Four Questions to Ask Before You Audition

ACX currently has over 2,500 titles open for audition. But how do you know which titles are the best fit for you to produce? Here’s our advice to narrow that list down and get the most out of your auditions. Consider these questions when choosing which titles to audition for:

1. Does this title fit my abilities?

Look for titles that you’ll feel comfortable voicing. You know your acting abilities better than anyone: stretching your range can be good, but biting off more than you can chew is easy to do. Are you great at balancing multiple character voices or better with instructional or informative reads? Few things turn audiobook listeners off faster than poorly voiced, cartoonish characters. Steer clear of that wild west tale unless you can convincingly portray the grizzled old prospector, the dashing young sheriff and the aristocratic land owner. Only you know your strengths – play to them!

2. Will producing this title make me any money?

As much as you love producing audiobooks, nothing in this world is free – especially your time! ACX offers both pay-for-production (P4P) and royalty-share deals. When it comes to P4P, negotiate an hourly rate that compensates you fairly for your work and time.

As for royalty share projects, do your homework to see if the rights holder is an active marketer of his or her titles, and be prepared to supplement their promotional efforts with your own. A promising rights holder will include this information, as well as marketing plans in the “comments from the rights holder” section of the title profile. Amazon.com sales rank and customer reviews can give you insight into how readers are reacting to this title, and ACX provides a handy link to view these directly from the title profile. Check out the rights holder’s social media accounts (like Twitter and Facebook), and note both the number of fans they have, as well as how often they engage them. Does the author have an up-to-date website? Does he or she have a blog they update regularly? The time your rights holder invests in their title will play a key role in how much you can expect to earn in royalties.

3. Does this project fit into my schedule?

You’re a hardworking, busy audiobook producer, but realistically, there are only so many hours in the day. Make sure the production timeline the rights holder has in mind fits in with your schedule. How? Reach out to the rights holder using the ACX messaging system before you start recording your audition, and ask what time frame they expect for having their audiobook produced. You can also ask about any research needed into pronunciation for this title, as that will factor into your schedule as well.

4. Do I have any of my own questions for the rights holder?

Feel free to start a dialog with the rights holder, and raise any other questions you have before entering into a production agreement. If you’re concerned about objectionable content in a title, now is a good time to ask. You can also gauge the rights holder’s level of involvement and test the waters of your potential working relationship. By and large, you should be looking for a rights holder who is passionate about their project, but won’t be looking to micro-manage the audiobook production process.

Asking yourself these four questions before spending time auditioning will start you on the path to producing only the best titles for your voice.

What other things do audiobook producers consider when choosing a title to audition for? Tell us in the comments!

34 responses to “Four Questions to Ask Before You Audition

  1. All well and logical, however I have recently messaged 20 “rights holders” with the questions you suggest and received no response or reply. I then followed up with a “Wondering if you received this”. No reply. I did receive
    3 replies from another “message session”. One of them was from a publisher (not the author listed on the posting) who was upset that I referred only to the work in the subject line as “you book” The publisher’s name was (is) not listed on the informational page. It is buried on page two of the “read more” comments. There is no way to determine to wh0om the message goes. Author – Publisher ? Finally the reason for all the messaging was that each one of the 20 mentioned above have been posted for in excess of a year. 4 of them for over 2 years. Sitting there drawing auditions……..without reply. Now that I have commented on the negative aspects I will offer some positive suggestions in the next comment.
    Thanks for reading and “listening”
    Lee Alan

    • Can anyone at ACX address this strange aspect? Why are there so many “active” rights holders here who haven’t chosen an author after a year, or two, of gathering auditions. Can you boot them after 30 days, ok ok, 90 days?
      Does anyone at ACX read these comments?

      • I so AGREE! I have audtions that are almost a year old with no response. I dont mind that the author or publisher has not written me personally with a rejection. BUT isnt it possible to take these titles “offline” after they have started to negotiate with a narrator or after a book has been “parked” more than 90 days as Shandon says above?

  2. I agree that a title that is a good fit to my proven abilities, as well as one with good marketing potential is more likely to initially get my attention. But then, when I click on the “Audition” tab and look at the audition script, I always look for a script that will allow me to differentiate myself and show why *I* would be a great choice to narrate/produce the audiobook version of the work.

    To take your example of the “wild west tale” with characters including “the grizzled old prospector, the dashing young sheriff and the aristocratic land owner”, if the audition script includes excerpts involving all three of these characters, then I will run, not walk, to my recording studio to create an audition. But if the script for such a title only includes a dry section of descriptive text from the book, then I will crinkle my nose and wonder if it is worth my time to create an audition, since I am being given no chance to show my pertinent abilities in character play.

    Bottom line — an appropriate audition script is much more likely to elicit an audition from me.

  3. It’s natural to make some assumptions based on the choice of audition excerpt — did they say that handling of dialogue was key, but clip a narrative section from the opening scene? Have they posted the entire manuscript, with no guidance, or a section from a completely different book? This gives me some advance sense, rightly or wrongly, of how carefully the rights-holder is handling this project and/or how invested they are in it.

