I am thrilled to have my audio book publisher on today, Todd Barselow, owner of Auspicious Apparatus Press! And what a treat for you to get inside the head of what an audio production company looks like. Writers, readers, and authors, you’ll want to check it out!
INTERVIEW WITH TODD BARSELOW, OWNER OF AUSPICIOUS APPARATUS PRESS
What steps led you to start your own audio book publishing company?
Well, AAP didn’t start out as an audiobook production company per se, but it sort of evolved into that. I love audiobooks and always have and I was determined to see that each book I chose to publish got an audio edition. After the first few audiobooks, people started to take notice—I say people but what I mean to say is other authors. I had some inquiries about the audio production process, which isn’t all that complex, really, but can be quite time consuming.
I saw an opportunity to make audiobooks a bigger part of the Auspicious Apparatus Press business plan and I ran with it. We now have twenty-two audiobooks published with another dozen in various stages of production. I recently signed another six or seven titles for production just last week. My goal is to have 100 audio titles published by the end of the first quarter of 2018.
What has been the biggest challenge in crossing over from a role as editor to audio book publisher?
I still do both, so I haven’t necessarily ‘crossed over’ as it were. Both jobs are very time consuming. I think that’s the aspect that keeps most authors from pursuing audio production for their titles. According to ACX—Amazon’s Audiobook Creation Exchange, the platform I use to produce audiobooks for AAP—an average hour of audio will be about 9,300 words. So, if you have a manuscript that’s 90k words, you’re looking at nearly ten hours of audio. That’s ten hours of audio that you may have to listen to more than once to ensure the quality of the production. I often listen to each production three times before putting it into quality control checks with ACX and Audible.
For me the challenge is to be able to juggle the amount of time needed to listen to the productions I currently have in the works with the current editing workload. I try to mitigate this by asking the narrators I work with to upload a few chapters at a time, as they are completed, rather than uploading everything all at once when it’s finished. Sometimes they can do this and other times they can’t. In the end, it all comes down to time management and how I schedule my day. Some days I win and accomplish everything I wanted for the day; other days I don’t.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of publishing audio books?
I think for me, just knowing that I’ve been able to add something special and unique to the literary world is reward enough by itself. I’ve gotten messages from people whose kids may have a difficult time with reading, but because we made an audio edition available, their child was able to enjoy the book. I’ve even had adults tell me the same thing. For whatever reason, they may not be able to read a book but they can listen to the audio edition. That’s something pretty neat, I think.
And with the way technology has advanced, more and more people are being exposed to audiobooks. There are features in the newer gen Kindle devices and apps that will allow you to listen to the audiobook while reading along with the Kindle edition. If I’m not mistaken, the words/sentences can even be made to light up as the narration is playing with the Immersion Reading feature. This can be an invaluable tool for helping kids learn to read, and even adults who are illiterate or who otherwise have a hard time with reading comprehension. That aspect alone makes audiobook production a worthwhile endeavor in my opinion.
Can you give us a brief overview of what production and content creation is involved in getting an audio book produced, from start to finish?
The process is far less complicated than you might imagine. Once the audio rights have been secured from the author, I claim the title on ACX. I upload an audition script—a half page to a full page— and then one of two things happens. First, narrators are free to audition for the title. Sometimes this happens almost immediately and other times it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, then I move on to the second bit. I go searching for a narrator from the searchable ACX narrator listings. Each narrator there posts samples of their voice work. I tend to narrow down my choices using the search filters available. I can choose male or female, different regional accents, voice age, narration style, etc…
Once I’ve located a narrator who I think fits the bill for the production in question, I’ll reach out to them via the ACX message system and invite them to audition. If they’re available and interested, an audition will be forthcoming. If I like what I hear, I pass along the audition to the author if they are choosing to be part of the process. Once I get the okay from the author, then I offer a contract to the narrator through the ACX system. Then the audiobook production begins in earnest, starting with the first fifteen minutes. It’s during this first fifteen minutes that any direction that is to be given should be given. Corrections can be requested throughout the production process, but many narrators may refuse to re-voice an entire character once production has wrapped. It’s important to really provide any major feedback when that first fifteen is done. I’m talking about tone, voice, speed, etc. I’ve been very lucky in that the narrators I’ve worked with have all been extremely professional. Nearly every one has nailed their reading of the book straight away.
