The Audiobook Diaries | Week 4

Friends, a lot has happened since last week’s update! Make a tea and settle in, because there’s a great deal of excitement ahead.

To remind you of where things were at this time last week:

Findaway Voices had sent me eight narrator recommendations. I listened to everyone’s samples, made a short list, and requested an audition from five.

Then, I waited.

Later that same day – after I’d posted the update – I had two auditions, and it may have been the most exciting moment of my life.

If you want to catch up before moving on, you can find every entry here.

As always, there’s a summary of this week’s progress at the end of this post.

The Audiobook Diaries | Week 4 | Choosing and Booking My Narrator with FindawayVoices

The Auditions

Out of five requests, I got two auditions, so I was pretty chuffed with that!

I listened to both several times, trying not to flail too hard as two wonderful ladies gave my characters a voice.

It was such a surreal moment for me. I kinda just smiled at my screen with blank eyes as I listened to every word.

Both narrators did amazing jobs, but they were also quite different to each other. I loved both and struggled to choose.

Fortunately, I have critique partners who were happy to help, and by Saturday, I’d pretty much chosen.

I still waited until Monday just in case I changed my mind, but I didn’t and pressed the exciting/daunting BOOK NARRATOR button.

I got these two screens next:

The Audiobook Diaries | Week 4 | Narrator Booking Confirmation Pop Up
The Audiobook Diaries | Week 4 | Narrator Booking Confirmation

I’ve blacked out her name for now since nothing is official or signed yet. To be honest, this is probably overkill, but since both of us can still pull out at this point, I don’t want to make anything look official.

Production Notes and the Contract

Last night, I got an email.

The Audiobook Diaries | Week 4 | An Email from FindawayVoices requesting production notes and the contract signature

IT’S HAPPENING

*throws confetti*

(I mean, it’s probably happening. As I said above, we haven’t signed anything yet, and I never like celebrating too soon.)

So, things are suddenly moving very quickly. This time last week, I didn’t have the auditions yet and was hoping that at least one of my five would be interested. Fast-forward a week and I’m about to sign the contract and my narrator is getting ready.

A Shout-Out to FindawayVoices

The fourth week of my journey into audiobook production is about to end, and so far, I’ve had nothing but a good experience with FindawayVoices.

On the few occasions when I’ve emailed them with questions, their team got back to me quickly with helpful answers and a friendly tone.

Everything has been easy, clear, and professional, even to a complete newbie like me.

So far, I’m very pleased that I chose them to produce my audiobook, and can only recommend them if you’re considering doing the same.

Summary:

  • I got two auditions late last Friday and listened to both.
  • Since I struggled to decide – they were both incredible! – I asked my critique partners and my editor for their feedback.
  • On Monday, I booked my chosen narrator, and FindawayVoices got in touch with her.
  • Last night, I got the production notes form to fill in and the contract to sign. My narrator is currently reading the book and making notes as she goes, so it’s possible that she won’t like what she reads and cancels, but I’d like to think that’s a small chance.

What’s Next?

I’ll be filling in the production notes over the next few working days (unless there’s a tighter deadline than that – I’ve emailed them to check) and signing the contract as soon as they’ve confirmed one more thing for me.

And then we’re off! :O

All being well, I’ll be able to tell you next Friday that the production is officially underway *high five*

If you have any questions about this process, leave a comment and I’ll reply asap!


For all entries in The Audiobook Diaries, look here.

Sign up to BOOKISH WITH SARINA for updates on my books, excerpts, early cover reveals, and other exclusive freebies such as the short stories All that I Can Be and Bubak.

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The Audiobook Diaries | Week 3

Welcome to Week 3 of my Audiobook Diaries! This week has been an important milestone, because I’ve requested auditions from specific narrators *flails*

More on that in a moment. If you want to remind yourself what’s happened so far or if you want to start at the beginning, you can find the rest of my audiobook experience here.

