When they say an author is "accessible," that usually means he's stupid enough to give out his contact information to anyone who would possibly want it. Like me. firstname.lastname@example.org. It's on my website, in my books, usually in the byline of freelance stuff I write, and probably even scrawled in some of New York's finer cocktail bar bathrooms. This means, I get a LOT of unsolicited emails.
Most of it is from nice, normal people who wants to offer a compliment, or a comment, or just shoot the shit. The shat is usually shot and I've even become friends with some of these people. Other emails are from crazy people. Those have their own special charm. But the email topic I get written to about most--aside from, "Honey, why don't you call your mother more often?"--is why I don't have an audiobook.
NOW I DO.
I never realized people listened to so many books. I suppose that makes sense considering my own little three-year experiment called "Trying to Sell Books You Have to Actually Read" has determined: no one really reads any more. Personally, I'd never listened to a single audiobook in my life, but if people wanted a "How to Fail" audiobook--and if that's what they were waiting for before they would finally "read" my book--I would give them one.
I obviously wanted to self-publish it, but that still brought forth two conundrums:
1. I'm a fine enough actor to narrate the book, but had no time nor energy to spend hours upon hours actually doing the recording.
2. Professional recordings can be expensive/at-home recordings amateur hour. I have a four-year-old macbook that constantly gives me the spinning rainbow of death and I live above the constant dynamite explosions of Second Avenue Subway construction. There was no I could record it at home. No way I was going to shell out an expected $2000-$5000 for professional recording time.
So I emailed Audible and asked them what the heck I should do.
And they pointed me toward ACX--one of the poorest promoted websites in the universe, but one of the most indispensable websites for authors.
[The rest of this post is going to read as if ACX paid me to promote them, but I swear they didn't. I simply had such a wonderful experience with the company that I want to reign down infinite hosannas on them...as well as let other authors know about this incredible (and incredibly poorly-promoted) website.]
ACX is essentially the Kindle Direct Publishing for audiobooks. It's even owned by Amazon, which makes it weird it's so poorly promoted. Oh well.
The steps in going from written book to audiobook are a breezy seven-fold:
1. Accept auditions
I uploaded the first chapter of "How to Fail" in late October just to see what would happen. My hopes were low, but within hours I was getting numerous auditions sent me. Human-beings across the world were actually recording Chapter One of my book, hoping I would select them to record the entire thing.
I got several dozen of these auditions within the first 48 hours. 100% of the auditions were "professional." Impressively so. Many didn't fit the bill whatsoever for the voice I had in mind. They were too gruff or too "old" or didn't quite hit the right cadences and notes of comedy for "How to Fail." A few men did really nail their auditions, though, and within days I picked one: Kevin Killavey.
2. Hire a guy
Kevin (and his sound engineer girlfriend) already had an impressive audiobook resume including a Phillip K. Dick work and "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (which hit #1), so I knew I was getting some true pros.
Per ACX's contract, I could choose to either pay Kevin an hourly rate (usually in the $200/hour range), or simply give him 50% of future profits. Wanting to make him an invested partner--and not wanting to spend any of my own money--I chose the latter. This would also mean I gave all sales rights exclusively to Amazon, ACX, Audible, and iTunes for the next 7 years. That seemed fine to me considering there's really no other place to buy audiobooks nowadays (famous last words).
Before I fully hired Kevin, he had to submit the first fifteen minutes of the book to me in a timely fashion. He did, the recording was excellent, and we proceeded from there.
3. Hang out for a long time while said guy does all the work
I started this process in mid-November, and honestly wanted the audiobook to be ready for Christmas sales. Unfortunately, flawlessly recording and producing nine hours of material can take a damn long time. Fortunately, the author (me!) doesn't have to do anything during this process. I suppose you can crack an e-whip every so often, but Kevin's a busy guy (shooting zombie movies) and I wanted a quality audiobook produced more than I needed one quickly produced.
4. Listen to recording and offer edits
Sometime around early January, Kevin submitted to me his nine-ish hour cut of the entire book. Now was my turn to go to work. I carefully listened to the entire recording in whole, an open copy of "How to Fail" in front of me at all times. Truth be told, I was BLOWN AWAY at Kevin's comedy chops. All the comedic cadences, satire, and subtle ironic humor he NAILED. Just like it sounded in my head when I wrote the book. Even better, he was remarkable at shifting voice between characters (he could seriously pull off some Lennay Kekua shit if he wanted to). Though I assumed I would have done a fine job narrating my own book, I could have never done what he did. He truly made it come alive.
Throughout the entire nine hour recording, I only found 19 errors (mostly minor stuff, and much better than the number of errors in the paperback!). I submitted my error list back to Kevin, and then went back to sipping pina coladas on the beach.
5. Hang out for a shorter time
Within a few weeks, he re-submitted the recording to me. I checked to see if and how he had fixed all 19 errors--he had, nicely--and then I...
6. Approve book
Approved the book. Which involves clicking one button if I recall. Very simple. I also had to upload a cover JPEG. The rest of the meta-data of "How to Fail" was already re-appropriated from the book's Amazon profile.
Total hours personally invested: ~12 hours (9 of them listening to the audiobook)
Total dollars personally invested: $0
7. Sell book
Two weeks or so later, "How to Fail" the audiobook appeared on AUDIBLE.
A few days later, it appeared on both AMAZON and iTUNES.
And now, I ask that you please buy it. It's truly the best audiobook I have ever heard. If you hate reading, you'll love listening.
Listen to a free sample.