Tag Archive | professional

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

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.

Professionalism

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

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.

Repost: 3 Tips to Help You Spend Your Book Marketing Money Better

Earlier this week I received this wonderful article called “3 Tips to Help You Spend Your Book Marketing Money Better” in my email from Book Marketing Tools.  Great advice, especially for indie authors just starting to get into the business.  To these three tips I want to add one more of my own:  invest in multiple language editions of your books crafted by quality translators.

 

Here is “3 Tips to Help You Spend Your Book Marketing Money Better” in full as presented in the newsletter I received.

Episode 108 of The Author Hangout Podcast featured this amazing advice from bestselling author Ernie Lindsey: Don’t be afraid to spend money early on on good covers, excellent editors, excellent proofreaders. Don’t be afraid to spend money on looking professional. If you don’t have it to spend early on, save it. Save up until you can. Four years ago, we didn’t know that it was going to get to this point. We didn’t know how professional the indie author community was going to get. So make it a top quality product before you even get it out the door.

Ernie is absolutely right — today’s indie authors need to keep up with an industry that’s producing books that are becoming increasingly indistinguishable from the big-time publishers’ output.
But you’re an indie author, which means that you probably need to make a limited marketing budget stretch as far as possible.
So where should you spend your money to make the biggest impact?
Here are three great tips!
Catherine de Valois

Original cover for “Catherine de Valois” (English edition). The cover is good because it’s genre appropriate and features a lady contemporary to Princess Catherine and wearing the same style of gown she wore.

Aristocratic_Lady_15th_b1899sd

The small addition of a subtitle to the original cover makes it stand out more and provides more information to potential readers, moving it from simply good to GREAT.

#1 — Cover Design
“Dont’ judge a book by its cover” is great advice for everyday life, but it’s terrible advice when it comes to your books!
People are going to judge your book by its cover, no matter how much effort you’ve put into writing your masterpiece, so we recommend spending any extra money you have on professional, market- and genre-appropriate cover design.
This is really important, especially when you consider the way people browse books online these days!
For more info, check out episode 73 of The Author Hangout with guest Jim Palmer, who shared some great thoughts about how you should prioritize cover design, how much you should spend and who you should hire (not Fiverr!!!)
#2 — Hire an Editor
Maybe you’ve been using your spouse, significant other, close friend or family member to give your books a look before you publish. Or perhaps you’ve been relying on feedback from your writer’s group to polish your prose.
There’s nothing wrong with these methods of getting additional sets of eyes on your work, but we recommend that you hire a professional editor to give your book a thorough scrubbing!
Professional editors can be costly — don’t be surprised to get quotes for more than $1,000 — but an experienced, reputable editor can mean the difference between a bestseller and an also ran.
One of the best ways to locate an editor is to check the credits and thank-yous of books that you’ve enjoyed to see who your favorite writers turn to for editing. Don’t be afraid to reach out!
For more detailed advice on finding an editor, read this article from our friend Jane Friedman.
#3 — Supercharge Your Website
Your website is one of the cornerstones of your author platform, and it’s one of the foremost representations of your brand on the internet. So if it doesn’t look good and help you build your fan base, it can actually hurt your business.
Spend as much money as you afford to make it look great and ensure that it provides users with a satisfying experience. If possible, hire an experienced SEO writer to create copy that drives traffic to your site.
And don’t forget to make your site mobile friendly!
-Shawn & R.J. from Book Marketing Tools

Going Global: A Look at Translation Options for Independent Authors

One of the best pieces of advice I ever received as an author was to publish as many books in as many places as possible and to sell on as many websites as possible.  The writing profession is a numbers game.  To win it (meaning making a living as a writer) you need to be where the customers are and sell what they want to read.  You cannot achieve it with a single kindle book sold exclusively on Amazon.  It won’t happen — or perhaps it could but your chances of winning the lottery or becoming president of the United States are greater if you lay only the one literary egg and sell it from a single basket.

One efficient way of maximising your exposure is to publish in multiple languages, opening your books for sale in more markets with more readers.  As popular as English is with Americans, the reality is that globally there are far more readers outside of the United States, readers who prefer to read in their native languages — not English.

