Post-Production : Anyone have experience with Audiobooks? by Heidi Angell

Heidi Angell

Anyone have experience with Audiobooks?

I am a publisher and we are looking to break into audiobooks. we are looking at doing a combination of payment up front and then % of sales . We would like to have multiple readers and already have a wealth of interested parties on the vo end, as well as authors. But I have talked to several sound guys who say that it is impossible to do this from remote locations. I am not technically savvy enough, but it seems to me that if you had a set standard of equipment and settings, then that shouldn't be a problem. Any thoughts? Anyone who would be interested in such an arrangement? What down payment would you consider reasonable? What percentage of sales?

Moses Minter

i think it can be done..message lets talk bout it

Flash Jack Eppington

Well, remote locations has nothing to do with it, but of course sound quality does.. If you have sound files of reasonable quality (good level, no FX, no backgorund noise, etc), you can stitch it all together and compensate for differences to make a coherent whole. As a musician, I work with a digital audio workstation and routinely do this kind of sound editing. I'm interested in helping with that (and I also have a voice talent reel if you are interested). Since I don't do it for a living, I don't even know what the rate would be.

Brian E. Smith

It really depends on what approach you're trying to take. As a publisher, you should be aware of, of course. They are the 800-lb gorilla in the audiobook market. A couple of years ago they started (Audiobook Creation Exchange), which makes it easier to pair up publishers/authors/rights holders with narrators more directly. The end result is that those audiobooks then go up for a sale on Audible, Amazon & iTunes. They also have different payment structures, either hourly rates or a royalty split. But the long and short of it -- Audible's going to take a huge chunk at the start. The royalty share is currently 60/20/20 (hint: neither you as a publisher nor I as the narrator is the 60), but that 60 percent goes down as the audiobook sells more copies. TL;DR, the audiobook needs to sell really, really well in order to make decent money. But you have the access to the biggest audiobook retailer in the world, so there's that. That said, if you're producing and selling this on your own, you can contract with narrators directly anyway and cut out the middleman. Most professional narrators have an in-home recording setup, but you can stay local and work with a recording studio for a higher up-front cost. It depends on how fancy you're looking to get. In my experience, a studio setup works best if you plan on doing it as a full-cast production (multiple actors) or if you want to hire a separate director to guide the performance. And now for the shameless plug... I happen to be an audiobook narrator. I do quite a bit of work via ACX, but I'm open to working with anyone. I have my own recording setup at home. Feel free to check out the work I've done so far at and judge for yourself.

Heidi Angell

Brian, I had considered posting the books on ACX, Amazon's whispernet, and as audio files from the author's websites and our publisher's site. I know that would kind of mess with the royalty rates, using all the different formats, but I have been told that there is a simple formula that can be set up in Excel to track all of that! We would like to have multiple readers, at the very least male and female. Hence the concern about the long-distance recording. Of course, we want the highest possible quality at the lowest possible up-front cost. Soul Star is an indie press. I am doing all of this research for the express purpose of setting up an indie go go campaign to get this ball rolling. I will definitely add you to my VO list. Thanks for the help!

Doug Siebum

message me

James Conlan

Heidi, I have lots of audio-book experience and lots of engineering experience. The sound guys you talked to have obviously never heard of ACX, Audible's online narrator/author service that is producing thousands of audio books using remote narrators. You're right in thinking that a set (high) standard of equipment, software, and room environment will produce professional results. The same must be true for your narrators. The biggest problem you'll face, though, is marketing your titles. People have thousands of choices now, even within niche areas like "Historical Gay Vampire Romance." If you compensate fairly, good narrators will play: At least $200 per finished hour. Forget royalty share: hardly any narrator makes money on this arrangement.

Michael "Cap" Caputo

"Historical Gay Vampire Romance" again??? It's EVERYWHERE! You should have used a truly narrow genre like "Historic Fictional Gay Alien Vampire Abduction North Korean Romance Epics Not featuring Dennis Rodman." Seriously though ACX IS the 800# gorilla and you are well served to read their contract terms, they went to a lot of expense to get it right, your numbers should fall in line because if they do not you have forgotten or added something.

James Conlan

Cap, you made my day. And to continue with the dissection of ACX, authors use ACX because they have little to lose. But, Heidi, if you can somehow better the ACX deal (which just got worse this month, by the way), you may attract disgruntled authors and narrators. I am certainly one of the former: my narration of Moby Dick has had over a thousand downloads, and I've barely made a dollar a copy.

Stephen Ossias

I'm looking into voice acting and have strongly considered audo books as a viable path to other market areas. I'm sure you're not looking to take on newbies but I'm watching to see where your idea goes. Certainly working remotely has a lot of appeal. Investing in equipment is a given no matter what I decide to do. Matching equipment to specific producers' needs could be problematic if not expensive unless you work exclusively with one house. That seems very limiting. Lots of questions and things to consider.

