I’m really pleased to share with you a fascinating guest post written by Jessica Norrie. Jessica’s book, The Infinity Pool, has just recently been released as an audiobook and here she tells us about the process as her book went from the written word to the spoken word.
From idea to audio – the path to the spoken word
Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin… in July 2015 my agent Bill at www.aforauthors.co.uk uploaded my first novel “The Infinity Pool” to KDP. Immediately Amazon asked for a 12 month exclusive for the ebook, and suggested translations and producing an audio book. I’m a sucker for the word “exclusive” so granted the rights gladly (come back next year to hear whether I was right to do that). I’d been a translator myself, so I began arranging that, and will be describing the process elsewhere – it’s ongoing.
And the audio book? I was very keen. There is a history of eyesight problems in my family, so I value the idea of large print books, Braille books, and the spoken word, and an elderly relative had already asked about an audio version. I remembered too the beguiling tapes (yes, I am that old) that kept my children occupied on long car journeys. But it was news to me that audio books represent the fastest increasing market sector. All those commuters on the tube, those joggers in the park, those drivers –– they’re listening to words, not sounds. And when a busy deputy head, who juggles management with parenting three young children, promised she would “read” it while she did the ironing, I was completely won over. (She and her peers have a lot of ironing!)
The wonderful Bill took it in hand, on the ACX site https://www.acx.com/help/about-acx/200484860. They manage the whole process and there’s lots of practical advice too, for authors themselves, narrators, and producers, on everything from sourcing a narrator, to the equipment and technical aspects of production, through to marketing and payment. The only restriction is that your book must be available on Amazon before you start.
First, you “claim” authorship and rights of your book on Amazon . (I’m not sure what would happen if you claimed someone else’s book: we had some fun imagining that scenario.)You upload a sample for audition purposes, and select the voice type you’d prefer. Inevitably, I hadn’t considered that yet. UK or US English was an easy choice – most of my characters are British. But a male or a female voice? Any regional preferences? I was caught between wanting to be politically correct, and my personal tastes. It was also clear that if we narrowed it down too much, we might have no takers. We decided to wait and see who came forward. Perhaps we’d get a surprise…
I didn’t kid myself there would be many takers. We were offering a share of royalties only, and no upfront fee, since we couldn’t guarantee the level of sales. (There are better levels of remuneration available!) But to our surprise, within five minutes of uploading the sample, we had a candidate and in great excitement Bill pressed “play”.
Oh dear. I’m now considering getting the audio equipment and becoming a narrator myself, but I wouldn’t do what this guy did. He was just too quick off the mark. Crestfallen, we listened as he stumbled over my complex syntax and occasionally gave up and repeated himself. You could hear him swallowing hard and visualise him thinking, wtf? The lesson surely is that this is like any job interview: you must prepare it carefully.
We heard nothing for a few days, and never from any women. I was a bit worried about that, as one scene involves a young girl in labour. But then a strong candidate emerged in Jack Wynters, a UK born actor living in Canada, an experienced narrator of audio books. See http://www.wynterseaproductions.ca/audio-books-amazon/
He won me over with a mature, actorly tone, a clear understanding of how to pace my sentences, and some very kind remarks about my book. He had narrated everything from Dickens to zombie books, and – a good sign – requested background information about the characters. We accepted him from his audition, he then uploaded the first 3 chapters, and when I’d accepted those he would complete the rest. I’d approve it and hey presto! Job done.
Of course it wasn’t quite as simple as that. Jack came up with a fabulous range of regional accents, but I had a few concerns over timing and pronunciation. But he was very professional, correcting them promptly. I became first used to, then admiring of this stranger’s interpretation of my creation. When chapters 4-35 arrived in one huge WE file transfer, I listened with the manuscript in front of me, marked my queries, located them on the Kindle edition, and sent them back. It took days – with the unhappy side effect, as for any author who closely re-reads her own work, of highlighting phrases I wished I’d written differently. I also had no idea that I was such a frequent user of “He had no idea…” relished by Jack as he rolled it round his mouth! But overall the writing and narration stand up, and both Jack and I were very pleased with the result. He even wrote me a cheeky sequel, featuring a complete debunk of my main character, and he offered to play one of the women (in drag) should there ever be a stage version. So for our next project, if there are any producers out there…
With an Audible subscription (£7.99 a month in the UK; also available in Europe and the US), you can listen to “The Infinity Pool” free. Otherwise, it’s £13.82 or $20.08.
You will also soon be able to obtain the Audio book via Itunes
I shall be raffling a free copy, and bloggers or reviewers please do contact me via my Facebook author page https://www.facebook.com/Jessica-Norrie-1617940365158063/
Special thanks to Bill for all his hard work, and to Jack for a warm transatlantic business relationship. Thank you for listening, and especially thanks to Joanne for hosting this article.