I just listened to a woman read the opening from A Paris Notebook, my first novel from The Wild Rose Press. She’s fabulous. She’s hired! When my publisher hooked up with Amazon to offer TWRP authors a shot at Audible, I was right on it. 30% of people now listen to their books as much as read them.
Not many people read novels. It’s a tiny percentage of the reading public, most prefer non-fiction. It used to be the only people who read poetry were poets (and me). Let’s hope that’s never true for novelists. I know there are a zillion of us out there. And then some of them, like prolific Nora Roberts, write hundreds of (really good) books spanning their careers. I just finished Year One by The Nora and loved it. She’s written 200 books which just plugging in a few numbers I figure must be something like 5 books a year. So a book in 2.5 months. How does she do it?
This is a bit of a shaggy post. Lots of people are talking about the book by Michael Wolff that claims our current president acts like a child, doesn’t read and doesn’t listen. I feel bad for Trump. It’s so clear that he needs approval so he puff himself up with praise (mostly inaccurate) at every opportunity. I wince when I read things like “I’m a genius, and, like, mentally healthy, too.” That was a paraphrase, not a quote. But he did use the word genius to describe himself on Twitter.
I bet Nora Roberts wouldn’t do that. Neither would Oprah, who I hear may be mulling a White House race in 2020. If Trump runs again, we could call it the Celebrity Election. I really hope it doesn’t come to that. I like Oprah but I also like my Presidents to know how government works. I want them to know foreign policy. I bet she would do some homework before taking office. Because at least Oprah reads. She’s a really good listener, too.
I’ve signed the contracts for my five TWRP titles to become audio books. My publisher has also signed the contracts, making us partners with Amazon in this audio book adventure. There’s a little more for me to do. I need to fill out a Spec Sheet–details like do I prefer a male or female to voice my book and choosing a short passage from each book for the narrator to read as a demo. The demo(s) will then be sent to me so I can get a feel of whether the recording artist is a good fit. After I agree to the narrator, that’s it on my end until the book is recorded. Amazon handles all of those details.
The excerpts I send are important; they should convey not only the tone of the book, but also give an idea of genre and plot. Audible has a staff of recording artists and the artists choose which books they’ll narrate based on these snippets. TWRP has many authors, and lots of us want to do this deal. So the narrators will have plenty of choices. The Spec Sheets are a little like an audition for me and my work. It’s important I get them right and not rush. I do tend to rush paperwork that relates to my books; I always feel if I’m not writing fiction (or the blog) it’s more business than pleasure. And I’ve never been a fan of the business end of writing.
My TWRP books, except Blue Heaven, which is under exclusive contract to Kindle books, are available widely on the internet. They’re all on Smashwords and Nook and every other e-reader retail outlet. But the audios will only be available on Amazon. This is because TWRP and Amazon have done a deal together that makes it very lovely for TWRP authors. TWRP is a small boutique publisher and they are almost entirely about e-books. Yes, they have print editions, but they do these mainly as a courtesy to their authors, and have no print distribution. TWRP authors hand-sell their print editions at conferences, book festivals, and brick and mortar bookstores.
About the money, I pay nothing for this new perk. I receive royalties that are in line with what I’m paid for e-books. Another question some authors ask is “Can I narrate my own books?” and the answer is maybe, if you have a home recording studio. In my view, this work is best left to the professionals. The last thing I will do before my books become available in audio is to listen to each of the entire books, I’m thinking of it as an ear edit, and it’s my job to note any mistakes so that the book will be perfect for paying customers.
Eventually my publisher would like to pursue audio books for other venues but that’s down the line a bit. I understand from all the recent discussion on our author chat board that recording audio books is a very pricey deal. If an indie author wants to do this, it would cost them anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars. Which is why the Amazon contract is a sweet deal.
I love my publisher. I really do. They are lovely people and they’ve just partnered with Amazon to bring their authors out in audio. I’m not a fan of audio books, but apparently there’s a huge market. We don’t HAVE to get our books onto audio, but why wouldn’t you? It costs the writer nothing, it’s no work for the writer, the writer collects royalties. All we need to do is sign a contract for each book we want to go audio. It’s for 7 years, but I wasn’t planning on taking those books anywhere else. Seemed like a clear win to me.
Then I remembered the other contracts I signed. There was a clause I wish had not been there. I didn’t remember agreeing to it. My eyes must have gazed over the words about my being required to write a “consummation scene.” Or maybe I didn’t exactly know what it entailed–maybe I just thought, okay, sex scene. Check. So I wrote my first book and sent it in and my editor wrote back to say “you know, you need to write the consummation scene.”
Me: “How is that different from the scene I wrote the first time they had sex?”
Editor: “You don’t describe the moment of consummation.”
Me: “Like, graphically?”
Editor: “You can be euphemistic. But readers need to see it.”
Me: “That was in my contract?”
I checked. It was. Listen, I’m no prude. I have nothing against sex scenes, although I usually skip them. Because nobody knows how to write a good one. Or it’s rare. So why not just shut the bedroom door and leave it at that? But I’d signed the contract so I researched how to write a good sex scene. I learned that romance authors call these scenes “love scenes” ~ there’s got to be a romantic build up to the scene. The characters must be in love. Consummation is about emotional surrender. Sex is about allowing your character to be vulnerable, to trust, to hope, to need. And you don’t want it all to sound like stereo instructions, but neither do you want the metaphors to obscure the reality of the physical thing happening.
That sounds difficult. And it is. That’s why almost nobody does it well. So how will the consummation scenes I wrote (one for each book) play on audio? I don’t know. A contract extension is a simple document. However, it assumes all language of the original contract. So what I do know is that the bedroom door will be wide open.