Audiobooks

The Unglamorous Ordeal of Recording Your Own Audiobook

29 March 2017
Comments Off on The Unglamorous Ordeal of Recording Your Own Audiobook

From Literary Hub:

It was around noon of my third grueling day recording the audiobook of my first novel, The Gargoyle Hunters, when my innermost self cried out to be heard. I mean this literally. The disembodied voice of my director burst into my headset to inform me that my disgruntled, empty stomach was grumbling loudly enough to be picked up by the hypersensitive microphone; my solo performance had inadvertently become a duet. To muffle these protests from within, I finished the chapter with a pillow pressed against my belly.

Truth be told, my cantankerous abdomen spoke for the rest of me, too. For the marathon task of recording my own audiobook over four long days proved far more demanding than I had expected.

Getting the gig was deceptively simple. Following the audiobook producer’s instructions, I sat at my desk at home and read the five-page prologue into my iPhone’s voice recorder. Written in the first person from the perspective of a middle-aged man recalling his childhood, the scene is a dreamlike account of a four-year-old boy being carried at daybreak by his father across the majestic ruins of New York’s old Penn Station, the felled granite columns strewn like giant pick-up sticks across the marshy junkyard of New Jersey’s Meadowlands.

Those 13 minutes were all the producer had asked for. But to be sure she was in a position to evaluate my ability to read dialogue, I also recorded a comic sequence in which a 13-year-old smart-aleck meets a self-importantly pious boy at a party, lures him into a Socratic verbal trap, and then obliterates him with a torrent of absurdist, Pythonesque ridicule.

It was my concern about having a stranger narrate these humor-infused episodes—the high-spirited buffoonery of precocious teenage innocents pinballing into each and the world—that led me to audition in the first place. I have a good deal of respect for professional audiobook narrators, and I had little doubt that any number of them would have done a fine job reading my descriptive prose. But I had, in my mind’s ear, a very specific way I wanted the boys’ dialogue to sound, and I wasn’t entirely comfortable handing that task over to an unknown voice actor who might not share my sense of humor.

A few days after I sent in my audition clips, the producer emailed to say the gig was mine if I wanted it: “You have a great recording voice,” she allowed. “Your performance would add a personal touch to the recording that only you as the author can provide with your voice.”

That was the last moment things were easy.

. . . .

My director, a put-together woman with short, lemony hair and an air of brisk competence, greeted me in a gloomily darkened recording room. Her sound engineer, a nearly silent young woman with a Sphinx-like affect, gave me a nod. Then, after a brief orientation from the director, the engineer shut me in a little sound booth for the long haul.

The cell-like booth, the small square window in its door the only visual connection with the outside world, was about the size of a European train commode. It contained a utilitarian chair and a Formica table with a slanted reading surface. A little frayed-edged carpet remnant rested on this surface, and an iPad loaded with the final text of The Gargoyle Hunters sat atop the carpet remnant.

I sailed into the task of recording my tale. I enjoyed it. Friends had predicted it would be strange hearing my written words spoken aloud, but it was anything but; I always read my prose aloud as I write.

. . . .

I started out strong, charging through the prologue and the rollicking first couple of chapters at a good clip. But before the promise of lunch was even a glimmer on the horizon, a certain weariness set in, and it dawned on me: You’ve barely made it out of the starting blocks here. This is going to be an exhausting, long-distance slog during which, paradoxically, it is essential that you sound alert and energetic the entire time. The book was 334 pages, and if we were to complete the reading in four days—the time normally allotted for an actual professional audiobook narrator—a fairly cracking pace would be required. Author or no, there was no glamour here. I was to read and keep reading, and then read some more.

I’ve always admired actors and radio broadcasters, but not until the middle of the first afternoon did I begin to appreciate what an almost athletic performance was required to keep one’s mouth and vocal chords in shape for the duration. No wonder real actors spend years doing voice training and all those weird tongue exercises.

Before long, my throat grew ragged, a condition that worsened over time. And at the end of the third day, a Thursday, the director told me to take Friday and the weekend off so my voice could recover. “I don’t want to hurt you,” she said.

Link to the rest at Literary Hub

Share

How this Texas woman changed the lives of the blind and impaired with creation of audiobook studio

28 March 2017
Comments Off on How this Texas woman changed the lives of the blind and impaired with creation of audiobook studio

From The Houston Chronicle:

Carolyn Randall is enthralled by words. She’s been so as long as her 90-year-old memory can recall.

