“My name is Mike Ross and I’m a Ferryman – like in the Greek myth. I didn’t ask for, or really want, the job, but I’m trying to make the best of it. Most ghosts are okay and just need a little help to get where they need to go. Unfortunately, there are lots of exceptions, like power-mad psychopaths, spirits still trying to fight battles long since lost, and the worst of the lot – the Skinwalkers. They live vicariously by possessing people and controlling them like puppet masters. Then they toss them aside when they’ve outlived their usefulness. One of them stole my father 15 years ago, and now I’m going to make that ghost pay.”
This one is for indie authors trying to get their books made into audiobooks on ACX via Royalty-share, unlike my previous 8 Reasons Why You’re Not Landing Audiobook Gigs, which was for narrators. I interact with authors all the time on message boards and often find them lamenting “Why isn’t anyone auditioning for my royalty-share audiobook??”
Here are some possible reasons.
Your cover sucks. Indie authors are a curious bunch. They have a deep need to do everything themselves. As much as I appreciate the DIY mentality, if you’re using paint or GIMP to throw together a cover using stock MS Office fonts and free images you found online, you may not be representing your book in the best light possible. I’ve heard of people designing covers in Powerpoint. WTF? How to fix it: Get a decent cover. There are people who will make you an amazing cover for around $50. Seriously. Pony up a bit of change for a decent cover and eat ramen for a week, please.
Your book is too long.If your book is a 300,000 word masterpiece, I’m not going to bother. The work to reward ratio is way too high. A 30 hour audiobook is going to take a month or more to record and master. The longer the book, the more units that need to be sold to recoup the investment. And with royalty-share, that’s too big of a risk, especially for an indie author. How to fix it: If you have more than one book, put a shorter one up. You’re much more likely to get someone to tackle a 6-8 hour book.
Your book doesn’t sound interesting. A lot of narrators will do a Royalty-share book if the title sounds interesting. Put up your best synopsis and explain why the narrator should take this on: Hilarious comedy, intriguing mystery, lots of locales (be careful, this can hurt you), unbridled romance (again, this can be a con). How to fix it: Sell it. Make me want to narrate it even if I don’t make a dime.
You don’t have enough Amazon sales and/or a low ranking and/or bad reviews. This one should not be a shock to any seasoned author. The first thing I do when I am considering a book, is to click on the link that says “View this title on Amazon”. If the book has 3 reviews over the past 2 years, I’m going to pass. If the reviews are mediocre, I’m going to pass. If your rankings are low, I’m going to pass. I need assurance that the audiobook is going to sell and Amazon ratings and ranking are a very telling insight into that. How to fix it: Write better. I know, I know, I sound like a total dick right now. But that’s the honest truth. There is no way to get more ratings or better reviews than to simply write better books and lots of them. And if your writing is good, but the sales aren’t there, wait until they are. Write more.
You haven’t explained why we should take on the risk (you don’t do jack for promotion). As much as any narrator should volunteer to read your book for the sheer honor of it, that doesn’t happen if you don’t do anything to promote it. No book tours, no blogging, no external reviews, no nothing. The author is the primary vehicle for promotion. The narrator can add exactly 0.12% value in promoting the book. Unless you hired Scott Brick, people are not going to buy your book for the narrator. How to fix it: Explain in the notes how well the book has been received, how many sales you have, your ranking, blog articles, reviews etc. ANYTHING to help sell the book to the narrator.
You are only doing the cattle-call. Simply posting your book on the audition list isn’t going to cut it. Look how many other hundreds of books there are to be narrated! Someone choosing to narrate your book is like winning the lottery, albeit with somewhat better odds. And if your book suffers from the bullet points above, then the likelihood decreases. How to fix it: Go to the list of narrators and find a handful that you like. Make sure they have Royalty-share as one the options on their profile and then send them a message. You play to the narrator’s ego when they know that you want them. I am MUCH more inclined to work with someone who has sought me out. This, of course, is also the time to SELL the book. See the tip above for more on that.
You sound like you’re going to be a pain in the ass. This happens more often than you realize. If you have 3 different sections that MUST be auditioned, if you demand that each character has a certain flavor of accent (“Southern, but not Georgia, more Carolina”), if you say “I’ll direct you/provide feedback/listen in/co-narrate/help in any way”, or otherwise indicate that you are so in love with your words, that you can’t possible let go so I can do my job, then I’m going to run far far away. Direct author involvement is not a plus, unless I specifically need you to answer a question. How to fix it: Chill. If you’ve hired a good narrator, let him/her do the job. Let go of your baby and trust us to do the right thing. While the end result might be a bit different than you imagined, this is the way of art. You are NOT going to be able to direct an actor to successfully embody the book exactly as you want them to do. That’s the nature of acting and the choices actors make based on the source material. Embrace it.
So there you go. Several reason why you may not be having much success with royalty-share on ACX. Fixing these will go a long way to improving your odds of finding a narrator on your budget who will do an exemplary job with your book.
I’m in a fairly unique position. Not only is my primary job as an audiobook narrator and producer, but I also work with CrossRoad Press in casting and doing the post production on the audiobooks they produce through ACX. As of right now, we have close to 180 books waiting to be cast, 70 or so in production and over 40 already completed. 90% of them are royalty-share. And I get to see both sides of the process.
I reject far more auditions than I accept, even if no one else is auditioning for them. And if you find this true of the auditions you are sending out, here are some possible reasons why you’re not getting cast and what you can do about it. 99% of the time, you’ll never know why you’re not getting cast. So Consider this a gift.
