Tag Archive | audio books

The 3 “P”s of Audiobook Narrators

Hypatia of Alexandria audio cover

Choosing a narrator is one of the most important decisions an author can make when deciding to create an audio book.  A bad narrator can kill a book whereas a great narrator can dramatically increase sales and income for an author.  But how do you choose?  What criteria do you use to find someone who is right for your book?

After publishing four Legendary Women of World History biographies in English (narrated by Richard Mann), two LWWH in Spanish, one Peers of Beinan novella, and both “American Poverty” and “Preparing for My First Cockatiel” since June, 2014, I have now experienced the great, the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to narrators and the ACX system and can confidently break down everything into three easy to remember key criteria for choosing the right narrator for your book.  These are the three Ps of audiobook narration, but they also apply to book translations on Babelcube which operates on a very similar system — except on Babelcube all contracts are royalty share only whereas ACX/Audible offers more choices.


Performance is what it sounds like.  This is the quality of the audition and the quality of the delivered audio book. Quality includes “pitch, placement, and dynamics” as Richard Mann puts it in his introduction on his website. But it’s also recording the audiobook verbatim which I find Karl Thornton and Alex Freeman did exceptionally well on their books for me. Performance includes accents, pacing, word pronunciation, characterization, and so forth.  All of these much match the book precisely so that the final book available for sale on Audible is at its best and provides the listener a great experience.

In addition to the audition itself, performance is assessed by narrator websites and ACX profiles. These are each narrator’s resume/CV designed to help authors figure out if the narrator in the profile matches the author’s needs.

Aristocratic_Lady_15th_b1899sdIt goes without saying that the more samples and more information provided in both the narrator profile and linked professional website (this can be one you build, or it can be your professional profile from soundcloud or another site showcasing actors, musicians, and/or voice artists), the more likely the author will find the right creative match for a specific book.  Treat the narrator profile and website as a resume/CV and always treat the author as a hiring manager — because that’s exactly what she is.  The author is hiring a performer to present her book and sell it to customers. Narrators need to present as much information as possible so the author can say “yes” and make an offer to narrate. That also includes having some method of contact such as an email address, phone number, and/or social media outside of ACX so that the author can talk by voice about the proposed project at hand.


On the surface, professionalism doesn’t seem like a key criteria for choosing a narrator. After all, it’s the creative factors in the performance that matters most, right?

Not exactly.  Professionalism is about the working relationship.  Someone can be very talented while also being difficult to work with.  This includes communication with the author (especially if/when something goes wrong), word pronunciation, performance styling, performance issues, and really any number of hundreds of different ways things can go right or wrong along the way.  The best narrators are very client-centric.  They focus on what the author wants and needs and are quick to communicate problems or challenges that come up during recording.  Great narrators ask the author in advance if they have a question or concern.

By contrast the bad ones put what they want first, are bad communicators, difficult to reach, ignore author requests, do not consult with the author creatively, and basically treat the author as their employee (or worse).  One of my pay per finished hour narrators couldn’t be bothered to inform me his payment details in advance of the final book approval, despite knowing from previous pay per finish hour projects that pfh books are not accepted into the system as completed until the author pays the narrator and the narrator confirms payment. This sort of lack of professionalism not only makes the work process difficult, but it can also truly affect the quality of the book and therefore sales for the author.

Strong professionals make audio production easy and even fun.  Weak professionals create stress and ultimately undermine and deliver poor quality work that doesn’t sell.


Price is the final criteria and it can be important.  Price is obviously how much money the narrator is paid and which of the contract options the author and narrator agree upon. ACX offers two main types of contracts between authors and narrators.  The first I alluded to earlier is where the narrator is paid per finished hour.  This is exactly what it sounds like.  When the author decides upon a narrator, s/he can offer to pay the narrator a fee based on the final book length. ACX estimates that length based on the number of words in the book.  The author then uses that estimate to set a budget. If the narrator accepts the proposed rate, s/he is paid, usually by paypal, the final fee specified when the book is called final by the author. Once paid, the author and only the author receives payment from each audiobook copy sold.

The other option is royalty share.  Royalty share means that author and narrator split the earnings equally and perpetually at a rate that never changes. Both author and narrator are paid for as long as the book is for sale, generally for the rest of the author’s and narrator’s lives plus a set number of years after author/narrator death.  Hence, the narrator can earn much more money by royalty share and being paid per copy as the book sells over years and decades.  It’s payment with an eye for the long term and it is my preferred contract term because generally I want my narrators to earn as much as possible.

Though royalty share seems perfect in many respects for authors and narrators who take a long-term view, there is one important caveat to be aware of before choosing it:  if something goes horribly wrong and the author decides the final book is of such poor quality that it cannot be published at all, the author is on the hook for a flat fee currently around $500 if the contract needs to be terminated and the author decides not to offer it for sale.  By contrast, in the same situation, if the author decides to not publish a pay per finish hour book, s/he pays the same fee to the narrator that is otherwise owed when the book publishes.

In other words, the author is not liable to pay more for a per finished hour book than the agreed upon pfh rate set out in the contract.


When choosing a narrator, performance, professionalism, and price all become important criteria to the decision making process.  When the process goes right, authors and narrators form tightly bonded teams who create the best audio books for listeners that reflect the author’s imagination and creativity effectively.  When the process goes wrong, great books get lost and often fail.

