Audiobook Adventures Ch 5: It Is Finished! Well, Sort of…

Thanks, before I finish up this series, for sticking with these posts. I sincerely hope they’ve been helpful to those considering going audiobook DIY, and perhaps amusing to those who aren’t. This is a brave new niche in publishing, not without its frustrations but certainly with potential to do all the things indie authors should want: widening the platform, making new connections, and above all just learning (sometimes in the school of hard knocks but learning all the same).

Here we go then. You’ve recorded every word of the tale entire, it’s been edited, produced and saved over to mp3 in separate chapters. Now you take the steps needed to post your book to Findaway Voices and start on the (long) (and winding) road to fame.

Why Findaway?

I decided to undertake this project because Findaway is acting as an aggregator and distributor for audiobooks in a similar fashion to the way Smashwords distributes your e-books. Submit once to them, pass their technical checks, and they will handle distribution to more than two dozen outlets for audiobooks. Different payment models, different places, technical requirements, all that they take off your plate and return the royalty to you after subtracting their fee. So it’s the classic choice- if you do the work of placing your audiobook yourself, you would make a higher cut of the total without this middleman. But that means you wrestle with their submission procedures, arrange payment from each seller, etc. on your own. THAT’s the real DIY I suppose. Findaway promises a simpler (though not entirely simple) path to widespread distribution.

And libraries. That’s the part you might overlook. If you aren’t already a mid-way famous author maybe with your own publishing house to back you, I don’t know of any way you could get into the major library catalogs.  When readers borrow your book, the library kicks back a kind of rental fee (for my first book, it’s around 35 cents US). That’s been the majority of my sales “hits” so far and I expect it to continue. So something to think about.

But you don’t have to!

So. Many. Files.

I kind of lied when I said you were done recording. As you post your project to Findaway you’re going to need some fairly short additional files. The minimum list is:

  • Title
  • Introduction
  • Sample
  • Tag

I’ll spell out each one for you. I recorded or edited this set of files in about forty minutes all told, so it’s not a huge deal but it is mandatory.

Title-

Simply “This is NAME OF MY BOOK, written by MY NAME and narrated by ALSO MY NAME”. Boom, done. I said “Chronicled by Will Hahn and narrated by himself!” like it was a surprise. Honestly, it still is…

Introduction-

This need be nothing more than the blurb, the dust-cover description of What On Earth Is Happening In This Book. I read that material, and also the dedication if I have one. This is the longest file usually.

Don’t forget to produce these files (Normalize, Compress, etc.) just like the chapters!

 

 

Sample-

Select a brief passage from your chapters (cannot be less than one minute, and the upper limit is around four minutes) to illustrate just how cool a thing the listener is getting into. In three of the four books I simply chose the first 1-2 minutes of the book, but for the finale I went straight into the middle chapter, with what I thought was a good open:

“I stood in the alleyway over the unconscious body of the Devout Teretheny, and thought about the problems that come with leaving bad people alive…”

Not that anyone is likely to be making a purchase decision about BOOK FOUR! But it’s mandatory, so… do it. You can just Save As on the chapter you’ve chosen and cut out the parts you’re not using- but remember to leave some space before and after the section!

Tag-

This file is the one where I can offer the least structural advice. Findaway lists the kind of things you could put into such a file (Bibliography? Really?). I mention that the book fits into the legendarium of my world, point out where they can get other Tales of Hope, and give out the website info with a promo for my sign-up list, Compendium and so forth.

Record each of these files, produce them and get them ready to post. 

 

Now I’ll walk you through the posting process and I’ll try to keep it simple.

