Saturday Snippet – Stuckey’s Bridge

51ae9DloKqL._UY250_If you haven’t yet heard about Old Man Stuckey, he’s a little like Dexter, but with less conscience, and he’s a lot more lovable. The Legend of Stuckey’s Bridge got its start when I wondered about the real man behind the ghostly legend I grew up with in Mississippi.

You can find the Kindle version of The Legend of Stuckey’s Bridge at Amazon!

Here’s a creepy scene featuring Old Man Stuckey in his younger days…

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He stood silent and still for a long time, not knowing what to do next. It wasn’t like he had ever killed anyone before. He didn’t have this planned out. He was certain his father would beat him to a pulp when he found out. He stood with his back against the barn door, gazing down at his dead brother, and came up with a plan.

He gathered piles of hay and arranged them in mounds in the middle of the floor. He then pulled matches out of his coat pocket and set the hay ablaze. He added more hay. And more. The fire came to life and roared as he watched. Black smoke filled the air. He felt as angry as the fire looked. His brother deserved to die and to burn—in hell. This was as close as he could come to creating the real thing.

He felt the flames hot on his face, and the smoke made him cough. He covered his nose and mouth in the crook of his arm, and breathed through his sleeve as he watched the flames grow higher and larger. The fire crackled and hissed as it quickly raced up the dry wooden ladder into the storage loft above. There was nothing up there but last summer’s hay, which lit with a whooshing sound.

He looked up. The dimness of the barn had been replaced by a bright yellow glow. Within a few short minutes, the fire had spread all the way across the loft and the roof. While he watched the loft, he didn’t notice the fire had spread all around him, eating everything in sight. Even with his nose covered, he began to cough violently, and he made his way through the black smoke to the barn door.

He pulled on it. It wouldn’t budge. He pulled it again. It wouldn’t move an inch. His brother’s dead body was lying in a heap in front of the door, blocking his escape. He bent down and grabbed the arms and attempted to pull the body out of the way, but the dead weight was far too heavy for his small, slender frame. He gave up, coughing even harder, and tried to pull the door again. He was having trouble breathing and thought he should have planned this better. He was going to die in this barn with his brother.

Suddenly, he heard his mother’s voice outside. “Is anyone in there? Thomas? Wilson?” She pounded on the door.

“Ma?”

“Thomas?”

“Ma, I’m in here. I can’t get the door open,” he yelled over the roar of the flames.

“Thomas, is that you? Pull the door!” She was screaming now, hysteria building.

“I am! It won’t open!”

The fire was thunderous; it was almost as loud as a train roaring down the tracks. He never realized fire made such a deafening noise. The flames spread quickly toward the door, licking at his feet. He looked behind him, and all he could see were yellow flames and black smoke.

“Push the door, Ma!”

He pulled the door as she pushed from the outside, and it inched open just enough for him to squeeze out. She grabbed his arm, and they ran about a hundred yards before they stopped and turned to look back at the barn. Black columns of smoke billowed into the sky, and the flames were a continuous rumble.

When he took his initial breath of fresh air, he coughed even harder. He wrapped his arms around his mother’s waist, buried his head into her bony shoulder, and hugged her tightly. She asked again if Wilson was also in the barn, and tried to pull away from him to go check. He coughed more through tears and hugged her even tighter. Again and again she tried to pull away from his grasp to go search for her other son, but he wouldn’t let go until he was sure the fire had erased all traces of his deed.

When the walls collapsed and the flames finally began to die down, he released his grip on his mother and said, “Thank you, Ma. I’m fine now.” He glanced at the smoldering rubble, then back at his mother, and added, “I don’t imagine Wilson is, though.” He turned toward the house and walked away, leaving her standing in the field with tears streaming down her smoke-stained cheeks.

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5-star-largeA five-star recipient at Readers’ Favorite, THE LEGEND OF STUCKEY’S BRIDGE is available in Kindle at Amazon. The paperback is also available. Pick up a copy and root for the bad guy for a change.

The Legend of Stuckey’s Bridge by Lori Crane is a page-turning winner. This is a five star winner and Lori Crane is a must-read author.” ~Trudi LoPreto for Readers’ Favorite
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“Lori Crane is a Southern storyteller of the first order.” ~Writer’s Digest

The backstory behind Okatibbee Creek

I wrote Okatibbee Creek in 2012. It has become an award-winning book and a story many people seem to treasure. I’m often asked where the story came from…so here ya go.

