Adventures in Audiobooks

So I’d been toying with the idea of turning my books into audiobooks. After all, audiobooks are the fastest growing segment of the market, and according to Booklinker, the market in 2021 was $4.2 billion. And growing rapidly which is always a good thing. But more important than the revenue was the fact that I had a bunch of people asking for audiobooks.

It Only Looks Easy…

However, it’s not that easy to create an audiobook. I fooled around with trying to do it myself for a while, but there was always a doorbell ringing or more often, a dog barking, in the background. (Thanks, Molly.) Worse yet, I couldn’t do all the different voices of my characters, and that’s something listeners expect.

An Interesting Experience

So I decided to hire a narrator. I went right away to the biggest name in the industry that isn’t Audible, and I signed a contract for audiobook production. This company sent me a list of suggested narrators.

Their audition reels were awful. Most of them sounded like little old ladies, while Fin is in her early twenties. One couldn’t get through a complete sentence without gasping for breath. Another sounded like Minnie Mouse.

This was not good.

A Frustrating Experience

So I scrolled through the list of the company’s other narrators and invited several to audition for me. Some didn’t bother to reply, but one was perfect. Absolutely perfect. We agreed on a delivery date, and the production company attached the narrator to my project.

Well, dear readers, the delivery date came and went with no delivery.

I politely inquired. “Almost done,” she said.

Another month went by, and then the files appeared in the project folder. I began the arduous process of listening. Arduous, because I had to stop continually and make note of the errors. There were zillions.

There were mispronunciations, missed paragraphs, duplicated paragraphs, people speaking in other peoples voices. And the sound went up and down. Loud, then soft. Mushy. Lots of clicks.

Not good.

I politely sent the list of required corrections. It took another month, and every corrected file came back with at least two new errors. And the sound was even worse.

I politely pointed out the problems and asked her if she was aware of the technical sound requirements.

“Huh?” she said.

I sent her the narrator’s handbook, which spelled them out quite clearly. Even I could understand them.

Another month went by. Let’s just say we repeated the process numerous times. Finally, I complained to the production company. “I want out,” I said.

“Sure,” they said. “Just pay out her contract and you can hire a different narrator and start over.”

“Ain’t happenin’,” I said to myself and dug in my heels.

What’s Next?

Meanwhile, while still negotiating my way out of the earlier contract, I hired a lovely narrator I found on the recommended providers list on the website.

She fitted me into her crowded schedule. She was polite and professional. She delivered absolutely perfect recordings on time. Early even.

I love her.

A Happy Ending

So, eighteen months after I started this journey, I published my first audiobook. In Deep, narrated by the AMAZING Sarah Beth Goer, is available on Audible, Apple, and Amazon. If you’re an audiobook fan, take a listen.

And if you’re a self-published author looking to get into audiobooks, contact me. I’ll be happy to share everything I’ve learned.

About Sharon Ward

Sharon Ward is the author of the Fin Fleming Scuba Diving Mystery Series, which includes In Deep, Sunken Death, Dark Tide, Killer Storm, Hidden Depths, and Sea Stars. Rip Current, the seventh book, will be released in late 2023.

Sharon was a marketing executive before becoming a novelist. She was a PADI certified divemaster who has hundreds of dives under her weight belt. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, MWA, ITW, and several other writing organizations. She lives near Cape Cod with her husband Jack and their miniature long-haired dachshund Molly, the actual head of the Ward household.


  1. Nothing in this business is easy. The right narrator is extremely important in audio books so I’m glad you persisted and found a professional able to bring your book to life. Good luck with it.

    1. Thanks, Catherine. I love my narrator, and she’s doing a great job. She’s already completed Book 2, Sunken Death–another perfect job–and she’s almost done with Book 3, Dark Tide. We’ve got the rest of the series already on her schedule. I couldn’t be happier with her and the audiobooks.

    1. Thanks, Susan. Persistence is my middle name. I started my career as a 19-year old expeditor on a metal working factory floor. Little me telling the big gruff guys what to do next. I learned persistence pretty fast.

  2. Thanks for sharing that, Sharon. I hope you found justice with the bad company!

    I’ve thought of putting my Quaker Midwife mysteries on audio but didn’t want to do all the work. Now that you have found someone reliable, I might rethink that. Thanks for sharing your experiences!

    1. Hi, Edith. It’s not as easy as it sounds. One of the reasons narrators earn $300-$500 and up per finished hour is that it can take 10 to 12 hours to actually make 1 good hour. (My books are a little over 8 hours long.) Then there’s the investment in the gear. You can’t just narrate using the mic on your computer. And the requirements are very strict. Audible takes 10 full days to review each audiobook, and they will kick it back if they detect so much as the whisper of a fan down the hall. Not to mention keeping all the voices straight. My books are very dialog intensive, and the people have a variety of accents, so it’s complicated. As a self-published author, I’m big on doing things myself, but my philosophy now is to weigh the required time versus the required money. A month of full-time work is a lot of missed writing time.

      1. Thank you. I know it’s not easy – which is why I haven’t started the process, and frankly, probably won’t.

  3. Wow, that sounds extremely frustrating. I’d almost rather do my own voice recording. At least I know I’d get all the words and pronunciations right!

    1. The requirements are strict. Not just for the reading, but for the sound quality. A book can be sent back for a single popped P. My first narrator was a professional actress, and she couldn’t keep the voices straight, never mind hitting all the sound quality requirements. Sounds easy, but I think it’s a lot harder than it looks–or sounds.

  4. Sharon, I’m so sorry you had that nightmare of an experience. What a nightmare—and waste of your time and money.

    I’ve used Audible from the first book with a royalty share and have been able to keep my same narrators for each series.

    1. Hi, Steven. Book 5 is in the Audible approval cycle right now, so some time in the next 10 days or so. The Audible process is very unpredictable. If you like, I can let you know as soon as they release it.
      Book 6 will be ready in early summer, and book 7 in the fall. (The narrator is in very high demand because she is SO good.)
      Thank you for listening and/ or reading 😀

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