Using The Audiobook Service ACX

I think I speak for many of us when I say we’d like to have our books in audiobook form. Besides being a possible way to connect to new readers who don’t necessarily like to sit down with a paperback or e-book and another possible source of revenue, audiobooks have a prestige to them. It’s sort of magical hearing your characters come to life in your car or in your earbuds through sound and description. It’s pretty powerful.

However creating an audiobook can be difficult. In addition to a book to narrate, you need an actor to read your book aloud if you aren’t comfortable or able to do it, plus recording equipment, maybe an engineer, something to edit the book with, and then some! And that can run up in terms of costs.

As one might expect, there’s a service that tries to make the process cost-effective and easy to do. Audiobook Creation Exchange, or ACX, is a service through Audible.com, which in turn is owned by Amazon, aims to match authors and their books to producers so they can create the audiobook together. I heard about it from an acquaintance of mine who had her book turned into an audiobook and got interested in it. So after some research, I’m sharing with you how it works and if it can potentially help you gain a wider audience.

First, what exactly is ACX? Founded in 2011, ACX is kind of like a matchmaking/dating service with the goal of creating an audiobook. Anyone who owns the right to the audiobook of a novel (such as authors, editors, publishers, agents, etc) can go on and find audiobook producers (narrators, recording studios, engineers, etc) who would be interested in producing your audiobook. The video they have on their website (the link is below) claims that only 5% of authors get their books turned into audiobooks, so they’re trying to change that.

What do you do? If you decide to use ACX, you sign up for the service using your Amazon account. Then you search for your book through Amazon’s database. Create a Title Profile, which include a description of your book and what it’s about, as well as what you are looking for in a producer (gender, special talents or accents they can do, etc). You also must upload a short one or two page excerpt for producers to use.

What happens next is that producers will look for books that they may be interested in narrating (and hopefully they may decide to do yours if they come across it). Producers will audition by taking your excerpt and recording themselves narrating it, and then sending it to you. Once you have a few auditions, you can go over the auditions, as well as find out a little bit more about the producers auditioning for you. You can most likely find out acting and audiobook experience, hourly rate, and so on and so forth. If you find an audition you really like, you contact the producer and make them an offer.

What sort of offers are there? There are two sorts of offers you can make to a producer once you’ve made a decision, and knowing which one to use is very important, so consider them carefully before sending a producer an offer. These are the sorts of deals available:

  • Pay a flat out fee. This is where you pay for the production costs of the audiobook. Each producer has his or her own rates, and you pay that amount for every finished hour of audiobook there is (for example, if I have an audiobook produced of either of my novels and the finished product is eight hours long and my narrator charges one-hundred dollars per hour, I would pay $800). You pay this fee at the end of the production period when you have reviewed the final product and given it your full approval. The fees vary wildly between producers, usually somewhere between $50-$200 with the average being around $100. You can also negotiate rates with your producer on their rates. The upside of this is that you get all the royalties at the end of production of this and you can decide whether to do exclusive distribution rights (which means the audiobook can only be sold through Amazon, Audible, and iTunes and you gain 40% of the royalties) or non-exclusive rights (which means you can sell the audiobook through other distributors and receive 25% of the royalties through the companies listed above).
  • Royalty Share Deal. In this deal, you forego fees and instead agree to split the royalties of any sales with your producer. This deal is handy because you don’t need to pay any fees upfront. However you can only distribute your audiobook through Amazon, Audible, and iTunes with this option and you only get 20% of the royalties, with the producer getting the other 20%.

Most narrators do a combination of these methods, so you’re probably going to find someone who is willing to either of these methods. Once you’ve hashed out the details with your producer, you’ll send them the official contract, which says you’ll work together to produce the audiobook, and that Amazon can distribute it for seven years, which is how long the contract lasts.

What’s the process like? The production process takes about 3-8 weeks, depending on the length of the book and the producer’s schedule. The producer will upload the first 15 minutes of the audiobook to the ACX secure website for you to get a sample. If you don’t like it, you can stop the process there or start a dialogue with the producer to see what could be fixed. After that, the producer will upload the book chapter by chapter until the whole book is completed and the author approves the final product. Once that is done, the producer will upload the book onto Audible/Amazon/iTunes, and you as the rights holder will get a notification email.

What happens after the book is uploaded? Hopefully people will buy the audiobook. In any case, Amazon has a contract with you that allows them to distribute through them (exclusively or non-exclusively, depending on the deal you made) for 7 years. After that, you can take down the audiobook, decide to have a new version produced, or extend the contract for another year. As the rights holder, it’s all up to you.

