The framework for making and producing an audio book occurs in six stages: 1) creative; 2) technical; 3) legal; 4) production; 5) distribution and marketing; and, 6) Big Celebration.
Stage 1: Creative
There’s more to this stage than pursuing the muse willy-nilly. It’s important to pay attention to your logical self to stay organized. It’s essential in order to communicate effectively with your audio engineer and any other professionals you’ll be working with. Not to mention saving time, money, and sanity.
During the creative stage you are planning, establishing the content for the CD, recording, and later in the editing phase, swapping files with your audio engineer. After the initial recording, you’ll be editing for clarity, completeness, and cohesion.
So how do you go about finding an audio engineer? You can find such folks through online research and personal networking. I found mine through an online friend. He was a joy to collaborate with because he was simpatico with my project. Because of his reputation, I knew that I could trust him.
I spent two days in my sound engineer’s home studio in Nashville recording all the poems. After I returned home to St. Louis, he sent MP3 files for my review and detailed response in order to complete his editing. In our project we were collaging 90 poems and hundreds of clips from songs, stories, and banter recorded in my father’s parlor. He understood the nature and purpose of my project so completely that with minimal direction, he made excellent initial choices, but these still had to be refined.
During the file-swapping phase, you call upon your highly analytical, critical listening skills. You’ll listen for quality of the audio, pause intervals, and finalizing the content. For example, in my project we listened especially for pause intervals between the poems and the song, a story, or the banter between us that framed it. When you finish your review of the MP3 files, you send notes (like a play director) back to your audio engineer who takes care of the rest.
Tip: Make a map to organize your recording work. Before our group recorded in Pop’s parlor, I wrote out the songs I associated with each of the book’s five sections so we wouldn’t waste time. After the four mini discs were completed, I listened to them and cataloged their contents according to running time. This catalog became a handily coded roadmap that he and I could refer to. It saved lots of time during the session, and time, trouble–even money–as he moved deeper into the editing process.
Tip: Practice before recording. Be present, alert, and open to your emotional response so that you can bring it into your reading. Think of your voice as instrument. Use inflection, pacing, and pitch to sustain listener engagement.
Stage 2: Technical
During the technical stage the audio engineer masters the disc, and you decide how the discs will span. This means, where will the tracks and the CDs themselves break if you are making more than one disc. In our project there were four discs, so this step was critical. Your engineer sends you the first complete work in CD format-your hard copy. You send back comments, including any technical glitches to clean up.
Stage 3: Legal
From this stage onward, the key word is “business.” You’ve established the content and done what most of us would consider the fun part. Now it’s all straight-ahead work.
A new term I learned during this phase was “mechanical licensing.” Basically it’s permission to use copyrighted musical materials that are being replicated for sale in recorded format. It ensures that artists receive the royalties they are due for creating their original works. As a creative person yourself, you can appreciate how important it is. This step also curtails your legal exposure so you won’t get sued.
So, with that definition under out belts, the first legal step is to secure mechanical licenses for any songs you did not compose yourself.
If you are recording original material you composed yourself, then it makes good sense to get it copyrighted. It also makes good sense to copyright the completed product to protect your entire work.
Royalties are computed on an elaborate equation of number of uses per CD and number of CDs. The mechanical licensing for our project to make 1,000 copies cost around $1,000, roughly $1 per audio book package with the four CDs. We also copyrighted seven original songs. I hired a specialist to do this work, and it sure paid off in hassle and money.
As you can see there are myriad details to take care of during this stage. You might want to designate a project manager. I didn’t want to do this myself, so my sound engineer also became my point person to guide us through the business matters. He gave me great advice throughout.
Stage 4: Production
At this point, you choose a company to physically produce your project. Production includes pressing and replicating the discs, making the insert, and packaging the entire product. You have to choose what services you want from among the various ones the company offers. For example, will you produce the artwork yourself or will they? How many copies do you want? In my case we chose a production company through online comparison shopping and decided to make 1,000 copies. That sounds like a lot, but 1,000 copies was where the price per copy started to make sense. Also, if you do another production run, the law require you to renew and redo all the mechanical licenses. Ack!
Stage 5: Distribution and Marketing
How you do this will depend on many factors such as the strength of your existing marketing platform and your available resources. You’ll price the product at this point. A minimum rule of thumb is to double the basic cost invested.
If you are doing it yourself, make a marketing and distribution plan just as you would for a self-published book. The plan helps you determine your audience and figure out the most effective channels for reaching these people.
For instance you can market the audio book from your website, but to sell it off Amazon. That way Amazon is responsible for fulfillment-taking the orders, packing the product, and sending it out.
Stage 6: Big Celebration
After all the work and months of waiting your product took, make sure you have some kind of party to celebrate the completion.