fit as you originally thought they were.
PRO-TIP: The “first 15” doesn’t actually have to be the literal first fifteen minutes.
Since this is the time for any creative re-direction, it’s best to select a sample of text approximately 2,300 words long that includes major characters and a representative portion of text. This can be multiple selections from the book.
Step 4: Final Approval = Final Line-Edit and Proofread
When the narrator has uploaded the entire audiobook production and clicked the “I’m Done” button, you have the chance for a final review.
This is equivalent to a publisher’s final line-edit and proofread before sending a title to print. At that stage in publishing, it’s too late for major edits and re-writes; instead, the publisher is simply making a final pass for typos, grammatical errors, formatting errors, and other embarrassing technical mistakes that could negatively impact sales.
Similarly, when you receive the completed audiobook production, it’s too late for major re-direction. This is not the time to change narrator pacing, intonation, character voices, or other nuances.
Instead, you’re looking for things like:
- Missed or repeated lines
- Thumps, clicks, or other extraneous sounds
Many narrators will have already outsourced their proofing, which should leave few if any mistakes still in the audio.
AGAIN: THIS IS NOT THE TIME FOR CREATIVE REDIRECTION
It’s fundamentally too late in the process, and untenable for major re-records.
Step 5: Payment & Marketing
We all know far too many publishers that went under after failing to pay their authors as promised. Don’t be that publisher. Uphold your contract.
Then, have fun with the marketing! A good publisher works to market their titles, and you should work on marketing your audiobook just like you market your ebook and/or print versions.
This is again a break in the analogy, as while authors should promote their works regardless of whether they’re indie or with a publisher, it is not generally the role of narrators to promote the individual titles they’ve produced – although many are happy to assist. For more on this, please see Let’s Talk about Royalty Share and Marketing