Jennifer Gilby Roberts

Women's Fiction/Chick Lit Author

Audio Books: Should I Venture In?

on April 24, 2014

Audio books are supposed to be the next big thing.  Personally, I don’t really like being read to, but many people do.  But is it right for my books?

Amazon has had a programme for a while whereby, instead of forking out vast sums in advance to have your audio book recorded, you can arrange with a narrator to split the profits it makes.  It’s a brilliant system for indie authors.  Until recently, it was only open to authors based in the US, but now UK addresses are allowed.

I offered The Dr Pepper Prophecies up as my trial, and I’ve been impressed by the response.  I’ve had a number of narrators submit ‘auditions’ (a recording of them reading a short extract from my book).  Amazon have even offered a stipend of $100 an hour to the winning narrator (provided we meet certain conditions).  I assume this is an introductory offer based on genre or author location, but I’m sure it’s helped attract entrants!  All of the auditions have been good and I’ve actually found one voice I think could fit the bill for Mel.  But should I go for it?

The trouble is, no narrator is ever going to read Mel exactly the way I hear her in my head.  I’m not sure even I could do that.  And surely the wrong narrator could make a massive difference to how the book is experienced.  Just from listening to the auditions, I’ve heard so many different Mels and some of them I haven’t liked at all.  Is it really safe to hand over your creations to someone else?

I’d like to know what you think about audio books.  Do you buy them?  If you do, would you be interested in hearing TDPP?  Please vote, or leave a comment and let me know.

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8 responses to “Audio Books: Should I Venture In?

  1. I adore audio books – with my lifestyle, listening in the car is the only way I’m getting any ‘reading’ done these days. Also, my Mum has had eyesight problems and for a while was totally reliant on audio, so I believe they’re really important for those with disabilities.
    And, I’m an author, and (being based in the US) was able to take advantage of ACX to do an audiobook. I took the decision after hearing Bella Andre at a conference, raving about audio and the potential large earnings from it.
    My narrator was great, but, due to the royalty share arrangement and my need to get a British accent, I didn’t have many applicants (I reached out to some and asked them to audition, rather than just waiting). But yes, you need to adore the voice/style of the person you’re considering for Mel. It’s a huge skill to be able to bring a book to life and your own reputation is on the line for how good a job they do. They need to be reliable and willing to work to reasonable deadlines, too.
    Naturally, you need to listen to the whole thing carefully, so allow 20-30 hours to do that, communicate with your narrator, and re-listen. I had just started a new job when I was doing this and it felt like a huge commitment. (Even more for my narrator, of course).
    Then, there’s the marketing. If you’re Bella Andre, I imagine your audiobooks almost sell themselves, and she certainly mentioned the bounty from first-time purchasers. But for smaller authors, I don’t think we can assume people will rush to the audio product. Sales of mine have been really small compared to the books. In fairness, I haven’t put the marketing effort in (contacting audio bloggers and so on), but I think you need to be prepared to put a significant amount of time into audio promotion.
    If the time investment doesn’t trouble you and you can find someone you like on the royalty share deal, I think it’s worth doing. But for lesser known authors, we shouldn’t let Amazon persuade us this is easy money.

  2. karenh43 says:

    I voted yes. That said, I have never listened to an audio book and I doubt that I ever would…just doesn’t fit my lifestyle. But I know there are a lot of people out there who do listen to audio books and wouldn’t or don’t read a print or ebook. So it’s a niche that needs to be filled. I’ve heard many people say they wished some of their favorite authors would do audio books. I haven’t looked into what’s available for reasons already stated, but I’m wondering if there is a shortage of romance novels in the audio format? Could be worth looking into and a bridge to a new outlet for your work. Good luck with whatever way you go on this.

  3. momof3boysandaprincess says:

    I have never tried and audio book but know many that love them!

  4. Peggye says:

    I love audio books. I have a two hour round trip for work and I think that audio books are the only things that keep me from road rage. So much better than the dreg I hear on the radio. I think I have listened to some authors that I probably wouldn’t have picked up otherwise (Hello Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child!)

  5. Mark Gardner says:

    I’ve only done one audiobook in my life and that was “The long dark tea time of the soul.” That was in The early ’90s. No audiobooks since then. I know people who enjoy audiobooks and a common statement they make is they prefer the author to narrate the story. I’m going to narrate “Paradox” and “Escape” myself and see how it goes. Are you still accepting auditions for narrators? I’d like to take a crack at it for DPP.

  6. Thanks everyone! Some really useful comments there.

    I have thought about doing it myself, but then presumably I’d need to find and hire a studio. I really can’t afford the time to record it. And I hadn’t even thought about separate promotion – I didn’t know there *were* audio book bloggers! Clearly, I need to look into this more.

    Mark – I’m still looking for a narrator, but I think I need a woman. Being first person, it would sound a bit strange having a man playing Mel!

    • Mark Gardner says:

      Tee hee. When I wrote Twisted Love, a reader or two was confused I wrote it in first-person female perspective. I’m going to just use a turtle each headset/microphone combo and record it with audacity on my laptop. I’m curious as to how it’ll turn out. Since you’ve read Paradox, you’ll have to listen to if for me and let me know what you think. I know radio is a different animal from audiobooks, but I figure I’m at least “qualified” yo narrate Paradox. 🙂

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