Author Archives: mattaudible

Bob Mayer on “the power of ACX”

For almost a year now, bestselling author Bob Mayer has been using ACX to turn his many books into audiobooks. We’re thrilled to have such a prolific and self-empowered author on board, and we’re delighted that he’s agreed to share a few thoughts on ACX and how the service has helped him, below. Enjoy!

Whenever I talk to other authors, I always ask them if they know about ACX and I am often surprised when they indicate they haven’t.  In many ways, I believe the ACX system is a template for success in the digital age, matching content creators with distributors, and then bringing the product to market in a seamless and efficient manner.

My first title on Audible via ACX went live in December 2011.  Initially, as I learned how to use ACX, I moved slowly, with only one other title going live that month.  Since then, though, as I saw sales accelerate, I began putting multiple titles into production.  Just recently, my 27th title went live.   I have three in production and four more queued up for production.  The reason they’re in line is I’ve found talent I like working with as I’ve gained experience on ACX, and we message back and forth to develop our own production schedule.  This means I am in complete control of the process, working with the narrator, who coordinates his schedule with my needs.

In essence, ACX allows me complete control of my “audio empire.”  Sales accrue daily, and to me this is an essential part of the “long tail” that is the core of success for an author.  The other critical component is more content.  As I bring out new titles, I slide them into the production schedule.

What’s even more interesting is that when I compare my ACX sales to my royalty statements from a few of my books that are still controlled by a Big 6 publisher, there is no comparison in sales, just as my indie eBook sales outsell my Big 6 eBook sales. For perspective, one day of my own sales beats six months of legacy sales.

I recently received an email from Bella Andre expressing her happiness at her first ACX production going live and the resulting sales figures.  I told Bella about ACX at Digital Book World back in January and she’s quickly jumped on board.  I’ve even seen some of the narrators I work with promoting my books on social media.

My father is legally blind, and as a World War II vet, has access to an antiquated audiobook program (using cassettes) from the VA.  When I brought him home to visit I immediately bought him a Kindle, set him up with an Audible account, and brought up a book I’d had published after he could no longer read.  I had it produced earlier this year via ACX, an 18 hour epic—Duty, Honor, Country:  A Novel of West Point & The Civil War.  Two days later my father finished it and we spent hours talking about it.  Since then he’s been devouring books from Audible.

This is the power of ACX.  I believe the ACX program is an essential ingredient in the success of any indie author.

You asked, we listened! Announcing new enhancements to ACX title profiles

If you’re an ACX producer, we have great news for you. We’re very excited to announce new enhancements to ACX title profiles that should really help you identify audition-worthy titles and choose among them. Each title profile now displays the date the title was originally published, the title’s publisher, its Amazon sales rank and average customer rating, and also when the title was originally posted to ACX. We hope that this increased visibility allows producers to make more informed decisions about which titles to audition for, and we also encourage rights holders to reference their newly enhanced title profile pages when looking to attract talent. And yes, this paves the way for better search filters in the future.

These new improvements are a direct response to a recent survey we sent to the ACX producer community. We heard back loudly and clearly that producers wanted to know more about ACX titles. You wanted it, you got it!

So take a cruise around ACX’s title search page and tell us what you think.  And keep those suggestions coming.  We are always looking to improve the ACX website.

New Kindle and Audible features are good news for ACX users

This afternoon Amazon announced two innovations that make now, more than ever, the time to get your books into audio (if you haven’t already!) With Whispersync for Voice, Kindle owners can switch seamlessly between reading a Kindle book and listening to the corresponding audiobook from Audible across devices without losing their place. Immersion Reading, available on the just unveiled Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD, allows customers to listen to an audiobook as the text of the corresponding ebook is highlighted on the screen. If you’ve used ACX to produce a digital audiobook version of your book (and your book is on Kindle) what this news means is that readers may now be able to experience your book using Whispersync for Voice, and also that your book may be eligible to become Immersion Reading-enabled. If your book is not yet available in audio, act now to expand your reach and to reach more readers in these exciting new ways.

To learn more about Immersion Reading, go here. To learn more about Whispersync for Voice, see here. Check out the press release here.

Marta Acosta’s ACX update…with zombies!

In May, we posted the ACX success story of acclaimed paranormal romantic comedy writer Marta Acosta. See below for an entertaining update from Marta herself!

“I had a dream about a zombie attack last night,” I told Christina Harcar, director of Audible Author Services.

“There’s a lot of that going around,” she said.

