Short NZ Holiday

So I haven’t posted for a while about audiobooks… because I was in Christchurch, NZ!

I haven’t managed to pull my photos off the camera just yet, but below are some pics of places I’ve visited in the South Island.

I shall post an update on-topic in a few days!

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The Avon River snakes through Christchurch, and punt boats are available for hire
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Arrowtown is a beautiful village to visit in NZ’s South Island
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The Kea is an extremely clever native parrot, seen at the snow fields and over Arthur’s Pass
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Aoraki, or Mt Cook, New Zealand’s tallest mountain
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Church of the Good Shepherd on Lake Tekapo
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Audiobook Journey: 3 – Audible Isolation

I was so excited after buying the microphone that I registered an account with ACX so I could upload to Audible as soon as I had my book ready.

I read the terms and conditions. My jaw dropped.

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Being from Australia, I can’t upload my audiobook.

Um… what?

In fact, I couldn’t select anything other than US, UK, Canada and Ireland. ACX, which feeds into Audible (which then feeds into Amazon and Apple), won’t deal outside of those countries. So generally, their world map looks much like this:

 

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The ACX Audiobook Map of NOPE

I stared blankly at my screen. Then I refreshed the page in my browser. The words stayed the same. I tried again. Nope, they weren’t going away. Damnit.

My brain kept going around and around the same information: ACX and Audible are Amazon companies. What’s the difference between an eBook and an Audiobook? They’re both digital files that can be uploaded from ANYWHERE.

The shock ran so deep it took me ten minutes to pull my brain out of that loop.

 

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Trapped in my broken mind

I’ll spare you the seven hours of grief I had as I trawled through all sorts of audiobook websites for a glimmer of hope.

Gradually, I learnt:

  • Audible is the biggest seller and where almost everybody goes for their books. Not being on there is a big detriment.
  • Audible has a 7 year contract. Yes, that’s right. SEVEN years you’re locked in with them (if you can even get that far). To illustrate the difference, Amazon’s KDP (which deals with eBooks) have a 6 monthly agreement.
  • Their royalty rates are the lowest in the business. 25% if you’re not exclusive, 40% if you are.

I promised myself if I found a way to get with Audible, it would not be a monogamous relationship. They’re all take, take, take with very little give. You can tell a lot about someone about how they treat you when they have the power.

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Anyway, I remembered Draft2Digital and how they help put eBooks out for independent authors. I hoped they had the same thing for audiobooks. They didn’t, per se, but they were partnered with someone that did.

Findaway Voices.

Oh boy, it’s only now I believe in love at first sight. Because their slogan – their SLOGAN! Their slogan is: “Your Audiobooks. Everywhere.” They have a reasonable fee as well, being 20% of the royalty share, so they get 1/5th of what you get, rather than taking that off the retail price (which wouldn’t leave you with much).

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And as for their slogan… can they distribute your audiobook everywhere? Yes. Yes, they can. They deal as aggregates to everyone, including Audible, and even show what the royalty payout is for every company they deal with. Some are 50%, and you-know-who are 25% and there are others everywhere in between.

Most importantly, my little audiobook project can get the chance it needs.

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Audiobook Journey: 2 – The Microphone

The first thing I did was type “best microphone for audiobook” into Google. I kid you not.

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I might have lost the advantage of an early entry into audiobooks in terms of sales, but my later entry gives me the opportunity to review what everybody else has done and pick and choose what’s best for me.

So the results that came up were a bunch of different microphones, but they all said “cardioid”. Okay. Now I’m imagining crooning a love song into a heart-shaped microphone and I’m pretty sure that isn’t what they meant… but its a starting point.

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Along with the ‘cardioid’ keyword, I spied a few vlogs. So I clicked one and went down the rabbit hole of YouTube’s AudioBook Microphone Review land. I clicked and watched, and clicked and watched… well, you get the drift. I recommend doing this for yourself. Most review videos were between 4-6 minutes long and there were many available. Some reviews felt sponsored, but you still get all the specs and detail about them.

I believe the best vlog review was the first one I clicked because ‘Open Book Audio’ reviewed many different types of mics and explained the differences between them.

