Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Eavesdrop on Producing an Audiobook with Melody Johnson #SciFiRomance

If you’re a writer and ready to learn about how to produce an audiobook, congratulations!

You’ve made it passed the breakers of writing and publishing your book, and in my experience, producing an audiobook is smooth sailing in comparison. Even if you end up needing to navigate over a few waves along the way. Having recently produced an audiobook of my sci-fi romance novel, Beyond the Next Star (Love Beyond, Book 1), I hope that my experience can help guide your own journey. And if you’re a reader, I hope you enjoy this sneak peek behind the scenes of making an audiobook.

Let’s set the scene: you’ve already put in the hard work—creating your characters, developing your plot, writing your story, editing your story, often re-writing your story—and prepared for your journey with all the tools and supplies your book needs to succeed: cover design, professional formatting, review submissions, and a marketing campaign. You’ve launched your book and implemented your promotions, and now, you’re ready to invest in the next phase of publishing: producing an audiobook edition.

In preparation for audiobook production, you have a few options to consider:

ACX vs. Findaway Voices: These two platforms are audiobook production companies with author portals where you can hire a narrator to produce your book. ACX is owned by Amazon, and they distribute to Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. If you decide to publish exclusively with them, you will earn 40% royalties on your audiobook. If you publish non-exclusively, you will earn 25% on royalties, but you can distribute elsewhere, such as tolibraries, on Findaway Voices, and offer deals on Chirp—the audiobook version of BookBub.

Upfront Payment vs. Royalty Share: A voice talent will narrate your audiobook, and you have a choice of how to pay that person. You could pay them upfront for their services. This is a higher investment in your audiobook—upwards of $1,500-$2,000 depending on yourbudget per hour of narration and the length of your book—but you retain 100% of your royalties. Or you could choose to share your royalties with the narrator in a 50/50 split.

Now that you’ve decided on distribution and budgeting for your audiobook, it’s time to prepare for your narrator! You’ll need to gather a few assets:

Audition Script: The script that you develop for your narrator auditions should be less than three pages. I recommend it contain a paragraph for each point of view, and a few paragraphs of dialogue between different characters. Having a variety of snippets from your book will ensure that the narrator can showcase their range and talent

Pronunciation Guide: Most sci-fi and fantasy genres have interesting and unique names for characters and places that may require a pronunciation guide for your narrator. For Beyond the Next Star, I actually created an entire language! Luckily, I’d already developed a dictionary for my readers, so adding pronunciation to that dictionary for my narrator wasn’t too far a stretch.  

Character Guide: Some narrators want to know how many speaking characters are in your novel because they may use a different voice for each. I found this especially important during conversation scenes when there may be less dialogue tags. You wouldn’t want “he said” “she said” everywhere, but in an audiobook, having a different tone of voice speaking can make a big difference to listeners trying to follow the conversation. 

Resize Your Cover: Audiobook covers are square, a 1:1 ratio, and you should avoid text in the lower right corner where the platform may put an icon, such as if your book is on sale.

Now that you’ve gathered your audition assets, you’re ready to begin!

Create an account in your chosen platform.
Claim your book.
Open for auditions.

Narrator Auditions

During the audition process, I thought I’d need to seek out a narrator—and you certainly can if you have someone in mind. You could scout fellow authors in your genre and study their star ratings by performance. And if there’s someone with a high star rating whosenarrator appeals to you, feel free to reach out to them. However, narrators will also submit auditions to you without you having to solicit them. I experienced a broad range of talent, but listening to their auditions and hearing my written words come to life in their performances was thrilling. I recommend asking your narrator a few questions, like their availability (even if you aren’t on a hard deadline) and to make an adjustment to their audition. This will showcase their responsiveness, professionalism, and ability to take artistic feedback. Additionally, you can download their auditions. This gives you the opportunity to share their voices with reader groups, fellow authors, and friends. And then, finally, you get to choose your narrator.

15-Minute Sample

After choosing a narrator, coming to terms on pricing and deadlines, and signing the contract, your narrator will provide a 15-minute sample. That’s your opportunity to give additional artistic feedback if needed, and if any red flags appear, your chance to dissolve the contract and find a different narrator. I recommend keeping all your messages within the platform, so your conversation is documented in case it becomes necessary to change vocal talent. You have the right to change narrators before you approve the 15-minute sample or if they miss their deadlines. In my experience, switching narrators wasn’t a difficult process and ACX (the platform of my choosing) was extremely supportive and responsive to both emails and phone calls. If there’s a breach in contract or you are unhappy with their 15-minute sample, notify your narrator via the platform’s messaging system and then email ACX support. It took ten business days to dissolve the contract and put my book back into auditions. 

Edits and Approvals

Once you approve the 15-minute sample, your narrator will dive headfirst into audiobook production! You’ll have the opportunity to review the audiobook per chapter, and provide two rounds of feedback. After those adjustments are made, then it’s time for the exciting, nail-biting moment all this work has built towards: click the “approve” button. You pay your narrator, and after payment has been received, ACX will quality check your work—a 10 business day process—and then, if you chose to publish exclusively with ACX, your audiobook is distributed to Amazon, iTune and Audible!


