A Chat Over Tea with Fantasy Author Rhianne Williams

PHOO! It’s been a while since I’ve done an interview for this site. I won’t go into details again, so I’ll just throw the word burnout into the room and trust that you get it. The plan is to make these a regular thing as I originally wanted to!

This month’s interview is with the busiest of bees, Rhianne Williams. You might know her from her many writing projects or maybe from her website Little Novelist, where she helps other writers achieve their writing dreams.

Today, we’re talking about world building, how to juggle a gajillion WIPs, and what she’s working on at the moment. Video games are mentioned somewhere in there too.

A Chat Over Tea with Fantasy Author Rhianne Williams | Interview banner

S: Let’s start by talking about what you’re reading at the moment. What do you like about it?

R: I’m currently reading through the Vortex Chronicles by Elise Kova. It’s the next series after Air Awakens. I always have to be careful when reading Elise’s books as they usually give me MEGA book hangovers and then I have to not read anything for a while. I love the worlds Elise creates and honestly I just love everything Vi is also such a character. Originally I had planned to read all five books on my honeymoon but that got cancelled due to Covid and as Elise was running Air Awakens August it seemed right to pick up this series finally!

S: As someone who LOVES everything world building, I have to ask: what is it about her worlds you love?

R: Elise has such an incredible imagination. She really knows how to pull the reader into the book and make it feel like the places she’s made up could be a real place. As a patron of Elise’s I recently learned she spends months building the world before she even starts thinking about the story as a whole. Which naturally fascinated me as an author. I also got to watch her build the world for the novel she is writing with the help of her patrons.

S: Which book has influenced you the most?

R: I wouldn’t say that there is ONE book that has influenced me. Pretty much any book that I read was an inspiration. I love the emotions evoked in writing, and the excitement of a new world!

S: I completely agree. Any book that can makes us feel something is a winner! But let’s talk about your books. What are you working on right now?

R: Oh gosh! What a question. Well, at the moment, in the very time that I am writing out the answers to these questions, I am working on editing the 4 books in my fantasy series called The Kane Saga which consists of a trilogy and a prequel novella. Then I am also writing the first draft of a stand-alone dragon fantasy, AND I am working on the outlines for a new fantasy series. At the moment it’s just three novellas but I am planning on five more books in the series which has a working title of Project Kerradin.

S: Knowing you, I’m not surprised you have so much going on, but I think it’ll look like a lot to most writers. How do you balance so many projects? I had three books on the go this month, and I felt overwhelmed at times!

R: Haha! Yeah… I’m not the best role model for authors. I tend to get myself in a flap for the most part. I’ll start with the easy one. I schedule in 1 hour of writing every morning Monday – Saturday. In this time I can do between 26-1100 words. I average 500 though. Edit wise. They’re done in queue format meaning I do one edit after the other. So for example, Kingdom of Lies is with my Beta’s so I’ve gone through the critique feedback on my novella, then when that’s done, I’ll start on book two and do one round of edits on that. Then if my betas are done by the time I finish I’ll go back to book one. Outlining I just fit in, in whatever time I have. Five minutes at work, ten minutes on my lunch break, shout for my husband to write down the scene that popped into my head while I was having a shower etc. 

S: *marvels at how specific 26 is* Do you know what’s next after these WIPs? Given how much you’ve listed above, this might seem like a strange question, but I know you’re always thinking about the next project!

R: Nope. I have a few ideas but I’ll probably let some of them come to fruition before. I might even do another stand-alone as I do have a little elf that has been vying for my attention, and a reincarnated gender-bend author too. I am on the lookout for new ideas though, so maybe something new will arrive soon!

S: I can’t believe you said no and then listed two ideas and mentioned you have more! I knew that no was a lie 😉

What do you enjoy the most about this process? It could be anything from writing the first draft to doing research to connecting with readers on social media. What do you like about it?

R: Writing the outline and the first draft is my favourite bit. It makes me so happy to create, and that’s the part I love the most. Creating. The other part I like is finally holding a copy of the book in my hand and having people tell me they enjoyed the story. 

S: What do you enjoy the least? Why do you dislike this part of being an author?

