Writing as a Business

Finding a Narrator on ACX

Many of you may remember the article I wrote on using Audiobook Creation Exchange, or ACX, which helps authors who want to put their books into audio form meet narrators and then get them onto Amazon. Well, about four months ago, after a lot of thought and getting feedback from some of my friends, family members and readers, I decided to get one of my own novels turned into an audio book. This past Saturday I finally found a narrator and finalized a deal with him.

Based on my experiences over the past four months, I thought I’d write another article for anyone thinking about using ACX to produce an audio book. This time, I’ve got tips on how to find your narrator.

First, don’t expect narrators to come looking for you. We like to imagine that the clamor to be the narrator of our audio book is like a bunch of knights taking on quests of courage and valor in order to win the hand of a princess, but in reality it’s more like you’re the princess’s father or mother and you’re writing various knights and princes to get them interested in your darling daughter. Believe me, even if narrators are proactive about finding projects to work on—and many of them are—there are new books being uploaded onto ACX every day, and yours can become quickly lost among the others.

The best thing an author on ACX can do—especially if your name isn’t JK Rowling, George RR Martin, or Harper Lee—is actively seek their own narrator. ACX has several thousand narrators, many with multiple audio samples for you to listen to and decide if someone is right for you. And you can narrow down your choices based on specific factors you’re looking for: age, gender, language, accent, and even what sort of payment they’re willing to take. When you find one you like, you can message them and invite them to submit an audition for your book if they’re interested.

Just keep in mind, really good narrators or ones who can do difficult accents can be hard to get sometimes. For my own novel, I needed someone who can do an American Urban accent, and when I first started searching the number of samples for that sort of accent was over three-hundred. Sounds like I could have my pick of the lot, right? Wrong! After eliminating narrators I didn’t like or I felt didn’t fit what I was looking for, I found that a lot of narrators who could do an American Urban accent were either busy or they charged for their services. In fact, one narrator told me after I told her I couldn’t afford to pay her that a lot of the best narrators or those who can do particular accents often charged for up-front payments and royalty shares.

That’s not to say you can’t find a great narrator who can do a difficult accent or voice who fits your budget or needs. I found one who is good at what he does and was willing to meet my needs. It just took a lot of work to find the guy.

You also have to sometimes deal with the fact that sometimes particular vocal styles, languages, or accents may not have a lot of people who can read them. I played around with the search tools a bit, and found that only twenty-two samples came up when I looked for samples of Japanese accents read by women or men attempting to sound like women. I wonder how much they charge.

Another thing to be aware of while searching for a narrator is that some books get stipends. This was something I learned while searching for my narrator. Twice in the first two weeks a book is available for auditions on ACX, it is evaluated to see if it is eligible for a stipend based on factors such as reviews, past print and e-book sales, and length. Especially length. The longer the better. If your book receives a stipend, then even if you can only afford to do the royalty share option, your narrator will receive some money after the completion of the project from Audible, ACX’s parent company. How much depends on how long the book is, usually $100 for every completed hour of audio and up to $2500. Books that are stipend eligible are marked by a green banner on the book’s profile page.

Now my book wasn’t marked stipend eligible, but it’s something to keep in mind. ACX actually recommends waiting during the first two weeks to see if your book is eligible for stipend. Though perhaps that may only be feasible for that five-hundred plus page novel that’s been selling like hotcakes you published a while back.

I have two final points to make. One, is to be aware that ACX sometimes loses messages sent through its system. This is something I learned ACX has a problem with. Messages sent to me or that I sent would sometimes disappear into the ether and I wouldn’t know if I wasn’t hearing back because the other person’s life has gotten crazy busy, or because once again the system gobbled the message up. Just a heads-up so you know when you wonder why the enthusiastic narrator you came across hasn’t gotten back to you after a week even though previous messages have always been returned in two or three days.

And finally, don’t stress out if you don’t have immediate success finding someone. It took me from early August to late November to find my narrator, and I spent quite a lot of lunch breaks looking through ACX’s databases. It can be grating if you don’t hear back from someone, or if someone you thought was a good match doesn’t pan out, or nobody you come across you like. That’s just sometimes how things work out. If you need to, take a break and worry about other stuff. When you come back, you may find things will go quite well for you.

What tips do you have for finding a narrator on ACX? How did you find yours?

Categories: Audio Books, Book Promotion, Business Plan, Psychology of Writing & Publishing, Writing as a Business | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

So You Want to Publish a Book (Post 2): Realistic Expectations With Money


I wasn’t going to make this the second post in this series, but since someone mentioned the subject of money in the last post, I thought it might be a good idea to write this now.  The basic argument, of course, is that producing a good quality book (attractive cover, good editing, compelling story) mixed with good promotional techniques should equate to money.

realistic expectations for blog post on writing and finances

Most authors I talk to want to make writing their career.  There’s nothing wrong from wanting this as a goal, but statistically speaking, most authors don’t achieve this.  Yes, there are authors making good money.  I won’t lie.  But from the studies I’ve seen, those making an actual living off their books is way less than those who aren’t.   Most authors won’t do it.

So when you go into this, keep in mind you might never make a living at writing.  Be prepared for this possibility.  Because if you aren’t prepared, you run the risk of becoming bitter or depressed.  There’s no faster way to kill your passion for writing than to stress over your lack of sales.

The key is to be content with where you’re at all the time.  This is easier said than done, but if you keep your focus in the right place, you can do it.  Sometimes I have to sit down and count your blessings.  No matter how bad things are, there is always something you can be grateful for.  Having a thankful heart goes a long way to weathering out the storms of the writing business (and in other areas of life).  Like I said, it’s not always easy to do this, but it’s important.

Yes, the genre you write in can impact how much you sell, but it won’t guarantee you can make a living at it.