What if I want to narrate the book myself? There’s a process for that where you can do that. Basically you produce the audiobook yourself and upload it onto ACX’s website. Makes giving an offer easier, from what I hear.

What if I decide at the last minute the whole thing’s a mess or I don’t want my book in audio form? Well, then you can cancel the contract. As the rights holder, it’s well within your rights to do so. However, if you do that you’ll have to pay a fee one way or another so that the producer can come out of this with something. Depending on what deal you took, you could pay up to 75% of the producer’s fees or $500 plus whatever costs the producer incurred for producing the book.

How do I design a cover? ACX has their own cover guidelines that are too much bother to go over here, so I’m linking the page that has the guidelines to this article. Once you have some idea of what they’re looking for, it’s up to you to create or find someone to create the cover according to these guidelines.

What’s a Bounty Payment? As I understand it, if a new buyer to Audible buys your audiobook, you get a $50 bonus from Audible. It’s a great bonus system, from what I’m told. It encourages authors to advertise about their audiobooks, so new listeners will be encouraged to get the audiobook through Amazon, Audible, and iTunes.

What countries is ACX available in? At the moment ACX is only available in the US and Great Britain, though ACX is hoping to expand to other countries soon, most likely Canada and other North American countries before becoming established elsewhere. So keep your eyes peeled if you want to do an audiobook through ACX.

How much will my audiobook cost to buy? Depends on the length of the book in terms of hours. The more hours the book is, the more they charge. To guess at the price of your book, an hour of audiobook is about 9,300 words, so do some math and then visit ACX’s website and go to the price chart on the Distribution page to figure out how much your book will probably cost.

Should I do an audiobook? Well, that depends. Personally I’d recommend only going through the process if you feel there’s a demand for your audiobook. It’d suck to go through the whole production process and, whatever sort of deal you have with your producer, only receive a couple dollars here and there, or maybe nothing at all. So before deciding to try and produce an audiobook, see if there are a lot of people who’d want to buy an audio version of your book, and how much they’d be willing to pay for it.

 

There’s a lot of potential in audiobooks, no matter how you look at it. Perhaps your book will be read by a great many in audio form, if you decide to go this route e to produce it.   Jut make sure you feel that it’s right for you, for your book, and that there is a demand for your audiobook before you do so.

Has anyone here used ACX before? What was your experience like? What tips do you have for authors considering using it?

And here’s the link to the website if you want to do more research on your own.

Categories: Amazon store, Author Platform & Branding, Book Formatting, Book Promotion, Marketing & Promoting, Publishing Trends, Writing as a Business, Writing Partnerships | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Changing Landscape of Publishing: How To Cope

Intro

While Scribd and Oyster have been offering subscription-based services to readers for a while now, Amazon has just come out with their version under Kindle Unlimited.  Upon reading some discussions on all of this, I came to the conclusion that there is nothing set in stone in the publishing world.  It is always evolving, always changing.  And no one can tell with 100% certainty where it’s all headed.

For example, back in 2009 when I started publishing ebooks, I never imagined I would earn more than $30 a year (if I was lucky) with my work.  And today when new authors publish, they are disappointed if $30 is all they get in one month.  Then in 2010, the big thing was $0.99.  It was easy to gain a new readership at this price point.  Today?  Not so much.  Though, pricing the first book in a series at free seems to still work.  But with big name authors lowering their price points, it’s not wise to price too high either for your non-free titles.  With subscription services taking off, I’m sure it’ll have some impact on how book prices go.  But it’s too soon to tell just how things will shake out.

The point to all of this is that nothing stays the same in this crazy up-and-down roller coaster world of publishing.  I’m not going to say what will or won’t happen.

Main Post

But what I can offer are some ways to cope in this volatile market we’re in, so hopefully, we can all stay sane.  :)

1.  Keep writing.

Blank notebook and pen.

 

Why?  Because this is what we love to do.  It is our passion.  This is why we get up in the morning.  Writing is our escape from the outside world when it presses in on us.  Sometimes you have to turn off the TV, get off the Internet, and shut the door on people who are trying to distract you.  If you’re like me, you feel anxious when you don’t write.  I can go for a week without writing and be fine, but after that, I get irritable and stressed out.  I need to write to stay level.  It’s how I relax.  If writing doesn’t relax you, then I suggest finding something else that does, like going for a walk or seeing a movie.   You need a way to step away from stressful situations.  And, if you’re relaxed, you’ll write better.

2.  Keep publishing.

publish

There are certain times of the year I find it better to publish than others, but I don’t limit myself to only those times.  I publish even on months that historically have sucked for me.  Publishing on a regular basis helps to steady out the money you bring in.  The more books you publish a year, the better your chances are of making money and staying “new enough” so people don’t forget you.  I realize everyone’s life differs.  Some people can write fast; others can’t.  But if you can get something new out on a predictable basis or when you promise readers you will, it’ll help.