R: Editing! I hate editing. As much as I know it makes the story better, I really hate it. If I could go from first draft to finished manuscript without the editing I would love it. I always find editing takes longer than writing the draft because I do so many drafts/revisions after the first one. For example, Kingdom of Lies is on draft 6 already haha.

S: So many authors feel that way, but I don’t get it XD Maybe it’s because I used to edit for a living? Seeing how much the draft improves through all these edits, how they start to sing… *sigh*

ANYWAY. Inspiration is an often-asked-after topic for artists of all formats. How do you approach it? Do you find inspiration, do you let it come to you, and how do you do it?

R: I let it come to me. Inspiration isn’t something you can capture, at least not in my opinion. It can choose to strike at any point. For me, it usually ends up striking at the most unlikely places. Either when I am driving to work, or in the shower. 

S: Authors like to joke that, if someone were to look through their search history, they’d be in trouble. What’s the weirdest thing you ever researched, and which book was it for?

R: If i’m honest… nothing haha! I write fantasy so there’s not that much to research. Not like a thriller writer might research ways people die, or what happens if you stab someone in a certain place. I tend to just look up mythologies and then find a way to twist it. 

S: But aren’t those things still just as important in fantasy novels? I read a lot of fantasy, and the body count is pretty high!

R: Well… yes. But in a fantasy you don’t have to have too much in-depth knowledge – which is what I meant. 

Sure you need to be realistic, you can’t have someone running around after being stabbed in the heart, but you don’t need to know where the trace evidence would be like you would in a modern thriller/detective novel way.

S: That’s very true. And I don’t think our readers look for those kinds of details, either – at least nothing that specific!

What do you consider the most important thing you’ve learned since you first decided to write a book?

R: When I wrote my first book, I completely pantsed it. I had no idea where it was heading or what was going to happen at the end of it. But it took me three years to write that fist manuscript and another 18 months to edit it. Whereas now, I spend time outlining my books which means even if I stray from the path I always know where I need to get back to, and it takes me less time to get those words down on the page.

S: See, I’m a plotster, too, and I think your reason for outlining is why every author should at least plan a little: if you know where your book needs to go, you can’t really get stuck! And there’s nothing worse than getting stuck halfway through the middle and not knowing what to do. It might still be tricky with an outline, but at least you know what your characters need to aim for!

But I’m getting distracted *ahem* When you’re not writing your book or reading others’, what do you do to relax and have fun?

R: Play the xbox or watch TV. I’m a big binge watcher so watching only one episode is really hard for me haha! And I can literally spend all day playing Skyrim or The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt. Sometimes I play the sims too but I can get bored of that super quickly.

S: I’ve lost so many hours to all of those games. Although, I admit, Skyrim has lost its magic for me. It feels depressing after putting so many hours into Elder Scrolls Online – it highlights everything that’s gone to shit in Tamriel since the good old days XD

Before you go – where else can we find you on the interwebs?

Author portrait of R. S. Williams

R: The best places to stay in contact with me are over on Instagram, on my Facebook page or on my email list. I have one for readers and one for writers

S: Thank you so much for stopping by, Rhi!

If you have a question for Rhianne or me, leave a comment below and we’ll reply asap!


You can find all interviews here.

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The Audiobook Diaries | Week 14 (IT’S GO TIME)

This has been the most exciting week yet! In short: IT IS DONE. The full version is below, but first…

New here? You can start following my audiobook experience from the beginning.

Want to catch up or remind yourself what happened last? Here’s last week’s entry.

Now, onto the excitement…

The Audiobook Diaries | Week 14 (IT'S GO TIME)

Proofing the Audio Files

My priority this week was to continue proofing the uploaded audio files. I made a good start last week, but I really wanted to wrap it up this week.

On Monday, I received this email from Findaway:

The Audiobook Diaries | Week 14 (IT'S GO TIME) |  the email from Findaway Voices telling me my audiobook is ready for review.

Since I had already been listening to the chapters as my narrator uploaded them, I was pretty much caught up.

