Audiobooks are a huge market for a variety of reasons. It could be long commutes, travel, visual impairments, or the ability to multitask while doing mundane tasks.
This post will cover cost, expectations, and things about ACX that you might not know of even after reading the FAQ and such.
Audiobooks are generally 2x longer than the reading length. ACX has two ways of working out the approximate length:
- During the setting up project phase.
This is important to know before you decide which books you will put up for an audition because it can affect your price.
Most authors think audiobooks will be expensive. In actuality, audiobooks, at least on ACX, can be financed two ways—royalty share and per finished hour. Both ways have their benefits.
Per Finished Hour
For a per finished hour, ACX has you bid in ranges. Example, between $0-$50, $50-$100, and up into 500+ range. Now, one thing to realize on “per finished hour” is that your audio narrator will probably spend about 3x more hours outside of that in prework, read through, editing, mastering the files, etc. So a 3 hour finished audiobook probably had invested closer to 12-15 hours of behind-the-scenes production.
For Strings Attached, I bid in the $50-$100 range. I left the auditions open for 10 days, and my best narrators came in around day 7 and up.
After picking a short list—the narrators who I thought fit the story the best—I offered a contract with the first one at $75 per finished hour. Now the narrator had two choices, they could have come back with a higher offer or accepted. My narrator accepted. Strings Attached audio cost was around the same cost as the editing cost.
Paying Up Front
Logically, you would assume since ACX has your bank info that when you finished the project, they would take the money out and send it to the narrator. This isn’t the case. The “pay narrator” is a tricky button. Instead, talk to your audio formatter. My narrator was paid via Paypal. Once I paid and she noted I had paid her, the file went into the review stage.
Royalty share can be a great thing, especially when starting out. You don’t incur any of the upfront cost. Instead, the royalty you earn is split with the narrator.
There are a few things I think you should know before picking this route.
Royalty share is forever. If you don’t sell any or your audiobook moves like hot cakes, your royalty is forever split with the narrator. This can be good or bad for narrators.
If your book isn’t selling, they basically worked for free. Do you enjoy working for free when you have bills to pay? Would you want to do a major job for someone and hope that you’ll get paid … eventually?
On the plus side, if your audiobook sells well, they could make bank for years on a job. Would you want to pay an editor half your royalty forever even after you’ve earned more than what your editor cost? What about your cover designer? Formatter?
ACX is part of Amazon. When you first make an account, you can link your Amazon to your ACX. This then pulls all the books on your author central. Make sure you pick a book you have legal audio rights for. Some books that pop up on mine are anthologies that I have been in along with books I have published.
Once you pick the book, you upload a sample for the narrators to do.
Picking a narrator seems like it would be the simplest job.
When you submit a job, you can pick the voice you’re going for—southern, Californian, British, etc. You can fill in other information that you deem relevant—age, gender, time frame, etc.
Strings Attached is a southern romance set in South Carolina. It is a contemporary romance with a male and female POV.
That seems simple enough. In actuality, this narrowing of narrators left me with over the top, dramatic renditions of southern accents like the bayous of the Mississippi than the Carolina coast. It really made me question if that’s how everyone thought southerners talked. Then I remembered that most American t.v. shows are done in what’s called Hollywood. It’s the American accent to the rest of the world. Occasionally you’ll have a “soft” accent, like the characters in NSIC: New Orleans, and while it has just enough flavor, a narrator shouldn’t be the difference between feeling the gentle wind and walking on soft grass and walking though knee high, tripping grass in the middle of a hurricane.
A little accent goes a long way, so don’t lock yourself into one idea. Look for the narrator whose voice carries your words the best. If you need to leave auditions open longer, tinker with the narrator specific you’re looking for, or talk with others in your genre who have had books done and ask them who they had narrate their books—Do it. When you find the right voice, you’ll know it. You can also download the samples and share with your team and see who they like.
When I widened it to country instead of cultural demographic, I got closer hits to what sounded pleasing. Some voices were a little off—cadence, some were nasal sounded, some were close but just something didn’t fit, etc.
Once you’ve picked the few you like, start with the one you prefer, send them a contract, and if accept you’re on to the next part. If not, they may negotiate or pass on the job. If they pass, move on to the next one in the line. If they negotiate, decide if you can meet their new price, offer a counter price, or pass.
Once the contract is signed and the dates are set for some key points. (Be flexible with your dates. Your narrator might get sick or have an allergy issue, and while they want to make your deadline, they can’t control everything. Give them time to do it right instead of rushing it.)
The first 15 minutes is usually a chapter or two, maybe three, depending on your chapter lengths. This gives you a good chance to instruct the narrator on some things. Maybe they are mispronouncing a character name—if your character names aren’t well known, consider sending a guide to help them—maybe a little more emphasis on certain characters or maybe ease off on some. The 15-minute sample is what the narrator will base the rest of your story from. This part will save you a lot of headache if you take it seriously.
Once your narrator finished, your audiobook will be shown in “chapters”. This includes the intro and the exit. You have the chance to listen to each part, make notes of anything you’d like changed, and bring it to the narrators attention—maybe the narrator sounded sick during a chapter, the cadence seemed rushed at a moment you imagined just a little slower, maybe they misspoke a phrase, etc.
I personally can’t listen to audiobooks. Just like music, they become background noise and it took me longer to listen to it than I would have liked. I had to listen to one chapter at a time with nothing else interrupting me. Those were the longest minutes of my life. Not because the narrator wasn’t good—she was great—but I’m not an audio person.
If you find audiobooks aren’t your cup of tea to listen to, see if anyone on your team loves audiobooks. Let them listen to it and make notes. That’s what your team is for, to help you decide when you need the help.
Once you approve them, then ACX will move them into review, and the review process can take a couple of weeks—even more during the holidays so plan accordingly. Once the review team has listened to it and checked its quality, your audiobook goes live.
Things To Know
You can’t set a “publish by” or “release” date. If you’re trying to release the audiobook at the same time as ebook, plan ahead. Those two weeks in review by ACX isn’t a soft guideline like KDP’s up to 72 hours.
You can’t set the price. ACX sets the price depending on finished hour/length.
Bounty Referral Program—The perk with the bounty program is that if someone becomes an ACX/Audible member for 61 days, you earn a bonus. (https://www.acx.com/help/bounty-referral-program/UEF9JUCH9AZEKA4)
Free Codes—ACX gives you free codes—25 codes for each country. You can use these codes to help get reviews on audiobooks, for giveaways, and more. (https://www.acx.com/help/promotional-codes/2LGHA54D3S92MMH)
ACX is in the beta stages for sending you promos for your audiobooks. I’ve had Strings Attached available for a couple of months before they sent me three: Facebook page cover, a twitter post, and an Instagram post. They also gave instructions on how to set up the images on your website and what codes to put on the posts.
Their dashboard is simple, and if you’re lost, take advantage of their help section that comes with videos that show you the most current version of their dashboard. Almost everything you will need/want is in the upper right-hand corner. It shows your name, your dashboard, how many projects you have going on, how many new auditions you have, if you have any messages, and a simple button to add a new book into the queue.
Payment—ACX pays you within 30 days of the end of the month. IE, if you made sales in January, by the end of February you’ll be paid. This is a month quicker than KDP’s payment of 60 days from end of the month (January sales equal payment at the end of March).
Is it worth it?
I think it’s a market ripe for those willing to foot the cost up front. Just like having a well-edited, correctly formatted eBook saves you money, a good audiobook will have a long shelf life that will earn you money because it’s good quality.
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This post was edited/proofed by ProWritingAid.