Creating Audiobooks

I apologise for a dearth of posts in the last few months, but since late April last year, I’ve devoted myself to turning my five Cornish Detective novels into audiobooks.

Sales of talking books rose by 31%-34% in lockdown, so it made sense to jump on the bandwagon. Little did I know, when I began the process, who long it would take. I’ve worked a minimum of 10 hours daily, usually 12 and, one time, 16 hours—which left my brain the size of a peanut!

Each of the novels devoured at least 1,000 hours of my time. I’m not kidding, for though the narration and recording of a story can be pleasurable, it’s the editing and mastering of the recording that is tedious, painstaking, endless, wearying, annoying, repetitive and frustrating. Get the picture? This is a totally joyless task.

I forced myself through it to get it all done, as I knew that if I took a break I wouldn’t want to go back to it as it’s so horrible. I didn’t even have a sense of satisfaction when I completed all five titles. More great relief that I’d finally finished. Except I hadn’t, as I then decided to tackle another series of stories set in the post-American Civil War Era of Reconstruction. I’ve written just two novellas and am halfway through the third, so at half the length of the crime novels they were relatively easy to do. I uploaded the first two titles to ACX this week.

The whole ghastly saga is detailed in this thread on Litopia’s Colony, the friendliest and most helpful writers’ forum on the internet:

There’s plenty of advice online about Audacity, ACX and Audible…look on Reddit and Quora, but let me offer some words of experience.

I used Audacity to record my audiobooks as it’s free and highly-praised. It is not without its problems, and though it’s regularly updated, the developers appear to have a schizoid attitude to how they apply ‘improvements’; an effect that worked fine before is suddenly uncooperative in the update.

By mistake, I made things worse, for partway through recording Book 2, I decided to download the latest version of Audacity. I did so from a site called FilePuma:

All seemed to be OK until I was two chapters from the end of the project. Attempting to open a chapter to edit it, I was confronted with a warning message that I needed to choose one of three options before proceeding. Choosing any of them destroyed the recording! The soundwave disappeared! What I hadn’t realised was that Audacity’s .aup file type can only be opened by Audacity. It was my fault that I hadn’t saved my work as a WAV or Mp3. Eventually, I lost 450 hours worth of work! I found the email address of one of Audacity’s developers and had a tense exchange of messages. It turned out that FilePuma had built their own flawed version of Audacity, but, but, but Audacity’s developers should have built in safeguards to prevent them doing so.

I was furious, but what could I do, but repeat the recordings and mastering?

Avoid FilePuma!

Only use official downloads of Audacity!

To add to the frustration, using ACX is a nightmare as it’s flakier than a leper’s backside! ACX is the quality control part of Audible which is the audiobook division of Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. For your carefully crafted audiobook to be allowed to be shelved on Audible, it has to be submitted to ACX. They will take about one month to decide its fate. Audacity has a plug-in ACX app that can be used to check that you’ve got most things right, but it’s no guarantee that it will pass the full test.

Uploading an eBook to Kindle is relatively painless, but ACX is the village idiot of Amazon! There are hundreds of complaints online, but it’s been in a shoddy and unreliable state for months.

(that’s me as Augustus Devilheart)

It beggars belief that the richest man in the world has the world’s worst piece of software!​_

As an example of how maddening it is, I uploaded the 12 chapters of my second Civil War novella this afternoon. 11 went through OK, but took me 90 minutes and multiple attempts to get ACX to accept Chapter 2.

I’m hoping that the popularity of audiobooks continues to increase and that my hard work pays off. Yesterday, I checked my audiobook sales and they’ve risen to 48, all without any cohesive promotion (2021’s campaign). 27 of them were for my 2nd Cornish Detective novel, which only went live on 27th December.

​I should add, that Audible pays an author 40% of the cover price. Thus, the first Cornish Detective novel, priced at 18.29 earned me about £124 from 17 sales, while Book 2, at £22.89 (it’s longer) pays out £247 for 27 units – a total of £371. Sounds respectable, doesn’t it? But, bear in mind that I devoted at least 1,000 hours into creating each audiobook, which gives me an hourly pay rate of just over 7 pence!

Are you thinking of making an audiobook after reading all of this?!