Category Archives: audiobook adventure

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”.

 

Audiobook Adventures Ch 4: Prep to Post!

Or did you think finding your own voice was just a metaphor?

We’re deep into this mad adventure now and I hope you’re enjoying it half as much as I am. As of this writing, my first book is “fully distributed” by Findaways and the second is awaiting approval. Having tripped over my own shoelaces with The Ring and the Flag I do feel my chances with Fencing Reputation are pretty good. But the time factor! Approval takes FOREVER, and that’s something I have to consider more carefully in future. Maybe just like with e-books and paper, having a stockpile before you release would be advisable. But for now, I soldier on with the first quarter or so of Book 3 Perilous Embraces, and it is proving to have its own challenges.

This installment assumes you have reached your second “done” line. The first came when you finished recording every word of narration. The second phase was going through that, cutting out bad spots, choosing the best takes, and even adding sound FX.

So now you have a smooth, complete chapter. No narration is missing, and all the added sounds, ambiance, environment and other things you wanted to hear in there, are there now. Great.

Get ready to produce this sucker.

Prepping the Track for Publication

I’m speaking in all this to the use of the recording utility Audacity specifically for the Findaways distribution service. To briefly recap– you can upload files to Findaways once and if they pass inspection, they will handle distribution to nearly 30 different audio-book outlets for you. Set a price once, and Findaways will handle the splits (including their own of course) sending you the rest.

But the files have to be ready-ready, I mean really ready. Here’s how.

Normalize and Compressor

These are two standard effects you find in the Audacity Effect menu, and you need to apply them both and in that order. I am no engineer but I can tell you that the impact of using these on your track will be to boost the sound level up generally (but guard against over-amping the level so that it doesn’t make a screech) and to some extent it smooths over the background white noise that’s there.

Click on Effect-Normalize, and take a look at this menu:

Make sure the top two boxes are checked (which helps keep the sound in a decent level) and set the dB box to -3.0. You don’t have to highlight any part of your file, it will automatically apply it to the entire thing (and this could take a half-minute or so). Done. You should see that the narration line has ballooned up to fill the width of the track– this is normal, and it may sound a bit louder overall as well (but like I said, it won’t be too loud). If you have places where your character shouted or screamed, you might click to those quickly and see if they still work OK for you.

Compression is just about the same routine. Click Effect-Compressor and gander at this enormous vista (DON’T PANIC!):

There are probably eighteen cool things you could do to make the sound a tweak better on this screen. Play with it by all means. But I recommend you make sure the top slider, Threshold, is set to read -23 dBSet the Noise Floor slider to -60 dB. The first box at the bottom was checked and I left it that way. But if your compression is not set to a range between -23 and -60 then your files will be rejected by Audible, the toughest of the online distributors as far as I can tell (and it takes them weeks to figure this out over at Findaways). So. Do this.

Once again it applies to the entire chapter and takes a half-minute or so to complete. The wavy lines get even fatter, most of the time, looking like they will burst out of their tracks soon. Which in a way is absolutely true– and the world has never heard anything like this! Indulge yourself in a hearty laugh of victory at this point.

Then save the file, you fool.

Now one last step.

Listen to It Again

I know I already told you to do that before, several times. This is THE last time you have to do it (the rest are all optional, if you’re like me and can’t stand not to check again and again). But do yourself this favor, especially if you have added FX: I’m not 100% sure why but on a fairly frequent basis the sound levels get off-kilter when you Normalize and Compress. Here’s what I do:

Go to the start of the file and click on the space BETWEEN the tracks, just like the rows and columns in Excel or in a Word document table. You can click and drag each track UP so that it’s a quarter of its original size. Don’t worry, the sounds aren’t getting hurt. This way, you drag up all the tracks and you can SEE THEM ALL AT ONCE. Pretty bright, you get me? Now click Ctrl + 3 to Zoom out and voila! You have a wide view of your entire file, maybe a half-hour at a time. Click right to where your FX are coming in on the lower tracks and listen to a few seconds each time. Sometimes the FX you download and use are in stereo, or have a more professional quality to them– those tend to “bounce up” in volume and become too loud, even after you used Amplify earlier to shush them. Now you just have to shush them again, that’s all. Depending how many FX you have, it might be you don’t have to change anything, but it shouldn’t take more than a few minutes.

Got it? All Normalized, Compressed and re-Leveled? Deep breath. And hit Save again.

Time to make the finished file.

Creating the MP3

Man, this is it! The final step to create a finished chapter that’s suitable for upload to Findaways, and from there all over the listening universe. Feeling proud? You should be!

From the Audacity menu with your finished file open, click File-Export. A menu pops up that looks a lot like a Save-As menu in MS Word. You will do several things on this page and they’re all important. The LAST thing you will do is click on the “Save” button over to the right. The last.

First- click into the File Name menu and give your raw file a clear name. How about “Title-of-My-Book_year-Ch1”? Anything like that should do, just remember in some distributors the file name could be visible. Also if you send out copies as ARC for review.

Second, click in “Save as Type” below that to choose “MP3 files”. Because Duh.

STILL NOT CLICKING SAVE. Click on the bottom right button “Options”:

Try Bit Rate Mode: Constant, and be sure to drop-down the Quality menu to select 192 kbps. The default setting is 144 and that is not good enough for Audible, it will result in rejection. Select Channel Mode: Stereo, and then click OK.

Congrats. You saved yourself 3-5 weeks again!

Back at the main Export menu, you may NOW click Save. This takes you to the Edit Metadata menu where I advise you to fill in some of the rows for yourself, or at least blank out what’s there.

Edit Metadata gives you plenty of fields to enter info:

Artist Name: Yours, the Author/Narrator (Will Hahn, in my case)

Track Title: Title of the Book (“Perilous Embraces”)

Album Title: Here’s where I put the series name and book number (“Shards of Light, Book 3”)

Track Number: I use the chapter number here (1, 2, 3 etc.)

Year: This one!

Genre: Click into the box and see a drop-down menu, mostly different music types. You could choose “Podcast”, but I just typed in “Fantasy A-Book”

Comments: I wish I had thought of it earlier, but this would be a good spot to credit places like Findaways (in general)  or other help you had making this file. Or you could put in the dedication to your book.

Whatever you choose, look at this menu if only to remove some things that might have crept in there. If for example you grabbed a sound off Findaways that was recorded by a pro, they might have done this metadata thing and you’ll see that your entire chapter already has an artist and a name!

OK, so fill in this menu… hurry up, already, this is the big finish… and then click on OK, which might bring you one more message saying essentially “Hey, just so you know, we’re going to crunch down all these tracks into  a single track, just saying” and if you see it you can click OK to THAT. Because it is.

And finally, the utility goes to work and it takes maybe a minute to complete its job.

The fill-bar disappears and your file looks completely unchanged. Because it is. But back in the Audacity folder there is now a MP3 file with the the title you gave it.

Congratulations.

Next and last installment, I’ll show you how to post all your project files to Findaways and hopefully avoid some of the face-flops I encountered.

I used to say you can do this. Now you already have.