Writing for Audio – 6 Top Tips from a Radio Professional – From the Alli Blog

by Jules Horne on March 27, 2019 in Writing A Book

headshot of Jules Horne

Creative writing tutor Jules Horne helps you write your books with audio in mind

Interested in publishing your book as an audiobook?It’s the fastest-growing publishing market, and a great opportunity for indie authors, but most know little about audio-first writing techniques. Whether you write fiction or non-fiction, a few cunning radio writing techniques can really help your script to shine – and your narrator and listeners will thank you! Jules Horne, author of Writing for Audiobooks: Audio-First for Flow & Impact, shares six radio editing tipsto help you get your writing ready for audiobooks.

Producing an audiobook is expensive, and with just a bit of editing work before your manuscript is sent to the studio or voice artist, you’ll get a better, more ear-friendly result that helps your narrator to deliver a more powerful performance. These tips are drawn from my background in BBC radio and spoken word writing – I hope you find them useful!

1.    Simplify your writing for audiobooks

Audio is a linear medium. The recording whizzes by and if listeners don’t catch something, it’s gone. With print and ebooks, readers can easily scan the text and check back. With audio, this is far less likely. What’s more, listeners can be listening in all sorts of situations, usually multitasking and in less-than-optimum technical quality. Writing for radio calls for great clarity and economy (which is good writing, to be fair – only far, far more so!)

Try this:

Imagine your listener as a dog-walking, child-wrangling, commuter wearing tiny earbud headphones. Or (radio flashback) a shortwave listener with a crackly radio in a log cabin in the woods. Write with the clarity you need to get through to them. Bigger, bolder, stronger verbs, tight precision. And then…

2.    Read your writing aloud

Radio thrives on shorter sentences, and a writing voice more aligned to the spoken word and an informal register. Some writers naturally do this, and have a strong focus on rhythm, pace, and sonic effects. Which is great news if you want to get into audiobooks!

Most, though, have a writing voice that’s more formal and literary than their spoken voice, with longer sentences, “which” clauses, long subordinate clauses, asides and backflips. This is fine in print and ebooks – less so for audio. Note: voice artists are true artists, and great ones can make even the telephone directory sound enticing. You may fall in love with your book in their beautifully resonant/gravelly/seductive voice. But don’t be seduced by smoke and mirrors! With a true audio-friendly script, they’ll love you back, enjoy recording your book, and deliver a far better result.

Read the rest of this post HERE.

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Announcing My New Audio Book – Let Me Be Frank

I am proud to announce that my book, Let me be Frank, has been released in audiobook format. This is the second book in the Frank Rozzani detective series.

Here is a synopsis:

A young girl is senselessly murdered. The police believe the murder to be a random homeless casualty until it is discovered she has ties to Fat Sam and his mysterious past life in the Big Easy. 

Join Private Detective Frank Rozzani and Clifford “Jonesy” Jones as they travel to historic New Orleans and other areas in the Gulf Coast to search for clues in the girl’s trek to Jacksonville, Florida, that will help them uncover evidence implicating those responsible for the murder so they can be brought to justice. They soon discover that things are not as they seem. 

As the case progresses, the evidence uncovered has ties to the tragic events that drove Frank from his life in Syracuse, New York. Frank realizes that proceeding with the case could change his life, as well as the lives of those around him, forever.

I’m really pleased with the recording. The voice actor, Jeffrey Knecht, did an awesome job and was nearly flawless on the first run of the book. I’m hoping he is up for recording the rest of the series.

Here is a trailer that I had created for the book a while ago:

If the story appeals to you and you like audio books, you can find it HERE.

Creating an Audiobook Using ACX – My Experience – Part 3 of 3

Audio books concept. Vintage books and headphones.

This is the third part of my post on considering  production as an audio book.

In Part 1 of this series, I talked about finding a voice actor on ACX. I’ll pick up in this part with what to expect once you have submitted a proposal to a voice actor.

In Part 2, I talked about the audition, the offer and reviewing the first 15 minutes produced by the voice actor.

We will drill down in this part of the post into the production process and putting your book up for approval and sale once it is complete.

