Tag Archives: publisher

This Week in Links: September 15 – 19

For Rights Holders:

Edit My Paragraph!– via LitReactor – Learn about editing in a micro sense with part four of this informative series.

27 Writers on Whether or Not to Get Your MFA – via Flavorwire – A crowd of writers attempt to answer the eternal question: is an MFA worth the time and money?

The Twitter Secret – via badredhead media – Guest Dana Leipold explains why she uses “that Twitter thing.”

For Producers:

Are You A Voice Over Chameleon? – via Gary Terzza’s Voice-Over Blog UK – “Are you trying to be all things to all people? Then, you could be scuppering your chances of getting voice over work.”

[VIDEO] Whittam’s World: Episode 44, Low-end vs. High-end Preamps – via Edge Studio – Edge’s resident studio expert takes a look at various preamp options in this video.

The Signature Voice – via Bobbin’s Voice Over Sampler – Bobbin challenges actors to define their “signature voice.

 

This Week in Links: September 1 – 5

For Producers:

So You Want To Be A Voice Actor? – via Voice Over Herald – Thinking of jumping into audiobook narration? VOH has five points to ponder to decide if the industry is right for you.

Configure Reaper for Voiceover and Audiobooks – via Steven Jay Cohen – A great primer on how to set up this popular recording software for audiobook production.

Learn Voicing Tips From Robin Williams – via Online Voice Coaching – Looking back at the career of the celebrated actor can provide lessons on improving your own voice over abilities.

With a Little help From My Friends – via steveoneillvoice – Learn how monthly Google Hangouts enrich the VO journeys of six voice-over artists.

For Rights Holders:

What Happens When your AudioBook Ends Up Sounding a lot Different than Expected – via R.C. O’Leary.com – Hint: it’s usually not a bad thing.

An Author Website Checklist – via Digital Book World – Whether self published or traditional, new or experienced, there are certain elements every author should have on their website.

10 Ways for ADD Authors to Be OOH! SQUIRREL!!!! …Productive – via Kristen Lamb’s Blog – Kristen’s got advice on how to stay focused in the ever-distracting modern world.

Easy Tips to Help You Save Money on That Necessary Edit– via Live Write Thrive – LWT has a nice breakdown of what a good editor offers, how much it will cost, and ways to get the most out of your money when hiring a professional editor.

 

Directing the Actor

As an author, you’re probably used to working with editors, proofreaders, and cover designers. But when you put on your audiobook publisher hat for ACX, you’ll meet a new type of creative person: the actor. To ensure you cast the right actor and can effectively direct them on your audiobook’s needs, you need to know how to communicate. Read on for our expert advice on the subject and helpful forms you can use to guide your actor to a great performance.

Casting the Actor

Casting the right actor is the important first step towards getting the best performance. ACX features a wide range of talented actors,  and you’ll want to narrow that list down to those with the specific vocal attributes you’re looking for in your audiobook. During the title profile creation process, you’ll come to an area with the following options:

Describe

 

This is where you’ll set the overall tone of the narration. If the book is set in England, or the main character has a heavy Spanish accent, now’s your chance to note such details. You should also begin thinking about the more specific aspects of who your characters are, and how that plays into their personalities. You can include some of this information in the “Additional Comments” field of your title profile.

Directing the Actor

Any actor worth their salt wants to produce the best audiobook they can, providing their best performance while honoring the material and the vision of its creator. As a rights holder, you can help him or her achieve this goal by providing detailed notes on the characters.

How can you help your narrator get the characters and tone right? Start by thinking back to when you were writing the book. Dig deep into your characters’ origins, histories, and motivations. Try to answer some of the following questions to get a sense of who your characters are:

  • Where do they come from?
  • How were they raised?
  • How do they act when happy/sad?
  • How do they react to adversity?
  • Are they book smart or street smart? Perhaps neither?
  • Are they generally upbeat or pessimistic?
  • What motivates them to take make the decisions they make throughout the book?

Thinking about these things and communicating them to your actor will not only help ensure you get a great read, but will help you better understand your own writing and characters! Also, make sure to think about any tricky pronunciations, either place names, names of people, or made up words or names from a conlang (we’re looking at you, Sci-Fi/Fantasy authors).