Setting Up a Project

If you had your e-book version on Smashwords, you can click a button over there to bring you directly to Findaway Voices and some of your meta-data will already be posted. Cute as a button, but I’m going to assume you come to this site for the first time. Use the home page to set up your account the usual way and then you’ll be brought to a page like this:

In the upper right click the Create New Audiobook button. The next few bits are pretty automatic:

  • Enter the title of your book and click on I Want to Narrate My Own Audiobook. Because you do! Then click Create Project

    See, kinda square
  • On the Projects Metadata page, I can’t tell you everything you need to do but your options are pretty straightforward. The Title Description is essentially the blurb. Upload the cover art (whoop! Remember that one? Your e-book thumbnail is not the right proportion and will be rejected). Pull the ISBNs you have from previous publications (you can leave the audiobook ISBNs empty and Findaway will provide one). Setting the price is a world in itself but they have a link with their advice. I’ve gone lowball deliberately to try and encourage sales. Hit Save!
  • The Distribution page is important but your choice can be simple. I picked everyone. Maybe someday if I see I’m getting ripped off or something I might pull back, but right now what’s the point? So many business models, but I’m going to see where Findaway Voices takes me and how that works out for a while before trying to nuance this. Bear in mind that the Bigs (Audible and Apple for sure) have more stringent technical requirements, so you could find your book gets into some retailers but not others. More on those particular joys below.
  • Now for the file uploads!

Getting the Files Up There- to Stay!

The next page in the Findaway project folio is where you Add Audio Files. The easiest way to do this, in my view, is to open a folder with the mp3 files you want to send, and then click-drag them to the proper boxes.

Opening Credits is what I called the Title file.

Front Matter is the Introduction.

Body Matter is the place to put the chapter files. I simply number them “Book Title Ch1” etc. You can highlight the whole batch and drop them in at once. Then wait.

Yeah, could be awhile…

But what do you care? The big thing, the CRUCIAL thing, is to CHECK THE ORDER when all the files are uploaded.  I have done this four times now, and each time the chapter files were not the way I wanted. Make absolutely sure the chapters appear top-to-bottom on this page in the order you have them in the tale! As the warning says, if you leave them out of order here, that is the way the reader will hear them. In a word, Ack. Click on Chapter 1 and drag it to the top of this section, and so forth until all is well.

Back Matter is an optional slot and I don’t use it.

Closing Credits is what I called the Tag. So, like, put the Tag file there…

Retail Sample is the final drag-and-drop you need. If you try to submit a sample less than one minute long- I mean, two seconds short of one minute- the system will reject it.

After that, you will have arrived. At…

That bright red button, just leering at you like the eye of a demon who knows the answer to the riddle of life. Daring you. Double-dog daring you, to click on it.

Click on it.

Next? Argh, Life Goes On

In a horrible anticlimax you are brought now to a final review page, where the system politely points out there are a couple things you forgot to fill in back on the meta-data page. You fill them in. THEN you are encouraged to “take one last look”, and you do. At the bottom of this page is the button entitled Submit for Publishing. You’re not going to be fooled again so you click this without hesitation. Or much.

Now you deal with Findaway Voices for real.

The Staff is Just Like You! (Competent, Friendly, Over-worked)

I only saw two people on that ship.

The page tells you it will be 7 days before they get back to you about whether your files passed the technical checks.

  • My first two books did not pass on the first try.
  • My third one has been there for more than a week. That has always happened.

You have to be patient. I have never had an unpleasant email from them but there might not be that many people staffing this place…

Rejection- Hey, You Wouldn’t Want to Change That!

It could be your initial efforts are rejected, or have a “technical problem” that will amount to much the same thing. Save your original work, of course.  Consult their technical guide, and I hope these blog posts have proven useful to you as well. I don’t want anyone else to go through needless delay in getting the next audio-masterpiece before the public. Including me. But audiobook publishing, one might say, is a kind of publishing.  Findaway never really says “no”- as a distributor they WANT your tale out there. So deep breath, read the issue again, and fix it.

Next year I intend to post at least one or two more times to report on post-publication matters, how to get reviews, experience with different platforms etc. Take a look in the catalogs for all the Shards of Light series and let me know if you make an odd sighting- like on a pirate site, for instance…

I would be very interested to hear of your experiences, either creating or listening to audiobooks. Especially at this time of year, I wish all the best to everyone within the sound of these words, which is especially strange when you consider what the subject of these posts has been. Together we move forward, and I hope it’s “laughing all the way”.

