I'm in the process of setting up an ad hoc home studio for narrating and recording audiobooks, and I know I'm not the only one. So I thought I'd share some of my choices with you and explain why I made them.
Right now, I have only one audiobook out. I did the narration, and a local music studio did the professional sound engineering. At $100/finished hour (for a 14.5 hour book), I was reluctant to do more, but I've decided that was a paltry excuse and I should just find a better, more financially acceptable route. You can read about that decision here.
My voice is up to the task, so all I need is gear and a room to use. Alas, I don't have the luxury of even a dedicated closet, nor can I panel a room with sound baffles. So, like most of us, I have to use the best space I can and make it as suitable as possible for quality recordings.
And that can be tricky. Once you've found the room that is the most isolated from all the noisy activities of a household (furnace, television, affection-starved pets, oblivious spouses and children) you have to consider how you can make it work for recording.
I've made up my mind. This will be the year I publish audiobook editions of all my titles.
So far, only To Carry the Horn has an audiobook edition. (I've written about producing it here.) I did the narration myself, and I relied upon a local music studio to do the recording.
I'm pleased with the quality of the result, and the reviews are favorable. I've even had a few fans contact me looking for more — but I've balked at producing the rest of them because of the cost of the studio work.
Today, however, my friend Katie persuaded me otherwise.
As I've mentioned elsewhere, I'm planning on writing several entries in the new series, The Affinities of Magic, before publishing them at the beginning of 2018, one every month or two. I think that'll be an interesting experiment in building momentum, and I should be able to manage 4-6 entries before my publishing schedule catches up with my writing. Since it's a new series, I'm hoping my readers won't mind too much waiting a little bit to begin it, if I can saturate them with new entries from the start.
It also lets me experiment with pre-orders, and all the marketing related to that, since I'll have plenty of time to line those dates up.
The bad part of that, for me, is that it means I won't be publishing much except a few shorter works in 2017, and sales tend to drop when no new titles come out.
Katie suggested putting up the missing audiobook editions (as well as audiobooks for the new series ahead of time). That would give me new editions to publish and keep the momentum going for 2017. It's a great idea.
We kicked around the idea of getting local college or high school media interns to help out, but then I realized nothing was really keeping me from just doing the whole thing myself. Nothing that I couldn't solve if I tried.
What's been stopping me from setting up a home studio is that I'm living in a tiny 1812 log cabin, and there's no room that's out of reach of the hot air furnace, and only one where the television is inaudible.
I don't have a good place to set up as a studio, with sound insulation and all the rest — not without making everyone else tiptoe around to accommodate it. It's not like we have a spare closet.
But, you know, technology marches on. The popularity of podcasting has created a demand for gear that can create a mini-environment for recording on a desktop. If all the noise that reaches the mike is controlled, maybe the entire room doesn't have to be deadened like a real studio.
I'm an audiophile as a consumer, but not as a producer. I can grope my way around an audio editor program like Goldwave because I'm also a fiddler and I needed a tool to clean up workshop recordings, but that's a far cry from being an audio engineer. On the other hand, this is spoken word, not multi-track music.
What's one more learning curve for an indie author and publisher, eh?
I'll have to wait until spring is far enough along that I can shut the furnace down for a couple of hours at a time, but by then I expect to have a portable home studio set up for less than the cost of engaging an audio professional to do the work for me for a single book.
I was horrified to hear from one of my readers that there was an automated Whispersync version generated by Amazon. I couldn't imagine how that must have butchered all of those Welsh names! That motivated me into looking into producing my own version under Perkunas Press.
It's been an eye-opener of a journey. First of all, I had to understand that audio comes in three forms: digital downloads (MP3s), CDs with MP3s, and Audio CDs. Then I started looking at cost-to-produce. Sigh…
For my ebook and print editions, I do almost everything myself, even the cover design. This keeps the costs low and allows me to control the business expenses.
Audio is a very different story. Very, very different.
Over the summer I've been unusually busy with the business and technical side of publishing. I've reformatted all my books behind the scenes and I've moved up a level from starter self-publishing and am just beginning to move beyond the basic retailers (Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Apple, Kobo) to a broader worldwide market. This has required my learning a great deal more about worldwide aggregators and distributors, as well as professionalizing (further) my use of metadata in the trade channels.
For those of you who aren't doing self-publishing, let me give you a quick overview. It's quite straightforward today to take your book, apply professional assistance in areas such as editing and cover design, and produce a product that is indistinguishable from the work of traditional publishing. Yes, the devil's in the details — you have to write reasonably well, too — but that's a given. There are no artificial barriers in the way of doing this.
The big difference is in the area of distribution. The US market is the furthest along, and ebooks are perhaps 20-30% of the US market. (Independent publishing is not well captured by book trade statistics, so there's a lot of speculation about the actual numbers). That number is still growing though the speed has slowed down and, of course, print isn't going away. Still, in fiction particularly, it's clear that ebooks will likely eventually approach 50%. The rest of the world is just getting started, but ebook adoption rates there might surprise you — remember, many third world countries went straight to cell phones without bothering with landlines much, so technology adoption rates do vary.
The first book in the series took from mid-April to early-September to complete, and then I spent a good bit of time on the learning curve of how to publish to 9 primary channels, which distribute to 36 retail channels, in 3 formats of ebook, and of course the trade paperback edition. I've only just started the process of contacting 700 independent bookstores, to add a few dozen (hopefully) to my list of local bookstores who've been kind enough to carry it.
I started the new book in early October, just as I officially released the first one. I was looking forward, in a somewhat leisurely fashion, to being much more efficient this time around in producing the versions for distribution, but I'm going to find out in a hurry, because this puppy is likely to be released in the first week or two of January.
First draft: Will complete this week. Total: 2 months. I'm stunned. (Keep in mind, I have a day job.) Heck, the editorial reviews for the first book are still drifting in, and will be for a month or more. My first drafts are near-final, so I expect to wrap this up with lots of polishing and proofreading roundabout Xmas. Give myself a week or two to format it into the editions, and off it will go.
I blame the 10-hour drive (each way) I did as I started the plot work, giving me uninterrupted time to really chew over the basic plot. Hurricane Sandy helped, too — a day without power let me concentrate on finishing the more detailed plot outline for the middle just when I needed to.
Won't be like this for the next book, though. That one will be longer and more complicated. I'm just chewing over the plot ideas now, but I can tell you one thing: much of it will take place in Gwyn ap Nudd's father's court, in the old world.
If you haven't finished reading your copy of To Carry the Horn yet, better hurry up! You wouldn't want me to write them faster than you can read them, would you?
Stay Tuned — There's a scene in The Ways of Winter that I'll post as a Xmas story. Our hero wants to cut himself a Christmas Tree, but no one in the fae otherworld has any idea what he's talking about.