In this month’s blog, I share what it was like to experience the creation of an audio book version of my thriller Eavesdrop.
Wednesday June 13th 2018
My head’s been in a spin all day. The unexpected email arrived this morning, a reply to my entry to Audible’s New Crime Writing Grant competition. I had sent them a copy of Eavesdrop on the off-chance—didn’t think it would be accepted because it had been previously published. Although the competition title suggested it only wanted un-published work, the terms & conditions were less specific and only said the author had to be holding the full rights. I had sent it anyway with an explanatory letter; nothing to lose.
“…disappointed to inform you that your title was not selected for our Crime Grant shortlist due to the work being published already in the US,” the writer informed me. Heart sinks, but it’s what I had expected. “…judges were so impressed that we would like to offer you a standard audio agreement with Audible anyway!” I re-read the whole email again carefully to make sure I’d understood. Sure enough, there below are outline details of a proffered contract for Audible to produce an audio version of my book. There’s a reasonable advance and terms that seem okay. Of-course I email back; would be delighted to accept. Let me know more.
Thursday June 28th 2018
Finally signed the contract today. Had a few questions, which Audible answered very efficiently, and they made a small change at my request. The “paperwork” is all electronic—one of those pdf files that works with e-signatures. I sign it with a text string. Now need to do the tax questionnaire: because money comes from the USA, it will be taxed there as well as here unless I have the necessary forms in place. Fortunately I already have income from the USA and have the requisite American ITIN (Individual Tax Identification Number) that allows me to avoid double taxation. I provide the Audible database with my number, send them an invoice for the advance, and all is set.
Monday July 30th 2018
Get an email introduction to my editor. He’ll be helping to make it “audio-ready”, whatever that means.
Wednesday August 8th 2018
Chat on the phone today with the editor. He’s very complimentary, which obviously makes me feel great. He says he normally has to do structural changes to books, but reckons Eavesdrop is great as it stands. Good sense of pace, he says; well structured already. I remember the long spreadsheet I used while writing it, with all the scenes numbered and summarised down to single lines so that I could juggle them around to maximise suspense while still able to see the big picture to make it flow well; it was obviously worth it. Just a few line edits is all he wants. It won’t take long, but he’s about to go on holiday and would like to wait until he returns so that he can start it fresh and do a good job. I agree; works okay for me.
Sunday September 23rd 2018
Now holidays are out of the way, my editor is on the case. I get an email with his suggested changes, and we arrange a telephone call to discuss them. I skim through his notes. It’s a Word document and we’ve agreed to use its ‘review’ feature to track each suggested change. It’s rewarding to see how few edits he’s proposing—little more than minor word changes here and there.
I don’t reckon it’ll take long to go through them.
Wednesday September 26th 2018
We have a brief phone call. He again comments on how well written Eavesdrop is, and how much he enjoyed reading it. That gives my confidence a boost.
I spend a few hours each day going through all the comments in detail. It takes longer than I expected but I’m done within the week.
Being back with these old characters feels strange. Very glad I’m not being asked to add any more descriptions of them because I can’t remember the team well enough—that would end in continuity errors, I’m sure. Somewhere in the loft I’ve got my original notes from the book—I did character details for them all, and even had pictures clipped from magazines for people who resembled my characters—but I’ve got a horrible feeling some of those have been thrown away by now.
We work it with me also using the ‘review comments’ feature, and I add a response to each proposed change. Glad to say they’re mainly all word or small phrase changes. He makes an alternative suggestion; I look at it and either accept it or make a counter proposal. In some cases, I don’t like his word, but I can see what he’s trying to achieve, so I spend time looking at ones I feel work better. For example, in one section I had Winter “diving” into another room. ‘Change it to “moved”,’ my editor says. I can see why he doesn’t like “dived” (or “dove” if we stick with American spelling) because Winter doesn’t end up on the floor; but “moved” just feels such a sluggish verb; I want more urgency.
How about “darted”? I suggest. Document pings back later with a new comment: ‘You’ve already used that a couple of times in this chapter.’ More head scratching and thumbing of thesaurus. Finally we agree that “bolted” is the best choice.
Thursday October 4th 2018
A week later, all’s done and he’s sent it to the production team. He tells me his involvement is now finished and someone else will pick it up. I ask if he knows the schedule for the next stage of the book, but all he can tell me is that it’s planned for the first quarter of next year; no specific dates are yet fixed. Who’s my contact now? I wonder, but I’m sure someone will be in touch.
Friday October 26th 2018
Feels like I’m in a black hole. I want to know the production schedule so I can plan my own publicity and press releases. You’re supposed to start at least six weeks before launch for e-releases (more for physical formats), and a launch of “quarter one” could easily mean we’re almost there already.
I try emailing the wonderful Alex—a manger in Audible’s Business Affairs team—who’s always so efficient, and true to form, she replies the same day to say it’s not fixed yet. ‘It can take time to find the right narrator for the book,’ she explains, and I find the care they seem to employ to get the audio-book to its best is really encouraging.
I remember the few phrases of Finnish in chapter 38 and wonder if they’ll warn the narrator. How will he* go about checking the pronunciation? I wonder. Perhaps I should put him in touch with one of my ex-colleagues from when I worked at Nokia Mobile Phones—as a Finnish company, there were plenty of native speakers around, and I still have many of them as Facebook friends. I’ll wait to see if Audible raises the question. They’re professionals after all, and this can’t be the first time they’ve produced an audio book with a few foreign words in it.
