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.

23 Comments

  1. ronfritsch says:

    Thank you, rami ungar the writer, for this post. You’ve enlightened me on a next step I’m interested in taking: audiobooks done professionally.

    1. Glad I could be of service. I hope it all goes well for you.

  2. M T McGuire says:

    Great post. I’ve had a fair few requests to read an audio version of my book, myself, from friends who know me. However, quality would be an issue. I’m not sure I could reach the benchmark to charge money for it, myself… and it’s a series: a 500,000 word (a bit over) monster… I think I might try doing a couple of chapters or doing the 5,000 word prequel, offer them on my website and see what happens.

    Cheers

    MTM

    1. Whatever you end up doing, good luck with it.

        1. You’re welcome. Always happy to be of service.

  3. MishaBurnett says:

    I’ve used ACX on my first two novels and I highly recommend it. I found an excellent voice actor right away. He was willing to work on royalties, and so I had my books produced with no out of pocket costs.

    One thing to keep in mind is that since Amazon owns Audible they have a deal that allows people who own the Kindle version to buy the Audiobook version at a steep discount. I think that’s a great cross-promotion.

    1. I didn’t know about that cross-promotion deal. Thanks for letting the rest of us know about it.

  4. I haven’t done this. I thought about it and asked a friend who makes half a million dollars a year on her ebook sales if she’d recommend it since her books are selling extremely well. She said it doesn’t pay out and advised me to avoid it. (She paid out the one-time fee.) Since talking to her, I’ve decided not to do it.

    But I can understand why authors would want to do it. I don’t think it’s a huge money maker, but sometimes it’s nice to have something as a keepsake.

    1. Yeah, it would be nice, if just to have, anyway.

      And who is this friends who makes that much money off her e-books? What tips does she have for the rest of us?

      1. I can’t say who she is, but one thing she’s really good at is knowing her market and writing specifically for it. In addition to this, she has a compelling voice and a magnetic personality, so people are drawn to her. I think that is a large part of it, and I don’t know if that’s something that can be effectively duplicated. She and I could tell the same story, but hers would have people holding their breath to find out what happens next, and I’ve tried to do the same, but it doesn’t have the same flare. So I don’t even know how to adequately describe that part of selling books.

        As for marketing (which is easier to duplicate), she experiments with a lot of things and sees what sticks. She likes Bookbub a lot. She does a lot of giveaways and sales to promote her books. At the end of her books, she lists her other books and links to her social sites and her new release list. She participates in blog tours, seeks out book reviewers,

        From what she’s said, newsletters are a waste of time. She also doesn’t think boxed sets of a single author’s series pays off. (So if you had a trilogy and put them into a boxed set, she said you’ll probably lose money on it.) Instead, she’s more in favor of different authors coming together to do a boxed set.

        I don’t do all the things she’s suggested. It would probably pay off, but I have to continually decide if I’d rather be writing or marketing, and most of the time, I’d rather be writing. Apparently, marketing does pay off. You can’t just sit back and write books all day. But it’s hard to know what the balance is between marketing and writing that is best for each author.

        1. ronfritsch says:

          Thank you for writing this, Ruth Ann Nordin. I think one of the advantages of self-publishing is that it let’s us, writers, decide how we wish to parcel out our time and effort on writing and marketing. I loved your comments about your writer friend. I suspect I’m not one of her readers, but she sounds good to me. I wish her, and you, the very best.

          1. I agree. My friend and I are very different in our approach to self-publishing. I want to write more than market. I do some marketing from time to time, but 90% of my efforts are in writing because that’s the part I enjoy the most. I think my friend loves marketing as much as writing. She seems to divide both out equally. Her method would drive me crazy. 🙂 I get drained if spend too much time marketing.

        2. I’ getting ideas just reading your explanation.

          1. I’m glad. 🙂 I hope they work for you!

  5. Elke Feuer says:

    I’ve been debating on whether to branch into audio books myself. I think I’ll hold off and explore my other ideas first. Thanks for this information.

    1. You’re welcome, and good luck with whatever route you decide to take.

  6. It’s important to be aware that ACX and Amazon have all control over the price of your audiobook. It’s not like self-publishing an ebook, where we get to set our own prices. If ACX/Amz decides to price your audiobook at $1.99 for customers who have bought the ebook–as they do for my audiobook–then you’ll be getting royalties on $1.99, not the full price of the audiobook (over $20 in my case).

    I’ve got five books out but only one in audiobook form. I did the stipend and royalty split program, so I didn’t pay anything out of pocket, but I’m making very little indeed from the audiobook, so if I’d paid up front for it I would be kicking myself for the money lost. That said, I think it’s advantageous to have an audiobook available if for no other reason than increased exposure, and I may eventually get around to starting the process for another of my gothic romances. It is a time commitment, though–searching for producers to approach, listening to auditions, corresponding with producers, and then listening to the book as it’s completed and taking detailed notes for changes.

    1. It is a time consuming process, isn’t it? That and there’s no guarantee there’ll be a pay-off might turn some authors off. Still, if you can devote the time, it’d be nice to have. Thanks for commenting.

  7. I’m just now chiming in, but I’ve been so busy, I haven’t had time to check all the blogs I’m following. LOL. Anyway, I want to mention I did do an audio of my book, Haunted Lake. I paid my narrator up front because I didn’t want to be tied to someone else for royalty sharing forever. Has it paid off? No. Am I sorry I did it? Not really, because I just wanted one of my books in audio. I listen to a LOT of audio books, and I just wanted it. I paid my narrator, I think, $360. I won’t do another one, at least for a long while. My son has thought about getting into narrating (he has the voice for it and can do lots of impersonations), so if he does, I’ll go with him.

    1. If your son goes into it, I wish him the best of luck. I wouldn’t mind an audiobook of one of my books someday, but I’d prefer it when there’s a bit more of a demand for it. And it’d probably be one of my stand-alone books.

      Well, we’ll see what the future holds.

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