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 ๐Ÿ˜› 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 6โ€“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.

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