Hi all, this is Sophie, from the ACX UK team. It seems like just last week we were preparing to welcome the UK’s talented authors and actors to ACX—but here we are, celebrating our first birthday. And since ACX is all about authors and actors collaborating to produce great sounding audiobooks, we invited some of our most successful UK early adopters to help us celebrate by sharing what they learned in their first year.
First up, we’ve got Audible Approved producer Anna Parker-Naples, who we met at last year’s London Book Fair. Anna has gone on to produce 10 audiobooks through ACX, and joins us to share how she chooses which books to audition for.
1. Have a look at the Amazon ranking. I’m not going to give you a hard-and-fast number by which to choose your titles from, but be aware of them. Low rankings on a book that has been released for a while may not be a good sign that the audio will sell well.
2. Research the author. If they are active and engaged on social media, then it will mean they already have a following who may be interested in the audiobook when it is released.
3. Consider the genre or content of the title. Make sure that you have an interest in the topic. You will be spending a long time with that subject matter if you land the job and are planning to narrate, edit, proof, and master it yourself. And if there is content that you are uncomfortable with, go with your gut instinct and steer clear.
4. Be honest about your abilities. How much do you know about the main characters and their accents and dialects? If something is required that isn’t in your toolbox, perhaps this isn’t the right one for you.
We first met Joanna Penn at the ACX launch party, hosted at the King’s Head pub in London, and has gone on to publish five titles via ACX with another on the way.
Joanna Penn—Author and Narrator of Business for Authors:
I love working with ACX narrators for my books because together, we produce a new interpretation of the work. The listener has to enjoy the voice of the author and also the voice of the narrator, so it’s a completely separate kind of product from the ebook and print book. Narrators are creative professionals who know a lot more than authors about audio, so I tend to trust my narrators to produce the best product rather than being over-controlling. I QC listen and comment on specific pronunciation with place names, but I like to allow the narrator a lot of freedom of expression. This makes the whole experience more fun for us, and hopefully, for the listener!
At an author luncheon in the autumn, we heard firsthand how profoundly affected our UK writers were by hearing their work in audio, and how important it is to hire the right narrator for their book.
Keith Houghton—Author of the Gabe Quinn series:
When I write a novel, I assign my own made-up voices to the characters. They are my creation and I know how they should sound in any given situation. In the case of audiobooks, the job is done for us, and that’s why it’s important to get the right producer the first time, someone who will bring your characters to life in the way you envisaged them. Audiobooks stimulate the imagination in a very different way than print books. Everything hinges on the narrator’s performance: the drama, the mood, the emotion. The right narrator will paint an audible rainbow, adding shade to context and definition to contrast.
In my experience, the best way to ensure a true reflection of the voices you have in mind is to provide your producer with key background information about each of your main characters–where they are from, their motivation, their idiosyncrasies–plus specific scene details such as fear, happiness, or stress. This will help them choose the right accents for your players and relay the right tone for each scene.
In addition to learning how to work hand in hand with their producers, as UK authors brought their book marketing expertise to a new medium, they found that hearing their work in audio would in turn improve their future writing.
Mark Dawson–Author of the Beatrix Rose series:
And it was well worth the wait. I eventually settled on a couple of US based narrators for my two series and we got stuck in. The recording process was straightforward and the experience of listening to my words read by professional actors was amazing.
The books went on sale and there was a new challenge to consider: what about promotion? The support industry that has grown up around Amazon’s self-publishing platform isn’t there yet, so you have to think laterally. I emailed my mailing list and asked for volunteers for an audiobook advance reader team, eventually closing the door when we had enough. ACX makes promo codes available to help with getting early interest in your titles. I received 25 codes and my narrators received another 25. I collected all of these and gave them out to the team with the request that they leave honest reviews in return. The response was excellent, with dozens of reviews placed and some very nice comments included. They helped stimulate sales, and I now have a nice secondary income stream every month. I expect that it will grow over the forthcoming months.
Steven A. McKay–Author of the Forest Lord series:
In the year since ACX first opened up to UK authors, I’ve had all three of my titles produced as audiobooks. ACX opened up a whole new market bringing me new ‘readers’ and a new revenue stream in the process (which is always nice)! But on top of those obvious rewards, hearing my work read by a professional narrator has been a learning experience, as things like word repetition and pacing of scenes show up in audio more obviously than they do on a laptop screen. I’d like to think my writing has improved as I now take this into account when working on anything new.
It’s been a heck of a year and I’ll raise a glass in your honour today–Happy birthday to ACX in the UK!