As a published author, you know all too well that despite the journey it takes to publish a book, distribution is only the beginning to your marketing plan. Now it’s time to promote your audiobook in every way possible. In this effort, ACX provides free download codes for you to distribute to professional reviewers. I recommend taking advantage of those promo codes during a blog tour or submitting your book to Audio File Magazine. The professional reviewers who gave positive reviews to the written edition of your book are also great resources who may be interested in reviewing your audiobook. 

I wish you all the best in producing your audiobook and hope you find enjoyment as well as success in this stage of your publishing journey!

Beyond the Next Star 
Love Beyond 
Book One
Melody Johnson

Genre: Sci-fi Romance
Publisher: Incendi Press, LLC
Audio Date of Publication: September 13, 2022 
Date of Publication: June 23, 2020 
ISBN: 978-1-7351499-0-5 
ASIN: B0897S23JN 
ASIN: B0BF6126L4 

Runtime: 10 hours and 52 minutes
Word Count: 91,815
Cover Artist: Robin Ludwig Design Inc. 
Narrator: Michelle Sobeski 

Tagline: An intolerable order. A desperate charade. A deadly secret.

Book Description:

“She wasn’t dreaming, in a coma, having a mental breakdown, or in hell. She was abducted by aliens.”

Before Commander Torek Renaar can return to active duty, he’s ordered to purchase an animal companion to help relieve his PTSD symptoms. But having been a caretaker for and lost a loved one, keeping even one little human alive is a challenge he feels doomed to fail. It doesn’t help that his animal companion is the newest, most exotic breed on the market, demanding constant attention, daily grooming, and delicate handling. If she doesn’t die first in his incompetent care, she’ll be the death of him.

After witnessing the murder of her domestication specialist, Delaney McCormick allows her new owner to treat her like the pet he believes her to be. If anyone suspects she’s more intelligent than a golden retriever, her murder would be next. She endures the humiliation of being washed, the tediousness of being trained to “sit” and “come,” and the intrigue of hearing private conversations. But in Torek’s care, she finds something unexpected on this antarctic planet, something she never had in all her years on Earth while house-hopping between foster families: a home.

As companionship grows to love, must Delaney continue the charade, acting like an animal and hiding from the murderer waiting on her misstep? Or can she trust Torek with her secrets, even if the truth threatens everything he holds dear—and both their lives?

Amazon      BN      Audible      iTunes

Book Trailer:  

Audiobook Sample:   


When the lorienok abducted Delaney—after she’d finally accepted that she wasn’t dreaming, in a coma, having a mental breakdown, or in hell—she’d given them a fake name: Jane Smith. Not an exceptionally creative or unique pseudonym by any stretch of the imagination, but having come to grips with the fact that she’d been literally abducted by aliens, her imagination was stretched dangerously thin. Intergalactic kidnapping wasn’t a chronic illness, but for a time—a longer time than she was comfortable admitting to now—wasting away had seemed a preferable fate.

She didn’t accomplish much by hiding her identity. She didn’t have any blood relatives to protect, a criminal record to hide, or a trust fund to safeguard. Delaney Rose McCormick had about as much value associated with her name as did the fictional Jane Smith and left nearly as small a void on Earth. But all Delaney had in those early days directly following her abduction was her name and the hope that everything—the abduction, the tests, the training—was just a big mistake. Which, as it turned out, it was. Her abduction had been the biggest technological mistake in lorienok history, but that didn’t change her circumstances. Days turned to weeks turned to months turned to the abandonment of tracking time. Hope died. She had nothing to her name, but her name, at least, was her own, and she would keep it for herself.

By the time her domestication specialist, Keil Kore’Weidnar, discovered Delaney’s capacity to learn and taught her Lori, his native language, the issue of her name had become moot. He’d already renamed her Reshna, a spiral-shaped handheld tool used to drill into ice. He’d shown her a hologram of it, pointing to the spiral and then to the wild frizz of her unconditioned curls. They had a similar-looking tool on Earth, but they used it to open wine bottles. He’d named her “corkscrew” for her crazy hair.

She’d been called worse names in high school.

She couldn’t say she’d lived in worse places, though. Most of her foster families, with the exception of the Todd household, had been decent people who’d given her clothes, a bed under a roof, and regular meals. Besides clothes, those basic necessities were still being met, so a little gratitude was probably in order. But only just a little, because she also had a cage. And a collar. And if she’d just translated the words and growls of the pet store manager correctly, she had a new owner.

Like most lor, her owner had thick, curved ram horns jutting from his head, and like all lorienok regardless of gender, he was covered head to toe in brown fur. Sasquatch did exist after all; he just wasn’t native to Earth. He was roughly the same size and shape as a human bodybuilder, and in addition to the horns, his nose and mouth protruded slightly into a blunt muzzle, two rows of sharp predator teeth filled his overly large mouth, and pointy bearlike claws tipped each finger and likely each toe on his boot-shod feet.

