Thursday, February 15, 2024

My First Audiobook

For the last few weeks, I’ve been exploring the
possibility of making my books into audio formats. Without boring anyone with all the gruesome details of publishing an audiobook, I’ll give some the the highlights.

First of all, here is a link to my first book in audio; The Desperate Summer of ’62. It is the first in the Rich Larsen adventure series.

I first thought about narrating the book myself. I’ve never been a good sight reader. However, with software like GarageBand and Audacity, it’s easy to edit mistakes. I chose one of my novellas (Shepherd’s First Winter) as my test project. I read the first episode (about 1,000 words) over and over. It was terrible. 

I’m sorry, I’m getting into the gruesome details; I can’t help myself.

I found software on the Internet that took a sample of my voice and used it to narrate my book. However, the cost of the entire package would run over a thousand dollars. Frankly, what the software did with my voice was incredible. My voice was used to speak with clarity, no mistakes, and at a good pace. Too expensive for a mizer like me.

Other software products offered AI-generated voices. Some were very good. One company I decided to purchase software from offered it for around $40. I bought it. 

I loaded up my first novel. I listened to it. In the first couple of minutes the word “jibber” replaced about a dozen words. And a message appeared. It said I purchased the “basic” version and if I wanted access to a full dictionary that would remove the word, “jibber” there would be a charge for an upgrade to “pro.” And there would be a monthly subscription. 

I told a friend about this. I won’t say what he called them but I concurred. 

A refund was asked for and granted. They then turned around and offered everything at a one-time price. It was very reasonable. I wrote them, “Fool me once, shame of you. Fool me twice shame on me. No thanks.” 

I watched videos on YouTube ad nauseam. Some are good and informative, others like used car salesmen—no offense to used car salesmen. Some were like ‘Hey, dude, you will make a million dollars in one week with my software,” and others, “Hey, sailor, just get in town? Wanna buy some software?” 

Amazon Web Service has a feature of recording books from your text files and putting them into an audio file. However, Amazon’s audiobook partner ACX will not accept AI-generated voices. 

ACX offers real people to read your books. You can partner with them. Without more gruesome details the cost can run into thousands of dollars per audiobook. Narrators come at around $200 to $250 an hour. Then there’s an audio engineer. The name engineer always scares me. I’ve worked with them. They take a simple five-minute task and make it into a week-long project—that only works on paper. 

I was ready to give up. So I go to the place of last resort—Google. And was I surprised? If you sign up for their service to transform your book from text to voice, it is free. Well not quite. They start you out with a $300 credit. After that is used they charge $16 per 1,000,000 characters. My first novel has about 350,000 characters. All my novels can be done for free.

The downside—the voices used are AI. They are really good voices but they are not dramatic voices. Surprisingly they are not robotic. They don’t do a good job of recognizing exclamations. However. Mark Twain once said, “Exclamation marks in writing is like laughing at your own joke.” 

The bottom line, I’ve published an audiobook. And once again here is the link; The Desperate Summer of ’62. Bonne ecoute!  

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