Josh Kaufman’s The Personal MBA is one of the best selling titles to come through our DIY pathway (meaning it was uploaded via ACX, yet was not recorded and produced by a producer using the ACX marketplace). But it wasn’t all smooth sailing for Josh and company. Today, Josh recounts for us the process of bringing his words to your ears.
I’m new to recording audiobooks, so I did a ton of research in order to create a great-sounding (and budget-friendly) mini-recording studio. After consulting the recording equipment guides on ACX.com, reading Dan Benjamin’s excellent podcasting equipment guide and many gear reviews on B & H’s website and Amazon, I settled on some great-sounding and not too expensive equipment. Everything fits on a basic Ikea Frederik desk, which I have set up as a standing desk.
I set up my recording gear in a spare room in my home office. My initial setup was pretty ugly: the room wasn’t huge, but it wasn’t tiny, and I was getting very distracting reflections off the high slanted ceiling. After doing some research on recording forums, I ended up treating the room by hanging about 5 yards of acoustic fabric off of a few large metal stands, then placing a three-sided portable recording booth manufactured by RealTraps behind the mic. I also purchased a large rug and a fabric wall hanging to absorb more sound, since the office had hardwood floors. It wasn’t pretty, but it did the trick.
The “Video Lessons and Resources” page on ACX was very helpful in that I learned basic recording techniques, and how to use SoundStudio myself. It’s a simple piece of software, and not difficult to learn. In terms of narration technique, I learned a lot from my wife, Kelsey, who trained as a professional actress and has done a lot of voiceover work over the years. She taught me a lot of little professional voiceover tricks, like ending sentences in the middle of paragraphs with an “up” inflection to make it easier for the listener to follow, and drinking apple juice while recording: the PH of apple juice noticeably reduces mouth noises. Who knew?
I put together my studio and was two chapters into recording PERSONAL MBA when disaster stuck. Two major back-to-back wildfires made my office unavailable for recording, and since the area was under evacuation orders, I couldn’t retrieve my equipment. (If you remember the “High Park Fire” in Colorado that made international headlines this summer, my office was in the middle of it.) I decided to team up with Aric Johnson of A.K. Studios in Laporte, Colorado to finish the recording. Aric was ready to edit and master the book when I finished recording, but he also has a great professional recording studio a few miles north of Fort Collins. Together, we completed recording PERSONAL MBA over a period of two weeks. Aric then edited the recording to ACX standards and mastered the final recording, now available on Audible.com.
ACX is the best audio publishing platform I can imagine for authors: it’s simple, straightforward, and the royalty structure is killer. Audible, Amazon, and iTunes represent the vast majority of audiobook sales, and ACX is the easiest and most straightforward way to deliver an audiobook to those markets. ACX’s royalties start at 50% (vs. the “industry standard” of 10-15%), and can increase to up to 90% if you sell a lot of copies. This royalty structure requires an exclusive agreement with ACX, but since most audio listeners purchase downloads online instead of hard copies, exclusivity is a non-issue in my opinion.
In addition, ACX calculates and pays royalties every month, not every six months. I can see exactly how many copies I’m selling every day, which makes it much easier to tell what sorts of marketing and promotion techniques work the best. My audiobook is one of my core products, and I love that ACX’s structure rewards ongoing promotion.
That’s why I turned down a substantial audiobook contract from a major traditional audio publisher in favor of publishing with ACX. With ACX, I can set my own timelines, maintain creative control over the product, get better data, get paid faster, and keep more of what I sell. Compared to a standard audio contract, publishing my audiobook through ACX was a no-brainer. I’m thrilled with the results, and I intend to publish every book I write in audio via ACX.
Watch out for part two of Josh’s story in the coming weeks.