If you don’t think you’ll be able to listen and provide feedback on your entire audiobook within ten days, I strongly recommend you do the same thing. Let’s be honest, chances are you won’t be able to wait anyway.

On Wednesday, I listened to the last chapter and provided the last two bits of feedback (one sentence read twice and one word misread, if you’re curious).

That same evening, my narrator uploaded the new file and told me that we were good to go.

So I did this:

The Audiobook Diaries | Week 14 (IT'S GO TIME) | I submitted my audiobook for review!

Which resulted in this:

The Audiobook Diaries | Week 14 (IT'S GO TIME) | Audiobook submission confirmation

Wednesday evening was exciting, I tell you!

(I’m also super relieved to once again know for sure how much money I have in my account)

My audiobook is now being processed and checked to make sure everything is good to go and we didn’t miss any mistakes. Once it’s passed quality control, it’ll be uploaded to every online store known to listeners.

Which means the marketing can begin for real! *throws confetti*

Pricing Your Audiobook

Every author I know has struggled at least once with pricing their book. Fret not – FindawayVoices suggests three prices, and you simply pick the one you want:

The Audiobook Diaries | Week 14 (IT'S GO TIME) | how to set your audiobook's price

This makes it really easy and hassle-free!

You can also set your own price, but let’s not forget that FindawayVoices knows what it’s doing. I went with the recommended price and thanked the gods of fiction that this option exists.

Once you’ve set your retail price, they also make suggestions for the library price/the price libraries pay to stock your audiobook. I went with the lower price here, because many libraries are struggling (I know mine is!) and I want my book to be easily accessible to people supporting libraries.

Your Complementary Social Marketing Toolkit

FindawayVoices emailed me a bunch of handy resources that explain how to market my audiobook, how royalties work, etc.

One of those resources is a social marketing toolkit I can use to, well, market my book on social media!

To be honest with you, this is the first time I’ve seen one *blushes*

I had no idea it was so simple o.o

I will use this as a template for all my books now, that’s for sure! I might also write a post on how to create your own *imagine that cute little thinking emoji here*

Summary:

This was THE week, friends and Sparrows! It’s go time! I’ve submitted my book, and the quality team at FindawayVoices is making sure it’s good to go as you’re reading this post.

What’s Next?

Once the quality checkers give the green light, Findaway will upload RISE OF THE SPARROWS to all online stores (I believe there are around 40 they work with), including Audible and wherever else you might prefer.

I’ll also get 100 download codes to hand out, so if you want to listen to this book for free… Let me know 😉


For all entries in The Audiobook Diaries, look here.

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The Audiobook Diaries | Week 13

Happy too-hot Friday, friends and bookworms!

Thank kittens for fans and ice cream in this heatwave *melts*

It’s been a busy week of listening to my audiobook’s chapters. I’m nearly there, and am hoping to finish early next week. (having said that, I won’t have time on Tuesday, so I’ll either double down on Monday or finish on Wednesday)

You might think that this means I don’t have anything to share, but I have a few insights today about how to provide your narrator feedback and what should go into your audiobook’s outro.

If you want to remind yourself what happened last time, check out Week 11. If you’re new here and would prefer to start at the beginning, start here with Week 1.

The Audiobook Diaries | Week 13

Quality Control

Since Monday, I’ve spend one or two hours every day listening to the chapters while reading along with my paperback copy. This does get a bit same-y, but it’s important to ensure everything is as it should be.

Most chapters have been fine, but I’ve found a few smaller problems like a sentence read twice or a word missing or changed. I’m not actually too worried about the latter unless the missing or changed word changes the meaning, so I only point out the ones where it makes a difference.

It’s important to remember here that unlike me, my readers (listeners?) won’t read along with the paperback. They’re highly unlikely to know if my narrator reads ‘as’ instead of ‘since’. (bad example because this specific substitute didn’t happen, but I can’t think of one that did :|) The meaning is the same, so I’m happy.

How to Give Feedback

On your FindawayVoices Production page, you have the option to add a comment to every uploaded chapter. When you find something that’s not right, the best way to present it is like this:

The Audiobook Diaries | Week 13 - An example of feedback for my narrator on an audiobook chapter

This tells your narrator when the error occurred, the exact sentence you found the error with, and what the problem is.