Decades before she’d create the Texas State Library’s audiobook recording studio, a project that has helped thousands of blind and impaired people, Randall was a bookworm growing up in Champaign, Illinois. She read historical fiction and scripts by Fyodor Dostoevsky.

“I was a slow reader,” said Randall, now a Houston resident. “I paid attention to each word.”

. . . .

Shortly after, Randall heard that the University of Houston needed help to record audiobooks. She began volunteering weekly.

In the late 1960s, Robert Levy founded what was then Taping for the Blind, a Houston audiobook and radio program now called Sight into Sound. The news made its way to Randall, who, upon hearing it, remembered an uncle who had once said he needed audiobooks while recovering from cataract surgery. She had an idea.

“I thought, ‘I can do this in an even better way than at the University of Houston,'” Randall said. “That’s how I really got started.”

She stayed with the program for about 10 years before moving with Howard to Austin.

Living in the capitol meant an opportunity to volunteer at the state library.

Randall couldn’t pass it up. She began with small tasks, “filing whatever they needed,” she said. But she quickly cultivated relationships. She also noticed there was no state-sponsored studio to record audiobooks. The library’s Talking Book Program had for decades used an audiobooks archive provided by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. But no state resource existed for audiobooks and authors specific to Texas.

Randall lobbied for funding to outfit a room with recording booths. Volunteers were recruited, and the studio was born in 1978, with Randall as its director.

. . . .

Almost 40 years later, more than 5,000 titles (books, magazines, etc.) have been recorded at the studio, which in total has a collection of more than 10,000 titles in multiple languages. The studio has about 100 volunteers, and it services roughly 18,000 blind and impaired people statewide. It also offers some books in braille.

Link to the rest at The Houston Chronicle

Of course, PG was reminded of 17 U.S. Code § 121, which provides, in part:

Notwithstanding the provisions of section 106, it is not an infringement of copyright for an authorized entity to reproduce or to distribute copies or phonorecords of a previously published, nondramatic literary work if such copies or phonorecords are reproduced or distributed in specialized formats exclusively for use by blind or other persons with disabilities.

. . . .

“authorized entity” means a nonprofit organization or a governmental agency that has a primary mission to provide specialized services relating to training, education, or adaptive reading or information access needs of blind or other persons with disabilities;

Share

With Audiobooks Hot, Publishers Should Look to Bundle Them With E-Books

21 March 2017

From Publishers Weekly:

I grew up in a rural area with not much to offer an imaginative kid who’d much rather live in London—and, though my parents were very educated, the town I lived in couldn’t support a bookstore. Fortunately, our house was close to the public library, where I basically lived until I was 15, at which point they hired me as a page after school and on weekends.

Holding a new and different book in my room or at the base of the willow tree where I liked to read in summer was a nearly sacred feeling for me. Books were views into worlds I wanted to partake in—worlds where people spoke other languages, had other ways of living, and didn’t have to put up with boys stealing their calculators before chem class and dismantling them. Decades later, I moved from physical books to e-books, which I adopted enthusiastically to cut down on the sheer mass of books in my apartment and avoid lugging around the heavy sagas I love to lose myself in while traveling.

Recently, though, I’ve been part of the return-to-print trend demonstrated by the 3.3% rise of print unit sales in 2016, reported earlier this year by NPD BookScan. The feeling of holding the book, which mattered so much to me as a kid, was just too powerful to let go. I also need to curl up before bed with a long, immersive story—and screen glare tends to affect my sleep thereafter. The soft yellowish invitation of a page, as opposed to the harsh blue glare of a screen, seems more welcoming and soothing.

But I’ve just started a new consulting gig that has me commuting from Staten Island to Manhattan. And I’m not as young as I was—I don’t want to throw my back out carrying Bleak House around, and I’d alike to be able to adjust print size.

. . . .

 Since the inception of the Kindle, publishers have agonized over e-book pricing. When e-book prices from the major publishers reverted back to the agency model, Amazon retaliated by heavily discounting the paperback versions. Thanks to the first-sale doctrine, which applies to physical products, Amazon has the right to set any price it likes on titles it’s purchased from publishers. By positioning print books as a sort of loss leader—the very way they positioned e-books to gain adoption in 2007—Amazon made it more likely that consumers choose physical over digital books.

. . . .

