The Writing Sparrow Episode 34 | The Different Paths to Audiobook Creation with Dana Fraedrich

This week, I had a chat with Dana Fraedrich about her experience of creating audiobooks with FindawayVoices, ACX, and by herself! 

If you’d like to read more on the topic, I recommend Dana’s blog posts:

ACX vs. Findaway ~ My Audiobook Creation Experience 

Hiring an Audiobook Narrator Through Findaway Voices 

You might also be interested in my Audiobook Diaries, where I blogged about my experience as it happened, and last week’s episode, where I talked about my experience of working with FindawayVoices.

To find out more about Dana, check out her website find her or Twitter , or follow her on Instagram.

Listen to the Episode

Read the Transcript

[Writing Sparrow theme]

Sarina: Hello, and welcome to The Writing Sparrow Podcast. I’m Sarina Langer and this podcast is all about writing, publishing, and marketing your book. You can find transcripts on my website at sarinalanger.com. Let’s get started.

[music]

Sarina: Good morning friends and Sparrows. It’s the 3rd of May 2021. This is Episode 34. Today, Dana Fraedrich is back with me on Zoom to talk about creating audiobooks. Last week, I told you about my experience with Findaway Voices. Today, Dana is here to tell you about the many other options because unlike me, she’s done a bit of everything. Welcome back, Dana.

Dana: Thank you so much for having me back, Sarina. I really appreciate it, and I’m really excited.

Sarina: I’m really excited to talk to you about this as well, because as I’ve just said, [00:01:00] you’ve done a bit of everything. My episode was very much focused on just my experience, because I’ve only really done the one thing, but you’ve really done a bit of everything in audiobooks, which is very exciting. We’ve also got one question in for later from Instagram.

Dana: Excellent.

Sarina: Hopefully that will help our listeners’ lives. [chuckles] Then, yeah, really excited to get sucked back in and see you again too, because it’s been a while.

Dana: It has. Yeah. Basically, just to give a little bit of a background, for those who do not know me. I am a Steampunk fantasy author. I’ve been doing this for many years now. I have made audiobooks, through ACX, through Findaway. We did it ourselves once, which I’ll talk about a little bit later. Then also I have recorded short stories myself for my newsletter subscribers, Patreon supporters, [00:02:00] things like that. Little bit of everything.

Sarina: Well, good job. You’re preempting my first question.

[laughter]

Dana: Sorry.

Sarina: No, you’re fine. I was just going to ask if you could just talk us through how you have created audiobooks so far. You’ve really don’t everything. ACX is Amazon’s imprint, if you can call that, for audiobooks?

Dana: It’s under their umbrella. Yeah. I don’t always know how the business tiers work, but yeah, let’s call it imprint.

Sarina: Yeah, because ACX is Amazon basically. You’ve used Findaway, which I have used as well, and you’ve done it yourself, which is very exciting. I will have lots of questions about that in just a second. You’ve also found your own narrator, so more excitement there. [chuckles] Yeah, maybe to kick off, just to tie it [00:03:00] into last week’s episode, where I talked about my experience of using Findaway Voices. It’d be really great to hear what your experience was like working with them, and how many books have you done with them?

Dana: I’ve done three through Findaway now. Honestly, I love Findaway, they are my preferred path for audiobooks at this point. Like I said, since I’ve done so many paths, I feel I can say, of all of these options, this one is the one that I have found that best works for me. Findaway has, in my opinion, the best distribution. Whereas if you go through Amazon, especially if you have used one of Amazon’s exclusive contracts, which we’ll talk about later, I’m sure, they only distribute to Apple iBooks, well, themselves, basically Audible and Amazon. Whereas Findaway, I think there’s 24-ish different platforms that they [00:04:00] distribute to, including one of their own, including Amazon, including Apple iBooks.

Sarina: I think it’s 40.

Dana: Oh, those are over 40 now?

Sarina: I want to say it’s 48, but I would need to check the exact number, but I’m pretty sure it’s over 40 with Findaway.

Dana: Yeah, it’s a whole lot of them. They basically are trying to just be as wide as possible and distribute your books as many places as possible.

