Saturday 29 June 2013

Calling all authors: have you thought about turning your novel into an audiobook? Why you should and how to do it...

Gypsie Rosalee's fortune telling tent?  No - it's Jasper de Montfort (really?) in his DIY sound booth!

After my recent post on Venture Galleries “Hooks, Hopes, and Dialogue. Would you rather read or be read to?” I had a couple of comments asking for more information about the costs of creating an audiobook version of a novel and whether it was worth the investment? The following post is based on my response back to these queries.
So, how much does it cost to get your book into audio format?  The costs depend on how far you want to push the boat out – use an actor (prices vary depending on experience/fame levels etc) or record it and edit it yourself?
Some actors will take a royalty share but most want a fee as there is significant work involved producing an audiobook.  Typically they charge a fee that includes the editing – so you get  a price per finished hour of audio – which can vary from $200-$400. So for a 90,000 word book, this would come out at around 10 hours of finished audio – costing between $2000 and $4000.
"The Gentleman and the Rogue" by Emma Calin is now an audiobook.
The Gentleman and The Rogue is now a finished audiobook which I produced on behalf of Summer Devon and Bonnie Dee (the authors) via ACX.  For this I received a $900 up-front bonus stipend and will get  half the royalties on any sales.  

The narrator then usually records a 30 minute sample – the first 3500 words – for approval.  This is the last chance for the author to request any change of style or accent etc and is the basis for the way that the rest of the book will be recorded. The next time the author is contacted will be with the whole book for final approval.This may sound steep – but  a 10 hour finished book will have at least 75 hours of solid work behind it – recording, editing and final quality check (it takes 10 hours just to listen to it!). If you divide it out, this is paying the actor about $27 per hour on the lower rate – which is not not excessive for a professional running a business.   However, it is money that would be paid before any sales – if you can get the actor to agree to a split-royalty deal (usually they will want 50%) then it makes it easier to achieve.  Audible have many such actors on  
For those of you who haven’t visited ACX – you should – it is a brilliant uploading service for independent producers and authors.  They allow authors to advertise for the type of narrator they would like (accent, age, style etc) and provide an audition text for any interested party to use to record a sound test.  The auditions come in, the author selects the one they like best and then the narrator goes off to do the work.   It is a really simple utility to use and it marries authors and producers up and handles contracts, payments, sign offs etc and then gets the finished job up onto Amazon, Audible and iTunes.  They offer all sorts of payment options for producers – including royalty splits and they then handle the payments to you when the book sales start flooding in….  With this option your outlay is minimal – you are just sacrificing half your future royalties.  If you are lucky to have a book that sells well on Amazon, ACX may earmark your book by adding their own stipend bonus payment to encourage producers to audition for your book (this is usually $100 per thousand words and is paid for by ACX - not the author!!).