 What the consumer seems to want, in terms of bundling, is an e-book–audio package.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Share

Reading Books Is on the Decline But Audiobooks Are Rising

20 February 2017

From Psychology Today:

A recent New York Times article reported that:

“Sales of adult books fell by 10.3 percent in the first three months of 2016, and children’s books dropped by 2.1 percent. E-book sales fell by 21.8 percent, and hardcover sales were down 8.5 percent. The strongest categories were digital audiobooks, which rose by 35.3 percent.”

The Times proffered several explanations including the lack of a “hit” book that draws readers to purchase that and other books and a decline in leisure reading (in one study the National Endowment of the Arts found that in 2015 only 43% of American adults had read a work of literature for pleasure in the previous year).

I think that the explanation is simpler. When you read a hardback, paperback or e-book it is very difficult to multitask and the research shows that we all – and I mean all – love to try to do more than one thing at a time. When you listen to a book your hands are free to type or tap and your mind is free to wander. No page turning required!

. . . .

Students, adults, office workers and other studied groups appear to be able to maintain attention and focus for 3-5 minutes at a time before being distracted.

Link to the rest at Psychology Today and thanks to Dave for the tip.

Share

Amazon and Apple end exclusive deal on audio books

21 January 2017

From The BBC:

Apple and Amazon have ended a deal that tied them into an exclusive contract for the supply and sale of audio books.

The deal was signed before 2008 when Amazon bought audio book supplier Audible, which had the Apple iBooks contract.

Pressure from anti-trust regulators in Germany and the European Commission led to the deal being abandoned.

. . . .

The terms of the agreement meant Audible could not offer audio books to any other company and Apple had to take audio books only from Audible.

The investigation into the Apple-Amazon arrangement over audio books was started by the German Federal Cartel Office in late 2015. It responded to complaints from German publishers who said the two tech giants were abusing their market dominance.

In Germany, said the publishers, more than 90% of all downloads of audio books were done via the Apple iTunes store or through the Amazon and Audible websites.

With the deal abandoned, Audible will now be able to supply firms other than Apple with audio books. In addition, Apple can now get audio books from other sources and sign up other publishers who can push their titles through its iTunes and iBooks outlets.

Link to the rest at BBC and thanks to Jan for the tip.

Share

The First Truly Blockbuster Audiobook?

17 January 2017

From The Literary Hub:

If you’re excited for the February release of George Saunders’s very first novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, let me just pile onto that excitement a little bit for you. Recently, TIME reported the insane cast of the audiobook version of the novel, which features some 166 characters. Accordingly, the audiobook will feature a large number of very notable persons: actors (Nick Offerman! Bradley Whitford! Julianne Moore! Jeffrey Tambor!), musicians (Carrie Brownstein! Jeff Tweedy!), and even writers (David Sedaris! Miranda July! Mary Karr! Saunders himself!). If the talent at hand here is any indication, it’s going to be incredible, and this is a particularly good thing, because this novel deserves it—and not only that, but it could have been easy to get wrong as an audiobook.

That is, it’s the unique format of the novel itself that makes this kind of out-of-the-box audiobook necessary. The story, which centers on the death of Willie Lincoln and his experience in the afterlife, watching his father’s visits to his grave, is told in a cacophony of voices, some presented as excerpts from actual texts (many of these texts are invented), and others as voices of the ghosts hanging around the graveyard, in general denial about their dead-ness (these, I feel safe saying, are all invented).

Link to the rest at The Literary Hub

Share

Golden Headsets: Audiobooks’ Growth Is Music to Publishers’ Ears

4 December 2016

From Publishing Perspectives:

[Michele] Cobb will tell the [Futurebook] assembly on Friday that the APA estimates that in 2015, audiobook sales totaled more than $1.77 billion (£1.42 billion) in the States—and that’s up 20.7 percent over the association’s 2014 figure. Unit sales, the association’s figures indicate, were up 24.1 percent in 2015.

In the UK, The Bookseller reports in its FutureBook conference material that audiobooks are the fastest growing segment of the digital content market for trade publishers, with the overall audio digital download market “said to be worth close to £100 million (US$125 million) per year.”

And according to Nicholas Jones of London producer Strathmore Publishing, downloaded audio sales in the UK were up 29 percent in 2015 over 2014. He writes that releases of audiobook editions of titles “is almost always simultaneous with the publication of the printed book, which means that the audiobook benefits from publicity at the time of print publication, but it also reduces the time available for audio production.”