Sarina: Which is very exciting and very daunting. [laughs]

Dana: Yeah. I will say too, their customer support is really great. I’m not a professional audio anything, and so I didn’t really understand a lot of what I was doing, but they were super great in both their automatic email communications as you go through the process which, Sarina, I know you’ve experienced this too, of like, “Okay, great. you’ve just done this step. Here’s what’s coming next.” Then, of course, if I had any questions [00:05:00] or things I wasn’t sure about– For instance, my narrator, Shaina Summerville, and I had talked about doing, like, all of the Broken Gears books together but I wanted to pre-contract her for the other ones after we had signed our first contract together. I emailed Findaway, I was like, “Hey, I want to make sure I get her fast. Can I do anything about that?” They were really helpful with that. I was basically able to line up Shaina pretty quickly, I think we got everything done– what was it? It was a matter of a handful of months, and it was really great.

Sarina: That’s fantastic. I had a very similar experience with that. I haven’t done the other books on my series yet. So far, I’ve only done the first book, but Findaway– I don’t remember if it was the narrator directly who got in touch with me via the platform or whether it was one from their team, [00:06:00] but someone involved just let me know that she would be happy to do the other books as well in the series, which is fantastic because you then have that continuity of the same narrator all the way through.

Dana: Yeah. Like I said, their customer service is really great. I will say too, and you might have discussed this in your Findaway podcast last week as well, I haven’t been able to listen to it yet.

Sarina: Because I haven’t recorded it yet at the time we’re doing this interview.

[laughter]

Dana: We can cut that out if you want, we’ll just edit that. [laughs]

Sarina: No.

[laughter]

Sarina: Nope, it stays in. If anything goes wrong, it stays in. [laughs]

Dana: I love your transparency. You’re the best.

Sarina: Thanks. [chuckles]

Dana: Yeah, I will say there’s a questionnaire that the producer, basically, because you are a producer, when you start this process have to fill out. The more you fill out that questionnaire, [00:07:00] the closer a match they’re going to find for you for narrator. For instance, the Broken Gears books, for those who have not read them are– excuse me. [clears throat]. Apologies.

Sarina: You’re okay?

Dana: Yeah, I’m good. Just– hello springtime. Basically, the Broken Gears books, like, they’re a mix of whimsical and fun, but then there’s some very dark parts and it gets really– ooh. It gets a little bit sad in parts too. So, I really wanted to make sure I had someone who can do both things. When I filled out the form, I made sure to include that. I tend to overexplain things, which I think is a good thing, especially when you are working on any kind of project with other human beings because human communication is difficult. Like I said, I think more information is better. She ended up being really, really great. [00:08:00] As soon as I heard Shaina’s interview– or not interview, but audition, I was like, “Yes, she gets it. Awesome.”

Sarina: The auditions. for me at least, were possibly the single most exciting experience of my life. [chuckles] Just to have a professional voice actor narrate my book and ask me, or basically say, “I like this. Could I please read it?” Yeah. It was such a bizarre moment, but it’s also the best. Honestly, just for this alone, if you’re considering having your book as an audiobook, it’s so intimidating. I think we both get that, don’t we, Dana?

Dana: Mm-hmm. It’s real.

Sarina: Just that moment of listening to auditions, of hearing a professional audition to read your book is so exciting. I can’t tell you and how exciting this is. I was sitting here, I was possibly shaking a bit. [00:09:00] I’m just like, “She’s reading my book [unintelligible [00:09:00] crying and she’s actually crying. This is ridiculous.”

Dana: Yeah, and a really good audio narrator as well, they’re going to be able to– if you have anything that’s a little bit different in your book too, they are going to be able to swing with that. For instance, in Across the Ice for my book, I have a section where a character, Rook, he’s reading a letter, and there are bits of the letter that are struck through, which of course, like on a printed page, you can see, but then, and I didn’t even think about it when I was uploading–

Sarina: No, I didn’t.

Dana: Yeah. She just took that, Shaina did, and was like, “Okay, we’re going to try a thing,” and then she added a little bit of narration to let you know what bits were struck through, and it worked brilliantly. It was so cool. I emailed her and I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I didn’t think about this. This is great. You did awesome.” [00:10:00] Yeah, a really good narrator will be able to swing with those funny, unique things.

Sarina: That’s incredible. No, I never even thought of things like that possibly because we don’t see them done that often in books. Wow. Yeah. May I ask what exactly she did to narrate a crossed-out part in a letter?

