These past few months, I’ve been having a blast producing audiobooks for my novels. I’d been thinking about doing it for a while and can’t remember exactly what the catalyst was now, but I currently have two books available with two more in production, and plans for at least two more by summer. Since I’ve been fielding questions from fellow writers on the process, I thought I’d share some of the tips I’ve learned along the way. (At the end of this post I’m giving away 3 copies each of both audiobooks, so if you’re interested, make sure you stick around—you may just win 🙂 )
Question #1: Which company did you use to make the audiobook?
I used ACX.com, a subsidiary of Amazon and couldn’t be happier with the process. It’s free except for the time commitment and pretty darned easy. The hardest part for me was picking the narrators from all the auditions. My only caveat would be that if you’re looking for that radio mystery theater kind of recording with sound effects and different narrators acting out the voices, you’ll need to use another company. ACX is an exchange that works to bring together narrators and writers to produce straight audiobooks. Usually, this means one narrator per project. On occasion you’ll luck out and get a husband and wife team working together, but one narrator is the norm.
Question #2: How long does it take?
Depends on the narrator. Usually, it will be anywhere from 3-8 weeks. For Serial Date ACX attached a stipend of $100 per finished hour payable by ACX to the narrator, with the requirement that it be completed within 60 days. My narrator, Jim Kilavey, rock and rolled and had it done within 3 weeks. He’d produced several audiobooks previously, so knew the process. Once the book is completed and you approve the recording, ACX does their thing (engineering, quality control). It takes them about 3 weeks to approve the book. Once approved, the book will be available for sale on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes .
Question #3: How do you choose a narrator?
First, you need to provide an audition script, which means you upload an excerpt of your book for narrators to read. Try not to upload too long of an excerpt—five minutes worth is plenty. I made that mistake with Bad Traffick by uploading much too long of an excerpt (didn’t realize it at the time). Even a 5-minute audition requires a lot of work, so keep that in mind. It’s easy to re-upload an edited excerpt, though. And don’t just use the first couple of pages of the book. Find an excerpt that has dialogue between main characters. If you have a lot of action scenes like my books do, include something along those lines, so the producer/narrator can show you how they’ll handle it.
Once you’ve decided on an excerpt and made the book available on ACX, you can search producer (a.k.a. narrator) clips to find the perfect voice and send them a message asking them to audition, or a producer can upload an audition during the audition period if they’re interested in working on the book. If ACX attaches a stipend, you’ll probably receive several auditions. This makes it a bit harder to choose, since many of the producers on ACX are professional voice-over artists. Either way, it’s fun and kinda surreal to hear different interpretations of your work.
Question #4: What if you don’t like the producer’s work? Can you change narrators?
This is where you’ll need to be careful. The contract has a kill-fee stipulation once you’ve approved the first 15 minutes. If you’re doing a royalty-share (more on that later) the kill-fee is $500 plus any expenses incurred by the narrator up to that point. If you’re doing a one-time payment to the producer, then it’s something like 75% of the total the narrator/producer would have received for the completed work. Be sure to work with your producer and make sure you’re completely satisfied with their narration before you approve that first 15 minutes. The producers I’ve used have been easy to work with, so any glitches or mistakes were easily rectified. If either of you don’t like the way it’s playing out (before you approve the first 15), then you’re both free to stop production with no penalties. If that happens, you’ll need to open up production for auditions again.
Question #5: What does it cost? How do you get paid?
I decided to go with the escalating royalty-share (50% to ACX, 25% to me, 25% to the producer for the first 500 units sold. Royalties increase after that). That way, there were no upfront costs other than my time. You can also pay the producer an hourly rate which is typically between $100-200 per finished hour (pay-for-production) and allows you a 50% royalty. For example, if I’d chosen the hourly rate, The Kate Jones Thriller Series, Vol. 1 would have cost between $860-1720 (8.6 hours x $100 or $200). Another reason I did the royalty-share is so that the producer/narrator has an incentive to promote the audiobook.
As for payment, ACX pays monthly via either check or direct deposit (US banks). If you opt for direct deposit, the breakdown of titles sold shows up in the mail a couple of weeks later. And, you don’t have to wait 60 days for payments like you do with Amazon.
All in all, it’s been a lot of fun to hear my books read back to me by professionals. I’ve gotten emails from readers who prefer audiobooks and are happy to be able to listen to Kate and Leine’s stories while commuting to work, which is the best, most satisfying reason to do this. Another obvious reason is that audiobooks are an added revenue stream in addition to print and e-Books. I’m kicking myself that I didn’t do this when I first heard about ACX.
I’m happy to answer questions, so feel free to leave a comment and I’ll do my best. If I can’t answer it, then at least I can point you in the right direction.
Now, for anyone who would like a chance to win a free audiobook, there are two ways to win:
1.) sign up for my free newsletter (I send out maybe 3 newsletters a year, so no spam, I promise) to be automatically entered to win, or,
2.) leave a comment below with your email address and you’ll be entered that way. You can do both and get your name in the ‘hat’ twice, if you’d like 🙂
I’m giving away 3 copies each of Serial Date and The Kate Jones Thriller Series, Vol. 1 this Saturday (February 8) and will contact the lucky winners by email. Good luck!
***UPDATE: We have winners! I’ve emailed instructions for a free download to djsgcampbell, nadams1291, wegmglan, lizzy79, ransue92, and girltoyjaz! Thanks for playing, everybody 🙂