As always, there’s a summary at the end if you don’t have time to read right now and a look at what’s next.

The Audiobook Diaries | Week 3 | Requesting auditions from specific narrators with Findaway Voices

Narration Samples

Findaway Voices sent me a list of eight recommended narrators last Friday afternoon.

I’m really impressed with the variety, especially the experience some of them have! Based on my own lack of awards and tiny social media proof, I figured I’d only have a chance with new narrators who are just starting out – and I got one or two of those, too – but some of my recommendations have won multiple awards.

Findaway Voices provided me with the list, which includes headshots of every narrator, their name, their estimated fee, and a description of what they’ve done, awards they’ve won, what accents they can do, what they’d rather not do, etc.

Along with all that also come narration samples in different genres and styles for every narrator, which really helped narrow it down and get a feel for the type of work they’ve previously done.

You can listen to as many samples as you want and request auditions from your book from your favourite narrators. If none of them are a good fit, you can request another set of samples.

At this point, there’s still zero commitment.

I focussed on two things: narrators who had samples in my genre, and narrator’s whose tone of voice fit my protagonist Rachael best.

I made my own little list of every narrator and my first impressions, and then I left it over the weekend.

The Auditions

As I mentioned above, I got the list of narrator recommendations late on Friday. Monday was a bank holiday here, so I had lots of time to think about my preferences and consider what excerpt to choose for their auditions.

Above the narrator details and their samples, I could fill in specific guidelines for the audition – including the text I’d like them to read.

Now, you don’t have to choose anything, in which case it will default to the first 700 words of your book…

Or you could choose whatever excerpt from your book you want, maybe something with dialogue, to make sure your chosen narrator handles those parts well. If you decide to go this route, find the sections you want them to read in your book and copy & paste them into the provided box.

I chose two important scenes – one a plot milestone, one an emotional character development milestone – because I wanted to see how the narrators read those big moments.

You can give them a few details besides the script, like the main character’s accent, but you can’t give them too many details beyond that – for example, one of my chosen excerpts had Cephy in it, and there was no room to mention that she’s twelve years old – so consider that the narrators don’t have all the info at this point. If your narrator doesn’t voice the Elderly man with a strong Scottish accent differently to the 20-something girl with a British accent, don’t worry about it. There’ll be time to pass these things on later.

I could then tick the narrators I wanted to send the request to, but don’t worry – if you later change your mind and would like to request an audition from someone you didn’t tick, you can still easily add them with the click of a button.

If you change your mind and don’t want to request an audition from one or more narrators from anymore, don’t worry about it. There’s no guarantee they’ll be interested in return, so they might not audition anyway, and if they do, you don’t have to pick them to narrate your whole book. Remember that there’s still zero commitment at this point! You might as well see if they audition and, if they do, if they are a good fit after all.

Once I’d filled in this little questionnaire and copied and pasted my audition script, I clicked Submit and got another Thank You pop-up, informing me that my chosen narrators will read the excerpts within seven working days. I’ll also get an email once all interested narrators have submitted the script.

Naturally, I forgot to take a picture of this. *ahem*

It’s important to note that my interest in the narrators doesn’t mean they’ll be interested in my book. It’s entirely possible that all of my chosen narrators decline my audition request, in which case we’ll try again with a new set of recommendations.

Summary

It’s been a big week with few steps!

  • Findaway Voices sent me a list of 8 recommended narrators.
  • I listened to the narrators’ samples and decided which ones I’d like to audition.
  • I filled in a brief questionnaire (the audition request) and added two vital-moment excerpts from my book. As long as it’s between 500-700 words, you can choose any scenes from your book you’d like.
  • I submitted the audition request! *throws dark confetti*

What’s next?

Now I wait. I submitted the requests on Tuesday, plus seven working days… *counts on fingers* All being well, I’ll have an audition or two (or maybe even all five! I dare dream) in my inbox by Thursday afternoon!