A Good Example

Check out these character descriptions from a recent Audible Studios production:

The romantic leads: 



  • Jessica: She has a slight southern accent – nothing over the top. If we don’t have a soft southern lilt, then a soft, clean, alto voice. She’s a teenager and should sound like one.
  • Kayne: Slight Scottish brogue. Sexy. He’s the lead male in this book.
  • Sonyaza, The Mephilum King (aka The Bad Guy): Strong, deep, dark, old voice; he’s been around for a while (20,000+ years).

Supporting characters: 



  • James: British. steady. He’s one of the crew’s moral compasses, so a moral-sounding voice.
  • Norris: His voice is a superpower, so it needs to be very resonant; the kind of voice that can command people. Preferably a deep voice.
  • Mary-Beth: Neutral young woman, maybe with slight ‘valley girl’ undertones. She’s a fun person.
  • Eden: Smug, sensual, earthy.

Use this handy Audio Information Form to provide your actor with the information they’ll need to succeed.

The 15 Minute Checkpoint

The 15 Minute Checkpoint sets the baseline for the recording and performance quality you need. We’ve covered reviewing your audio for technical issues previously, so now we’ll delve into tweaking an actor’s performance.

When it comes to guiding or correcting your actor’s performance, remember two key points about your collaborator: he or she is an adult, and he or she is a professional. And like any adult professional, he or she should be able to handle constructive criticism when given respectfully and directly. Keep the following tips in mind when communicating your needs to your actor:

  • Be clear and confident in your vision. You’re going for respectfully direct, not wishy-washy.
  • Use a well known actor to guide your examples. “This character should be charming and romantic, like James Marsden.”
  • If your character is based on a friend or colleague, describe that person.
  • If you can’t describe what you want, try describing what you don’t want.

The Final Audio

If you’ve followed the advice above, you should reach the final audio review stage with very few, if any, notes on character voices and scene tone. Make sure to plan time to review your final audio, and if you have notes, communicate them expeditiously to your producer. It will only become more difficult for them to re-immerse themselves in the world you’ve created as time marches on and they move on to other projects.

Be sure to make reasonable and specific notes. Requesting a complete change to a character voice you approved in the 15 Minute Checkpoint is probably not a reasonable expectation at the final audio stage, but it’s OK to ask for tweaks to a key scene or a few lines of dialogue over the course of a book. You can make things easier for yourself and your actors by making use of the Audible Studios audio review form, found here.

Remember, an audiobook production is a collaboration between two creative parties. Setting up your partner for success will help ensure that you have a productive creative relationship that results in a great sounding audiobook.

Producers: What kind of direction do you find the most helpful? Tell us in the comments!

 

How to Win Listeners and Create Great Audiobooks

We’re bringing a renewed focus on education to the ACX blog in 2014, and we kicked things off last week with our seven habits of a highly effective audiobook producer. This week, we’re back to teach authors everything they need to know about having their audiobook produced on ACX.

How To Be  A Great Audiobook Publisher

1. Know Your Medium. Some authors are audiobook listeners, and some aren’t. But when you’re looking to have your work produced in audio, it’s important to be familiar with the basics of the medium. Start by poking around Audible.com and listening to the 5 minute samples for a variety of books. Listen to fiction and nonfiction, to books in your genre and books that are nothing like yours. Note what you like and dislike, in terms of both performance and production values. Take note of listener reviews, too. Audible’s listeners are discerning audiobook consumers, and they’re not shy about telling you what they love or hate about a book.

2. Think Like An Audiobook Producer. On ACX, your producer is your partner, and in order to get the most out of your working relationship you need to understand the audiobook world from their perspective. Learn what goes into a finished hour of audio so you know what’s reasonable in terms of payment and production timelines. Audiobook production isn’t just sitting in front of a mic and reading aloud; it requires skill, talent, and discipline. Any author who’s heard someone say “Oh, I could be an author, I like to write!” knows it’s not nearly that simple. The same goes for voice acting/production.