Unlike most, this male wore his hair long. His locks were tied back from his face in a messy bun with a forest-green elastic band. His beard was also long and came to a point at the end, hanging a few inches below his chin. But his eyes were his most striking feature, assuming that one had already become accustomed to the ram horns, claws, abundance of muscle, and close-cropped body fur. His left eye was the same doe brown common to all lorienok—a smidge rounder and larger than human eyes, like calf eyes with those thick lashes and soul-deep stare—but his other eye was ice blue. A thick scar bisected his right brow, eyelid, and upper cheek, slicing directly over that unique, penetrating gaze.

His bearing was regal and confident, the sharp cut of his jawline proud, but his eyes betrayed him. He was sad—horribly sad—and he glowered at Delaney through the wire door of her cage like he was the Greek king Sisyphus and she his boulder, resigning himself to an eternity of labor over an impossible, futile undertaking.

Or maybe Delaney was just projecting because she couldn’t imagine anything more impossible and futile than her current existence. I am not a pet! she wanted to yell. But after witnessing Keil’s cold-blooded murder, she knew to keep her mouth firmly shut. If anyone suspected her more intelligent than a golden retriever, her death would be next.

Accomplishing impossible feats while enduring debilitating injury and sensory deprivation were challenges both expected and anticipated by the young cadets training to enter the combat and strategic intelligence division of the Federation. Qualifying exams were brutal. Training was rigorous. But for the few who didn’t fail, drop out, or obtain an infirmary discharge, the rewards were astronomical. Torek Lore’Onik Weidnar Kenzo Lesh’Aerai Renaar had certainly reaped those rewards many times over, as evidenced by the four property titles bestowed to his name. He’d never been one to flinch when facing a challenge, but this order—the court-mandated appointment of an animal companion to “facilitate mental recovery”—was the challenge that finally made him flinch.

Torek stared at the human—at the beautiful, riotous hair that sprang like coils from its head and would obviously need continual cleaning and grooming, at its tiny stature and lean form that probably couldn’t lift its own weight, at the lovely gray eyes and smooth, bare skin that would need layers upon layers of protective coverings to keep it warm—and he seriously considered the merits of simply retiring from the Federation.

No one would blame him after what had happened. He could return to his home in Aerai and resume the quiet, peaceful, unappreciated toil of plant cultivation he’d abandoned so many seasons ago along with his dreams of filling that home with a family.

The store manager hefted a bound book from the counter and plopped it into Torek’s unwilling arms.

“What’s this?” A tingle of cold dread crept across the back of Torek’s neck.

“Why, it’s your owner’s manual, of course.”

“Of course.” The Federation’s policies and procedures manual was the thickest book Torek had ever had the displeasure of memorizing, and it wasn’t even half the size of this tome.

“You’ll be the envy of all Lorien. The first to purchase a human, our newest species.

She’s the pilot for her breed, of course, but her domestication is progressing fabulously. They dispatched a harvester while she was still in transit, so until the next shipment arrives, she’s the only human we’ll have for a while yet, six kair at the least. You must be thrilled.”

As Torek flipped through a few of the manual’s pages and skimmed the table of contents, the tingle of dread that had started at his neck devoured the rest of his body and intensified to nausea. An entire chapter was dedicated to heating and insulating the human’s living quarters. If her rooms dipped below a specific temperature—Torek brought the book closer and squinted, but no, his eyes didn’t deceive him—and the human didn’t have tailored, fur-lined coverings to retain heat, she would sicken and die. If he didn’t provide her with private sleeping quarters, she would become lethargic and depressed, then sicken and die. If he didn’t feed her three meals a day, complete with a cooked protein, vegetables, and some grain, she would sicken and die. She was even allergic to ukok, a simple seasoning. If consumed, her throat would swell, cutting off her air supply, and she would immediately die.

He would kill her.

Not intentionally, of course, but despite the wild popularity of owning foreign domesticated animals, he’d never even owned a zeprak let alone something as exotic, delicate, and temperamental as this human. She wouldn’t survive a week in his care.

His throat tightened. His breath shortened. His chest ached, and suddenly, black starbursts shadowed his vision.

Not now. Not in public. Not again.

About the Author: 

Melody Johnson is the award-winning author of the “out of this world” Love Beyond series and the gritty, paranormal romance Night Blood series published by Kensington Publishing/ Lyrical Press. She graduated magna cum laude from Lycoming College with her B.A. in creative writing and psychology. 

Earning the 2021 Maggie Award of Excellence, Beyond the Next Star (Love Beyond, book 1) is an exciting branch from Melody's paranormal romance roots, keeping the dark grit from her Night Blood Series and taking it to new worlds. Her first published novel, The City Beneath (Night Blood, book 1), was a finalist in the “Cleveland Rocks” and “Fool For Love” contests. 

When she isn’t writing, Melody enjoys swimming, hiking, reading, and exploring her new home in southeast Georgia. 

Stay in touch with Melody on social media or her website: 



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