You get this comment box for every chapter, so any feedback you provide will already be in the right place provided you clicked the right chapter number.

It can be tempting to highlight everything, but the best thing to do is to not be nitpick-y.

As authors, we naturally read the book a certain way–we wrote the things, after all! Of course we read everything our way. Your narrator, however, will not read your book your way but their way. That doesn’t make their interpretation wrong, so don’t get hung up on it.

I know I’ve said that before, but I think it’s important to say it again and again. The last thing you want is a negative relationship with your narrator! They are professionals, remember? They know their stuff–and in this case, they probably know it better than you do; having written the book doesn’t also make you the expert narrator.

Your Book’s Outro

I got an email from FindawayVoices this week. My narrator reached out to them about the outro–what did I want her to read for it? What about the production copyright–what should she say?

Now, in case you’ve forgotten, this is my first time, so my reaction was something like:

‘… like, the acknowledgments? Production Copyright? If you don’t know…’

I replied and asked for clarification. It’s probably something super easy and I’m just not coping well with this heatwave, but in the first instance, I was clueless.

As usual, they got back to me within a day. This is the common structure FindawayVoices recommends:

‘This has been [Title], Written by [Author Name], Narrated by [Narrator Name], Copyright [Year of Manuscript and Name of Rights Holder], Production Copyright [Year of Audiobook Production] by [Rights Holder]’

To use my book as an example, it will be:

This has been Rise of the Sparrows, Written by Sarina Langer, Narrated by Leanne Yau, Copyright 2016 by Sarina Langer, Production Copyright 2020 by FindawayVoices.

If you’ve ever listened to an audiobook before, you’ve likely heard this structure right at the end of the book and will be familiar with it.

Summary

This week, I’ve listened to most of my chapters and have left feedback where necessary. Most ‘errors’ I’ve found were either a sentence read twice or a missing/changed word that alters the meaning of the sentence.

What’s Next?

Next week should be exciting, because I’ll finish my part in the quality control stage. I’m assuming my narrator will add the words she’s missed, and the twice-read sentences will be cut in editing – she might even already be on it!

If all goes as extremely well as it does in my head, I’ll approve the audiobook by the end of next week, which makes the next stage payment and uploading, I think *mild freak-out*

FindawayVoices might also do their own quality control, and of course they chapters will need to be fused together to form one book – right now, they’re uploaded individually.

Either way, I imagine next week’s post will be exciting!

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.

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The Audiobook Diaries | Week 11

Remember how we went from Week 5 straight to Week 8 because there was no news? And see how we jumped right to Week 11 now?

Well, things are now happening fast!

See the links above if you want to remind yourself what happened last. If you’d rather catch up from the very beginning, read the audiobook diaries from Week 1!

The Audiobook Diaries | Week 11: Approving the sample and going into production

The Extended Sample

Sunday afternoon, I got this email from Findaway Voices:

The Audiobook Diaries | Week 11 - extended sample notification

*ensue minor freak-out*

My narrator had read and uploaded the entire prologue, and it’s fantastic. I had goosebumps at all the right moments when I listened to it, and I can’t wait to share it with the world!

I listened to it on Monday, and then I slept on it – the last thing I want to make are rash decisions because I got carried away in the excitement!

So, on Tuesday, I started to listen to it again…

and immediately stopped.

The Audiobook Diaries | Week 11 - Production dashboard
The production dashboard once the extended sample has been uploaded

As great as the sample of the prologue is, my main character doesn’t feature in it. Her story – and therefore the overall tone – doesn’t begin until Chapter 1. I felt that, while the prologue was fantastically read, it didn’t really give me an insight into how my narrator would read the rest. The prologue sets everything up, true, and it sets the tone, but my main character isn’t in it, so it didn’t feel like the right example.

I emailed FindawayVoices and asked if it’s possible to get a sample of the first chapter. Now, I understand that this is potentially inconvenient and that they likely do a sample of the first 10-15 minutes, not whatever chapter the author wants (I mean, they’d just have asked right away if that were the case), but I wanted to ask. Just in case.