I’d emailed Audible Author Services to ask about ACX royalty formulas, and I quickly received a phone call from Christina. She explained (in both Geek and English) how they were calculated, and told me about the additional bonuses that could be earned.

Like most authors, I’d signed away my audio rights when I sold my book, but my publisher had never been interested in doing anything with those rights. I really thought that my Casa Dracula paranormal romantic comedies would be fun to listen to, but even if I had the rights, I couldn’t afford to produce them in audio.

Then, whammo! Technology gave a giant kick to the backside of the publishing world and Audible.com burst onto the scene, selling digital recordings instead of costly-to-produce CDs. Last year, Audible developed ACX, a marketplace through which authors could connect with narrators and easily and inexpensively create audiobooks. One of my favorite authors, Neil Gaiman, was using ACX and he encouraged other authors to join in.

I managed to get my Casa Dracula series audio rights reverted from my publisher by being persistent (okay, annoying). Paying a narrator an hourly fee was out of my budget, so I chose to offer my projects at ACX as “royalty share,” whereby I split the royalties with the narrator. I quickly received auditions from talented professional narrators. The actress and voice-over performer I hired on ACX, Patricia Fructuoso, has done an amazing job voicing my quirky, sexy character, Milagro, her eccentric pals, and the snobby vampires who wish she’d just go away or die (preferably the latter).

My only outlay was hiring an illustrator to create cover art. Now, only a few months after I learned about ACX, my Casa Dracula audiobooks are available at Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. I can check daily sales stats of my books at ACX, and I’m steadily earning income at a great royalty rate. A wasted asset has become a revenue stream, and my stories are reaching a new audience of book lovers.

My new favorite break activity is to go to Audible and listen to free audio samples. I was browsing for other funny paranormals/urban fantasies and discovered hysterical samples of Diana Rowland’s White Trash Zombie series.

That’s how I know exactly what inspired my nightmare about an attack by brain-eating zombies. And if Christina thinks that there are a lot of zombie nightmares going around, I suspect I’m not the only one listening.

Hugh Howey turns to fans for help casting Wool on ACX

Hugh Howey’s “Wool”, the self-published novel that’s made him the bestselling indie science-fiction author of 2012 and currently the bestselling sci-fi author on Amazon, is finally available in audio today. We’re thrilled Howey used ACX to bring Wool into audio, and just as happy that he’s agreed to share some of his thoughts on the experience, including how he sent his fans to the ACX website to help pick the narrator, below.

One of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made was choosing to self-publish. I had already published one novel, my first, with a small press, which meant someone else shouldered all the costs, provided editing, layout, and marketing support, and handled the distribution and bookkeeping. All I had to do was write, promote, and be a part of the editing process. Leaving that behind was mortifying.

I had a contract in hand for my second book, but I agonized over what to do. Part of me wanted to see if I could do it on my own. A much larger part of me was terrified to even try. But with some encouragement from family and friends, I began learning the skills necessary to turn stories into finished works and deliver them to readers on my own.

From the very start of this journey, I’ve had people asking me about audiobooks. I heard from friends and family who said it was the only way they found the time to read anymore. But what did I know about producing an audiobook? Nothing. Worse: it required talents I knew I didn’t possess.

And then I read about ACX on a writing forum. Audible, which my wife uses to download all of her books, offered the equivalent of Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing service through ACX, which allowed any author to upload a manuscript, find a voice actor, and produce the audiobook themselves.

Having grown fond of giving my fans input on everything from cover art to what I should write next, I decided it would be best to allow them in on the process. Using ACX’s Narrators for Hire page, we began sampling voices and discussing their various merits on my website. A consensus grew on some things (it needed to be a female narrator) while fans waged debates over whose voice was best. Once we narrowed down the candidates, I reached out to the top picks and asked for auditions.

We received several that blew us away. I’ll never forget holding my wife’s hands while I listened to professionals reading words that I had written. It felt surreal. These pros breathed new life into this book I’d read a dozen times. It was like sitting around a radio in the age before TV. We were being told a story.

The audition that impressed the most was Minnie Goode’s. Once we agreed to work together, Minnie began recording and sending me samples. She took my feedback and produced the perfect audio version of Wool. She even filmed a behind-the-scenes look at what was involved, inviting my readers into her booth in much the way that I had invited them into the production.

ACX made self-publishing an audiobook as easy and painless as Kindle does for e-books. And now that we’re done and the recording is on its way to listeners, I feel that same rush that came from wrapping up my first novel. Once again, it’s satisfying to have self-published, to have done it the indie way. But it was even better having done it with help, with Minnie leading the charge when it came to supplying the talent, and with fans helping me discover her in the first place.

