How to Win Listeners and Create Great Audiobooks

We’re bringing a renewed focus on education to the ACX blog in 2014, and we kicked things off last week with our seven habits of a highly effective audiobook producer. This week, we’re back to teach authors everything they need to know about having their audiobook produced on ACX.

How To Be  A Great Audiobook Publisher

1. Know Your Medium. Some authors are audiobook listeners, and some aren’t. But when you’re looking to have your work produced in audio, it’s important to be familiar with the basics of the medium. Start by poking around and listening to the 5 minute samples for a variety of books. Listen to fiction and nonfiction, to books in your genre and books that are nothing like yours. Note what you like and dislike, in terms of both performance and production values. Take note of listener reviews, too. Audible’s listeners are discerning audiobook consumers, and they’re not shy about telling you what they love or hate about a book.

2. Think Like An Audiobook Producer. On ACX, your producer is your partner, and in order to get the most out of your working relationship you need to understand the audiobook world from their perspective. Learn what goes into a finished hour of audio so you know what’s reasonable in terms of payment and production timelines. Audiobook production isn’t just sitting in front of a mic and reading aloud; it requires skill, talent, and discipline. Any author who’s heard someone say “Oh, I could be an author, I like to write!” knows it’s not nearly that simple. The same goes for voice acting/production.

3. Begin With The End In Mind. Think about when you want your audiobook to be available for sale, and work backwards from there. The average audiobook production on ACX takes about 45 days, depending on the length of your book. Mark time on your calendar to review your 15 minute checkpoint and your final audio (once you’ve agreed on those dates with your producer). Make sure you have an edited, final copy of your manuscript ready to upload to ACX or send to your producer as soon as you’ve cast them (your audiobook producer is not your manuscript editor). Start thinking about audiobook specific marketing from the beginning of the production, not the end – this way, you’ll have a rabid fan base who can’t wait to hear your audiobook once it goes on sale. Finally, don’t forget to think about cover art early in the process too. Audiobook cover art requirements are different than those for print/ebook covers, and you’ll do well to familiarize yourself with them and start your cover art process early.

4. Attract The Best Producers, And Know Which To Cast. Build a strong title profile that will interest the top talent on ACX. What are great audiobook producers attracted to? They like working on books that are interesting, creative, and well put-together, and actors on a royalty share especially like books that will sell well.

The next step is your audition script. It should be a maximum of 5 minutes (about 2-3 pages) – consider that a narrator will likely put about an hour into prepping, recording, producing, and uploading a 5 minute audition. When picking your audition script, don’t just pull the first 3 pages. Consider the various things that happen throughout the course of your book. Try to find a portion that has both dialog and descriptive text, and contains most, if not all of the key characters. If a character has a specific accent or way of speaking, include them in the script. If there are names or places with complicated or foreign pronunciations, include portions that pertain to them , and your notes on how you want them voiced. If there’s not one section of your book that contains all of these things together, feel free to use portions from different parts of the book to make sure everything is included.

When it comes to casting, listen to both the performance and the technical aspects of the audition (this is where you can start putting the things you learned in point 1 into practice). On ACX, the audition should be indicative of the final audio quality you’ll receive at the end of the production. Keep your ears open for anything that doesn’t sound right to you (Audible’s listeners particularly dislike cartoonish, over the top character voices, for example). And feel free to communicate with with the actor via the ACX messaging center if the audition is mostly great but something small is a little off.

5. Work Out Payment Details and Production Timelines. You’ll have decided whether to offer your book as a royalty share or on a pay-for-production basis when you posted your title, so negotiate payment with your producer if necessary, and then decide on audio due dates. Communicate how you’d like to work with your producer from the outset. Will audio be uploaded to ACX chapter by chapter for your review, or will you receive it and review all together once completed? Consider exchanging phone numbers and have a brief chat about expectations at the outset. A real human connection can make all the difference in a successful collaboration.

