Writing Partnerships

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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Box that Giveaway

Ruth Ann Nordin and I did a Facebook and blog giveaway which started last week and ended Monday. Ruth organized it and made the whole affair come to life. I am so grateful for her expertise and the time she spent in this endeavor. There were awesome prizes, including the winning of a Kindle, a Western candle, a rectangular-treasure box in which to place small items, a bread-sized Western chest and the winner’s choice of e-books or paperbacks. However, what I learned was how much fun this type of activity brings.

People shared their appreciation in winning items, such as one winner who expressed her gratitude that the Kindle came right at the best time. Her mother was in need of one. She downloaded recipes and sweet romance books for her. Is that not wonderful?

The interaction with our book readers (Ruth’s more than mine) was also such a blessings. Some people shared personal information about their lives and your heart ached for their hardships, health problems and more. It gave us a chance to know our audience, and the whole giveaway provided us a way to express our appreciation of their support.

Ruth and I picked out the Western items back around February. We originally planned to do a giveaway sometime in March but with her and my schedule this never materialized. So I kept the items to await our next move. Since we were having a joint book signing of our anthology, Bride by Arrangement, May 10, Ruth made some cards about our next week’s giveaway, and we distributed those around the area and during our book signing.

It worked. The word got out through this and our blog postings. Ruth thought ahead while my brain still was in the clouds. This is why it is good to do giveaways together because what one does not think of the other does.

It also is a good idea (if you have a place to store them) to keep boxes. My husband is not pleased with my basement Christmas collection, but it sure comes in handy to BOX THAT GIVEAWAY. I have a box for the candle and books, the rectangular box and books and the bread-sized chest with books. Sometimes it is good to be a pack rat.

In addition, I keep those disgusting store plastic bags. They make great box stuffers to keep the items from breaking and rolling around. Do you hear that Paul? My husband. Who wonders if sometimes I have lost my mind.

Doing a giveaway together also allows you to eat lunch together after selecting your store giveaway items, keeps the expenses down and most of all it becomes a happy time instead of a chore.

At a previous Nebraska Writers Guild conference, one of the speakers said

giveaways are important. It gets your work out there to those who do not know you, and they could become one of your devoted fans.

Years ago, when my first book, Seasons of the Soul, was released, I hesitated to give my books away. One less book sold. But as the old adage states: You need to invest money to make money. This is the same with books. The more people read them; the more apt your book will produce future sales.

This has been a fun topic to discuss and if you choose to do this you will find it as rewarding as Ruth Ann Nordin and myself did. Box that giveaway and sent it out as we did. God bless.

Categories: Blogs & Websites, Book Promotion, General Writing, Marketing & Promoting, The Writer & Author, Writing as a Business, Writing Partnerships | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Be Prepared

The Boys Scouts’ motto is “be prepared.” But I failed several times this year. What about you?

With the recent release of Ruth Ann Nordin’s and my anthology, Bride by Arrangement, published by Parchment and Plume, I realized I was not prepared.

(The anthology includes two novellas – Ruth’s The Purchased Bride and mine She Came by Train. The story is where two women meet on a train traveling from Virginia to Lincoln, Neb., in 1876. They live separate lives but keep in contact. The Purchased Bride is a mail-order bride story. Who is this quiet man Ada is to marry? Janet’s character, Opal, becomes a governess of a widower’s two children. Two men vie for her affections. She Came by Train will she return that way?)

But writing She Came by Train took many late nights and wee morning hours to finish. Because of this, I did not update my social-media sites before the anthology was released in e-book. I failed. My only salvation is all will be completed before the paperback Feb. 1 release.

Thus think ahead. If you have a book coming out, update your social-media profiles BEFORE your book is released. Doing so, acquaints people with you, your book and its cover, such as our anthology.

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One good thing I learned from Ruth is to publish excerpts of your work-in-progress on your blog and post on social media. Readers become acquainted with your work, and it entices them to purchase the product once done. This is an excellent marketing tool.

Also, respond to blog comments. In this way, you show you value the commenter’s input. Remember online interactions build relationships as do  personal ones.

How else can you be prepared? Goals help. Some people do longterm goals, such as when a book will come out and more. I do a little of this but not as intense as others. I will sit down in January and incorporate realistic expectations in completing my Cameos and Carriages, a prequel novel to Lockets and Lanterns, which was released in 2012.

However, more valuable to me is my short-term list. What do I wish to accomplish this week? A weekly planner (another great Ruth tip) sits beside my computer.

The small calendar allows you to see a week at a glance. I jot down my daily entries in pencil. Using a pencil is a great idea since if the day goes haywire you can erase and move that entry to another day. My entires include when to submit stories, join or rejoin organizations, write blogs, post work-in-progress excerpts and re-examine certain e-mails to better digest their contents.

How do I know what e-mails to re-examine? I star them in my e-mail system. There are days, as everyone of you knows, where you do not have time to study a confusing or lengthy e-mail. By placing a star beside it, you can return to it on a date where you have more time. I do this also with Facebook birthdays. If I do not have time to wish a person a Happy Birthday, I can return to it a day later as long as it does not pass their birthdate.

Well, I think I have said enough. Remember to be prepared. However, also remind yourself that you will fail at this. You are human by the way. Have a great new year and may the Lord richly bless you in 2014.

Categories: Blogs & Websites, Book Covers, Book Promotion, General Writing, Marketing & Promoting, Social Networking, The Reader, The Writer & Author, Writing Partnerships | Tags: , , ,

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