Ten months in the making, The Darkening Dream audiobook is finally ready!
A bit about the production
I started way back in January, and like most Independent authors considering an audiobook edition, decided to use Amazon’s ACX service. This is a marketplace for connecting authors with voice and production talent as well as an automated mechanism for delivering the finished books to the big online markets (Audible, Amazon, and iTunes). This makes it easy to post descriptions of what your looking for and a section of the book to read. I listed both The Darkening Dream and Untimed. Lo and behold, over the next couple of weeks a pile of auditions started to come in.
ACX has a couple of options and it’s important to get them squared away BEFORE you pick a production team as they make it difficult to change after the fact (I know from experience). You can go either Exclusive or Non-exclusive. Retaining the right to sell through some other market (and remember they hit all the big online markets) earns you a much lower royalty rate (about half). Also, you can chose to pay your production team either as a fixed dollar amount per finished hour or as a percentage of royalties. Obviously royalties involve less up front costs on the part of the author, but I suspect that far less voice talent is interested in taking those terms as earn outs for Indie books are probably very variable. I went for pay up front exclusive.
The Darkening Dream is a tricky novel from a recording standpoint as it has seven different points of view, of both genders, and given that the protagonist is a young woman and several of the POVs are nasty male villains, I couldn’t imagine either a man or a woman reading both. Luckily, I found a talented pair who works together and we began production last winter. However, I wasn’t totally prepared for how long it would take and how much work it was on both sides.
First of all, it’s important to prepare very detailed notes on all your characters. TDD has a big cast, many with varied accents and histories, and not all are even human. Each of the POVs had to sound distinct and in the authentic voice of that character. After my team studied my character sheets and we discussed each character, we created a number of voice tests for the major parts. I listened and then gave feedback. This is a broad pattern that continues through the process. Prep -> Record -> Listen -> Feedback -> Repeat.
As I’ve experimented in many mediums: video games, novels, screenplays, and now audiobooks, it’s worth noting some of the differences. The physical placement on the page (as dictated by white space) is useful in novels. I separate dialog spoken by different people on different lines, and I make sure to place tags (he said, she said) and beats (small action queues like “Alex shifted in place” or “Sarah smirked” in the same paragraph as the speaker’s dialog. In an audiobook, you can’t hear the white space, but differences in voicing can make up for who is speaking. Still, you lose this spatial grouping. The tags also stand out more when spoken, as the eye tends to ignore them.
Another thing I hadn’t thought about is how long it actually takes to listen repeatedly to an entire novel. TDD is over eleven hours and every few weeks I’d get an hour or two of recordings, need to listen — usually twice (paying attention!) — and write up notes. And my side of the work was a lot easier than Marti and Eric’s. I can only imagine how long it took to record multiple takes, audition them, edit, then proof.
With the multiple voices, TDD sounds a tad like an audioplay, which is rather cool, and a few of the supernatural elements needed sound effects. We kept this to a minimum, because once you head down that rabbit hole, who knows where it leads — but the mystical horn (readers will know what I’m talking about) and the vampire glamour both begged for a little special treatment.
Then, as the months rolled by, chapter by chapter, the book came together brilliantly. I’ve listened to it between 2-3 times — although not all together at once. I’m curious at the psychological effect, but after reading various drafts over 50 times and a couple listens, I’ll leave that to you guys!
Listen to a free sample if you like: