Ask the Author GoodReads Event + New Hot Giveaway!

ask-the-authorHey creatives! Today is the kick-off of our FIRST “Ask-the-Author” Event at The Fantasy Portal GoodReads Book Club!

And the first author up to bat? ME!

Join our book club and participate to ask me anything and EVERYTHING you want to know about my writing process, creative inspirations, current projects, future plans, or even some personal stuff, to your leisure!

I’ll be fielding questions all the week long, from Monday, Sept 15 until Sunday, Sept 21!

ALSO, as a warm welcome to both our Book Club and to the Ask-the-Author Event, I’m launching a very special, limited time giveaway!

Check it out below!


September’s Limited Time Giveaway!

Participate in The Fantasy Portal Book Club’s Back-to-School Bash, and Enter to win some AWESOME prizes!

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Giveaway ONLY lasts from Monday, September 15 to Monday, September 22 (until 11:59 PM), so ENTER NOW!

[cjtoolbox name=’The Fantasy Portal Book Club Back-to-School Bash!’ ] [/cjtoolbox]

10 Things I Learned (as a Sci-fi & Fantasy Writer) from Producing an Audiobook, Part II of II

audiobookOkay, so I’m back with part TWO of “10 Things I Learned (as a Sci-fi & Fantasy Writer) from Producing an Audiobook“!

Let’s get it! 😉

 

6. Don’t be afraid to give your characters uniqueness, extreme personality, voice, and dialogue patterns!

calebposterfinal copy 2This is a given when writing pretty much anything in fiction, but sometimes we’ll hold back on it in the interest of trying to be PC or non-stereotypical. True, there can be a thin line between writing a stereotyped character and writing a real, colorful one. But go with your gut! I suggest that you be as colorful with your characters as possible, especially if your sci-fi or fantasy world has a large cast. Every person of import needs to be distinct from the others.

To take that point further, colorful characters are integral to producing a great audiobook. Trust me, it’s so much fun to hear an actor latch onto a character’s speech pattern and mannerisms and just go to town with it!

For example, one of the very minor characters in my novel had a Bostonian accent (a fact that was merely stated in the character cast list), while another more major character was literally just written as a Bostonian– dialogue, intonation, and all. Well guess what? My actor totally nailed the major character because the guy was literally a Bostonian personality and spoke like one, whereas the minor character’s accent wavered occasionally because I didn’t write him as a Bostonian. You need to remember that voice actors literally embody the character they’re playing, and to do that effectively, voice actors need, well, VOICE. So don’t skimp on it!

7. This is your actor’s medium. Unless you feel as though he or she is totally going to tank your audiobook, it’s best just to follow his lead!

Listen to your actor, ladies!

Listen to your actor, ladies!

This doesn’t mean keeping quiet if the actor is messing up a character’s voice or mispronouncing words throughout the book. Obviously, you have a right to guide your audiobook to successful completion. However, there are some of us who take a tyrannical role when producing an audiobook, and this can produce some unfortunate results (especially if you aren’t actually PAYING the actor upfront).

Letting go of the work you shed so much blood and tears over is hard, I know. But while prose is your speciality, you must remember that voice acting is your actor’s speciality. Embodying character and voice in real time is just what actors do, all day every day, point blank, period. So if your actor has an interpretation on a character, a story theme, tone, mood, or whatever, just go with it and see where it’ll take your audiobook. You might (and most likely will be) pleasantly surprised.

audible2buyAs a special note to writers doing a Royalty Share agreement (wherein you don’t pay the actor upfront, but you guys split royalties per sale of each audiobook): When you and your actor decide to take a no-money-down risk on your audiobook, you move from solo writer status to a partner status. You are not paying the actor upfront, so essentially your actor is a partner, not an employee. He is risking just as much time and money on this audiobook as you are, so keep that in mind when you’re giving him direction. Giving narrators their 50% ownership over the audiobook property means just that, so please, trust them with the process. They know more about audiobooks than you do, after all.

8. Be prompt in responding to your actor’s questions and concerns.

I was HORRIBLE at this at times, and I know my actor wanted to kill me. Taking into account audio recording, listening, and editing, each chapter of your book is costing the actor about 4-6 hours of work time. Honestly, if you want your audiobook finished on time, PLEASE communicate with your actor in a timely fashion. Don’t be like me!

9. When you’re listening to a first draft of the actor’s audiobook, make sure you have your original written file open on your computer!

showcase-scrivener_headerThis isn’t so that you can follow along. Actually I recommend that you DON’T follow along. So then, why do I say to keep your original file open? TYPOS & CORRECTIONS. And I cringe even as I write this because technically in a final draft you shouldn’t want or need to change anything.

But alas, nothing in this world is perfect.

I found at very rare moments in my novel that there was either a minor preposition that was missing from the text (my fault) OR that I wasn’t really a fan of how I’d written a certain character’s dialogue line. Again, these instances were extremely rare, but being that, as indies, we now have the ability to change and re-upload our digital and print book files, I say take advantage of it. If you hear a typo or want to tweak some dialogue, crack that ebook file open and do it.

Your actor’s audiobook will reveal all the gems in your work as well as the rare flaws, and you have every right to rectify those in the other versions of your book. So take advantage! (And make sure you ask your narrator to please re-record if absolutely necessary.)

10. Enjoy the show. No, really. Enjoy it.

As an aspiring tv writer, I can tell you that a tv writer’s greatest dream– beyond actually getting hired to do what he loves on a daily basis or becoming a showrunner of his own show– is to see something he’s written actually acted out and then aired for millions of people to see. You can think to yourself: “Wow, I wrote those movietheatrewords, created that tense scenario, I authored that car chase, and it looks AWESOME.”

