Name that voice

The question of “what do I call myself as an author?” is more complex than I’d imagined.

Women have a long tradition of using initials to hide gender. This seems to have started with academic publishing, which may be more even sexist than commercial publishing. (Women novelists who want to dodge gender discrimination sometimes just use male pen names.)

Male novelists can use initials to look classy, or imitate their idols. I suspect George “R. R.” Martin is an homage to J. R. R. Tolkien. Yes, I know his middle name is Raymond, and he adopted the name Richard at his confirmation at age 13, but that seems a bit convenient.

Anyway, after way too much deliberation, I’ve decided to stick with Rick Wiedeman. Mostly because that’s what people have known me as forever, and I want friends to be able to look me up. (I also have the same haircut I’ve had since age 4, as you can tell.) But also because Richard L. Wiedeman is too long for book covers, Richard Wiedeman is a popular dentist in North Carolina, and R. L. Wiedeman looks too much like R. L. Stine.

So there you go.

The more interesting thing I got into this week was learning about audiobook production. Many of my friends prefer them to reading, and I enjoy them, too. So I’d like to get into that, and offer the ability to bundle it with ebook and paperback purchases.

The typical audiobook is 10 hours, and a typical voice talent fee is $200/completed hour, so it’s a $2,000 investment. I doubt I’d ever recover that, as a small-time self-published author. Audiobooks go for about $25, of which I’d get 40% or $10 (and I only get that rate if I agree to be exclusive to Amazon, Audible, and iTunes, which has 90+% of the market), so it’d take 200 direct audiobook sales to break even. That might happen over a few years, but I wouldn’t bet on it. Besides, most audiobook sales come through Audible.com monthly subscriptions, of which the author payout is typically $1-3 per audiobook, so that’d be 700-2,000 sales to break even.

But I noticed something interesting, as I was investigating — Thomas Harris, author of The Silence of the Lambs, narrated his latest novel, Hannibal. It sounds fine, though not fully professional. He doesn’t have a radio or stage voice, and isn’t a trained actor, but it still sounds good. It’s like listening to the songwriter’s version of a song, instead of the cover by a popular performer. It has its own small-scale charm.

The way I learn things is to do them. So, I recorded the first chapter of my current (untitled) mystery novel, and forced my family to listen to it on the commute to work and school. They didn’t roll their eyes or bail out at the stop light, so now I’m putting it on SoundCloud for your feedback.

Let me know what you think. Is it passable? Could you stand that voice for 60 chapters? Is the start of the story compelling?

Thanks.

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