6. Understand The Importance of Reviewing Your Audio. Learn about the 15 minute checkpoint, and be sure to set aside time to listen critically around the due date. This is your chance to request changes to the performance or sound before your producer proceeds with recording, editing, and post-producing the entire book. Read up on how to review your final audio, and request adjustments if necessary. Share any research you’ve done into dialects, pronunciations, and foreign locations with your producer. Finally, make sure to keep your eye on whatever means of communication you work out with your producer. You wouldn’t want an unanswered question to hold up production while you work on another project.

7. Don’t Approve Until You Approve. Make sure you’ve reviewed everything and have considered all the aspects of your audiobook recording before hitting “Approve” on ACX. We do everything we can to get your book up for sale on Audible in a timely manner, but you’ll find your title may be delayed in our quality assurance queue if it contains missing or misordered chapters, or cover art that doesn’t meet our specifications.

8. Kick Your Marketing Into High Gear. Hopefully you took our advice and set your audiobook marketing in motion at the outset of your production. Now that your book is complete, turn up the heat, and do everything you can to drive listeners to Audible to purchase your book. We’ll give you codes for 25 free review copies of your title when it goes on sale, so use them to your advantage. Seek out professional audiobook reviewers (Google is your friend here) and offer to send them a download code. Use social media, your author website/blog, and your email list to cultivate a circle of fans who give honest reviews of the title on Audible or Amazon in exchange for free review copies (and have the reviewers state the “deal” in the review). Do everything you can to generate sales and buzz for your title, then tell us about it! Check us out on Facebook and Twitter and share your success.

9. Rinse And Repeat. A full audiobook portfolio is a strong audiobook portfolio. And now that you’ve been through the production process once, future audiobook productions will get easier and easier. Look over your contracts to see if you own the audio rights to any of your backlist titles, and get them up on ACX. Don’t have any backlist titles?  Start writing your next book, keeping audiobooks in mind as you do. We want to see a lot of you around these parts, ok?

What do you consider “best practice” for having your audiobook produced via ACX? Help your fellow authors learn form your experience in the comments!

24 responses to “How to Win Listeners and Create Great Audiobooks

  1. I think this list is excellent and also add a comment as an audiobook narrator. A publisher should guide and direct the narrator as to how they “hear” the book. The narrator has to open to the direction. If there is a problem, correct it. When the narrator does a great job, the publisher should say so. Compliments go a long way towards building a great relationship and those words don’t come often from publishers.

  2. As a narrator/producer I strongly applaud your compendium of suggestions to authors and rights holders as to how to proceed with having their print versions made into audiobooks. You covered just about everything very well. My hope is that authors and rights holders heed your advice. Congrats on this.

  3. Excellent advice, ACX! Authors, take heed! I have worked with publishers and authors who are well-informed, professional, and have beautiful, complete manuscripts. Bravo. It makes it so much easier for the producer to read. Conversely, I have also worked with authors who have had to rewrite portions of chapters AFTER I’m already producing the manuscript because of some problems with continuity, the wrong character is speaking, etc. I know the authors appreciate it when we bring those things to their attention, but that’s not our job. It’s our reputation out there as well, and we certainly don’t want a listener to say “That’s wrong. How could they leave it like that?” HIRE a good copy editor. Sometimes you’re too close to your own manuscript to be a good one with your own books. My gratitude goes out to the folks at ACX, who have brought authors, publishers and narrators together. BEST IDEA EVER!!!! Okay, everybody, back to work….

  4. In the ACX blog article “How to Win Listeners and Create Great Audiobooks” you state “We’ll give you codes for 25 free review copies of your title when it goes on sale, so use them to your advantage.” I’d like to use these codes to have my book reviewed. How do we obtain these codes?

  5. I have 14 titles up and 8 in production, and yes it gets easier with each book. I have had great narrators and it is terrific to see or rather Hear the books come to life. I expect to have 20 titles up by end of Feb. After which I intend to place up more titles. Thanks to my producers and ACX.

  6. article is quite interesting and hopefully true happiness rays began to warm the hearts of us all, when we can share it with sincerity. Greetings from Gede Prama 🙂

  7. This is a great jumping off point. The authors I’ve worked with find the transition from the ‘reading audience to the ‘listening’ audience quite challenging, once their audiobook is complete. I would encourage more articles that help in detail to make that transition.