What does the audio book landscape look like right now? I’ve heard it said that audio is the new video. Is audio building more power through the spoken word than the written?
I believe the future of audiobooks is very bright which is why I’ve chosen to take AAP heavily into audiobook production. I think it’s all about providing readers with as many possible avenues to consume a book as possible. Do I think that audiobooks are going to eclipse ebook or paperback sales any time soon? Certainly not, but I do believe that professionally produced audiobooks can provide an additional revenue stream for authors and that’s always a good thing. Also, it never hurts to have another way to connect with readers.
I think that Amazon is very forward looking and thinking in that they encourage folks who have bought the Kindle copy of a book to add the narration at a reduced price. This is a very similar tactic that was used to entice readers who had bought the paperback edition to buy the Kindle edition, too, at a reduced price. That program is called the Kindle Matchbook program. And all of this is automated for you by Amazon. When someone visits the book page on Amazon, they see automatically if they can buy the audiobook at a reduced price. In many cases, upon purchasing the Kindle edition, the audiobook edition, if available, will be offered immediately for a reduced price. I’ve gotten tons of audiobooks that way myself.
Here’s a little tip for you. Open your Kindle or Kindle app. Navigate to the Home menu on the left. Look for the little box that says ‘Audio Upgrades.’ The number you see there is the number of audiobooks available for Kindle books you already own. Most of these are going to be deeply discounted—I’m talking less than $5 here; many at or below the price threshold for a Kindle book— so do check them out and buy a few.
What kind of books are you most interested in publishing – and are you open for submissions now?
We are currently open to submissions for audio publication and will be for the foreseeable future. I’m open to pretty much all genres but preference will be given to mysteries, suspense, detective fiction, steampunk, horror, and science fiction. Erotic novels may get a pass, but it depends on the content and the length.
We’re looking for short stories, novellas, and full-length works up to about 90k. If it’s longer than 90k we will consider it depending upon the current Amazon ranking and the number of reviews—both positive and negative. We expect that books submitted for audio consideration will have been professionally edited. If they have not, most likely we will be giving those a pass.
Submission query information can be found here.
We aren’t looking for submissions for ebook and paperback publication at this time. We’ve already chosen and have begun publication of the print and ebook titles that will be released for the year.
What kind of advice can you give authors who are seeking an audio book deal?
Honestly, the best advice I can give you—even though this isn’t the best for me and my business—is to undertake the task yourself. It’s truly not that difficult. It’s time consuming, but it can also be a very fun and rewarding experience. If you just don’t think you can do it, whether for time constraint reasons or what have you, then I’d suggest you seek out a company like Auspicious Apparatus Press which has a proven track record in audio production.
Find a company that’s doing good work and just talk to them. Some companies are only into the niche genres and your book may not fit in with their niche. Others may just be throwing together whatever they can and tossing it out there. Whatever you do, before you sign a contract listen to as many samples of the audio work the company is producing as possible. If these samples aren’t available on the company’s website, try searching for them on Audible.com. Type in the company name in the search box there and see what comes up. As with any other venture, do your due diligence and go with a production company or publisher who cares as much about your work as you do.
Where do you see your business headed? Can you share any new exciting developments?
As I stated earlier, my goal is to have at least 100 audiobooks published by the end of the first quarter of 2018; double that number or more by 2019. That’s where Auspicious Apparatus Press is headed.
I’m also doing a bit of narration work and I hope to be able to publish many more titles this year and beyond that I’ve narrated myself.
I hope to be able to start a service for audiobooks that’s comparable to what BookBub is for ebooks. That is to say I’d like to be able to offer daily deals on audiobooks that are delivered directly to the service subscribers’ inboxes. Plans are in the works for that, and I’ve been in touch with the folks at Audible to try to work out the logistics. We are currently seeking investors to help make it happen at a faster clip. Hopefully we’ll be able to launch that later this year so be on the lookout, audiobook lovers!
You can find Auspicious Apparatus Press at the following places on the web:
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