Audiobook Self-Publishing: Author Advice
Linda MacDonald is a prolific self-published author who has published three novels with Matador and is currently working on her fourth, The Man in the Needlecord Jacket, due to be released later this year. Meeting Lydia is available via Amazon/Audible. She kindly agreed to share what she has learned about publishing an audiobook as an indie.
Interested in articles like this?
I had always believed my first novel, Meeting Lydia, would work particularly well via audio and like most indie authors, I’m constantly searching for something new or different that may help sales. Last year, I decided to attend The Self-Publishing Conference and discovered there was a session on audiobooks, so I signed up to find out more. The session was run by James Peak of Essential Music. An hour later, I had acquired a rudimentary understanding of what was involved in producing an audiobook, alongside the welcome knowledge that it might be affordable and excitement about hearing my written words adapted to the format.
How does Audiobook Self-Publishing work?
Cost is a significant factor for most people and as with indie paperbacks and ebooks, the amount of ‘self’ in the self-publishing of an audiobook is the key variable that affects this. The cheapest option would be to act as one’s own producer, narrator and editor. But unless you already have the technical equipment (a condenser microphone, a quiet, well-behaved computer and a noise-free room with no flat walls), even this option is not free. You will also need a reading style that does justice to your writing, competent editing skills and the ability of an audio engineer to check the technical aspects of the production.
At the other extreme, for the less technically minded like me, all these services may be bought, either through an independent production company or via one of the two main audiobook distributors: the Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX) or Author’s Republic. The websites of both these companies give comprehensive information about the way they work. If you choose an independent production company, costs may be significantly reduced if you provide your own narration. Authors are encouraged to consider this because they know their work better than anyone and provide an authentic voice, but there are also obvious positives to using a professional actor.
Key Points to Consider
- Know your limitations with technology.
- Do you need a voice actor or will you do your own narration?
- Does any part of your original text need to be adapted for audio?
- To what extent will you allow a producer to extemporise, or must they stick rigidly to the text?
- Does your cover need to be adapted or redesigned? Audiobook images appear square online and while some book covers adapt easily to this, others look ‘chopped’ and less professional.
- Be clear about rights. I was advised that the narrator should be paid a one-off fee for the recording with no further claim on royalties. Producers may also be paid either a one-off fee or via a shared royalty agreement. If using the ACX platform with exclusive distribution, the shared deal means a royalty split of 20% each as opposed to 40% royalties to the author.
Eventually, I gave the go-ahead to Essential Music to produce Meeting Lydia as an audiobook. With so many different characters in the book, and a lot of dialogue that would benefit from changes in tone or accent, I decided to use a voice actress. James recommended the very talented Harriet Carmichael. I adapted the manuscript and then the production was left in the hands of the company. Beyond checking the files – ‘proof-listening’ – and sending a note of any significant anomalies to be re-recorded, there was nothing more for me to do until the files were sent to ACX for a final quality check and uploading. I chose to give ACX exclusive distribution rights, which means the book is sold only via Audible, Amazon and iTunes. A non-exclusive deal is also possible, but for a lower royalty share. Author’s Republic distributes more widely, as do other ebook distributors and aggregators.
I designed my own press release and sent it to local media, some national media and to radio stations where there was the potential for local interest. Next, I turned my attention to social media marketing and it quickly became evident that there are many more US audiobook readers and specialist reviewers than there are in the UK. Germany is also way ahead in its consumption of audiobooks – including those written in English. Throughout 2016, though, I noticed shifting UK attitudes towards audiobooks. Previously, they were considered to be the fiction medium of choice only for the visually impaired. Now, they are being marketed to everyone, especially those leading busy lives on the move. I signed up for US and UK virtual tours and had a new bespoke cover designed.
It’s early days, but I have no regrets about adapting Meeting Lydia for audio and will do the same again with the next in my series of novels if funds permit. I’m optimistic that we are on the upsurge of a wave that has yet to peak and in the future I see many book lovers adding audiobooks to their busy lives.