Part I of this blog discussed the growing audiobook market and the ACX.com matchmaker service the author used to find a narrator for her mystery, DEAR KILLER. Part II offers production advice to authors who are interested in recording their books.
Here’s some advice to authors who are contemplating creating audiobook versions of their novels. It includes things I definitely did right as well as some things I wished I’d have known before I started.
- How To Choose a Narrator. As mentioned in Part I, it’s important to choose an audition selection that lets you hear how narrators handle the voices of different characters. But what if you have concerns after you listen to the auditions? Let’s say you love everything about an audition except one character’s accent. Tell that narrator how you feel and ask her/him to read another short section with your interpretation in mind. Narrators who refuse or sound peeved may not be a wise choice. Conversations with candidates may help you sense how easy (and enjoyable) it will be to work with them.
- Character Sketches. After I selected K.C. as my narrator, I sent sketches describing each of my main characters to help communicate their personalities, attitudes, and accents. I even included physical descriptions to help her visualize my cast. K.C., who has more than 25 years of broadcasting experience plus community theater acting credits, found the sketches quite helpful. In hindsight, I’d include sketches for even minor players with key roles.
- Pronunciation Guides. After production started, my husband asked if I’d warned K.C., who lives in Oregon, that South Carolina’s Beaufort was pronounced like “beautiful.” (DEAR KILLER is set on a fictional island near Beaufort.) I immediately emailed K.C., who corrected her pronunciation in the opening chapters. I then searched for other regional pronunciations that might give a “foreigner” fits.
- Exchange Chapters As They’re Recorded. Exchanging a few chapters at a time as the audio progresses lets you ask a narrator to tone down an accent or slightly change a character’s interpretation when that person is first introduced. If you wait and request wholesale changes after the entire book’s recorded, it’s unfair to the narrator—and it’s certain to delay production. One author I know received an entire nine-hour audiobook on a Wednesday with a request to approve it by Friday so the narrator could meet her production deadline. And, guess what? The author didn’t like how the narrator portrayed a central character. Someone—either the author or the narrator—is going to be very unhappy in this scenario.
- Develop a Relationship. The narrator’s your partner. If you have a shared royalty relationship, your narrator has as much interest in your audiobook’s success as you do. Treat your narrator as a valued collaborator. If you want changes, explain why. Share your promotion plans. Ask for suggestions. This is especially important if you’re recording the first book of a series and want to collaborate with the same narrator on the entire series.
- Proof Against a Printout. Amazon has a new program called Whispersync for Voice. It lets readers close an ebook on their Kindles and automatically pick up listening to the same Audible.com title precisely where they left off. To be eligible for Whispersync, the audiobook must pass a quality control process that ensures the Audible version matches the ebook version virtually word for word. DEAR KILLER is available for Whispersync because I took the time to proof the audiobook version by following word for word with a printed version of the ebook. And, no matter how talented your narrator is, you will catch errors this way. It’s very easy for a narrator to miss—or even add—a word or sentence here or there.
If you’ve produced an audiobook, do you have other advice to offer first-timers? Do you agree with my production suggestions?
To listen to the first chapter of DEAR KILLER, go to www.tinyurl.com/DearKillerAudible.
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