with guest Nancy Kimball.
I’m honored to be here in Seekerville today, sharing a glimpse behind the curtain at how my debut novel Chasing the Lion was brought to life on audiobook. The process was an amazing experience, even with its rather steep learning curve, and one I hope every author has the opportunity to experience at least once. Hearing your hero’s voice aloud for the first time is as surreal as holding your very first finished book in your hands. As the audiobook industry continues to grow, helped along as publishing was by the digital conversion, I believe more and more authors will have this opportunity. To minimize that learning curve for others, and because it’s just sooooooo cool, let’s walk through how Lion went from finished novel to finished audiobook. And of course give away some audiobooks too!
Step. 1 Welcome to ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange)
Listing my novel on ACX was very easy. The interface is simple to navigate, and all that is required is you are the rights holder and the title is available for sale at Amazon. I selected the type of production deal I wanted, male or female narrator, voice style, and uploaded the audition script I selected. Then I awaited auditions. That’s how ACX works. Rights holders list their projects, narrators and producers search through them, looking for those they want to audition for.
Author/Publisher Tip: Choose the scene most critical to you the narrator get absolutely right. One with high emotion, dialogue from one or more characters, and has both a male and female voice represented, is even better.
Step 2. Auditions
Avid audiobook listeners know the narrator makes or breaks the audiobook. A poor fit in style and/or a poor performance will hurt even the most compelling of novels, so keep this in mind as you evaluate auditions. The first time I heard Joseph Narducci’s reading, I was rendered speechless and in awe. Joseph didn’t just completely capture the emotion of the scene, but I also sensed he just “was” my hero. I was completely BLOWN AWAY!
Author/Publisher Tip: Keep in mind that not only does the narrator need to deliver your scene and characters well, but you will likely be working closely with this individual over an extended period of time so choose someone you can also have good rapport with.
Step 3. Production
Once terms are accepted and delivery deadline set through ACX, production can begin. To give you an idea of how long this part takes, ACX requires a minimum of 60 days for the narrator to produce the work. The full manuscript is delivered to the narrator, who then records the first fifteen minutes for approval. Once that step is done, the narrator will notify you when the rest of the book is complete, or when each new chapter is posted.
My narrator worked closely with me on each chapter as he recorded them, clarifying pronunciation, making certain I was happy with each new voice that was being added, auditioning options for a character’s voice or accent where needed. Joseph welcomed direction, but rarely needed it as his own interpretations were consistently in line with my vision. There were a few lines and scenes here and there I requested changes to, and one chapter we chose to completely rerecord because I hadn’t adequately articulated the first time what I wanted. These “chisels” as he called them, required patience and good communication, but yielded an even stronger final product. I was continually amazed at how Joseph brought out layers in my story and further depth to my characters than even I knew was there.
So I’m not creating an unrealistic expectation of other narrators, it’s worth noting this level of collaboration Joseph prefers is very normal for him, but well above industry standard. A quality narrator can take the text and independently produce a fine audiobook that is uploaded all at once (still in individual chapter files.)
Author/Publisher Tip: For performance feedback or direction, utilizing the comment feature in MS Word, highlighting the relevant text and commenting in the margin, similar to when critiquing/editing, is very efficient. You can save time for your narrator by also noting at what minute and second mark (time stamp) that portion of text is in the recording.
BONUS Author/Publisher Tip: Be open to the idea that when the narrator’s interpretation of a bit of dialogue or scene differs from yours, his or her version may be best for the audiobook. Your narrator is a cold reader with fresh perspective, as listeners will be, so after the shock of the difference, listen again and consider why it may have been interpreted that way before requesting a change.
Step 4. Finishing Touches and Release
Audiobook cover images have different size and layout requirements than ebook and print covers. I brought back my talented cover designer Alexandre Rito to design the audiobook cover for Chasing the Lion. We kept it close to the original, but included Joseph’s name and credit line. Narrators don’t expect this, but I think it very fitting to do so if the author is able.
