How Do You Turn Your Book into an Audio Book?

Audio books are becoming more popular because it's much easier to access them through digital downloads these days. In the past, they consisted of a bunch of clunky CDs you had to lug around. Now, listeners can simply download an audio book in a matter of minutes from Audible, Amazon, iTunes or other sites and listen while driving, doing chores, relaxing, taking walks, exercising and various other things. No need to stare at a book all day in order to "read."

I've had my first two books, My Fierce Highlander and My Wild Highlander, produced as audio books and now book three, My Brave Highlander, is being recorded. It can be fun and exciting, listening to the words you worked so hard on being brought to life through voice.

If you hold your audio book rights, you don't have to wait for an audio book publisher to make an offer on your book. You can have it produced yourself. This is easy if you join ACX, Audio Creation Exchange, which is an Amazon Platform.

Sign up as a member and read all the information on the site (or you can read the information first). There is a lot of it, I know, but it's important to understand all the ins and outs of having an audio book produced before you jump in. You need to know your rights, the narrator's or studio's rights, and ACX's rights. You will be signing a contract allowing ACX to distribute and sell your audio book for seven years. This is far different from Amazon KDP or any of the other ebook self-publishing platforms where you can take your book down anytime you want. For the audio book, you must make the commitment.

After you have read all the information on the site and joined, it's time to input your book's information and upload a sample so narrators can audition. You will decide on the price range you can afford.

Royalty Share
$0-$50 PFH
$50-$100 PFH
$100-$200 PFH
$200-$400 PFH
$400-$1000 PFH

PFH means Per Finished Hour. If you have never done this before, the price per hour can seem high. But keep in mind that it can take up to six hours or more to produce one finished hour of audio. Once the audio is recorded, it must be edited, corrected and have a lot of other things done to it which I don't understand. You can read more about this at ACX.

After you input your book's word count at ACX, the site will calculate approximately how many hours of finished audio it will be. You can then decide how much you're willing to pay to have the audiobook produced. Or you can choose a royalty share. In this case, you don't pay anything up front, but you do share all of your royalties with your producer 50/50.

With ACX you have three options:

Royalty Share
with Exclusive Distribution to Audible

With this option your audio book will be sold at Audible, Amazon and iTunes and you and the producer will share the 40% of retail sales royalty. So, 20% each.

Pay For Production (Flat Fee)
with Exclusive Distribution to Audible
With this option (the one I chose) your book is sold at Audible, Amazon and iTunes. You pay the producer a flat per hour fee and then you, the author and rights holder, earn 40% of retail sales.

Pay For Production (Flat Fee)
with Non-Exclusive Distribution Rights to Audible
With this option you pay your producer their per finished hour fee and you can distribute your audio book wherever you want. (Where, other than Audible, Amazon and iTunes? I don't know the answer to that.) With this option you earn 25% of retail sales.

When you choose a sample from your book to upload for auditions, choose one in which there are several things going on. For instance, include some narrative, and some dialogue between as many characters as possible. I generally try to have at least three characters in the scene, both male and female. For romance, you will want a scene where the hero and heroine are talking. That way, you can see how the narrator performs both male and female voices and how expressive his/her voice is in the narrative as well. A lot of narrators are actors and are able to make the audio book sound similar to the performance of a play, with a unique voice for each character. You don't want someone who simply reads in a flat monotone. You want someone who is expressive so the listener can imagine they're watching a movie.

When you upload your book's sample, equal to about 5 minutes of narrating time, you choose what kind of narrator you want. Do you want a male or female? What sort of accent? What kind of narrating style? ACX has several boxes you can check for these options. Also include other information and direction. Include your blurb and then below that fill in other information such as if your book has won awards, has been a bestseller, whether you've sold foreign rights, etc. The more impressive your book sounds, the more narrators will audition.

You can also include characterizations and how you imagine the characters sounding. For example, the hero has a Scottish accent and a deep, commanding voice. The heroine is strong but feminine and from the English upper class. Go into as much detail as necessary so the narrator knows exactly what you want. They may not be able to tell from reading the excerpt you've uploaded.

My books are set in Scotland and the first two feature Scottish, English and French characters. I needed someone who could do all three accents realistically. And I wanted the narrative to sound Scottish but also be easy for Americans to understand. Ironically, the narrator of my first two books is from Northern Ireland, but he is an actor who is talented with various accents. For my third book, which features all Scottish characters, I went with a narrator who is from Scotland. His accent is truly authentic and adds a wonderful Scottish flare to the book.