Dana: What she did? She read the letter in the voice of the character who’d written it, Lenore wrote this. She would read that in Lenore’s voice. When she did the narration for struck-through, she would use like her normal narrating voice to kind of indicate, “This is now narration.” Then, she would start back up again in Lenore’s voice. I heard that and I was just like, “Oh, okay, great. I totally get this. I can see the distinction between narration voice and Lenore’s voice,” and things like that.

Sarina: That’s amazing. [00:11:00] To come back to the different options for how to create an audiobook. We’ve talked a bit about Findaway Voices now. What about ACX finding your own narrator and even doing it yourself?

Dana: This has been a really interesting process because, like I said, I’ve done this in a couple of different ways. I’ll start with ACX. For ACX, I happened to meet my narrator for that. This is the narrator for Raven’s Cry. Her name is Katherine Billings. She’s wonderful. Basically, I met her doing one of the book events that I do in Kentucky, and we started talking, she gave me her card, and then I reached out to her and said, “Hey, so I’ve never done an audiobook before. I don’t know what I’m doing. What do I do?” Raven’s Cry is the very first one that I ever did. Katherine was super, [00:12:00] super sweet. She was really helpful, and she walked me through what the process was going to be.

By the way, friends, who are listening, I have all of this written down in a couple of blog posts on my website, I detailed the whole process. If you guys want a little written guide, that’s there on my website Words by Dana. You can just search audiobook in the search box and those will come up.

Sarina: I’ll be linking to those in the show notes as well, so people can easily get to them. Of course, I’ve done my own audiobook diaries as well with my experience. I think between your posts, my posts, and these two episodes on this podcast, I think you should be all right after this. I think this should be all the information that you need to know to get started with your own.

Dana: Yeah, friends, we have you taken care of, don’t you worry.

Sarina: Yeah, we’ve got you.

Dana: Yeah. Katherine was super helpful. I went through ACX. [00:13:00] ACX has a couple of different options as far as royalty shares, how you can create the books, things like that. As I always, always, always tell people, read your contract and make sure you understand it before you sign it. Basically, Katherine doesn’t do this anymore. But ACX has an option, where you can pay no money upfront, and then it’s just a royalty share between you and the narrator. However, there is a cost for this. Basically, if you choose this option, you are locked into a contract with ACX for seven years, and you’re not allowed to distribute the book through any other platform, the audiobook, through any other platform for those seven years of the contract. Seven years is a long time, y’all. I think I’ve still got three or four left, and a lot can change in that time.

Sarina: [00:14:00] Don’t forget that ACX, don’t distribute to that many places in the first place.

Dana: Exactly.

Sarina: So, you’re limiting yourself potentially quite a lot for a rather long time.

Dana: Mm-hmm. Yeah. For some people, I realized that is going to be the only option for them because producing audiobook is extremely expensive. Honestly, in some cases, it might be more expensive than your initial editing costs when you first wrote the book. That is something to consider.

Sarina: In fact, I would say it’s very likely actually for your audiobook to cost a lot more than your editing. Unless you had all of the plot holes and paradoxes in your book and have no concept of grammar or punctuation or anything like that, and then got an editor who charged per hour, it’s very unlikely that your editing will be more expensive than your audiobook. In most cases, it will be cheaper.

Dana: Yeah.

Sarina: Audiobook, pricey.

Dana: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Of course, Findaway does all also have [00:15:00] a royalty share option but theirs is– honestly, I think it’s a little bit more fair to the narrators because this narrator is spending a lot of time and a lot of energy on creating your book. I’ve personally have come around on this where of course, like I said, I didn’t really understand a lot when I first got started but narrators should be paid for their time. That’s why I’m no longer so much a fan of the ACX, doesn’t cost anything upfront, saying, but like I said, I realized for some people, that’s going to be the only option. You really have to kind of weigh the pros and cons, weigh kind of how you feel about some of these different factors and make the decision that feels best for you.

Sarina: Yeah, that was a thing what swayed me towards Findaway Voices when I was first starting to research the different options, because as you said, it’s more expensive with Findaway to begin with, [00:16:00] but your narrator does a lot of work, it’s quite tiring work, and they deserve to get paid for it, end of story, I thought. Even though it set me back quite a bit, I felt that now even if I don’t sell a single audiobook, I know that my narrator got paid for her time. For me, it was the only fair way of doing it because you have no guarantee that your audiobook is going to sell. You might not sell a single copy, in which case your narrator gets no money whatsoever for her time. That for me is what swayed me because that just didn’t sit right.