Rodgers, Mary Ann Rodgers Carpenter Jolly

She was just a name in my family tree. Mary Ann Rodgers Carpenter Jolly. My third great grandmother. 1828-1898. I visited her grave at Bethel Cemetery in Mississippi in 2012, and my husband asked, “Now, who is this again?” I sat with him at the foot of her grave and told him her story.

I first discovered she lost her husband, Rice Carpenter, in the Civil War in 1862. How sad to lose the one you love, but hey, it’s war, people die. After he died, she remarried in 1864.

I looked at the 1870 census and found she married William Jolly and was living with his children, her children, and three children they had together. It was a house-full! But at least their three children were proof they must have liked each other, right? That’s good. I was interested in where William came from, so I traced him back and looked at his 1860 census. In 1860, he was living with his wife Harriet, their four children, and a woman named Nancy Carpenter who was 69 years of age.

Nancy Carpenter? The only Nancy Carpenter I know is Rice’s mother. Why was Mary Ann’s mother-in-law living with her future husband in 1860?? Were they neighbors? Was Nancy the cleaning lady? I clicked on Nancy Carpenter and saw her relationship to the “head of house” was listed as “mother-in-law.” She was William’s mother-in-law? What?? She was Harriet’s mother?

So, I went back and looked at Rice’s family, and sure enough, his sister Harriet was married to William. Rice died 31 Dec 1862 and Harriet died a month later of typhoid on 30 Jan 1863. Their spouses, Mary Ann and William, brother-in-law/sister-in-law, married in 1864. Well of course they did. They had known each other for many years, hadn’t they?

The more I looked at the Rodgers and Carpenter families, the more I was amazed by the sheer number of family members they lost to war and typhoid. At the time of my research, I remember counting SEVENTEEN, but I’m sure there were many more I missed. I couldn’t wrap my head around that kind of heartache and quickly became impressed with Mary Ann’s strength. How would you react if you lost two or three family members this year? You would probably need Prozac. How would you respond if you lost a dozen? I wouldn’t even be able to get out of bed. Seventeen in one year? I can’t even fathom that.

okatibbee creek cover front JPEGWe all come from these strong women. We are the living proof of their strength. If the boat sank, the story would be over. But it didn’t, and we know that because we are here. We are the survivors. I dug deep down in my heart and soul and decided to tell her story, a story she would be proud of. I wanted her to know that she didn’t endure all of that heartache in vain. I am here. I am her legacy. Her story has been told to make us see the strength in our own hearts. We are the products of strength, fortitude, and integrity, as well as tears, heartache, and pain. We are the children our grandmothers fought so hard for, and I want Mary Ann to be as proud of me as I am of her.

Okatibbee Creek is available on Kindle at Amazon for only $0.99 March 4-8. You may also want to pick up a box of Kleenex.

Saturday Snippet and Sale

51-lUHhsD7L._UY250_Okatibbee Creek (pronounced oh-kuh-TIB-be) is the story of Mary Ann Rodgers Carpenter Jolly and her trials and tribulations in Mississippi during the Civil War. As her brothers and husband went off to war, a deadly typhoid epidemic swept through the county and decimated what was left of her family. Following the loss of so many loved ones, including both parents, she took in her orphaned nieces and nephews and focused on survival. When the war finally ended, she had to pick up the pieces of her shattered life and begin anew. But how?

Okatibbee Creek is a real place. The characters are real. The events are real. The book will leave you crying and cheering. It is written in first person, present tense, diary-style, allowing you to see inside of Mary Ann’s heart and experience every emotion she felt.

The Kindle version of Okatibbee Creek is on sale at Amazon March 4-8 for only $0.99!

The following is a snippet of the scene when Mary Ann received word that her husband had been killed in the war.

