I have had several readers ask me if I was going to produce an audio book version of my work and I have to admit that I found the idea quite interesting. I have listened to a couple of audio books myself, although not on a regular basis. The market for this kind of product seems to be growing so I decided to have a closer look at what is involved in the process of turning a written piece into an audio piece.
My first discovery was that it is potentially very expensive. You are paying someone for their time and skill in reading allowed the words that you have written. For an author who is already successful this might not seem to great an obstacle. Indeed, for such authors even famous actors will take a turn at the microphone and add their name to the product. For an independent author like me, however, the upfront cost is indeed a barrier to success.
There are alternatives of course, the first being read it yourself. I tried this by investing in a microphone and a piece of software to record my voice; I sounded awful! I really hated the sound of my own voice. Perhaps I could have improved things by investing in better recording equipment, even used a little voice distortion, but to be honest the sounds coming out of the speaker just turned me off to the idea.
Another route, and one I have seen promoted over the internet, is the use of Text To Speech (TTS) engines. These are pieces of software that use a recorded voice to ‘read’ your text. If you have heard a Sat-Nav giving directions you will understand exactly what I mean. Some people use these to turn eBooks into Audio books. I tried them myself but I was not convinced. They are, obviously, very robotic even when done by someone with an accent. I also found that any unusual words, and The War Wolf has a few from Middle-English, can prove too challenging for a robot voice.
To be honest I had given up on this idea but then another reader asked the same question and so I had another look at the whole situation. That was when I discovered Audio Book Creation Exchange (ACX). I have to admit that I found this to be a very exciting development. Basically ACX matches authors with narrators (they call them producers but I find that term a little confusing) and vice versa. There are several ways to arrange payment, for strugglers like me the 50/50 royalty share is the best way forward. The idea is simple, I, as the author, make my book available, and someone, as the narrator, records themselves reading it, which could take up to eleven hours apparently. The finished recording is then sent to ACX who turn it into an audio book and, in partnership with them, it is distributed to a new audience.
I made up my mind to give it a try and posted an invitation for narrators to audition for my book on a 50/50 royalty share basis. I got some auditions and they proved quite interesting. I think that I was right to remove myself from the recording process, after listening to these talented people I clearly had no hope of doing my own work justice. Eventually I chose a narrator by the name of Jack Glanville. We are in the process of discussing turning not only The War Wolf into an audio book but also the other two volumes in the Sorrow Song trilogy. He’s very keen on this idea.
My next step is to provide Jack with some background material as to characters, Saxon culture and society, and the general scope of the books. Nothing heavy, just pointers in the right direction. Then we agree a contract with dates for the recording to be conducted. If I am happy with his work, which I expect to be after hearing his audition, the book moves towards being properly produced and a new door opens for me and, by association, Jack as well.
I will write more on this as things develop.