In the States, the APA’s member-publishers who report their figures have seen 20-percent or better increases in audiobook sales for two years, 2014 and 2015, making it the kind of sector in publishing that many publishers, weary of the hobbled progress of recent ebook markets, understandably welcome.

In the perception of the organization, the recent magic behind audiobooks, of course, is digital downloads and streaming. “Sales of digital downloads continue to rise,” the organization’s press materials say, “showing an increase of more than 34 percent in both dollars and units sold from the previous year.”

Audiobooks aren’t new, after all, but no longer are tied to cassette tapes or CDs.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

Share

Stars of the spoken word: Meet the audiobook narrators who are quietly saving book publishing

10 October 2016

From Salon:

Even in these cynical, ruthlessly pragmatic days, where art has become “content” and many have lost faith in the ability of literature to illuminate our lives, there remains one dogged subculture that believes deeply in the power of the aesthetic. To them, the arts still have something holy about them.

These idealists are audiobook narrators. Many of them are former and working stage actors who talk earnestly about the importance of their characters, their own commitment to the written word and the power of storytelling.

At the very least, the boom in audiobooks — sales of which increased by 35.3 percent in the first quarter of the year, a period during which sales of hardback books slumped and e-books fell precipitously — shows a rare bit of good news for the publishing world. “It’s definitely the fastest growing part of the publishing industry these days,” Annie Coreno, reviews editor for Publishers Weekly, told Salon.

In 2011, she says, about 7,000 audiobooks were released; by 2015, releases numbered around 35,000, as publishers put out recordings of new books as well as audiobooks from their back catalogs. The dominant company, the Amazon-owned Audible Studios, now offers 250,000 pieces of audio literature. Members of its subscription service listen to an average of more than 17 books per year, and membership has increased 40 percent annually. Much of the surge of audiobooks is made possible by the streaming technology and ubiquity of smart phones.

The expansion is expected to continue for years to come. And while recordings of literature have been around since the 19th century, the audiobook boom is much more recent. “It’s like being part of the space program in the ’60s,” Luke Daniels, a Michigan-based reader who specializes in science fiction, fantasy and thrillers, told Salon.

. . . .

[T]he majority of audiobooks are narrated by people few outside the field have heard of. Within this world, readers like Jim Dale, a British actor who voices more than 100 characters in his recording of the Harry Potter novels, and Robin Miles, a former “Law and Order” actress who recently recorded Jacqueline Woodson’s novel “Another Brooklyn,” are revered.

These audiobook narrators are the character actors of the literary world: They are often prolific people whose work you know even if you don’t know their names. But in other ways, they’re the opposite of actors like Luis Guzman or Abe Vigoda: Instead of tending toward one distinctive kind of sidekick or secondary role, they need to be deeply versatile. For some, this is a plus. “As an actor, you get typed,” says Daniels. “I’m a tall white guy in my 30s. Here I get to play the characters I never would [onstage]. The most joy I get is to play an 8-year-old girl having a conversation with an old man — I love that.”

Narrator Fred Berman refers to himself and his peers as the “blue-collar” or “working-class” actors. By night he appears on Broadway as Timon the meerkat in “The Lion King”; by day he narrates books like Lincoln Peirce’s series featuring ornery sixth grader Big Nate, or Leigh Bardugo’s YA bestseller “Crooked Kingdom.”

Link to the rest at Salon and thanks to Dave for the tip.

Share

Audible Channels for Prime

13 September 2016

From the Amazon Media Room:

Amazon and Audible today announced a new premium spoken-word benefit for Prime members in the U.S. Members now enjoy unlimited free access to the new short-form digital audio service, Audible Channels, as well as a rotating selection of more than 50 audiobooks from Audible’s catalog.

. . . .

Prime members can access Audible Channels for Prime by downloading the Audible app for iOS, Android, and Windows 10. To learn more about Audible Channels for Prime, please visit www.amazon.com/audiblechannels.

. . . .

Introduced this year, Audible Channels features a consistently refreshed, thoughtfully organized selection of original programs, distinctive comedy, lectures, and audio editions of standout articles and news from The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Harvard Business Review, Foreign Affairs,Charlie Rose, McSweeney’s, The Onion, and other leading periodicals. Audible Channels also showcases 20 hand-selected Audible Playlists, from essential stories of the day, meditation and commute-sized comedy to compilations on science, history, technology and more. Now free for Prime members, Audible Channels is otherwise available to purchase for $4.95 a month or the equivalent of $59.40 per year.