Eventually, I focussed on the RODE Procaster. Why? RODE is an Australian company (and I’m in Australia) and is a brand I’ve heard of. I then found a review that directly compared RODE’s Procaster and Podcaster microphones side by side. While the Procaster came out slightly ahead in quality, I decided that the Podcaster would be best for me. The reasons for that are:

  • It’s easier to plug a USB port directly into my laptop or iPad than to muck around with a 3-pin connector that requires an amp (extra equipment that I don’t need and is a bigger investment).
  • It is specifically designed to cut out ambient/surrounding sounds. I don’t have a studio. When recording, I will be shutting windows and the door to box myself into the home office, and will be recording there.
  • I can plug my headphones directly into the mic for no delay in sound (headphones are just as important as the mic – here’s why)
  • It’s about $50 cheaper, and I found one brand new for $198 (on sale). Shop around though, I found BIG differences when looking at different stores. Amazon has a good price for the Podcaster bundle, delivered.

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I brought it home, played with it, then realised I was going to need the studio boom arm after all (that’s the thing in the pic above, it clamps onto the desk and will save me from holding the mic while I read). A quick drive and $99 later, I have all the equipment I need to get started comfortably.

Okay, so now you’re all caught up. My next post will feature the very nasty surprise that thankfully has a happy ending… but boy was I freaking out and railing at the unfairness of the world at the time.

Yes folks, the drama has already begun.

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Audiobook Journey: 1 – The Decision

I’ve been thinking about producing an audiobook for a couple of years now.

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While I knew pioneers were taking advantage of the early market in audiobooks, I wasn’t willing to put $4K+ of my money on the line when I had other outlets that cost me almost nothing to produce – the eBook.

But at the last Supanova I attended, where I sat at my table and watched a plethora of cosplayers walk by, a bunch of people milled around and asked me questions.

I have a sales thing where I try to answer “yes” to everything. But half of my potential customers asked me if I had an audiobook.

*stunned silence*

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Um, no.

I was amazed at how many people asked. I didn’t think audiobooks would rise in popularity so quickly. I mean – eBooks didn’t take off that fast, but I guess everybody’s listening to podcasts and watching vlogs, so it’s a natural transition.

So… 2019 is the year I’ll be coming out with an audiobook.

Watch this space (subscribe/follow) for a step by step journey of everything I do as I drive down the beaten track towards AudioBook City.

*caution: some bumps are likely to be ahead*

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I watched BRIGHT (Spoiler Free)

‘Bright’ is available on Australian NETFLIX currently.

In my late teens or early twenties, I would have LOVED this movie.

Orcs, elves and fairies (the latter are better described as imps or sprites), are mixing it up with humans and evolving alongside them, and so there are cultural issues and self-imposed segregation. The brief premise that you’ll learn in the first ten minutes: an orc is the first one serving on the previously all-human police-force and is unwanted, mistrusted and disrespected.

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There’s action, pursuit, fast pace, magical realism (that’s when fantasy and/or magic is accepted as a part of normal life) and a dilemma about who to trust. There are hints of depth and of a darker and more political world, and the ending has a conclusion.

The hints remain exactly that – just hints. The events that unfold are kept in a shallow stream so everything can be presented at a breakneck pace. There is very little time to peruse or consider the potential outcomes before they’re declared to the viewer. It’s done in a tidy way but this isn’t a thinking person’s movie. It remains firmly as an action movie defined by pursuit vs pursuer.

‘Men In Black’ had better story simply because they explored more of it.

Even the formulaic, almost generic ‘Independence Day’, that cringe-worthy love/hate-fest of stereotypical characters and incredible dialogue (and by incredible, I mean without credibility)… even that had more story. I shouldn’t compare 90s shtick with current movies because trends and styles change, but Will Smith is the trend between them.bright_independenceday_coolposter

If you like Will Smith, he’s doing his thing like a pro in ‘Bright’. It doesn’t feel forced, he still has impeccable timing and delivery and some of the one-liners hit the funny button pretty hard.

There are still moments where a scene feels unfinished. Perhaps it’s an editing issue? Some scenes felt like there was too much being left unsaid, yet others were too much on the nose, forcing information on us that I could’ve worked out by myself. If I’m going to sit through a quick bunch of newsreels and stills, I can figure out the implied hostility between orcs and humans without having a blatant locker-room confrontation to confirm what I saw about five minutes ago. That time would’ve been better spent developing story rather than using the ‘show’ rule twice.

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I liked the presentation of how humans live VS orcs VS elves. I liked the over-friendly compensating try-hard quality of the orc who just wants to be a cop VS those who believe when it comes to the crunch, the orc won’t be a cop when it matters. I liked the use of graffiti to show political and historical events, it was cleverly done. I didn’t love that the elves were so vamp-like at times that I had to remind myself they weren’t vampires. After a very cultural and spiritual scene, necessary knowledge was revealed and the  reason for keeping such a secret for that long was flippant and well past the ‘its time to reveal’ expiry. Bad writing, there.

