And Now, The Audiobooks!

Several months ago, I got an email from Amazon Kindle Publishing. Would I be interested in becoming a beta test author for their new audiobook generating platform, Virtual Voice Studio? I was skeptical.

How could any computer voice capture the tonality and personality of a live narrator? I worried my books would come across as cartoonish robo-voiced streams of monotonal, mechanical gibberish. “Danger! Danger! Will Robinson.” But the first snippet I heard convinced me the technology had advanced light years beyond what I’d heard before.

Still, Amazon seemed to be promising too much. At no cost to me, I would be given access to an on-line studio, enabling me to create audiobook versions of as many of my ebooks as I’d like. I decided I’d take a chance and be one of their guinea pigs, if audio versions of my stories would be the end result.

The outcome of the experiment was a great success, as far as I can tell. I love the quality of the books. I think you’ll be impressed, too. I now have three brand spanking new audiobook titles listed along with my ebook and paperback versions on Amazon. They’re at these links:

Dinosaur Wars: Earthfall

Dinosaur Wars: Counterattack

Dinosaur Wars: Blood on the Moon

I intend to follow these with audio versions of my mystery, medical thriller, and natural disaster books as well.

Take a look at one of the links above. Each screen has a whole new category for my book as seen in the upper right corner, above. There’s also a button under the book image marked “Virtual Voice Sample.” Click one and before you know it, you’ll be listening to a 5-minute excerpt of the book. Have a good listen to the narrative performance. It’s as smooth and natural as any real, live human reader could produce, even though it was generated by a robo-voice using AI-generated speech patterns.

You don’t need to be online with Amazon to listen to these books. They can be played by many audio reader programs, including free ones like iTunes, Apple’s QuickTime, or a variety of Microsoft audio player choices. You probably have one on your computer, iphone, or tablet already, which will automatically play these audiobooks. The books are essentially the same as buying an audio CD, DVD, or mp4 version.

My fellow authors should take special note. Whereas the creation of quality audiobooks used to cost thousands of dollars per book, or much more to get top-end production quality or a famous voice narrating the work, now the cost is far cheaper. How about zero dollars? That’s one of the beauties of this robo-voice conversion process. It’s fully automated, and happens near-instantaneously, given the audiobook versions are created at the speed of a computer calculation.

Not only that, but pay close attention, fellow authors, because there’s more. You’ve all heard the advice to have someone read your book aloud to help you catch typos and other errors? That wisdom comes to powerful new fruition in Virtual Voice Studio. How about a reader who has infinite time and patience, and can be paused with the click of a button? In three consecutive ebooks now, I have experienced the delight of sitting back, resting my old, tired eyes, and letting my youthful narrator do the reading (I chose him from among seven male and female voices). And should a typo come along, the voice faithfully reproduced it, causing me to rouse myself and click the pause button. What a way to edit!

My books had already all been tortuously combed by me and my professional editors. But there, right before my ears, were more than a dozen newfound typos in each book! In my opinion, it was worth making these audio versions simply to catch that new batch of typos. I doubled back on each book in turn, killing the typos and uploading revised ebook and paperback versions of the text. Then back to Virtual Voice Studio to finish the audio process. Fabulous!

And yet there is more. You’ve probably also been advised that reading out loud can help you catch awkward phrasing in your prose or stilted or phony sounding dialog. Well, thanks again Virtual Voice! Such prosaic deficiencies are instantly obvious, and again, hitting pause stops them in their tracks to be replaced with better, more life-like language.

In case you missed it, I am entirely thrilled with Virtual Voice Studio, and its output as well. It’s a new day in audiobook creation, and reader enjoyment too.

About Tom Hopp

Thomas P Hopp is a scientist and author living in Seattle. He writes medical thrillers, natural disaster novels, and the Dinosaur Wars science fiction series.
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