Audiobook narration. Woooooeeeeee. If you want a challenge, get into this. It will kick your ass six ways from Sunday. And you say, butbutbutbutbut I’m gonna hire a professional narrator. Okay, let’s talk about that. The cheapest upfront way to do audiobooks is to split royalties, and ACX is already extremely low. 40% versus KDPs 70%, and so far, I haven’t seen anywhere to set a price for the audiobooks. I have three sitting in audio approval, and they’ve been there since the 30th of November and the 2nd and 5th of December. It’s the 9th of December. So, that right there is extremely unacceptable, but they do tell you it could be as long as 10 days, so there is that. But let’s get into this hiring a narrator thing. It’ll knock your socks off.
How do you hire a narrator on ACX?
First, you have to find your book. ACX allows you to search for your book. Once you find the one you are going to do, you click – This is my book! Then, you put in a whole bunch of stuff that you probably forgot, like when the heck you published the book, so you’re going to have to go to Amazon and your book listing to see when you published it. If you self-published, and arguably, if you’re doing this manually, you self-published it, you’re going to list the copyright holder for the print version. That’s you. And the audio rights holder. That’s probably still you. Then, you need to upload your audio audition file. This should be 2 or 3 pages from your book. I just chose the first three pages and saved them in a new file called booktitleaudioaudition. Yep, I know. Real creative, but that gets the job done.
Now, here’s where it gets fun. ACX gives you two options. Upload your own files or choose a narrator. If you’re doing the royalty split or paying upfront, you choose a narrator. This is what I did for two of my books. The first one was The Tiny Vampire from Outer Space that’s Bitey, Escaping Umbra and The Blooddoll Factory 1. Once you get through that mess, your book goes to Open for Auditions, and you wait.
I waited for about 3 days. The blooddoll factory was picked up within hours. YAY. Little Bitey was not, so I went and found a narrator and made an offer and waited some more.
Let’s Talk About Little Bitey’s Narrator
I spent two days listening to narrators to find the perfect voice for Little Bitey. I made an offer. Again. Royalty split. This is mostly because at it’s cheapest, it would cost me 12,000 dollars to pay upfront for all 20+ of my books. That’s not feasible. At the same time I’m waiting for this narrator to get back to me, I also have social media posts running stating that I need an ACX narrator for Little Bitey. So, I’m pulling our all the stops! Really trying hard here.
The offer expires. Yep, that’s right. I gave the narrator 2 days and NADA. Oh fuck….. The social media posts didn’t gain any traction either. You'd think with 25,000 Twitter followers, I'd have a narrator in there somewhere, but aparently, I don't. I did find a couple DIYers, like myself, but no professional narrators on my list. But by this time, I had ordered a microphone from Amazon cause I’m getting a real good idea of how this is gonna go. If I want it done, I’m probably doing it myself, but wait….. There’s hope – The Blooddoll Factory did get an offer! Ok, well, there’s 1-2 books off my plate. That’s something.
Let’s Talk About the Blooddoll Factory’s Narrator
This lady had the perfect voice for this set of books, and I had her earmarked for another set, providing she could get me this one, but there’s problems right away. I didn’t get the audition script. She sent me her generic sample, which I’d already listened to when I was listening to every narrator on the damned planet while I was looking for a narrator for Little Bitey. Okay, fine. I’ll overlook it. I sent her the manuscript. She gets me the 15 minute checkpoint in a day late, but she’s reasonably good with communication, so fine. It may be worth it just to get her voice on this stuff.
The first thing I hear – THE FACTORY by STACEY CARROLL
Yeah, I’m cursing a blue streak. The file I had listed as THEBlooddollFactoryFINAL wasn’t the final copy. Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit.
I take a deep breathe. I open the file and I listen to the audio. Just how different is it? If it’s three words or a couple sentences, I’m letting it go.
It’s way different. This is the redundant copy that I cleaned up at the last minute. I can’t have this produced.
So, I dig for the actual final copy. I don’t have it. This was four computers ago. It really isn’t surprising. I have to pull it off amazon and play with it to get it back into doc format. Amazon creates HTML copies, and they look nasty, but I get it done.
While I”m playing with that copy, I’m in talks with the narrator to cancel that contract because there’s no way to upload a new manuscript. I don’t have a cancel button. She doesn’t have a cancel button. I have to email ACX to get it canceled and so does she! That takes 3 days.
The day after I get it canceled, I send her another offer. I give her 4 days to produce the 15 minute checkpoint and something like a another week to get the whole book done. Very generous timeframe. She accepts. I upload the new manuscript. This time it really is the final copy.
1 day goes by
2 days go by
3 days go by
And she’s told me about her ‘engineer’ and some other people and blah blah blah, and I’m a bit worried. A split royalty doesn’t pay for all that. But, I wait. It could be that she’s gotten paid really well on a couple books and now she’s looking to get some regular income in from some split royalty deals, versus the ONE AND DONE.
4 days go by
I don’t have my 15 minute checkpoint. *shifty eyes* But late in the day I get a message. She’s hoping to get it done the next day at the end of another session. She’s hiring a sound booth. Oh boy…
5 days go by
I don’t have my 15 minute checkpoint, and it’s now late. Then, I get a message. She’s not going to do it and wants to cancel. It cost her $1,000 to produce her last audiobook project. Uhhhhhhhh….. Yeah, that’s what I was afraid of. Okay, fine. I’m not going to argue with her. I do recommend that she find a cheaper method because if you’re working split royalty, it doesn’t pay for all that jazz she’s doing. I didn’t expect all that. I expected better voice control from someone with a better mic and a better home setup with more knowledge of Audacity than I currently have. Then again, give me a few weeks, and I’ll have Audacity mastered.
Of course, she then gets a god-complex and starts telling me about the awesomeness of her finished product. Well, lady, I hate to break it to you, but what finished product? I do not see a finished product, and I just emailed ACX to cancel this contract. That's number 2 on this book. Of course, I will take full responsibility for the first cancellation, but this is still unacceptable. I think I dodged a bullet, but the end result is the same. Two narrators. Two failures. I really hope everyone's experience isn't as bad as mine, but this was eye-opening, and just reinforces my extreme DIY perspective. If you want it done, figure out how to do it yourself.
Will I ever hire another narrator? I fucking doubt it. This experience was terrible, and in the time I was fighting narrators, I recorded 3 Naughty Reads myself. Makes you think, doesn’t it?