Greg Fitzsimmons on using ACX to distribute your audiobook

Do you already have a finished audiobook, and simply need an easy and effective way to sell it? ACX can help you get your unabridged audiobook into top retail channels. Bestselling author and radio and TV personality Greg Fitzsimmons came to ACX to do just this–and has since enjoyed a significant revenue stream from sales of his audiobook. We asked him to share his thoughts on the process, and he was kind enough to do so, below. Thanks, Greg!

When I finally finished writing my book, I vowed I would never write another book again.  That one was it.  I’m glad I did it and I’m very proud of how it turned out, but writing it almost put me in a mental institution.  Sitting alone in a room for months and months made me feel like Jack Nicholson in “The Shining.”

When I decided to turn Dear Mrs. Fitzsimmons into an audiobook, I feared it would also be a nightmare.  It actually turned out to be one of the easiest things I’ve ever done.  Fortunately a friend has a recording studio and in about 3 days I had read my entire book into a computer.  I became so sick of hearing my own voice that I wanted to learn sign language.  I realized why people find me annoying.

I also expected that getting the recording of the book sold would make my remaining 37 hairs fall out.  I initially put the book up for sale on my website.  I have a radio show and a podcast and promoted the book heavily.  After 3 weeks I had sold about 9 books.  I started looking around for a better way.  I had already written the book, recorded the book, edited the book and now I needed a way to get people to find it and buy it.  Since I had been a member of Audible.com for 3 years, I gave them a call and learned how I could distribute my audiobook through ACX. I found the ACX team to be very personable and excited about my project.

They guided me through putting together my artwork, the specs for my recording and all the other details.  The fact that ACX sales channels included not only Audible but Amazon and iTunes also saved me a lot of extra steps.  Once Audible listed my book they really looked after it.  They featured the title and I got a lot of sales right out of the gate.  I felt like Audible positioned the book in a way that would maximize its exposure and get people talking about it, and it rose up in the sales charts, which obviously always begets more sales.

I started getting checks for the royalties and they were substantial.  It motivated me to continue placing the link on my website and driving people to Audible.com so I could keep the sales going strong.

The ACX program felt like a partnership right from the beginning and it very much felt like my success got them excited and like we were doing something new together.  I highly recommend selling your audiobook this way.  That is assuming of course that you were dumb enough to write a book in the first place.

Could you be the next Single Girl?

If you follow ACX on Facebook and Twitter, you’ve no doubt caught wind of our latest excitement–an open audition we’re currently holding for the first-ever audiobook of the legendary Helen Gurley Brown‘s landmark work Sex and the Single Girl. We’ve already gotten some nice press coverage here, here and here.

To audition, submit a recording of Sex and the Single Girl’s introduction at www.acx.com/singlegirl. Audible will produce the audiobook immediately upon announcing the chosen actor. (And don’t forget–actors who visit ACX to submit auditions will find over 1,000 additional titles they can audition for.) Good luck, and please spread the word!

To read the official press release in its entirety, see here.

How Crossroad Press is using ACX to expand its audio catalog

Digital publisher Crossroad Press has embraced ACX since our launch, and has now successfully grown its once-tiny audio catalog to over 150 titles, with many more to come. Check out the below post by Crossroad Press publisher David Niall Wilson, on how the publisher’s growth in audio has given its authors greater visibility. Authors and publishers, take note!

Crossroad Press started out in audio as a very, very small company doing one or two titles.  We had a sort of “ahead of the curve” business model whereby the author, publisher, and narrator would share in both the risk, and the profit, involved in producing and marketing the audiobook.  Needless to say, I was a little too idealistic, and way too optimistic, but that’s how ideas become something more.  You poke and prod them and figure them out, and that’s what we were in the midst of doing when Audible developed its ACX system, and changed our world.

ACX offers a very fair royalty percentage to publishers, authors, and narrators who use the system.  This is key in a royalty share situation, because when you’re not paid up front – as has been the practice in traditional publishing and traditional narration work – the compensation has to be there at the tail end of the job.  ACX not only offers a good chunk of money through its royalty system, but it’s tiered, so if you can get your book to take off and do well, your percentage increases.

I think it’s likely that most readers and authors have little or no idea how much work goes into creating audiobook files.  My colleague, and (in my opinion) a world-class narrator and sound engineer in his own right, Jeffrey Kafer, once told me he estimates that it takes about three hours to produce one finished hour of audio.  The files have to be recorded, and then they have to be carefully edited for errors, spurious sound, etc.  This costs time and, if someone else does it for you, money.