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When I reach the bottom of the stairs, I see him. I do not recognize his face, but I recognize his clothing. He is a Confederate soldier. He is standing in the open doorway of the store with the gray, cloudy sky at his back. He is dressed in a wrinkled gray uniform with a dirty yellow cummerbund. His trousers have holes in them, with mud caked around the bottoms of his pant legs. His jacket is missing some buttons, and he looks quite thin and weary. He is wearing shoes that are covered in red Mississippi mud and probably have no soles on the bottom. He is holding his tattered hat and a piece of paper in his dirty hands.

“Hello, sir, what can I do for you?” I ask as I approach.

“Hello, ma’am.” He nods. “Are you Mrs. Carpenter?”

“Yes, I am. And who are you, may I ask?”

“Private Joseph Brown, ma’am. Captain asked me to deliver the latest casualty list to you in person.” He holds the folded piece of paper toward me and looks down at the floor, like a child in trouble for doing something wrong.

“Why are you delivering this? It usually comes by a mail carrier,” I ask as I reach for the paper. I look at the boy’s face. He nervously avoids my eyes and keeps staring at the floor.

“Why are you delivering this to me?” I repeat.

“I promised I would. I’m sorry, ma’am. Goodbye, ma’am,” he murmurs, and backs out the open door.

I look at the piece of paper in my hand for a long time, wondering if I can open it. I don’t know whose names are on this paper, but I suspect the worst, and I don’t want to read it. My eyes sting with tears as I dread a simple piece of paper. I try to unfold it, but my hands are shaking, so I stop and hold it to my chest. I take a deep breath.

Martha Jane stands behind me, not saying a word or making a sound.

“Martha Jane, will you please go upstairs and mind the children for a few minutes?” I ask her.

She nods and quietly heads up the stairs.

I walk outside across the wooden porch and down the two stone steps onto the ground. I walk across the dirt road that is now filled with puddles of red mud from the rain. I keep walking straight ahead. I walk into the overgrown field across the road. I walk with purpose, with determination, like I have somewhere important to go. I want to run. I want to run away and never come back. I keep walking.

In the middle of the field, the thunder sounds above my head. I stop and look up at the ominous clouds that are almost as threatening as the piece of paper I hold in my hand. My hands are shaking as I slowly unfold it and smooth it open. My stomach feels like it has a hole in it. My eyes fill with tears. My hands are now trembling so violently, I almost can’t read it. The name at the top is the only name I see.

“Carpenter, Rice Benjamin: killed in battle 31 December, 41st Mississippi Infantry, Co C.”

Drops of water fall onto the page, but I can’t tell if they are raindrops or teardrops. Even God Himself is crying.

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Rodgers, Mary Ann Rodgers Carpenter JollyOkatibbee Creek is available March 4-8 for only $0.99 in Kindle at Amazon. Paperback and audiobook are also available. It is the first of three Okatibbee Creek Series books, but they are stand-alone stories. The second is An Orphan’s Heart. The third is Elly Hays.

Okatibbee Creek was the bronze medal winner of the 2013 eLit Book Awards in literary fiction. It also received honorable mention in the 2013 Great Midwest Book Festival for regional fiction and was a nominee in the 2013 Global eBook Awards for historical fiction. It was also awarded Five-Stars at Readers’ Favorite.

Mystery, Thriller, Suspense. Where does your book belong?

Incognito-silhouette-150x150So, what’s the deal with the genres Mystery, Thriller, and Suspense??

Most readers don’t know the difference, but if you’re trying to place your book in the best genre to find the perfect readership, a writer should know the difference. The difference depends on if the reader knows what’s going on in advance and which character is telling the story. There is also some vague talk in the industry about pacing playing a role. Some say a thriller moves at a faster pace and a suspense novel moves at a slower pace.

Mystery – A mystery is a story where the reader finds out what’s going on at the same time as the character. Sherlock Holmes knows he has dead bodies piling up but doesn’t know who the murderer is. The reader can decipher the clues as the Sherlock uncovers them.

Thriller – In a thriller, the reader already knows whodunit and is merely along for the ride. If a story is about Jack the Ripper, the reader already knows what is going to happen and who is responsible, and in the story, the reader lives in the moment with either Jack or the one chasing him. If the story is told from the victim’s point of view, it could be categorized as Suspense (see below) because they know something is going to happen, but don’t know what it is. (One can usually recognize suspense by the ominous music in the background. LOL).

