The audiobook was an accident.
When I finished revisions on Beat In Her Blood late last year, my sister “Alice”—who had provided invaluable critique on earlier drafts—wanted to read the final product, but her eyes weren’t cooperating. Her myriad neurological afflictions from Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) include difficulty reading text longer than a chat message. Rather than burden her with a 77,000-word novel manuscript, I offered to read it aloud.
Too bad I live 10,000 miles away.
Even scheduling a cross-time-zone phone call is difficult at that distance. So I recorded the narration instead. It wasn’t a professional job, just me with a USB microphone and laptop, a technological proxy for sitting by her side. Each chapter became an mp3, uploaded to a shared cloud drive for Alice’s listening leisure. It was only intended as a personal creation.
Alice had bigger ideas.
“You’re a good reader, better than a lot of the ones I’ve listened to on Audible,” she insisted. Her opinion on this subject is a studied one, since voracious audiobook consumption is her solution to chronic tinnitus, another gift of EDS. “You should do a real audiobook!”
I’d toyed with the audiobook idea before. A novel that serves as a sci-fi exploration of disability should, on principle, consider accessibility for people like Alice. But the prospect and price of hiring a narrator intimidated me. Several other indie authors had blogged in helpful detail about narrating their own works, and I’ve dabbled with enough music recording to grasp the technical basics. Editing a sound file is easy. Editing the natural quirks of my speech—high speed, high volume, a lingering Long Island accent—is another matter.
Luckily, I had a coach. I recorded the opening chapter multiple times, experimenting with pace and articulation. Alice critiqued my efforts. “Slow down! That character’s voice isn’t consistent. Read with more energy, like you’re acting.” I’ve long used my voice as a musical instrument, from theatre to karaoke to several years as the lead singer of a party band. Channeling those dynamics, I refined my performance enough to proceed with the audiobook. Under normal circumstances, it would have taken months to complete such a project, recording a chapter or two on evenings and weekends. But when my Laddie’s unexpected surgery forced us to cancel a three-week adventure trip, Fate presented me with an opportunity to turn disappointment into development.
I converted a corner of the bedroom into a pop-up recording studio. Blackout curtains behind me and slabs of repurposed packing foam around my mic served as dampeners. I crafted a template in GarageBand with the optimal settings for audiobook tracks. While my Laddie numbed his pain with ice and computer games in the next room, I plunged into a visceral new dimension of my own story.
Drawing on my handful of drama classes in school, I tried to give each cast member a distinct voice, so listeners knew who was speaking without attribution. Emotional nuance emerged from the dialogue: discontent seething beneath Jonathan’s weary calm, flickers of fear in Petra’s flippant fire, the crackling energy in their arguments. Speaking the characters’ lines exposed them more intimately than on the page. It also revealed rhythms in the words; my ears immediately detected where the flow needed improvement. For my next book, I’ll record audio as part of final edits, because there’s no more effective proofreading technique than tripping over your own typos!
I finished the cuts around New Year’s. Alice faithfully listened to every chapter and pronounced it worthy. Now I had to figure out what to do with nine-and-a-half hours of audiobook. At first I assumed that Audible was the only serious sales option, but its exclusivity clauses raised the hair on my indie author neck. A little research turned up another option: Findaway Voices, a platform that distributes to about 40 audiobook purveyors. Comparative analysis determined it was the better option for me. Although it’s too soon to ascertain its success—that will be a future blog post topic—the set-up was easy and intuitive. I created a profile, uploaded my mp3s, and held my breath for two days while they underwent quality control review. Passed! I am now the proud producer of an audiobook.
Each distributor ingests the book on its own timeline, but as of this writing, you can find it on Spotify, Kobo, Nook, libro.fm, Google Play, Scribd, and more (look for Audible soon). I’m celebrating the kickoff with a promotional price of $9.95 through the end of March 2023. After that, it’ll still cost less than most audiobooks at $15.95. I matched its retail price to my paperback version, because I think it’s unfair that audiobook consumers like Alice get charged a premium. Accessibility is more than format: it’s price, too. Unless you’re one of the first 100 people to request a redemption code! Yep, I’m giving away free downloads of Beat In Her Blood on Spotify. Interested? Drop me a note via my Contact page.
I hope others will enjoy this story as much as Alice. Maybe, like her, visual text isn’t your jam. Maybe your commute needs some cyberpunk companions. Or maybe you just want to chuckle at an ex-New Yorker mangling her heroine’s southern drawl. Give it a try right now with the short sample below. If you’d like to hear the rest, check your favorite audiobook platform for Beat In Her Blood!