Bryan W. Conway
May 2022 Newsletter: Sandusky Burning is Now an Audiobook! Get the First 3 Chapters Free🎙️!
I have been interested in creating an audiobook version of Sandusky Burning since it was published in December 2020, but didn't pull the trigger for a number of reasons.
The novel is over 110,000 words, so hiring a narrator would cost several thousand dollars. I have entertained narrating it myself, but would have to invest in the recording equipment, find a quiet place to record it, and carve out about fifty hours of time from my busy life to record an audiobook with a duration of almost twelve hours (it takes about four hours for every finished hour to produce).
A few weeks ago, I received an interesting email from Google Play, one of the many book platforms which sell my Sandusky Burning ebook. Since I was already selling my ebook in their marketplace, Google Play offered access to create an auto-narrated audiobook for free!
The narration is generated through artificial intelligence. The author selects the digital narrator demographics that produce the preferred vocal style, including sex, age, and regional dialect, and submits the book’s source file to generate the audiobook and sell it on the Google Play Books site.
How does auto-narration sound? Actually, it is surprisingly good and rarely distracted me from the story. However, there are voice inflections and pacing quirks here and there where it is evident that the narrator is not a human being.
Editing the audiobook was tricky because I had to make manual corrections to the pronunciations of certain words. For example, it defaults to pronounce the tequila brand Patrón like the word "patron" (a person who gives financial or other support). Artificial intelligence can't always interpret the context of a sentence, so it doesn't know if content is a "state of satisfaction" or "something contained" and select the correct inflection.
I listened to my draft audiobook several times and there were long stretches where I forgot that it wasn't narrated by a person! I believe that within a few years the technology will be advanced enough that it will be impossible to differentiate between humans and machines.
There are pros and cons to auto-narration for the listener.
The cons I mentioned above are the occasional mispronounced word, incorrect inflection, or odd pacing.
The pros include the cost savings to the listener. I am offering the full audiobook for $6.99; it would easily be twice that price if I contracted with a professional narrator and had to recoup that expense. Another pro is that this format will allow me to reach a number of consumers who don't have time to read, but have plenty of time to listen while multi-tasking (driving, shopping, doing chores, etc.).
I felt that the pros outweighed the cons and moved forward with this project. As my loyal newsletter readers, I would like to offer you a sample to give it a listen!
It is distributed via Bookfunnel, the site where many of you subscribed to this newsletter in exchange for an ebook sample. The audiobook landing page is similar: after clicking on the link, you will be asked to provide your email address. If you already provided it when you subscribed to this newsletter, please provide it again. Don’t worry, you will still only receive one email each month!
The full Sandusky Burning audiobook is available on Google Play, with more platforms to come. Once purchased, it can be played on the Google Play app.
Have a great May and I will chat with you again in June!