In my July 25th blog, I discussed creating audiobooks through acx.com, which helps you find narrators who can produce a finished audiobook for you. The audiobooks are then distributed to Audible.com, iTunes and Amazon.
I dipped my toes in the audiobook water with my first project, Cat's Blood, a vampire short story. In the three months since its release, the audiobook for this short story has earned back only about the cost of producing it. So it's not exactly a barnburner, but it broke even, and I own the audio rights for seven more years, so it might in the end be a bit profitable.
I decided to do a second project, just to see how a full-length book would work.
For this project, The Honeymoon Cottage, the first book in my Pajaro Bay series, I wanted a young woman's voice to match the age and personality of the heroine.
I ending up working with a narrator named Elizabeth Siedt, a younger actress (in fact, I think this may have been her first audiobook project). I went with a newer narrator because the price was a lot more reasonable than the very experienced actor I had hired for my short story. Since you pay by the finished hour, I was able to produce the entire full-length book for about the same cost as the short story.
So, did I learn anything from this second project?
First, if your book contains any regional terms or foreign words, you'll need to tell your narrator how to pronounce them (think of how someone from outside of Oregon might pronounce Willamette for a good example!). I had several Spanish phrases in my book, and of course the title of the series itself contains a Spanish word, Pajaro (the Spanish word for bird). Many of the auditioning narrators didn't pronounce the words correctly, and I realized how, because of my own background, I hadn't considered the variation in accents and pronunciation in other parts of the country. So I ended up creating a pronunciation guide for narrators. I was able to find a vocabulary lesson online that provided audio of Spanish words, and linked to that. If you are using something more unusual (say, you created a new language for your fantasy world), you might need to record yourself reading those words and upload it. Funny how we don't think about things like that until we hear our own work read aloud.
With that little issue solved, I narrowed down the auditions to a couple of potential narrators. One was an experienced actress from San Francisco. She had a wonderful delivery, but had a bit more mature and soothing voice that wasn't quite what I was looking for. The other was the one I picked. I had several people listen to the samples, and the decision was unanimous to go with Elizabeth Siedt. She captured the tone of the story well, and read in a really appealing way that seemed to fit the young heroine.
The audiobook was released September 19. Surprisingly, it immediately jumped into the top 40 in audible.com's romantic suspense category. It's been selling steadily since release, though I haven't done any real promotion for it. I noticed the majority of buyers were audible.com regulars who used their membership credits to buy the book, so I think they were just stumbling across it.
This project has already, in twelve days, earned back more than its production cost, and appears on its way to becoming quite profitable. I'm now scrambling to get another one produced ASAP, and would love to have my Christmas book available in audiobook form by holiday time.
My second attempt at producing an audiobook appears to have been more successful. It's hard to tell at this point, but I understand some listeners like to read along in the text while they listen, so that may account for a bit of a spike in e-book sales for this title that happened around the same time.
So, as I asked in the first blog, is it worth the bother to produce an audiobook version of your self-published work? In this case it clearly seems to be. I'm already making money on the book, and two of the reviews specifically mentioned wanting more in the series to listen to. So I think this could be a good supplement to my writing income.
Now I just have to scramble to finish my Christmas story and see if I can get it produced before this year's Christmas trees end up in the recycling pile....
Happy writing, everyone!
Hear a free sample of The Honeymoon Cottage