Generally speaking, if you love the genre of paranormal urban fantasy or magical realism and/or you really like it when Will Smith is being Will Smith, then watch this movie. It’s not bad.

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And that’s my verdict for now; ‘not bad’ because I’m twenty years out of my twenties and my tastes have evolved. I can talk for hours about ‘Ex Machina’ but ‘Bright’ ends here.

Peace out.

My Co-Writer(s) and Me

“How do you write a book with another person?”

I am often asked this question. Readers (who aren’t writers) tend to just accept it – perhaps they don’t care to think about the process, just the end result. I love them for that – explaining myself is not something I excel at.

  1. I come up with the overall story idea. I will have the start and the end, not always the middle.
  2. I talk it over with Linda. If she likes the idea, she will flesh out the story with me and add a character (or two) that she will write for.
  3. We plot out each chapter.
  4. We assign who writes what chapter (usually the best character’s viewpoint will determine this).
  5. We write our chapters
  6. Whatever chapters we are struggling with or are unsure about will be ‘swapped’ and the other person inserts or deletes at their whim. (Yes, we do save the original)
  7. Self-editing is usually done in bits and pieces.
  8. We both read through the final book to check flow, pace and style. Sometimes we swap around chapters or take them out altogether.
  9. We are finished!
  10. I will go through the final book again with a ruthless editing eye and only when I am happy with it I will send out the manuscript to 5+ beta readers. When it comes back, every comment is addressed. Sometimes we do this together, sometimes it’s just me because Linda has a full-time job as a teacher!
  11. All the pre-production stuff happens.

Co-authoring Fiction Is More Popular Than You Think

There are many co-written books, often marketed under a single name so it’s harder to tell which books have more than a single author.

Off the top of my head:

  • James S A Corey wrote the ‘The Expanse’ science fiction series – very hot on Netflix. The pseudonym belongs to writers Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck.
  • The Red Dwarf books were credited to Grant Naylor, who had creative differences after several books and then released their own Red Dwarf books independent to each other as Rob Grant and Doug Naylor. It made for a couple of interesting parallels with ‘Last Human’ and ‘Backwards’ as both books were #4 in the Red Dwarf storyline.
  • Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman wrote many fantasy book series together.
  • Peter Straub and Stephen King share ‘The Talisman’.
  • ‘Good Omens’ was written by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.
  • Then there’s a tonne of books written by the Self Publishing Podcast authors, Johnny B. Truant, David Wright, and Sean Platt.
  • James Patterson is quite known for his almost factory-like output of co-written novels, but Tom Clancy also has a few lesser-known co-authors writing with him.

There are more, of course. Maybe another time I’ll write a proper list.

Co-writing has benefits and drawbacks

Benefits are:

You only have to write half a book.

If you don’t want to or can’t write a scene, your co-author can either help you write it or write it themselves.

Character types immediately expand with a second mindset and creative viewpoint.

Deep POV for characters will feel dramatically different (this could also be a drawback depending on how it is managed).

You can bounce ideas off your co-writer, which is so much fun!

It’s a wonderful experience to have another writer completely understand a story in all of its complexities that you want to write. If you want to talk about your book or your character to someone who understands, they will ALWAYS get it.

Every move you make feels like you have a supportive player cheering you on. Writing a book doesn’t feel so overwhelming when someone is literally writing it with you.

Obligation and responsibility to write the book are great motivators. Slacking off is fine if it’s just you. When slacking off affects a friend and/or co-writer, that horrible anxiety will keep you honest.

Drawbacks are:

Co-writing is built for outlines. Every scene is best plotted so you don’t go in different directions. Leave wriggle room for creativity in the execution but every scene and chapter should have an objective. A big change in direction or a wrong turn will set back months of writing for you AND your co-writer.

Control must be shared but one writer is best having the last word on the final pass, and that person should be agreed upon at the start. Whoever can assess writing while being emotionally detached from the book is the better candidate.

If the writing style is vastly different, the book won’t feel smooth unless you can combine it into a third style (or make the two styles work with different characters).

If you are friends with your co-writer before you took on the project, your friendship might end up becoming a project friendship.

If you can’t let go of your idea to embrace another writer’s idea AND are unable to assess which idea is better between the both (or more) of you, don’t co-write.

Money. If you and your co-writer are both writing with big dreams about earning an income from your writing, it’s always best to have a written agreement about how that money is split (especially if you’re going the indie published route and only one person is taking on the costs of a publisher). A 50/50 split is usually best.