By Paul Walker
Audio books – should I bother? I was a new author of historical fiction with three books published in fifteen months. Paperback and Kindle sales were going well and I had been asked by readers and potential listeners when the audio version would be published. My wife had been a fan of audio books for a while and during our first lockdown was getting through at least two every week. I knew audio books were the biggest growing sector of the publishing market, but I wasn’t completely convinced. The contract with my publisher, Sharpe Books, was for printed and e-books only, and at that time they showed no interest in expanding into the audio market. That meant I would have to find another publisher or, as may other authors had done, go down the D.I.Y. route.
I knew a local author who had embraced audio, set up his own recording studio and was working his way through a series of ten books as narrator and author. He had started on number seven when I made contact asking for advice. His guidance was conflicted. On the one hand, he enjoyed creating the audio books, which brought in useful and significant additional income each month. But, despite becoming more proficient, he found them more time-consuming than expected and they had become a distraction from what he really wanted to do – write more books. His experience, together with listening to other instances where the author doubled as narrator, decided me on one aspect; I would not be the narrator. Excellent narration was essential to the success of audio, and I knew I was simply not good enough to add value to the writing.
My research into the possibility of reaching an agreement with another publisher for the audio version was half-hearted and quick. It soon became clear that, even for books that sold well, publishers considered handling the audio version only as not an especially attractive proposition. Publishers value the opportunity to cross sell with other versions and to market titles and versions as a family of products. I sought out the opinions of other authors in a similar position to me – writers of historical fiction who had released audio versions either independently, or with another publisher. The feedback I received was useful and decisive. I would use the Audible / Amazon software (called ACX) to advertise for a narrator, with whom I would then form a partnership to publish the audio version.
Using ACX to find narrators for State of Treason was surprisingly easy. I selected three passages for applicants to read for audition, specified the type of narrator I was looking for, put the proposal out there and waited. I didn’t know what to expect. Would I receive any interest at all? Fortunate is not a good way to describe the circumstances in the middle of 2020, but the restriction of work opportunities for actors undoubtedly contributed to numbers who auditioned for State of Treason. The response of eager narrators could not be described as a flood, but I was surprised at how many and how quickly they came in. I closed the project to new auditions after only a week. Many good auditions had been received and it was not going to be straightforward to choose a narrator.
William Constable is the main protagonist in State of Treason and the other books in the series. He is a young man, in his twenties, but not a typical swashbuckling hero. He is a physician and mathematician of the stars; a scholar of some reputation, who uses his intellect to overcome peril and difficulties. The books are written in the first person, present tense, so identification with William’s character is vital to the enjoyment of the book by reader – or listener. The choice of narrator would be the one who came closest to my imagining of William. There were several excellent auditions, but the one from Edward Gist was a remarkable fit to my conception of William Constable’s voice and manner of delivery. I knew Edward would do a great job as the narrator.
Amazon buy link for the audio book – mybook.to/StateofTreasonAudio