I set aside a weekend to do one full top to bottom listen of all chapters, caught only three things to chisel, and enjoyed my audiobook start to finish for the first time. Once again, it was like watching the movie with my eyes closed. After Joseph did a final audio balance and polish, we each clicked “approved” on our respective sides of ACX and celebrated.
From that point, ACX does its own quality control and upload to the distribution channels as well as assigns all pricing. This can take several weeks so beware of committing to a specific release date on social media and publicity material. Once you get the email the book is posted for sale on Audible, let the social media and newsletter blast commence. And be VERY proud.
I couldn’t write an article like this without asking Joseph to be a part of it. He graciously agreed to an interview, because he’s awesome like that.
What do you find most rewarding about producing audiobooks?
As a performer, I love the process of immersing myself in the story, crafting the characters’ voices, and discovering the layers of the story through the performance as if I was in it myself. The performance plays out in my mind like a movie. It’s easy to get swept up into the work and I love it. Above all, bringing the story to life, job #1 for an audiobook narrator, is a joy for me.
What is the most challenging part of the process?
The production aspect. An incredible amount of patience is required with editing, levels, studio software, and so forth. These are the common challenges for anyone in audio production. Not to mention uncontrollable factors like outside sounds infiltrating my home studio. Barking dogs, helicopters, planes, church bells, and if my stomach growls during a session, LOL. My mic hears all things and so many times I have to recut. But as I continue to upgrade my gear and find new ways to overcome those things, the producer side continues to grow more efficient. I love the narrating side so much, they balance each other well.
What is one thing about producing an audiobook it might surprise listeners to learn?
That’s a great question. I suppose listeners might be surprised by how much time it can take to make an audiobook. I can read a chapter of a book in no time, but to craft that chapter into an audio form can take several hours from performing to producing.
***Nancy breaking in to say this is very true, and not just for Joseph. Author and narrator Becky Doughty of BraveHeart Audiobooks shared this on her blog recently. ACX estimates it requires an average of six hours to produce one finished hour of narration.
Do you have a favorite scene or character from Chasing the Lion’s audiobook?
Wow… that is a tough one. Lion took me totally by surprise. In fact in several chapters I found myself profoundly moved. This emotion at times blended with the performance in ways I couldn’t have planned. I mean, the story resonates with anyone who faces the lions in their own life. So choosing a favorite scene is tough! Without adding any spoilers, my favorite character is Jonathan. His mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual journey was just hardcore powerful. The range of his encounters, both positive and negative, coupled with his transformation was very satisfying for me both as a narrator and a person. I believed his story, and the hope found within it.
I hope you enjoyed this inside look at audio production. Are you an audiobook fan? What do you like about audiobooks? Any pet peeves you care to share?
Author, avid reader, and shameless hero addict, Nancy Kimball loves books, Ancient Rome, and all things gladiator. She is a two time American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Contest Finalist, and former president of her local ACFW chapter, Writers on the Storm. She makes her home in Houston, Texas with one very spoiled pitbull mix named Eric T. and still doesn’t understand the point of white crayons. Visit her official website, nancykimball.com, to learn more about Chasing the Lion and hear an excerpt from the audiobook
Leave a comment and let us know if you want your name in the lion's dish for a free download of Nancy Kimball's audiobook of Chasing the Lion. Winners announced in the Weekend Edition!
Chasing the Lion
From the blood-soaked sand of the Roman arena, a divine destiny will rise.
For as long as Jonathan Tarquinius can remember, everyone has wanted something from him. His half brother wants him dead. His master’s wife wants his innocence. The gladiator dealers want him to fight—and die—for their greed. Rome’s most famous prostitute wants his love. And the gentle slave girl who tends the wounds on his body and the hidden ones on his soul longs for him to return to his faith.
What Jonathan wants is simple. Freedom. But God wants something from Jonathan too—something more than anyone would ever imagine. The young warrior’s journey will push him to the limits of human endurance and teach him that true freedom is found within. The greatest battle Jonathan must ever fight will not come in the arena, but deep within himself as he is forced to choose between vengeance and mercy—with the fate of an empire and the life of the woman he loves hanging in the balance.