Suspense – The reader knows something is going to happen and perhaps knows who will do the deed, but something is unknown. Either the character doesn’t know it’s coming, or the reader doesn’t know the specifics of what, when, who, or how and is turning pages to find out. The reader may witness a person setting a bomb with a timer, but the characters don’t know they’re about to get blown to smithereens in ten minutes. In the above example about Jack, the reader will know Jack is heading toward the victim, but the victim is oblivious, or the victim will know someone is chasing them, but they don’t know who it is.

So, Jack’s story can be a Thriller or Suspense? Yes.

Often the categories will overlap. If there are scenes of suspense where the victim doesn’t know what’s coming, it could be categorized as Thriller/Suspense. If Sherlock’s story revealed the killer to the reader in the beginning and Sherlock was simply chasing him, it could be Mystery/Thriller. Generally, if the work falls into more than one of the above categories, a writer should narrow it down to two. A work of Mystery/Thriller/Suspense will only get lost in the shuffle. Narrow it down as much as you can.

small_moving_boxesBottom line – Don’t fret too much about genre. If it’s a good story, readers will find it and buy it. It doesn’t matter what box the bookstore wants to put it in.

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Lori Crane is a bestselling and award-winning author of historical fiction and the occasional thriller. Her books have climbed to the Kindle Top 100 lists many times, including “Elly Hays” which debuted at #1 in Native American stories. She has also enjoyed a place among her peers in the Top 100 historical fiction authors on Amazon, climbing to #23. She resides in greater Nashville and is a professional musician by night – an indie author by day.

The #1 Secret to Getting Good Reviews

6a00d83452c37169e2014e8ab9b06e970dThe key to getting good reviews seems simple—write a good book. Not!

Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. Not even accomplishing that great feat will ensure good reviews from the reading public. We’ve all heard the old adage, “Everybody’s a critic,” and we’ve all heard it because it’s true. People are eager to give you their opinions, whether you want to hear them or not.

The primary key to getting positive opinions/reviews is to get your book to the right people…and keep the wrong people far, far away. The ‘right’ people are those who have a good chance of actually liking your book. The ‘wrong’ people are everyone else. Logical! But how do you do this?

The secret to separating these two groups lies in your advertising. Following an eye-catching cover design, the next thing a potential reader will look at is your synopsis. If you wrote an action-packed high-tech spy novel that would appeal primarily to men, don’t try to broaden your audience by pushing the minor love story subplot. You’ll be alienating the ‘right’ people and tempting the ‘wrong’ people. The men may choose to forego the book if they think it’s a mushy love story, and the women expecting a romance novel will undoubtedly be disappointed by the action-filled storyline. They will tell you so in their one-star reviews. If you’re selling a smoking hot erotic adventure, make sure you let your potential readers know what they are in for. If they purchase the book expecting a timeless romance, they are going to leave dismal reviews about your “filthy piece of trash.”

Be truthful. There is a market for every book, so don’t advertise your book to be something it’s not. If it’s a boring drama, say so. I love boring dramas and would buy it and probably give it a great review.

Craft your synopsis as carefully as you create your cover.

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Lori Crane is a bestselling and award-winning author of historical fiction and the occasional thriller. Her books have climbed to the Kindle Top 100 lists many times, including “Elly Hays” which debuted at #1 in Native American stories. She has also enjoyed a place among her peers in the Top 100 historical fiction authors on Amazon, climbing to #23. She resides in greater Nashville and is a professional musician by night – an indie author by day.

Good Cover = Book Sales! 5 easy steps!

5-easy-steps-inGOOD COVER = BOOK SALES! 5 Easy Steps!

So, you’ve finished your awesome novel. You’ve toiled and fretted over each and every word, and your characters are now dancing through their scenes with grace and eloquence. Now what?

It’s time to take off your author hat and replace it with your business hat. You want to sell your book, and to do that, you need great packaging. You need to create an interesting cover that will stick out above the millions of other books in the marketplace. Oreos don’t only sell because they’re awesome, they sell because the package tells you you like them. Next time you’re in the store, look at Oreos vs the no-name brand. You’ll see the difference immediately. The purpose of packaging is to get your potential customer to notice your book. Then to pick it up. If your name is Stephen King, you don’t need to worry about your cover. If not, you need all the help you can get! You don’t want just another pretty cover, you want the whole package—an incredible package that will sell your book.

