Three of my Carina Press books made it into audio. I listened to every minute of Fair Game and overall I thought it was a pretty decent production. It was the first time it was driven home to me that there might be legitimate different readings of my words. You would think that would be obvious, but no. I liked the voice of the narrator for Icecapade, but he pronounced Noel's name as "Noelle" and I couldn't get past the first minute. After that I kind of lost my taste for hearing my own work and when Lone Star went to audio, I never bothered to listen. I was afeared to hear those Texas accents.
But then along came ACX or the Audiobook Creation Exchange. And, in fact, here was the news bulletin Amazon released this week:
Exciting New Kindle and Audible Features Whispersync for Voice and Immersion Reading
The best part of an enterprise like ACX is you to choose the right voice (which is paramount, I think) from a number of auditions. You set your budget and you can either split royalties or pay an hourly rate up front for the production. From the minute I stumbled across the site, I was excited by the possibilities.
Obviously I thought I would start out (very tentatively) with the AE series. Writing gay fiction, and erotic gay fiction at that, means I wasn't swamped with auditions, but to my delight I did eventually find a very talented narrator by the name of Chris Patton to narrate Fatal Shadows.
Of course everyone has their own idea of how Adrien sounds, but I really liked Chris's voice and I appreciated his professionalism. It seemed like it would be a good match, and so I figured that was that. If everything went well, Chris could do the whole series, and why shouldn't it go well? But if it didn't, I didn't want to commit any further.
But I just couldn't help listening to other narrators and considering all my other titles and though I didn't want to over-invest in something that might flop big time, I found I just couldn't help listing something very different -- The Darkling Thrush -- just out of curiosity. It's a short work but it's a complicated work. All those lyrical descriptions, all those English and Scottish accents, all that Gaelic.
Well, I only got three auditions. One backed out when he realized belatedly the project was for gay fiction. The other two auditions were good but one was just...the sound quality was a little iffy and the narrator didn't have a slew of credits, but something about his voice, his delivery just really captured the story -- and my attention. So I asked for a second audition and we communicated a bit and I decided to go with my gut.
Today I listened to the completed files for The Darkling Thrush as narrated by Max Miller and I have to say I. Love. This. Book. Or at least I love Max's reading of it (because holy moly there are a lot of continuity errors in that thing--and hearing the book read aloud really made that painfully clear)!
But lingering resentment over sloppy copy and proof editng aside, I was chuckling all the way through the completed files, rarely wincing (although I still can't stand to hear my sex scenes read aloud), loving the different voices Max came up with. It made me want to write the sequel! I can't wait for people to hear this book.
Which doesn't change the fact that I have no idea whether it will pay for itself -- I have no idea whether Fatal Shadows will pay for itself -- although given that audio books are so much more affordable now, I feel pretty confident that having an audio backlist is going to be a good move.
Meanwhile, I've been continuing to get auditions for the remaining and still technically uncontracted Adrien books, and some of those voices were wonderful. I thought...well, what about some of these other standalones? What about Kit Holmes? I've got a LOT of books. What about those?
Oh yeah, I've got the audio book bug now. I asked readers what books they'd most like to hear in audio after Adrien, and I started listing more projects and contacting narrators directly. It's exciting to control this piece of it -- to be able to pick the right voice and the right sensibility for my stories. It's a lot more complicated than just reading the book out loud. It feels like an added creative element to me, but maybe that's not how it seems to the narrator. All I can say is the right narrator brings something unique to the work, something that is all them -- and they become part of the book.
Of course the wrong narrator can wreck a book.
This audio thing is big. Big and getting bigger all the time. I've had a couple of other audio sites and audio production companies contact me directly -- and it's possible I'll try a couple of shorter works with them. ACX does a lot of things well, but their technical support leaves A LOT to be desired. Plus I've been listening to narrators who aren't even on ACX.
But would that matter to readers? I have no idea.
Anyway, I got a little carried away and used up my entire audio book budget for the year (startling, given that I started the year without such a thing as an "audio book budget") but the end result is there will be four audio books this year including Fatal Shadows, The Darkling Thrush, The Ghost Wore Yellow Socks (that will be Max Miller again -- it'll be fascinating to see what he does with such a different project) and Somebody Killed His Editor.
I settled on Kevin R. Free for the voice for Kit Holmes and we've already contracted the first two books in the series. I'm very excited about that. Kevin's voice is a little husky and he's got a great sense of comedic timing -- he sounds just like Kit Holmes to me. Which is to say that he doesn't sound like any of my other narrators, and that's one of the most exciting things. It's important to me that the characters all not sound alike, that they be just as unique as they felt to me while I was writing them.
Anyway, that's my adventures in audio so far.
What do you think about audio books? Which of my books would you like to see put into audio?