It was three years since the publication of Enemy Immortal, and I had not seriously considered making an audiobook because my research in 2019 showed that making audiobooks cost two to four thousand dollars and up. That changed in early 2022 when I heard a podcast from The Writing Coach about a zero-cost way to make an audiobook. The answer was ACX, where you can publish an audiobook on Audible, Amazon, and Apple for zero cost by giving half the royalties to the narrator.
You can do this—however, it may not be the best option for you. But I’m getting ahead of my story.
I put my book up for auditions on the ACX website. I had to provide a list of chapters, genre, blurb, payment options and price range, desired narrator characteristics such as gender and accent, and a sample of the book for the narrator to read. In my case, I posted a three-page audition text of selected passages to show multiple characters, including some alien species.
That was enough to start auditions rolling in, but I also browsed samples by narrators and solicited auditions from several low-to-medium-cost narrators who perform science fiction and whose voice and style I liked.
This brings me back to payment options. For zero down and 50% royalties, I would get a first-time narrator who is trying to build their portfolio. The auditions showed these folks still had a few rough edges in their performance. However, for a superior performance by an established narrator with a following of their own, I’d have to pay $200-$400 PFH (Per Finished Hour—part of the new lingo I learned). For a twelve-hour book like mine, that’s the $2,000-$4,000 price range, which was above my budget.
Fortunately, there is a middle ground for up-and-coming narrators with experience, but still learning. (Sort of like my cohort of up-and-coming writers!) I found a moderately experienced narrator I loved (A. C. Oliver) who would work for a modest PFH payment up front plus half the royalties. The extra expense is worth it to me because I want to project a quality image for my author brand, and A. C Oliver’s renditions of alien voices are phenomenal.
I made an offer. Offer accepted. Now the production process began.
First, I sent the narrator a longer (15-minute) sample text with more alien dialog. After a couple of iterations, we agreed on character voices that I thought projected the right personality and attitude of each character.
Next, he performed each chapter, and I did something akin to line editing whereby I listened carefully for mispronounced or dropped words. He made a few minor corrections, and we had the finished product.
Meanwhile, I had to upload a square audiobook cover—like for a CD. I knew enough Photoshop to do this myself from the source file for the book covers, so no problem—except that when I tried to upload the jpeg, ACX had an additional requirement. They wanted me to leave the lower right-hand corner devoid of text so they could slap on an advertising promo if they so desired. Rearranging the text to meet this requirement was actually the hardest part of making the audiobook cover since the cover needed to look balanced with or without the ACX promo, but I managed.
I gave the final approval and paid the narrator. AXC did a quality review and then published our new audiobook on Audible, Amazon, and Apple. Whoo hoo!
But, as with any book publication, the job is not done yet—time to market and promote.
One useful thing from ACX is that they provide you with free promo codes to give away to reviewers or as freebies in marketing campaigns.
Another great thing about audiobooks is that the narrator will (ideally) do his/her own marketing, reaching channels you might not otherwise.
In the end, I was happy with the audiobook creation process for Enemy Immortal, and I am already working with A. C Oliver on the narration of Umlac’s Legacy. Look for our next audiobook release at the end of August!