Keep in mind that not all books will sell well, and there is no way to predict which will do better than others.  But when you keep getting books out there, you increase your chances of being noticed and staying relevant.  And you never know.  Some day your work might take off.  If you took the time to lay the groundwork and acquire a nice backlist, that could work in your favor.

But most of all, one more book finished and published, is a satisfying feeling all on its own.  I’m working my way to the goal of 50 romance books. (I just published my 42nd one.)   The best rewards are those where we set a goal for ourselves that we can control.

3.  Be aware of sales but don’t obsess over them.

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I do think it’s important to know how your books are doing, but try to limit how often you go to check your dashboard or sales rankings.  Some people can check their sales once a day and not agonize if they are losing momentum.  Some people can only check their stats once a month.  It depends on your comfort level.  If you’re obsessing over them, then it’s time to back off.  I realize it can be hard to do that, but it’ll help you keep sane if you do.

The picture above with the up and down chart is very much like my own dashboard.  From month to month, it can be an extreme up or down, and this occurs even in months when I publish a new book.  What I usually do is track my sales for the first two months on any book I publish.  What I’m doing is gauging which type of romance I’m writing that resonates best with my readers.  I write Regencies, historical westerns, and contemporaries.  I usually write them around the same time so I can publish them around the same time.  Why do I do this?  To get a better idea of what I should write more of in the future.

My overall sales seem to be better in the first part of the year.  October through December are awful for me.  January through March are best.  April through September are pretty stable with a regular up and down flow.  By publishing in all these time frames, I am able to get a better idea of whether my reader base prefers Regencies, historical westerns, or contemporaries that I write.  I know there’s good money in contemporaries, but these are not my best selling books.  I do best with Regencies and historical westerns because that is my particular reader base.  I write contemporaries to get a break and do something different.  If you can write fast, you do have the luxury of writing a couple books that you think won’t do well with sales.  But overall, you want to try to aim your books for your readers, if your goal is to make some money off your work.  If your goal is to write solely for enjoyment (and that is perfectly acceptable), then you don’t have to take sales into account.

4.  Most of all, remember to enjoy what you’re doing.

think forward

I do believe it’s okay to step away from writing if you have lost the joy in it.  Maybe you need a break.  Maybe you need to evaluate whether or not this is what you really want to do.  It’s hard to be a writer when people are highly critical of books.  Some people will email you, leave comments on your blog, or write reviews about your book, and they will be rude.  It happens to all writers sooner or later.  We can’t please everyone.  It’s impossible.  The work we do is not for the faint of heart.  It takes a lot of thick skin to be in the public eye, and that thick skin takes time to develop.

There were a couple of times when I wanted to give up.  I stepped back and took a month off to figure out if I wanted to keep writing books for the public.  (I don’t think I can ever get away from writing.  It’s who I am.  But I don’t have to publish what I write.)   There were times when I stood in the shower for a long time and cried or needed to talk to other writers because I was down in the dumps. (Believe me, non-writers have no idea what it feels like to get hateful messages telling them how much their books suck.)  Two times, I almost unpublished everything I’d ever written.

Only you can decide if you want to stick with it.  Don’t let someone else tell you if you should or not.  This is your decision.  And if you want to quit for a while, there’s no reason why you can’t come back later and start again.  I don’t know what the answer is for you if you feel like taking a break or quitting.  But I can tell you that you can get thick skin.  Hurtful comments will always hurt.  They might not hurt as much.  But the pain does go away.  You do get stronger.  You will get over it faster.  The positive will come in.  Life is a cycle of ups and downs.  Nothing stays constant.

Conclusion

Being an author in an ever-changing publishing world can be rough, but if you focus on things you can control, then the path gets a lot smoother.  You can’t change what the trends are.  All you can do is keep writing, publishing, take everything in stride, and, if necessary, take a break to get your mind back into the game.

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photo credits:

image 1 (pen and paper): ID 2947054 © Richard Thomas | Dreamstime.com

image 2 (publish): ID 39234114 © Wavebreakmedia Ltd | Dreamstime.com

image 3 (stats): ID 18004323 © Daniel Draghici | Dreamstime.com

image 4 (think forward): ID 39709981 © Libux77 | Dreamstime.com

These pictures were purchased by Ruth Ann Nordin, one of the administrators of this blog.

