Audiobooks

After reading that sales of audiobooks had risen by 34% during lockdown, I spent ten grueling months in 2020 narrating and recording and editing and mastering my five Cornish Detective stories.

Uploading them to Audible.com, I was surprised at how well they sold without any promotion from me. To make them more discoverable, I used a British site called Free Audio Books (FAB) to hand out the so-called Promo Codes for me. Fifty codes are given to an author for each published audiobook, the idea being that you give them to critics, reviewers, friends and family – in the hope that they’ll leave a review and a star rating. Reviews drive sales!

https://freeaudiobooks.co.uk/

One of the people who runs FAB is Sally Roughton, who works as a narrator too and she also makes promotional video trailers for audiobooks.

https://sallysspeaking.co.uk/

Feeling flush with my first audiobook royalty of £378, I commissioned Sally to make what she calls a Deep Dive Trailer (see her site), which is just less than the two minutes twenty seconds Twitter permits.

I was very pleased with the result. I’m going to monitor what effect it has on sales, but I’ll likely get her to make more trailers for the other four titles.

You’ve got to speculate to accumulate!

Creating Audiobooks

I apologise for a dearth of posts in the last few months, but since late April last year, I’ve devoted myself to turning my five Cornish Detective novels into audiobooks.

Sales of talking books rose by 31%-34% in lockdown, so it made sense to jump on the bandwagon. Little did I know, when I began the process, who long it would take. I’ve worked a minimum of 10 hours daily, usually 12 and, one time, 16 hours—which left my brain the size of a peanut!

Each of the novels devoured at least 1,000 hours of my time. I’m not kidding, for though the narration and recording of a story can be pleasurable, it’s the editing and mastering of the recording that is tedious, painstaking, endless, wearying, annoying, repetitive and frustrating. Get the picture? This is a totally joyless task.

I forced myself through it to get it all done, as I knew that if I took a break I wouldn’t want to go back to it as it’s so horrible. I didn’t even have a sense of satisfaction when I completed all five titles. More great relief that I’d finally finished. Except I hadn’t, as I then decided to tackle another series of stories set in the post-American Civil War Era of Reconstruction. I’ve written just two novellas and am halfway through the third, so at half the length of the crime novels they were relatively easy to do. I uploaded the first two titles to ACX this week.

The whole ghastly saga is detailed in this thread on Litopia’s Colony, the friendliest and most helpful writers’ forum on the internet:

https://colony.litopia.com/threads/narrating-blues.793

There’s plenty of advice online about Audacity, ACX and Audible…look on Reddit and Quora, but let me offer some words of experience.

I used Audacity to record my audiobooks as it’s free and highly-praised. It is not without its problems, and though it’s regularly updated, the developers appear to have schizoid attitude to how they apply ‘improvements’; an effect that worked fine before is suddenly uncooperative in the update.

By mistake, I made things worse, for partway through recording Book 2, I decided to download the latest version of Audacity. I did so from a site called FilePuma:

https://www.filepuma.com/

All seemed to be OK until I was two chapters from the end of the project. Attempting to open a chapter to edit it, I was confronted with a warning message that I needed to choose one of three options before proceeding. Choosing any of them destroyed the recording! The soundwave disappeared! What I hadn’t realised was that Audacity’s .aup file type can only be opened by Audacity. It was my fault that I hadn’t saved my work as a WAV or Mp3. Eventually, I lost 450 hours worth of work! I found the email address of one of Audacity’s developers and had a tense exchange of messages. It turned out that FilePuma had built their own flawed version of Audacity, but, but, but Audacity’s developers should have built in safeguards to prevent them doing so.

I was furious, but what could I do, but repeat the recordings and mastering?

Avoid FilePuma!

Only use official downloads of Audacity!

To add to the frustration, using ACX is a nightmare as it’s flakier than a leper’s backside! ACX is the quality control part of Audible which is the audiobook division of Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. For your carefully crafted audiobook to be allowed to be shelved on Audible, it has to be submitted to ACX. They will take about one month to decide its fate. Audacity has a plug-in ACX app that can be used to check that you’ve got most things right, but it’s no guarantee that it will pass the full test.

