Royalty Share deals are new to the audiobook industry, so we’ve been offering $100 per-finished-hour stipends to incentivize producers to try them out. It’s been great to hear that some narrators have found the initiative so rewarding. Kym Dakin is an ACX producer who has embraced our stipend offer and has had an amazing track record: 4 auditions for stipend-eligible titles accepted out of 6 auditions (Dakin accepted 3 of the 4 offers). We’re spotlighting her here in the hopes that her experience and her advice will be helpful to other narrators and producers who are using, or planning to use, the ACX service.
Dakin, who’s been narrating audiobooks since 2005, first discovered ACX through voiceover actor Karen Commins’s blog, and suggests that for those narrators who might be overwhelmed by the sheer number of titles available on ACX, limiting a search to stipend-only can provide a helpful filter.
As to why she’s been so successful with stipend offers, Dakin says she stuck to genres that favored her chances and provided her the opportunity to “make use of what I do well” in an audition—namely, that she has a good voice for “conveying a wide range of emotion.” So even though only a handful of the 30 books Dakin has ever recorded would qualify as women’s fiction, on ACX she has focused her attention on those titles.
From Dakin’s perspective, the stipend has been a huge motivator because the time and effort narrators are asked to make on ACX can represent an “enormous risk. It’s hard to go in with just royalty share.” But with the competition for pay-for-production “very steep” and, in her view, favoring more experienced narrators, for Dakin and “those of us who still need traction, the stipend opportunity is golden. I can work on gaining mastery, but still get paid.” A narrator, says Dakin, needs to approach royalty share deals on ACX “as an investor,” but of course, there are still some instances in which a narrator “doesn’t have the time or the inclination to don that marketing hat.”
Dakin has also had to evolve as a producer as the audiobook business has changed. There were indications back in 2005 that narrators would no longer be responsible just for diligent prepping and reading of an audiobook, says Dakin. She realized she would have to learn to produce. Dakin, who has a theater background and runs a company that creates interactive training for businesses based on theater skills, says that the engineering aspects of succeeding in narration today were daunting at first, but mastering them has been satisfying. Once she created a studio in her house and started to learn more about engineering, she found it “really interesting and a lot of fun.”
“It is possible to produce a good audiobook with a minimum of bells and whistles,” she says, “and the simplicity of technical options out there affords me an entry.” But there’s still a lot to learn. She does contract with an outside engineer to do proofing, though she hopes one day to do that herself as well.
How can other narrators emulate Dakin’s success on ACX? “Think in clear terms about what your voice does well and what you truly enjoy reading.” Dakin is also a proponent of specific focus in terms of genre. “Don’t spread yourself too thin,” she says. “This is a golden opportunity for narrators.”