How to redeem a gifted Audible Book direct from the author

If you have followed my career — or at least this blog — for the last few years, you know that I provide as many of my Legendary Women of World History Series titles as possible in audio format.  Audiobooks are fun and they make it easy to read a book when you need to keep your eyes elsewhere, especially when travelling.

What you may not know is that Audible recently made some changes to audiobook gifting.  These changes make it easy to gift individual books and especially memberships, but perhaps makes it a little harder to redeem books gifted directly from the author.

What do you do then when you are one of the fortunate people to be gifted an Audible book directly from the author who wrote it?  The following steps were given to me this morning by an Audible service representative explaining exactly how to do it!

1. Go to the book’s page on Audible.com: https://www.audible.com/pd/[AUDIBLE ASIN]
2. Add the audiobook to your cart.
3. If you are prompted to sign in, please create a new Audible.com account or log in.
4. Go to https://www.audible.com/at/redeem. Enter the promo code and click “Redeem” to receive a credit for the title in your cart.
5. Head back to your cart. Make sure the button that says “1 Credit” is selected and that your subtotal reads $0.00 dollars.
6. You may proceed through the checkout by clicking “Proceed to Checkout” and “Complete purchase” on the subsequent page.

Owen and Catherine: the Love Story that launched the Tudor dynasty

romanc blogfest 2015 small banner

Just then a scream echoed in the forest.  Drawing their swords, Linet and Boudicca charged towards the sound.  By the time they reached the source all that could be seen was Prasutagus, his blood spilling into the ground – as if a year-king killed as an offering to the gods for his people.  Prasutagus looked up, his eyes blurring, “Boudicca?”

Boudicca knelt, weeping, the blood from his chest wound soaking her dress, “I am here.”

“A Roman – scout – I – surprised him.” gasped Prasutagus, trying in vain to tell his wife what happened, knowing the moment he died rage would fill her – rage against Rome.

Boudicca kissed him tenderly, “My love, do not leave me!”  Prasutagus kissed her repeatedly, his eyes fixed on hers until they saw no more.  Feeling his spirit leave his body, Boudicca wept, as if her entire life suddenly passed with him – at least for this moment.  Finally, she rose, helping Linet carry him to their chariot.  With a gentle nudge of the reigns the horses turned for home and the sad work ahead.


Welcome to RomanceFest 2015!  I hope all month long you’ll discover many amazing books from some of the top independent authors in the world.

Complete Series 3D

My contribution to RomanceFest is a bit different.  Rather than offering you the thrilling paranormal science fiction romance of the Peers of Beinan Series, I decided to take a different, much more risky approach.  I decided to make my RomanceFest books CREATIVE NON-FICTION HISTORY for young readers and family audiences.

In the excerpt you just read above and audio excerpt you just heard on the youtube video, you experienced the powerful love between King Prasugasus of the Iceni and his wife, Queen Boudicca.  Boudicca is remembered every year in King’s Cross London for destroying the Roman cities of Camulodunum (originally the capital of the Trinovantes, the southern neighbour to the Iceni in what is now Essex), Londonium, and Saint Albans in the year 61 CE.  Typically she is portrayed as a vengeful shrew getting back at the Romans for publicly flogging her and raping her two daughters (aged 10-12 years old).  I took a different approach with the biography, one intensely grounded in archaeology and one taking a broader look at the cultures of ancient Britain.  Boudicca:  Britain’s Queen of the Iceni is creative non-fiction history for young readers and families at its absolute finest, one benefiting immensely from the dynamic artistry of British voice artist and actor Richard Mann (easily the best English actor you probably never heard of — yet!).

Now I would like to introduce you to Queen Catherine de Valois.  Shakespeare immortalized Catherine in “Henry V,” a play very much taking King Henry’s point of view.  The real Henry and the real Catherine were very different.  In my biography for younger readers and families, you meet the real Catherine de Valois: bright, educated, and religiously devout.  You see her in her historical context as she navigates her father’s mental illness, the French civil war between house Valois and the Duchy of Burgundy, and her brother Charles’ struggles to become king of France — with a little help from Joan of Arc.

But more importantly, you explore her relationships with King Henry V of England, their son King Henry VI, and the true love she found in Owen Tudor.  It is a beautiful, romantic tale to inspire generations of girls and women.

I am pleased to announce that in May or June 2015 Richard Mann and I will release the audio edition of Catherine de Valois on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes.  So take a listen to the above audio book excerpt, then download your copy of Catherine de Valois on Amazon.com, Barnes/Noble, Smashwords, or Ibookstore.


Enter to win a free copy of Catherine de Valois! Winners announced 31st of May 2015

An intimate look at my life as a low vision author

This is one of the few pictures of me with a white cane taken in July 2010.  I'm only a size 2 in this picture following three years at the time of taking a very strong prescription migraine medicine that nearly killed me (I weighed just 83 lbs at the time).

This is one of the few pictures of me with a white cane taken in July 2010. I’m only a size 2 in this picture following three years at the time of taking a very strong prescription migraine medicine that nearly killed me (I weighed just 83 lbs at the time).

My dear friend Alexandra Butcher interviewed me this weekend regarding the special challenges I face as a low vision author.  Since I don’t want to be typecast into people’s stereotypes of the differently-abled, I usually don’t talk about my sight loss and my books at the same time.

This is one of the most intimate portraits ever of my life.