Dana: Right, exactly. Then, as far as finding– or doing audiobooks myself, I want to go ahead and preface this and say audiobooks are a lot of work and they’re very time consuming. To get the quality that Amazon and Findaway and all of these other platforms require, you really do [00:17:00] need some specialized equipment. I happen to be in a position where we already had most of the equipment in our house, because my husband studied audio engineering in college, so that’s what his degree is in. we have a studio downstairs. We’re in Nashville, every other person kind of has a studio. There are a lot of voice actors here, there’s a lot of talent. A couple of different times, I’ve hired different people to do various projects for me.

For instance, I have a different narrator between Out of the Shadows and Into the Fire, because the first narrator for Out of the Shadows, she was a vocalist friend of ours, and she came to our house, used our studio and then my husband did the audio editing on Out of the Shadows. Then after that, he came to me and he’s like, “I never want to do that again,” because it’s so much work, y’all. It’s an enormous amount of work [00:18:00] and making sure everything is right, everything sounds at the same level consistently throughout your book. So, yeah, if this is something you want to undertake, I think that’s really great, but just be prepared for how much work it is.

Sarina: Would you say that the audio editing is even more time and effort-consuming than recording the audiobook in the first place?

Dana: Oh, for sure. I think the general idea is that for every– I think every hour of actual audiobook, there’s about six hours of work behind it as far as recording and editing and all that stuff.

Sarina: Bloody hell, six?

Dana: Yeah.

Sarina: Oh my God. I didn’t think it will be–

Dana: [laughs]

Sarina: Wow. Okay.

Dana: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Sarina: That’s a lot worse than I thought, and your husband [unintelligible [00:18:51] saying clearly, and they all deserve all the respect, and all the money and all the love. God, bloody hell, six hours of editing [00:19:00] for one recorded hour, that’s– I’m going to be stewing on that for a little while.

[laughter]

[crosstalk]

Sarina: Sorry, you go.

Dana: Oh, no, please go ahead.

Sarina: It’s worth saying that if you go with ACX or Findaway, then they will take care of the editing. When you consider how much money it is, do also bear in mind that they will take care of what’s clearly the most time-consuming aspect of it. That’s all included.

Dana: Mm-hmm. Then, I have also done audio work myself. You guys, I’m not a professional audiobook narrator at all. It’s just a fun thing I do for my patrons on Patreon. Or, if you are a VIP newsletter subscriber on my website, Words by Dana, there is one audiobook gift up on there that I did Christmas last year roundabout. You can hear, I’m not great. It’s just a fun little thing I like to give my patrons [00:20:00] and my VIP newsletter’s subscriber. Man, you don’t realize how hard it is to read steadily and clearly, and at the same level for a long, continuous period until you’ve done it, and then you’re like, “Oh my gosh, I don’t know how to talk anymore. What are words?”

[laughter]

Sarina: That’s before you get to a character with an accent.

Dana: Oh my gosh, Yeah, seriously, because that’s another thing, is you have to put life and characterization into all the different characters, and I didn’t realize how many characters I had. God, I’ve got a good cast of characters until I was doing it, like, “Good Lord, I’ve got to do voices for all of these people.”

[laughter]

Sarina: That’s something that a professional writer– ooh. What? Wow. Okay. I’ve been editing and writing [crosstalk] a lot, so clearly, [00:21:00] this is all I’ve got left.

[laughter]

Sarina: A professional narrator will do the accents, for example, all that characterization with how they’re vocalizing everything, they will do that– Well, maybe not necessarily quite easily, but they will do, and it would sound incredible. Ultimately, I think readers will expect that level of professionalism. I think I have read a few times that it’s really great when authors narrate their own books, but I think that’s mostly talking about autobiographies where that makes sense because the author is then basically just talking about themselves because it is their biography. When we’re talking about fiction, or just anything, that’s not a biography, it makes sense to have a professional narrator who knows what they’re doing and the accent. My narrator for Rise of the Sparrows taught herself one or two new accents just to be able to do my characters’ justice, so that is what you might just get, [00:22:00] with Findaway Voices. [laughs]

Dana: Yeah. Lots of options. I just always want people to understand what’s going to be involved on the front end. I have another friend who– yeah, oh, my gosh, yeah. I have another friend, her name is Nicole Jones. She did a short story for me, which is available on my YouTube channel based on Emily Dickinson’s, I could not stop for Death. The short story has the same title. There, you can really hear different personalities in different narrators. Again, choosing that right person is a huge, huge part of this process. But I think personally, when you hear the right person, no, you really know.

