Audiobooks are HARD. Here is why…

We’ve been hard at work building a collection of audiobooks for Whillo over the past 6-8 months, starting with mainly Christian children’s audiobooks but with plans to expand into adult audiobooks soon.

If it was up to us, we’d have at least three times the amount of audiobooks completed that we do now. There are a number of reasons why this process has been going much slower than we counted on, and here are a few of them…

Bigger publishers are VERY slow to respond

There are a number of “big name” audiobooks that we want to offer on Whillo. The problem with “big name” books is that they are typically owned by “big name” publishers. These publishers are typically very busy and a licensing request from a small startup streaming platform is typically low on the list of priorities. Some of the books we’ve asked to license have 6-8 month lead times just to get a response from the publisher!

Once we’ve received a tentative “yes” to license a book, we then have to fill out paperwork for every jurisdiction that we want to offer these audiobooks in. Some of the bigger publishers have dozens and dozens of “zones” across the globe, each with its own licensing requirements. As Whillo is available almost everywhere around the world, we have to fill out stacks of paperwork just to license a single “big name” book.

You can see, then, how tedious it is to add even a single “big name” audiobook to Whillo.

This whole process has made us extremely thankful for the publishers that have been responsive and willing to work with us over the past few months (you know who you are and we very much appreciate it!)

Audiobook production is a time-consuming process

Many of the shorter audiobooks we have on Whillo can be narrated in a single sitting. But some of the larger 4-6 hour books can take many days or even weeks to complete.

First, we submit a few pages or a chapter of a book to a network of narrators that we are working with. It typically takes about a week to get back recorded auditions from the various narrators. We then narrow it down to about 5 quality recordings which we then share with the publisher and come to a mutual agreement on who will narrate the book. Once we’ve decided on the talent we plan to use, we give them the go-ahead and they start the process of narration.

Some of the professional and semi-professional narrators that we are currently working with will often spend a day or two pre-reading the book. They’ll then develop specific character voices and mannerisms that helps to separate one character from another. They also spend some time researching proper pronunciations, dialects etc. and perfecting those prior to beginning narration.

At this point they will begin narration. Many of them will edit as they narrate and fix mistakes immediately after they make them.

Once the narration is complete the raw files then go to an audio engineer for editing. The audio engineer removes any background or room noise, coughs, loud breathing, lip/mouth “smacks”, “dead space” at the beginning and end of the raw files, and sets the audio levels consistently across all of the tracks. Depending on the length of book this may take a day or two after narration to complete.

Once the files have been edited they are then uploaded onto the Whillo servers, tagged and categorized, a brief description is added and title images are uploaded. They are then “transcoded” to work with the Whillo streaming servers and synced across our online player as well as both the iOS and Android apps.

Once all that is complete they are then ready to be listened to on Whillo.

They are costly to produce

Many of the books we want to offer on Whillo are only available in print form so we need to start from scratch when producing an audiobook. Once we’ve worked out the licensing agreement costs with the publisher, our narration and editing team then starts the process of producing an audiobook.

An average professional narrator charges around $250USD PFH (Per Finished Hour) of audiobook. For some of the “big name” books we’ve mentioned previously we are looking at hiring very high end narrators that run closer to $500USD PFH. Top-notch narrators typically have “as good as it gets” audio quality (state of the art microphones, recording studios etc) and many years of experience narrating great stories. Often they’ll have a very wide variety of voices and accents they switch seamlessly between and will be experts at timing their readings. They’ll also typically have unique voices that can make a long form audiobook a real pleasure to listen to.

Costs for a single audiobook usually range from $500-$2500 USD (and much higher if working with high end talent or top quality audio engineers). So, even though we’d love to add 30 books a month to Whillo, our budgets dictate otherwise.

All this being said, we are very happy with the support and feedback we’ve received from the various communities across North America. It has been incredibly motivating to hear how happy many of you are with the service and keeps us excited to continue working with reputable publishers to bring you great audio content.

Please let us know which books you’d like to see on Whillo via our requests form!

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