For independent authors, there are three primary methods of reaching this global audience in the form of translated editions 1) contract with a traditional publisher offering translation services, 2) Utilize a royalty share-based translation platform, and 3) hire an independent and professionally certified translator.

I personally use all three.  Here are the pros and cons of each.

Traditional Publisher

My Chinese language editions are published with Fiberead, a Beijing-based fusion  publisher slash translation service using royalty share to pay the translation team.  It works similar to many self-publishing platforms.  You fill out a form about your book, provide Fiberead with both the current and blank versions of your cover art, and upload it to their system.  A team of translators is recruited and eventually your book is published in Chinese.

Pros:  Getting a contract is relatively painless.  It’s a straight forward process setting up your title with them. Publishes to Amazon China, iBooks, and several Asia market retailers unknown to most Americans. No upfront costs to the authors. All the technical details of the publishing process is handled by the publisher; once submitted the author does not touch her book again. Cover art is done by in-house designers from the blank cover provided by the author.

Cons:  Once your title is set up, you have little to no control over the book.  Author has no input on the translators chosen or quality of the translation.  Contract empowers Fiberead with broad editorial powers, including over book content (they can re-write your book if they wish to). Royalty share rate is (currently) 30% for the author — forever.  Fiberead forbids translators from providing authors with copies of the final work.  Authors cannot control or even suggest the sale price.  So for example Boudicca, Britain’s Queen of the Iceni sells for just 1 RMB. Converted to USD the sale price on Amazon China is about 12 cents.  At 30% of 12 cents, the per copy payment to me is 3.6 cents USD.  It takes 55 copies sold to equal the royalty paid on just 1 copy of the book in English on Amazon.com.  Once a book sells, Fiberead does not release any funds to the author until the author earns $50 USD.  As you can see from the above figure, that takes a long time.  Fiberead does not promote your book either — that’s your responsibility.  And if you want a copy to quote from, you must buy it yourself.

Royalty Share Translation Program – Babelcube

Boudicca German webThe second option for independent authors is to use a royalty share translation platform such as Babelcube which is what I use.  Very similar in format to Amazon’s ACX audiobook publishing platform, authors fill out a form with book details and the book copy for consideration by translators in several languages including Spanish, French, Italian, German, Japanese, and Portuguese.  Not every language is offered, notably Chinese, but authors are able to upload books published in any language so long as the book is sold on Amazon. Once the book is completed and approved, authors initiate the publication process on both digital (primary) and paperback options.

royalty

Babelcube’s incremental payment scale.

Empress Wu Spanish webPros: royalty share works on an incremental scale based on royalties earned, no upfront costs to the author, creative control over the final published work, ability to edit pricing and other details by re-publishing after the initial publication, some control over who translates the work. Authors are able to leave reviews for each translation.

 

Cons: authors need the technical ability to custom format their own work and correct certain errors that can come up in the publishing process. Not all the translators are professionally certified nor in possession of appropriate technical skills. Not all desired languages are available.  Some languages offer very few translator choices.

 

Independent Translator

Boudicca Welsh webThe third and final option is, in most respects, the most traditional. Translators are available globally and discoverable online through search engines, social media, or in the case of my work with Gwenlli Haf of Cyfieithu Amnis Translation, through a personal recommendation from a mutual professional acquaintance.  Translation fees are typically word count based, a format familiar to authors who hire professional editors.  A down payment is typically required at the time both parties sign the contract.  At project completion translators then invoice the author for the balance due.  Only upon payment in full is the work released to the author for self publication.

Pros: translators are typically professionally certified with some level of guarantee built into the contract. Authors and translators are able to negotiate precise terms for the project so the details (such as publishing rights) are clear before the work begins. Upfront payment to translator; the author keeps all royalties upon payment of the invoice unless other terms are specified in the contract.  Creative control across the entire process.

Cons:  word counts in different languages are not uniform, making it easy for the author to underestimate the final word count for the translation.  Translators and authors are typically residents of different countries and using different currencies with exchange rates and currency exchange fees varying widely.

