AUDIOBOOK PRODUCTION

Some people have asked me about the process of creating an audiobook. While I have helped to shepherd more than fifteen books from manuscript into print, THERE CAME A CONTAGION is my first attempt to create an audiobook. What follows is a brief description of what this newbie has learned so far.

In the US, the elephant in audiobooks is Audible. Not surprisingly, Audible is owned by Amazon. You can create and sell audiobooks without Audible and apparently you can sell an audiobook created outside of Audible on Amazon but I have not explored how to do that.

ACX, which stands for Audiobook Creation Exchange, is a subsidiary of Audible that is described as an online marketplace where people who want to create audiobooks meet to make deals. One signs into ACX as either a Rights Holder or as a Producer. A Rights Holder is the author or the company who holds the rights to the manuscript—in this instance, me. The Producer is the person or company who will transform a manuscript into an audiobook. The Producer will not only narrate the manuscript but will ensure that the quality of the recording satisfies ACX, which is necessary for the audiobook to become available on Audible, Amazon and iTunes.

There seem to be four kinds of arrangements an author can make on ACX.

1. YOU DO IT YOURSELF. You narrate your book, or have someone do it for you, and you make sure the quality of the recording is satisfactory to ACX. In this case you would have nothing to do with a Producer.

2. YOU PAY AND WALK AWAY. Here an author pays a Producer an agreed upon amount to produce the audiobook. A Producer narrates the manuscript and makes sure the finished product is acceptable to ACX. Once the Producer has been paid, the Rights Holder has full rights to the audiobook and can choose either the exclusive or the nonexclusive option with Amazon, see below.

3. ROYALTY SHARING. A Producer narrates the manuscript and sees to its production as an audiobook. The Rights Holder pays the Producer nothing for this work, but the profits of all sales of the audiobook are shared equally between the Rights Holder and the Producer for the next seven years. With this choice you must choose the exclusive option; in other words, the audiobook can only be sold through the Amazon, Audible, iTunes pipeline.

4. ROYALTY SHARE PLUS This is the same as above except the Rights Holder pays the Producer a share of the Producer’s costs and they still share the royalties fifty-fifty. Again, you must choose the exclusive option. So, why did I choose ROYALTY SHARE PLUS when I could have gotten the book produced for nothing? The answer is that according to ACX, the Rights Holder has access to a “higher tier” of Producers if you select the Plus option. You probably have access to a still higher tier if you choose to pay the Producer in full.

EXCLUSIVE V. NONEXCLUSIVE If you make an exclusive deal with Amazon, you receive a royalty of 40% of retail sales through Amazon, Audible and iTunes, but you agree to not sell the audiobook elsewhere. The nonexclusive option allows you to sell your audiobook wherever you want (such as through Kobo or your own website), but you receive a royalty of only 25% on sales through Audible and Amazon.

So, those are the basics. I have chosen to go with ACX because I do not believe I could narrate the book well myself, and even if I could, I do not have the equipment to guarantee a good quality recording. I chose Royalty Share Plus because I wanted to find the best narrator I could to tell the story even though I will only be able to sell the audiobook through Audible, Amazon and iTunes.

In my next posting I will describe the steps I have taken make my book available on ACX and what I have learned in the process.

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HAROLD STEPHENS, A TRIBUTE

January 22, 2021

I learned today of the death of Harold Stephens, a business partner and a good and generous friend. Steve, as we all called him, died at his home in Bangkok in the company of his wife Michelle. Steve was a skilled and disciplined writer who lived the most adventurous life of anyone I ever met. And, amazingly, given his charisma, he was not a drunk, a blow-hard or an arrogant jerk, though at first, I will admit, I feared he might be all of those.

He came into my law office one day in the early 90’s, though why he came, I cannot remember. We hit it off and talked for an hour or more. He told me he and his wife Michelle, had recently moved to Miranda from Bangkok so their three sons Paul, John and Tom could attend South Fork high school. Why Humboldt? Steve knew the area because his son from his first marriage, Peter, was already living in Humboldt, and still does.

At that time, Steve would have been well into his sixties. He was stunningly handsome and unwilling to reveal his age, though he did drop a clue: he had lied about his age, he told me, to get into the Marines near the end of WWII. He had seen combat in Asia and was stationed on Okinawa preparing to invade Japan when the atom bomb brought the war to an end. He said that he had met Hemingway in a bar somewhere; in Tahiti he knew Marlin Brando and had appeared as his double in a few scenes in Mutiny on the Bounty. He claimed to have traveled alone through the Soviet Union in a Jeep. He said that he and Albert Podell had driven around the world in a Toyota Land Cruiser; they had written a book about it called Who Needs a Road? The book was out of print, but in the late sixties, when it first came out, he and Podell had appeared on Johnny Carson’s Tonight show. As an undergraduate at Georgetown, he claimed to have met Jackie before she became a Kennedy. “A rather plain-looking girl,” he told me. As if that were not enough, he swore he had worked out with Kirk Douglas in LA, and had spent enough time in Bangkok with the writer Gore Vidal to be certain that he was an arrogant jerk.