FindawayVoices got back to me (very fast, as always!) and said that’s perfectly fine – I can request it myself with the handy Request Second Sample button. I thought that was just for revisions on the sample I already had, so lesson learned and sample requested.

My narrator was just as reliable, and had uploaded the new sample by the next day.

This morning, I approved the sample. The production is now officially underway!

How to Review Your Extended Sample

This is daunting when you’ve never done this before and want to provide helpful feedback, but good news! You need not fret, because FindawayVoices sent me guidelines for reviewing the extended sample.

The Audiobook Diaries | Week 11 - how to review your extended sample

They had included a link in the email, and I could find the same link again on the production page. You’ll see both in the pictures above.

If you’re happy (and have hopefully slept on it first instead of rushing your decision) with the sample, you can click the green Approve Sample button.

If you had some issues with it, like your grim murder mystery being read too cheerfully or an accent being wrong, you can add a comment next to the Play button and request another sample of the same chapter.

You get up to two revisions of your sample, so you can make sure that you and your narrator are on the same page before you approve it.

This is not an invitation to show your narrator how it’s done.

It’s your book. It will inevitably sound a certain way in your head, but you need to accept that it will sound another way in your narrator’s head. You’re two different people – they won’t read it exactly like you read it to yourself. This is fine.

Remember that your narrator’s reading is their interpretation of your book. Accents and pronunciations of words you’ve made up are important, but you don’t need to micro-manage every little detail. In fact, you shouldn’t. You’ll only put off your narrator, and that’s not the right way to approach this professional relationship.

Your narrator is just that – a trained professional. They know what they are doing, so trust them to do their thing.

This is an opportunity to communicate with your narrator.

Up until this point, all communications has happened via FindawayVoices, but whatever notes you add to the sample will be seen and answered by your narrator.

I really appreciate the chance to talk to her personally (well, via chat, sort of), and it’s been nice to see that we want the same things.

Mistakes in Your Book

As we all know, no book is perfect. Every book has small errors in them – that’s just the nature of novels. Pick any book off your shelf, and I guarantee there’ll be at least one mistake.

Rise of the Sparrows is my debut novel, and I have put more work into it than the others because of that. When I first published it, I had 12 beta readers and got a professional proofread. When I re-edited it last year, I had the reviews as feedback and the chats about it with good author friends. I got a developmental edit, a line edit, and a proofread. I rewrote everything before I got my editor involved last year, and read over everything again when we were done.

It’s fair to say that we didn’t go easy on this book.

But my narrator still found three mistakes in the first five pages alone.

My first reaction was worry – we can’t have missed those things… so did I upload the wrong versions everywhere? o.o

I checked the extended sample against my version and against the version my editor sent to me last year, and I uploaded the right versions. My 12 betas, critique partners, own rewrites and edits, and my editors developmental edit, line edit, and two proofreads just… missed them.

Friends, that’s normal.

We all want to think that, when we make our books available for sale, they’re flawless, but that’s never the case.

So, if you’re considering getting your own audiobook, be prepared for some surprises–

And don’t forget to fix them in the ebook, paperback, and box set!

Summary

I approved the sample. The production of the full audiobook is now underway! *throws confetti*

What’s Next?

My narrator is hard at work recording the entire book, and she told me that she’s on track to finish by the end of July.

Does that mean we’re done?

No.

Once she has uploaded the chapters, I listen to them and make a note of everything that’s not quite right – mispronunciations, missed words, background noise, etc.

As I mentioned above, things are moving fast now, so I expect I’ll have another update next week!

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 a free short story and novella.

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The Audiobook Diaries | Week 8

No, you haven’t missed Weeks 6 and 7. It’s just been quiet, so there’s been nothing to report! I do have a small update today, but first…

If you’re new to my audiobook journey and would like to follow along from the beginning, you can find all updates here. If you’d like to remind yourself what happened last time (it was three weeks ago), you can read Week 5’s entry here.

