In light of June Westerfield’s recent post about creating your own book cover (if you missed it, you can read it here), you’re thinking I’m going to say you shouldn't narrate your own audiobook, right? Wrong! My answer is:
Yeah, that's helpful, right?
I think the easiest way to explain is to tell you how I did it, the pros and cons, and let you decide for yourself. But first:
Do you have the rights?
If this is a New York published book, odds are, the answer is no. Publishers don't often give up the chance to make a buck. I'm not sure about Small Presses - check your contract to be sure. Self-pubbed? Green light!
I released my first self published title in January of 2016, Days Made of Glass. I loved the control of self-publishing. Then I read how audiobook sales are on the rise, and thought that I'd love to have Days in an audiobook format.
I read through ACX (Amazon's audiobook publishing arm-very informative), and through pages and pages of Google results, and discovered . . . it's expensive.
First, you need a narrator/producer. They usually receive compensation one of two ways:
Outright payment - They charge around $200 an hour (SAG members start at $225/hr). You can do the math. I got the following chart from EA Book Publishing:
Schedule of Costs (this is for narration and production)
Words Narration Hours Production Hours Final Cost
10,000 1 5 $ 950
20,000 2 10 $1,900
30,000 3 15 $2,850
40,000 4 20 $3,800
50,000 5 25 $4,750
60,000 6 30 $5,700
70,000 7 35 $6,650
80,000 8 40 $7,600
90,000 9 45 $8,550
Be sure when you're negotiating with a narrator, that you verify if the cost is for narration only or full production. A producer cleans up the file, checks for errors, misspoken lines, and puts it in the correct format. You'll need that.
Or Royalty share - They get 50% and may ask for a non-refundable upfront cost
Another option is to buy professional equipment, park yourself in a closet at home and record. That was cheaper, but still, the software and the equipment can run into the to thousands.
If you know me at all, you know I'm as cheap as a prison-release suit.
It's okay, I own it.
Going it on your own:
I dearly love reading out loud. I volunteer time, reading at a senior center, so I wondered if I could do this myself. Hey, I created my own website, and my own self-published book. Okay, so the book cover thing didn't work out so well, but....
Then I heard my local Recording Library needed volunteers to read books, daily local newspapers and textbooks for the blind. Volunteer doing what I love? I'm all over it. When I saw their offices, and the little soundproofed recording booths, I stashed an idea in the back of my mind, dug in, and got over my hatred of my own recorded voice (I hear this is a universal thing - because we hear our voices from the 'inside' and can't judge the quality). It took several months, but I became proficient at it - cutting my teeth on oil reports and school board elections. When they came back and told me I was a natural, and was one of their better-sounding volunteers, I popped the question: Would they mind if I recorded my own book for their library (and take a copy for myself, of course). They said, yes. I was off in a cloud of turkey-turds!
I began recording, correcting when I screwed up, making sure the quality was as good as I could get it. The in-house producer cleaned up the file (taking out background noise, blank air time, etc., and put each chapter in a separate mp3 format for me.
In the meantime, I studied the options for publication, and decided on ACX, Amazon's audiobook publishing arm. You can go exclusive with them, and get a higher royalty percentage, but I decided to keep my options open and go wide. I learned everything I could from their helpful website about how to go about it.
I wanted a different cover for the audiobook than the paperback and Kindle version - I liked the result so much I did a poll on Facebook about maybe changing covers on the book, but since people were split 50/50, I decided to keep both: (keep in mind, an audiobook cover has to be perfectly square)
The audiobook of Days Made of Glass went live a month ago!
So, back to the question, SHOULD you create your own audiobook? I'd recommend it if:
- You have the rights
- You have the voice
- You have the patience - this is meticulous work
- You have a thirst for learning new things, and aren't intimidated by technology
- It helps if you're cheap. 😉
I DO NOT expect to make a ton of money on this. After all, there are less listeners than there are readers. But I loved the process, and will do it for my future self-published titles. To me, it's one more way to be proud of my work.
What do you think? Would you attempt this? Would you hire it out, or DIY?
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She sold her Sweet on a Cowboy series, romances set in the world of professional bull riding, to Grand Central. The Sweet Spot won the 2014 Romance Writers of America® RITA® award in the Best First Book category.
Laura began a video blog for writers, answering their burning questions. You can watch all the episodes HERE. If you have a question you'd like her to address in a future episode, leave her a comment!