The lineup of ad-free programming includes:

  • Presidents are People Too!, a series that transforms U.S. Presidents into real-life people complete with quirks, flaws, triumphs, scandals and bodily ailments, hosted by former “The Daily Show” head writer Elliott Kalan and American historian Alexis Coe
  • Bedtime Stories for Cynics, inappropriate children’s stories for adults only, presented by Nick Offerman of “Parks and Recreation” fame
  • Hold On with Eugene Mirman, in which Mirman pauses funny live stories and gets his special comedian guests, including Jim Gaffigan and “Weird Al” Yankovic to divulge new details
  • Limelight, highlighting the best new standup performances from comedy clubs across the country, with rotating guest hosts such as T. J. Miller, Ron Funches and the Sklar Brothers
  • Lectures from The Great Courses

Link to the rest at Amazon Media Room

PG says this is a great marketing tool to sell full-length audiobooks.

Share

Authors, Can You Afford to Produce an Audiobook?

30 August 2016

From Digital Book World:

One of the first questions that indie authors and small- to mid-size publishers ask me about audiobook production is, “How much does it cost?”

My answer is always, “It depends.”

Producing an audiobook is like building a house: your choices dictate your final cost. Each recording is custom-made rather than mass-produced. When people contact me about narrating and producing their audiobook for them, I always want to educate them about the time and skills necessary for a polished production. However, most people want me to simply cut to the chase and give them a firm number.

Before I can even give a ballpark estimate on a custom quote, though, I point out, “You can have the finished audiobook fast, good, or cheap. Pick any two.”

Since no dollar figure can apply to all circumstances, the more useful questions for authors might be:

1. How much do I need to pay up front?
2. What are the long-term costs?
3. If I pay up front, how long will it take to recoup my investment?

While other production sites and models are available, I’ll use Audible’s Audiobook Creation Exchange for this discussion, since it’s practically the only way for an author to produce an audiobook with a professional narrator and have no up-front costs. ACX also is a completely free service to both authors and narrators. Finally, in my research, I have not found a company that will pay a higher royalty rate than the 40 percent offered by Audible.

. . . .

The general rule of thumb is that at least 6.2 hours of time are required to produce that one finished hour. The 6.2 hours covers the recording, editing, proofing and mastering needed to create the retail-ready product.

An audiobook that runs 10 hours, therefore, generally would require at least 62 hours to complete—and possibly many more, depending on its complexity.

Given the number of people involved and the studio rental costs, you’ll often see traditional production quotes of $5,000 or more, depending on the length of the book.

On ACX, the narrator is also the producer who is responsible for all phases of production. Most narrators on ACX have created a home recording studio and do not charge a separate fee for its use. The narrator may do her own editing, proofing and mastering, or hire someone to do those tasks.

. . . .

If you want to pay nothing up front, you could post your book on ACX under a royalty share (RS) contract. Many authors think of this type of production as “free,” but it’s really a deferred payment in which the costs of production are repaid to the narrator over time through the royalties paid by Audible. Choosing this option means:

  • You must choose exclusive distribution with Audible, which includes Amazon and iTunes in its reach. You won’t be able to sell your audiobook on any other website—including your own—you won’t be able to sell it on CD, and it won’t be available to libraries.
  • You will split the royalties paid by Audible 50-50 with the narrator for the seven-year distribution period. Under the current terms, each of you would earn 20 percent of the royalties paid in that timeframe.

The author earns royalties from all editions of her work, but the RS narrator only gets paid when the audiobook sells. Therefore, the RS narrator is taking ALL of the risk for low or no sales of the audiobook.

She also has to consider her up-front costs: she must pay her editor and proofer at the time service is rendered. Since a narrator could easily stay in the red for quite a long time on an RS project, most experienced narrators are reluctant or may even refuse to consider an RS contract.

Alternately, you could decide to pay the production costs up front by hiring a narrator on a PFH contract, which is a buy-out option that lets the author retain all royalties. This choice is especially attractive when your ebook routinely sells 1,000 or more copies a month.

Experienced narrators charge between $200 and $400 per finished hour. For instance, at $200 PFH, a narrator would send a $2,000 invoice for complete production of a 10-hour audiobook.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

Share
Next Page »
Share