Because this is such a short update, there won’t be a summary at the end. There’s no need, as you will see. *shrugs*

The Audiobook Diaries | Week 8

Clarification

Earlier this week, I received an email from Findaway Voices. My narrator is pretty much done taking notes and ready to start recording from what I gathered, but she asked me to clarify a few things, such as whether a character at the end will be important in the sequels (this matters because if he is important, she’ll create a voice for him) or how to pronounce the many words I made up, like country names.

Today, I will put together that guide and send it over.

I’ll also include a note to say that the release date I set is very flexible since I didn’t know what I was doing. The last thing I want is for my narrator to stress over a deadline that doesn’t really exist!

And that’s it for this week. See? No summary necessary 🙂

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.

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The Audiobook Diaries | Week 5

Not much to report this week! The waiting for uploads has officially begun *throws confetti*

If you’re not up to date on my audiobook’s progress and would like to catch up first, you can find the whole process here.

The Audiobook Diaries | Week 5

Production Notes

As mentioned last week, I got the production notes form late last Thursday. This might sound daunting if it’s your first time, but it’s actually very straightforward. You get instructions and examples with the form, so if you’re not sure what to do, you can just follow those!

The Audiobook Diaries | Week 5 | Production Notes Instructions

In the production notes, you specify things like individual character accents, tones, the pace of the story, the overall feeling you want to achieve, and there’s even room for other notes at the end, so you can make sure your narrator has all the necessary details before they record the extended sample.

Once you’ve filled everything in, you upload the notes to the Audio page for your project. It looks something like this:

The Audiobook Diaries | Week 5 | FindawayVoices Dashboard

I’ve received emails for every bit of progress, but you’ll also be able to see all changes on this dashboard.

One important thing to note is that you need to upload your production notes as a PDF. I tried to upload a .doc and got an error message I didn’t understand (#notechskills) and that disappeared again before I could show my IT SO, so I just tried a PDF and that worked in seconds. It doesn’t mention this when you go to upload it, so I wanted to mention it.

Two Things I Was Confused About

I’m fortunate enough to be enrolled in the Voices Share program, meaning I only pay half and then share my royalties when the audiobook is out instead. It’s not a given that you’ll be accepted – anyone can choose it, but if you don’t have the social proof and haven’t sold enough copies (I don’t know what that magic number is), you might not be accepted.

For some reason, I got it into my head that I had to pay half up front – as in, before my narrator starts recording.

I’ve emailed them – possibly twice, bless their patient souls – and they have confirmed that I won’t pay anything until we’re ready to publish the audiobook.

So, if you also want to apply for the Voices Share program:

You pay half once the audiobook is ready to be published, not before the recording starts.

Not sure where I got that idea from, but I wanted to clarify it in case other people get confused as easily as I do *nervous laugh*

The other thing I emailed them about was the fee in the contract. As I’ve said above, Voices Share means I pay half plus I’ll share my royalties, but the fee included in the contract was the full fee.

FindawayVoices, as always, responded very quickly to my call for help and explained that everything is fine, this is normal, and as long as it states in the contract that I’m enrolled in the Voices Share program, I won’t pay the full amount.

All good, kittens.

I firmly believe that narrators should absolutely be paid what they’re worth. But as someone who doesn’t have a lot of money to spare right now, having to pay twice as much as I expected could have been disastrous for me. So, I’m grateful they replied so quickly and put my worries to rest.

Summary:

  • I’ve uploaded my production notes (this needs to be a PDF!) and am awaiting the extended sample.
  • In the Voices Share program, you pay half once the audiobook is ready to be published, not before the recording begins.
  • If you got into the Voices Share program, the contract will still state the narrator’s full hourly fee. This is normal. As long as the contract also states that you’re enrolled in Voices Share, you will pay half.

What’s Next?

I don’t know how long I’ll need to wait for the extended sample, so for now, I’ll… well, I’ll wait. It’s not very exciting, but that’s all I’ve got this week! Once I have that – and again, I don’t know how long it’ll be, so I might not have news next week! – I’ll listen to it, get any feedback I might have back to my narrator, and then the recording will begin.

We’ll see where we’re at next week, hm?

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.

Take me to the Welcome page.

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.

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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.

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