Audio – Part 2

Posted on Aug 20, 2018 in #writing, advice, audiobooks, books, epic fantasy, heroic fantasy, writers | 0 comments

audiobooksOkay, to be honest, I never considered myself to be an audio person, although I know a lot of people who use audiobooks for traveling to and from work or on vacation. I had my reservations about doing that (more on that later) but as with many authors I love my readers, so, as with print and e-books, I wanted to give those who liked audio the chance to hear my books.

So, a few years back I took the leap into audiobooks. I was excited, but I had trepidations. ACX/Audible was available through Amazon, so I set it up through them.

The process isn’t difficult, you choose the book you want to be narrated, give the blurb and basic information about the characters (what type of people were they), choose the type of narrator you want (male/female or both) and what kind of voice you wanted for it. (My advice to writers: think about that carefully.) Then put it up for audition.

I was really curious about the process – but remember those trepidations? Like all writers, I was protective of my work. Was the narrator going to do justice to it? Since this was the first book I was doing in audio, I wanted to dip my toes in, rather than go all out, so I put one of my novellas up. In the end, I was glad I limited that narrator to one story. (I like the new one much better, more on that later.)

Not surprisingly, since it wasn’t a full novel, I didn’t get a lot of requests for auditions, but I picked the one who seemed to fit the best and sent him a section of the book which contained all the main character but was focused mainly on one.

The audition didn’t set me on fire, but I wasn’t certain what to expect, the narration seemed good, so we set up the contract.

All readers bring their own stuff to books – that’s a truism all writer/authors need to learn. I had one reader complain that all the characters in one of my books were beautiful when only one – as I’d written him – qualified. (And the character hated it.) She clearly brought her own expectations to my book. It was also true of that first narrator, and I wasn’t experienced enough with audio production to know what I should and shouldn’t object to. It hadn’t been an issue in the audition since it was only a short reading. Now it became one. For some reason – too much of the Lord of the Rings movies, perhaps – he felt all the elves in the books had to have ‘British’ accents. All in all, though, it was about what I expected from audio. He was so satisfied that he asked to read some of my other books. The novella I’d sent him was a prep to the epic fantasy. It was a character-driven story about the genesis of a friendship between three men – a wizard and two elves. The epic fantasy, though, wasn’t the one he wanted to read, surprisingly – and now I’m glad. He requested to audition for another book but didn’t feel comfortable with some of the content, so he requested another. Nope. And another. None of them suited him.  In the end, we parted ways.

All those failed auditions, though, seemed to discourage others from trying, and so for a time, I gave up. I hadn’t been enthralled with the first rendition, and it had been more than a little discouraging to me, too.

Recently, though, one of my books was nominated for an Indie book award. I was floored. I hadn’t done anything; someone had recommended it to the magazine.

Excited, I wanted to capitalize on the nomination, and so I decided to try audio again.

It was scary. Once more I was going to put one of my books into someone else’s hands. They say you should what scares you, especially in writing. Challenge yourself. So I did it.

This time I received more auditions. One was close, but another…

Wow. Just wow.

It was brilliant. His voice was exactly what I wanted and conveyed what I hoped.

So, we set up the process, and he began the narration. When the first chapter came back for me to listen to, I was enthralled – at my own writing! He brought the characters to life for me in a whole new way. And we worked well together.

Bless him, I’d hoped to have the complete first version by my birthday, but I’m not a complete newbie and know there is a process, so I accepted that might not be possible. But he did it, bless him, pushing himself to get it done. When I got the complete version for correction and approval I downloaded the lot and found I couldn’t stop listening.

I was stunned and flattered to learn I was one of his first narrations. And, given the quality of his work, I want to have his marvelous voice out there more.

I know that some authors have narrators they love to work and who love to work with them. Part of me wants that (actually part of me wants to keep his talent all to myself for a little while to do my other fantasy series *grins*) but he also deserves to have the opportunity to narrate for others. So, I hope this book and any others he chooses to narrate for me give him that springboard. He’s thoroughly converted me to the world of audiobooks.

So, for Indie/self-published and other writers, should you do audiobooks?

My obvious answer would be yes, but for reasons other than just this. Today print, despite what some traditional publishers believe, is not the be all and end all – it’s just another arrow in your quiver. Readers come in all kinds; e-book or print readers, or audio listeners. Some will read the book on an e-reader and then purchase the physical book. Some will only listen to audiobooks. You should serve all your readers. With the option to share the profit, it couldn’t be easier on all levels, and unlike print which pays pennies, with audio, you can split it fifty-fifty. So there’s every reason to do it and few reasons not to.