Time to Evaluate Clock Review or Assessment ManagementReviewing the Final Product:

When you made your offer, you were asked to set two deadlines. The first was for the first 15 minutes to be completed and the second was for completion of the entire book. I gave my selected voice actor the recommended two weeks to finish the first 15 minutes and six weeks to finish the entire book. I was very fortunate that the voice actor completed the work well ahead of time.

Surprise Torn Paper ConceptAn Unanticipated Step:

Once the voice actor finished the book, I found that I needed to listen to the entire thing. As I mentioned in Part 2, you’ll want to ensure that the voice actor’s pronunciations are correct. I also mentioned that I had a character with the last name of Figueroa. As I listened to the finished product, I again heard alternating pronunciations of this name. About halfway through listening to the nearly five hour book, I notified the voice actor. He said it was an easy fix if I could tell him which chapters were affected with the approximate time stamp.

This made sense and allowed him to ‘punch in’ the correct word or sentence as needed. It also made it necessary for me to go back and listen to the entire book from the beginning. I tried to be as clear as possible in sending him the places that needed to be fixed.

Here is a sample of the email I sent to him:

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He very quickly turned the changes around and it sounded flawless in the final product.

Submitting for ACX Approval

Once this was done, I was able to submit the book to ACX for final review. I received this email reply:

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ACX takes the review process seriously. I had heard horror stories that books were rejected for rework due to minor technical issues and other things that didn’t meet ACX protocol. I did not hear anything from them for two entire weeks, but then I received the following wonderful email:

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True to the email, the book was up on Amazon and Apple iBooks within a few days.

I am repeating the process with another book and hope to have it ready for sale soon as well.

Overall, this has been a very positive process. If any authors are considering going through the audio book process and you have questions that are detailed in nature, I’d be glad to help. Just email me at don@donmassenzio.com

Creating an Audiobook Using ACX – My Experience – Part 2 of 3

Audio books concept. Vintage books and headphones.

This is the second part of my post on considering your book for production as an audio book.

In Part 1 of this post, I talked about finding a voice actor on ACX. I’ll pick up in this part with what to expect once you have submitted a proposal to a voice actor.

Let’s assume that you receive an audition from a voice actor for a sample of your work and you like what you hear and want to make a proposal to have him/her record your book.

The audition dashboard shown below is an example of what it will look like after you indicate that you like the audition.

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If your offer is accepted, you’ll see something that looks like this:

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As you can see, this view gives you a synopsis of your deal with the audio book producer (voice actor). It shows when the first 15 minutes are due. This first 15 minutes is an important milestone.

Reviewing the first 15 minutes

Your voice actor/producer will submit the first 15 minutes of your book to you by the date you specified in your offer. Once your receive it, there are some very important things to look for.

Tone of voice and pacing:

When I received the audition that I ended up liking for Frankly Speaking, I gave the voice actor some feedback on his tone and pacing. He was fairly new to audio books and his tone and pacing were very announcer-like. This was great for his former career as an on-air radio personality. I was able to give him this feedback in a very positive way and he came through by re-recording the first 15 minutes.

Pronunciations:

My last name is no picnic to pronounce. To me, it sounds like it’s spelled, Massenzio, but I’ve been pronouncing it all of my life. I’ve kept a list of some of the funniest pronunciations. The best was from a nun in Catholic school during the fourth grade who referred to me as Mr. Ma-sneezio. She did not appreciate me saying ‘God Bless You’ instead of ‘present’ during that first roll call. The class laughed, however.

During the first iteration of the recording of Blood Orangethe voice actor pronounced it mah-sehn-ZEE-oh with the emphasis on the third syllable. It should be mah-SEHN-zee-oh with the second syllable emphasized. I know this may sound nit-picky, but I wanted to make sure it was right.

Another issue that cropped up was the pronunciation of character names. I have a character named Alex Figueroa in Blood Orange.Initially, the voice actor started out pronouncing it correctly, but in some instances, he switched to Figurerro.

In both instances, I gave this feedback and the issues were corrected (for the most part, but more on that later).

