Known for the riveting emotional power of her work, award-winning author Wendy Lindstrom has found a perfect home in digital audio on ACX. Masterfully crafted for audiobook format, her bestselling Grayson Brothers series captivates listeners and is fast becoming an audio 5-star favorite. Today, she shares her ten tips on writing for audio.
Writing with Audio in Mind
The audiobook world is experiencing explosive growth, which presents a huge opportunity for authors to gain new readers and to create a potentially lucrative income stream. Writing for audio is an exciting new world that begins and ends with a great book. Preparing your manuscript for digital format requires some time and thought up front, as I quickly discovered.
Creating my title profile on ACX was a breeze, but auditioning narrators and working with a talented actor to create character voices and to bring my books to audio has been an incredible journey. I learned that writing for audio puts you in the driver’s seat. You’re in charge—and you’re responsible. Having control of the product and the creation process can be both heady and terrifying.
If you would like to see your work in audio format, here are 10 tips I wish I had known before I started the process.
Ten Tips to Improve the Audiobook Experience—For You and Your Readers
- Open with dialogue and action, if possible. Long narration can get boring fast. (I ought to know. After listening to the first fifteen minutes of The Longing, I cut most of the first chapter for this very reason!) Reading text is a very different experience than listening to those same words as an audiobook.
- Create descriptive tags that keep your readers from getting lost. Use tags to clarify who is doing the action or experiencing the emotion, especially in scenes where characters banter back and forth quickly or for long stretches. Without good tags, listeners must depend on the vocal skill of the narrator to differentiate characters. Not an easy task with two or three characters of the same gender in a scene. Listen to samples from other audiobooks and evaluate what works and what doesn’t.
- Ensure that your author voice is evident in your sentence cadence and phrasing. You might have heard the adage, “If it’s not on the page, it’s not on the stage.” This holds true in the audiobook world as well. The stronger your voice comes through on the page, the better chance your narrator will create something close to your vision of your book. The same is true for your character’s voice. If your protagonist speaks with a raspy, seductive voice, get that on the page. Envision how you will convey this information to your narrator and put it in your book. These are all tips your narrator will use when creating character voices and recording audio. Listen to superb character dialogue from The Longing for an example.
- Limit the number of characters in a scene, or limit how many of those characters speak in that scene. In Kissing in the Dark, there are nine female characters conversing in a scene! My mistake. Thankfully, my talented narrator was able to pull this off, but I guarantee I won’t be doing this again.
- Maintain a balance between narration, dialogue, and inner monologue in order to keep the listener engaged. See tip #1.
- Make each word count. Words carry more weight when read aloud. A good voice actor can raise your story to a higher level, but don’t depend on your narrator to act or convey the level of emotion you imagine for the scene. Your words must create that impact. A skilled narrator will make those words sing.
- Beware of character accents and localized speech—use judiciously. A narrator must read those lines, and the results might be far different than you desire. Listening to characters with very heavy accents can be confusing and grow tiresome.
- Read your work aloud to pinpoint areas needing clarification and to eliminate choppy writing.
- Complete all revisions on your book project before uploading to ACX and seeking auditions from narrators. It can be confusing and difficult to swap out your manuscript and sales copy once production begins. Plus, for Whispersync for Voice your e-book must closely match the audiobook. If you revise more than a word here and there, you’ll need to upload a new e-book file that matches the revised audiobook.
- Manage your project budget through book length. Writing a shorter (but not too short) book will require less money to produce in audio format, which may enable you to get into audiobooks sooner. There is always the royalty share option to consider, but that is for another post.
I hope these tips help make your entry into the audiobook world a little easier. It’s a great place to be—it’s a place you want to be.
Read more about Wendy at www.wendylindstrom.com.
Do you write with audio in mind? Tell us in the comments!