When Arthur Gutch started at Infinity
Publishers, its AudioBrite arm did production work for large publishing houses
such as Hachette. Gutch, now the chairman, wanted to focus more on indie authors, and Infinity offers two services
catering to that smaller group. The first
is unabridged audio production through
Infinity’s Spoken Books Publishing unit,
which releases both CDs and digital files
via Audible and i Tunes.
The basic services include script preparation and contact with the narrator, plus
recording, editing, proofing, mastering,
publishing, and distribution. Depending
on word count, the cost can run $4,000
to $5,000 or more. Additional
services include abridgment
($599 per 10,000 words),
sending audio copies to reviewers ($25), and hour-long
phone consultations ($250).
For $649, Infinity’s One-Hour Audio option will
abridge a book, distilling it
into an hour-long listening
experience. “It’s more attuned to nonfiction work, but, for shorter novels, it also
applies,” Gutch says.
Finding Your Narrator
These high-touch services naturally
aren’t for everybody. Many authors would
prefer to handpick their own talent.
ACX remains the most comprehensive
tool for this, allowing authors to listen to
recorded samples of prospective narrators
and request auditions.
“Choose the audition selection from your book wisely,”
narrator P.J. Ochlan says. For
instance, it shouldn’t be longer
than five to seven minutes or
1,000 words. “And it may be
good to pick something that
features dialogue between key
characters,” he adds. “And if
your book requires special
skills such as accents, make certain
they’re in the narrator’s wheelhouse.”
Additionally, as both Ochlan and award-
winning narrator Johnny Heller point
out, narrators on ACX double as audio-
book producers—which is why authors
need to assess production quality as well
This leads to another important consideration: payment. That is,
deciding whether to offer a
royalty share or a flat per-fin-ished-hour fee. And it’s up to
the narrator to decide whether
to accept. “If your book is already out there in an e-book or
something, you should be able
to tell the narrator what your
sales are like,” Heller says.
“Not free downloads: sales. Is there prof-
it potential for the narrator?”
If sales aren’t great—or if an
e-book hasn’t been released—it
might be difficult to convince a
professional narrator to agree on
a royalty-share model. Narrator
Jeffrey Kafer says there is no
solid cutoff: “If the author is
selling a thousand a month on
Kindle, yup, I’ll do a royalty
share. But is 500 a month a
good number? Probably. Two hundred?
It depends how much risk a narrator
wants to take.” Other considerations,
Kafer says, are an author’s social media
presence, promotion efforts, and prolificacy. New releases, after all, can spur
sales of the back catalogue.
Of course, paying on a per-finished-hour basis is a different story. “Get a realistic estimate of the total running time,”
veteran narrator Robert Fass says. “That’s
critical.” Running time should be based
on word count because the variability of margins and font
sizes makes page count unreliable. “It you’ve got 100,000
words, you can count on a 10-
hour finished audio product,”
Fass says, adding that it often
takes a professional two hours
to create one finished hour.
Another thing to keep in
mind is that there’s a pricing floor for hiring members of SAG-AFTRA as readers.
The minimum rates are negotiable but
typically begin at $200 per finished hour,
according to a union
spokesperson, plus a 13%
contribution to the guild’s
health and retirement fund. “That said,
narrators are free to set their own, higher
rates,” the spokesperson says.
Additionally, Kafer urges in-
die authors to relax and let the
professionals do their jobs.
“One of the big things that au-
thors do is they feel they need to
direct or micromanage,” Kafer
says. “I’ve heard horror stories
where the narrator submits the
book and gets a spreadsheet of a
thousand things the author didn’t like.
That’s the worst thing an author can do.
I understand this is your baby, but you
hired the narrator for a reason. You have
to let go of your baby and let the profes-
sional you hired do their job.” ;
Ryan Joe is a writer and editor living in New