Seated behind my desk that day, I thought: this guy is so full of crap I’m surprised it’s not oozing out his ears.

The next time he came by, Steve claimed he was the travel editor for the Bangkok Post. I had never heard of the paper, but he said it was the most widely circulated English-language newspaper in Asia. He also claimed to be the travel correspondent for Thai Airways International. He wrote for their in-flight magazine and he could fly for free wherever he wanted. He told me he had personally built and still owned a fifty-seven-foot schooner called Third Sea. He said that he had sailed it all over the south Pacific and that it was presently at anchor somewhere off Kuai.

Seated behind my desk, I thought—well, I’m not sure what I thought at that point.

The next time he came by, Steve brought me two books he had written: At Home in Asia and Return to Adventure Southeast Asia. They had been published in Thailand but he believed he was being screwed by publishers there. Knowing that I was a lawyer, and sort of a writer, he proposed that he and I along with his nephew Robert Stedman, a photographer and designer living in the Singapore, start a publishing company. Steve had a novel he wanted to publish, and so did I. A passionate reader as well as a writer, he spoke enthusiastically about Conrad, Somerset Maugham and James Michener. The problem was that I knew nothing about running a publishing company, and neither did he or Robert. Steve was not deterred. The company would focus on books about Asia, he said. The books could be printed in Asia at minimal expense, and would mostly be sold there. Robert wanted to call the publishing company Wolfenden because the name sounded English, and although people in Asia hated the English, Robert thought they had an inherent respect for anything that sounded English.

Well, I thought, why not?

The first book we published was Mario Machi’s Under the Rising Sun. Mario had written a version of his memoir about the Bataan death march and his life as a Japanese prisoner of war, but Steve thought it could be made better. We met with Mario, got hold of his diary, did some research, assembled some photographs, and helped Mario create a new and, I believe, better book. We eventually sold every printed copy of Under the Rising Sun but it is still available as an e-book and readers continue to enjoy it.

After much labor we eventually acquired the rights to Who Needs a Road? the story of Steve’s and Al Podell’s motor journey around the world that had been out of print for several decades. Our publication with an introduction by Al went through several printings. Used copies can still be found and it is also still available as an e-book.

Between 1994 and 2019, Wolfenden published more than fifteen titles, the majority of them written by Steve including The Voyages of Schooner Third Sea, which tells of the adventures he had on his sailing vessel. The schooner, unfortunately, was destroyed in a hurricane off Hawaii a short time after we met.

Harold Stephens and I were not talented publishers. Stories and the writing of them were our passion, publishing books and promoting them were more burdensome. Robert Stedman stepped out of the company shortly after it began, though he has designed the covers and layouts of all the books, and has often overseen their printing. Most were printed in Asia, as Steve had suggested. To save money and hassles with customs, Steve would haul them to Garberville as luggage on his flights, sometimes hundreds of pounds at a time. I would arrive at my office and find boxes of books that had not been there when I left the night before; and I would know that Steve would soon be by to share a story or two.

He and Michelle returned to Bangkok soon after the boys graduated from high school, though they continued to make regular visits to Humboldt. Our house is sprinkled with gifts Steve and Michelle brought us from Asia. During the course of our long friendship, he showed great grace and generosity toward our family. My daughter Kate visited Steve and Michelle in Bangkok and Steve took her by train through Thailand and Malaysia to Singapore. When our son Ahry seemed to have disappeared the first time he went to Asia—a trip inspired, no doubt from his knowing Steve and reading his books—I emailed Steve and he and his sons soon had people all over Asia looking for the young man. It turned out Ahry was having too much fun diving off some remote island of Indonesia to post anything to his parents.

So, gains and losses, coming and goings. And rich memories today of Harold Stephens. Sail on, Steve. I wish you calm waters and a favoring wind. And thanks for the stories.

Doug Ingold

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THE DINERS, a novel by Stephen Fox

The Diners, Stephen Fox’s latest novel, takes us to a Christmas dinner where nine long-time friends gather in an unnamed community in northern California. This is the seventh year the clan has met at the home of Betty Crown, a widow, and a teacher of philosophy. At the beginning, Tom Whelan, a history teacher, is not enthusiastic about yet another Christmas dinner at Betty’s. But he and his wife Sarah, another philosophy teacher, pack up their shrimp dish, grab their bottle of wine and set off. In addition to the Whelans and Betty Crown, there are two other couples and two additional women at the dinner. All the characters are in their seventies or older, and other than a retired medical doctor and his artist wife, the guests are, or were, university teachers. Though they share race, age and education, the diners come from interesting and diverse backgrounds that are revealed as we proceed through the story.

There is an element of jokey tension, particularly among the three men, but basically the novel details the conversation that takes place during the course of the evening. As one might suspect, the banter involves subjects related both to the characters’ professions and their advanced years. One subject, for example, is dementia. We learn that Betty’s late husband, an attorney, suffered from it though no one in the group apparently realized it, and we get an “academic” discussion of the types and causes of the mental decline we call dementia.