The other option to creating your audiobook is the DIY method. However – do not underestimate this task.  It may sound like a way of saving a couple of thousand dollars or keeping all the royalties for yourself – I have narrated some of my own books and believe me,  it’s harder than you would imagine.  To be frank, some folk just cannot read a story out loud – even if they wrote it. Whilst it’s great to be able to advertise the  ‘authentic voice of the author’ – you need to be honest about this and maybe get a friend to tell you if your reading voice sucks.  Don’t be offended by the truth – it is a skill that actors train for years to achieve.  I know that my voice is not ideal – I have too much ‘S’ sound (teccie term – sibilance) but some of this can be filtered out post-recording. I am also prone to drone and have to re-record many times before I get the level of animation that I think is needed.
Try a  no-cost test : download Audacity (free) and record yourself reading  a couple of pages from one of your  books using the mic on your computer. Play it back  – close your eyes and listen – are you able to sound animated? Do you tell the  story or is it just a flat reading? Can you differentiate between the characters if there is dialogue? Would you be happy to pay $20 to listen to your style of delivery for 10 hours? My impression is that many of the most successful narrators are outgoing Thespians rather than those tormented taciturn screenopath scribes.
As an alternative to doing a whole book, you could try having a practice on a poem or other inspirational text. When I was considering the audio option I recorded one of my own poems and put it up on you tube. I made a video and dubbed in the soundtrack. I found this a valuable experience and you may just end up with a work of art. In any event it will paste your name on just a little more of the wall of life.  You do not need to make a video – a morphing still shot sequence works well (I use One True Media which is easy peasy to use and free but there are many other packages out there e.g Windows Movie Maker). My poem has now had about 1100 views – so that means my “brand” has just a little more exposure.  Also – I find that doing this kind of stuff makes me feel a bit more like an “ARTIST”. Writing Romance means you have to let go and really dig out those juicy feelings that might embarrass your neighbour.  Actor types have that  unembarrassed confidence to express feelings and some of that has fed back into my writing even though I am no actress.
In terms of the 75 hours work to get a book done – this is quite a lot of time to find in a busy author’s day.  It will stop you from writing/living for around two weeks solid – or longer if you have other commitments – e.g. food/sleep/conversation with spouse.   Bear in mind that in reality it’s difficult to do more than about 20 mins recording at a time – your voice gets tired and it’s difficult to be “in character” and maintain an accent or voice for much longer. This is when you  start to make lots of mistakes – and that means retakes. So the recording may take much longer than you expect!  At least if it’s at home you can have rests and do other jobs in between, or run off and refresh with a “cuppa’”and some contact with the outside world!.
The good news is – It’s relatively cheap to set up a home-studio as there is excellent free software available (e.g. Audacity) and a reasonable quality podcast microphone, stand, ‘pop screen’ and headphones can be acquired for less than $200.  I got mine from Amazon.
Once you have recorded the whole book – then comes the production phase – editing (removing errors and chopping into suitable file sizes) and “mastering” (smoothing out the ‘S’ for my voice, making sure the chapters have consistent sound levels, preparing them for upload to Audible via ACX etc).
Editing an audiobook  is a painstaking job – removing the errors from the recording and maybe adding in pauses for effect or cutting long gaps to smooth out dialogue.  In addition you have to be listening out for and then remove, all the  strange wheezes and pops, coughs and clunks and stomach gurgles that somehow get onto the track.  Add to this the removal of odd external street noises (police sirens, dogs barking etc) which are inevitable if you do not record in a sound-proofed room or have a directional mic.  There is some art involved in this – deciding to leave a noisy breath in the middle of a sentence or removing one from the beginning of a phrase will depend on the flow and context of the passage.  Many authors have not planned in advance for a paragraph to be read aloud and this makes the job of the recording artist quite a challenge.  Frequently there are gaspings as the poor actor struggles to get in enough air after a long sentence with many sub-clauses or commas!
Some work could only ever be read by the author. One of my favourite possessions is a CD of Bukowski reading his own poems. The quality is appalling. He sounds drunk and slurred, there are all manner of clunks, gasps, groans, snorts and cigarette sucking sounds. It is entirely unprofessional with a  “stuff you if you don’t like it” tone. However, this is its quality and value. My guess is that it would not get past the ACX technical checking department.
When the whole book is finished, it needs to be divided into suitably-sized chapters – I tend to keep mine to around 20 minutes wherever possible as I find this is a popular length for the listener.   I then upload each chapter onto ACX – this is a very smooth process, the ACX site is so well organised and easy to use.  The author is expected to listen to the whole thing and approve it – or request any (hopefully minor!) changes.  If you are doing your own book yourself, you will have the satisfaction of signing yourself off!   It’s then a case of waiting for ACX to check the quality of your recording and then load it up onto Amazon, Audible and iTunes.  This is a nail-biting time and can last as long as four weeks.
Then joy – your audiobook appears on sale to the public..  I was quite shocked at the premium prices that are paid for audiobooks – especially if bought as a one-off impulse buy – we are talking around $20 for a 10 hour book compared to a typical Kindle price of $5 for this length of book (90000 words).  The deal on ACX is great – they take half the money and split the other half between the author and the producer (who then has to pay the narrator).  So the author gets $5 per sale – which is far better return than on the Kindle version.  However, most people into audiobooks have subscriptions to Audible, iTunes etc and use their monthly credit allowance, so the income for the purchase is reduced. So far, sales of the book I have on sale on ACX have been 50/50 between full price and monthly credits – so averaging about  $3.50 per sale to me as the producer.

