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Monday, October 26, 2020

The Journey to Self-Publication, Part 12: Audiobooks

I've gotten quite a few questions about why I finally decided to delve into self-publishing and how I'm doing it, so I figured why not create a new blog series!

Every Monday, I'll be sharing a piece of the self-publishing puzzle---from how I came to this choice to writing, editing, marketing, sales, and everything in between. Please remember that this is simply my experience, how chose to do things. Others do things differently, and that's fine! So, your mileage may vary, but in the end, I hope seeing yet another way of tackling self-publishing will help you on your path. 

Need to catch up on previous posts? Find them here:

Earlier this year, the publisher for my Christian YA romance, Perfectly Imperfect, moved into audio books, and so for the first time ever, I heard my characters come to life, and let me tell you -- it was surreal! And SO exciting. Because I had been through the process with them, I knew I wanted to put my Cursed Series into audio, too. 

Why? Lots of reasons, but this article written by Nana Malone outlines it so much better than I can. Go check it out. I'll wait....

All set? Good! 

I chose to use ACX because I was familiar with them, and they are extremely user friendly. They also have various payment options available, which I love, especially as a new Indie author who isn't rolling in any money piles just yet. LOL. They offer three options:
  • Pay upfront per completed hour recorded
  • Pay some upfront per completed hour recorded plus a royalty share between author and narrator
  • An equal royalty split between author and narrator
The best part is, with any royalty sharing options, ACX handles the distribution of those payments, so you don't have to worry about paying royalties to a narrator. As I mentioned, the platform is super easy to use, and each step is given very clear, guided instructions. It's very hard to mess up, even if you're like me and not super tech savvy. 

When I made the decision to move Eternal Curse into audio, I already had my eye on a narrator--the same woman who'd narrated Perfectly Imperfect: Andy Garcia-Ruse. I was more than pleased with how she brought Grayson and Isabelle to life, and I had no doubts she'd do Trent, Chloe, and Jax justice, too. I invited her to audition, and she eagerly accepted. As soon as I listened to her sample, I knew I was going to go with her again. She's got a very easygoing tone, and she's smooth to listen to. 

So, I thought it would be fun to interview her for this post and get some behind-the-scenes info on what goes into producing an audio book. 

1. Welcome, Andy! Thanks for joining us today. Please start by telling us a bit about yourself. Who are you? Where did you come from? What made you decide to become an audio book narrator?

My name is Andy Garcia-Ruse. I’m an audiobook narrator, and I live in Kansas City, Missouri. I’ve always been an avid reader and have listened to audiobooks since early 2000s (except back then they were on CDs).  

Over the years as I was listening to books, I would find myself stopping the book and narrating previous lines and making the book how I would want it read. I dreamed about narrating and started to follow some of my favorite audiobook narrators to learn more about the industry. 

Then, fast-forward in time, I was hit in a car accident and suffered a traumatic brain injury, which ended my career as a mental health therapist. After having spent over a year in physical therapy, speech therapy, vestibular therapy, occupational therapy and trauma therapy—from which I was able to start speaking again—I began narrating audiobooks for fun and as part of my cognitive recovery. I fell in love with it. I loved everything about it. I loved narrating in a small, dark space with no noise or light—nothing but myself and the beautiful words on a page to act out (people like me with a brain injury struggle with sensory overload, so noises and lights are difficult for us). And thus, I embarked on the journey of professional narration. 

2. Wow! That's one heck of a journey. I'm so glad you're okay now and able to do something you clearly love so much. If you hadn’t become an audio book narrator, what would you have done instead? 

I would probably still be in my career working as a mental health therapist for the fire department, but I would have eventually done narration, as it was always an interest. 

3. Awesome. So, what’s your favorite genre of book to narrate?

I LOVE having a bit of romance in anything I narrate--those are my favorite books! My favorite genres are: YA, Teen, romance, sci-fi, Christian, cozy-mystery, paranormal, supernatural, dystopian, etc. I also enjoy narrating non-fiction in addition to fiction. I personally don’t care to narrate anything in the horror genre. 

4. I'm the same way. I have to have romance in the books I read (and write!) How do you choose which projects you want to audition for?

Like many readers, I look at the cover first. Does it catch my eye? Then I look at the genre. Then I read the author blurb. If those 3 are all checked off, then I will read the book. 

5. During the audition process, narrators are given a very short (2-4 pages) excerpt to read, and let’s be honest—authors are going to choose what they feel is the best part of their book. Have you ever auditioned, gotten the job, and then realized that you really disliked the book? If so, how do you handle that? 

