I've been flirting with the idea of recording Until Death as an audiobook and, somewhere along this process, discovered Milton Bagby who is not only an author and actor but a recorder of audiobooks. Milton took the time to talk to me about making an audiobook and I thought his response deserved a larger audience so, with his kind permission, I'm posting it here. :)
Hello, Karen --Thanks Milton! I like knowing what's available for the independent author. I think that releasing an audobook version of a book could be a great way to get new readers.
Thanks for asking about how one converts a novel to an audiobook. I personally do not have any audio equipment. I am an old radio and voiceover hand who has done about a jillion commercials and other narration work over the years, but I am not a techie. I am also something of an actor and am a graduate of the Hormel School of Drama. This helps when doing audiobooks.
I am fortunate to live in Nashville, where every other resident has a state-of-the-art recording studio in his basement and is personal friends with Tim McGraw, or wishes they were. I do all my work with a friend who has just such a studio. When we get an assignment, we split the proceeds down the middle.
My friend Bryan Talbot at Talbot Sound is a veteran of twenty years of audio production, so our work goes fairly smoothly, We average about one hour of finished audiobook for every two hours in the studio. In other words, it takes about twenty hours to produce an audiobook that is ten hours long. If you work alone, it takes much longer, because you have to record, then edit your own work. If you are new to editing, it takes even longer.
We have recently started doing projects for Amazon's Audible division on the ACX site. They pay us, at a minimum, $100 per finished hour to do audiobooks. No matter how long it takes us, we get the same fee per completed hour, so it is to our benefit to finish quickly. A 10 hour book pays $1,000, and so forth. As a rule of thumb, 10,000 words translates into an hour of material, so a 60,000 word book might be roughly 6 hours long. For a job like that, we charge $600, but we often make more with big authors and big publishers. We also have a select list of guys who don't sound like me and some topnotch female narrators who can do books in need of a woman's point of view. The work we produce is at the highest technical standard for the industry (my talents aside). Anyone interested in our work can hear samples by searching "Bagby" at Audible.com under the "Narrators" search option.
I have blogged about the process of audiobooks at my blog, and I'm always happy to answer questions.
If you are adventurous and have an appetite for great labor, you can record your own book. Some people have been very successful at it. The most notable do-it-yourselfer is Nathan Lowell, who is a sci-fi writer whose books, including "Quarter Share" have all been done as podcasts sent out for free. This has netted Nathan a huge following and helped sell a ton of his books.
To record your own books, you need a decent microphone, a quiet room (no traffic noises, airplanes overhead, railroad trains outside, dogs barking, etc.), a computer with some decent storage space, and an interface like a Digidesign M-box. Here's a kit that has mostly everything you need. The M-box includes the software that lets you edit your recordings. If you are technically inclined, you will find this to be a fun challenge. If you are not, you will liken it to the Bataan Death March.
Do you have any friends who are musicians or who have a recording set-up? You might see if they will go along with you, if you plan to be the voice of your own book. Otherwise, you might post your book to the Amazon/Audible ACX site as a "share" project, in which you offer 50% of all the revenue if someone will do your book for free. Your audiobook will be offered on Audible, with the Kindle and CreateSpace versions cross-marketed on Amazon. Might be worth investigating.
Hope this explains some of the things involved. If you have more questions, please send them along. Best of luck.
Here are some links:
- Milton's Blog
- Milton's Book, Before I Sleep
- Milton's Email
- Milton's Facebook