by Grace Topping
I love audiobooks. Most of the books I read are in audio. I download them to my iPhone and take them with me wherever I go, even to bed. Take a look at recently published books and you’ll find that a good many of them are now being released in print, digital, and audio simultaneously. It’s no wonder audio production is the fastest-growing sector of publishing. That’s great for recently published books, but what about books that are already out there? It’s taking backlists a while to catch up. So when I saw that Lois Winston had recently released an audio version of Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in her hilarious and long-running Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, I was pleased to see that old favorites are slowly becoming available in audio. It was a pleasure talking to Lois about her experience producing her first audiobook.
Lois will give away three free download codes for an audiobook of Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun
Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun
When Anastasia Pollack’s husband permanently cashes in his chips at a roulette table in Vegas, her comfortable middle-class life in New Jersey craps out. She’s left with two teenage sons, a mountain of debt, and her hateful, cane-wielding Communist mother-in-law. Not to mention stunned disbelief over her late husband’s secret gambling addiction and the loan shark who’s demanding fifty thousand dollars.
Anastasia’s job as crafts editor at American Woman magazine proves no respite when she discovers a dead body glued to her desk chair. The victim, fashion editor Marlys Vandenburg, collected enemies and ex-lovers like Jimmy Choos on her ruthless climb to editor-in-chief. But when evidence surfaces of an illicit affair between Marlys and Anastasia’s husband, Anastasia becomes the prime suspect. Now she's in a race to find the killer, not only to clear her name but before he strikes again.
Welcome to Writers Who Kill, Lois.
You independently reissued the Anastasia Pollack series. That was quite an undertaking. What motivated you to go indy?
Thanks for inviting me, Grace. Shortly before the third book in the series was scheduled to release, my agent was in contract negotiations with the publisher for additional books in the series and a second series I had started writing. When an agent negotiates a contract with a publisher, that contract becomes the “boilerplate” for all contracts going forward between any agency clients and that publisher. My publisher had decided not to honor this longstanding industry norm and was insisting on changes to certain clauses that sent up red flags for us. This was around the time that many authors were walking away from their publishers and going indie. We had some interest from a few smaller publishers to pick up the series, but my agent suggested I might be better off going indie. Turns out, she was right. The rest is history.
After so many years, you recently produced an audio version of Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun? Why audio?
Why not? Many of my indie author friends have begun producing audiobooks of their series. I thought about it for quite some time before I decided to take the plunge, but I had the benefit of their experiences, and that made it much less intimidating.
Please tell us about the process of independently producing audiobooks. Did you have total control?
There are several companies you can use, but I chose to work through ACX because they offer an option where you don’t have any financial outlay if you opt to split royalties 50/50 with your narrator. Otherwise, it costs $1500 or more (depending on the length of the audiobook) because you pay the narrator, who is also the producer, upfront. I wasn’t willing to gamble on whether I’d ever recoup my initial investment.
As it turns out, the process is relatively easy. You start by uploading a short excerpt of your novel to the site. There’s a menu for selecting the type of narrator you want. Interested narrators record an audition from your excerpt. You can also listen to excerpts from narrators who have produced other audiobooks and directly invite them to audition.
ACX distributes to Audible, Amazon, and iTunes, which are the three largest sites for audiobook sales. The downside is that libraries don’t purchase from them, and many people get their audiobooks through libraries. I made the decision to forego library sales because I didn’t want the initial cost that I’d incur going with a company other than ACX.
As for total control, yes. If you’re not happy with the results, you don’t accept the final recording. My narrator has been extremely receptive to tweaking if something isn’t right. This is a partnership, and we both want the same thing—for the audiobook to be as successful as possible.
How was it working with the narrator? Did you audition different narrators until you found the right one?
