Sunday, May 19, 2019

The Audiobook

I'm a huge audiobook fan, so I've always wanted to coordinate creating one.

Audiobooks are not yet a She Writes Press thing, but they were kind enough to put on a presentation by Michele Cobb, who does audiobook marketing for Forte Business Consulting, and Audible narrator Tavia Gilbert. I learned a lot from it and later contacted them both directly.

From those contacts, they gave me names of other narrators and I went through their samples on Audible. I came up with a list of four who I wanted to hear more from and contacted them all separately.

I then looked through my book and found a short two page chapter that had five of the main characters talking. While my book does not involve other languages, or different sounding accents, it does have over ten distinct voices, so it in not a beginner narrator book by any standard.

Some basics to keep in mind. 
 - Audiobooks are billed "Per Finished Hour" (PFH).
 - There are 9300 words per hour.
 - Every narrator uses a different PFH rate. $250-$500 more than covers the ranges I was quoted.
 - Most narrators these days have their own studios or producers that they work with.
 - The roles involved are narrator, producer, sound engineer, and QA person, and perhaps more. All of this is covered in the PFH rate.
 - The actual number of hours is rounded up. For example, my book is 100,293 words (give or take). 100,293 / 9300 = 10.78  hours. Which is rounded up to 11 hours.

I contacted my narrators directly through referral email. Your experience may vary. You can also contact audiobook studio instead but I am more comfortable starting with the narrators.

So the narrators all gave me a short audition of the piece that I chose, which is Chapter 13 where Harris is scolding them for not actually successfully obtaining DNA samples.

Now it was time to agonize. There were pros and cons to all of them and each time I played them, I felt differently. I played them for my copy-editor and she picked two that worked well for her and told me to pick from there. After a lot of debate I went with a narrator who wasn't as well-known on Audible (hence not as immediately recognizable), but has immense talents as an actor and is moving more into voiceover work. She's also really easy for me to work with, and handles the range of voices well, and swears she is not considering a career change any time soon (this is a series.)

Talented narrators can handle all the voices in your book. You are not required to cast multiple voiceover artists though you certainly could if you wished to.

Now the talking stage begins as I and the narrator (I'll name her later in the process) hash out what each character sounds like - some of them I have opinions on what they should sound like, others I am leaving up to her. She is off reading the book, and I am coming up with short character sketches of several of the characters for her.

So far, this has been the most enjoyable part of the publishing experience.

A Review

My publicist has sent copies of my book (the ARCs) to reviewers. I already have a Kirkus review because I chose to pay for them to read it and give their opinion. In general, they liked it which is excellent new and the publisher now has a quote then can put on the back of the book just as it goes off to the printer.

I should say the reviewer got a lot of the finer details incorrect, like they're not robotics researchers, but instead nanobot researchers, and my religious group is not really a cult, but, in general, it was fine.

The quote the publisher is going to use is particularly choice: 

    "The plot, which combines technology with religious zealotry, is pleasurably creepy"

Sunday, April 21, 2019

The ARCs are here!

The Advance Reader Copies of my book Pursuits Unknown have arrived. For the first time, I get to hold my book in my hand and open it and read what I wrote. If you've never before experienced it, it's a pretty unique feeling. I know I'll get used to it, but I wish I could hang on to this "wow" feeling.

The publicist has ordered 50 of them that will get sent to reviewers. I haven't heard much further about this and I'm a little afraid to ask about them. I did pay for a Kirkus review and I'm trying not to worry about that either. The idea is that even if the review isn't that great, that there will likely be something in in that they can quote.

In the meantime, I'm supposed to be looking through my copies and see if there are any further corrections (I get one more chance.) I am pretty tired of revising, so I was completely convinced that we don't have any and then I look for a quote and I see a phrase that isn't quite right, and I see a line where the layout could be better. Argh. It never ends.

I need to check with my Advance Readers to see if there are any further publishable quotes they'd like to submit to me. Quotes now would go to the Amazon listing. I don't think I can mess around with the cover now.

Then there is one final PDF to approve that is the one that goes to the printer. You do have to pay attention here as my copy didn't have my most recent change, so that had to get fixed at the end.

Monday, March 11, 2019

ARCs - Advance Reader Copies

My editor tells me my Advance Reader Copies (ARCs) are ready and how many would I like for myself. Having never in my life been asked such a question, I'm back to being Bambi in the car headlights, but the publisher has done all this before, and tells me that most authors only order a few like 5-10 for themselves. Unsure, I order three (and later order three more). They are more expensive than what the book will actually be, because it's a different printing process.

The ARCs are mostly for the publicist to send out to reviewers. They order 50 copies. I haven't written much about the publicity part of this, but will.

For those keep track of publishing costs. I pay for the book printing, both the ARCs and the main runs.

Later the ARCs arrive:
It's a WHOA! moment. What I've written is an actual book. It's a dizzying experience to open a book and see something you have written. I post of photo of the three books to Facebook.

The Back Cover

While the book is being laid out, the back cover gets separately created.

The backcover is the marriage of the description and any blurbs you'd like to see on it.

They sent me the edited description and ask for which blurbs I'd like to see. I send them two and then the have a go at it and send it to me. I whine because they did edit them some, but after some back and forth they convince me, so I ok it.

The Designed Layout

Now the text of my book leaves the land of Microsoft Word and goes to the layout people. It's their job to position the text properly on the page. It's now set up to be put in a book and is a PDF file. Even numbered pages will be laid out differently than the odd numbered one.

At this point our only job is to look for errors that hadn't been fixed before. My copy-editor carefully goes through the whole thing and makes a list of 10 changes. We then made a list (in MS Word) of the priority of the changes 1. 2. 3. in order of importance. They gave us lengthy instructions on how to request changes. We had to specify the paragraph and which sentence. Change "old sentence" to "new sentence."  It's a very careful, exacting process and I'm glad that we didn't have a lot of changes.

Remarkably the turn around was minutes and I have a full PDF copy of the book to be.

Getting "Blurbs"

A "blurb" is a publishable comment from someone who has read all or most of your book.

It's a delicate chicken/egg problem. First off all you have to have completed at least a fairly recent and readable draft of your book. Then you have to find someone willing to read it and make comments that will be published in the book or on Amazon. What's really awkward about the whole process is that the person with the most recognizable name wins. These people will be in your Advance Reader group, but they get special status from you. You have to get the book to them in a format they are comfortable with and then you have to regularly ask them about it, without nagging them. People who have done this dance before are by far the best subjects as they get it. Be super nice to these people. You need them.

Advance Readers also called Beta Readers or even Alpha Readers and those brave souls who have agreed to read your book ahead of time to tell you if it's even a workable story.

Getting the book to them in the best of cases merely means emailing them a PDF that they can then load onto their Kindle or Tablet. If your Advance Reader needs a physical copy they you get the unfortunate job of having a book created at the copy shop. Remember college and all those heavy pamphlet books that you had to read? That's exactly it.

Blurbs will be at the bottom of your back cover, or can be on the inside depending on the publisher.