*By the way, I’ve assumed it’s to be a male narrator on the basis that the main character is a bloke; it would be odd to have him narrated in a woman’s voice. In contrast, the thriller I’m working on at the moment has a woman as the lead character—if I sell the audio rights for that one, I assume its narrator would probably be female.
Tuesday October 30th 2018
An email arrives out of the blue. The writer introduces herself as in charge of artwork and she has attached a jpeg of the cover they’ve created.
It’s awesome. So edgy, and I think it captures the tension of the thriller brilliantly. I email back to let her know how great I think it is.
I’m now really excited. This is real. I imagine it sitting on Amazon alongside my print and e-book editions. I think about printing the cover out and making a framed picture for my study wall.
Tuesday November 14th 2018
Taken totally by surprise today; feeling shocked.
Most of my Facebook and Twitter posts are about interesting new technology or unusual crime related news, but I thought it was time to give my thriller a bit of a plug. I put a very short extract up and inserted a link to Amazon’s American e-book page. Better check it’s the correct link first, I think, so entered it straight into a browser. “This product is currently not available,” Amazon reports back. My heart does a little jump and I start to panic. Why has it disappeared?*
In case my link is out of date (perhaps it was pointing to the original Assent Publishing version), I use the Amazon search box and enter “Eavesdrop”. I scroll down a list and there’s the familiar grey and blue cover. Just below that I’m startled to see the new red and navy art work that Audible created.
Stunned, I click through and there’s the audio version available for pre-order; release date: Nov 29th 2018. There’s a narrator named as well—Simon Darwen. That’s barely two weeks away. I’ve suddenly got to compress all my own publicity into just fourteen days. I feel slight panic, then wonder if the date’s right. I check the Audible website as well. Same date. Okay—looks like tomorrow will be a busy day finding all the media contacts I need. Having moved to Worcestershire only a few months ago, my current contact list doesn’t cover this area, and I need to start again.
Time to check out the narrator. I’d hoped to have been introduced to him earlier, possibly even get a photo together for my publicity. Too late now. I Google him: IMDb tells me he’s best know for parts in the TV shows The Bletchley Circle, Silent Witness, and Call The Midwife. Sounds hopeful. I go back to the Audible site, search for other books he’s narrated, and listen to a few extracts. Impressed. And he is great at accents from the bits I hear. He’ll have done a great job, I’m sure.
I still wonder how he dealt with those sentences of Finnish, though. I think I’ll try to contact him out of curiosity to ask how he got on with them. Too late now to help, of-course—the recording must be well finished—but it would be nice to know. I’ll search for him on social media.
*was quickly resolved. Turned out it was a technical problem Amazon was already aware of.
Thursday November 15th 2018
Spent the day on press releases. When Assent first published Eavesdrop, they provided marketing and publicity training, so I know how to go about it. I just need a contacts list.
Half a day of internet searching later and I think I have a suitable set, and out go the first releases on email. The angle I take on the first one is summed up by the title I give it—Local Author’s Illicit Competition Entry Thrills Audio Publisher. I was going to have Author’s Cheeky Competition Entry Thrills… but realised in time that the combination of “cheeky” and “thrills” could be badly misconstrued. Glad I spotted that in time!
I deal with how Audible came to read Eavesdrop in the first place and how I’ve loved audio books since my parents played story cassettes to me on long car journeys. Hopefully it might pique someone’s interest.
It’s about 300 words in length—a little long, but I’m pleased with it and send it out to about half a dozen local papers and magazines, directly addressed to the relevant reporters and editors.
I plan the rest of the publicity campaign—or at least my personal one; I don’t know what Audible is planning, but I guess they’re doing something. I check my email again, but nothing from them to let me know their plans. ‘Silence is golden,’ didn’t someone once sing? Not in this case, perhaps.
I’ll do two more press releases over the coming two weeks—one to the publicise their choice of narrator and the fantastic new cover, and one to inform of the release itself, which according to their website is still set for November 29th.
Long day on the computer. My eyes are sore and I’m tired, but publicity is now underway. Just need to see if any of those reporters show an interest.
Friday November 16th 2018
I prepare a social media splurge—one item each day, slowly introducing information about the audio book, planned to culminate on the 29th with the release itself. I’ll add my normal techie / crime posts in between, of-course, so that it’s not only banging away about it; I reckon a good balance is important.
Thursday November 29th 2018
Release day today. Still heard nothing from Audible, which surprises me. Went to Amazon and clicked “hear sample”. Sounds good, but I’d like to hear the full version. I’m surprised Audible didn’t send me a copy once it was ready. I email the always-helpful and always-patient Alex, who rapidly puts me in touch with the “author-care” team; they will send me a code to get my free copy.
Well, here we are at the end of a journey. A great actor gives voice to Eavesdrop’s assassins, smugglers and high-tech spies. Hear the characters come alive for yourself – Audible’s audio version of the thriller Eavesdrop can be purchased directly from Audible’s site (audible.co.uk or audible.com) or via Amazon (amazon.co.uk or amazon.com).