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!

One response to “He writes, she narrates: Engaged couple produces book on ACX

  1. Very nicely written and I second the experience of working directly with an author. And you don’t have to co-habitate either. I recently had the wonderful opportunity of working directly with author Michael B. Druxman in producing “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood: From the Secret Files of Harry Pennypacker” it was a wonderful collaboration and I thank Michael for entrusting me with producing the narration. Although, it’s probably a good thing we don’t co-habitate… just kidding Michael!

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