There are a few sites for audiobooks that are usually available through your publishing site of choice. Most will help you get started.

Here are a few suggestions –

  1. Be patient. Don’t settle. Listen to a lot of auditions and hopefully, you’ll find a voice that will make your story shine.
  2. Understand your narrator/producer’s process, recording, editing and re-editing, and that they have the same demands on their time that you do – home, family, day jobs. Things happen.
  3. When you get your book back, listen to it carefully. Make sure it conveys what you want. If there’s something you want to be changed, don’t be afraid to tell the narrator so they know. That’s what the process is for. As with editors, a good narrator will read the book, a great one will make it shine.

(Thank you, Zac, for making mine shine.)

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Audio – I’m so excited!

Posted on Jul 26, 2018 in audiobooks, books, epic fantasy, heroic fantasy, News, writers | 0 comments

Once before I dallied with the idea of doing audiobooks, starting with one of the novellas in The Coming Storm series – Setting Boundaries – a prequel to the series. Setting Boundaries - a novella (The Coming Storm Book 3) by [Douglas, Valerie]

At best the result was ‘meh’.

The narrator was okay, but he was convinced fantasy had to be read with a ‘British accent’ – I’m not sure why. And his accent wasn’t really British. It wasn’t horrible, but there was just something… that wasn’t quite there.

I had wanted to have the whole series on audio with the same narrator but he wanted to try some of my other books. One after another, though, didn’t work out for him – he had problems with some scenes. Unfortunately, he bid on them, then turned them down, and then I couldn’t go on to other narrators.

So, I admit that I was a little leery about trying again.

Song Kindle

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B004774N2S

This time I decided to try with my standalone fantasy, Song of the Fairy Queen. And, to be honest, I was scared whether anyone would be able to do the story justice.

I’m soooo glad I did. The narrator – Zak – is brilliant, he brings depth to the characters, energy to the story, and his voice is perfect. Listening is weirdly wonderful, I’m constantly caught off guard by the idea that I wrote those words that he is bringing to life. I can’t wait until it’s finished.

 

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Romance

Posted on Feb 8, 2018 in books, e-publishing, Millersburg Quartet, novels, Romance, strong heroine | 0 comments

Millersburg Quartet PromoRomance novels tell us not how men are, but how we wish them to be.

A few years back (I’m not telling how many *laughing*) I found myself in the position of watching my (previous) marriage at the beginning of the inevitable downward slide toward divorce.
It was a tough time. Worse, because I was trying to follow my dream of writing. That was what tipped over the apple cart.
What saved me was reading, of course. More particularly, reading a series of specific books – Nora Roberts Chesapeake Bay series. Knowing N.R.’s history helped remind me that second chances were possible. (Or, in my case, third or fourth.)
I would follow that dream, my dreams, in more ways than one. As many times as I tried to convince my ex to expand his horizons, to travel outside his comfort zone, he wouldn’t. (He preferred Las Vegas.)
Now newly divorced, I could. So I did. I had always wanted to visit Great Britain, to see certain literary sites – like the moors of England, Stonehenge, the horse country, and one of the lochs in Scotland – but particularly Ireland. Much of my heritage is based in the British Isles.
Although I consider myself primarily a fantasy writer, I was inspired by Nora Roberts’ books to write a series of my own.
Thus was born The Millersburg Quartet – the first of which was Irish Fling.

Irish Fling Mockup
books2read.com/u/3J0Yov

That book set the tone for all but the last, Two Up – the
only one not based in reality, although it was born of my creative process.

Dirty Politics Mockup

https://books2read.com/u/4ED1EM

Dirty Politics was based on my father’s frequent forays into politics, and what I learned of the process.  As the old adage goes there are two things you never want to see made – sausages and laws. They’re right. Even on the local level, there are dirty tricks – and dirty politics.

As with the others, Director’s Cut came from my experience with community theater – even

many of characters and events were about real people and real events. It’s also an homage to the man who inspired the character of the ‘matchmaker’.

Two Up Mockup

books2read.com/u/mKJr7V

Two Up was just fun to write. Even though my husband the motorcycle safety instructor has banned me from riding. *laughing* Bikes are more powerful than they were when I was riding in my teens and I’m too easily distracted. However, the hot bath in the hollow in the woods was real.

