Several years ago, when I had three of the four Terry Rankin novels in print, I spent a few months researching the costs and difficulties of audio book conversion. At the time the cost alone was well beyond my means, even if I could work out a deal with an audio book producer and a Voice Talent. But that changed a few months ago, when I came across Amazon’s ACX (AudioBook Conversion Exchange) (www.acx.com). I was fortunate enough to come to an agreement with a Voice Talent/Producer, Neill D. Hicks, who was willing to work with me. His narrative skills, accent and delivery are perfect for the role of the narrator of the tale, Terry Rankin.
There are numerous instances of humor in the novel, along with romantic asides, tension, drama and tragedy in turns. In print, the author depends on his skill with words and punctuation to bring all of that out in the text. A good Voice Talent adds a new level of interest to the author’s tale by ‘coloring’, or modulating, his voice. A bad (or inappropriate) Voice Talent may well destroy a tale. Neill has many years’ experience in Hollywood as a screenwriter, and has in fact authored many books on the subject. As he told me the other day when we Skype-d, there is a lot of Terry Rankin in him.
Neill has already agreed to narrate and produce all of the Terry Rankin novels, including the fifth, which I am writing now (sic). That makes me very happy.
It’s time consuming, yes, but well worth the effort. Neill is producing two complete chapters each week, now; I just received Chapter 17 this morning, and gave it (as I do every chapter) a good listen. Consistency in narration – accent, sound levels and so on; is a must, and Neill has that down to an art. Any concerns I might have, such as an odd bit of background noise or a chopped edit or flubbed line, is immediately reported to him and he takes care of it right then and there. The opposite is true, as well, since if he finds any problems in the text before he narrates it, he needs a fix right now, not in two or three days. I write to a schedule, and he narrates and edits to his own schedule, and both must be respected for a collaboration such as this to work.
The audio book version of “The Big Bend” is due for release in mid-July (that’s the middle of next month for those of you who are chronologically challenged). The other novels should appear in turn every three months after that. Distribution will be through Amazon.com, Audible.com and iTunes.com.
Why bother with audio books? Simply put, it is a HUGE market. Current estimates put the audio book market in the US at something over two billion dollars for sales in 2013. ‘nough said.