So for authors thinking about audiobooks -  using an ACX narrator on the split-royalty deal will give you an audiobook for no up-front outlay, that brings in at least the same yield as your Kindle version and the added bonus of an additional medium in which to expose your work.
If you were happy to do the recording and editing yourself, as author and producer – you would  would get twice this – $7 which is much higher than the Kindle royalties but you will have had to invest the 75 hours of your time to create the audiobook. There is only one question.  Are you an introspective focused writer or an outgoing thespian – some lucky souls  are both.  If you are not, ask this question: would you hire an amateur nuclear power station designer?  Personally, I think both options give you a cost-effective means of getting your stories in front of a wider audience.
Those of you in the USA have the wonderful resource of ACX at your disposal. On their site you will find all manner of help and advice. Youtube carries tutorials on voice coaching and accent development. In the great knowledgewurst-of-infinite-everything sausage, every possible resource is there on the net.
Sadly, at present ACX is closed to non US citizens even though there are hordes of writers looking for British-English narrators and equally, scores of  British authors desperate to get their books out into the audio arena. This ban has now been applied to me and I can no longer put books out on ACX. We live in hope. We keep our narrators revved up, we are recording all our books ready for that moment and we know that we produce the goods that sell. If you have to good fortune to live in the USA, then ACX is the platform.
Based on my post for The VG Authors Collection (click the badge to find more)

Wednesday 19 June 2013

'Love in a Hopeless Place' Live Launch Party with Giveaways

Welcome to the launch party for my new novelette - a gritty romance called 

'Love in a Hopeless Place'

You can find the book here

Thank you for coming along!

I just fancied a quick 'apéro', to say hello and introduce you to this final book in my novelette and short story series, following on from 'Sub-Prime', 'The Chosen' and 'Escape To Love'.  

I'll only keep you here for half an hour or so - with some excerpts, music from the book, virtual drinks, nibbles and some prizes - props from the book!  

[This post will grow as I add more information during the launch - please check back for updates. If you come to the post after 8pm on 19th June it will be complete and probably rather longer than my usual posts!]

First of all let's get the party going with the starter track on my playlist.... just click the box below to listen.

This is the song that is playing at the start of Chapter 1...  arguably a catalyst for the events that follow.

Picture the scene...  a Working Men's Club...  a "do" for the employees of a local warehousing business...

In the words of Lyn, the first person narrator of this tale, here is the  opening paragraph of the book:

"You can't blame the music for what happened. You can't blame the budget-brand vodka or the own-brand cola.  You can't blame anyone but me and the great gaping hole I used to know as ME."

As we're talking drinks and this is a party - anyone for a glass of bubbly to celebrate with me?

Back to Lyn and her colleagues:

"It was a big Friday feeling with a gap-toothed glitter ball and spotlights with their faded pink cellophane glamour." 

Get the picture? 

Now it's time for the first little competition.  As I mentioned when you arrived, the prizes are all props from the story...  I will reveal them during the course of the party.  To be in the draw for all the prizes (one per person) fill in the rafflecopter below...

And the first prize out of the hat will be... a rather lovely disco glitter ball (on a keyring!)

Enter your details once below, to have a chance to win this or one of the other prizes coming up shortly (only one entry needed to have a chance for all the prizes).

Unfortunately this competition is closed - but here is another where you could win a copy of the e-book of Love in a Hopeless Place - the draw for this is on the 2nd of July 2013.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

More fizz anyone or maybe some nibbles?

or perhaps some nuts...

Time to change tracks...  we're still at the party with Lyn and this is the last dance of the evening.

Whilst you're enjoying Lionel, let me show you the next prize something from the warehouse where Lyn works... something for the weekend   ;-0  

(Bet you hope you don't win these eh!?)

Back in the book... Lyn is getting in the mood...

...and that was where I started to lose it - I mean lose the will to pretend. You know that feeling you get sometimes when your face aches from smiling when you're out in company. My life had been that smile.”

and this was the music that accompanied her thoughts...

...and this was what helped her get her mind where she wanted it to be... (Yes it's another prize!)

