Last week I interviewed the wonderful actor Michael Riffle on his creative process in narrating the WRECK OF THE NEBULA DREAM. This week I’m going to blog on some of the aspects of getting an audio book made, as the author.
Right from the start, when I self published the novel, I wanted to have an audio book version available. I knew the audio book market was booming and science fiction seems to do really well. I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to get the story in front of such a potentially large audience. I researched ACX, which is an “Amazon Platform”, read their easy How-To instructions, perused the standard contracts they offer, and said, “Why not?”
I also asked a million questions of fellow author Dee J. Adams, who is an actress and who I knew had narrated her own Carina Press book for Audible. Dee was kind enough to explain to me some of the behind the scenes aspects and how there are many hours of work by the narrator. You can’t just sit down in front of a microphone, read for nine hours and five minutes (which is the length of WRECK), hit the off switch and then sell the book.
I never for one moment considered narrating my own book, not being an actress – I know my limitations! ACX suggests posting a short one or two page excerpt from the book to serve as an Audition Script. The book is entirely in the male main character’s Point of View (POV) but whoever narrated was going to have to give voice to female characters, children, other men, aliens…so I not only needed someone with that perfect voice to be Nick the hero, I needed an actor who could be believable when reading the other parts, not take the listener out of the action.
I picked a section right after the Nebula Dream has crashed into something and Nick emerges from his cabin, to a scene of panicked passengers, no crew members and not enough lifeboats. I figured I’d hear Nick himself and I’d hear how the actor handled a variety of other voices, including a woman, as the scene went on. I never realized how MANY times I was going to hear that scene. I don’t want to say I grew tired of my own words, but wow, I have it memorized now too. (“Back pressed against the half opened door…”) When Michael sent me that finished chapter later, it was startling to hear the excerpt in its proper place as just part of the novel’s flow.
So I posted the Audition Script, along with the book’s blurb and a few other facts about myself as a published author, my social media platform, etc….and I waited. Hmm. Remember the part about how much work the narrator actually does? Well, on ACX you can either pay the actor up front, at a rate from $150 to $400 per finished hour or you can split the royalties. I didn’t have the budget to pay for the hours up front and curiously enough, actors didn’t flock to put in all that work and record my book for free, hoping to reap copious royalties later. I couldn’t blame them!
ACX came to the rescue after a few months. They made my book eligible for a stipend, whereby they would pay the narrator a set hourly rate up front to do the recording and producing, and he and I would also split the eventual royalties 50/50 on the back end. I have no idea why ACX picked my book for their stipend program – I’m guessing perhaps because it was science fiction. (Those famous Amazon algorithms no doubt!). I just knew I was wildly flattered that ACX had such confidence in the book.
The auditions began in earnest! First of all I’d like to express my gratitude to everyone who took a chance and submitted an audition. We authors know what it’s like to face rejection and actors are in the same boat. I received an e mail every time there was new audition and I’d log into ACX to listen. To me, this was THE key element of the whole thing (well, after my deathless prose of course) – getting the right narrator. In the auditions I heard everything from complex accents to Nick’s thoughts being given VOICE OF GOD emphasis compared to the normal voice for all the other text. Some tried falsetto for the ladies’ dialog (which doesn’t work for me), other people who read the lines with a lot of funny little pauses – that seemed to be a thing – there were actors who didn’t read the entire scene (if you didn’t even get to the part where the woman’s voice comes in, how was I supposed to know if you were the one?)…and a number of people who were close but….just….not Nick. Sigh. It was undefinable but they just weren’t my Sectors Special Forces captain. Now I know why movie directors can sometimes take so long casting a part, searching for the one right person! Still, I had it narrowed down to two actors who were the closest and then I heard Michael’s audition.
And from the first word he said, I knew Nick was talking to me.
Listen to the sample at Audible.com (“Listen > Play Sample” right below the cover art)….
Next Monday I’ll finish this topic with a little more about how Michael and I worked, how ACX works and whether I’d do it again. (Short answer: YES!)