by Mary Jo Putney)
In 2007, Amazon kicked over the traces of print publishing by creating the e-book market with the Kindle reader and the KDP platform that allows authors to publish their own e-books. Now Amazon is doing the same with its subsidiary, ACX, a platform that allows us to create our own audio books.
Audio books aren't new, of course — they've been around for years, usually for bestselling titles. Plus, the Library of Congress has a splendid free service of audio books for the blind, dyslexic, and others with disabilities that interfere with normal reading.
Just like KDP, ACX empowers authors to create audio versions of their books. The only downsides are the learning curve and the production costs.
Everything seems to require a learning curve these days, but ACX makes the production process relatively easy. The core of the site is an exchange where authors can find narrators. You click on the qualities you want in a voice: the accent, the gender, the style of narration. Husky? Romantic? Hysterical? More styles than you've ever imagined!
I started my indie audio career with Thunder and Roses because it's first in my Fallen Angels series, and is the best seller among my backlist indie e-books. All of my backlist titles have British settings and characters, so I wanted a British-born narrator who could handle a range of regional accents.
Having defined the characteristics I wanted, I requested auditions by posting an excerpt scene that had both main characters and some drama. Narrators scan listings to find projects they're qualified for, then record the excerpt and send it to the author.
I received about 30 auditions, all good to very good. How to choose? After a lot of listening, I decided that a reasonably quick pace is important to me. Not rushed, but too slow makes me want to get out and push.
I also like a smooth, storytelling quality that makes me want to keep listening. I want characters to be distinct from each other, but not acted so dramatically that it's distracting. And no verbal tics that pull me out of the listening experience! After much hair pulling, I chose Peter Bishop, a British-born voice actor based in the New York area, and he did a fine, professional job. You can check out a sample here.
The learning curve isn't bad, but production costs are stiff. An e-book can be formatted, packaged and uploaded for a few hundred dollars, or much less for those who are technically adept. (I am not in that category!)
But audio books are another matter. Narrators are highly skilled professionals, often trained actors with a special skill at storytelling. Plus, they must use sound studios and editors to produce a professional quality product. Narrators can cost $200 to $400 per finished hour, perhaps even more, which makes sense because the cost includes all the studio work. A full-length historical romance can easily run 13-14 hours, so do the math.
When my first audio book was reasonably well received, I decided to try a second. This time I chose The Bargain. My story of an independent young woman who marries a dying officer so she can secure her inheritance — and then he hasn't the grace to die! — has always been popular, and I thought it well suited to a female narrator.
A friend suggested that I consider Emma Newman, an English fantasy author and voice actor, and I loved the smoothness of her voice. She lives in Southwest England and records at a Glastonbury studio, the Audio Factory.
She and the Audio Factory team worked together to create a top-notch production, with me monitoring long distance. She gave me a delightful interview for my Word Wenches blog about what audio booking is like from her end.
One thing I love about audio books is that it's a different kind of story experience. Print and e-books are both reading with one's eyes, but audio books require different senses, and these days we're blessed with an abundance of listening devices such as smartphones. Do we live in wonderful times or what?!!
Best of all, we authors can now create audio editions of classic, much-loved stories. Loretta Chase released her beloved Lord of Scoundrels audio a few weeks ago. What classic stories would you like to listen to?
Happy reading and happy listening…
I'm giving away one Audible download each of Thunder and Roses and The Bargain, so if you haven't tried this latest new, new thing, now is your chance! Leave a comment and I'll pick two commenters at random to receive one of the Audible audio books.
Find out more about Mary Jo and her books at www.maryjoputney.com.
MORE ON HEA: Mary Jo gets a shout-out in today's Romance Unlaced post by Madeline Hunter