Enter ACX again, with the various iterations of its stipend program.  Under this program, narrators and producers choose eligible titles and receive up-front compensation for each finished hour – while still keeping their royalty share. This allowed us, at Crossroad Press, to work with some truly amazing voice talent that would have otherwise been well beyond our means.  And that built on our business by allowing us to add another dimension to our authors’ visibility.  Sales on Audible can lead to readers and listeners finding new authors, characters, series, and can bridge gaps between literary “worlds.”  For Crossroad Press, it’s nice to open a book’s page on Amazon.com and find all of the editions available, in all formats, and with all formats listing Crossroad Press as the publisher.

Now we have begun, slowly and tentatively, to pay for some of our narration up front, and we have now expanded from our tiny audio catalog to over 150 titles.  None of this would have been possible without the ACX system, the producers and narrators participating in that system, and the behind-the scenes help we’ve received along the way from the staff and technical support personnel at ACX.  I’m very much looking forward to the coming months to see what ACX will offer next.

We have over 100 books available for audition at any given time, with another hundred ready to move into production, and new titles going live almost daily.  It’s a brave new world out there, and thanks to ACX, we’re happy to have become a serious part of it.

He writes, she narrates: Engaged couple produces book on ACX

We loved the story of James Rapson and Arika Escalona‘s collaboration on ACX, which they were kind enough to allow us to share below. Rapson, the co-author of Anxious to Please: 7 Revolutionary Practices for the Chronically Nice, teamed up with fiancee and ace narrator Escalona to produce the audio version of his book on ACX. But if you’re an author who’s not fortunate enough to live with a professional actor who can narrate your book for you, please check out ACX for thousands of talented pros who are eager to bring your book to life. And enjoy Rapson’s post, printed below:

Authors are often Lone Ranger types – conceiving, developing, writing, editing, promoting, and enduring the entire process with very little contact or input from others. For many writers, this is precisely the appeal. Their ideal environment might be someone else’s idea  of solitary confinement, were it not for a glass of red wine and the ubiquitous elder cat luxuriating atop the printer.

I am not, however, like most writers. I thrive on collaboration, and am arguably the luckiest scribe on earth, since I have two of the best cohorts imaginable. My longest and dearest friend, Craig English, and I have shared a series of epic adventures since we were 8 years old. Craig also happens to be a highly gifted writer, who possesses keen insight and a clever wit. Over a period of 3 years we crafted our book, Anxious to Please: 7 Revolutionary Practices for the Chronically Nice, and in 2006 it was published nationally. To date it has sold more than 20,000 copies and has been translated into Spanish and Greek, far exceeding all our expectations.

While very pleased with this success, our publisher had no vision for an audiobook. We regularly received requests for an audio version of Anxious to Please, but had neither the time nor the money to consider financing a studio-based project ourselves.

This is where my other partner comes in. My fiancée, Arika Escalona, is an immensely talented woman who has distinguished herself the audiobook field, having narrated and/or produced more than fifty books in virtually every genre imaginable. Last fall she became an Audible Approved Producer and began using ACX as a new platform for creating audiobooks.

From the start, Arika was delighted with many of the innovative features of ACX. She is very independent and entrepreneurially-minded, so the ACX model seemed like an ideal fit in many ways. At first, however, she was hesitant about the idea of doing books using the royalty-share model. It seemed like a huge risk for the narrator, who typically invests weeks of painstaking effort on a full-length book and has no guarantee of getting anything financial in return for her efforts.

However, ACX offered producers a number of incentives to try out the royalty model, including stipends, bonuses, and “bounty payments.” Arika eventually decided these incentives were was too tempting to pass up, and accepted a handful of books using the royalty-share model. She has been pleasantly surprised to discover that some of them did sell. In fact, some sold quite a lot – since December, sales for her top-selling books have ranged from 500 copies to over 2,000. The royalties and the hundreds of “bounty payments” have combined for some very nice monthly checks from ACX.

Of course, there have been some low-sellers as well. But Arika has found that the benefits , professionally and financially, far outweigh the risks of the ACX royalty-share model. Of course, it may be impossible to separate factors such as talent and hard work, the explosive growth of the audiobook industry, and sheer luck. But Arika’s experience with ACX eventually persuaded us that we should produce Anxious to Please ourselves using ACX.

Craig and I began with the assumption that the narrator would need to be male, thinking that the writing of two guys might sound wrong in the voice of a female narrator. Though we received a couple of very solid auditions from men, we found that we far preferred Arika’s tone and approach. Once I listened to the first few chapters, I knew we had made the right choice.

