#GuestPost- LV Lewis: How I Got My Self-Published Book Produced as an Audiobook

***Today I’m happy to welcome a good friend of mine. Maybe you’ve heard of her book….50 Shades of Jungle Fever? If not, check it out, its not exactly what you think. But before that, take a few minutes to learn how she took her self-published novel and had it turned into an audiobook! ***

Since making the momentous decision to self-publish in 2012, my goal has remained creatively homogeneous for the most part. I have always wanted my book(s) to be veritably indistinguishable from the product put out by traditional publishers. Therefore, it has always been my intention to produce the best product I can in its entirety, from the story itself–including plot, structure, grammar, and punctuation–to the packaging of the product, the various forms it would take, and its subsequent production in all those forms. Going in, I was working at a deficit on most of these fronts, particularly when it came to pursuing the avenue of making my story available on audiobook.

I believe without a doubt that things happen to us in life for reasons we’re not always privy to as mere mortals. Our destinies are made or broken by some of the minutest decisions. So, I thought it fortuitous in so many ways when I ran across the link for ACX.com. For those who don’t know, ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange) is the indie arm of Audible.com, which is a subsidiary of Amazon.com. Oh yeah, they are all in bed together, so I thought, hey, why not join them and make this an orgy! LOL (I couldn’t  resist this pun. I’m an erotic romance writer. Duh!)

After reading what ACX was all about and how I could tap into it online from cover-to-virtual-cover, I went through the process of placing my book on ACX among all the titles open for audition. The site is very user friendly, so this process didn’t take exceedingly long, nor was it terribly labor intensive. Once I was out there, I could’ve just laid back and waited for a narrator, producer, or combination of the two to come to me, but that’s just not in my make-up. I got on there and combed through the narrators for hire myself and narrowed down a short list of about five whose voices I liked.

In the meantime, I began to get narrators that I had not pursued, contacting me to do auditions, then I found out why when one such narrator sent me her audition with an email. She congratulated me on being awarded a stipend to assist in getting my audiobook produced. I had no clue what this meant, so I went back on the site and read everything I could find about stipends.

Apparently, if ACX is impressed with your relative success on Amazon, and the stars align in some other unknown ways in their algorithm, they will award some Titles, and its author, stipends to defray part of the production costs, making it infinitely easier for you to hire an expert narrator. In my case, I was awarded a $100/hour stipend which I could use to sweeten the deal with my producer/narrator. This could be used to shore up whatever project rate the narrator was charging, or to provide the narrator the stipend as a bonus if I chose the royalty share. (I understand now, after the fact that some presenters at RWA were advising authors to pay the project rate rather than choose royalty share because it seriously messes with your ROI, or return on investment, when you give someone half of your future royalties. I want to go on record to say, as poor as I am, the royalty share and stipend were a godsend for me because I didn’t have $200-400 an hour to pay someone to produce my story which rounded out at nine hours. You do the math.)

I was given the task early on to choose an excerpt of my story for the narrators auditioning to read and send me back a sample of what they could do. Let me just interject here and say, you have to think long and hard about who your characters are and how you want them to be presented. What type of voice do you hear in your head when you’re reading their words? When I decided who Keisha was (my character whose POV the story is told in), I was ready to describe what kind of voice I wanted.

Don’t be intimidated by this process. The ACX site virtually holds your hand through it. They help you break down your project by genre, gender, language, accent, voice age, vocal style, and project rate, so narrators are able to sift through what you want and audition accordingly. By the same token, the producers/narrators, are broken down in the same ways and a few others, like age, style, payments accepted, location, and whether they are Audible Approved. You will know in a snap-shot what a producer/narrator you’re interested in charges hourly, and whether they are Audible Approved. You can also listen to samples they provide on the site of work they’ve done in the past. Thus, giving you some idea how they sound. This is where you get the first hint of whether or not a narrator’s voice fits your wish list.

I was so fortunate to get my narrator, Marie Hélène (delectablevoice.com). I listened to so many narrators in order to create my short list of five or so, and had I been driven by price only, I might have passed her up. She is extremely professional and does not come cheap. She has an impressive command of the English language, and a few other languages. If she is unsure of a pronunciation, or if you just prefer another pronunciation she is extremely accommodating to you as the writer and her boss. I know I’m digressing, but I just can’t help but sing her praises.

