Friday, April 24, 2015

The 'Just Right' of choosing an audiobook narrator

Illustration from "The Story of the Three Bears" by Leonard Leslie Brooke (
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In the year since DERELICT was published, I've had readers ask me if and when there would be an audiobook version. And I've made polite and non-committal noises about it for a bunch of reasons.

First, because audiobooks aren't really on my radar. I don't listen to them. And second, because I've always hated being read to - even from the time I was a little kid. I think I've listened to exactly one audiobook and that was probably 10 years ago when we were on a family road trip and we got one from the library on about a zillion cassette tapes. 

I'm not sure why I don't like being read to. I do love listening to baseball games on the radio, and when I was young, my dad and I used to listen to radio mystery theater together all the time. But the thought of listening to an entire novel always seemed unpleasant.

But when a friend of mine mentioned that her commute was over an hour each way and that the only thing that saved her sanity driving was audiobooks, I realized that I was letting my own likes and dislikes get in the way of someone else's enjoyment.

So I wandered over to, Amazon's audiobook creation exchange marketplace, and decided to give it a go. The set up was quite simple, since I'm already registered with Amazon KDP and am the rights holder to all my novels.

I know enough about audiobooks/podcasting to know that it's a lot of work. Aside from the basic equipment needed to record, there's work that goes into post production and I wasn't up to learn how to do it. At least not now, when I have several publication projects on my plate. Because of that, I was happy to sign on for a royalty share option. Yes, Amazon takes the lion's share of the proceeds (60%, in this case), and the rights holder then splits the remainder 50/50 with the audiobook producer, but 20% of something is better than 0% of nothing. And there's the very real possibility that having an audiobook will open me up to a new audience for all my books.

Once I entered DERELICT in the system (including a short excerpt from the book for auditions), ACX opened it up to voice actors/producers who then provide the rights holder with a short sample recording. Within a few days, I had almost 10 auditions to listen to.

This was the hard part for me. Since I don't listen to audiobooks, I wasn't sure I'd know what I even wanted in a narrator. So I plugged in my headphones and listened.

It was really weird to hear my story being read to me.

Like super weird.

Some of the voices were overly dramatic, like I was hearing a movie trailer voice over. I knew that was 'too big'.

Some of the voices were too distant, as if they were narrating a documentary. That felt 'too small.'

And then I heard Bill Burrows. He was just right. It didn't feel strange at all to hear him tell my story. It actually felt utterly natural, as if I'd written it for him to voice.

I'm not sure I could tell you why it felt like such a good fit, but I can tell you that when I was listening, I was able to dive into the story and forget that I was being read to. Even forget these were my words. Bill seemed to inhabit the story and gave just the right separation in style and emphasis to the narration versus the dialogue and between each character's voice.

There is a huge element of personal preference in the choosing of a narrator. It's not an exact science and like Goldilocks, I was able to find a just right. 

With Bill's permission, I am sharing the first 15 minutes from the audiobook for DERELICT, currently in production. The audiobook will be available sometime in the early summer. Please feel free to sign up for my occasional newsletter (link on the right sidebar) for notifications.

I hope you enjoy it! (And here's a link to it on the soundcloud site if the embedded audio doesn't work: )


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