SO, WHERE DO YOU START?

1) Start with genre. Is your book historical fiction, medical drama, psychotic thriller? Check out the top books in your genre. Do they have a common element? Use it. You want people to be able to recognize your genre immediately.

2) What’s your demographic? 20-something urban or mature woman in the south? You need a cover that will appeal to this demographic. Even if your book is about a southern serial killer in Huntsville, Alabama, an image of a scary man wielding a knife over a dead girl is not going to appeal to a proper southern woman. Who are you trying to sell this book to?

3) Pretend you’re telling someone about your book. What are the scenes you’re relating? Those are the pictures you want to include, whether they are abstract or an actual photograph of a blonde girl in a 1950’s powder-blue dress.

4) What emotional response do you want from your customer when they’ve finished your book? Fear, tears, happiness, hopefulness? The girl in the blue dress can be any of those things if the image is manipulated correctly. Check with your cover designer for suggestions on how to change the same girl into a multitude of emotions.

5) The font. Does the book take place in Old England or 1940s art-deco New York? You want an appropriate font, and make sure it’s readable on the thumbnail-size postage stamp your customer will see on the Internet. A pretty font is not necessarily your friend.

Note: If you are not an experienced graphic designer, hire a professional!!! You’ll still need to tell him/her what you want by using the five ideas above. If this is your first book cover, you need different covers for different items. Paperback, ebook, audiobook, etc. all require different sizes and elements. You’re cover designer will know how and  where to find these requirements.

 

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Lori Crane is a bestselling and award-winning author of historical fiction and the occasional thriller. Her books have climbed to the Kindle Top 100 lists many times, including “Elly Hays” which debuted at #1 in Native American stories. She has also enjoyed a place among her peers in the Top 100 historical fiction authors on Amazon, climbing to #23. She resides in greater Nashville and is a professional musician by night – an indie author by day.

