Baby Grand: The Audiobook That Almost Wasn’t

audiobook_imageThis post has been a long time coming. In fact, I had planned to write it back in October 2012 when the audiobook for Baby Grand was supposed to be completed and available for purchase. But there were a few setbacks, and then a few more, and then it looked like I would have to go back to the drawing board when — cue Rocky music — my technologically savvy husband saved the day (again). Now, the Baby Grand audiobook is completed and available for purchase on Audible and Amazon. Here’s how it came to be.

A writer-friend of mine sent me information on an ASJA (American Society of Journalists and Authors) seminar taking place in NYC last summer on audiobooks. At the time, I really wanted to get busy on producing an audiobook for Baby Grand, but didn’t know how to go about it. What I DID know is that I DID NOT want to narrate the audiobook myself. I wanted a professional voice artist, but didn’t know how to go about contacting one or whether or not I needed to provide/rent studio space and how much all this was going to cost me.

The seminar was put on by a representative of ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange), which is an Amazon platform. Amazon. That word alone was enough to ease any fears I had. Not only was it a company I knew, but one I trusted, having initially released my eBook through Kindle and my paperback using CreateSpace.

In a nutshell, this is what I learned from the ACX guy during the hour-long presentation: Not only would ACX connect me with professional voice people, who had their own studios, but it offered a 50/50 royalty share agreement between narrator and author so that I didn’t have to shell out any money up front. Woo hoo!

This was awesome! The rep said that once I signed up with the website, narrators would contact me, but it was a better idea to browse through the website’s stable of narrators and inquire whether anyone was interested in working with me. So that’s what I did. I listened to a bunch of samples and contacted about fifteen producers who either had experience with thrillers or who had voices that I liked; virtually all of them replied to me immediately. (I always thought — and this surprised quite a few people — that Baby Grand should be read by a man, even though my protagonist, Jamie Carter, is a woman. I’m not sure why, and I’ll discuss this more in Wednesday’s post, but perhaps it’s because other than Jamie, most of the ten or so main characters are men. Or perhaps I just think male voices are scarier. Still, I asked several women to audition as well. You never know.) I provided those narrators with a sample chapter of Baby Grand — one that I had selected for a reading I had just done at an Oceanside, N.Y. event that summer — and waited excitedly for the samples to come in.

And in they came. It was such a bizarre, exciting experience hearing a foreign voice reading my words. (In some instances, I truly had forgotten that I had written them.) Of all the samples that arrived, I found producer Bob Thomley’s to be what I was looking for. Not only was his intonation, pacing and voice suited for the job, he seemed very professional (enthusiastic and conscientious), and that, to me, was just as important as his voice quality.

So we made our 50/50 deal and got started. Things were sailing along wonderfully there for a while. Bob would send me each chapter, and I would listen to it and offer some suggestions or corrections, which were done in a timely manner. We were running a little late, but these things happen, so I didn’t think it was a big deal. And then Superstorm Sandy paid a visit to the New York area, and that seemed to delay us a bit more.

But then I hadn’t heard from Bob in a while, and I got concerned. He wasn’t as responsive as he’d been. The audiobook was nearly completed, with only a few tiny corrections to be made, including an ACX requirement on chapter length that we needed to address.

But Bob was out of touch. Turns out, there were equipment problems and illness on Bob’s end. The planned release date was now moved from November to December. “Would you be able to get it done in early December?” I asked. Bob didn’t think so. “Maybe January,” he said. January? Maybe??

He was so apologetic, and I felt for him — I knew that if he could he would have finished the job just as conscientiously as he’d began it. But at the same time, I needed my book done, and I was watching the holiday selling season slip away. Finally, Bob contacted me, told me that he was truly sorry and that he could not finish the job at all and suggested I contact another producer.

Another producer?!

That made no sense to me. I LOVED Bob’s performance and didn’t want to go through the process all over again. I was happy with all the decisions I had made and was determined not to let equipment problems (or whatever was going on) set me back. I had come so far!

Just when I started researching local producers to help me splice chapters, my husband, Tommy, suggested I let him give it a try. (My husband is affectionately called “The Computer Whisperer” by our friends, and it’s not unusual to see him working on a strange computer any day of the week.) Within only a week or two, Tommy was able to figure out the software and get it done to ACX’s specifications, and the audiobook was approved and released this month. Better late than never. And what was pretty cool was that when, in my excitement, I had clicked onto the ACX site to see my new audiobook, I had already sold five copies.

So now, I’ve pretty much finished what I had to do with Baby Grand, my first novel: eBook, paperback, audiobook, all done. All that’s left, of course, is the feature film. :)

And even with that stressful, suspenseful ending (I am a thriller writer, after all), I found the whole audiobook process to be easy and quite fun. I am proud of the audiobook that Bob Thomley and I put together — although Bob tells me he is moving out of audiobooks and into other vocal endeavors. I wish him all the best.

And if I can say a little something about the ACX customer service/tech support team: Other than being frustrated that they were not available 24/7 (we authors want everything), they were helpful and polite and responsive, particularly when I was calling every other day fraught with concern. I am now on a first-name basis with all of them.

Note: All this week, we will be celebrating the audiobook release of Baby Grand. Tomorrow: A Debut Author Q&A with Jessica McCann, whose first novel, All Different Kinds of Free, is available as an audiobook.

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