Uploading an eBook to Kindle is relatively painless, but ACX is the village idiot of Amazon! There are hundreds of complaints online, but it’s been in a shoddy and unreliable state for months.

https://old.reddit.com/r/ACX/comments/kcah22/anyone_else_frustrated_by_the_upload_manager/

(that’s me as Augustus Devilheart)

It beggars belief that the richest man in the world has the world’s worst piece of software!

As an example of how maddening it is, I uploaded the 12 chapters of my second Civil War novella this afternoon. 11 went through OK, but it took me 90 minutes and multiple attempts to get ACX to accept Chapter 2.

I’m hoping that the popularity of audiobooks continues to increase and that my hard work pays off. Yesterday, I checked my audiobook sales and they’ve risen to 48, all without any cohesive promotion (2021’s campaign). 27 of them were for my 2nd Cornish Detective novel, which only went live on 27th December.

https://www.audible.co.uk/search?keywords=paul+whybrow&ref=a_hp_t1_header_search

I should add, that Audible pays an author 40% of the cover price. Thus, the first Cornish Detective novel, priced at 18.29 earned me about £124 from 17 sales, while Book 2, at £22.89 (it’s longer) pays out £247 for 27 units – a total of £371. Sounds respectable, doesn’t it? But, bear in mind that I devoted at least 1,000 hours into creating each audiobook, which gives me an hourly pay rate of just over 7 pence!

Are you thinking of making an audiobook after reading all of this?!

#Me too reaches Crime Fiction

A new literary prize was launched in 2018 to honour crime writing where ‘no woman is beaten, stalked, sexually exploited, raped or murdered.’ Called the Staunch Prize, its been founded by author and screenwriter Bridget Lawless, who is providing the £2,000 award herself.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/jan/26/staunch-prize-launched-for-thrillers-that-avoid-sexual-violence-against-women

The Prize website: http://staunchbookprize.com/about-2/

Overall, I’m glad that someone has stepped forward to highlight the way that violence against women is used as a form of entertainment. How long before similar attention is paid towards films, television dramas and music? However, there are a few contradictions raised by this prize, that no one is addressing, though Val McDermid makes some valid points in the article.

Before I write anything else, let me state that I’m against violence towards women. I’ve worked as a marriage guidance counsellor and rape crisis switchboard adviser, and at least half of my girlfriends suffered abuse that had long-term effects on them, so I know the consequences of violence better than most men.

There’s a problem in criticising anything that’s riding the bow wave of political correctness, in that if you say anything remotely disapproving of the flood of accusations, then its turned back on you as if you’re one of the abusers. Bizarrely, this happened recently to Margaret Atwood, who quite mildly (and correctly) pointed out that legal due process was being ignored, in how men were being accused and condemned.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/jan/15/margaret-atwood-feminist-backlash-metoo

Curious about my own crime writing, in four novels and several short stories and novellas, I totted up how many victims of each gender were ‘beaten, stalked, sexually exploited, raped or murdered’, I found that 14 women were victims, while 15 men suffered. Two women were perpetrators of violence, including the murder of female victims. My WIP, The Dead Need Nobody, starts with a cold-hearted murder of a female painter, by defenestration

The killing is casually done and wasn’t really necessary, but my fictional male murderer has also disposed of two other victims in an equally uncaring way, as he simply throws away what he doesn’t need any more. The murders have no more meaning to him than switching off a light. My story’s theme is not really the murders, but more about how society values possessions, in this case, expensive paintings, more than it does the artists that created them, who often died as paupers.

One of the problems with the Staunch Prize is that while it’s taking the moral high ground in condemning crime stories that trade on women being victims, it ignores who the consumers of such lurid tales are—which is mainly women! I’ve seen various statistics bandied about, from 57%-70% female readership of all the different sub-genres of crime writing.

https://www.ranker.com/list/why-women-love-true-crime/katia-kleyman

Thus, we have the peculiar situation, where a female screenwriter of crime stories founds and funds* a writing prize for a crime story without violence against women, yet the biggest fans of violent stories are women themselves—who are, presumably, being given a smack on the wrist for liking what they do! I’m guessing, that under the rules of the contest, as many men can be slaughtered as possible.

*Except, that Bridget Lawless isn’t really funding it with her own money, for there’s a £20 entry fee. With £2000 going to the winner, I wonder how the rest of the entry money will be dispersed…I’d be more impressed if there was a statement on the Staunch Prize website, that surplus funds would be donated to a charity fighting violence against women.