Sarina: Yeah, I think so. How did you go about finding your own narrator?

Dana: [00:23:00] Like I said, with one path, I met Katherine Billings at a book event I was doing. Another path, she was a vocalist friend of mine, because again, here in Nashville, you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a vocalist.

[laughter]

Dana: Then, when I went to Findaway, I went through their audition process, which is like I said, where you fill out the form, you put in all the information about your book, and what kind of voice you’re looking for, and some of the requirements that will be there. Then, they sent me a whole group of different narrators, different price points, different skill sets, things like that. I listened to each one because on this first round, you get just their profiles with their preloaded, what do you call them? Auditions, I guess they’re called auditions. Then, from there, you choose, like, “Okay, from this group, who do I really want to hear [00:24:00] do my book?” Then, you’ll give that information to Findaway when you make that choice. Then, those narrators who you’ve chosen will do an audition for your books specifically, and you’ll provide excerpts from your book that will hopefully, one, give you a range of characters because, again, you want to hear how the narrator does multiple characters.

I chose one where there was a scene at breakfast in the morning, and I think there are five characters in the scene. There’s a lot of emotions happening. Lenore is kind of sad, but she’s also excited, and they’re saying goodbye, and it’s all like heartfelt and lovey-dovey, and there’s some funny stuff. There’s a limit on the excerpts because, again, it takes a lot of time to record and then edit and things like that. I uploaded that information.

Then, a week or two later, [00:25:00] I received the auditions. Like I said, when I listened to those, that’s when I knew that Shaina was the one for my book because she hit all the beats, she got the voices, she very clearly got the mood of the scene, all of it.

Sarina: I think that’s quite a good summary now I think that [unintelligible [00:25:18] of all the different options, which will hopefully be very helpful. From all of those, which option would you recommend for authors with no prior audiobook experience?

Dana: No prior audiobook experience at all. Let’s go ahead and say that, you don’t have a recording studio in your basement and the husband who does audio engineering and all that.

Sarina: I think that’s fair to assume. [laughs]

Dana: Yeah, that’s a good assumption. That’s a fairly specific set of situations and circumstances. I always recommend Findaway. I know it’s going to be a much more expensive option. [00:26:00] I realized that is a pain point for a lot of people. But again, Findaway has a much bigger distribution network. I find their customer service to be better than ACX’s because, like I said, I had a lot of questions and how I wanted to proceed and whatnot. Then, if I didn’t hear anything, there was one or two times where I was like, “Shouldn’t I have heard something about the situation?”, I could just email them and be like, “Hey, is everything cool?” Then, they would just write on it, and it all worked out. I always recommend reaching out to customer service, I realize this is frustrating for people, because sometimes customer service groups are not great, but Findaway’s are. Yeah, Findaway, that’s my top recommendation. That’s really in a nutshell as far as that part of it.

Sarina: I think one important thing that [00:27:00] you said that it’s about the cost of it because obviously, it’s not going to be cheap either way. I think there are two important things to consider there. The first is that you don’t need to have an audiobook to be an author. This is something that I’d say maybe consider, maybe if your book is already selling okay, or you feel like you are ready to take that next step. But don’t feel pressured to have an audiobook out there. It’s not necessary, you can totally be an author with a paperback or even just an eBook. Having an audiobook is absolutely not necessary. Only do that if you think that you’re ready to go a bit further with it.

Also, as Dana just said, when you get the different recommendations from Findaway, for example, of the different narrators, they all come with different price points. Some of them are going to be an awful lot cheaper than others, which isn’t to say just go with the cheapest one. But if there are a few in there [00:28:00] that are completely out of your price range, those won’t be the only ones that they suggested. For maybe the cheapest ones, maybe looking at them because money is [unintelligible [00:28:14] because you can’t afford that much and then maybe those additions aren’t quite right, you can request another set.

Dana: Yeah, absolutely.