Ah slight problem... we've started drinking this too...

Never mind, a substitute prize... a copy of the book itself

Back to the story...  Lyn realises the joy of her new love but can she control her lover's emotions?

To want is easy. To be wanted is a delicious warm bath but with someone else's hand on the hot tap.”

and another romantic track....

Moving away from the story itself – the cover of the book has proved popular, so my next prize is your very own 'Love in a Hopeless Place' flower tattoo (it's a temporary one so nothing too risqué).

I don't want to reveal too much more about the plot... but on the way to the climax of the story Lyn hears the following song on the car radio and ironically remarks that it could be her theme song.

'Love in a Hopeless Place' - the title of the book is taken from this song and also provided the perfect themed link between all the books in the series - 

Back to the plot... A member of Lyn's family is a night-club bouncer, but maybe not at The Seahorse Club. My last prize is your own membership pin to that very club... a beautiful enamel and crystal confection - the very seahorse at the heart of the club logo....

To finish this off with my usual flourish... these are my thoughts as I have partied this evening,  from the social club glitter ball my thought reflections are patterned  out below......

Emma Thinx: Neither Life nor Love are ever perfect but there is no perfect Life without Love 

A big thank you to everyone who has lasted to the end of this post. I hope you have enjoyed the virtual party and popped your name down for a chance to win a prize? )

Tuesday 18 June 2013

Love In A Hopeless Place - Emma Calin's new book launched today

Hearing extracts from the opera "Carmen" playing on my grandparents radiogram I used to imagine myself as a person of high culture at the age of ten. I imagined that Carmen was some kind of queen or at least a princess.  It was some years later I saw the opera on TV and discovered that Carmen worked in a cigarette factory. How could this be? How could such a glamorous tragic femme fatale spend her days in such an environment? Why would an artist place his character in such a setting?

Of course, the question was as innocent as I was in those days. Since then I have set stories in a poultry killing plant, a broken-down wreck of a truck and several threadbare domestic interiors. As I prepare to launch
I realise that my contribution to literature may be to set a story in a condom warehouse. Among the packets of Ridged Ticklers and Pleasure Domes a story of lust and love unfolds into passion, violence and destruction. (The names of the condoms have been altered slightly). 

So - why the condom warehouse? The answer is of course, that this is a true story from my own life experience and that is where Lyn, our heroine worked. I was able to see all sides of these events and have added very little. I can say no more. 

This novelette is the last of the series of tales from the gritty streets which form the "Love in a Hopeless Place Collection" which will appear in July. At last, I have gotten that piece of grit out of my eye and can see clear Romance ahead. Indeed, I am working on a story for a publisher almost as if I were a proper writer, although probably I should not go that far. All I can say is that a manly Lord and his elegant lover come together as the sun sets in Venice. Defo not a dead turkey, car smash or condom in sight. Well, you can have too much of a good thing.

Find your copy of the book

Amazon Worldwide book link:
Facebook Page:

Celebrate and enter my draw to win a copy for yourself:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Emma Thinx: A cold heart is love's only hopeless place

Wednesday 12 June 2013

Bird Brains

Who the heck ever thought of the term "bird brain"? As a serious intellectual and major literary figure I often find myself humbled by the simple birds in my garden. I have a wonderful crow called "Hook-beak" who lives in a nearby oak tree rookery. I've been watching him for the past 5 years so I know he's at least that old. His favourite little trick to is pick up dry bread and bring it to my bird bath to soften it. 

In France I have my two lovely pigeons Colin (the escaped racing pigeon) and his wild French lover Coline. Yes - he gave up his life of international travel and his batchelor pad in Scunthorpe UK to devote himself to love in France. 

And now I have Bongo, the performing pigeon. Like many quirky old Doris types I have a bird feeder - meant for sweet little birdies. Bongo has been studying it for months. The only thing that distracts him are lady pigeons before whom he poses and warbles before attempting a poorly planned sexual assault. At last he has cracked it. I am going to model my future on this bird. Just a couple more bounces and, if I can stretch just a little further, I'm gonna suck seed. 

Oooh - this blog just gets worse and worse. OK- I know what you really wanted. Blah blah buy my books blah blah. 

