ACX Author Mark Tufo has written over 20 books currently on Audible, including the wildly popular Zombie Fallout series. Mark initially sold his audio rights to a studio, but as he learned about audiobook production, he realized he could make more money and and gain creative control by keeping his rights and having his books produced via ACX. Today, Mark joins us to discuss the decision to take control of his audiobook publishing.
Why self-produce? Well, the simple answer is money. There was so much more that went into the decision, but money was the major factor. The studio that picked up the rights to most of the Zombie Fallout series was, in a word, awesome. I felt a loyalty to them, and making the move to go solo was not taken lightly. But ultimately, it came down to what was best for my family. It made no sense to be paid pennies on the dollar when I could make more doing it myself. When I found out that ACX would allow me to continue my partnership with Sean Runnette, the multi-talented narrator of the previous entries in the Zombie Fallout series, it was nearly a no-brainer (which is a good thing for me).
L to R: ACX Author Mark Tufo and Zombie Fallout narrator Sean Runnette
I know that going this alone can seem daunting for some folks. Finding the perfect narrator for your work is just about as important as the story itself. But there’s something to be said for getting to be ‘hands-on’ during this endeavor. If you’re a control freak like me, blindly trusting a publisher can be scary too. But working with ACX has been nothing short of great. I didn’t think this process was going to be as smooth as it has been. As an independent author there is always so much work to do, and the thought of taking on more was cause for concern. But beyond giving the go-ahead to Sean’s work (by approving the 15 minute checkpoint) and uploading my manuscript, it was only about one large iced coffee worth of work. And ACX has been there every step of the way, whether we had questions in regards to paying the talent or receiving royalties.
Looking back, it seems like it all happened pretty fast. While my family and I were going through it, not so much. I’ve always loved to read and I’ve always loved to write. Even in grade school, when our teacher would assign a writing project and the rest of my classmates were groaning, I was secretly happy. I started writing my first novel in college and finished it many moons later. My wife shipped it to every publisher’s address we could find. I could probably make a book just from the stack of rejection letters. I did not have much hope that my book would ever see the light of day.
I released my first book via CreateSpace & Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) in February of 2009. One morning my wife said ‘Hey, there’s this self-publishing thing on Amazon and I’m going to put your book up there.’ I didn’t even know what that meant, but I agreed. I thought it’d be cool to see my book in ‘print,’ even electronically. I saw a ‘blistering’ sales rate of three copies over the first seven months (two were actually from family members who I think felt bad for me). When I found myself laid off, I turned to my hidden passion and wrote the first installment of Zombie Fallout, not because the “Zombie” genre was heating up (I had no clue), but rather because I truly love zombies.
I finished the book, and had a blast writing it. I self-edited (which I don’t recommend) and again published it with Amazon. We still had low expectations, so I almost swooned when we sold seven copies that first month (I said almost). At this point we actually weren’t doing any advertising, but were lucky when a few bloggers happened upon the first book and helped get the word out. When the book started selling more and we could afford it, we had the book professionally edited. Increasing sales inspired me to keep writing, plus I really wanted to know how this was going to turn out for my characters!
It was with the release of Zombie Fallout 4 that my wife and I figured that this could be more than additional income; it could become our primary source. It was with the release of the fifth book that I noticed more and more readers asking me about an audio version. I asked my wife if anyone actually listens to audiobooks anymore. I remember my mom with her ancient cassette player, listening to books in the kitchen. I thought it was a dying market, not a thriving one. So when that studio contacted me, I felt I had nothing to lose by signing with them and giving it a shot.
I admit I was misguided in my thinking and lack of research before signing. I received my first royalty check about 8 months later and realized that there was actually a very large audio consumer group out there, and that I had signed away a very large sum of money by giving up my audio rights. That just goes to show you how much we were stumbling through the dark and trying to learn through this entire process.
Luckily, KDP puts out a monthly newsletter, and one issue had a write up on ACX. I did some research into the service and decided to jump ship from my studio, as good as they’d been, and go with ACX for my next audio book.
ACX is there from start to finish of each project, ready to answer any questions I have. Payments are accurate and timely (something I’ve learned the hard way is not always standard in the ‘published’ world). ACX has been an incredible boon for us, without their help we would not have been able to move from our cramped townhouse to our own house with a yard.
Do you have an ACX story to tell? Put it in the comments and you might be the next featured user on our blog!