51QeOBe26zL._SL500_AA300_PIaudible,BottomRight,13,73_AA300_

okatibbee creek cover final jpeg51-lUHhsD7L._UY250_

Audiobooks = press play

TESTING 1,2,3…AUDIOBOOKS
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The first thing you need to look at when considering making an audiobook are the numbers. The Audio Publishers Association reported $800 million in audiobook sales in 2011. The number grew to $1 billion in 2012 and $1.2 billion in 2013. Yes, that’s billion, with a B. Goodereader.com said the audiobook industry was worth over $2 billion in 2014. I haven’t seen any numbers for 2015 yet, but there should be a little bit in there for you.
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Now that I have your attention, let’s create an audiobook. The process of creating an audiobook is completely painless at ACX. This post isn’t a commercial for ACX, but I’ve used them a couple times now, and they are author-friendly. ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange) is the company that links authors with narrators and distributes to Audible, Amazon, and iTunes.
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Your first step in creating an audiobook is to create an account at ACX.com, and then you can listen to some narrators by gender, accent, and style.
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downloadHIRE A NARRATOR
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Once you’re ready to go, you need to hire a narrator. You can narrate yourself, but it you don’t have recording equipment and lots of practice in front of a mic or lots of money to spend in a recording studio, it is a million times easier and faster to hire a professional.
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To find the perfect narrator, just upload a section of your book to ACX and invite auditions. Of course, you can email the actors you listened to when you first signed on. Make sure your uploaded section contains some dialog and maybe some drama in it. You want to hear the range of the narrator. Be ready to move forward quickly because you’ll get auditions almost immediately. Send each narrator a note of thanks for taking the time to audition your sample – whether you hire them or not. It takes a lot of time to record, master, and upload your sample, and they’re doing it for FREE.
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Once you choose a narrator, you then offer them a deal.
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6a00d8341bf73153ef0105359fa532970c-800wi“SO, HOW MUCH IS THIS GOING TO COST ME?”
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Narrators charge anywhere from $100 to $300 per finished hour. This is called a “pay-for-production” deal. Example: If you’re book is 50k words, that’s about 6 hours finished, so the finished cost will be between $600 and $1800. Some narrators opt to do a 50/50 “royalty-share” instead. That’s 50% of your royalties for 10 years with no money up front.
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Take a moment and do the math so you know how many audiobooks you need to sell to break even. ACX sets your price by the length, and the above 6-hour book example would sell for roughly $19.95. The longer the book, the higher the selling price. The shorter, the lower. Read further to find out your share. The range of Audible pricing is 1-3 hours $7-10, 3-5 hours $10-20, 5-10 hours $15-25, 10-20 hours $20-30. Here’s another fun fact: If your book is purchased by a new Audible member as their first download, you get a $50 bounty. That’s fun!
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distributionDISTRIBUTION
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ACX will offer you two distribution options. 1) 40% royalties for an exclusive distribution deal. This is a seven-year contract and you are not allowed to sell the audiobooks yourself to anyone at any time through any avenue in any format (digital, CD, audio tape) during that time. OR 2) 25% royalties for an non-exclusive deal, and you can sell them anywhere you want. ACX distributes to Audible, Amazon, and iTunes, so I don’t know where else you’d want to sell them, unless you want to have them pressed and sell them out of your trunk. But keep in mind, according to the Audio Publishers Association, audiobooks that were downloaded through a website instead of bought on CD in 2009 were 29%, 36% in 2010, and 46% in 2011, and growing, so there may not be any good reason to press your audiobook.
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If your narrator costs $250 per finished hour and your book is 6 hours long, it will cost you $1500 for a pay-for-production deal. If you go with exclusive distribution and are making 40% of the $19.95 sale price, you would need to sell a couple hundred copies to break even. One note here: Audible members which are a huge chunk of your sales pay about half price, so your royalty income and break even number would need to be adjusted for those sales. You’d need to sell about 400 copies to only Audible members to break even. A majority of buyers on Audible are members.
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If you choose the “royalty share” option with your narrator, you would NOT need to pay the $1500 up front, but you would split the royalties 50/50 and only make $4 per copy sold for the next 10 years, and $2 for an Audible member sale.
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So, figure out how long your book will be (roughly 8500 words per finished hour) and how many copies you need to sell before you step up to the plate and ask for auditions and negotiate fees.
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Once you decide on your narrator, make a price/payment deal with them, and choose your ACX distribution option, you’ll need to upload your entire book and give the narrator some deadlines. There will be two deadlines: one for your narrator to upload the first 15 minutes for you to approve and one for the whole project to be completed. If your narrator isn’t too busy, they can have the first 15 minutes to you within a few days and the book completed within a month. They will upload each chapter to ACX as it is recorded, so you can listen to each chapter as it is uploaded and send a message to correct anything you’d like corrected. Be specific about the pronunciation of any strange names or titles up front in the process to avoid later corrections. My book Okatibbee Creek is pronounced Oh-kuh-TIB-bee. That makes it easier.
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When the recording is finished and all chapters are uploaded, you’ll need to approve the recording. Your narrator will then send you a bill if you opted for the pay-for-production deal. If you opted for the royalty-share deal, this step will be omitted. Once you pay your narrator, he/she will let ACX know your audiobook is approved for sale.
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ACX will then take 2-3 weeks to get your audiobook live on the sites. So, the whole process should take about eight weeks. If you opt for a pay-for-production deal, save your pennies first. Do not make the narrator wait to get paid.
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Note
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The size of your cover needs to be adjusted for an audiobook to a square CD shape. You cannot use your ebook cover. Here’s the original ebook cover for Okatibbee Creek and the resized audiobook cover. The needed dimensions can be found on the ACX website.
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okatibbee creek cover front JPEG
okatibbee audio
Note 2
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I don’t know if they always do it, but Audible sent me 25 free download codes to give away. For the above example 6-hour book, that’s $500 worth of freebies, so while you’re waiting for your project to be completed, think of some creative ways to market and give those copies away. Some authors swear by audiobook sales. Give it a shot!
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Lori Crane is a bestselling and award-winning author of historical fiction and the occasional thriller. Her books have climbed to the Kindle Top 100 lists many times, including “Elly Hays” which debuted at #1 in Native American stories. She has also enjoyed a place among her peers in the Top 100 historical fiction authors on Amazon, climbing to #23. She resides in greater Nashville and is a professional musician by night – an indie author by day.