3. Begin With The End In Mind. Think about when you want your audiobook to be available for sale, and work backwards from there. The average audiobook production on ACX takes about 45 days, depending on the length of your book. Mark time on your calendar to review your 15 minute checkpoint and your final audio (once you’ve agreed on those dates with your producer). Make sure you have an edited, final copy of your manuscript ready to upload to ACX or send to your producer as soon as you’ve cast them (your audiobook producer is not your manuscript editor). Start thinking about audiobook specific marketing from the beginning of the production, not the end – this way, you’ll have a rabid fan base who can’t wait to hear your audiobook once it goes on sale. Finally, don’t forget to think about cover art early in the process too. Audiobook cover art requirements are different than those for print/ebook covers, and you’ll do well to familiarize yourself with them and start your cover art process early.

4. Attract The Best Producers, And Know Which To Cast. Build a strong title profile that will interest the top talent on ACX. What are great audiobook producers attracted to? They like working on books that are interesting, creative, and well put-together, and actors on a royalty share especially like books that will sell well.

The next step is your audition script. It should be a maximum of 5 minutes (about 2-3 pages) – consider that a narrator will likely put about an hour into prepping, recording, producing, and uploading a 5 minute audition. When picking your audition script, don’t just pull the first 3 pages. Consider the various things that happen throughout the course of your book. Try to find a portion that has both dialog and descriptive text, and contains most, if not all of the key characters. If a character has a specific accent or way of speaking, include them in the script. If there are names or places with complicated or foreign pronunciations, include portions that pertain to them , and your notes on how you want them voiced. If there’s not one section of your book that contains all of these things together, feel free to use portions from different parts of the book to make sure everything is included.

When it comes to casting, listen to both the performance and the technical aspects of the audition (this is where you can start putting the things you learned in point 1 into practice). On ACX, the audition should be indicative of the final audio quality you’ll receive at the end of the production. Keep your ears open for anything that doesn’t sound right to you (Audible’s listeners particularly dislike cartoonish, over the top character voices, for example). And feel free to communicate with with the actor via the ACX messaging center if the audition is mostly great but something small is a little off.

5. Work Out Payment Details and Production Timelines. You’ll have decided whether to offer your book as a royalty share or on a pay-for-production basis when you posted your title, so negotiate payment with your producer if necessary, and then decide on audio due dates. Communicate how you’d like to work with your producer from the outset. Will audio be uploaded to ACX chapter by chapter for your review, or will you receive it and review all together once completed? Consider exchanging phone numbers and have a brief chat about expectations at the outset. A real human connection can make all the difference in a successful collaboration.

6. Understand The Importance of Reviewing Your Audio. Learn about the 15 minute checkpoint, and be sure to set aside time to listen critically around the due date. This is your chance to request changes to the performance or sound before your producer proceeds with recording, editing, and post-producing the entire book. Read up on how to review your final audio, and request adjustments if necessary. Share any research you’ve done into dialects, pronunciations, and foreign locations with your producer. Finally, make sure to keep your eye on whatever means of communication you work out with your producer. You wouldn’t want an unanswered question to hold up production while you work on another project.

7. Don’t Approve Until You Approve. Make sure you’ve reviewed everything and have considered all the aspects of your audiobook recording before hitting “Approve” on ACX. We do everything we can to get your book up for sale on Audible in a timely manner, but you’ll find your title may be delayed in our quality assurance queue if it contains missing or misordered chapters, or cover art that doesn’t meet our specifications.

8. Kick Your Marketing Into High Gear. Hopefully you took our advice and set your audiobook marketing in motion at the outset of your production. Now that your book is complete, turn up the heat, and do everything you can to drive listeners to Audible to purchase your book. We’ll give you codes for 25 free review copies of your title when it goes on sale, so use them to your advantage. Seek out professional audiobook reviewers (Google is your friend here) and offer to send them a download code. Use social media, your author website/blog, and your email list to cultivate a circle of fans who give honest reviews of the title on Audible or Amazon in exchange for free review copies (and have the reviewers state the “deal” in the review). Do everything you can to generate sales and buzz for your title, then tell us about it! Check us out on Facebook and Twitter and share your success.

9. Rinse And Repeat. A full audiobook portfolio is a strong audiobook portfolio. And now that you’ve been through the production process once, future audiobook productions will get easier and easier. Look over your contracts to see if you own the audio rights to any of your backlist titles, and get them up on ACX. Don’t have any backlist titles?  Start writing your next book, keeping audiobooks in mind as you do. We want to see a lot of you around these parts, ok?