 

State of the Lands: Poetry in Epic Tales (Seriously, What Up with That?)

Thou art wise to consider such a synthesis, Solemn. There are many worlds, but only a single nature.

-Final Judgement, The Eye of Kog

I have a question. Or perhaps it’s a rant. And maybe no one cares, though I’m far too egotistical to go for that. But it’s a Two-World Tuesday (OK in all honesty, a world and a half, you’ll see what I mean). But here’s the thing:

Over and over in classics of epic fantasy which I adore, I hit a patch where there’s this poem. And I love-love the story, but the poem just stops me cold.

And I’m wondering- why on earth is that in there?

Keep the Tale Moving

As a modern-day epic fantasy author, I’m challenged to construct a story that somehow brings the reader into an entirely new world, slips in all the information they need to understand that world and empathize with the characters, and keep them on track with a

Illus. Rachel McReynolds

ripping good plot that forces them to turn the page. If there’s no magic, monsters, other races, incredible geography, unthinkably-evil villains and mind-numbingly old prophecies coming true… then why not write a paranormal-thriller-shapeshifting-romance set in the Alleged Real World? Like everyone else!

{<— Shapeshifter with romance, I got. Alleged Real World? Not so much!}

Point being– why are you stopping your draft for anything, for any reason, much less for something so overt, decorative, distracting and pace-slaying as a POEM. Yet that’s what our forefathers, the giants of the genre, did all the time. ALL the FRICKIN’ TIME!!

  • C.S. Lewis broke into poetry frequently, most annoyingly to my taste in Till We Have Faces, and just at the climax before we figure out what’s going on.
  • Not to be outdone, Tolkien put tons of songs into LoTR, both at times when things were already going slowly (Tom Bombadil singing about how much he loves his wife), and also at times of great pathos (the Elves of Lothlorien singing their grief at the death of Gandalf). But the former case, when we don’t need to care, is in plain English doggerel complete with heigh-ho’s and hey-nonny’s. In the latter, when we really could get some emotional impact from the words… then, Tolkien puts the poem into ACTUAL-FACTUAL ELVISH! Because of course he made up languages from like six years old, and they hadn’t built the signs to warn fantasy authors about world-building yet. I mean, honestly, Elvish? And it goes on for two pages!
  • Just this past month I finally got around to reading George MacDonald’s Lilith, which was a head-bender in its own right let me assure you. I staggered on through a tar-pit of allegory for about the first third, and finally caught the thread of his plot, hanging on for dear life and enjoying it fairly well. But I’m not kidding, hanging on.
    • Suddenly there’s a real situation: an evil-looking feline creature has run through the MC’s library and is hiding in a dark corner.
    • And this is kind of supernatural and he’s not sure what to do but his mentor the Librarian says “I got this”. And proceeds to recite a poem. No, not kidding. A rhyming poem, full of Christian allegory (which is fine, but now?) and all the assurance that the Guy Above is going to win (which is fine, but ditto).
    • And every three or four stanzas the cat in the dark corner yowls in pain, and I’m wondering is it because the goodness in the verse is hurting it, or are the metered rhymes just driving it nuts like they are me? And it goes on for at least four pages! Verse-Verse-Verse-cat yowls, lather-rinse-repeat.
    • The cat gives up hiding and comes out, and the plot labors back into gear again. And I’m still hanging on. But dude, why?

I got tired of just asking myself why about this, and decided to have a think. And here’s what I think.

They Kind of Had To

I’m not posing as a scholar of the historiography of literature here. I’ve read some stuff, looked back in my reading list, and thought about it a while. And I came up with some thoughts, maybe they’re even excuses. Nothing I say about these giants in the least bit diminishes their stature.