For all entries in The Audiobook Diaries, look here.

Sign up to BOOKISH WITH SARINA for updates on my books, excerpts, early cover reveals, and other exclusive freebies such as the short stories All that I Can Be and Bubak.

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The Audiobook Diaries | Week 2

Welcome to the second week of my audiobook diaries! *high five*

I started this series last week to record my first journey into turning my books into audiobooks and to give everyone who’s interested an insight into that process. Start with Week 1 if you want to read it in sequence or missed the first entry.

This week, I dove into the good stuff – I started the casting process for my narrator *rubs hands together*

If you don’t have time to read the whole article right now, I’ve summarised the key points at the end.

The Audiobook Diaries | Week 2 | An explanation of Voices Plus and the narrator wishlist

The Necessary Paperwork

Because everything about this is a business, there was a quick tax form to fill in. It’s as exciting as it sounds, but I don’t want to give you the wrong impression by not including it, so here we are.

If you want an audiobook and make money from it, you’ll need to fill in a quick, legally required tax form. Findaway Voices made that surprisingly easy.

Voices Plus

The first thing I did was choose Voices Plus. It looked like I had to choose this early on, but I actually didn’t choose until later as part of the narrator wishlist, so don’t worry about it until you give them all other details about what you’re looking for. More on that in a bit.

Opting in to Voices Plus means that Findaway Voices will be the exclusive distributor for a year. I can change my mind any time within the first six months, but I’m not sure why I would want to – Findaway distributes to 43 markets (at the time I’m writing this), and if they add any new ones after my book is out, they’ll automatically distribute our audiobook there too.

(I’m calling it our audiobook because, while it’s true that I wrote the thing, they’re doing a good bit of the hard work, too, so the audiobook is very much a team effort.)

With Voices Plus, the royalty share option works like this: the author (aka me) pays half up front and shares 20% of the royalties with the narrator for ten years. Findaway also keeps 20%, meaning I keep 60%.

You don’t have to choose the royalty share option if that doesn’t work for you. You can pay the full sum instead (in which case you’d keep 80%), but I deemed this safer since it’s my first time and I don’t have a lot of cash lying around.

A quick comparison: ACX has a royalty share option, too, but it works slightly differently from what I understand. With ACX, you don’t pay anything up front and share only your royalties. This might sound like the better option, but consider this:

My narrator could do a lot of work without getting paid if the book doesn’t sell – and this is always a risk, friends. Would I have accepted a work-intensive editing job that takes several months if there had been a chance of me not getting any money for it? Would you? Of course not.

Narrators do a lot of work and they do it well, so they should be paid what they’re worth. This is one of the reasons I chose Findaway Voices! Fair pay for everyone involved.

Narrator Wishlist

Once I’d filled in the tax form, it was time to start casting.

Findaway Voices takes you through a pretty straightforward questionnaire where you can specify what you’re looking for in a narrator.

The Audiobook Diaries | Week 2 | A screenshot of Step 2 of the narrator wishlist

Choosing up to five vocal timbres isn’t as easy as it sounds – throughout Rise of the Sparrows, Rachael goes through so many situations that her vocal timbre naturally isn’t always tough or warm. For the most part, she’s a tough, terse girl, but she also has soft conversations, for example, so I really appreciated being able to choose more than one.

I took the screenshot before I chose all five, but I did choose all five.

Just a heads-up: before this step, I also had to define the overall tone of the book. Again, not an easy thing to do since my book is mostly dark but there are also joyful moments and there’s a good dose of sarcasm – just like any book isn’t one thing only. They gave examples like ‘joyful’ and ‘morose’, and I gave them a small essay in return. This might be something to think about before you start this process if you don’t want to stumble once you’ve started.