Analysis/Summary

Independent authors benefit greatly from expanding into larger, more global marketplaces by offering their books in multiple languages.  In my personal experience with all three options, hiring a translator offered me the most flexibility and creative control which I, like many independent authors, tend to value. The professionally certified skills of independent translators offers security and confidence in the quality of work offered.  However as with any upfront professional service such as editors and illustrators, this option requires considerable pre-publication investment.  Of the royalty share options, the translation publication platform offers a balanced approach.  Though great care must be taken in choosing the translator, the author is able to avoid upfront costs while maintaining creative control.  The royalty share split is typically fair to both author and translator.

One important lesson learned from all of this:  traditional publishing contracts offer less and less value to independent authors.  Therefore 21st century authors seeking to prosper in the new publishing market increasingly thrive by handling as much of the publishing process as possible rather than defer to traditional publishers whose contracts increasingly work against the author’s interest, costing authors more while offering less value.

 

Top Four Independent Author Mistakes Certain to Drive Away Readers, Potential Reviewers

new-york-times-best-selling-author3As an independent author who is very active on social media (twitter, facebook, and pinterest), I see a lot of book marketing posts.  If you read this blog regularly, you know I have eleven titles out and will be publishing my twelfth, Princess Anyu Returns, sometime before the 28th of February.  So I feel like I know something about this business.

 

Here are the top four mistakes I see independent authors making that are absolutely certain to drive away potential readers.

 

#1 Mentioning you checked spelling and grammar in your book description or on social media.

I am genuinely shocked at the number of times “authors” tout this as a reason to buy their book.  It takes MINUTES to run spell check in a word processing program.  You do not get a gold star or a pat on the head for doing this.  Adults are expected to do this.  Likewise, telling us that you hired an editor to correct your typos only tells us that you do not possess the language skills to write, let alone publish a book.

Writing is a job, a profession.  Treat it that way.  If you need editorial help, hire an editor. That is fine and many experts say you should anyway.  But for heaven’s sake, the only appropriate place to mention you used one is in the credits of your book — quietly and without any noise.

 

#2 NOT correcting spelling, grammar errors

Right after telling someone you corrected your spelling errors, the next best way to drive away a potential reader is to publish with spelling, typing, punctuation, and grammar errors in your book or in the book description.

Why?  Because leaving these errors in your published book screams of unprofessionalism.  It says “I expect you to treat me as a serious writer, but I am not going to bother to fix my mistakes before you read my book.”  It  disrespects readers and it hurts your reputation.

That said, mistakes do happen and sometimes they slip past the best of editors.  What distinguishes the best professionals from everyone else is the response given to locating these errors.  Professionals will quickly and quietly fix any errors they find and resubmit their books to their publishing platforms, knowing that doing so offers future readers a more perfect and more desirable product for purchase.

 

#3 Indiscriminately spamming social media and bloggers

No one likes a hard sell.  As a matter of fact in today’s world we are so accustomed to advertisements across media formats that we instinctively tune out ads in favor of engagement.  We want to be talked to and not talked at.

Enter social media forums and facebook groups, each of them designed around a central theme or purpose.  An effective group offers members conversation and social opportunities.  An effective book marketing group is a place where readers (potential customers) can discover new books without having to sift through a flood of advertisements for books they are not interested in.  This is one reason why I love Tom Tinney’s “Promoting My Published Book,” group.  By enforcing a strict set of rules for posting, readers are able to browse listings relevant to them without having to sift through posts of absolutely no interest to them.

Follow these rules and you are golden; you reach the readers most interested in buying your posts.  But post without care or concern for what the group is about and you alienate not only readers, but the colleagues and potential reviewers most willing and able to get the word out about your books.

#4 Being difficult to reach

For me personally, the number one reason why people buy my books is that I am accessible.  I am easy to reach and I spend large sections of nearly every day on social media answering questions and talking to people. The easier you are to reach, the more people connect with you.  The better they connect with you and the better the rapport you build on social media, the more likable you become and more appealing your books become.

 

Remember:  people buy from people, not corporations.  Be a warm, friendly, accessible professional online and you are certain to see your sales skyrocket.

 

 

 

 

Reblog: 7 Point-of-View Basics Every Writer Should Know

This article reposted from BookDaily.com explores the subject of point of view in writing.

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Boudicca:  Britain's Queen of the Iceni

Boudicca: Britain’s Queen of the Iceni takes a Celtic-British point of view.