Fox employs an interesting approach to fiction. He blends the typical techniques of scene description, action, character development and conversation with factual, historical and political exposition.  Subjects other than dementia, include teaching, baseball history, the environment, racism, service in, and opposition to, the Vietnam war. Before the evening is over, the historian Tom Whelan prophecies a dystopian future for the United States, and in the poignant final chapter we learn how in the year following the dinner, age and circumstance bring great changes to the lives of each of the nine characters. I very much enjoyed the novel, perhaps because I so closely share the age and history of the characters. Anyone who remembers Sal “The Barber” Maglie and the ship Calypso, will enjoy being a guest at Betty Crown’s Christmas party.

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THERE CAME A CONTAGION

Inspired by events that took place near Trier, Germany late in the sixteenth century, THERE CAME A CONTAGION tells the story of the Helgen family, three brothers respected in their village as skilled and resourceful farmers. With their widowed mother, their wives and children, they build a stable if difficult life together raising rye, barley and swine. But when the weather turns erratic and harvests begin to fail, a scapegoat is sought. Jews are banished from the territory as are the followers of Luther and Calvin. The Archbishop then discovers a pestilence of witches: people believed to have forsaken God and sworn allegiance to the Devil. Elsebett Helgen, a midwife and herbal healer, is twenty when the Archbishop’s men arrive in the village.

THERE CAME A CONTAGION was published on July 1, 2021 both in print format and as an eBook. The eBook is available wherever eBooks are sold. Any bookstore may order the print edition through Ingram Wholesale. Signed copies of all my books may be purchased from me through Amazon.  Click on Buy Now on this website and follow the recipe given there. THERE CAME A CONTAGION will be an audiobook in February, 2022.

REVIEWS:

Here is a link to the book on Goodreads.com with several reviews:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/58084486-there-came-a-contagion?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=PScV3Ad6Dz&rank=1

A link to Gabrielle Gopinath’s review in the North Coast Journal:

https://www.northcoastjournal.com/humboldt/parsing-the-witch-hunt/Content?oid=21039635

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Cocktail Hour under the Tree of Forgetfulness

Alexandra Fuller has written three memoirs about herself and her family: Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness and Leaving Before the Rains Come. Cocktail Hour is the first I have read, though I have also enjoyed her novel, Quiet Until the Thaw.

Cocktail Hour focuses on the author’s extraordinary mother Nicola Fuller, a white woman of Scottish heritage, who grew up in Africa and has lived most all of her life there. Her childhood was in Kenya where she became a skilled, perhaps reckless, horsewoman. At twenty she married Tim Fuller and a series of events led the young family to leave Kenya for a farm in White-ruled Rhodesia. There, the war of independence eventually forced them to again abandon their home. As the memoir comes to its conclusion, the parents, now in their sixties, operate a “fish and banana” farm in Zambia. At one level this is the story of a family swimming resolutely against the tide of history.

Nicola Fuller is revealed as a beautiful, charismatic, courageous woman who aspires to live a very romantic life. She and her husband share a strong attachment to each other, to their children, to the light and the soil of the Africa they know and love. They also share a great fondness for dogs and horses, for alcohol and adventure. As they endure hardships and a series of profound tragedies, including the deaths of three children, Nicola verges at times on the edge of madness and Tim struggles to hold their lives and family together.

Every page of this memoir is a pleasure to read. There are beautiful descriptions, considerable humor, heart-wrenching turns of fate. Most remarkable is the tone Ms. Fuller brings to her story. She obviously loves and admires her parents and appreciates the upbringing they gave her, but she insists on portraying them with a clear-eyed precision that is never maudlin, sugar-coated or romanticized. She leads us through turmoil and loss and delivers us to the farm in Zambia where at book’s end we find her parents at home and at peace.

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I LIKE BILL

I like Bill. Bill McKinley, that is, the guy who’s been hanging out in the Arcata Plaza since 1906. People who want him removed try to associate him with various crimes to which he is not connected. He should be removed, they tell us, because in the 1860s indigenous people were being sold in the Arcata Plaza. But in the 1860s young Bill was not selling slaves in Arcata. He was thousands of miles away, fighting to free slaves in the south. A staunch abolitionist, Bill joined the war as a private at the age of eighteen and ended it a major.

George Zehndner, they go on to tell us, the man who paid for the statue actually indentured a seven-year-old native girl himself in 1860. I know nothing about George Zehndner, but I have taken a good look at the statue pedestal and I can confirm that the statue is of our man Bill, not George Zehndner.

Others argue that Bill does not belong in the Plaza because he had nothing to do with Humboldt County. I would point out that Alexander von Humboldt had nothing to do with Humboldt County either, but we have made him our own. Like von Humboldt, Bill has become one of us. At this year’s Oyster Festival, I spotted him cleverly disguised as Poseidon, god of the sea, complete with a flowing beard and trident. A couple of weeks later at the Fairies Festival he carried a magic wand in his right hand. As Bill McKinley did in real life, his statue is always willing to help out. Our Bill has become a part of Arcata, as natural to the Plaza as the two beautiful—and not-at-all native—palm trees that tower so majestically behind him. I’m voting yes on Measure M.

Posted in Whimsy | | 7 Comments