Character Dialog:

One thing that impressed me very much about the voice actor for Blood Orange was his ability to voice characters with a Syracuse accent. You may not think that there is a distinct accent for Upstate New York. There is, however, and it is very different than a traditional New York City accent. He nailed it.

From the sample of Frankly Speaking, however, I have a character named Clifford Jones, III. He is a surfer/lawyer/computer genius. When I heard the 15 minute audio sample, however, the Georgia accent he had was a bit cartoonish. I was visualizing a Matthew McConaughey kind of subtle twang with some underlying intelligence. Instead, I got an over-the-top Boss Hogg from the Dukes of Hazzard television show. He took the feedback on this very well and did a nice job on the re-record.

Once you are happy with the first 15 minutes, you can approve it and you will see something like this on the project dashboard on ACX:

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After hearing the first 15 minutes of my book recorded as I envisioned it, an exciting feeling came over me. This milestone, however, is just the beginning of some intensive work that is yet to come.

In Part 3 of this series, I’ll be going over some of that work.

I hope this series is helpful to you. Your comments and anecdotes about your experience are welcome as always.

Creating an Audiobook Using ACX – My Experience – Part 1 of 3

Audio books concept. Vintage books and headphones.

In a recent post, I described the process for striking out on your own and recording an audiobook. As I mentioned in that post (found here), I originally went down this post and didn’t like my result because of the quality of my voice.

The route that I took instead, was to use a professional voice actor and create my audiobook through ACX, Amazon’s audiobook platform.

This three part series will describe, in some detail, the process that I went through to create my first of two audiobooks. I hope you find it helpful.


Step 1 – The Platform

acx6This part of the process turned out to be a no-brainer. I was skeptical at first, however, because I had tried the exact same tactics in the past with no positive results. The overwhelming suggestion for a platform was to use acx.com. ACX is another one of those content publishing companies owned by Amazon. Amazon seems to own everything these days, but they also do a lot of things well. ACX is one of their stellar offerings. ACX is a sales portal for audio books, but it’s also a community where voice actors and authors can get together and collaborate.

Step 2 – Find a Voice Actor

Method 1 – Submit a Proposal to Selected Voice Actors

There are two ways to ‘hook up’ with a voice actor on ACX. One is to listen to audio samples of the many authors that are listed on the site. You can kick this off by initiating a search.

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Voice actors (producers) can be searched by clicking the link that reads ‘Producers for Hire’. This will bring you to a screen with initial results as shown below:

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As you can see, there are tens of thousands of samples to choose from. You can use the list of filters, however, to hone in on the type of voice actor you are looking for. You can filter by the obvious categories of genre, gender and language. One thing that makes ACX so useful is that you can also pick particular accents, voice ages, vocal styles, etc. You can really narrow down your list and submit proposals to the voice actors you like.

As you can see from the screen shot below, the filters can really help you be specific. There are many filter selections within each category and you can select multiples. You can narrow down to very few voice actors and listen to sample audio from each.

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Once you’ve narrowed down your selections and found a voice actor or actors that you like, you can look at his/her profile. The screen below is a profile view with the picture of the voice actor and some details redacted to protect privacy.

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As you can see, it shows a summary of experience and billing terms. This particular voice actor is available for $50 – $100 dollars per finished hour (PFH). That means you don’t get charged for his studio time, only the duration of the finished product. The cool thing is, ACX will take the number of words in your manuscript and estimate the time so that you know how much to budget if you are going the route of paying by the hour. A 6 hour novel, for instance, would cost somewhere in the range of $300 – $600 with this voice actor.

Some voice actors will also record your audio book for a share in the royalties. When you have this type of arrangement, you pay nothing to the voice actor directly. Once your book goes on sale, you then split the royalties 50/50 for the life of your audio book. This type of arrangement was appealing to me as I started out with my first book. I just wanted to get one on the market. Hopefully, in the future, I’ll have $100s of dollars budgeted for this, but that’s not where I’m at in my writing career at present.