Well, guess what? Short of seeing your novel on the silver screen in Hollywood, the audiobook is the novel writers’ version of “seeing” an episode or film he’s written aired LIVE, with all the characters and situations brought to life. And wow, is that an amazing fuck-all feeling.

In all, an audiobook isn’t just an audial translation of your work. It’s a performance! And performances need to be enjoyed and savored with all your rapt attention. Your actor has worked really hard to bring your world to life, so get immersed in it and love (or hate) the characters you’ve created together. It’s SO much fun!

So that’s it for my tips! Feel free to learn from my hard-headedness and avoid the same mistakes I made! Any more tips you have on audiobook production? Add them in the comments below! 😉

I’ll be back soon with a few more things for ya as we bring July to a close, but of course, in the meantime…

Keep it indie!
<3 Colby R Rice

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10 Things I Learned (as a Sci-fi & Fantasy Writer) from Producing an Audiobook, Part I of II

audiobookSo writing a book is challenging, but producing an audiobook is a different kind of crazy altogether, trust and believe! Now that I’ve gone through the process, I’m going to give some perspective and tips on audiobook production from the author’s point-of-view. Some do’s and don’ts if you will. I’ve got ten tips in total, so this post will have a second part to it.

ALSO, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the rules of storytelling tend to transcend mediums! You’ll find that many of the tips I give in this post and in the next apply not only to audiobook production but to prose writing as well. (And they’re rules we’ve been hearing for a long time as writers.) Rules that we try to stick to, but may not understand in real time, are all in your face (or in your ear, rather), when you produce an audiobook. TRUST ME.

So what are the first five tips out of ten? Well…

1. Do NOT use adverbs in your writing. Just. Don’t.

All_About_Adverbs_photo_FINALIZEDThis is an already hard and fast rule in writing period, but let me tell you: adverbs stick out like big fat sore sausage toes when you’re listening to an audiobook. Only a very few found their ways into my final draft (thank GOD) but those that made it sounded “meh” at best.

When these Benedict Arnolds are hidden amongst really stark and lush description, it makes your writing sound lazy as all hell. Ugh. Just don’t do it. Eliminate ALL adverbs from your writing, no matter how harmless they seem on paper (or on your Kindle screen).

2. Try to limit dialogue tags as much as possible!

nodialoguetagsDialogue tags are not necessary for your ebook, and they are just downright superfluous in audiobook narration. Maybe my actor just kicks ass all around, but he made it pretty clear in his intonation when my characters said something “with annoyance” or “angrily”.

He also invoked different voices, speech patterns, and accents that pegged each character as unique. So when he was reading the audiobook, pretty much every single dialogue tag that I used sounded utterly useless. The tags took away from the strength of the character’s words, and also just plain sounded redundant once my actor’s talent was applied.

3. Minimize your lists. Or, if a list of items or rules is necessary to your story, either keep it short, make it super compelling, OR tell your audiobook narrator to annotate it.

tasklist3Oh my God, totally learned this the hard way. There are sections in  the printed and digital versions of Ghosts of Koa wherein I use flyers, lists, and headlines, and for the most part, they translate pretty well into the audiobook. HOWEVER, there is one section of my story wherein the main character is reading (to herself) a list of rules regarding immigration and citizenship policies.

While this was presented in a simple (and skip-over-able) document in the printed version of my book, it sounded super pedantic and boring when read in the audiobook version. This is not at all the fault of my actor, but more so due to my lack of foresight when writing the damned thing.

SO, if there is ever a section like that in your novel, I’d suggest you make a note to your audiobook narrator letting him know which parts of the list to read, OR, just do a brief re-write of that scene or section and send it to him.

4. Have some sort of cast list available, divided by major and minor characters.

comedy-tragedy-theatreThis is more of an organizational tip that will help your actor to become acclimated to the scope of your story. What you’ll find is that as your narrator gets more comfortable and spends more time with your characters, he will set a pace, tone, and personality for each that will remain consistent throughout the story.

You can actually help him do this (while also putting your interpretation on how you envision your characters) by giving him a cast list. Here’s a mini (and improved) example from the casting document that I sent Michael:

EZEKIEL D’JIHARA ANON – MAJOR PROTAGONIST – Also known as “Zeika” or “Zeeky”. 16-yr-old from the Bronx. Spunky, witty, spirited.

And so on. How you do this is up to you, but giving your actor some direction is definitely helpful for getting the kind of performance you’re looking for!

5. If there are characters speaking other languages in your book, BE VERY CLEAR as to how those words are pronounced! Same thing with names, people, and places you make up for your story.

multiculturalnightOkay, this is especially for sci-fi & fantasy folk because we spend a lot of time creating and destroying worlds.

Whether you’re using a language that already exists or you’ve made up your own, PLEASE… let your actor know how to pronounce anything that might be foreign to him (or to anyone else). In fact, as you’re editing your final draft (before you even consider hiring an audiobook producer), I suggest you make a little guidebook with the pronunciations of all languages, new places, characters’ names, monster names, and more.

Even better? Record the pronunciation of these things so that your actor can listen to them and integrate them into his psyche.

Trust me: following these tips will really help improve the overall quality of your audiobook, so I really hope you consider them!

So what about you? Have you produced an audiobook and learned a lesson from it that you’d like to share? What tips am I missing? Post your comments below! 

Also, stay tuned for the next installment of tips from me on audiobook production from the writer’s POV. But of course, in the meantime…

Keep it indie!
<3 Colby