Beach-town thriller ‘Peak Season’ debuts in audio

I heard CW McCoy before I saw her face.

The heroine of my first crime novel was listening to a fugitive con artist make the case for clearing his name. CW did what I bet most former police officers would do: she kicked the guy to the curb.

Feisty, I thought, from the low, smooth voice to the Spenser-like banter. Maybe I should take notes.

I did, and the result was Peak Season, a novel set in the tony Florida beach town of Spanish Point. The work came out this summer in ebook and paperback formats. And while that satisfied my itch for publication, I kept hearing the dialog and realized CW wanted her own voice.

She has finally gotten it. After months of preparation, Peak Season is now available as an audiobook through Amazon, Audible and iTunes. The recording sounds just as I envisioned it, thanks to the powerful narration by Pamela Almand, who captures CW’s grit as well as the nuanced voices of her mentor, friends and enemies.

At first I had some doubts. Everyone said that writing from a woman’s point of view would prove challenging. So it felt like a victory to hear Pam bring the fellow risk-taker to life. CW may surrender her gun and badge but she will never surrender her spirit, and Pam’s rich tone and nuanced reading make that spirit sound very real.

If you’re a fan of Lorelei King’s wonderful rendition of the Stephanie Plum books, you’ll enjoy Pam Almand. It’s a voice that will ring in your ears long after she turns the last page.

You can listen to a free excerpt of Peak Season at Audible or iTunes.

Peak Season Audible

Now hear this . . . tips on creating audiobooks

Kids aren’t the only people who like to hear a story.

According to the Pew Research Center, 14% of Americans listened to an audiobook in 2013. Adults with higher levels of education are more likely to have read audiobooks than those who did not attend college. And the vast majority of those who read e-books and audiobooks also read print books.

Good news for writers who like to listen to as well as tell stories.

Convinced audio could prove a way to boost my audience, I contracted with an Amazon service called ACX to produce an audio version of my first novel, Peak Season. ACX connects authors with producers and distributors of digital files, in this case, iTunes and Audible.com. It does not produce CDs.

ACX made it easy to import cover art and relevant details of the novel from Amazon. I completed a form with the specs I wanted–a female narrator with a voice in the lower range, speaking in American English with no regional accent. After uploading a short script that called for multiple voices, I listened to sample readings from producers, asked for auditions and even reached out to friends who have a flair for this kind of work.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00064]Choosing a narrator from the auditions proved difficult. All of them sounded professional. Most handled the multiple voices well, even the male characters. A few got creative and tossed in southern or Jersey accents. Two producers offered to include a short musical segment at the beginning and end of the narration, just as traditional publishers do.

The decision was entirely subjective. At the risk of sounding deranged, it came down to a choice of who sounded most like the voices in my head. I chose Pamela Almand, who does business as The Captain’s Voice. (She’s a former pilot. More on that in a later post.) The Audible.com cover appears at left. The audio version of the book should be listed on Amazon by the end of October.

For those of you who’d like to hear your work produced as an audiobook, a few suggestions:

Research the format before you head over to ACX. These projects take just as much work and time as independent print and e-book publishing. Fellow writer Erika Liodice (Empty Arms) has written a pair of insanely detailed posts on creating and marketing audiobooks, Navigating the Next Frontier in Digital Publishing: Audiobooks and 9 Easy & Inexpensive Ways to Promote Your Audiobook. The posts are encyclopedic.

Read the contracts. ACX says it delivers royalties of up to 40% but one example shows authors receiving a little more than $2 on a $30 audiobook. Audible gives free product to new customers and discounts to members, actions that will reduce the list price of your audiobook, and your royalty. Some producers will accept half of your royalty payments in exchange for their narration. Others want an additional stipend for narrating a book that may not sell enough to earn royalties. And unlike other Amazon services such as CreateSpace for print and Kindle Direct Publishing for e-books, ACX doesn’t allow authors to set the price of their audiobook, so you can’t control the profit margin.

Finally, learn from the experts. Indie author Joanna Penn offers several tips for creating and marketing your work as an audiobook. When it comes to running your writing career as a business, she’s one of the leading voices in the field . . . and well worth a listen.