THE WHAT & WHEN
I’m donating production of a 30-minute audiobook as a prize to the Interactive Fiction Competition (IFComp). The prize description under “Expert services” of the prize pool is as follows:
A short (up to 30 minute) audiobook of a short story by the author
Includes pre-production, narration (by the donor), and post-production of your story, with music intro & outro, suitable for sale on a platform of your choice. Must be claimed within one year.
Donated by Matthew Warner
IFComp’s winners will be announced in mid-November. See their schedule.
THE WHO (not the group)
The Interactive Fiction Competition is a 26-year-strong contest sponsored by the Interactive Fiction Technology Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization for the preservation of interactive fiction. Interactive fiction (IF) is the genre of text-driven digital games and stories such as parsers and game books.
Each year, they solicit donations to the contest. These consist of cash to the “Colossal Fund,” which is awarded to contest winners, plus services from the prize pool such as editing, publicity, content creation, gift certificates, games, books, and magazines. There is no fee to enter, so I’m impressed that so many people are willing to donate their time and money, making this the most award-heavy writing contest I’ve ever seen. I’m under the impression the great majority of competitors will receive something.
THE HOW & WHERE
I expect my donated prize, once claimed, to require 8-10 hours of labor on my part. “Audiobook Production Tips” goes into detail about my process. I will work with the prize winner as my pro-bono client. We will begin with a token-remuneration (i.e., free) contract to spell out our responsibilities concerning things like copyright and byline. I’ve learned the hard way as a partner in Deena Warner Design and as an author that it’s helpful to have something written down so there are no misunderstandings.
The next step will be pre-production. I’ll request a short story manuscript of up to 4,000 words, sent to me in MS Word or .RTf format. I’ll pre-read the manuscript and consult the author about things like special pronuciations and accents. Following pre-production will be production, when I will record the narration. Post-production, once the recording is in the can, will consist of de-breathing and the addition of intro and outro material such as a short musical transition I will purchase and donate from third-party stock. Post-production is where the majority of my time is spent, as I may take up to an hour polishing each five minutes of audio. (This time out, I have access to a bona fide professional recording booth, so I’m hoping to cut this down a lot with better inputs.) I’ll then share the recording with the author and ask for notes s/he may have. It’s my hope we can finalize the content within two or three rounds of edits.
Once the recording is approved, I’ll master the audio quality according to ACX audio standards and send the final MP3 back to the client. My recommendation will be to sell it through a third-party service such as Author’s Republic for redistribution to channels such as Audible and iTunes. The author will not owe me any royalties, which will also be spelled out in our contract.
I’m doing this for a few reasons. When I found out about IFComp and entered a game I programmed this summer, I was very excited and impressed with the whole enterprise. Basically, I just want to support other writers — especially during the economic downturn — and this seems like a great way to do it. Programming little online games is one of my hobbies and a great marriage of my writing and programming skills. However, I always felt alone in the endeavor, so I’m glad there’s an organization like this out there. (Not to mention I would love for 1990s-style MMORPGs like Galactic Empire to make a comeback, but maybe that was just one of the few things I enjoyed about my high school years.) I’ve been going on for years about interactive fiction without realizing there is a whole subculture devoted to it. Maybe my Google-Fu hasn’t been up to snuff. I may also want to explore voiceover work as a side hustle (see my new portfolio of audio samples), and working with a real client is a good way to get experience.
So, with all that said, best of luck to my fellow competitors, and I hope to work with one of you soon! And to the general public, keep an eye on the IFComp website for this year’s entries, and vote, vote, vote! (Also register for the November election if you haven’t already, but that’s another topic.)