I made the appropriate professional(-ish) announcement about the audiobook of A Gift of Ghosts on my business blog last week, but I wanted to share some of the background details about it in my less professional(-ish) space. (I admit, I don’t consider myself terribly businesslike, even in my official business space. My former employers would not have been impressed by the low-key, un-marketing-speak nature of the announcement. :))
I’ve wanted to make an audiobook for a while. I think the first time I considered it seriously was probably sometime in 2013, so five years ago. At that point, I looked into doing a royalty share production. That’s when an audiobook producer creates the book for 50% of the proceeds rather than being paid upfront. At the time, I listened to some auditions, but I just wasn’t sold on it.
One of the problems I’ve had with creating an audiobook is that I really don’t like audiobooks. I sometimes think the one life-skill I learned in high school was the ability to tune out completely when someone is talking at me. Audiobooks trigger that ability for me. I find it very hard to pay attention to them, even when I want to.
But back in 2013, I listened to some auditions and I just didn’t feel it. I wound up abandoning the idea.
In 2014, I decided to take a different approach and I invested a few hundred dollars and several weeks of my time trying to create a home studio and do it myself. The folks at Audible were nice enough to tell me that my delivery was great, but unfortunately, I couldn’t get rid of the air-conditioning noise in the background of my recordings. The guy I worked with suggested turning it off… in July, in Florida, in a closet with no ventilation. Yeah, no. I thought maybe I’d try again in winter, but I was busy with other things and it never happened.
Last year, I again looked into the possibility of doing an audiobook and I listened to a bunch of auditions. Somehow none of them quite did it for me. The thought of having to listen to any of the probably perfectly adequate narrators read my own words aloud just seemed torturous. I wanted the end product, but I didn’t want to go through the process of making it happen.
Then, this year, I got a tax refund. I’ll skip the details — no one wants to read about taxes! — but for Reasons, I felt like I wanted to do something for R with part of my refund. About the same time, he was deciding on graduate school, so I decided I would invest in an audiobook and split the proceeds of said audiobook with R.
Logical decision, right? Ha. I’m sure it makes no sense to anyone who hasn’t experienced the unexpected delight of small amounts of passive income. But one of the projects I did, the wedding anthology, seemed like an entirely quixotic, pure marketing investment when I first did it. I didn’t expect to earn any money from it. For a while, though, it made $20-25/month, and it was awesome. It wasn’t money that I counted on, it was just an unexpected small windfall every time. I almost always moved it straight to a Starbucks card and turned it into treat money. Obviously, I have no idea if the audiobook will earn anything — reports vary wildly about the profitability of audiobooks and I know people who don’t make much of anything from theirs — but I liked the idea of giving R at least a chance of windfalls.
Still, making the decision didn’t mean that I would be able to bring myself to act on it. But I went back to Audible and posted my project, this time not as a royalty share arrangement, but paying upfront, Screen Actors Guild rates.
Wow. I received over fifty auditions. It was a really surreal experience. I spent a weekend in Arkansas listening to various people read the same section of Ghosts over and over again. After about the first ten, I noticed every mistake. But some of them were really good. Others were really good, but not at all what I’d imagined for the characters. And some were not so good, of course, but really, there were at least a solid dozen that were better than anyone I’d heard before, maybe even more than that.
It was not an easy decision.
But I kept coming back to one of my early favorites. I think she was the third narrator I’d listened to and the first one where my eyes widened and I thought, “Oh, yes, this could work.” Not just that I could get an audiobook made, but that I could listen to someone read Ghosts aloud without cringing inside. I actually laughed out loud when she was reading Rose’s lines.
And I sort of felt like the universe had drawn a big red arrow pointing toward her, and lit it up with shiny neon: her name is Sarah Grace, and the name of her company is GraceWright Productions. Ha. Given that I’ve spent three years trying to write a book with Grace in the name… well, it’s superstitious of me, but I did feel like the universe was all but jumping up and down, saying “this one, this one, this one.”
Since I don’t entirely trust the universe, eventually I made several friends (thank you, A, J, L & T!) listen to my top five candidates. All of them approved, and so GraceWright Productions it was.
And the process was not torturous! I chose to have Sarah team up with her partner, Tristan, to do the narration so Zane’s POV sections and all the male dialogue are in a male voice, and Akira’s POV and all the female dialogue are in a woman’s voice. I think it works really well. I admit to both laughing and probably blushing during the seduction scene, but I also started to cry when Zane talks to his mom and didn’t stop until that chapter finished. I was surprised at how moved I was.
If you’re an Audible subscriber, I hope you’ll take a chance on Ghosts and let me know what you think. If you’re not an Audible subscriber, but have considered trying the service, I should let you know that I (and by extension, R) get a bounty of $50 if Ghosts is the first audiobook you try and then you stick with the service for two paid months. The service costs $14.95/month, so you’d eventually get three ebooks for $30, which is a pretty good deal, but obviously not worth it at all if you don’t think you’d want three audiobooks.
Of course, if you hate audiobooks, don’t feel obligated. But I will say that I, an affirmed audiobook hater, really quite enjoyed this one.