Unfortunate Stars: The Making of an Audiobook

Just a few weeks ago, I self-published an audiobook of my kindle novella, Unfortunate Stars. I have been asked once or twice how I went about it, so I thought I’d walk through the process in case it is of use to anyone.

I created an account with Findaway Voices as recommended by The Creative Penn blog. I did not want to go with ACX as the process of finding and auditioning narrators seemed messy and I did not want to be tied to Audible and its weird and controversial returns system. That said, a lot of people do use it and it’s very handy when Whispersyncing on the Amazon kindle. I was very aware of discrepancies between the text and the narration and sought to make them as similar as possible because of this.

(I have made the Kindle edition free all this week in the hope of steering people towards the audiobook, btw.)

Setup

On the Findaway Voices panel, I created my project and uploaded an ePub file (a PDF suits as well, any format the actor can read basically!) At that point there is an option for you to upload your own narration. There was no way in holy hell I was going to try that, plus Unfortunate Stars needs a male narrator – it’s quite possibly the blokiest book I have ever written! There is only one line of dialogue by a female character in the entire book. So it was time to find a narrator. I filled in the questionnaire provided and waited.

Narrator

This was where Findaway Voices appeared to lose my application down the back of a figurative radiator and I had to prompt them. Shortly after that, they presented me with a list of narrators. I was listening out for dialogue and pitch variation. Given the existence of an m/m relationship and the overwhelmingly male cast, I needed a narrator who could embody that in his repertoire. Versatility with accents was also important. I listened several times to each person on the list, but Greg Patmore stood out for me as someone who could voice the characters in a distinguishable way and do this emotional, evocative story the justice it deserved. He was the sole actor I auditioned. Findaway requires you paste a 500 word excerpt of your work and send it on. The moment I heard the audition Greg sent back, I knew my search was complete and moved on to the next stage of the project, where the contract is set up between you, the actor and Findaway. This all went smoothly.

Production

In early January, Greg started recording his narration. This is done in sections organised by Findaway – front matter, each chapter, back matter and retail clip (that is the extract heard when you click on the sample, though Apple just tends to start from chapter 1 in any case) Communication between author/publisher and narrator is done via adding comments to each section. Through feedback, some small changes were made to the text and to the narration. I had to say the standard was high and listening back was pure pleasure. Because of this, and because it’s relatively short, this was all done very quickly. I should note here that in order to get the updated manuscript uploaded, I needed to contact Findaway support, who were very helpful. It’s not possible to do it yourself as far as I can see.

Publication

Once this is all done, it’s time to hit the “publish” button and set your publication date. Also now is the time to select distribution options. I selected Findaway Voices Plus which allows you to have a load of giveaway codes you can use to drive audience towards your book. I gave the first copy to Greg and claimed the second. The rest are being used for review and giveaway purposes.

Distribution and selling

Findaway has its own platform called Authors Direct which you need to set up yourself on the day your audiobook is published. To do this, go to the Marketing – Authors Direct option and click on Manage Storefront. You accrue more royalties if you sell through this platform and this is where the giveaway codes are redeemed. Other platforms take a little while to ingest the content – in the Marketing section there is also a heading called Retailer Links where you can view which outlets have the audiobook available. It takes a good while for this list to fill up. I learned that google play is cheaper than audible (unless you’re using Whispersync) and doesn’t need a subscription!

Finally, the bill

Findaway will have already requested your credit card details when you set up your account, and once you have signed off on the contract, the money is deducted. I won’t lie; it isn’t cheap. The actor rates on the casting list will give you an idea. That’s why I haven’t done one for Lucia’s War yet! But as a massive gift to myself and to listeners in the midst of a pandemic, it is worth it.

So – that’s it. Hope that helps anyone planning on doing similar! Click below if you fancy having a listen to the results!

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