by Rita Plush
How we love to hear stories. The human voice, its richness and intonations takes us into make believe worlds.
And I love that my book, Lily Steps Out, has stepped off the monitor screen and printed page into the listening world as an audio book. After all the work of writing (5 years) and getting Lily into print (tack on another 7), it was pure pleasure to hear my story told through my characters. And because I think my fellow Indie Authors will benefit from my experience, I’m spreading the word—or words as we writers are inclined to spread.
I learned about ACX—Audiobook Creation Exchange—owned by Amazon (isn’t everything?) from a fellow author who said the procedure of getting a print or eBook into a listening format was “pretty much painless” and she was right. This this is the gist of how I did it:
First, I checked my publishing contract to see if I owned my book’s audio rights and the cover (yes and yes). If you don’t own the cover to your book ACX will help you put one together.
Thinking that the sales of the audio might in some way effect my publisher’s royalties on print and eBook venues, I ran the idea by them. Their only concern was that Amazon might “bundle” the print or eBook version at a discounted price with the audio, thus reducing their royalty—Amazon does what it wants with its pricing regardless of the publisher or author’s viewpoint (it’s good to be the king). A call to ACX assured me that if there was “bundling” it would be the audio that would be reduced, not the print or eBook version.
That bit of business out of the way I forged ahead and decided on the first of the three royalty options ACX offers. In a nutshell here they are:
1. Royalty Share—royalty payments are shared among ACX, the author, and the narrator (referred to as Rights Holder and Producer by ACX) with ACX getting 50 per cent of the royalty and the author and narrator each getting 25 percent. This plan is at zero cost to the author.
2. Pay for Production Exclusive Distribution—the author pays the narrator a one-time fee (this fee can be negotiated) and splits the royalty with ACX who is the exclusive distributor of the audio.
3. Pay for Production Non-Exclusive Distribution is the same as far as “author pays the narrator” goes, but the author can distribute to resources other than ACX which reduces the author’s royalty.
ACX handles all distribution of royalties and pays the narrator when she has earned $50 or more each month.
Next up on my to-do list was to create a personal profile, a blurb about Lily and provide a sample passage of the book. A click of a button put me in touch with narrators on the ACX website and I invited a handful to audition. The invites, auditions, and all correspondence between author and narrator are done through ACX’s website, with an 800 number if you have questions (I had many questions).
I also had a particular voice criteria for Lily Steps Out. A kind of New-Yorkish female voice, but I also wanted a narrator who could do male; there are men in the story who have a lot to say. Did I mention funny? There’s lots of humor in Lily and I wanted a voice artist who could put that over. So female, male, New York and funny.
Three narrators auditioned a fifteen minute, contract-specified, segment.
The first narrator lacked Lily’s spirit and liveliness, so she was out. The next was an improvement, but not quite right, so I emailed my reservations, suggested changes and waited for the revision (the seven year contract provides for two revisions of the fifteen minute segment). There was barely a difference between the first and second takes, and I decided she wasn’t for me. The third narrator nailed all the voices and patterns of speech but I felt that her emphasis was off in certain passages. My email to her explained the specifics, commented on her general performance and the recording quality (that’s the author’s responsibility) which according to the contract, can still be done after the entire recording has been presented.
Sheri Puggot, the narrator I chose, had other professional commitments to satisfy before she could start on Lily, and technical glitches and communication delays between her and ACX once she did start, making the audio production take a bit longer than the ACX website specified (three to four months turned into six months). Not a big deal, as far as I was concerned. We were in a partnership, she and I, both wanting the best reading of Lily.
From sign-on to breakout date, putting Lily Steps Out on audio was a learning experience, one in which I not only mastered a process unfamiliar to me (it’s not difficult, but it is involved and it does take time) but I was able to place Lily Steps Out on a new promotional track and put another notch in my marketing belt.
The audio version of Lily Steps Out was released on September 16th and as of October 8th it sold four copies.
Rita Plush lives and writes in Queens, New York. Rita is an interior designer, writer, lecturer and teacher of the decorative arts. Her writing practice includes fiction and non-fiction, and her stories and essays have been published in many literary journals including The Alaska Quarterly Review, The Iconoclast, The MacGuffin and Passenger. She is the author of Lily Steps Out, and most recently, the short story collection, Alterations. You may learn more about Rita on her Amazon.com Author Page and on her website.