Based on the considerations detailed in Part 4 of Audiobook Production for The Indy Author—“Who Will Narrate?”—I knew I wanted to engage a professional narrator (not narrate my audiobook myself). This post is a high level description of what came next in my work with ACX, and some tips I gleaned along the way.
- Post your book excerpt.
Make sure you use a scene that includes the main characters and, if possible, that enables narrators to demonstrate their ability to represent a variety of emotions, accents, or other aspects of the story.
Define desired narrator characteristics.
On ACX, there is a seemingly limitless number of characteristics you can specify—gender, age, accent, ethnicity, tone (for example, dramatic or comedic).
- Wait for audition submissions OR solicit auditions.
Once submitted, your book will show up to prospective narrators as accepting auditions. I got a couple of auditions for The Sense of Death that weren’t quite right for one reason or another, so I started soliciting auditions from people whose demo recordings I liked, which are searchable using the same criteria you use to define the desired narrator characteristics.
After you’ve listened to a couple dozen auditions, they all start to sound the same, so use a spreadsheet to track your assessments—include the narrator’s name, a rating (positive / undecided / negative is sufficient), and brief note (e.g., “Pleasant voice but spoke too fast”), which will prevent you from wasting time re-listening to recordings that you had legitimately eliminated on an earlier listen. Then contact the narrators you had rated as positives to ask for an audition for your book.
Once you’ve found the right narrator for your book …
- Negotiate the contract.
- 50/50 Royalty Share
This is a great way to break into the audiobook arena because there is no cost up front—you agree to split the proceeds (after ACX has deducted their cut) 50/50 with the narrator for seven years. If you’re not an established author, it’s likely that this means you will be working with a less experienced narrator, but that can have advantages in that he or she may be more accommodating to your requests. The royalty split approach also has the benefit of creating an incentive for your narrator to help you with promotion for the audiobook. For me, these considerations outweighed the downside of giving half the royalties to the narrator for the seven year term. This is the agreement I came to with my narrator for The Sense of Death.
- Pay for Production (Per Finished Hour Fee)
This agreement means that you pay the narrator an agreed-upon per hour fee based on how long the audiobook ends up being–e.g., if your book runs ten hours and you have agreed on a $50 per finished hour rate, you will pay them $500. It is NOT based on how many hours it takes the narrator to record the book. ACX provides an estimate of the probable finished hours based on word count, so you have a good idea of what the investment will be upfront. The per finished hour rate varies wildly based on the stature of the narrator, but if you’re willing to work with a less established narrator, the price can be quite reasonable. This approach incents the narrator to finish the work quickly so that he or she can get paid, but could carry the risk of he or she rushing the process, possibly requiring more requests for edits (although I never experienced this with my narrator). The approach carries more financial risk for the author, but means that once you’ve paid the narrator their one-time fee, you keep all the royalties. This is the agreement I came to with my narrator for The Sense of Reckoning.
In the next post, I will the preparation for production and production processes.