How to Work With Your Narrator

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Once you’ve chosen your audiobook narrator, you may feel as though your side of the work is done. After all, you’ve done your part and now the narrator has to do his, right? While you won’t have to sit beside your narrator as he spends over a dozen hours reading, correcting, and mixing, it’s in your best interest to make your audiobook a collaborative process.

You only get to listen to a several-minute audition and a 15-minute sample if you go through the normal Audible channels. That leaves a lot up to chance on the creative side of things. Additionally, you’ll want to start figuring out the marketing aspects of your project, which is a 50/50 joint venture if you’ve done the royalty share deal. If you make both sides of the process collaborative, then you’ll end up with a better product that sells more copies.

Here are six action steps you should take once your narrator begins work on your audiobook:

1. Schedule a Call

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You’ve already gotten to know your narrator, but now it’s time to figure out how you can best work together. In the early stages of the process, your narrator may need some creative input from you. Certain words and pronunciations, as well as character accents, may post some trouble. Ask when you should make yourself available to help and the best way you can respond to questions.

You’ll also want to get a feel for your narrator’s plan of action and schedule. Determine when you’ll need to lend a hand to keep him or her on schedule. If your narrator needs you to listen to the first 15 minutes of the book within 24 hours of its completion, this call is the time to figure that out. You’ll also want to schedule a dedicated marketing chat somewhere down the line.

2. Ask For Character Samples

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Most fiction books have over a dozen characters, which means your narrator needs to come up with over a dozen unique voices. If you trust your narrator implicitly, you can let him take a crack at it alone, but you can also help out by listening to a sample of each character prior to the first 15 minutes milestone.

Start by asking the narrator if he would be willing to let you listen to his take on the main characters. If he agrees, you can send him a description of each character. Include notes on any vocal quirks like a regional accent. Then compile a very short scene from the book to showcase the character. For time’s sake, it helps to pick short scenes with multiple characters.

When the narrator returns the series of recordings, listen to them a couple of times over before passing judgment. It’s unlikely that characters will sound exactly the way you’ve heard them in your head. That’s okay. They won’t necessarily be identical to your vision. Let the narrator have some artistic freedom and only step in when something is blatantly wrong. Give a few notes if necessary and ask for a re-do on any characters that were way off. Once you’re pleased with all the main characters, give your narrator the go-ahead to start recording the first 15 minutes of the book.

3. Plan Out Your Marketing

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As we’ve mentioned before, narrators who agree to the Royalty Share deal split any sales your book makes going forward. This gives the narrator a vested interest in spreading the word. Schedule a chat to talk about nothing but marketing early in the production stage. During the meeting, set down certain responsibilities each of you should have in relation to promotion.

For example, one of you could reach out to audiobook reviewers on the day of the release, while the other one can contact podcasts to find some appropriate joint interviews. Brainstorm to come up with cost- and time-effective promotional methods. Divvy up the responsibilities and hold each other accountable for due dates.

4. Listen to the First 15 Minutes

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After your narrator posts the first 15 minutes of your book to ACX, the project cannot go forward until you give it the go-ahead. This is your chance to listen intently and find the words or character names that aren’t quite right. Submit changes to your narrator and quickly listen to any submitted corrections.

Once you’ve approved the first 15 minutes, you can actually listen to any chapters your narrator posts to the project. Ask him if he’d rather make corrections on the fly or do them all at the end. Regardless of his decision, it’s a good idea for you to listen and take notes as chapters are posted. If you do so, you’ll have all your notes ready when the narrator needs them, as opposed to whenever you get a chance to listen.

5. Completion and Approval

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Once the book is complete, you’ll want to listen all the way through to identify any issues. You may also want to get a friend or colleague to listen to identify issues you couldn’t. Remember at this point in the process that even $1,000 an hour professional audiobooks aren’t perfect. You can expect someone to work completely on sales commissions to fix 75 points at which a word was about 10 percent too breathy. Don’t expect perfection. As long as it’s free of egregious errors and you’re happy with the performance, you should avoid being an overbearing author.

After you approve the book, it can take Audible between 48 hours and a couple of weeks to make it available for sale.

6. Sell Your Books Together

When your book is up and available, it’s time to fulfill the obligations you set out during your marketing meeting. Encourage each other to push harder and farther with your promotional efforts since a win for one of you is a win for all parties involved. The more you do to push the book, the better your chances will be for launching a successful project.

The Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship

If all six stages of the process go well, you’ll be able to forge an author-narrator relationship that can last for multiple books. As your audiobook presence continues to grow, so will your narrator’s. By building a dual following, you’ll ensure that more readers will find you and listen to the subsequent books in the series. Be a great partner, and you may find yourselves successfully working together on multiple additional projects.

Auditioning a Narrator for your ACX Audiobook

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When you’re producing an audiobook project using ACX’s Royalty Share program, auditioning a narrator is a two-way street. Not only are you trying to find a narrator who’s a perfect fit for your book. The narrator is also judging your book to determine if it’s a worthy endeavor. You need to keep both sides of the audition in mind when you post your project.

Your project needs to be very appealing because you want to audition as many talented narrators as possible. The larger pool of individuals you have to choose from, the better your chances that you’ll pick a winner. Here is the seven-step process to audition a narrator for your project:

1. Make Your Pitch

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While there are many basic pieces of information you need to fill in when you post your project, the description section is where you’ll make your pitch. Narrators want to know how well your book has sold in other formats, why the story will be enjoyable to tell in audio format, and how you plan to market the audio version. The more specific you are, the better.

Narrators have a limited amount of time to audition for projects. Your listing needs to sound better than the other guy’s. Read several audiobook project pages on ACX and try to borrow the best parts of each to make your pitch even more appealing.

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2. Create a Script

The script is a part of your book that you’ll use to audition the narrators. You’ll hear samples of the script you choose as audio files when your narrators audition. These audio snippets will help you decide the best person for the job, so you better choose your script wisely.

Pick short segments from a couple of scenes that let your narrator work on multiple characters from your book. Since your script should be no more than a couple of pages, it’s okay to cherry-pick a few lines here and there. You need to see what kind of range your potential narrator has without including so many scenes that he or she doesn’t even want to audition. You’re walking a tightrope here, but always err on the side of a shorter script that will take the narrator less time to work on.

3. Apply for the Stipend

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Your book will get a lot more auditions if you get the ACX stipend. When narrators know they’ll get a guaranteed $100 an hour even if the book tanks, there’s less risk and more reward. Apply for the stipend by submitting a pitch through the ACX support email. The pitch will be similar to the one you posted on your project. Make sure to go into a lot of detail about your marketing plans. ACX wants to know you’re serious about your book, because they don’t want to give the stipend to just any project. ACX is a business, and your book needs to be a good investment. If you’re approved for the stipend, the project will show an icon in the top corner to entice more narrators.

4. Listen to Your Auditions

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Even without the stipend, you’re bound to get a few auditions if your project sounds appealing enough. As they come rolling in, start listening and take some notes. What do you like or dislike about each candidate? What kind of reviews have their previous books received? Have they produced enough books to gain ACX approved narrator status?

Continue note taking as you wait a week or so for auditions to come in. If you find a winner right away, it’s still a good idea to wait for more candidates just to weigh your options. When you’ve got a clear winner, you can skip the next step. If you remain on the fence, you’ve got one more option.

5. Hunt for Additional Narrators

ACX has plenty of narrators to choose from, and most of them likely won’t see your listing unless you tell them about it. If you aren’t happy with your selection pool, then you can begin hunting for other narrators and listen to samples. This can be a time consuming process, but you’ll widen your net considerably.

If you find the perfect voice, then you can invite the narrator to audition for your project. There are no guarantees this person will be available, so it’s a good idea to have a couple of backups in mind as well.

6. Reach Out to Your #1 Choice

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Before you offer the project to your top choice, it’s a good idea to reach out to your potential narrator. Using ACX’s message system, obtain the person’s email and phone number and set up a meeting. The reason for doing this is simple. Just because a person has the perfect voice doesn’t mean you’ll work well together.

The meeting is like a second job interview. You’ll want to ask questions about the narrator’s process and what they’ll typically do to market their books. If it seems like the person knows what he’s doing, you can go ahead and make the offer. If you have clashing personalities or something about the narrator rubs you the wrong way, you can always reconsider your choice.

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7. Make Your Offer

With your top candidate firmly locked down, there’s only one thing left to do: make the official offer. If you’ve discussed dates and schedules, you can include those dates as part of the offer. Keep in mind that projects with the stipend must be completed in 60 days, so make sure your narrator is prepared to accept the offer when you make it. You can delay the offer as long as you need to.

The Double Audition

Narrators don’t owe you a thing. The ACX Royalty Share audition process is very 50/50 in that both parties are auditioning for each other. Be on your best behavior. Never ask for too much too fast. Don’t just look for a narrator. Seek out a partner who will help your project to succeed creatively and financially for the both of you.

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