Listen to the narrators' samples already on ACX and you might find one you like. If so, you can message them and ask them if they would like to audition for your book. You can also go on Amazon or Audible and listen to audio book samples and perhaps find the name of a narrator you love, then check to see if he/she is available on ACX.

Sometimes narrators or studios will message you, asking if you would like them to audition. This will give you an opportunity to search for their name on ACX or Audible to see if the voice and reading style is something you might like. Just having someone audition is not a commitment, but if you already know you don't want to hire the narrator, there's no need for them to go to the trouble of auditioning. You can receive as many or as few auditions as you like. Listen to all of them and weigh your options carefully.

When you're ready to decide, make sure you love the way the narrator reads your book before you make a commitment to sign him/her. You may also want to ask him/her other questions and let them know what you need from them before the deal is made. Having audio books created is not cheap so you want to invest your money in something you will love and be proud of.

Once you've made an offer to the narrator and it's been accepted, you will email the ebook in whatever format they prefer. Make sure he/she follows ACX rules and records the first fifteen minutes for you to listen to. And also make sure you love this fifteen minute sample before approving it. If you want anything changed, tell the producer. Don't be shy. They will correct it and resubmit. Also try to convince the narrator to allow you to listen to chapters as they go along recording. That way, if a certain character's voice sounds completely wrong, or if a name or other prominent word is mispronounced, you can have them correct this before they record the whole book. Making corrections in the first 15 minutes, or first chapter is far easier than making corrections throughout a whole ten hour book.

Listen to every word of the recording and check for errors. If you want Amazon's Whispersync technology to work, then the Kindle ebook and the audio book recording must be as identical as possible. With Whispersync, if the reader has both the Kindle ebook and audio book, they can read for a while and then listen for a while, switching back and forth, and the two versions will sync on the device. If you find errors or discrepancies, make a note of them, including the time stamp of the recording so the narrator can find it. The types of errors to listen for are missing words, phrases or sentences. Duplicate phrases and sentences. Words pronounced wrong. Character voices speaking the wrong dialogue. Transposed words. Extended silences or blank spots.

Send the error list to the narrator/studio for correction. Once they've recorded the corrections, listen to those spots again to make sure it sounds smooth and the way you want. By the way, let the narrator/ studio know up front that you want the recording to be identical to the ebook so Whispersync will work. That way, they know your expectations. Some narrators may "edit" your work as they're reading to "make it sound better" if they think you don't mind. And if you truly don't mind this, then that's okay too. Just make sure the recording sounds fantastic to you. If the studio/ narrator tries to refuse to make corrections you've asked for, call ACX for guidance. They are very helpful. Another tip, don't approve anything you haven't listened to. Make sure you love the way it sounds before you approve it.

Have your audio book cover created and uploaded by the time the audio book is finished being recorded. These covers must be perfectly square and at least 2400 x 2400 pixels.

Once the whole book is recorded as well as the opening and closing credits, and you've listened to all of this and decided it sounds great, approve the whole book. ACX will check the book. This can take up to two weeks. If ACX finds something that needs correcting, the narrator/ studio must fix this and approval time can take longer than expected. Examples of things that can pop up here are silences that are too long or discrepancies in credits. Once ACX approves it, your audio book will show up at Audible, then at Amazon and iTunes. You can then start promoting and selling it!

Do you have any questions about how to have your audio book created?

Here are the first five minutes of both my completed audiobooks. My Fierce Highlander is on sale for only 1.99 at Amazon and Audible if you have already purchased the Kindle version.



Cora Blu said...

Great information I hope to join the audio revolution one day. And I love our narrator. Yummy.

Vanessa Holland said...

Tons of great information, Vonda. Thanks!

Vonda Sinclair said...

Thank you, Cora! So glad you like the narrator. :)

Vonda Sinclair said...

Vanessa, thanks! I'm glad you found it helpful!

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much, Vonda! Very helpful.
Keira Montclair

Tamara Hunter said...

I'm not at all ready for that plunge but I saved your tips. When I jump in the deep end at least I'll be able to swim. Thanks!

Vonda Sinclair said...

I'm glad you both found it helpful, Keira and Tamara! Thanks!

Gwyn Brodie said...

Thanks for the great information, Vonda. Your post cleared up a lot of questions of mine. Doing an audio book is not as scary as I thought it would be!

Carly Carson said...

Thanks, great post.