Navigating the Digital Narration Landscape: Crafting A Mercy of Widows Audiobook

As the publishing world develops, so do the opportunities for indie authors to innovate and adapt. My latest venture into this dynamic terrain was the creation of the audiobook for A Mercy of Widows using so-called digital voices (also called virtual voices or AI). In this post, I’m sharing the insights gained from this process, offering a blend of resources, advice, and a candid analysis for others contemplating a similar journey. (I posted a step-by-step on Instagram about this. You can follow my Instagram posts here.)

Resources for Aspiring Audiobook Creators:

  • Audacity: A free, open-source editing software that stands as the cornerstone of my DIY audio editing.
  • ElevenLabs: The AI narration provider that became my tool of choice for digital voice creation. (Not free.)
  • Educational Content: I leveraged online resources (Udemy and YouTube) to sharpen my editing skills and navigate the software efficiently.

Send me a photo of your A Mercy of Widows paperback for a free audiobook download link.

Key Advice for Your Audiobook Adventure:

  • Economic Viability: AI narration is a cost-effective alternative to professional voiceover services, which can be prohibitively expensive. I estimate I would need to sell about 1000 copies of a professionally narrated audiobook to breakeven. Given the statistic that the average indie author sells 250 copies of her book over her lifetime — well, you do the math. No wonder only about 4% of indie books make it into audiobook.
  • Performance and Quality: While AI voices can deliver clarity and precision, they often initially lack the nuanced emotions of a human narrator. I had to redo some sentences about a dozen times to persuade the AI to get the inflections and tone right. Also, related to this: a skilled human narrator can create distinct sounds for each character. Not so much AI. My solution? I used completely different voices — different pitches, timbre, resonance — for each character to help listeners distinguish one from the other.
  • Transparency with Listeners: I’m very upfront that my audiobook is AI-narrated. I want my listeners to join the experiment with full knowledge of the innovative approach I’ve taken.
  • Direct Sales Strategy: Third-party AI audios are not widely accepted on platforms yet, so direct sales remain the only current option.

Distribution Advisory for Digitally Narrated Audiobooks:

An important consideration for authors exploring digitally narrated audiobooks is the current limitation in distribution channels. As of now, direct sales remain the primary avenue for sharing AI-narrated works. While industry giants such as Amazon and Findaway Voices are experimenting with digital narration, platforms like ElevenLabs have yet to become partners in these ventures. This means that, at present—and possibly for the foreseeable future—access to broader distribution networks for audiobooks created with ElevenLabs’ technology is not available.

Analysis of the AI Audiobook Creation Process:

The journey with AI narration was anything but straightforward. It involved mastering new software, understanding the strengths and limitations of AI voices, and spending countless hours editing to ensure the final product met the gold standards for sound quality—mirroring the parameters set by platforms like Audible/Amazon/ACX.

While AI can weave words into audio effectively, the emotional depth and character diversity often fell short. Post-production work was essential to imbue the narrative with the emotional range, and this was where Audacity became an invaluable asset. Editing AI-generated audio was time-intensive and meticulous, requiring attention to detail to correct pronunciations and intonations.

Despite the snags, such as finding suitable voices for specific accents or character types, the process was ultimately rewarding. Using ElevenLabs allowed for a diversity of voices and control over narration that would have been difficult to achieve otherwise. Still, it required a delicate balance between the efficiency of AI and the artistry of human interpretation.

In conclusion, my audiobook project for A Mercy of Widows has been an enlightening experiment at the intersection of technology and art. The path has not been without its challenges, yet it stands as a testament to the possibilities that digital narration holds for indie authors. The outcome is a finely tuned audiobook that, I hope, elevates the listener’s experience and broadens the reach of indie stories.

2 thoughts on “Navigating the Digital Narration Landscape: Crafting A Mercy of Widows Audiobook”

  1. I just installed Book Funnel and downloaded your book. It was easy to do. It sounds good at 1x playback but it also sounds good at 1.5x playback which is important. I never listen to audio books at 1x.

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