ACX Guest Post: Wendy Lindstrom on Writing For Audio

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.

Wendy Author Photo pds copyright

ACX Author Wendy Lindstrom

Since June of this year, I have been working with a talented producer (Brick Shop Audiobooks) and actor to bring my Grayson Brothers series to audiobook via ACX.

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.727tpe4761sf5cg11374614520830
  3. 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. 
  4. 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.
  5. Maintain a balance between narration, dialogue, and inner monologue in order to keep the listener engaged. See tip #1.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Read your work aloud to pinpoint areas needing clarification and to eliminate choppy writing.uln8ne5nvavw7alt1374620097444
  9. 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.
  10. 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!

17 responses to “ACX Guest Post: Wendy Lindstrom on Writing For Audio

  1. Wow – this is all excellent advice and really makes sense on so many levels. Authors producing their own audiobooks… It’s quite an adventure these days! I have taken notes for the next audiobook.

    • Thanks, Julianne. I find these points especially useful in the editing stage. If you find any additional time-saving tips while producing your own audiobooks, please be sure to share them with us.

  2. Excellent tips! The novels I’m currently producing as audiobooks through ACX were written before I even thought that someday they’d be audiobooks. After going through the process on three of those novels, I know I’ll be keeping these tips in mind when writing from now on. Thank you, Wendy!

    • With three audio productions under your belt, Julie, do you have any helpful tips to share for writing with audio in mind?

      • I wish I had gone completely through the process with one audiobook rather than diving into three at once. If I had, I would have realized that I needed to spend more time communicating with the narrator ahead of time, to convey the level of emotion I want.

        That, however, is why I really like your tip about “If it’s not on the page, it’s not on the stage.” I realize now that I need to put more description about dialogue delivery in my writing. I never would have realized that if I hadn’t done audiobooks.

  3. Thanks for the excellent tips. I’ve been thinking of creating an audio version of one of my titles. Your guidance is a huge help!

  4. Great post! This one goes into my resource file! I’ve been fortunate to find a great book performer in the person of Mike Ortego (www.mikeortego.com) and he has done wonderful work on my three novels, especially the two Cajun “Cat Touchette: series! James Ory Theall (http://www.jamesorytheall.com/

    • Thanks, James, and congratulations on getting your books into audio. It’s such an exciting and fun time for authors and narrators to create great work together. Best of luck with your series.

  5. “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.” – and good ones they are 😉

    I think one of the more pleasant surprises I’ve found so far, is how much a background in theatre and playwriting helps. I’d forgotten a lot of that, and doing several audio books brought much of that back.

    Relates very strongly to your important suggestions about keying the listener onto who’s speaking or doing the action and dialog. The written word, read quietly alone, leaves a lot of room to see, on the page, who’s saying what. Audibly, uh uh. 😉

    Look fwd to hearing your thoughts re royalty sharing; thanks so much wendy, very much enjoy this 🙂

    • Thanks, Felipe. I agree that reading text on a page makes it clear who is speaking, but that clarity can suffer if/when you are only “hearing” those words. This is all a learning curve, but great fun.

      • right, totally agree, the written page makes it much easier, as traditionally written, being visible, for a reader to follow who’s speaking – audible, as you say, and i found out right away, takes much more cuing, just differences in media

        another, as you pointed out, was in having a large number of characters in one scene at once; but i’m hopeful we’ll evolve a way of keeping however number of characters we, the writers, feel we need, rather than cutting ourselves short, possibly with more frequent cuing, or multiple narrators

        and personally, although i think it’s good to be aware of needed audio cuing during the writing of a fictional narrative, too much, on a written page, can be very distracting – maybe it will become (or is) accepted to have a very slightly amended (cues added) version for audio

        after all, and one doesn’t really need precedent in creative work, adaptations from stage to screen, or book to screen, occur all the time

        otherwise, it would be like eliminating interior dialog because it couldn’t be shone onscreen, at least without adaptation

        as you say, great fun, and a big learning curve for a whole ‘nother generation of creative outlets and cross-adaptations; best wishes wendy

  6. Great tips, Wendy! You’re so right about crowd scenes being a challenge in audio. I just finished “proof listening” to my latest, HIS FORBIDDEN TOUCH, and I have one scene with 8 characters conversing (6 men and 2 women). Like you, I’m fortunate to be working with Julia Motyka, who did a fabulous job with the narration. But next time I’ll definitely use more dialogue tags to make it a little easier on her!

    • Eight people talking in a scene? I feel your pain, Shelly. Lol. We are definitely fortunate to be working with such a talented actor. Julia’s beautiful voice and 5-star delivery makes a great book even better. Glad you found my ten tips helpful.

  7. Pingback: Solutions to the Top Ebook Production Challenges - Digital Book World - Dectimes

  8. Pingback: Karen Commins’s Audiobook Resources For Authors - site37.webdnx.net

  9. Pingback: Karen Commins’s Audiobook Resources For Authors - Karen Commins

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