You are not right for the book.
This is the reason you should strive for. Not that you should hope to be rejected, but if you’re going to be rejected, this is the reason you want. We often have a style of narration or vocal quality we’re looking for. And since we get author input, they also may have a certain style in mind. So if this is the reason you’re not being cast, then forget about it. There’s nothing you can do about it. Unfortunately, this reason is also the rarest, in our experience. What to do about it: Nothing. move on to the next audition.
Your acting is bad.
Sorry, no other way to put this. We get a LOT of standard voice over (or worse, radio) folks trying to branch into audiobooks. And usually the result doesn’t work. Of all voice work, audiobooks are the most act-y of them all. You have to believably capture every single character in the book in a unique way, including the main narrator. If you have no acting experience, we can tell. We don’t care how awesome your voice sounds. We care how well you tell the story. What to do about it: Unfortunately, this is the hardest problem to remedy. You need to build up some acting chops. Take some acting classes, get a professional coach (Pat Fraley is very good, as is Marc Cashman). Take improv. Learn to be an actor. And if you’re a radio person, for goodness sake, get the radio out of your voice.
Your sound quality is awful
I’m not talking about you, I’m talking about your technical stuff. You have 15 decibels of white noise or an electrical hum. Not only should you be able to hear those things in your recordings, you should be able to SEE them in the waveform in whatever sound editor you use. And once the sound gets compressed and normalized by me in post, any sound artifacts are even more pronounced. Plus the more signal noise you have, the more work you create for me to get rid of it. And I just don’t have time to deal with a problem that you shouldn’t have in the first place. What to do about it: Get rid of the noise. If it’s a computer fan in the background, move it further away from the mic. If it’s electrical buzz or hum, swap out your cables (especially USB) and try a line conditioner. If you record into a laptop, run off batteries instead of the wall.
Your sound quality is awful (part deux)
This one warrants it’s own bullet point and it’s not strictly technical. It’s about your setup and mic handling. One of the worst problems I hear is that I can “hear the room”. If you’re recording in your kitchen, I can hear it. There’s echo, reverb and general room acoustics. And if you’re too far away from the mic, this is exacerbated. Where you record is just as important as what equipment you have. Also, learn proper mic technique. Popping Ps and volume fluctuations are a sure sign of an amateur. What to do about it: if you can’t hear your room, its probably because you’re listening in the same room you recorded in. So of course you won’t hear it. Listen to your recording outside and see if it sounds like you’re still in your kitchen. If you have a walk-in closet or some space, fill it with clothes and use that to record in. Or you can hang heavy blankets in your recording space. No matter how you do it, just get rid of the room sounds. Oh and get a dang pop screen, wouldja?
Your sound quality is awful (Seeing a trend here yet?)
This one is 100% avoidable. I have heard auditions with TV sounds in the background, rustling papers, chair squeaks, mouth pops and even a train going by. Seriously, people. Do NOT just brush these off as auditions. I will assume your audition is representative of the final product and if I hear your kids playing video games in the background of your audition, I will assume you’ll include that same crap in the final product. What to do about it: Listen to your audition and get rid of the crap. It’s called editing and it sucks. But it’s part of the job so suck it up.
Your editing is bad.
There is so much more to this job than sitting in front of a mic. Editing is a grueling marathon and as much an art as a science. You have to know pacing, how dialogue should be cut, and when its appropriate to have room tone. Poor editing can absolutely destroy an otherwise good audiobook. If your audition doesn’t show decent editing, you’re not getting the job. What to do about it: Listen to professional audiobooks with an ear to pacing.
Ok let’s be clear. Just because this book is royalty-share and we’re splitting it 50/50, this does not make you a co-publisher. You don’t get to demand things such as specialized credits in the intro, choice of music bumpers or editorial rights to change things you don’t like in the book. That last one was not a hypothetical. After he was hired, we actually had someone ask for the right to change things in the book. We don’t have time to deal with prima donnas and big egos. If you’re so awesome that you can make those demands, then you probably don’t need to be on ACX. What to do about it: Don’t be a diva.
Not following directions
The biggest one here is people submitting a generic demo, instead of a demo of the script provided. I really don’t need to hear your crappy Aussie accent in the fake Outback Steakhouse ad you (didn’t) voice. I need to hear how you sound reading my book. Why? Because anyone with a few hundred bucks can go into a pro studio with a pro engineer and a pro director and come out with a glorious demo. But unless you’re recording MY book in that same studio with all those people, your generic demo is virtually useless. Not only does the author want to know how you sound reading his/her characters, *I* need to know how your sound quality is from the place you’ll be working (see reasons 3-5 above). What to do about it: Read the snippet we provide, please.
So there it is. The most likely reasons you’re not getting hired. You may be wondering why we have such a high bar. After all, these are just royalty-share titles, right? Yep, they are, and the only way for you and everyone else to make their money is for all of us to release a high quality product. And as narrator/producer, that means you, first and foremost. Every piece of work you do is your personal signature. Sign yours with excellence. See you on ACX.
Introducing Perfect Voices, an affordable way for authors to get their books into audiobook format. Offering several tiers of production and royalties, we offer narration starting at just $50 per finished hour.
How do we do that? By asking our narrators to share in the risk/reward. The narrators will be taking a small upfront payment in exchange for a high royalty until their fee is met. And then a smaller royalty payment for the life of the book.
And with distribution agreements already in place with Audible, iTunes, Amazon, overDrive, and more, we anticipate success. Why else would we do it?
So please pass this on to your authors friends! We’d love to start off with a bang!