Details Besides the Narrator

Besides the narrator wishlist, they calculate how much this is likely to cost you and how long it’s likely to take based on the wordcount in the document I’d uploaded to Draft2Digital. Findaway Voices gets the book straight from there, which saves you an upload. The calculation is automatic and instant, so you’ll get a good idea of costs before you commit to anything.

Remember that, if you choose Voices Plus, that number will be halved.

I was tempted to upload a ‘clean’ document without the front and back matter (since those bits won’t be read in the audiobook), but it barely changed the wordcount (and therefore didn’t touch the production cost). In the end, I figured it’d be recommended on the site if they preferred it or they just wouldn’t take the book from Draft2Digital in all it’s back matter-y glory, so I left it as it was.

Choosing Voices Plus means they wanted to see social proof. This is very fair – my narrator will earn less, possibly nothing from royalties if the book doesn’t sell, so Findaway wants to see before they commit to anything that this is worth their time.

I stumbled again at this point.

They asked for up to 5 proofs that I’ve previously sold the ebook, so I uploaded sales data from the KDP dashboard and thanked the Powers That Be that download numbers have gone up since I made it perma-free.

They also asked for links to any awards I might have received (which is 0), reviews (easy – I linked to BookBub and Goodreads (their suggestion)), and social proof – which confused me. I included a link to when I first posted the book trailer on Instagram, but to be honest, I’ve no idea if that’s what they were after.

Fortunately, I could also tick that this is my first time, so hopefully they’ll be understanding of my ignorance o.o

The Waiting Game Begins

Once I had filled all this in, I got this super exciting screen:

The Audiobook Diaries | Week 2 | FIndaway Voices' Thank You screen
Every time I opened Photoshop on this screenshot, I had a second of thinking I needed to click the big green button because Photoshop had crashed or had an update or whatever.

I filled in the metadata last week, so now I wait.

It’s my understanding that they will send me recommendations with general audition recordings. I will narrow it down from those and upload an excerpt or two from my book for my favourite narrators to audition from – which, I imagine, is when my nerves will really go through the roof.

But we shall see what happens next week, yes?

To summarise:

  • I filled in a quick and necessary tax form.
  • I opted in to Voices Plus, meaning I’ll pay half up front and share my royalties with Findaway Voices and my narrator once the audiobook is out.
  • I filled in the details of what I’m looking for in a narrator and submitted the form to Findaway Voices.

What’s next?

I submitted the form on Tuesday, so in theory, I’ll get a list of potential narrators around Tuesday next week. I expect this can easily take longer (especially because I don’t have any awards or massive social proof to show off, plus there’s a pandemic going on), so I won’t hope for it to be that fast.

Either way, I’ll keep you posted next week Friday!


For all entries in The Audiobook Diaries, look here.

Sign up to BOOKISH WITH SARINA for updates on my books, excerpts, early cover reveals, and other exclusive freebies such as the short stories All that I Can Be and Bubak.

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The Audiobook Diaries | Week 1

Roughly three years ago, I was as far away from having my own audiobooks as I could get.

I hated working out (I believe I was running on my treadmill at the time (I’ve since sold the bloody thing)) and needed something to distract myself. So, I signed up for the Audible trial and downloaded two books I knew I’d love: Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman and On Writing by Stephen King.

I plugged in my headphones, started up my treadmill…

And couldn’t for the life of me focus on those books.

I figured audiobooks just weren’t for me, so why would I consider making my own? I just didn’t.

But then late last year, I wanted to try again. I’d been wanting to read more but didn’t have the time to sit down with a book every day, so people recommended audiobooks to me. And guess what?

Audiobooks are awesome.

Turns out, the audiobooks weren’t the problem, the type of exercise was! (I should have known–I loathe running for anything with a passion)

Since then, I’ve really fallen in love with audiobooks. They transform everything into reading time, and I’ve found some gems this way which I might not have read otherwise.

So, it feels only natural to me to offer my own novels as audiobooks, to hopefully bring the same joy audiobooks have brought me to my own readers.

BUT I won’t lie, this is daunting af. Something about people auditioning for my books, recording the whole things, and then me listening to my own books read by someone professional just seems so huge, you know?

Since I announced on social media that I was considering this step, lots of people have told me they’d love to know what’s involved, that they might create their own audibooks but have no idea what to do, so I decided to set up this regular series. I hope it’ll give you detailed insight into the audiobook creation process so that you can decide for yourself if this is the right step for you.

Alternatively, if you’re not an author but a bookworm and just want to know more about what we do all day, I hope this sheds some light on some of the mystery.

I will aim to post updates every Friday. If the process slows down (as I expect it will once recording starts), they might become a little more infrequent.

If you don’t want to read through everything, feel free to skip to the headers that interest you. There’s also a summary at the end of this post.

Disclaimer: Please remember that I’m very new to this and haven’t tried to go it with either ACX or Findaway Voices yet. It’s possible I’ve misunderstood something somewhere, in which case, do correct me! I’m here to learn.

Disclaimer 2: My little blog uses affiliate links on occasion, which means I’ll earn a small commission if you purchase something I recommend. Thank you for your support <3

The Audiobook Diaries | Week 1 | How to create an audiobook

As with anything I do, I started with research. This is very new to me, and like all those people asking me for answers on social media, I have no idea what to do (plus there’s the aforementioned daunting factor), so it seemed like the best place to start.

These are the resources I’ve used over the last few weeks to help me make sense of it all:

Audio for Authors by Joanna Penn (book)

ACX vs. Findaway ~ My Audiobook Creation Experience (blog post by Dana Fraedrich)

Hiring an Audiobook Narrator Through Findaway Voices (blog post by Dana Fraedrich)

How to Make an Audiobook | Part 1: Set up (YouTube video by Jenna Moreci)

How to Make an Audiobook | Part 2: Production (YouTube video by Jenna Moreci)

Audiobooks For Authors With Will Dages From Findaway Voices (blog post or podcast (your choice!) by Joanna Penn)

My Audiobook Cover

But just reading about the process didn’t, you know, begin the process, so I took the first step this week:

I emailed my cover designer about creating the audiobook cover for Rise of the Sparrows – the perfect starter book, I hope, since it’s the first novel in my first series and the first book I published. Now it can be my first audiobook too!

Why did I start here?

Because, unlike regular book covers, audiobook covers are square. You can try to wiggle it yourself, but chances are your cover will end up looking distorted, which isn’t very appealing to potential listeners.

As always, my designer was a pro and a star and did it right away <3

I read in one of the resources above that uploading the cover early can help find narrators since it shows them a) the cover, which gives them a good feel for whether it’s their kind of book and b) that you’re prepared and therefore know what you’re doing.

*ahem*

So, I wanted to start with the cover so I’ll have it ready when it’s time to create my project. But before I could do that, I had to choose how I’d create the audiobook itself, and that took a little more consideration.

ACX or Findaway Voices

Honestly, this could be its own article. Suffice it to say that I’ve done a lot of reading about both (see above!) over the last two weeks, was torn for a while, and have now chosen Findaway Voices.

I won’t go into detail here because this post would become much too big, but for details on both, I recommend the resources I’ve listed above. All are free except the book.

Findaway Voices give me what I’ve always wanted since before I published Rise of the Sparrows four years ago: control. I decide the price. I decide when and where and how it’s discounted. With ACX, those things would be out of my hands.

It’s free to sign up for ACX (just use your Amazon details!). Findaway Voices have a $49 fee, but you can go around that by using them via Draft2Digital, which waives that fee.

Both give you the choice to either pay your narrator per hour or to split the royalties at the end. Paying per hour gets expensive fast (I believe it starts around $100 per production hour and rises to up to $1000, depending on the narrator), so I’ll be going with the royalty-split option and hope it won’t ruin my chances of getting a good narrator. I might choose to pay per production hour in the future, but this seemed safer for my first try.