Poems Are What They Started With!

If you think about it, the roots of epic fantasy are epic tales, told by our ancestors and describing a world they sincerely believed had existed. Iliad, Odyssey, Aeneid, Beowulf (you KNOW how JRRT went gaga over that one). All poems! Even the lays of Roland and Arthur were in verse: it was quite literally the stuff of which the genre was born. I hadn’t ever really considered that. The notion of telling a TALE with an epic fantasy flavor was far less than a century old by the time these guys got started.

A Whole New World

Here’s one I bet you might not have thought about: how many years went by with people writing extraordinary stuff– new discoveries, monsters, supernatural occurrences– but all still set in the Alleged Real World! Almost everything we think of as classic horror and sci-fi, it all stayed “here”. And why not, creating a whole world is so laborious. But the epics of the past, despite having gods and miracles and creatures beyond the pale, were nevertheless all still part of this world, and their authors believed it had all happened in their distant past.

Breaking away from that, to create something entirely new, did not come easy. Thus was born the emphasis on world-building. Though in fact, you ALWAYS have to build a world for your reader, even in lit-fic. But now it’s a game where ANYTHING could be on the chopping block of change– taxes, nuclear families, gravity– better explain it soon or the reader’s going to assume the default setting.

And I guess these guys figured that the best way to enforce the notion of a world’s character, its believability if you will, was for it to have poetry. Yeah, me either.

Put Your Name on It

Sort of related to the previous theme, some of the earliest efforts in fantasy were portrayed as frame-tales, or via “primary sources”, etc. in an effort to cloud the issue of authorship. How better to make a tale seem real than to point elsewhere for authority? This doesn’t do much to explain the existence of poems in the tale, but it does create a kind of buffer between the writer and any critique of their work. Hey reader, this verse is just there, don’t blame me! Then too, of course media wasn’t so rampant and easily available, the competition for a free hour not as desperate. Stories could take their time, perhaps, for a poem or two along the way.

Hey- They WANTED To

For all these reasons (and also just because, I suspect), the fantasy giants were drawn to the notion of writing poems into their stories. I can’t judge from quality– I mean, at all, I have no idea– but I think in many cases they were being true to their roots, in others perhaps they were truly trying to add verisimilitude to the tales and make them more believable by the lights of their day, and then too, in the case of the Christian authors, they may essentially have been trying to write hymns. Since the allegory put them in that vein to start with, they were looking at joy and worship and giving us their version of the Psalms. The ones I recall have meter, and could be set to music.

Thither Go I?

Can anyone name an extended passage of verse or lyrics within an epic fantasy tale of the last couple decades? I’m not the widest-read fellow and most of my page-flips are in the past, but I can’t pull up a single example. So, I should definitely avoid this trap in the future, right? I mean, I do have the usual ancient prophecy at the start of Judgement’s Tale, and a soldiers’ marching song in The Ring and the Flag. But when the bard Salinj’r refers to the cryptic tomb-epitaph they find in the Shimmering Mindsea, during The Plane of Dreams— you know, the epic rhyming verse poem that could serve as the basis of two or three plot seeds– I should bring those out in prose, I’m sure. Forget the rhymes and meter I found in there. And the Song of the Silvertongue, which I’ve only taken down maybe a quarter of: I should leave that alone in the mists of history, no point in bringing the other eight to twelve verses out in poem. Everybody already knows who won the Battle of the Razor.

Sure, that’s what I ought to do. I get it. Then I start to think about what makes a world seem real, and I come back again and again to the notion that the characters feel joy, have a capacity for happiness. Those kind of people, damn it, they recite tales, say stuff that rhymes, they sing songs. Just has to be part of the story, is all. I mean, I didn’t set out to write poems, I just… found them along the way.

What’s your opinion? Have you ever run across a poem in a tale that really boosted you along? Or are you one of those old-fashioned holdovers that isn’t looking to turn the pages at record speed? Comment here, you could be saving me from myself!