Sarina: There is some flexibility there, so don’t feel you are definitely going to spend $10,000 to something on your audiobook, which you might do if your audiobook is incredibly long. Yeah, and you get one of the top narrators, but it won’t be that much. I shouldn’t have said that number. I don’t want to panic anyone. [laughs]

Dana: No, yeah. I can tell you my audiobook did not cost near that, and Into the Fire is an extremely long book, I think the audiobook is like 18 hours.

Sarina: [laughs] I think that’s 10 hours more than mine, or something like that. [laughs]

Dana: Yeah. Also, I want to say in regard to [00:29:00] something you said, Sarina, about, you don’t have to have an audiobook. This is something that authors really need to consider as part of their business plan. Ask yourself like, “Why do you want an audiobook?” Yes, it’s super cool, especially when you first hear that narrator bring your characters to life. For me, personally, I made the decision because I knew I wasn’t going to be putting out a book in 2020. Just based on my publishing schedule, and how long I take to produce books and whatnot, I just knew it wasn’t really going to happen, but I wanted another revenue stream. I wanted to create some more revenue streams for my business as an author.

Audiobooks are one of the fastest-growing markets in the book industry. That was why I decided to make this investment. Like I said, if that’s not a path [00:30:00] for your books or, as you said, Sarina, if you’re already like doing really well, from your eBooks and from your print books and whatnot, then that that might not be as much a thing for you. Whereas my books are extremely long, there’s a little bit of length, intimidation factor to go with that, and audiobooks are really easy to listen to, especially for those really long ones.

Sarina: Yeah, what I really liked on Findaway was that you know exactly how much should be paying upfront. You’re not going to make a commitment and then later go, “Ooh, that’s more than I thought it was going to be.” That’s not going to happen. You know before you even ask specific narrators to audition with the script that you mentioned that you then send them. You know right away how much it’s going to cost you with each of the different options. You will know upfront how much money you would need to set aside.

Dana: Yeah, absolutely. They’re very transparent [00:31:00] about all of the costs and whatnot, so you can budget that.

Sarina: Yes. I don’t know how that works with the other options, like ACX, but on Findaway at least, it’s very transparent. There should be no surprises.

Dana: Yeah. Like I said, when I went through ACX, I did the no-cost upfront. That didn’t cost me anything but I will say when you upload your information to ACX, they’ll ask how many words your book is and then they’ll give you a prediction of how much that book is going to cost to produce based on the different narrators and stuff that they give you. One thing about the ACX process, because we haven’t really talked about that very much, I will say it’s a little bit different from Findaway. With Findaway, you fill in the form and they send you narrators that kind of match your specifications. With ACX, it’s a little [00:32:00] bit the other way around, where you put it in your book’s information for how long it is and then, you basically get a list of all the narrators and then use their filter options to filter it down. For instance, if you want a female narrator, you can just say female narrators, you can filter it by royalty share option, you can filter it by a couple of skill sets, but that part really gets kind of muddy really fast. Like, “Do they do accents?” “Okay, cool.” “Yes or no?” Then like, “Okay, what accents are we talking about? I have an American accent, you have German and English accent.” There’s just a lot, a lot of things to consider, and that part gets a little bit muddy.

Yeah, that part, honestly, I still prefer Findaway’s process for that. Maybe you do like to go through all the [00:33:00] options, instead of Findaway is telling you, “Hey, these are the ones we think are best for your book.” That’s fine too. Yeah, you have to play with it. One thing that’s kind of nice with ACX is you can start a project– that’s what they call uploading an audiobook, you can start a project, and then kind of see what your options are, but you never really have to finish because I did that with Out of the Shadows. I wasn’t quite sure what path I wanted to go down for that one yet. I got in there, and I started it, then I looked at my options and whatnot, and then when I was looking at the narrator step in the process, is when I veered away and went the direction that I did. But I was at least able to get that far without signing any contracts or anything, so I was able to change my mind.

Sarina: Which is always very good. Coming on to the question that we’ve had on Instagram from @grthomas2014. [00:34:00] “Where do you even begin?” I really feared his question because journeying into audiobooks is so intimidating. I almost didn’t do it, honestly, when I first considered it because it’s so terrifying. I nearly talked myself out of it. I really get where this question is coming from.