Yes, engaging with others online helps for exposure, but it won’t guarantee you’ll sell books.

You can do all the things a successful author did and not see the same sales they do.

There are no guarantees in this thing.  Too many people go into writing with the idea it’s an easy way to make money.  This is not a get-rich-quick scheme.  Don’t go into this thinking as soon as you publish your first book, you’ll be a big seller.  Keep your expectations in check.  Be realistic about it.

There are things you can do to better your chances, but that’s all you can do: better your chances.  That part is in your control.  You can write a compelling story.  You can get a good cover and make sure it’s properly formatted and edited.  You can join social networks and engage with others.  (Make sure you do NOT spam.  Nothing turns people off faster than the car salesman approach to selling a book.)  You can create email lists, do giveaways, do sales, run ads, and even put a book at free to spur on sales of your backlist.

But none of these are the gold ticket to the easy life. Hard work and dedication does not equal earning a living.

So my advice (for what it’s worth) is to do the following:

Keep your day job (or have someone in your household who makes the money).

Get out of debt.  (I cannot emphasize this enough.)

Build up a savings account of about six months of expenses.  (Things break down at the worst possible times.)

Then, after doing this, if you start to gain momentum in sales and see a predictable income stream coming in, go ahead and quit the job.  Your lowest selling month has to be the one that will give you all month’s expenses, including tax payments.

You’ll be paying taxes on your income from book sales, and you’ll be taxed at the self-employment rate here in the US (meaning 40% for federal taxes and state taxes varying).  So you’ll need to live off of only 60% of that income from book sales, not the full 100%.  If you have state income tax, you might have to live off less than that 60%.  (If your state doesn’t have state income tax, count your blessings.)  The IRS doesn’t care if you had a bad sales month or not.  They want their piece of your pie.  If you don’t pay on time, you will get penalized for it.

I spent more time discussing taxes than the other tactics to protect yourself, but when I started out early on, my tax advisor told me I had to pay 15% in federal taxes.  Imagine my surprise at tax time when it was upped to 40%.  I’ll never forget having to sell the brand new truck to make that tax payment.  After that, I spent a year and a half behind on tax payments and paying penalties.  So this is why I want to shout out an extra warning to everyone who is thinking of doing this as a business.  Forewarned is forearmed.  I don’t want the same thing to happen to anyone else.

If you live in a state that allows you to create an LLC with an S-Corp election, you can get some buffer on the taxes.  It’s not a huge amount, but every little bit helps.  Not all states will let you do this, so check with a lawyer or accountant familiar with business law in your state.  An S-Corp does mean payroll, but you can hire out for that service.


So, in summary, before you quit your day job (if you have one), make sure you have buffers in place to protect you from the nature of sales.  Sales go up and down, and they can do it drastically.  You want to be smart about this.  But keep in mind, you might never make enough to sustain a livable wage off your books.  Yes, it possible, but statistically speaking, the odds aren’t in your favor.

Categories: Psychology of Writing & Publishing, Writing as a Business | Tags: ,

When Should You Release a New Book?

Recently I wondered what the best time to release a new book was. Obviously you would want to release something scary prior to Halloween, something romantic right before Valentine’s Day, something full of snow and holiday cheer right before Christmas, etc. But what about the rest of the year? Are there days that are lucky for self-published authors? Is there a time of year that can help you get more copies into people’s hands? I was determined to find out.

Now despite my best efforts, I only have three books out at the moment (though I am working on getting more out soon), so I couldn’t rely on just my own experience ot answer this question. So when in doubt, I do what I normally do: ask the writing groups I belong to on Facebook. The answers I got were quite informative.

Of course there were the tips to release seasonal stuff around their seasons, but there was a ton more advice that I found quite interesting. One author’s observations was that people prefer introspective works in the summer (makes sense, seeing as I just read Go Set a Watchman) and mysteries and thrillers in the fall (that is when JK Rowling is releasing her next detective novel). Another author liked to follow the movie release schedule, releasing books whenever there’s a movie coming out in the same genre as his book. He also felt that people prefer laughter in winter months, “light and airy reads” in spring, adventure stories in the summer, and scary stuff in autumn.

Probably the most helpful advice I got from a woman who had recently read an article on the subject (which I wish I had a link for, but so far I have been unable to find the article). According to the article she read, the best time of year to run a promotion was the two weeks after Christmas. According to her, something about a free or discounted book after the holidays gets people buying, and that allowed her to retire from her day job and pick up writing full-time (which is something I’ll have to try).

Some other tips she gave included:

  • The best days of the month to release a book is between the 7th and the 14th.
  • If you’re self-publishing, don’t release your book on a Tuesday, because most big publishing houses release on Tuesday and you’d be in direct competition with them (wish I’d known that when I released my second novel). Instead, try to release on the weekend if you want good sales. Those days seem to be good days to publish for independent authors.
  • And if you’re trying to hit some bestseller list, release on Sunday or Monday. According to industry data, that’s a good time for self-published authors.

The one thing that all these authors seemed to agree on is that there was never a bad time to release a book. It was never directly stated in any of the comments I got, but it seemed to be implied. Sure, apparently Tuesdays might not be the wisest day of the week to release a book, but other than that there aren’t any days or times of the year when authors will doom themselves publishing a book.

And you know, I can’t help but see that as a good thing. Just means there are plenty of opportunities for authors to publish their books and maybe pull out a bestseller from them. And we all want that for our books, don’t we?

Does the advice here match your own experiences with publishing?

What advice do you have on the best time to publish a book?

Categories: Book Promotion, Business Plan, Digital & ePublishing, Marketing & Promoting, Psychology of Writing & Publishing, Publishing Trends, Schedules & Routines, Self-Publishing, Writing as a Business | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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