    Of course, some of it is intangible. Within categories of books that I feel fit my abilities, there are still books whose writing or ideas really engage me and those that leave me a bit cold — given how much time I’m going to spend with the text (narrating, listening, editing), I want to either consider it a friend or be paid well for suffering along a bumpier ride.

  4. Now here’s an odd factor that I don’t know applies to all narrators, or just me. If I do not hear back from the rights holder within one day – forget about it. (Yeah, I’m from Brooklyn.) Another related aspect of auditions is getting a message back telling me how good my audition was, “the best that’s been heard so far.” Guaranteed I will never hear from this rights holder again. Do you have similar experiences or is it just me?

    • I have had this happen to me three times. “You have a lovely voice”, “You are the voice in the lead for my book” etc…. never to hear from them again. I dont know if this is to keep my schedule open or what.

    • I appreciate getting any feedback, given the degree of quiet that’s common, especially encouraging. I figure that “love your voice” messages mean that either you’re a current finalist or that a narrator has been chosen but you would have been a contender otherwise. Or they might like your read but decide that production values or other factors lean them toward somebody else among their options. So many possibilities.

    • ya that is the one that I always hear,,, yours was the best I ever heard but there are just so many to choose from,,,,, he he he he

  5. When addressing the question of how to elicit auditions from narrator/producers, I’m sorry that I didn’t think of this immediately, because it is far and away the most important single factor that influences my decision regarding whether or not to audition to produce a particular work. Simply stated — the titles I always look at and audition for first are the ones in the STIPEND program!

    I am currently engaged in producing my first title that is in the Stipend program, and I cannot honestly say that I would have even seen this work in the listings (much less auditioned for it) if it had not been in the Stipend program.

    So, if you want to get my attention (and presumably the attention of lots of other narrator/producers) do whatever you can to get your work into the Stipend program. (Perhaps that’s a topic for a completely separate blog posting.)

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  7. My experiences are two-fold: So far, everyone that’s hired me did so IMMEDIATELY. I haven’t had one yet come back a week or more later with an offer.

    As for the voice fit, early on an author told me that my voice was too “friendly” for his sci fi series, and I saw the light. I realized that my voice is perfect for certain books, and not so much for others, so now I’m more discriminating in auditioning for books that my voice can truly bring to life.

  8. How can I listen to samples from audio books?

  9. The Stipend listed book: book Treasure Key lists no audition script at all.. I have messaged them 3 times. No response. No acknowledgement. We have messaged dozens of others, still posted on ACX with no response. Simply asking if they were still looking for a narrator. This is entirely a one way situation. Narrators submitting and/or messaging with no obligation on the part of the authors/publishers to do anything. ACX says many don’t even respond to them. Then remove them. These are a small handful of those we have messaged with not even an acknowledgement.
    They sit there on ACX attracting auditions from people with no obligation to make a decision or even send a “Thank you – Audition received”
    Look at these. 30 of them, Some there for 2 Years….18 months….. There are many more.
    They need to be active or removed.
    Desert Encounter 11/1/11 1 Yr 6 mos
    A Touch of Greek 7/1/12 10 Mos
    The Watcher 10/1/12 7 Mos
    The Breast Cancer Checklist 9/1/12 8 Mos
    Marked 7/1/12 10 Mos
    Discovering Me 8/1/12 9 Mos
    Storming the Tulips 4/1/12 13 Mos
    The Woman 9/1/11 1 Yr 8 mos
    Men of Bronze 5/1/11 2 Yrs
    Lost Hours 6/1/12 11 Mos
    The Promise 6/1/12 11 Mos
    The Nobody 8/1/11 1 Yr 9 m
    The Weir Ones 10/1/11 1 yr 7 m
    The Weight of a Crown 11/1/11 1 Yr 6 mos
    Ravenwood 12/1/11 1 Yr 5 mos
    The Red Wolf 11/1/12 6 mo
    The Eye of the Archer 2/1/12 I Yr 3 m
    Sin Secrets & Salvation 5/1/12 1 Yr
    Dynasty 2 5/1/12 1 Yr
    Johnny Junk 7/1/12 10 Mos
    City Under the Moon 7/1/12 10 Mos
    The Unwillng Spy 3/1/12 1 Yr 2 m
    Heirs of Prophesy 4/1/12 I Yr 1 m
    Gabriel’s Woman 6/1/12 11 Mos
    Coounterpoint 6/1/12 11 Mos
    Dangerous Secrets 6/1/12 11 Mos
    Hot Secrets 6/1/12 11 Mos
    Murder Mountain 8/1/12 9 Mos
    The Devil’s Closet 8/1/12 9 Mos

    • Lee – Thanks for pointing these out. We do take the concerns of our users seriously and are looking at the best way to address the issues you’ve raised here. For now, we recommend you audition for books posted more recently or reach out to the rights holder before auditioning. As with any open marketplace, every user can’t be the “model user,” but on ACX, you’re empowered to find the right project for you.

