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  • Writer's pictureTeresa Widdowson

KDP Virtual Voice Audiobook: Part 1

Updated: May 1

headphones and smartphone playing MYND Control

Welcome to my blog, KDP Virtual Voice Audiobook: Part 1. I’ve split this adventure into two blogs to put them into readable-sized chunks.

A few months ago, I signed up with KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) to volunteer to try out their new, beta, Virtual Voice tool to create audiobook versions of my books. To my surprise, I got an email a couple of weeks ago saying that my books were selected! I have spent several days learning the tool, listening to my book, MYND Control, and making the required changes to make it sound as good as possible. And now, MYND Control is available as an audiobook! If you’ve been waiting to read it because you prefer that format, or know someone who has, the wait is over!

I should make it clear that this audio version is NOT what I would like it to be. The Virtual Voice does not get the true emotions across when it reads my book. If I could afford to hire a real human to read my book for me, of course I would prefer to do that. But I’m an indie publisher, and it’s hard to justify the cost. Maybe if I end up selling 10,000 copies, I'll be able to justify it. At this point, my hope is simply that if you prefer this format, you will be willing to try out this KDP Virtual Voice version. Maybe it will put you to sleep. Maybe you will not feel the emotion of the book. Like I said, it’s not perfect. But maybe it will get into the hands of more readers. At this point, that’s my main goal.

Now I’m in the process of proof-listening to my first book, The RH Factor. When I am finished, and the audiobook version is published, I will send out an email to my readers to let you know. It’s not a quick process, as you will see if you decide to read this blog and my next one. But I will tell you all about my experience with KDP’s new Virtual Voice tool (which I will abbreviate to VV going forward).

For other authors who want to know how to create an audiobook using the VV, or others who are simply curious, here’s how the process works and what you will encounter as you proof-listen to your book. To find out if your ebook is eligible, navigate to your KDP bookshelf. If you are eligible, next to your book’s title will be a button that says Add Audiobook with Virtual Voice. When you click that button, a new window will pop up where you can select the voice that you want to read your book. There are eight voices to choose from: five female and three male. Two of the female voices have a British accent. So if you don’t need that type of inflection, you have three of each gender voices to choose from. If KDP wanted to be more politically correct, I think they should have called the selections simply, Voice Number 1, Voice Number 2, etc., instead of assigning them each a gender. Maybe they will consider that in the future.

There is also an option to upload a new cover. But unless you want a new one, KDP will create one for you using your current cover image. Just FYI, KDP uses the ebook version of your book to create the audiobook. So if you only have a paperback version, I don’t think you will be eligible for an audiobook. I can’t confirm that positively since I have ebook versions of both my books. But I wanted to throw that out there, just in case.

Below the voice selection area is an option for you to opt in or out of the Audible Plus program. My ebooks are enrolled in the KDP Select program, which allows me to run promotions and also puts my books in the Kindle Unlimited library. Because of that, my audiobooks were automatically enrolled in the Audible Plus program. This is a lot like Kindle Unlimited, where readers are charged a monthly membership fee. But instead of giving them access to ebooks, Audible Plus gives them access to unlimited streaming and listening from Amazon’s Audible Plus Catalog.

Next, you choose a price for your audiobook. How do you decide what price is best? I had no idea what to charge for an audiobook. I had never had one to sell, and frankly, I rarely listen to them. But I can see how they could be very appealing if you were in the car for long periods of time, say on a trip or commuting to work. So, to make sure I priced my audiobook reasonably, I searched on Amazon for audiobooks in the same genre that were also about the same length, and I priced my audiobook similarly.

Now it’s time to do the tedious process of listening to your chosen virtual voice read your book to make sure it sounds as good as it can. To get to the reader, simply click the Open Virtual Voice Studio button, and your book will open. On the left side of the page, all the chapters of your book are listed. On the right side are the tools available for you to change the way the VV reads your book: Pause, Pronunciation, and Voice speed. The Pause option allows you to add or lengthen pauses, but only after titles, ends of sentences, or ends of paragraphs. The Pronunciation option provides a way to change the pronunciation of a word in case you don’t like how the VV said it. Voice speed gives you a way to change the speed at which a word, sentence, or sentences are read.

