By Heather Day Gilbert
Independent author (indie) circles are abuzz with the advice that audiobooks are a great way to supplement your income. I wouldn't have taken this advice seriously (I assumed I couldn't afford to have one made), but a fellow author explained to me about the royalty payment option she had used. With the royalty option, you don't pay your audiobook narrator up front. However, you agree to split your audiobook royalties with the narrator, which gives you both around 20% for each audiobook sold.
I followed her advice and went online to check out ACX, which is the recording end of Audible.com's audiobooks. Lo and behold, I could choose to request a sample reading from any number of narrators, even narrowing it down to gender, accent, and voice type (gravelly, soothing, perky, etc).
Since my novel, God's Daughter is a Viking historical written from a female first-person point of view, I immediately looked for Norse-speaking younger females. Each narrator lists whether he/she is available for royalty or for the pay-per-hour option. You can submit a few pages of your novel and request that narrators contact you with a short sample recording.
I couldn't find a Norse-speaking native female, but I did find a Dutch one. I also found a girl in CA who wanted to try a Norse accent. After they submitted their demos, I was able to ask them to tweak the way they said things, trying to determine if we could work together on the book. The girl in CA was interested in the book and wanted to narrate it, but her accent occasionally veered toward Scottish. The Dutch speaker had a very authentic accent, but when I played the sample for family and friends, they couldn't understand all the words. And here's something I realized: if the words are obscured by your narrator's voice/accent, your audiobook will not do your book justice.
At just the right time, God opened a door I hadn't expected. My critique partner, Becky Doughty, had recently segued into narrating audiobooks. I knew she had a beautiful voice—one that had that hint of the exotic and yet projected a soothing calmness, matching my main character's personality. Before Becky sent me her sample, she made me promise to say no if it didn't work for any reason.
Yet one day while I was washing dishes, it was like I felt God say, "She's the one." Before I even got Becky's audio sample, I knew this would be a fit. Sure enough, it was perfect.
I can't tell you how it felt to hear that first chapter of my book read aloud. I've talked to other authors who have had the same surreal experience, where you're sitting there thinking, "I wrote THIS?" It truly boggles the mind to hear your own words read aloud, very much like your own characters are talking to you.
Becky and I went back and forth. She would narrate a few chapters, I would listen and make any corrections, send back to her for a re-do, then listen again and correct or give the okay. For an 80,000-word book, that can be time-consuming, particularly for the narrator, who puts in hours for every finished hour you hear. Our finished audiobook is nine hours and 28 minutes long.
Yet, at the end of this process, Becky and I both have something we are proud of. Something that can reach readers who might not be able to see to read. Something that might reach those who prefer audiobooks to print/e-book versions.
You can read more about our process here. Becky has since gone on to narrate many audiobooks with her BraveHeart Audiobooks company, and each one is unique.
Bottom line...audiobooks are rewarding, and a source of supplemental income for the author. While I am still searching for the best ways to market my audiobook, it has already reached readers who might not have picked the book up without hearing it first.
You can find God's Daughter on audio here and listen to a sample. Another sample is available on Soundcloud here.
If you're an author and wonder about the audiobook option for your novel, it is far easier than you might think to develop one. And it's far more rewarding than I could have imagined.
I'm offering one free God's Daughter audiobook code to a random commenter here on Southern Writers Magazine, Suite T. Please leave your email below with your comment to be entered for the drawing. I will choose a winner next week and email you directly with the code--it's easy to download the audiobook from Audible.com.
HEATHER DAY GILBERT enjoys writing stories about authentic, believable marriages. Seventeen years of marriage to her sweet Yankee husband have given her some perspective, as well as eleven years spent homeschooling. Heather regularly posts on Novel Rocket about self-publishing. You can find Heather at her website, Heather Day Gilbert--Author, and at her Facebook Author Page, as well as Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, and Goodreads. Her Viking novel, God's Daughter, is an Amazon bestseller. You can find it on Amazon and Audible.com. Her Appalachian mystery, Miranda Warning, is available on Kindle, Nook, and Kobo.