About a dozen narrators submitted audition recordings, but I wasn’t quite happy with any of them. It’s a Goldilocks process. You have to find the narrator who’s just right for your book. I started listening to samples from other audiobooks and found one narrator whose voice I thought best matched the way I heard Anastasia’s voice in my head. The narrator immediately fell in love with Anastasia and has agreed to commit to recording all the books in the series.
What was the hardest part of the audiobook production process?
For me, it was finding the right narrator. If I were casting the movie version of my series, I’d want Tina Fey to portray Anastasia. It’s her voice that’s in my head as I write. I needed a narrator who could convey Anastasia’s self-deprecating sense of humor.
Do you plan to produce all of the books in your Anastasia Pollack series? What about other books you’ve written?
Yes, as I mentioned above, my narrator has agreed to record all the books in the series. She’s currently working on the second book. As of now, there are eleven books in the series and one book of three connecting novellas.
At this point, I’ll decide about my other published books once my narrator has finished with the Anastasia books. Since it takes about six weeks from the time the narrator begins work to when the book is approved first by me, then by ACX, at this point, that’s more than a year off.
When you wrote Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun a number of years ago, you probably weren’t thinking about audio. What would you have done, if anything, differently with audio in mind?
I wouldn’t have done anything differently as far as how I wrote the books. However, had my publisher exercised their audio rights with the first three books, I probably would have ventured into audio much sooner since those books would already have been available as audiobooks when I went indie.
Do you have any tips for authors regarding audio—both writing with audio in mind or producing their own audiobooks?
I don’t think authors should write with audio in mind. I’m not even sure how you’d do that or what you’d do differently. Authors should write the best possible books they can. If they then decide to produce audiobooks from their novels, they should take their time to find a narrator with the perfect voice for their books. Also, make sure the narrator will commit to the entire series. I’d also recommend going with a split royalty with your narrator (which means foregoing library sales.) The authors I know who have gone with other audio sites in order to get their audiobooks into libraries haven’t made enough in royalties to recoup their upfront production costs.
I enjoyed both the print version of Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun and the audio version. The characters are terrific, especially Anastasia’s communist mother-in-law. What motivated Anastasia to give her a home, especially since the MIL verbally abuses her?
Thanks, Grace. Lucille is the character my readers love to hate. Anastasia is much nicer than I would be under the same circumstances, but novels need conflict, and Lucille definitely is the catalyst for quite a bit of conflict in the Pollack household.
You have experience as both a writer and an agent. Which side of the desk do you prefer?
Writing. Agenting was always a side gig. I stepped in to help when one of the firm’s agents died and another retired. I was mostly culling the slush pile. Eventually, I had a handful of my own clients, but I have no legal experience and always handed over contract negotiations to the owners. The agency closed its doors a few years ago after my agent died and her husband retired.
You write mysteries, chick lit, women’s fiction, and children’s books, both as Lois Winston and Emma Carlyle. Do you have a favorite genre among them?
Mystery, hands down, and I have my agent to thank for that. She suggested I write a humorous amateur sleuth mystery after I wrote Talk Gertie to Me. No one was more surprised than I was when it turned out I had a knack for writing humor. I butcher every joke I’ve ever attempted to tell. But it turns out I can write humor. And I love writing books that make people laugh, especially with everything going on in the world. Who doesn’t need a good laugh to get through the day lately?
One reviewer of your first audiobook is anxious to hear the other books in your series. When can readers expect the next one?
Very, very soon. My narrator is hard at work. I’m hoping it will be available before Thanksgiving.
Besides the audio production, what else do you have in the works?
Right now, my attention is focused on writing the next Anastasia book.
What is the most valuable thing you’ve learned since you started writing?
Not to read reviews. I don’t have as thick a skin as I thought I had. I can have a hundred 5-star reviews, but a 1-star review will ruin my day, especially when the reviewer writes something like, “I haven’t read this book yet, so I’m only giving it one star.”
Thank you, Lois. I look forward to the audio version of the other books in your series.
To learn more about Lois Winston and her books, visit www.loiswinston.com.