As must be obvious from the last few posts, I have spent much of the last two months recording The Francesians and preparing it for general release. It is a lot of work and it takes a lot of time. If I didn’t record my stories I could have been writing the next one for the last two months instead. Since I don’t get very much feedback from my listeners, I wasn’t sure if all that effort was worth it. Were enough people listening to and enjoying my recordings to justify the time and effort I put into them?
I took the question to the MobileRead forum, where people who read ebooks gather. I asked straight out, “Is it worth the effort to produce audiobooks?” Since there is a great deal of conversation about audiobooks as well as ebooks there, I thought it was the right place. The question didn’t set the forum on fire, but it did manage to gather a few responses: “Does the profit outweigh the cost?” “Do you read the audiobooks yourself, or pay an actor to do so?” “Do you enjoy the process of making the audiobooks?” “After listening to a couple of books read by big name (SF) authors… I say: Get a professional Voice Actor (or 2).” (There is a widespread feeling among MobileRead denizens that authors make horrible narrators.)
Among the suggestions were these: “I say go for it if you want too.” “If you enjoy making the audiobooks and this doesn’t cost much, carry on doing so.” “There are people who prefer them.” “There are also those, like the blind, who rely on them.”
The questions about profit vs cost didn’t apply of course, since I don’t charge for the books and I do the recordings myself. I have tiny bits of income from a few generous people – thank you again – and a few small expenses in the recordings. As to whether I enjoy doing it, I have found that I do. It is onerous and painstaking and time consuming, but it also has its rewards. With this in mind, the suggestions became apropos. I am advised to continue if I enjoy it, and reminded that there indeed are people for whom the audiobooks are preferable, and even necessary.
I decided that I would continue, and here is what I told them: “You’ve helped me decide that recording the audiobooks is worth it. Although the numbers might be relatively small, audio is important to the people who use it, so I’ll keep providing it. Thank you for your help.”
As a consequence of this discussion, one (or more) of the people at MobileRead decided to download the audiobook and see what it was all about. The motive might have been piqued interest in the stories, or it might have been curiosity, or possibly even to see if I was as bad as those other authors who recorded their own books. After a bit of a kerfuffle when one of them told me that she couldn’t open the file – it turned out that her tablet didn’t know how to handle BitTorrent – I was motivated to provide a direct link to the book. It hadn’t occurred to me that there might be a problem with such an established format as BitTorrent, but it seems that tablets haven’t caught up yet. This is one of the reasons that I cherish and long for feedback. It can illuminate problems that I can solve, which I did in this case. I made a change and she was able to make the download and hear my voice, and I was able to enjoy the satisfaction of making it possible.
As for the question of whether I should be hiring professional voice actors, and to the immodest point of this post, this is what she said to me after she listened to a bit of my recording: “You sound like a professional narrator.” I thanked her for her compliment and for her help in improving this website. Now I can’t wait until I finish the next book so I can start recording it. It’s definitely worth the effort.