What do you consider “best practice” for having your audiobook produced via ACX? Help your fellow authors learn form your experience in the comments!

Visit ACX at BEA!

ACX is proud to announce our presence at BookExpo America (BEA) May 30th – June 1st 2013!

BookExpo America is North America’s largest gathering of book trade professionals, attracting an international audience of retailers, booksellers, authors and more. BEA is recognized for the media attention it brings to upcoming books as well as for the notable authors it attracts to the convention itself. In 2012, attendance rose to over 14,000 with overall attendance, inclusive of exhibitors, reaching 22,000.

Visitors to the Digital Discovery Zone booth DZ1860 at BEA will get to experience the power of the spoken word live. This year, ACX will present an interactive demonstration of audiobook creation through ACX.com. During show hours, authors, rights holders, agents, and publishers who visit the ACX booth will have the opportunity to meet one of our professional audiobook narrators and have an excerpt of their titles performed and recorded – live. Have a free consultation with an actor to determine the type of performance that is best for your book. Then, watch as they perform and record your words in our on-site recording booth. You will receive your audiobook sample from us within one week at no cost, and can sign up for ACX, claim your title right away, and begin accepting auditions to produce your audiobook for eventual sale on Audible.com, Amazon.com and iTunes.

If you plan to visit us at booth DZ1860 at BEA, tell us in the comments, or request your appointment to participate. We’d love to meet you!

How Crossroad Press is using ACX to expand its audio catalog

Digital publisher Crossroad Press has embraced ACX since our launch, and has now successfully grown its once-tiny audio catalog to over 150 titles, with many more to come. Check out the below post by Crossroad Press publisher David Niall Wilson, on how the publisher’s growth in audio has given its authors greater visibility. Authors and publishers, take note!

Crossroad Press started out in audio as a very, very small company doing one or two titles.  We had a sort of “ahead of the curve” business model whereby the author, publisher, and narrator would share in both the risk, and the profit, involved in producing and marketing the audiobook.  Needless to say, I was a little too idealistic, and way too optimistic, but that’s how ideas become something more.  You poke and prod them and figure them out, and that’s what we were in the midst of doing when Audible developed its ACX system, and changed our world.

ACX offers a very fair royalty percentage to publishers, authors, and narrators who use the system.  This is key in a royalty share situation, because when you’re not paid up front – as has been the practice in traditional publishing and traditional narration work – the compensation has to be there at the tail end of the job.  ACX not only offers a good chunk of money through its royalty system, but it’s tiered, so if you can get your book to take off and do well, your percentage increases.

I think it’s likely that most readers and authors have little or no idea how much work goes into creating audiobook files.  My colleague, and (in my opinion) a world-class narrator and sound engineer in his own right, Jeffrey Kafer, once told me he estimates that it takes about three hours to produce one finished hour of audio.  The files have to be recorded, and then they have to be carefully edited for errors, spurious sound, etc.  This costs time and, if someone else does it for you, money.

Enter ACX again, with the various iterations of its stipend program.  Under this program, narrators and producers choose eligible titles and receive up-front compensation for each finished hour – while still keeping their royalty share. This allowed us, at Crossroad Press, to work with some truly amazing voice talent that would have otherwise been well beyond our means.  And that built on our business by allowing us to add another dimension to our authors’ visibility.  Sales on Audible can lead to readers and listeners finding new authors, characters, series, and can bridge gaps between literary “worlds.”  For Crossroad Press, it’s nice to open a book’s page on Amazon.com and find all of the editions available, in all formats, and with all formats listing Crossroad Press as the publisher.

Now we have begun, slowly and tentatively, to pay for some of our narration up front, and we have now expanded from our tiny audio catalog to over 150 titles.  None of this would have been possible without the ACX system, the producers and narrators participating in that system, and the behind-the scenes help we’ve received along the way from the staff and technical support personnel at ACX.  I’m very much looking forward to the coming months to see what ACX will offer next.

We have over 100 books available for audition at any given time, with another hundred ready to move into production, and new titles going live almost daily.  It’s a brave new world out there, and thanks to ACX, we’re happy to have become a serious part of it.