Now available in audio: the Tuyo World Companion

So, the Tuyo World Companion is now available in audio format.

I wasn’t going to put this book in audio, because it costs a lot to do ACX royalty share plus and more to pay an audiobook narrator without doing royalty share via ACX. When I say “a lot,” I mean something like $1000 to do royalty share plus and two to four times that to pay a narrator outright. That is for a normal-length novel. When I say “a lot,” I am therefore not kidding.

I should add: royalty share alone costs nothing. But you get more auditions, and more of them by better voice actors, if you check the “royalty share plus” option, which means paying a fee, but less than if you didn’t do royalty share at all.

Do you know how much it costs to do an audiobook via KDP’s new virtual voice service? Nothing. It costs nothing. And the audiobook cannot fall below a certain level of quality because the voices are standardized.

Pros: I have a list.

A) It doesn’t cost anything. The difference between “nothing” and “$1000 or more” is obviously large.

B) It is also fast. I mean, it’s really, really, really fast. Even if you spend hours adjusting every line of dialogue, that’s hours instead of months. It’s enormously faster than a voice actor.

C) It’s easy to edit. You can change a sentence or the pronunciation of a word and in less than an hour download the corrected version and start listening from wherever you left off, now with the adjusted sentence or pronunciation.

D) The voice quality is good. It’s much better than I expected.

Cons: I have a list.

A) Is it fair? Where did KDP get the voices they are using? Did they train their AI voice generator using audiobooks, without paying anything to the actor whose voice they are using?

Answer: It’s probably not always fair to voice actors, BUT, Apple, at least, licensed the rights to base voices on the voices of specific actors. They did not apparently need to pay a lot, relatively speaking, so that suggests that maybe other voice generators are also doing that? I used Amazon’s virtual voice generator because the the option appeared, because I honestly was never, ever going to pay anyone a lot of money to make an audio version of this book, and because I wanted to see what it was like and this relatively trivial use seemed like the way to do that.

B) The audio narration right now is totally unable to voice different characters and it does not try. The best you can do is tell the narrator speed to go up for one character and down for another, for a poor approximation of different character voices.

On the other hand, I’ve been underwhelmed by the ability of many voice actors to voice different characters. I think Patrick did a great job with this for TUYO and TARASHANA and this spoiled me and gave me an unrealistic feeling that most narrators are good at this. They aren’t. I focused on this one thing very tightly for TANO and I think that narrator also did a very good job, especially in giving each of the young men a distinctive and suitable voice. Especially Raga, who is just great. That’s exactly how he sounds.

I’m currently listening to auditions for MARAG and so far I’m not happy with any narrator’s ability to handle different voices. Some are just as unable to do that as the virtual voice generator. I am not willing to pay money for a narrator who cannot give Sinowa and Marag distinctive voices, ideally voices that are close to those we hear in TUYO and also in TANO, where the narrator got very close to the voices from TUYO.

I’m also not willing to produce a free audiobook that doesn’t do that. This is something that matters to me a lot, it turns out. I would literally rather not do an audiobook at all than do an audiobook where the narration does not allow at least minimal differentiation of the characters.

What do you bet that within a year, at most two, KDP will be offering a virtual voice generator that lets you select different voices for different characters? It would be absolutely no more tedious to go through and select “voice 1” for one character and “voice 2” for another character than it was to do the speed-it-up/slow-it-down thing, and the result would be massively better.

At that point, every voice actor who can’t voice different characters will be out of a job. So will every voice actor who can, unless they bring something to the table that is literally worth thousands of dollars per book. I am having trouble figuring out what that could be. So I have another prediction: in ten years or less, there will be no voice actors narrating audiobooks. The choice, if you want an audiobook at all, will be to either use AI voice generators or nothing. Questions of whether this was fair will then be moot.

I honestly don’t know what voice actors are going to do.

Here’s a related post from The Passive Voice.

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2 thoughts on “Now available in audio: the Tuyo World Companion”

  1. It’s probably not so noticeable with something like the companion but I tried it out on one of my books (Cici and the Curator which hasn’t earned nearly enough to make an audiobook affordable for me) and couldn’t handle the lack of emotion. The dialogue sounded so placid. I would have been willing to go through and mark spots for emphasis by hand but without that, it was putting me to sleep within a few pages. I’d try again, but I think voice actors might have a longer future than you think. Fine but boring sort of fits Chats writing style, too.

  2. Sarah, you could be right. It’s true the expression is lacking. Vocal affect is not absent, but it’s definitely low. “Placid” may be a good term.

    I really think the AI narrators right now would be fine for a lot of nonfiction. For fiction, not so much.

    I figured out how to scan through a lot of narrators at ACX, listened to audio samples, and emailed half a dozen people to ask them to please audition for MARAG, so I hope I will have a settled contract with someone good by this time next week. I’m really treating audio as vanity projects right now, though it would be nice if they earned enough EVENTUALLY to at least break even with the cost of production.

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