The production process turned out to be much simpler and faster than I had imagined. It probably helped a little that Arika records in a studio in our home, and that we had the advantage of being able to discuss the project over dinner each night. Even so, I think much of our communication and coordination could as easily have been done online.

Arika let me know when she completed a chapter, at which point I would review it and send her a list of corrections. We moved forward until the entire book was buffed and polished and ready for release.

Craig and I are not internet celebrities with massive numbers of online followers; however, we do have a modest email list of several hundred people who have asked us to keep them informed about developments related to Anxious to Please. I decided to send an early email announcing that an audiobook was in the works, and then a second announcement once the audiobook hit the market. These emails were accompanied by similar posts on Facebook and Twitter.

Whether that social media campaign was effective is hard to tell, but something has worked. In the first few weeks after its release, the book sold over 150 copies. I expected a precipitous drop after that, but sales have remained pretty steady since then, at an average rate of about 3 or 4 per day. Arika and I have fun tracking the daily results – we actually have a whiteboard in our living room with a running total!

Two main themes run through my experience using ACX. First, I’ve learned firsthand that ACX is an exciting new approach to producing audiobooks that is user-friendly and surprisingly effective. And second, I’ve learned once again that collaboration with the right people not only makes a project more enjoyable; it can make the difference between floundering and flourishing. If you’re an author who’s long wanted to turn your book into an audiobook, but who doesn’t have the good fortune of living with a professional narrator, as I do, the good news for you is that there are plenty of seasoned pros on ACX who can help you make it happen. Good luck!

Considering a career in audiobook narration?

If you’re among the increasing number of folks intrigued by the idea of audiobook narration, this guest post by ACX narrator Wayne Farrell is for you. Farrell had always been interested in voice work, but he was new to the craft when he discovered ACX. After some due diligence–including consulting with voiceover instructor Pat Fraley and checking out our series of educational videos, Farrell decided to give it a shot. We admit we can’t get enough of these kinds of success stories at ACX, but if you’re new to the field and thinking about jumping into narration, we promise Farrell’s post, below, will inspire you to take action. Enjoy!

Having always had an interest in the performing arts, and hearing the age-old line “you should be on the radio” from friends and family, I decided to have a closer look at the audio industry, primarily since I thought audiobook narration could be a way to supplement my income during periods of downtime.

(I work in the aviation industry and have a lot of time off at home between destinations.)

While researching options, I found out about ACX website thanks to a blog post by venerable author Neil Gaiman, and the whole thing seemed like a brilliant idea to me.

The question was: Would I be any good at narrating an audiobook?

There was no way I was going to just sign up and start advertising myself as a narrator without determining whether I could provide a quality product for the authors on ACX, so I set out contacting people ‘in the know’.

I started looking up popular narrators on Audible.com. Having listened to Simon Vance, Scott Brick and the legendary Frank Muller, I knew that my narration skills had a very long way to go.

But after visiting these stellar narrators’ websites and looking at training options, I was pointed in the direction of the outstanding performer and instructor Pat Fraley, and things started to take off from there.

Living and working in a very isolated location meant that I simply did not have the time to travel to his place and learn more about narration, but Pat felt that he could still assist me by sending reams of advice via email and downloads, and I really can’t thank him enough for his guidance and mentoring. I could not have achieved this level of success so quickly without him.

The educational icing on the cake was a very concise and understandable series of videos on ACX with award-winning producer and engineer John McElroy. His straightforward and no-panic approach to laying down an audiobook finally convinced me that I could do this myself.

With a more solid understanding of the industry, it was now time to jump in at the deep end. I set up a home studio and recorded my first audition on ACX, for a book entitled “Two Tocks Before Midnight” by CJ Martin.

Within a few hours, the author got back to me, told me that he thought I had a voice that would fit right in with his work, and together we agreed on character notes, set deadlines and arranged the release of the final production masters.

A few weeks later, the audiobook hit the virtual shelves of Audible, Amazon and iTunes.

The real surprise however, came in the days after uploading a sample onto my profile page. Within a week, I had secured offers for three more titles, all of which are currently in production. “The Djinn” by J. Kent Holloway, “The White Angel Murder” by Victor Methos and the hilarious, but also very bizarre book “The End of the World” by Andrew Biss.

If you are thinking about signing up with ACX and beginning a career as an audiobook narrator, take my advice and give it a shot. You won’t be sorry.

Thanks Wayne!