Maybe. But let's start from the beginning:
A couple of weeks ago, we heard from an excited writer friend. Her self-published thriller was getting made into an audio book! She’d already heard a chunk of the thing, the narrator was doing a great job and –
Hold on, we interrupted. We like Nan, we like her a lot, but we know the woman isn't exactly rolling in the dough. She doesn’t have the extra scratch to pay for studio time or a sound engineer, much less the use of a professional narrator. (Unless, of course, things had changed and she’d won the Powerball. If Nan had won the Powerball, this was a good time to remind her of our longstanding friendship and the time we bought her that Grande DeCaf and she said she’d pay us back someday.)
Sadly for all of us, she hadn’t won the lottery. What she’d done was discover the Audiobook Creation Exchange. At ACX, authors and narrators are encouraged to find one another, link up, and make an audio book. Authors can either pay the standard rate – $200-300 per hour seems to be the going price – or they can ask the voice talent if they’d like to split royalties 50/50.
ACX is apparently owned and operated by the folks at Amazon, by the way. Although we like Amazon for providing us an outlet for our writing, not everyone feels the same way. Fair warning.
Nan likes Amazon, she liked ACX, and she decided to throw her hat in the ring. She created an account, provided an audition script, made it know on site that her project was available to would-be voice actors, and waited for her inbox to fill up.
When a week passed without a single response, she decided to be a bit more proactive. The site makes it easy for narrators to find new projects but it also makes it easy for writers to contact vocal talent. Audio samples are provided, broken down by genre, accent, sex, whether this is for cash or royalty, etc. etc., and Nan listened until she found a few potential audio partners. She contacted five would-be actors, asking them to consider her audition script, and three of ‘em agreed to give the story a try.
And why not? Her book is the first of a four book series, it’s action-packed and exciting, but it isn't a particularly challenging novel to record. (Nan agrees with us.) The hero is a manly man, the story is told in first person, and the hero’s primary interactions are with other, often evil, manly men. Find someone with a deep voice and a little verbal swagger, you’ve got a potential narrator. Nan’s audition script ran about five minutes, give or take some vocal inflections, and it wasn’t long before she had three different takes to consider. She liked all three. Of the three, there was one narrator she loved.
“He did the character perfectly,” she told us. She immediately emailed the guy. He (almost) immediately emailed back. He wanted the job. He also wanted $700.
Which is when Nan discovered that many of the ACX narrators would prefer cash in hand to a cut of the royalties. It’s understandable. Less than ten percent of all novels become audio books – some people in the industry place the percentage as low as five percent -- and, of that number, several struggle to find an audience. Add the challenge of finding buyers for an unknown audio book by an unknown writer and you can see why some people might wonder if prospects are a little iffy.
Iffy isn’t the same as nonexistent, though, and Nan charmed her actor with the possibilities to follow. Since then, he's accepted the assignment, provided a 15-minute reading of the book’s opening for Nan to review, and the project is in full flight. The narrator has a commitment to finish the thing in the next three weeks, and our friend is pleased.
After haunting the ACX site for a few hours, here’s what we thought: Maybe we should try it, too.
So, a few days ago, we jumped into the pool, too.
Our experience? More than a little different than Nan's account. But this post has already run on and on. Let’s talk next week.