Emma Thinx: Do panic! You won't fly if you can't flap.

Tuesday 11 June 2013

Hooks, Hopes, and Dialogue. Would you rather read or be read to?

Now, I have immersed myself in all manner of boiling waters over the whole matter of double-entendres. My skin is so pink that at least it hides my blushes. Last time on here I was talking about audiobooks. These days I beaver away at other writers’ works as much as my own. I have committed some of my own stories to audio but there is an equal joy of editing the work of other authors.
A few days ago, the Gallo-Romano Media produced audiobook of The Gentlemen And the Rogue(by authors Bonnie Dee and Summer Devon) went live on Audible, Amazon and iTunes. Now, this is an historical romp involving a gent and his very attractive man-servant. It is a wonderful tale of English Regency period debauchery, chivalry and Love.

The narrator, Jasper de Montfort (well, he says that’s his name), is a hard-line English nobleman with an eye for comely wenches and maidens. His mission was to perform seventeen character parts in a story where the main characters are men who prefer …….er……um… I’ve got to be honest – he was so convincing that I’m beginning to wonder about him.
The Gentleman And The Rogue Audiobook ArtworkMy job was to splice, edit and polish the soundtrack. Oooh- I’ve always been a bit of a whiz with the knobs but this was a challenge. The double-entendres double up in this exquisite tale of love.

This Gentleman scrubbed up well and comes in at a most respectable and satisfying nine and a half...
hours.  However, many more days were actually spent creating this audio work of art.  You can bank on a recording artist taking two to three times the finished audiobook length to perform his/her magic. Add to that at least  3-4 times this number of hours, alone in a darkened room massaging Jasper's... voice track
Then there is the wait, as the authors listen and approve… and further anticipation as ACX (Audible’s uploading arm) run their checks and tests.

Late last week I was very proud to see that the gentleman was out of his breeches and standing up for himself for all to see online. Sales are good – as producer on a split-royalty this is good news – and there are already a couple of five star reviews to boot. We are all deeply satisfied.
The point about working with audio is that you need a great story – crisply told. A written book you can go back and read the poetic bits if that is your taste. An audio book needs to flow like a river just aching for that salty sea. Since I have become involved in this form I have started to see my stories in this context. Some books that I have reviewed I have immediately visioned as film. Other  stories are like paintings which you need to view and return to. A good audio narrative moves and hooks in to your sense of need and expectation. It demands your secret imagination. Some other person’s voice is leading you on. If an audio book gets you – you are GOT.
I have been through periods of pessimism about the future of independent writers – indeed, any writers. The fact is that the plain written book is just one avenue. Obviously, the classic greats wrote for the printed page. The opportunity now is to write for a new generation of consumers who are not just simply readers. The greatest pleasure in life for me is to see. The next greatest pleasure is to close my eyes. This apparent contradiction  creates the mental territory of the audio book. The prairie is there and the long-horns still thin on the ground….
The Gentleman and the Rogue are ready and waiting for you on Audible and Amazon.

Based on my post for The VG Authors Collection
 (click the badge to find more)

Friday 7 June 2013

Guest Post: Announcing 'Julia's Violinist' - a poignant love story from fabulous writer Anneli Purchase

My guest today is Anneli Purchase. Recently I read and reviewed her her first novel "The Wind Weeps" which is quite a hard-edged romance, set in the wild drama of British Columbia. She has also written  "Orion's Gift"a dramatic tale of love on the run which plays out in Mexico, on the Baja Peninsular. 

Other than being a compelling writer, Anneli is a freelance copy editor and I can certainly recommend her services.   Welcome Anneli!

Thank you for having me on your blog, Emma. I’d like to tell your readers a little bit about my latest novel, "Julia's Violinist".

In the Sudeten-German area bordering Austria, Germany, and Czechoslovakia, Julia, a young German woman, fell in love with the baker's son from a neighbouring village. He was handsome, fun to be with and played the violin so sweetly. Unfortunately, circumstances made it difficult for their romance to continue.

Fast forward twenty years. World War II has been lost. Julia, now a widow with two small children, is trying to rebuild her life after postwar atrocities left her raped, homeless, and deported.
Gradually she rebuilds her life, but her new husband is hard to live with at times.