When I narrowed the field down to three voices that I liked, I got my readers involved in the process. I posted the auditions on my Facebook Group for readers of Fifty Shades of Jungle Fever, and they gave me their opinions of each narrator. In the end I made the choice to hire Marie because she was the best, most professional narrator I could get for ACX’s stipend, plus my royalty share, and she read the hell out of my story. Had I hired her on a project basis, I would have had to pay between $200-400 up front to have my book produced. When she accepted my royalty share, I was over the moon.

Once the narrator was selected, we worked out a schedule for production. She agreed to begin on a set date and to end before the stipend would be lost to us. Yes, ACX requires that a production is complete within 60 days of signing the contract if you plan to collect the stipend (also, the stipend itself had to be claimed and used within a certain timeframe). So, she kept me abreast of deadlines and such. Marie was super easy to work with. When she sent me the MP3s via Dropbox.com, I would listen, make revision notes and get my notes back to her, typically within a day or so once we got everything rolling. I have no process to compare it to, but surprisingly, we got through the 20 chapters fairly quickly in my opinion.

Working with an experienced narrator also paid dividends for me, because I was so new to the process. She walked me through and kept me aware of things I wouldn’t have known otherwise, like break-even figures, when to begin promoting, and how the Whisper Sync feature works on Amazon. For instance, she told me that the beginning and ending of the chapters had to be the same for the recording and the e-book. Early on she even told me the percentage of difference there could be between the written word and the recorded word, so I made sure to give her a final copy that matched in those ways.

All in all, my experience with ACX was an enjoyable one, and depending on how things go with my first audiobook, I’ll be going back to ACX to make the new audiobooks, as well.

Audio Book Cover

FIFTY SHADES OF GREY to the second power meets Keisha and Jada from the Block.

If you’ve wondered how an ethnic girl from the hood might’ve handled an arrangement with an experienced white Dominant, this is your book. If you’d like to see the sexiest TWIN DOMS in a contemporary romance series in interracial relationships, this is most definitely your book.

Aspiring recording studio owners, Keisha Beale and Jada Jameson, score a rare meeting with venture capitalist Tristan White, and are thrust into a world beyond their wildest imaginations.

Street-wise Keisha is startled to realize she wants this rich white man, despite the certainty that he is out of her league. Unable to resist Keisha’s sassy, irreverent, and fiercely independent spirit, Tristan knew from day one he wanted her, too–as his first African American submissive.

Upper Class Jada of the Springfield Jamesons has traveled in almost the same circles as the White brothers, and has had a secret crush on Nathan White, the point guard for the Chicago Bulls, for quite some time.

Both brothers have succumbed to jungle fever, and want a little coffee in their cream.

Lured by Tristan White and his offer of fronting the capital for her business in exchange for kinky sex, Keisha finds herself with no other option. Keisha is also tortured by a demons from her past, and her inability to come to terms with them threatens to undermine the future of her business and her tumultuous, unconventional relationship with Tristan White.

Erotic, amusing, and in places hilarious, the Ghetto Girl Erotica Trilogy is a parody with a unique take on a Fifty Shades-type story that will take you even further into the BDSM world, and promises to make the vanilla original Fifty Shades Blacker.

For the Book:

 Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Smashwords     Kobo

For the Audiobook:

Amazon     Audible.com     iTunes

About the Author:

L.V. Lewis is a married, mother of four who lives in South Georgia and works in the Florida Panhandle. A new author who decided stories like Fifty Shades of Grey needed a bit more diversity and comedy penned Fifty Shades of Jungle Fever as a parodied response to those wildly popular books from a woman of color. A voracious readers since Kindergarten, Lewis loves nothing more than to curl up with a good book and a glass of wine. She and her husband are political junkies, a hobby that is time consuming but free. Now that Lewis has teens who think they don’t need their parents anymore, she has taken up another time-draining career of writing. However she is happy to report, for once, her extra-curricular activity costs far less than her husband’s. Her love for writing is only eclipsed by her love for her family.

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