  10. As a brand new “Rights Holder” on ACX, I don’t intend to leave any auditions hanging in the wind, so to speak. I was pleased to get my first audition within 48 hours of posting “Voyage of the Dead” for Royalty Share. I was also happy that the first narrator I messaged an invitation to audition responded favorably immediately. That is not to say that I will jump at the first offer, or second, or tenth… I waited for close to 18 months since the first book in the series was released on Kindle, and several months in paperback (which included professional editing), before soliciting a narrator here. Patience is a virtue. But I am eager to get more audition submissions and will reply to all. A final decision will be made this summer, before the 4th eBook in my popular saga is released. BTW, I’m an active author and cross-promoter (currently editing an anthology that places my work alongside a NY Times Best Selling Author and over a dozen other apocalyptic authors). Looking forward to more auditions and a comfortable working relationship with the “winner”. Good luck to all!

  11. I looked at titles available to audition, went through the filtering process, browsed the results, and there was only one that interested me. Wouldn’t you know it – that book has been sitting there for two years, and the book is no longer even on Amazon.

    There should definitely be a clean-up process, or at least a label that says Inactive when a person hasn’t logged in to their account after 90 days.

    As an RH, I’d like to point out that the non-response thing goes both ways. I wrote to someone asking if they’d consider a book I had available and didn’t even get a “No, thank you. I’m too busy,” or anything at all.

    I guess that narrator with no credits to his name was just flooded with work – or perhaps, I used my one superhero skill (that is normally used to pick the shortest lane at the grocery store that will be the one that has a 10 minute delay immediately after I select it) to find an inactive narrator. Such accounts should also have an Inactive label stamped on them.

    • Edward, you’ve got to remember that ACX is an open market, meaning that all kinds of different people with different attitudes about different aspects of audiobooks are participating herein. I am a narrator/producer and have gotten fast answers to some queries and total silence on others.
      Usually on auditions, if I do not get a response (positive or negative) within a day, it’s a dead issue and I move on to something else.

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  13. I have not read any comments about non-edited books. Recently I auditioned, the short script was OK, I accepted the offer, when the full manuscript was downloaded it was full of missing words, misspelled words, misused words which would have taken ages to put right. I contacted the Rights Holder, and she withdrew the script to be edited, the deal was cancelled. There are many books which have a lot of errors, which is time consuming, and unless put right before recording makes for a messy session. Perhaps I’m the only one who has received such poorly edited scripts. Does ACX ask Rights Holders for a properly edited script?

    • Edward M Wolfe

      Uploading a script is just part of the process. It is assumed (and should go without saying) the script is properly edited. I’ve seen a few errors in audition scripts and I take note of them because it’s a safe bet that they’re a representative sampling of what will be found in the full manuscript.

      I’ve been told that there’s a 5% margin of error allowed for WhisperSync. I don’t know if it’s true, but it makes for a good threshold for determining whether or not to audition for something. Every time you change the wording to correct it, you’re decreasing your chances for WhisperSync approval.

    • I don’t even send an audition for the badly written and edited ones, Mil. If the author can’t write even a small section that appears readable I assume the rest will drive me insane.

  14. Mil, I’ve had experiences very similar to yours. You’ve got to remember though that ACX is an “exchange” a meeting place for authors (rights holders) and producers. They are not critics and have nothing to do with the quality of the material we choose to produce. In that respect, we’re on our own.

  15. I auditioned for one title that I had no response from for 6 months. I think it just depends on the rights holder. In that case, I was eventually chosen to produce the audio book and it has been one of my favorites. I do think it would be a good idea for ACX to give the rights holders more input about auditions though… sometimes they’ll post the entire book and give no idea on which section they’re looking for and often they will post a huge section. I’m guessing some of them have no idea quite how much work goes into each audition.

  16. Good article!
    1) Most scripts I’ve worked have been issue free, I have had a couple with major issues – poor sentence structure, misspelled or missing words.
    2) Replies to auditions, I usually wait a couple of days before moving on to another project for audition. I figure I can leave the audition open, if they respond wanting my services, that’s great! I’ll fit them in where I can because I’m currently working a project. Some have responded 6 months after my audition was submitted.
    3) I agree, some audition scripts don’t give a clear indication of the work, even investigation on Amazon.com for the hardcopy doesn’t provide enough detail at times.

    All that being said, I enjoy the challenge. There are times I wish the volume of projects waiting to be worked was higher. About 3 or 4 years ago, the number of projects available was in the thousands.

    • I started narrating audiobooks shortly after ACX started up in 2011 and loads of books were available. Now that everybody with a spare microphone has joined the game, the quality of available books has decreased substantially.

  17. I’m new to this field, but found out very quickly there is a problem with a lack of response. As long as this program has been around, I’m surprised the process hasn’t matured much to weed out the problem children. There are quite a few titles posted with only a sales pitch for the book as the script. Those are obviously not here to get narrations, but using ACX as an advertising medium. I think it’s silly they expect to gain sales from posting in this area, but the problem is they are not only abusing this program, they are wasting our time. I hope something can be done about these and the dead-beats that never respond that are wasting the potential narrator’s time and effort.

    • Even though he/she claims to be new to the field, the nail has been hit squarely upon the head. The other day I got notified about an audition I had sent in four months previous. That kind of business is totally absurd.

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