One question I am asked often is about audiobooks.
This post is simply to address older book titles and the possibility of making audiobooks available for backlist titles. As many of you know, it is quite expensive to produce an audiobook with a human production team/narrator(s). This tends to make production of backlist titles impractical, as the sales aren't expected to be high enough to cover the cost of production, since that initial "new release" push is long over, and word of mouth has died off.
Christine Michelle was recently invited to the beta for Google's auto-narrated audiobooks. These books are narrated by AI (artificial intelligence) rather than humans. This has been an idea that was nixed in the past because the robotic voices tend to turn people off. However, after recent experimentation with producing an audiobook in this manner, the results exceeded expectations!
Google technology has come a long way in creating believable sounding voices, and they've managed to give publishers and authors quite a bit of creative control so that they can ensure proper pronunciation of words and names that wasn't possible just a few years ago.
In an effort to bring more books to readers who are sight-impaired, and for those readers who prefer to listen to audiobooks so they can multitask, we are going to produce more backlist titles (books published before 2019) as audiobooks using this method. Newer books that haven't performed well enough to take the gamble on audiobook costs may also end up having this type of audiobook available.
The first book produced this way was Shadows of the Ancients (The Ancients Series book 1) by Christine M. Butler. It is currently only available via Google Play (Google Books) but will be added to other retailers soon. It will not be added to Amazon or Audible as they do not currently accept audiobooks that aren't narrated by humans.
For those of you who are curious about the sound quality of the auto-narrated audiobooks produced with Google Technology, you can test it out with this link to Shadows of the Ancients. A promo code to get the audiobook for free is included! There are only 50 available, so get yours while you can! If you listen to the sample (if you didn't manage to get one of the free copies), the initially "Front matter" that includes the title page, copyright information, and dedication sound slightly choppy in comparison to the rest of the sample. You won't get a true feel for how the audiobook will read until the story starts.
This audiobook was produced using the "Melissa" voice, as it had a younger sound to it that matched the characters. In the next few days, The Infinite Something (T.I.E. Book 1) by Christine Michelle will also be available in this format using the Michelle voice, which has a more mature tone.
PROS to this type of audiobook:
Fast production (It takes 1-3 days to produce) as opposed to human-narrated audiobooks which can take 3 weeks to 6 months to produce.
No scheduling conflicts! Sometimes human narrators over book or life becomes an obstacle to work and deadlines have to be pushed back. This is not a problem with auto-narrated books. When a release timetable is given, you can count on it being ready in time!
Cheap. While in beta testing, Google is not charging for this service. The only stipulation given to authors/publishers is that the audiobook produced with Google must be available via Google Play.
Low to no production cost (other than the author/publisher's time) means that we can pass on much cheaper prices to readers too! A normal audiobook might retail for $15-30. The auto narrated audiobooks (that we produce here) are being sold for $4.99.
More audiobook options - since older and underperforming titles don't have to worry about covering the high cost of narration, we can offer more titles in audio for the people who need them and want to enjoy the books but can't via a traditional reading experience.
CONS to this type of audiobook:
While Google technology has come a long way with making these voices sound human, there are things it can't do. Some inflection won't be as dramatic. You won't have different tones being used to differentiate between characters the way human narrators are able to do.
As of right now, we can only use ONE voice for the whole book. That means no swapping between male and female voices. I'm hoping that is something Google will offer for a more dynamic experience later down the road (and if it is, then we will update books that swap between male and female point of views).
A con that becomes a pro - Google's technology is evolving. That means some of the things that might keep you from testing the waters with auto narrated audiobooks may change and updates for the audiobooks' sound and voice qualities will only improve right along with it.
We look forward to hearing your thoughts and encourage you to come back here and let us know if you checked out the audiobook, what your thoughts are, and of course we always encourage you to leave reviews on the sites where you purchase/download books and audiobooks as well!