All the books in The Millersburg Quartet are available everywhere, and all are in print.

In honor of Valentines Day, Irish Fling is on sale for $.99 everywhere – B&N #Nook, #Kobo, #AppleBooks and #Kindle. The entire Millersburg Quartet is also available in print via Amazon.

 

 

 

 

 

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A Sign of the Times?

Posted on Dec 11, 2011 in books | 1 comment

Okay, I’ll admit it, it’s been a while since I was in my favorite bookstore. (That picture isn’t it, by the way. ) Even so, I was shocked.
Where were the fiction books?

They were tucked away in a back corner of the store on the second level.

Oh, there were the New Release tables on the first floor, and two long shelves of New Release Hardcover fiction, but other than that there was only the discounted book racks. I had to go looking to find the rest.

Nothing on the first floor, only non-fiction, self-help, travel etc.

Children’s and YA were on the second floor as you stepped off the elevator.
Toys now filled the space Mystery had once occupied and educational toys where shelves filled with fantastic flights of the imagination had stood. Philosophy and psychology where Romance had once filled the aisles. (Are they trying to tell us something?)  Then, finally, fiction. Four or five lonely aisles in the upper back corner of the store.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I own a Nook, and I love it. I know I’ve also debated a time or two whether to buy the cheaper e-book or the slightly more expensive paperback, and I’ve set down the much more expensive hardcover of an author I collected for years (although it was because their child wrote it, and I’m not sure it’s as good as the parent’s books were). But, but…. but… This was a bookstore! Yes, they were still selling books – but not much fiction. The last time I was there four or five rows was the space allotted to Romance alone, not all fiction. Were they just pushing their latest gadget? What about the folks looking to purchase a bunch of romance novels for their non-e-reader friends?

Exactly who is to blame here? Bookstores or publishers? (It’s not the writers, in most cases we have no power.) Was the low number of print books a business decision on the part of the bookstore? Or was it because the price of those books from the publishers has gotten so high  the bookstores can’t afford to keep the stock?

I have to admit that part of my problem with print is the same – it’s too expensive. Personally I believe that’s why so many discount bookstores have popped up and the popularity of e-books has taken off – and not just because of the new gadgets. Like so many other things, movies, sports games, what used to be a cheap form of entertainment has now become expensive and all of that increase can’t be blamed on electronic devices. A standard paperback novel now costs $10 and a hardcover at least $16. Even a Harlequin romance is $5. When money is tight, that’s a hard hit to the wallet. And they wonder why sales of print have fallen off?  It makes far more sense to put your name on the waiting list at the local library…or wait until the TV movie comes out. Books are starting to compete with video games in price – especially if you’re not a re-reader. As libraries close or cut back due to budget cuts that effects far more than just the bookstores or publishers, that effects literacy. Books have now become a luxury where once they were the refuge of the poor.

Rather than making books more appealing or offering more selection  – taking advantage of computerization and logistics – instead publishers are increasingly dumping their backlist books rather than pricing them at a discount.  Thereby giving more fodder and more fuel to the growth of discount book franchises, e-books and companies like Amazon. A tragedy to all of us who love books, but a blow to the campaign to increase literacy.

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Reviews and Reviewers – Learning curves