It strikes me that Bridget Lawless is capitalising on the current debate, helping to raise her profile as a writer, while making some welcome money.

What’s your reaction to this new writing prize?

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ADDENDUM

I came across this interview with Bridget Lawless, founder of the Staunch Prize.

http://www.wordswithjam.co.uk/2018/02/violence-against-women-in-thrillers-in.html

It’s one of the most sycophantic interviews I’ve read—with an added pong of hypocrisy, for interviewer J.J. Marsh writes crime stories that feature sexual violence and the murder of female victims!

Again, there’s no mention of who actually reads gruesome thrillers and murder mysteries the most—women. Nor is anything said about who gets all of the loot generated by jumping on this bandwagon. If 1,000 writers enter at £20 a manuscript, with £2,000 paid to the winner, that leaves £18,000 minus whatever Bridget Lawless pays to the three judges (including herself).

I’d be more impressed if she announced that the remaining funds were to be donated to the End Violence Against Women Coalition or Refuge, but something tells me that won’t be happening.

There’s money in misery….

Crime Writing Competitions

The Crime Writers’ Association currently has two competitions running.

One is the Margery Allingham Short Mystery Competition, which ends on 29th February:

The other is the Debut Dagger Competition, which also ends on 29th February:

Winning or being shortlisted is said to be a good way to attract the interest of literary agents and publishers.

https://thecwa.co.uk/the-debuts

Why Write Who Kills A Nudist?

Astonishingly, there are only five customs and excise patrol boats operating for the entire coast of the UK, so the chances of being caught are slim.

The spark for this story came from newspaper reports about human trafficking, with illegal immigrants freed from slave labour in Cornwall. Kept prisoner by intimidation, violence and threats against their families back home, they were working for pennies as prostitutes, nail technicians and agricultural labourers. Saddled with a debt for being brought into the country, they were the cheapest of labour, open to abuse, exploitation and being murdered.

About this time, there were arrests made of body-builders trading in smuggled steroids, cocaine and heroin. Cornwall’s rugged coastline is ideal for concealing smugglers, with its isolated coves and unlit beaches. Astonishingly, there are only five customs and excise patrol boats operating for the entire coast of the UK, so the chances of being caught are slim.

Image result for cornwall rugged cove

Sadly, Cornwall’s beaches, pounded by powerful waves, encourage swimmers and surfers to take risks. It’s usually holidaymakers who drown, ignoring warnings, but locals perish too taking to the waters in winter, when lifeguard cover is absent. About 25 people drown annually, their bodies washed ashore to be found by beachcombers and dog walkers. It’s not always certain if it’s an accident, suicide or foul play.

There are a dozen nudist beaches in Cornwall, none of them official, more accepted practice through decades of naturism. In plotting Who Kills A Nudist? the inciting incident is the discovery of a seemingly drowned elderly naturist, a man who would have known better than to venture into a tempestuous ocean at night.

I wondered what would happen if such an innocent soul, a pensioner who did charity work, clashed with an evil man who cared only for money.

Such a character is all too common these days, with the 1% of plutocrats exploiting the poor to gain yet more wealth. Cornwall is a strange county, in that it’s beautiful and the playground of the rich, including Royalty and show business stars, yet it’s among the fifty poorest areas of Europe. Wages are low, employment patchy and seasonal, dependent on tourism. Holiday homes owned by agencies and second homes, used for a few weeks of the year, are a source of resentment from locals who’ve been priced out of the property market by incomers.

There are always plenty of multi-million pound mansions for sale in the county, with expensive hotels, spas and restaurants, as well as luxury car dealers. The antagonist of my story yearns for the trappings of prosperity, selling supercars and limousines for a living. He intimidates and controls a gang of underlings through the use of sadomasochistic sex, men who are in positions of power as law personnel, customs officers and importers of foreign goods. They assist him in smuggling weapons, drugs and people.

Image result for bdsm dungeon whips

The scene is set for a struggle between my protagonist Detective Chief Inspector Neil Kettle representing law and order, a simple man who wants to restore tranquillity to society, and my antagonist Rupert Mansard, a devious man who cares only for dominion over the weak and the poor and acquiring money to reinforce his ego.