It’s easy, and if I can do it, anyone can. Read on, if you’re interested in the how-to.
The good news: I didn’t do the reading and recording. (If you want to learn voice acting, and invest in equipment, great! I sure as hell didn’t, and I was damned sure no one wanted to listen to squeaky-nasal me read anything.) So I had to find a voice actor and learn how the audiobook creation process worked.
Recommendations from other indie writers pointed me to a site called ACX.com, which pairs up authors with people who want to do audio. (ACX calls them “producers.”) The site also sets up the production contract, distributes the final digital audio to assorted venues, and handles the financial side of the whole process, including royalties.
There are other ways to make audiobooks, I’m sure. If you make one some other way, ACX offers distribution options. There are undoubtedly other ways to distribute audio to sales channels. I can’t speak to those topics, because I liked what I saw at ACX, checked and found no huge red flags that said AVOID! AVOID! and signed up.
Note: ACX.com is one node of the many-tentacled monster known as Amazon, and so is the subscription/sales channel Audible.com. In case that’s a factor, pro or con. Like Createspace and KDP, ACX offers exclusive or universal distribution options. Like them, it can be considered a great service or an exploitative one. I respect those who choose to avoid Amazon on principle. Me, I gain enough from their exclusive services to accept the terms. Yes, I’ve done the math, and I’m good at math. I am not being exploited. I am an unknown independent author likely to forever remain obscure. Gift horses and mouths, beggars and choosers, etc. Pick your saying.
ACX worked for me because they offer a contract option called “royalty-share.” Instead of paying someone to deliver a finished product for a fee, which I would then own outright (aka “Work for hire”) the producer makes an audio of the book on spec, and then the author & producer split profits for all sales of the finished product.
This admirably suited my lack of up-front budget. I couldn’t afford to make an audio if I had to pay for a reader and/or the after-reading production. Good narrators charge $50- $500 a finished hour, and my novels run 10+ hours.
Using ACX start to finish meant the whole process cost me no money. Let me emphasize that: the audiobook of my first novel cost me zero $$ out of pocket. I won’t say it was free, because I invested my valuable time in the process, and the loss of “potential profit” created by sharing sales equally with the producer is impossible to calculate. Not to mention that I haven’t bought an ISBN for this edition yet.
(Spare me the lecture on the importance of owning my own ISBNs and blah blah blah. I KNOW. I AGREE. I plan to buy my first 10-batch this year and put out new editions of my titles with my own owned-ISBNs. I will. BUT. When I first published, I didn’t know if I would ever bother doing a third ebook, much less multiple formats for multiple works. At that point–and for the first year of publishing–investing even $100 in ISBNs looked foolish, and having to buy them probably would’ve scared me away from publishing at all. But I digress. As one does, on a blog.)
Bottom line: I didn’t need to have cash on hand to open up a whole new market to my writing. That’s a thing.
And right now I want to run in circles and roll around on the floor like a cat high on catnip. See, MY AUDIOBOOK IS LIVE! Look, here’s a picture of the cover:
Pretty, isn’t it? Okay, okay, I’m distracted. Back to how-to.
Two practical concerns for DIY’ers like me:
1. It’s square.
2. the narrator’s name is prominently displayed with mine, which means I couldn’t just squooze my book cover into the right dimensions and be done.
I won’t inflict a “how to make it” guide on anyone. Too much depends on the resolution and size of the book-shaped original, not to mention differing access to graphic manipulation programs and potential rights tussles over the cover imagery. But I will tell you what I did.
I read the ACX production guide to cover requirements, went to free graphics site Canva.com to make the text block, and used free graphic manipulation program GIMP to resize my ebook cover and add the new material. NOTE: I own the cover design outright, which simplified that issue. Only use graphics you have the right to use commercially.
The cover doesn’t tell you anything about the contents, but a simple click sends you straight to the Audible.com page where prospective customers can read the same blurb they’ll find on Amazon.com and listen to a sample.
And that’s all the attention span I have for this edition of “What Contrarian Karen Does As An Independent Author.” In a while I will revisit the topic with a Part 2 on how I wrote my ACX pitch, the joys of auditioning narrators, the fun of communicating with narrators, and the nitty-gritty of getting the final product up and running.
Meanwhile, if you want to read Controlled Descent with your ears rather than your eyes and might feel inclined to write an audiobook review, leave me a comment or a message with an email addy. Audble.com supplied me with freebie codes so I can entice people to listen and leave reviews. They even gave me specific how-to-redeem-your-freebie instructions for doling out along with the codes.
Fair warning: my narrator Brendan McKernan has a phenomenal voice.
And full disclaimer: if using the code from me makes you fall in love with Audible.com and you
get suckered in buy a membership after the free trial, I get money out of the deal.