Posted on May 20, 2011 in #writing, books, new writers, novels | 2 comments

After all, one knows one’s weak points so well, that it’s rather bewildering to have a reviewer overlook them and invent others. – Edith Wharton (paraphrased)
Asking a working writer what he thinks about reviewers is like asking a lamp-post how it feels about dogs – Christopher Hampton (paraphrased) 
The artist doesn’t have time to listen to the critics. The ones who want to be writers read the reviews, the ones who want to write don’t have the time to read reviews – William Faulkner
And, of course, it all depends on the review, and the reviewer. We’re talking professional reviewers at the moment, personal reviews will come shortly. 
So, what brought this up, you ask? Well, several things. One was a review I received yesterday, another was a request by a reviewer and the third was a dialogue about differences in  a particular genre. As with everything we all bring our own preferences and prejudices, from both sides of the situation.
Reviews are critical in the writing business. At their most basic level they can help a reader decide if this is a book they want to read, at their highest they can help lift a book from obscurity. So every writer looks at them with both dread and anticipation. I know I do. (I’m not a reviewer although I have reviewed, but I won’t speak from that side of it.)  I also view them as a learning experience and yesterday’s review was a wonderful example of that. 
With my little heart going pitter-pat, I opened it and began to read, my heart rising with the compliments, then *thwock* wincing as the knife went in. *grin* And, being who I am, I took those criticisms severely to heart – as I should. Doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt, but as a writer every review is an opportunity to grow, to learn your craft. 
So, was she right that I can sometimes be repetitious? *grudgingly* Yeah, sometimes. Do I head-hop – that is, change points of view among the characters, particularly secondary characters? In this case, and in the case of many of my series books, yes. I like to have my readers get inside the heads of my primary characters so they know, for example, that John is a little judgmental of other cultures. That can be a matter of taste, too. Some people like it, some don’t. None of my ten or so beta readers complained about it. Even so I went back and took another look, particularly in the beginning and took out some of both. (The benefit of an Indie writer, that I can adjust my writing on the fly, so future readers can benefit from what I’ve learned.) For those people that don’t like it, though, this review will either forewarn them or steer them away. Which is fine in either case. 
She objected to the romantic elements in the book, she didn’t think it advanced the story. Again, this can be a matter of taste. Like the difference between hard and ‘soft’ sci-fi.  Hard is more science-edged and tends to have little interpersonal interaction while soft tends to add some interpersonal and romantic elements. Although many tend to think of that as a male/female thing, the best sci-fi has elements of both. Asimov was a romantic.
For me, though, a book is somewhat incomplete without that soft side, the interpersonal side. Friendship, love and sex are a part of life. In all my books I want my readers to share the feelings my characters have for each other, whether it’s the strong friendship between Elon and Colath in The Coming Storm or the growing attraction between Kyriay, the Queen of the Fairy, and Morgan in Song of the Fairy Queen. Or Ky and Raissa in Heart of the Gods. Now I could have written the story as a straight action/adventure but I didn’t. It’s actually part of a series, the prequel of which will be released soon. When I wrote both books, I wrote them with the intent that they would be the first in a series and that strong relationship would be at the heart. Still, I had to ask.
A poll of my beta readers about the question, though, came up with an outcry against changing it – particularly and oddly, from my MALE beta readers, which surprised me.
And this is where those personal reviews come in. Now to other readers there’s no doubt some of those personal reviews come from friends and family. And some do. Because of that I cringed when an unsolicited review – quite wonderful otherwise – referred to me as Valerie rather than Ms. Douglas or some such. On the other hand, the writer knows when it’s friends or family, and when it’s not. I was thrilled to see a wonderful review on my novella Not Magic Enough – a fantasy that’s unabashedly romantic- and delighted to discover the reviewer, again, was male. So my perception that if there’s a strong romantic element to some of my stories it would keep men away is wrong. Hurray!
She also mentioned a disappearing character and the instant it was mentioned I knew who she was talking about – or at least I think I do. I thought I’d handled it, more or less. Sometimes people do just disappear, especially since he’d been taken away by the bad guy. You don’t always know what happened. The fact that she mentioned it, though, brought up that little niggling voice inside me. And I knew I had to fix it, or at least resolve it. So I did. (One of the blessing of Indie writing.)
Oh, and I forgot to mention a few important details. One, that she gave me a 3.5 out of five – slightly better than average. Would I have rather gotten a four? Absolutely. But some reviewers very rarely give out a five and I suspect from the review that she’s one of them. So, knowing that might be unachievable, it wasn’t bad. 
The other details? 
This quote – “…the recipe for a spellbinding story. This one makes a good attempt at achieving this, with a plot that kept me hooked and characters that carried the story forward strongly. There were a few twists that left me pleasantly surprised. The author clearly took care to do her research, and was able to artfully weave the finer details into the story without taking away from the narrative at all.” (paraphrased)
And this – “The story held my attention to the last page by riding on a fantastic concept and strong characters and a brilliantly quick pace. The solid ending has made me interested in seeing whatever she has in store for the team on their next adventure.” (paraphrased)
Above anything else those two comments are what are most important. Because a spellbinding story with a fantastic concept, strong characters that leave the reader wanting more is what it’s all about. 
Those are the judgments a writer has to make – to endure the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune (reviews)… or to do as Faulkner does. And perhaps miss becoming a better writer and giving readers a better book.


To see the review – http://theviewfrommykindle.com/ebook-reviews/review-heart-gods-valerie-douglas/
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