DO YOU HEAR VOICES? PART II: AUDIOBOOK LESSONS LEARNED By Linda Lovely

SCWW author, Linda Lovely

SCWW author, Linda Lovely

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.
    K. C. Cowan, DEAR KILLER's narrator

    K.C. Cowan recording DEAR KILLER

  • 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.DearAudioCover

 

Make a comment below to enter a drawing for a FREE copy of the audio version of DEAR KILLER!

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15 Responses to DO YOU HEAR VOICES? PART II: AUDIOBOOK LESSONS LEARNED By Linda Lovely

  1. Suzanne Day says:

    Shared this on Facebook. Will enjoy hearing K.C ‘s voice on the audio book.

    Best of luck!

  2. Ellis Vidler says:

    Linda, your suggestions are right on target. Getting chapters as you go is very important to me. It gives you an opportunity to discuss things and make changes without creating a crisis at the deadline and after the narrator has completed many hours of work.
    Good post!

  3. Howard Lewis says:

    We live 30 minutes from the closest grocery store so I have been a fan of audio books for many years. It makes a person look forward to shopping. I never thought about auditioning readers. It is so interesting hearing the process. Thanks Linda

  4. Thank you for all this excellent info! Putting my series on audio is going to be one of my 2014 new year’s resolutions–so this is very helpful! Oh, and I hope I win the prize! Crossing my fingers….

  5. Diane Kratz says:

    I have a question. Do you only have one narrater for both female and male characters? Having never listened to a audible book, I guess in my mind I’m picturing it as a play. It probably more like a reader reading a story to someone? But then you have them change accents so maybe not? A little confused here.
    Diane

  6. Jim McFarlane says:

    I assume the audio production company can cut and paste corrections, although it’s likely to be a pain to find the correct spot.

    Does your Oregon narrator produce a good Southern accent?

  7. Tony Rankine says:

    Just back from Poland where 1 in 20 billboards in the Warsaw Subway are advertising new book releases. Also most people I spoke to are big audio book fans, due to the proliferation of smartphones. Only problem is that they have easy access to pirated material. Hmmm.

    Certainly, need to know how the characters you wrote sound, especially in dialog. And that dialog needs to be audio friendly, not just print friendly. And the only way to know that is to read it aloud yourself. It’s amazing how many manhours are behind one page of a completed piece of literature.

  8. Linda Lovely says:

    Diane, some audiobooks are now being cast like movies, with male and female actors. But most books are narrated by a single person. My Marley Clark Mysteries are written in first person so it makes sense to use a female narrator. However, KC does lower her voice and adopt appropriate accents for male characters–as well as find ways to distinguish one female character from another. That’s important in dialogue scenes so the listener knows who’s speaking.

  9. Linda Lovely says:

    Jim, I think Southern accents are often problematic. People who don’t live in the South tend to overdo them. I asked KC to soften the Southern accents after I listened to early chapters. My main character was born and raised in the Midwest so her accent (or lack thereof) is easy. Tony, you’re right. When authors are writing, they should take the time to read their manuscripts out loud. It’s a good way to catch repetitions and problems even if you’re not going to record an audiobook.

  10. LindaR says:

    I love audiobooks! Especially mysteries. I read on my work commute (45 min one way). Thanks for the giveaway chance.

  11. Robin W says:

    Interesting and informative post!

  12. Linda Lovely says:

    LindaR. Now is a great time to take advantage of audiobook bargains. If you own or buy Kindle ebook editions of mysteries and there’s a companion audiobook that qualifies for Whispersync, Amazon/Audible is offering the audiobook for as little as $1.99. I’m downloading audiobooks from many of my author friends. (Dear Killer is available as an ebook and a Whispersync audiobook, too.)

  13. Cynthia Westland says:

    Linda,
    Thank you for an informative blog regarding audiobooks. I am in the process of doing two projects with ACX for my two crime fiction novels and this is very timely information for me. I’ll keep your suggestions in mind as I work with my producers.

  14. Beth Browne says:

    Thanks to everybody for participating in this interesting discussion! Congratulations to Linda R for winning the random drawing for a free audiobook! Linda R, your email is bouncing, can you contact Linda Lovely directly? If not, email me at scwwveep at gmail dot com. Thanks!

  15. Linda Lovely says:

    Beth, draw another name. I’ll be happy to give away two audiobooks–one to LindaR when we find her and one to another winner. Thanks to so many of you for dropping by.

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