A couple of months ago, I decided to look into the world of audiobooks, with the idea of doing one for my children’s book, Dreamland. I’d just put the book wide, using Draft2Digital, and noticed that they have a partnership with Findaway Voices, who produce audiobooks.
Intrigued, I signed up. They take your book details from D2D, and you let them know the genre of the book, what kind of voice you’re looking for, the style, etc. (I suggest you do some research on this, as it’s very important to know what you want.) After a few days, they email you to say there is a selection of narrators ready for you to listen to. Each narrator has a few samples you can listen to, plus their price per finished hour and the estimated total cost for your book. There isn’t the option of dividing royalties with Findaway, you have to pay the fees upfront.
I narrowed it down to two from my first selection, and requested an audition. I got an email thanking me for requesting an audition, and that they would be in touch within a week. About a week or so later, another email arrived saying that the auditions were ready. Excited, I listened to the 3-minute samples… and neither was right for my book. I was disappointed, but I knew I had to ask Findaway for another selection of narrators.
In the meantime, I’d started checking out ACX. They have narrators who will either divide the royalties or take an upfront fee*, and they have much more choice. I began to set up an account with them, and instantly ran into a problem – you can only go through ACX if you live in the US, Canada, UK or Ireland. I live in Italy. But I did find a comprehensive list of vocal styles, which I used to refine my request to Findaway for more narrators.
*From comments I found on the internet, it seems narrators will only accept dividing the royalties if your ebook/paperback is selling quite well. Makes sense, really.
Findaway got back to me with another selection of narrators. This time, armed with my new knowledge, I’d narrowed down the vocal styles I was looking for and got a much more appropriate selection. I listened to their samples, eliminating some, dithering over others, until I found her. The perfect narrator! Listening to her sample, she used different voices for each character and really threw herself into each role. I immediately requested an audition and waited.
Two weeks later, I hadn’t heard anything from them, so I sent them an email. They responded within a few hours, and the next day the audition was up on the site, ready for me to listen to. I was a bit apprehensive, as I really wanted this narrator to be the right one, but eventually clicked the play button.
She was every bit as good as I’d hoped she would be! I listened several times to the audition – hearing your book come to life like that is an incredible experience. So now I had an even bigger dilemma. Could I afford it? I won’t go into prices here, as each narrator has their own fee per finished hour (that means you pay per hour of audiobook, not the hours it took them to record it). Findaway Voices give you an estimate of the total cost, so it’s clear how much you’ll have to spend right from the beginning. (Up to this point, requesting narrators doesn’t cost you anything, and you can request as many times as you like until you find the right person.)
My husband and I did some calculations, and worked out that it was feasible. As to whether we’ll recoup the money – who knows? The paperback version sells a few copies, the ebook isn’t doing very well, due to the age group, I suppose, but perhaps an audiobook will do better. It’s probably going to be a long-term investment, so in the end you have to decide whether it’s something you really want to do, regardless of genre, profit, etc. Weigh up all the pros and cons before making your mind up.
After a lot of deliberation, we decided to go for it. I clicked on ‘Book the narrator’ with trembling finger. They emailed me back, thanking me, and telling me they would be in touch soon with the production details from the narrator. Within a couple of days, I was sent a contract confirming the price per finished hour, and an approximate completion date. I then had to virtually sign the agreement between myself and Findaway Voices for producing the audiobook. They also sent me a Production Guide for the narrator, where I could specify accents, pronunciation of names and places, vocal style, tone, anything that I thought could be useful to the narrator.
I asked whether I’ll be getting a copy myself of the audio files, and they said that I will be able to download all the files once everything is completed (and I’ve paid!). (ACX give the narrator and the author 25 codes each for free downloads they can distribute to bloggers, use as prizes, etc, but Findaway Voices don’t do this.)
I’m now waiting for the first 15 minutes of my audiobook. After listening to it, I’ll confirm that the narrator can go ahead, or I can suggest any necessary changes. After that, I won’t hear any more until the audiobook is completed. After making sure everything is OK, I will then pay.
Part two of my audiobook journey will describe what happens next!
I hope this has been of some help to you, and that I’ve covered everything that’s important. I’m new to all this, so am not an expert in any way, but if you have any questions, I’ll try to answer them, based on my own experiences. Please let me know if you have anything to add!
PS. A lot of people will suggest you make your own audiobook. I don’t recommend this unless you have acting experience, and access to a top of the range recording studio! When I asked about audiobooks in a readers’ group, the majority said they didn’t care if the accent is British or American, but they will stop listening if the book doesn’t grab them in the first few minutes.