A letter arrives from Canada. “I've been searching for you through the Red Cross for years. I'm so happy I've found you at last. Please come to me in Canada. Life is better here.”

By some miracle, her first sweetheart is still alive. What to do?

Find out more about Anneli here:

Anneli's Amazon Author Page:
Twitter:  @anneli33

Thursday 6 June 2013

Sea, Blood And Tears Share The Same Salt

Recently I have had the chance to read some books. Well, let's say that my natural tendency to do what I enjoy rather than anything else, overwhelmed me. There's nothing I like more than being whelmed over while a one pot provençal dish simmers and I sample the wine - just to make sure it's exactly the right complimentary balance. Sometimes I get to serve it with the meal but often it is completely unsuitable for others and I have to finish it.  

Now looking at the cover of "The Wind Weeps" I kinda felt the story would be set in a landscape. Wild natural surroundings provide both backdrop and  stage for the players. It can be read on more than one level. The mercilessness and selfish pragmatism of Nature may or not be a metaphor for the actions of characters. A sudden wrong judgement by a fish may leave it hooked. After all, the bait had all the desirable signs. Of course human beings always know what they want and don't make mistakes.

Read on......

My Amazon 5 star review of The Wind Weeps by Anneli Purchase:

A really good story! We don't always make the right choices. We always think we can change people but human nature is very complex. Set in an unforgiving landscape of fittest survival, the human is a fragile and troubled creature. This is a book where the writer clearly knows that small mistakes can hook you in the mouth like a salmon on a merciless steel line. The water is cold for any warm blooded stranger who falls in the struggle. Yet this is the true life for these characters on the fishing grounds of the North. No ice can freeze the heat of desire and no innocence of springtime can un-cry the tears of youthful regret. Set in an awesome savage beauty, the human spirit goes on through real and imagined kisses and wine to find a wider perspective. We are free because love imprisons us. I adored this book for its exploration of this dilemma set in the real lives of real folk. No highfalutin literati posturing but a hand on the winch, a knife in the hand and a pulse in the flesh mix in this story. The style is straightforward without gratuitous flourishes - a bit like ice and a loving kiss. A sexually sophisticated and tension packed story. A good good read!

Amazon Link:

I am delighted to say that Anneli Purchase is guesting on this blog tomorrow. See you here.

Emma Thinx:  Wisdom trusts only itself. The wise avoid it.

Monday 3 June 2013

House Of The Rising Bun

The House Of The Rising Bun
In England I just don't think about bread. In France, for me bread is the new chocolate. Sadly or luckily, a crusty baguette or pain does not carry a nutritional value label. In a town of about two thousand souls, how many bakers can co-exist? Well, within walking distance of my house there are a mere four. In addition there is a mobile bakery parked at the station and a depot de pain - which is a grocer's shop which sells bread. All the bakers loosely cooperate with a rota for holidays and week day closing. Of course, they mostly close for lunch just in case the tourists want something to eat.  

Much fun was poked of the Mcdonalds University degree. In France you can go to the Ecole Banette. No one would jest about the importance of the artisan baker I can assure you. As I groan my way back to full speed back at my UK desk I can still dream of the house of the rising bun in Saint Savinien. Oh yes - it's been the ruin of many a poor boy/girl - and god I know I'm one. 100 grammes of lettuce for lunch it is then.
 Chat - Oh

About on a level with bread is the French love of pets. When they ask me if I have any animals in England I tell them I have a rabbit called Casserole. Etiquette requires them to smile and glance quizzically at any other French person present. However I have some new neighbours who have a cat. I took some photos just so you can say Ah. 

Even in mid France the weather is most un-seasonal. The natives huddle in overcoats and scarves as the North wind blows in June. Brave poppies grow from any crack in any wall. The swifts (les martinets) still swoop and turn.  For some reason all the fields are planted with cereal crops this year. I guess the sunflower seeds went on strike and refused to come out. At least there will be running wind shadows across the oceans of barley at harvest time. 

Emma Thinx:  North winds speed a fledgling swallow. Accept.