Dan Lenard

HI Heidi, Whoever told you that its not possible is full of baloney. With proper technical direction and casting for proper audio standards, this is is no big deal. I've done over 40 titles, and up front is always preferred along with royalties. How long are the books you're talking about? Audio quality from personal studios is my business. Dan Lenard

Bob Merrill

I agree with Dan. I've engineered one, with a big publisher, and they were very pleased with the result. We looked into recording on their end, but in the end we set it up so they could monitor, and I recorded on my end. I would upload the files at the end of the day, and they would edit them. Things have advanced significantly in the area of audio transmission over the past couple of years. Transmitting high-quality audio over the internet is now within reach of many. The big thing with audio books is streamlining the process with record-keeping during the session, and a disciplined process in post-production. The last day, we did retakes, and the book was done. I also composed the music for the top and tail. Everyone involved should go into it with their eyes open - there are a lot of ways to make it good for some at the expense of others. If everyone's happy, you will have a sustainable business model. Good luck! Bob

Heidi Angell

They are full-length novels 60-80 k words. What would you consider a fair advance for such a project?

Flash Jack Eppington

I agree with Dan and Bob as well. Regarding recording: doing all parts in one studio with one engineer is a "nice to have," it is not a "must have." Without going too techie on you, a basic set of recording instructions (e.g. the word "dry") can be used in all remote recordings, and then in the edit phase any other desired equalization, reverberation or other sound properties can be introduced UNIFORMLY across all it all sounds the same, if that is what you are going for....tada.

Bob Merrill

I have a friend who has done a ton of work for Audiobooks. He asked if I was interested in taking some of his work. When I heard what the pay was for the deliverables, I said no. They pay by the finished hour, and pay less than my target hourly rate for actual work. Anyone who thinks you can edit an hour of spoken word in an hour either doesn't care what it it sounds like or how many editing mistakes there are, or thinks that you don't have to listen to what you are doing. It's one thing to demand efficient work, and let the engineer take some accountability. I pride myself on efficiency. It's another to demand that they subsidize your projects.

Michael "Cap" Caputo

While Flash's comment is technically accurate you need far more than a single syllable word to base your settings on. Consider a sound check for a major musical presentation (any concert makes a good example) may take 2 hours of live vs recorded musical phrases to capture the climaxes of the performances in the same way audience after audience and venue after venue for a well backed pop sensation. ... then again there are night clubs where there is no sound check and sheer wattage is used to control the sound by brute force. I used to say "There are 64 ways to wire that up, there is one way to make it work right."

Dan Lenard

Hiedi, If you can guarantee 3-4k for a finished project, you'll attract some very good narrators. Not Scott Brick or Simon Vance, but a large cadre of very competent, talented narrators. You need an experienced technician who can evaluate each persons personal studio and that persons technical ability, along with of course, their ability to perform the material. 90- 95% of the quality of personal studio audio is dependent on the rooms acoustics, both outside sound rejection and inside room reverberation. A good quality mic, USED PROPERLY with a typical pre-amp/digital interface, will yield professional results. People tend to overthink and over process their audio. There are also some excellent editors who can take raw audio and edit it down for a very reasonable rate.

Lane McGiboney

message me if you are still in need of sound.

Bob Merrill

What Dan said. You can buy a Yeti Pro USB mic from RadioShack for $100 or so. They sound awesome if, as Dan says, they are used properly. A good mic is very good at picking up mouth clicks, which are the bane of the narrator. A few precautions can help avoid this, as well as the notorious popping Ps and such. Best of luck! Bob

Vic Kaspar

Depends on how good you want it. A lot of VO people now have their own studios, some good , some not so good and it's easy to monitor via source connect. Obviously the best result would be going to a professional studio with good acoustics and expensive equipment and an engineer with experience. At the end of the day it usually gets down to budget.

Bob Merrill

I'm a pro, and my room sounds great. I maintain that with a little care, you can get great sound in most any situation. Obviously if your room is made of concrete or if you live next to a train track or a subway line, there could be some challenges, but if you surround yourself with absorptive material and you have a reasonable mic, you can get good sound. You don't need a $5000 mic or a $3000 preamp. You can get decent sound with a portable recorder like a Zoom or even a iPhone with an audio interface like the Alesis. That doesn't mean you will, but you can. At least I can.

Jay Goodman

That's right Bob. I once used a 3" Radio Shack speaker for a mic along with a hair dryer to get a killer jet effect!

Bettye Zoller

HA HA. Very ingenious my friend.

Talece Brown

The Reflexion Filter is great. I use it in an iso booth. No worries.

Stage 32 Staff - Julie

Anyone that's interested - Tara Tyler and Amy Ulrich are GREAT people to network with on this topic :)

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