    • Absolutely! I now have two audiobooks up on Amazon, etc. Am feeling very disappointed that Amazon does NOT provide the audio “listen” feature very prominently. A person has to be really looking for a particular audiobook in order to find it. I wish I had known this beforehand. The majority of these audiobooks are shuffled back to the unknown depths of ACX should make some kind of effort to help audiobooks get noticed on Amazon. It’s very frustrating for those of us who work on Royalty basis only.

  8. this is a great list, easy to understand, and pretty much covers what i’ve been learning since late last year –

    so many good (and necessary) points, but will key for today on,

    “When picking your audition script, don’t just pull the first 3 pages. Consider the various things that happen throughout the course of your book. Try to find a portion that has both dialog and descriptive text, and contains most, if not all of the key characters….”

    this sets up a nice overall initial audition for the author to work with from the narrator, and also lets the narrator know what mix of scene elements the writer is highlighting

    gonna bookmark this article, thanks so much! 😉

  9. I am green green green when it come to this process! However, I’m completely intrigued. My two published novels are in both print and eBook versions. What form of manuscript is used for the selection process – the eBook version, or the regular manuscript used by the printer to print the books? Sorry if this question seems odd, but I always have a million questions when I jump into new arenas.

  10. Greetings, all! Thanks to ACX for another great article! Once you obtain the Audible promo download codes for your audiobooks, you’re invited to distribute them in the new Free Audiobook Giveaways Facebook group:

    A growing number of narrators, authors, and publishers offer the codes to listeners for free. Listeners may in turn decide to leave a review. The ground rules are posted at the top of the group page.

    Please feel free to share the group with your mailing lists so that we can attract even more listeners!

    Karen Commins

  11. Reblogged this on Ah, this world of writing…yes and commented:
    I’m thinking of doing this…Are you ready to listen to Vows of Revenge? Do you like audio books?

  12. I’m wondering what incentive an author has to promote the audio version of their book. If an author already has a book available in paperback and e-form and if this book has decent sales, what is the incentive for authors to promote an audio version? With an audio version the author is sharing proceeds with a narrator. I’m finding that any review that appears on Amazon will likely generate sales of a print version of a book – not necessarily the audio version. Am I (as a narrator) missing something here?

    • Dana, speaking strictly for myself (as an author) I’m not finding any disincentive to produce an AudioBook.

      Actually, my impression and (very) limited experience is that, there are some folk who not only prefer audio, but need it, if they’re to enjoy a fictional work – either because of diminished reading ability, traveling (driving), or other reasons like this.

      Additionally, an audio book is close to (in my opinion) Readers Theatre. There is a connection between the listener and the narrator, with both interpreting and interacting with the author’s material. It can very much be a performance. And some folk prefer this experience to reading.

      Having both a theatre background and masters degrees in literature and the humanities, I enjoy both books and live performances.

      Anyway, hope this helps, best wishes for you 😉

  13. As an author, I feel very driven to promote my audiobooks (just one out for now, but more on the way) and I would really love for Audible or ACX to step up and offer us more venues to do this. There are tons of sites out there to promote ebooks that offer affordable advertising to get more eyeballs on your ebook, so why not do this for audiobooks too? I’d be the first so sign up for that.

  14. Pingback: AudiobookNow Partners With Oasis Audio, Adds 1,000 Titles to Their Catalogue

  15. Pingback: ACX is Now Open to UK Authors and Voice Actors! | Audiobook Creation Exchange Blog (ACX)

  16. Pingback: Karen Commins’s Audiobook Resources For Authors -

  17. It is nearly impossible to find well written works on the ACX platform.
    I would love to submit an audition, but find that most of the content up for audition is remarkably poorly written. I would not want to have to read the stuff!
    Amazon/ACX needs to be raising tbe bar. Allowing content that does not meet even basic grammatical and structural standards wiil, inevitably, make ACX a laughing stock.

  18. Lots of great advice 😊 As a publisher, I will try my best to make the process easier for my narrators

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