I’ve been very blessed and not encountered that. Probably because I always read the book first. (I will go on Amazon and buy an author’s e-book first). I don’t even audition for a book unless I’ve read it and loved it. That being said, there was one book that I narrated, in which the writing style was harder to translate into spoken word than anticipated. Thus, it was not as enjoyable of a process because it took numerous takes to narrate various sentences throughout the book (because I had to perfect how to inflect the words within the sentence structure for it to make sense to the listener/reader). 
6. When you get hired to narrate a book, the author then sends you the full document. Then what happens? Walk us through the process of receiving the book up through submitting the final product. 

Prep: I re-read the book, but this time it’s my actual manuscript prep, in which I’m marking up the book (i.e. making notes along the way of specific special words, pronunciations to research, developing character voices, summary notes of the feeling of a scene, etc.) I will use this information in combination with any notes I’ve received from the author regarding character pronunciations, etc. This process takes a little time because it’s not reading for pleasure, it’s breaking down a book and analyzing it. 

Narrate the book: Every narrator is different in their speed, but I average anywhere from a 1:1.0-3.00 ratio (1.00 for non-fiction, average 1.5-2.00 for the average book and 3.00 for sci-fi or fantasy books with large casts of characters). This means that for very 1 hour of a book it will take me between 1.5 hours up to 3.00 hours to actually record it (this happens for a variety of reasons including doing re-takes of lines and scenes, giving your voice a break, etc.) 

Post-production: After I’m done narrating, I send my audio files to my post-production team where a proofer listens to the entire audiobook and notes any errors I’ve made (e.g. skipped a word, added a word, mispronounced a word). When I receive the proofing report, I go back and do “Pick-ups” (which is when I re-record any errors). Then I send my pick-ups and audio to my audio engineer, who edits the audio (i.e. makes sure sentence and paragraph spacing is correct, etc.) and then masters it (makes sure there are no weird noises, etc. and that the audiobook is listen-ready for retail).  

Send off: Then I receive the audiobook from my post-production and submit it for the author or rights holder (sometimes a publishing house holds the “rights” to an author’s work), for review. 

Wait: Then I wait for the audiobook distributor (e.g. Audible, etc.) to approve the book and release it for sale. 

7. Do you read the book from cover-to-cover before you start narrating to get a feel for the story and characters? Or do you read it for the first time while narrating?

Always read.  

8. As an author, I get asked a lot what book I’ve written that is my favorite, and answering that feels a lot like naming which of your kids you like the best. LOL. So, I’m totally turning this around on you now. What book have you narrated that was your absolute favorite and why? And don’t worry – you won’t hurt my feelings if you don’t pick my book 😉

Agreed! What a tough question, because as a narrator, the book becomes your baby, too. I dream of my characters, and I am sad when I’m done recording. It’s a goodbye, and it’s bittersweet. The closest answer I can give is that my answer is always changing. I feel like one book is my new favorite and then I read another and it becomes my new favorite. I think this is due to the fact that I only pick books to record that I absolutely love. There are a lot of other narrators that aren’t as picky as myself when it comes to what they narrate (which is absolutely fine, to each their own), so this may happen to them more than me (encountering books that they don’t love). 

Some books that have stood out to me are:
  • Eternal Curse: I want this book to become a movie!! I loved it that much! I literally had to stop myself throughout recording because I would be squealing with excitement about a part that just happened or about to happen (don’t worry, no spoilers 😉 )—and I’m not kidding LOL. I’m obsessed with this series. 

  • Branded Covenant: The intensity of the characters draw you into their story with such emotions that I ended up crying while recording numerous times. I LOVED this book and so glad it’s a series I get to continue. 

  • Perfectly Imperfect: My love for this book came from the rawness and vulnerability in it. It’s such a realistic view into life and the love was so pure and real. 

  • Soul Mates Magic: Having to do a French accent, Scottish accent, Irish accent, Greek accent, and a Goblin accent was such fun (and HARD work) that I fell in love with the story even more. 

  • The Source: Experiencing the uniquely creative mind of a sci-fi script was very enjoyable! The storyline left me intrigued as the book ended. 

  • APIDAE:  Doing a book as a dual-narration (recording with a male narrator record every other chapter) was awesome. The collaboration we did on character development was terrific and the storyline was fresh and unique. 

  • Hidden Danger: I deliberately didn’t finish the book because I didn’t want to know who the murderer was. So my reactions in the narration were genuine. It was SUCH a blast! 
9. Okay, final question... What advice would you give to aspiring narrators?

There’s a great video called “So You Want to Be An Audiobook Narrator” Everyone should start here and follow-up with me if you have further questions. It’s so much harder (and way more expensive to get into) than I ever thought, but worth EVERY minute! I love it or I’d not do it.

If you want to stay up to date with Andy, visit her website or follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

Thanks so much, Andy! I hoped y'all learned something helpful about audiobooks, and come back next week when I'll be talking about what happens next on this journey. 

Got questions?

Drop them in the comments!

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