Category Archives: audiobooks

Year-End View: That Happened, This is Coming

The last two weeks have definitely involved reflection for me, an unaccustomed state with all that normally happens. Officially on vacation from work (still peeking at the emails each morning- confess, you do it too), and of course I submitted Book Four to Findaway Voices last week, so the audiobook series is finally out the door. Christmas light drive was Wednesday night and now I’m waiting on the big day and musing about what actually hit me in 2018, as well as what’s to come next.

2018 Year in Review: One Big New Thing

I did some of the more usual authorly stuff in the past year:

  • Fairs- Smyrna Opera House (Feb), Cecil ComicCon (Apr), Dover ComicCon (Aug)
  • Library Talks- April (‘By’ the Cover) and December (I Can Show You)

I sold some copies, met some folks, and I think I generally made a good impression. Most of all these gigs are FUN. For me. I’m so aggressively extroverted I would never pass up a chance to be in front of customers, fellow authors– really anyone who will stand still and listen to me talk is a friend in my book. What can I say, I’m easily pleased. I want to keep all these on my docket for 2019 and hopefully add at least one more fair (Ocean City ComicCon, which I hear is great but was far away and conflicted with a rehearsal for my daughter’s schooling).

The Traditional Thing

There was also some writing. Specifically, I lobbed out drafts of three short pieces (going into the Tales of Hope collection, where I’m aiming for a second volume at about twice the total size as current). I got good feedback but haven’t polished them yet. Also I created a “tall tale” that will be the seed for a longer piece about the origins of the hero Treaman, perhaps called “The Crust Runner”. As I reflect on my world, this well-traveled young Woodsman has to rank as one of the greatest and most important heroes of the new generation; and if Solemn Judgement has an origin, why not Treaman? It could be a short story, or perhaps a novelette, I still have to flesh this out and I’m looking forward to that in January (as I complete it for my assignment in Myth-Fantasy Writing!).

But far and away, what I did in 2018 was record my voice.

A Lot Like Writing

I can’t imagine how many hours I spent, just recording. Two hundred, maybe? Probably less, but then the editing, production effects, totaling the files and shipping them off with bated breath to my distributor.

And the waiting. That counts too. That WAS hundreds of hours.

Rejection, don’t forget that part- especially early on there was lots of learn-by-doing-wrong (most people drop that last word, but I’m being honest  here). The big audio houses have fairly tough technical requirements and I kept getting little things wrong. But the pipeline APPEARS to be moving smoothly now- The Ring and the Flag and Fencing Reputation are out (book 2 still waiting on Audible); Perilous Embraces entered distribution as of December 19th and should be popping up in various outlets soon; Shards of Light is awaiting technical checks but was recorded in identical fashion to the others so I anticipate it will go through. Maybe in time for Christmas?

I signed onto Findaway’s new Voices Plus service, a no-brainer for someone in my position. If you distribute to every partner and only use Findaway to do it, you can qualify for a few extra perks including piracy protection (which certainly caught my eye), and maybe a slice of preferential treatment when new abilities come to the platform. I certainly have no bandwidth to seek alternatives, so this seemed a great option for me. At least the next six months, I’m in.

I’m mentally quite exhausted by the effort to record, post and blog about my audiobooks but I am also proud of my efforts. I had no earthly notion it would suck up 90+% of my writing time for the entire year, so I will have to be careful about making promises to myself or others in future. But if the sales do at all well I would probably consider continuing to narrate in some capacity.

2019 Plans: Several Smaller Things

Much of this you can already guess.

  • The same fairs, plus one
  • Hoping for two or three library talks
  • Polish those three drafted short tales (perhaps add one or two more)
  • Grow the story-seed of Treaman’s origin into a short tale or novelette
  • Return to actually blogging sometimes. I will edit my world-building library talk into a six-bullet series which should be easy to take in, hopefully helpful to aspiring authors (and amusing to interested readers). After that, I have a few ideas.
  • Then back to writing for real with my long-abandoned start of The Test of Fire. This sequel to The Plane of Dreams is actually the end of the trilogy (the first book has yet to be written, so sue me). It is a ripping good tale, focusing more strongly on one of the terrific characters in that someday-to-be-middle book, the young knight Qerlak and his close companion the human Dream-seer Galethiel as they fight for what’s right on several levels. Can I finish this ~100k novel with less than 20k drafted? Probably yes! But that’s assuming a lot goes right for me and my family, which was never a wise bet

Like life itself, it’s an adventure and we’ll have to see. But as my college motto says:

Laying it on a bit thick? Maybe. But this is the time of year to feel ambitious. Remind me in May and we can both look back and laugh.

All the best to those reading my blog so faithfully; here’s to success whatever your plans for 2019 (unless your plans involve becoming a famous new epic fantasy author- I’m not secure enough to wish you well in that!).

 

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”.