Taking Advantage of Obstacles… — Derek Barton

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It is not in the still calm of life, or the repose of a pacific station, that great characters are formed. The habits of a vigorous mind are formed in contending with difficulties. -Abigail Adams

 

Last week my home computer crashed and died an ugly death.

I didn’t hold a funeral or even a memorial.  I buried it away quickly in a cabinet like a guilty secret and tried to not to obsess over it.

Why?  Because this is a serious financial setback – I just don’t have the means to replace it easily.  I am even writing this blog at work on break (shhhhh don’t tell! LOL)

I have had the computer since 2009 and I knew the day was coming that I would have to replace it, but… I had a fantasy hope that it would last yet another year or more.  That little voice in my head kept saying, “Let me just get my sequel done and then maybe I could afford a new one!”

The rub of it all is that I was gaining serious momentum on my book.  I had written four and a half chapters so far with a goal that by October the first draft would be complete.   Now, everything has been locked away in my Scrivener program, imprisoned unjustly within the hard drive.   Yes, some of the outline has been saved to my Google Drive folders, but I was very lax in updating my work to the Cloud.  Lesson learned.

My father did point out that “there was this somewhat known writer guy called Shakespeare who didn’t own any computers and he managed to get quite a bit produced…”   SIGHHHHHHH  Thanks, Dad!

Anyway, I realized that there was just no way around this for now and I decided to focus on my audio script work.  I am adapting Consequences Within Chaos into an audio book to be sold on Audible.com.  While my heart is still longing to write The Bleeding Crown, I am having an interesting experience with developing the audio version for Consequences.

In the past, I always made the quick assumptions that the audio book process was complex, expensive and not really well accepted by the readers.  This has proven to be quite the opposite!

The steps are pretty simple:

  1. Write out your book as if it were a script.
  2. Find a voice actor or read and record your own voice.
  3. Post it and sell it through Audible and/or other audio book sites!

So writing the book into a script format is time-consuming but can be a rewarding experience in itself.  I am sure there are more formal processes for the work, but I just did highlights and notes throughout the manuscript for the voice actor.  You have to be sure exactly how you want names to be read, how you want voices to sound, how much pausing or dramatic emphasis on passages you want and you have to guide the voice actor on scene or dialog pacing.

The part where one has to find a voice actor and afford the actor’s services sounded pretty overwhelming at first.  However there again, the process is well-designed for amateurs like me.  You can actually find voice actors on your own as I happened to (I met a few at the Galaxyfest Comic-con I attended in February) or you can post/advertise you are looking for one online or you can hire through several sites (like Fiverr.com).

Once you have a voice actor, payment for that actor can be done two ways:  a one-time payment for said services agreed upon by both parties OR a split of the royalties received for the audio book (the contract will be for as long as the book is selling on the site).

Once the recordings are completed (and if you decide to record your own reading of the book, you can gain a lot of good tips from www.youtube.com videos on how to make the recordings and what settings you need), you will need to download them onto http://www.acx.com/ if you plan on selling through Audible.com.  This site is very similar to what https://www.createspace.com/ is for Amazon.

Also here are some more factors to keep in mind for the recordings (obtained from acx’s guides):

ACX Audio Submission Requirements

Create top-quality audiobooks, and maximize your sales potential by providing the best overall listening experience.

Audiobooks uploaded to ACX must adhere to the following requirements. The ACX Quality Assurance team may reject titles that do not meet these standards, and their retail release may be delayed. The following requirements help ensure customers get a great listen.

Your submitted audiobook must:

Each uploaded audio file must:

More information on how to meet these requirements can be found below and in our Video Lessons & Resources, and many of the terms used here can be found in our Audio Terminology Glossary.

There is a lot of extra details they have on the site to further break it down and easy to complete.

And lastly, here is a sample of the research I found on the internet about marketing audio books and how audio books are having an impact on the market:

Data from the Association of American Publishers (APP) released this week showed U.S. book sales from January to October last year grew 0.5 percent, although overall revenue for publishers during the period was down 2.8 percent at $13.2 billion.
However, one area that is experiencing strong growth is audio books. The APP said audio book downloads increased by 38.1 percent in 2015 and services such as Audible, where users pay a monthly subscription to access a library of audio books, are growing.
“Audible membership growth is consistent at 40 per cent year on year, as more consumers realise how well audiobooks can fit into their busy lives,” explained Tracey Markham, country manager for Audible, to CNBC via email. “Audible members globally listened to 1.6 billion hours of audio content in 2015 (up from 1.2 billion in 2014).”  — CNBC.com

 

While the week did start out like a blind, three-legged horse at the race track, I did find a way to make it productive in spite of the broken down computer.  And I hope that this also opens your eyes to the possibility of audio books of your own and how really easy this process can be.

With any luck (I used up all my bad luck already right?) this will become a successful new venture in audio for me!!

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A New Land to Behold… — Derek Barton

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Recently I have been toying with the idea of making maps for my fantasy worlds detailed in Consequences Within Chaos, the prequel Seyde in Blood and my upcoming sequel The Bleeding Crown. 

There are a lot of debate on whether maps are a hindrance or a benefit to your story.  I think that like any other writing tool or technique that a writer can use, it should be considered carefully for each story, thought out thoroughly and done on a case by case basis.  Not every story will warrant a map.

The first important question to consider is:  will it add to the story for the reader?   Do you think that there may be too many names floating about in your prose or do you feel that the layout of your places are pretty straightforward for the reader to follow?  When I read George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, I had to often look at the maps to keep the story straight in my head.  For that matter, he had so many characters going all over the place and working with so many different characters, I even made an Excel Spreadsheet to keep the names straight!  But Mr. Martin has such a great talent and incredible story that I forgave him as a reader and put in the extra effort.

Another question:  Do you feel that the map is going to help you as the writer?  Will it guide you in keeping all the facts straight and keeping an accurate idea of where each character might be?  Or will a map also give you inspiration or show you where you have room to grow?

When you do decide, you will also face the dilemma of where are you going to get it?  Are you going to draw it yourself and if so, do you have the right amount of cartography skill?  If you are not taking up the challenge to create it, then what resources do you have to get one?  There are a ton of “free map images” out on the net, but then you may have to make concessions or even possibly alterations to your story.  Perhaps you might be wise to invest on getting it professional completed.  There are also many websites that will provide map-making services or websites like Cartographers Guild that has a forum for questions and/or advice.

Overall, the questions surrounding the “to map or not to map” debate really comes down to time, resources and whether or not it will benefit you as a writer and/or the readers.

For myself, I have started my sequel and I think it will be a positive addition for the readers to see where the lands are and maybe help give the readers a better perspective of all the key lands that are involved in the story.  My plan is to make a map of both worlds detailed in the books.  And yes, I do plan on designing the maps myself.  I designed several in my old Dungeon & Dragon days and found that it really provoked ideas and plots (usually evil plots to mess with the players!! haha)

I will keep you all in the loop and hopefully share my maps soon!!