Why Public Domain Books
This week my third Public Domain audio book went live with Spoken Realms. As a professional audiobook narrator, I was delighted to have yet another opportunity to work with Steven Jay Cohen and his team to bring a book I was passionate about to life. I have previously blogged about why voice actors choose to do Public Domain projects, and if you are curious you can find that blog HERE. The short version is that narrating Public Domain works allows voice actors a chance to show publishers how they might be cast, in ways others might not have thought of using their voice. It allows us, the voice actors, to have a lot of fun narrating in between projects or during projects by working on manuscripts we are passionate about and putting our own, creative, unique spin on them. I have chosen works from poetry to women’s history to Christmas stories, all of which have brought me great joy.
In this blog, I want to focus on a shocking twist of events that happened after posting a public domain book on ACX. The book, WW Denslow’s Mother Goose, was actually live on audible and I received an email that it was being taken down as there were too many versions of it in existence. Let’s delve into my experience having a Public Domain book removed and what you can do so that this does NOT happen to you!
Mother Goose Story
In order to publish a Public Domain book, you must first assert yourself as the Rights Holder of at least one version, and your version must be different than any other version. As a former teacher, I wrote lesson plans for pre-school through second grade students to accompany these beautiful nursery rhymes and put them in the foreword. I also researched WW Denslow and wrote a brief, footnoted biography and added that at the end. Thus, my version was unique and within 72 hours it was live on Amazon.
Then, I posted my audio on ACX. Initially everything went fine. The book went live and I shared it on social media and I was delighted to add it to my roster. Then I got the following email:
I was actually shocked and frankly dismayed that they would remove a title after publishing it. I wrote an email to the help and support team but got no reply.
After two weeks of not hearing back from ACX, I reached out to Steven Jay Cohen at Spoken Realms. At this point, I had successfully completed two other titles with him. I had actually submitted Mother Goose to ACX prior to my other work with Spoken Realms and that is the only reason I did not hold it for him to begin with. I explained my conundrum. Steven explained that they had a unique agreement with Audible and if they produced my work it could not be removed. Happily, we moved forward with the project. I do know, however, that other narrators continue to have issues posting Public Domain works on ACX. Please see a recent and relevant YouTube interview that I did on the same topic!
I have learned a lot from this experience. First, I will not ever endeavor to produce a Public Domain work through ACX again. It is simply not worth the risk of losing the production after the fact. I will produce all future projects through Spoken Realms. Next, there are differences in the editing standards required for Spoken Realms and those required for ACX. Even though I have a specific effects stack to apply to my audio that is perfect for ACX, it was not sufficient alone for Spoken Realms. More editing was required. So, for the first time in my many years as a full time voice actor, I sought the help of a professional editor. The Spoken Realms website actually has a wonderful list of all sorts of professionals in their portal, so I actually randomly picked one from the list and it has been fantastic! I have also been struggling to use 2nd Opinion, the approval software that is part of the Spoken Realms process, so the editor has done that for me on all three of my projects. Hannibal Hills, my brilliant editor, has been a true blessing and has made the process a joy. Others more tech savvy than I likely would not need this, but for me life is short and there are only so many hours in the day and Hannibal is a genius. So, in sum, my experience with Spoken Realms has been great, despite my own personal shortcomings in editing, and my Public Domain projects are live. Should you have a project you are dreaming of, perhaps apply and see if you can join their roster.