Dana: Absolutely. Number one, like I said, as an author, if you’re trying to decide even if you should do an audiobook, like I said, look at your business situation, examine the reasons why you want an audiobook. Your reasons are going to be yours, it’s going to all depend on your situation, on your particular business plan, all of these things. I can’t really guide anybody in that way because, like I said, everyone’s business is going to be different, and only you know what’s best for your business because nobody knows your business like you do.

Let’s go ahead and say, [00:35:00] all right, for whatever reason you’ve decided, yep, going to do an audiobook, this is the right choice, let’s do it. We talked about money is, of course, going to be a big factor. What can you afford? Like I said, Amazon as ACX has those various royalty share options, there’s one that’s no money down.

One more thing I want to say about that, in addition to, I do think narrators should be paid for their time, is that the whole saying “you get what you pay for,” that’s also a factor. Professionals who have built up their resume, they can afford to charge more, because they’re more in demand. Whereas somebody who’s less experienced, maybe it’s just now getting into it, that’s not to say they should not be given a chance, because I definitely, definitely, definitely support giving beginners a chance, [00:36:00] that’s happened with me. When I first got started, I have a lot of help from other people. But you may not have somebody who’s as experienced, and you have to make that choice as well. You get into ACX, you can see how much your audiobook would cost to produce based on narrators. You can also start that process with Findaway, and here’s some of the results that they give you back.

I would say at that point, where you start to audition your narrators, hear their voices for the first time and whatnot, I think that’s the point where you have to start making hard and fast decisions. Again, when you hear a narrator’s voice, you as an author, because you know your book better than anyone else, you kind of know who’s going to be best then you can make those decisions based on pricing and money and [00:37:00] things like that.

Then, distribution is a huge part of that decision. I like Findaway’s distribution a lot more than I like Amazon’s distribution options. That’s why I go with them.

Sarina: Yeah, for me, I started with research, because it is so intimidating and because I like to be prepared, in general, anyway. I read books on how audiobook creation works. I think I had some YouTube videos lined up that explained the process. I’m pretty sure I’ve read your blog post as well. I’m linking to all of those things in the first post of my blog series on my experience as well. It’s all in one place if you want to start with research. I think because it’s such a big thing, you never know exactly what you’re going into until you’re doing it anyway, but I think because of how much money is involved, it’s definitely worth just doing at least a little [00:38:00] bit of research first. Then from there, you can then decide which option is right for you. There’s a lot to consider, so also don’t rush it.

Dana: Yeah. Sarina makes such a good point. I’m very much like an A, B kind of tester, I want to press the button and see, “What are these buttons do when I press them?” Which, admittedly, number one, is intimidating for a lot of people. Two, maybe isn’t always the best method. I fully admit that. Yeah, do your research. YouTube is an incredible resource. Lots and lots of people on there doing all kinds of stuff. Sarina has her blog posts on how she got started. I have recently also put up a resources page on my website, so you can go to the resources page, and there’s a section that’s specifically called Audiobook Creation.

Sarina: I will be linking to that.

Dana: Yay, fantastic. Definitely research, if that’s the [00:39:00] way that you do your thing, super cool.

Sarina: Yeah, and hopefully, with this episode now, the one from last week, all of Dana’s blog posts, and then also all of my blog posts, and then also the things that we are both be linking to in our blog post for more research, I think by the end of all that, you should have a fairly good idea of whether this sounds like something that you would like to do, and which path you want to take. Hopefully, this is helpful for you.

Dana: Yeah. One other thing I want to say about this whole process, especially if you’re– this goes for whether you’re new to it or not. Communication. I tend to overexplain things. One might say I even tend to overcommunicate, but honestly, communicating with your narrator is an amazing thing, because there are going to be things they’re going to have questions about. I always try to be really open when I’m first meeting people, whether it’s virtually or otherwise, and just say, “Hey, let me know if you have any questions.” I always try to be really welcoming and [00:40:00] create that environment where I want to make people feel comfortable with questions and whatnot. Always communicate.

Usually, when I first “meet a narrator,” I will introduce myself and say hi, just a like getting-to-know-you kind of thing because you are going to be coworkers in the future. That’s a huge part of working together, is just keeping that open line of communication and everyone feeling okay to express, “Hey, this doesn’t really work,” or, “Hey, I have questions about how do you want me to approach this?” Weirdly, I tend to put onomatopoeia in my books as well, which Shaina handled perfectly, including there’s a panther snarl in one of the scenes, and I was like, “Oh, whoops, I forgot about that.” She handled it great. Yeah, anytime there’s anything like that, just approach with respect and knowing that they’re not really your [00:41:00] employee. Like I said, they’re working together with you.