In this scenario, you can send a proposal to the voice actor(s) you prefer and they can either accept or reject it. You can set a deadline for a response and consider a lack of response a rejection to move things along.

Method 2 – Post Your Book for Auditions

Audition Sign Hanging from Microphone Try-Outs Performance

The second way to connect with a voice actor is to put a sample of your manuscript on ACX for audition. This is a great method for indie authors as we might not have as much ‘juice’ in enticing an experienced voice actor to work on their project. You have two choices here. You can either budget the money and pay the voice actor a flat per finished hour fee, or you can hope that your book has enough potential in the eyes of the voice actor to entice them to audition. The great thing is that, because ACX is connected to Amazon, it automatically pulls the reviews in and gives the voice actor a snapshot of your book.

Here is an image of my book’s synopsis as I put it up for audition on ACX:

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You can see that it gives a great synopsis of the title along with the average Amazon rating, a link to view it on Amazon, along with some of the voice actor preferences that I selected when I put it on ACX. There is also a section where you can tell the voice actor more about the book. I chose to let them know it was a multi-book series to pique their interest in producing the subsequent books.

Once you have your book posted for potential auditions, the next step is very difficult. You have to wait. Waiting for someone to audition is hard. My advice would be, if you don’t get auditions right away, tweak your posting to widen your potential pool of voice actors that will submit an audition.

The strategy that I used was to post two books. I first posted Blood Orangemy terrorism thriller. This book had the most positive critical acclaim and, in my view, the most potential for expanded sales. I also posted my first book, Frankly Speaking, shown above. This book has the widest distribution and most reviews on Amazon of all of my books.

I posted Frankly Speaking many months ago on ACX, before it had received the distribution and reviews and didn’t receive any auditions, so I was a bit nervous. This time, however, was much different. Within 24 hours, I received auditions for both books. Not single auditions, but multiple ones. I was also pleased to see that the voice actor that auditioned, and was ultimately selected for Blood Orange was an experienced producer with multiple credits. I listened to the auditions. I actually had the luxury of rejecting a couple of the Frankly Speaking auditions, but ultimately selected a fairly new voice actor with many years of radio experience.

I hope this has been an helpful post. In the second part of this series, I’ll talk about the production process and putting my first audio book up for sale.

Your comments and questions are most welcome.

Now available – The book that started it all is now an audio book.

Frankly Speaking - CoverI’m excited to announce that my first book, Frankly Speaking, is now available as an audio book. You can find it on Amazon, Audible and Apple Books.

A Bit About the Book

A 16 year old girl has disappeared. The police believe she is a runaway. Her parents believe she has been taken and is being held against her will. When the parents enlist the services of Frank Rozzani, a former police officer turned private detective, a series of events begins to unfold that implicates a popular local pastor and the religious stronghold of the ultra-conservative community.

Frank Rozzani, a transplant to Jacksonville, Florida from Syracuse, New York, must find the young girl despite the obstacles launched at him from the local police and others whose interests may be compromised by his investigation. Frank enlists the help of his associate Clifford “Jonesy” Jones to find the girl, uncover the conspiracy, and stay alive. While solving the case, Frank must deal with the demons that drove him from Upstate New York causing him to leave traumatic memories and his children behind.


Purchase Links:

Audible

Amazon

Also available on iTunes.

SHOULD You Create Your Own Audiobook? from the Writers in the Storm blog

This post comes from the Writers in the Storm blog. It’s a bit of a different take on Audio Book creation from the posts that I put up on my blog earlier this month. This post doesn’t mention the ACX royalty share as an option. You can read my posts and then compare to the information offered in this one.

My Posts on Audio Book Creation:

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

And here is the post from the Writers in the Storm blog:

Got Audiobooks.jpegBy Laura Drake

In light of June Westerfield’s recent post about creating your own book cover (if you missed it, you can read it here), you’re thinking I’m going to say you shouldn’t narrate your own audiobook, right? Wrong! My answer is:

 

Yeah, that’s helpful, right?

I think the easiest way to explain is to tell you how I did it, the pros and cons, and let you decide for yourself.

Read the rest of this post on the Writers in the Storm blog HERE.