Categories: Psychology of Writing & Publishing | 24 Comments

Tips For Gaining New Followers on Your Blog

If bloggers all share one common conceit, it’s that we’re hungry for followers. We like the idea that people are reading what we post on the Internet, and we’re always looking for ways to make sure that plenty of people discover our work and that they keep coming back. And while there’s no correlation between the number of followers and book sales (I wish there was, though), having followers can lead to some book sales on occasion.

Here are some tips I’ve found useful at one time or another for gaining followers on my own personal blog. Now, there’s no guarantee that any of these tips will be helpful for your blog. At best, a combination of these might be helpful, but that’s for you to find out. Like any technique in this business we try to increase sales and readers, it’s all trial, error, and learning from the past so we can learn from the future.

DO NOT ask for people to follow you! I know some people really want followers, but asking for other bloggers to follow you, especially in a comment on a blog post, sounds a little desperate, which can be a major turn off to some bloggers. There’s a better solution to get a blogger to check out your blog, especially if it’s a blogger you really would like to follow you.

Converse. If you read a post by a blogger or really like their blog and you would like them to follow you as well, then talk to them. Have a lengthy comment conversation where you go over issues or points made in the blog post. Engage them, and let the comments you leave speak for themselves. I’ve been drawn to certain loggers just by a single conversation we’ve had over comments on their or my blogs, and vice versa (I think. Maybe once or twice). If your comments really resonate with a blogger, then they may be drawn to look over your blog (if they’re not already reading your blog at the moment) and maybe then they’ll click the Follow button.

Also…

Blog often. I think a lot of us at first only blog when we feel we have something important to say. But that only increases the pressure to have something relevant to say, and may contribute to us blogging less, which may lead to readers not finding us because we have a small body of work. So instead try blogging more often. It doesn’t have to be big or groundbreaking or important. It can be a small revelation you had about a character, or how a day with your kids inspired you to write a story, or even the frustrations you have with your old computer and how you can’t wait to get a new one. I have a couple of friends who blog once a day every day, and they have a lot of followers, blogging on things going on in their lives, sharing excerpts from their WIPs, and the latest in STEM accomplishments and science fiction, to name but a few. You don’t have to write a post every day if you don’t want to, but writing often, even on the little things, can help people find you.

Blogging often also makes us better bloggers. We get a feel for it, like how we get a feel for fiction writing by reading and writing a lot. We learn how to write a compelling blog post from blogging often and from reading other blogs. And that brings me to my next point.

Always be on the lookout for an interesting blog. I love Freshly Pressed on WordPress, because I’ve read really interesting articles and bloggers through it (I actually discovered this blog through Freshly Pressed, by the way). One should always be on the lookout for an interesting blog or blog post, not just on Freshly Pressed but anywhere else you may run into them. And if a post really catches your attention, don’t just Like it, comment on it. Likes are nice, but comments really engage.

Tags! Tags help readers find your blog articles just as much as keywords do. So make sure you have a tag for most or all of the points covered in your blog post and maybe it’ll help people find your blog, or even get Freshly Pressed (in which case, I might become jealous of you).

Stay consistent to the main theme of your blog. Most of our blogs revolve around our writing careers, so we should keep our posts revolving around writing, our respective genres, the latest updates of our books, etc. Sure, it’s okay to maybe talk about something interesting in your life or maybe a political issue you feel passionate about, but don’t do it so much that you deviate from the main theme of your blog more often than you actually write about it. Otherwise you might lose followers who signed up to hear about you and your writing, rather than twenty posts about your job or church and then maybe one about your book, over and over again.

Use pictures. A WordPress administrator actually wrote a post a few years back and published it on Freshly Pressed. One of the tips he or she (I can’t remember which) gave was that one should try to use pictures, as they can spice up some blog posts, especially ones where it might seem to the reader as just one long list of text without end and they might lose focus.

Maybe I should use a picture in this article…

Remember your grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Just like readers hate horrible grammatical errors, typos, and things of that nature in the books they read, they get really annoyed with that in blog posts. So try and keep grammatical rules in mind, make sure you’re spelling that word correctly, and don’t use a semi-colon when a period or comma would do just fine.

Have fun with it. The main thing with blogging is that you have to enjoy it somewhat. If you treat it as a chore, it’ll come off that way in your blog posts and people might not want to read your work. But if you like it and get into it, that feeling might reveal itself in your blog posts.

 

Like I said, these techniques don’t always work for everyone. These are just ones I’ve felt have helped me. But in our line of work, where we experiment as we write and publish and market, you never know. These tips, as well as those from other writers, could prove extremely helpful in building your audience.

What sort of tips can you give other authors on building audiences and gaining followers?

Categories: Blogs & Websites, General Writing, Grammar, Marketing & Promoting, Social Networking, The Writer & Author, Writing as a Business | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 39 Comments

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