Findaway Voices let you go wide very easily, whereas with ACX, you can either be exclusive (meaning Audible, Amazon, and iTunes only, larger royalties, and they might let you go wide after a year if you email them), go wide (much smaller royalties), or you choose the royalty-split option, which also binds you to them for seven years.

It’s my understanding that you can go wide on ACX after a while even if you chose to share your earnings, but then you’d also take the smaller royalties, meaning your narrator gets smaller royalties as a result, and that just doesn’t seem fair to me. Like editors, narrators put in a lot of work and deserve to get paid what they’re worth.

Long story short, Findaway Voices seems more user friendly, and finding a narrator seems easier (you can all laugh at me next week should the opposite happen), plus there’s the additional control, so I’ve chosen them.

SO, all posts in this series will focus on how things work with Findaway Voices. You can totally choose ACX if you prefer, but my posts won’t have any answers for you.

I think that’s quite enough detail given I promised to keep it short 😛 If you want more in-depth info, allow me to recommend the above resources again.

How to Set Up with Findaway Voices

I’m going through Draft2Digital since I was already going wide with my ebooks with them anyway and since they’re the ones who tempted me to begin with.

Getting started is easy. You can either click on the little microphone next to your title or open the individual title (by clicking it on the same screen) and choosing the big, orange Audio Book option. Like so:

The Audiobook Diaries | Week 1 | How to create an audiobook via Draft2Digital
Ignore the green microphone next to the box set. I made a mistake and am trying to get rid of it.

Or…

The Audiobook Diaries | Week 1 | How to create an audiobook via Draft2Digital

Once you’ve told them that you’d like to create your audiobook with Findaway Voices, you will be taken to this screen:

The Audiobook Diaries | Week 1 | How to create an audiobook with Findaway Voices

It’s pretty straightforward from there. If you already have an audiobook, you choose the right option; if you need to create your audiobook, like me, you go left.

To begin with, you’ll fill in/check your book’s general information, like the cover, its blurb, and who holds the copyright.

And this is where I stumbled for the first time.

I had to set the release date – or Street Date, on Findaway Voices – but since I haven’t done this before, I had no idea what to put. I don’t know how long this’ll take, friends!

I did a bit of research and found in their help section that ‘an audiobook can go from start to sale in as fast as 6–8 weeks.’ They also mention that it depends on the book’s complexity and length, which is only logical.

I still wasn’t sure what to put (and their above estimation seems fast to me), so I set the date to four months from now. It doesn’t say if I can change this date later, but I hope I can – just in case I’ve messed up before I even got to the good bit and need longer after all!

And that’s where I’m at right now!

To summarise:

  • I started last week by doing research. For the list of recommended resources, scroll up to just under the banner.
  • I will be creating the audiobook of Rise of the Sparrows (and the rest of the series if all goes well) with Findaway Voices.
  • I started this week by asking my cover designer to create the audiobook cover and by officially beginning the project via Draft2Digital.

What’s next?

Phew! This was a lot for one week, wasn’t it? :O As this is the very start of this fun, terrifying adventure, I know the least and therefore have the most to share.

I approved the cover proof yesterday and uploaded the finished cover. This morning, I’ll add some keywords (which seems to be exactly the same as everywhere else?), and then…

I’ll make a strong chamomile tea (to calm down, see) and begin the narrator audition process, whatever that’ll involve! I’m beyond excited to hear how someone else will voice my babies <3 This is definitely the part I’m most excited about right now.

If you have any questions about what I did this week or generally have questions about this process, ask away in the comments and I’ll answer your comment as well as include it in next week’s post.


For all entries in The Audiobook Diaries, look here.

Sign up to BOOKISH WITH SARINA for updates on my books, excerpts, early cover reveals, and other exclusive freebies such as the short stories All that I Can Be and Bubak.

Take me to the Welcome page.