If you decide, after listening to the voice you chose read a few chapters of your book, that you don’t like the way it sounds, no problem. At the top of the page, is an option to Change Voice. It shows which voice you are currently using, and when you select it, brings up the list of voice options and allows you to change your selection on the fly. There’s no need to backtrack and change the voice from the setup page. That’s a nice feature.

I have to admit that I struggled when it came to choosing which voice to use. I wanted it to be a female voice, since my main character was female. A British accent would have sounded strange, since my book is based in Seattle, so that ruled out Voices Number 2 and Number 8 right away. Now I had three voices left to choose from. At first, I chose Voice Number 1—a female with a low alto tone. I thought it was soothing. But after listening to several chapters, I found I was falling asleep! It was too soothing! And the speech pattern was slow. It would be a great voice for a self-help, or maybe a romantic poetry book. But I thought it was too lulling for my sci-fi, drama, mystery.

Next, I tried out Voice Number 5—a female voice with a mid-tone range, which spoke a bit faster than Voice Number 1. But I couldn’t get past what I heard as a slight southern accent. My husband said he didn’t hear it. Maybe it’s because he’s used to listening to me! I’m sure I’m sensitive to it because I’ve been teased all my life about my Texas accent—something I have been trying to get rid of since I moved to Florida at the age of thirty! Needless to say, that goal may never be reached. I don’t have much of one anymore, but I guess it’s enough that people notice.

So, I nixed that one, and now I had one choice left—Voice Number 7. It was a little higher than I wanted, but it had no accent and it spoke faster than Voice Number 1. That’s the one I finally went with. It was a hard compromise because at times, I felt the voice sounded too juvenile. Maybe in the audiobook of The RH Factor, I will get over my fear of the southern accent and go with Voice Number 5. I guess you’ll have to wait until I’m finished with it to find out.

You might be wondering if you have to select each word you want to change and then move your mouse over to the right side of the page and select one of the options: Pause, Pronunciation, or Voice speed, to make your changes. Thankfully, not all changes are that cumbersome. If you find a spot where you want to make a pronunciation change, click on the word and a bubble pops up and asks if you want to change the pronunciation. At the end of a sentence or paragraph, the pop-up bubble will also offer you the option to change the length of the pause after the last word. You can add a short, medium, or long pause, but unfortunately, as of now anyway, there is no way to shorten a pause. That’s too bad, because I thought the pauses were too long between the chapter title and text, and after section separators.

To change the speed at which something is read, highlight the word, words, sentences, or paragraphs, and click on the Voice speed in the Editing tools section. Here you can change the speed the Virtual Voice is reading at to 25% or 50% slower or faster. I didn’t think of it when I was proof-listening to MYND Control, but changing the speed might be an interesting way to make one of your characters sound different from everyone else. But of course, that would mean changing the speed of their speech every single time they spoke. That would be a lot of editing!

The main editing I found myself doing to create my audiobook, was fixing the VV’s word pronunciation. Correcting the pronunciation of a word means telling the VV how to pronounce it phonetically. Think of it as like trying to tell someone who doesn’t know the English language how to say a word. OK, it’s not quite that bad. The VV knows how to pronounce common, strangely spelled words. For instance, it knows that the ‘K’ in the word “know” is silent. So you don’t normally have to worry about ordinary word pronunciation. But I found some mispronunciations that surprised me. I’ve provided lots of examples in my next blog, of some I ran into in my book.

Now that you know how to start to edit your audiobook, it’s time for the fun to begin. I strongly urge you to listen to your entire book. Yes, that means you need to listen to EVERY SINGLE WORD.

Check out my next blog to get into the nitty gritty of how I edited my audiobook version of MYND Control. I hope, if you’re creating an audiobook of your own, that my tips and tricks will save you some time. And if you’re an audiobook reader, I hope this information helps you appreciate the time and effort the proof-listeners (and readers, if they are humans) spend to make the audio versions available.

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