Sarina: Yeah, and one thing that I would add to that as well is bear in mind that your narrator knows what they’re doing. Maybe they are pronouncing or just reading a sentence slightly differently to how you would do it, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Don’t overedit them and just don’t be too overly picky of it, because, again, your narrator knows what they’re doing. Ultimately, them reading your book is just their interpretation of your book. Just leave them to it, they know what they’re doing. If they’re really not sure how to pronounce something, they will very likely ask. In general, they’re narrators, so you can rest assured that they know how to read a book. They will do a professional job of it. They don’t have to read everything exactly as you would for it to be correct.

Dana: Yeah. Oh, and one more thing, I want to tell people about the amount of work [00:42:00] that is involved with this. You do also then have to kind of proof-listen to your book. All of the narrators I’ve ever worked with, have gone by this rule of– for the really long projects, we’ve gone chapter by chapter. The reason for this is because, God forbid, they mispronounce someone’s name or they’re doing an accent wrong or something like that. Then, over half the book is done, and then you listen and you’re like, “Oh, wait, no. This is wrong. I need you to redo all of it.” That’s awful for everyone involved.

Like I said, with all of the narrators I’ve worked with for the really long projects, we’ve gone back and forth. We’re like, “Oh, hey, I just uploaded. I just finished this chapter. It’s ready for you to listen to.” I would listen, and I would let them know of any fixes or anything like that, which honestly, there really weren’t that many. They would [00:43:00] then fix the things and then they would move on to the next chapter. You do have to spend that time proof-listening to your book to make sure everything is the way it should be, but like I said– or rather like Sarina said, these are professionals, they’re very good at their job. I think anything I had to correct was basically along the same lines of when you’re writing a book and maybe there’s a typo, kind of the audio version of a typo here and there. I think there was maybe one place where I asked her to redo something because, again, onomatopoeia, I had totally intended for this onomatopoeia noise to come out very differently than the way she did it the first time. Then, we had a chat about what is this actually supposed to sound like, and she fixed it, and it was great. That’s another really important part. It is time-consuming, but again, it’s just one more thing that’s going to make your audiobooks that much better.

Sarina: Yeah, and at least that [00:44:00] way, you don’t actually have to do any of the sound editing yourself.

Dana: Exactly.

Sarina: You just listen to it, you tell them whether everything is fine, which most of the time it will be or that maybe for some reason, your narrator maybe skipped over a word, which can happen, because in a professional as we all are, we are also just human, so mistakes will happen, and that’s fine.

Dana: exactly.

Sarina: Then, it goes back to them and then someone has to take care of it. [laughs]

Dana: Yeah–[crosstalk] Okay.

Sarina: I was just going to say it’s a lot of worry off your shoulders.

Dana: Oh, yeah, for sure. Like I said, honestly, most of what you’re going to have to deal with as far as corrections, and this is very likely going to be next to nothing, are going to be those audio versions of typos. To give you guys a scope of how often I think these happen, there would be like four or five, six chapters in a row where I wouldn’t have any corrections and then there might be one tiny little correction in a chapter, [00:45:00] and then another three with no correction. This is the level of professionalism that your narrators are going to be hitting, especially through Findaway when they’re doing this professionally and they’re being paid for it.

Sarina: I think that’s a fantastic place to wrap it up on. Thank you so much, Dana, for coming back, and talking to me about your very vast experience with creating audiobooks. I hope it’s been very helpful for everybody. As I said, I will be linking to your blog post and everything in the show notes, so it’s very easy for everyone to access if you want to read more on this.

Dana: Awesome. Thank you, Sarina. I really appreciate you having me back.

Sarina: And I really appreciate you coming back. Thank you so much and have a fantastic day everyone. Bye-bye.

Dana: Bye.

[music]

Sarina: If you enjoyed today’s episode, maybe learned something along the way, hit the subscribe button. You can also connect with me on Twitter [00:46:00] @sarina_langer, on Instagram and Facebook @sarinalangerwriter, and of course, on my website, at sarinalanger.com. Until next time, bye.


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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?

Week 3

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.

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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.

Week 2

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.

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