In writing lingo we refer to point-of-view (POV) as the character through whom we tell the story. We get into the head of a particular character and see the story through her eyes. Sometimes we have one POV through the whole story. Other times we have multiple POVs.

Recently while reading a book, I became confused with some of the point of view changes. It was a really good story in many ways, and the author has had a long term writing career. So I was surprised to have to slog my way through several spots of hopping from one head to the next.

As I thought about the POV issues, I realized that during the last ten years, POV “rules” have grown more firm. Editors, agents, and readers want clear, concise, easy-to-read stories. Head-hopping can brand us as an amateur. That means we have to understand some of the basics that go into having clear POVs.

1. Strategically pick the number of POV characters. We can’t get into the head of everycharacter in our books. Nor should we randomly or haphazardly pick POV characters. We should usually try to narrow down those characters we want our readers to care most about—usually the main characters (hero and heroine). Sometimes, I’ve seen writers tell snippets of the plot from the POV of the antagonist to add tension.

If we add too many POVs, we risk confusing our readers. We also risk developing shallower characters since we’ll have less time in each person’s head, giving our readers less of an opportunity to get to know and thus love the characters.

2. Introduce all the POV characters within the first few chapters. We won’t want to all-of-a-sudden halfway through the book throw in a new POV from one of our characters that hasn’t had a voice yet. It’s best if we introduce all of our POV characters fairly early in the story.

3. Delineate POV changes by a line break or chapter break. In other words, we need to make it very clear when we’re switching to someone else’s POV. Hopping heads halfway through a scene just doesn’t work anymore (if it ever did).

If I want to change POV, I finish the scene first. Before I change POV, I move to a new stage, new setting, and new plot point. Of course, this means before starting each scene I have to determine which POV character will help accomplish the goals for the scene most adequately. And if I need readers to “get in the head” of another POV character during that scene, then I have to SHOW the reactions (or wait to recap their thoughts when their POV comes along in a later scene).

4. After a POV break, clarify the new POV within the first sentence or two. I usually try to use the new POV character’s name in the first sentence. And if not, then I weave it in the second sentence so that my readers are clear right from the start of the scene whose head they’re in. If switching among first person POV, I often write out the character’s name/title at the start of the scene or chapter.

5. Bring in each POV character regularly. I don’t perfectly alternate scenes between my hero and heroine. Sometimes I may need a couple of scenes in my heroine’s POV or vice versa. But I try not to go too long in one person’s head. For those writing with three or more POVs, the juggling can get even more complicated. But we have to remember to keep all the balls in the air.

6. Beware of making POV scenes too short. Story pacing will play a role in how long our scenes are. When we find ourselves changing POV every few paragraphs or multiple times per scene, then we may begin to annoy our readers. If we don’t have a long enough scene, then perhaps we don’t have enough goals and need to consider how we can combine the scene with another.

7. Once in a POV, stick with it carefully. When we get into one of our character’s heads, we need to do the best we can to see, hear, taste, touch, smell, and think about everything the way that particular character would. The more we can stay deeply inside our POV character, the more alive that character will become to our readers.

Remember, we can’t have our characters noticing things about themselves that they wouldn’t normally see. If in doubt, use the mirror test: Am I describing something about my character she would see of herself (i.e. the protruding blue veins in her hand)? Or would she need a mirror to notice it (i.e. the color of her own eyes)?

If she needs a mirror, then she shouldn’t be thinking it about herself (unless she really is looking into a mirror, which incidentally has become a clichéd way of having characters describe themselves).

What other POV tips do you have? What’s been your biggest struggle in handling POV changes?

About the Author:
Jody Hedlund is an award-winning and bestselling author of inspirational historical romances.

As a busy mama-writer, she has the wonderful privilege of teaching her crew of 5 children at home. In between grading math papers and giving spelling tests, she occasionally does a load of laundry and washes dishes. When she’s not busy being a mama, you can find her in front of her laptop working on another of her page-turning stories.

You can catch her on her website www.jodyhedlund.com where she gives great advice for writers and Twitter where she gushes about reading, chocolate, cats, and coffee.

This article originally appeared on www.JodyHedlund.blogspot.com