New York Times best-selling author Scott Sigler is an ACX bounty superstar, racking up over $10,000 in bounty payments this year alone. Releasing his self-recorded works as free podcasts, his “serialized audiobooks” built a dedicated audience that pushed his indie print novel Ancestor to #1 on Amazon’s Horror and Sci-Fi charts. His print success led to a recently signed three-book deal with Del Rey, and Scott successfully negotiated with the publisher to retain his audio rights. Read on to see why those rights are so important to him, and how he made ACX’s $50 Bounty Program such a large part of his revenue stream.
NO STRANGER TO AUDIO
I worked for fifteen years to land a publishing deal, to no avail. By 2005, I had a nice, neat file folder labeled “motivation” that contained 124 rejection letters. That year was also when I learned about this newfangled thing called “podcasting.”
As an author, a lifelong reader, and a big fan of audiobooks, I saw the writing on the wall: podcasting would let people serialize audiobooks and deliver them to listeners. I still had my first novel, Earthcore. Since I hadn’t signed a publishing contract, I owned all the rights, which meant that I could record it and release it for free. Anyone who wanted to try out my stories could do so without spending money on an unknown author, giving me a competitive advantage to help gain new fans.
I built a large audience of people listening to my serialized audiobooks. When it came time to sell a story in print — the indie trade paperback of Ancestor, published March, 2007 — that audience rewarded me beyond my wildest expectations. Ancestor was the #1 print novel on Amazon’s Horror chart, #1 in SciFi, #2 in Fiction and the #7 best-selling book overall.
That success got New York publishing interested. They wanted to partner up and see if we could make something big happen. My novel Infected went into auction, Crown Publishing won, and we set out to make great books together.
ACX – THE ACCIDENTAL DISCOVERY
I absolutely loved working with Crown Publishing (a division of Random House). I wouldn’t trade that experience for all the footballs in Texas. But it was one small difference of opinion with Random House Audio, over my audiobook marketing strategy, that led to my fantastic relationship with ACX.
By my fourth book with Crown, Nocturnal, Random House Audio simply chose to not put out the audiobook. Since they owned the audio rights, I couldn’t record it and release it on my own. Therefore, no podcast.
So we asked them: if you’re not going to release an audiobook, can we have the rights back? Happily, they said “no problem,” and promptly worked with us to release the rights back to me, the author.
That left me with the audiobook rights to a pair of in-demand novels. What to do, what to do…
HOW ACX BECAME A TRUSTED PARTNER
We had released one book with ACX, my horror short story collection Blood is Red. We next hired the golden-voiced Phil Gigante to record both Nocturnal and Pandemic, and released those audiobooks via ACX. We thought we might sell a couple of hundred copies, and that ACX’s high royalty rates would do us well.
We didn’t sell hundreds. We sold thousands.
And it’s not just the audiobook sales themselves: the $50 bounty we receive when a new Audible Listener selects one of our books as their first purchase is a significant line item in our revenue stream. We actively market the availability of our books on Audible, and ACX in turn rewards us when we bring them new customers. Everyone wins.
It’s hard to measure our podcast audience, but our stats show we have around 20,000 listens per episode within the first month of that episode’s release. Therefore, we have an existing audience that already listens to audiobooks on a regular basis. Our podcasts are free, but also serialized and ad-supported. We regularly tell our listeners that if they want the whole book in one big chunk, free of ads, they can swing over to Audible and buy it — free or paid, the choice is all theirs.
Offer the customer a choice, and you’ll be surprised how many will take the “paid” option. In 2014 alone, we’ve earned over $10,000 in bounty revenue. That’s on top of the royalties we’ve earned for the books themselves.
Since I am a happy and active Audible customer, I really get into pushing Audible to my podcast listeners. It’s a great service at a great price and I know the vast majority of my fans who try it will love it. We regularly pitch Audible as a “pre-roll ad” where the pitch comes before our episode’s intro music, and we often pimp it with messaging in our blog posts and posts on Facebook, G+, Tumblr and Twitter. We only pitch about once a month on each of those locations, however, so that we’re not beating our readers/listeners over the head.
AND THE FUTURE ROLLS OUT BEFORE US…
I recently finished my five-book deal with Crown, and my agent landed me a three-book deal with Del Rey (also a division of Random House) for my Generations trilogy.
Part of the negotiation with Del Rey was that we keep the audiobook rights. Del Rey agreed, and we’re excited to be in business with that legendary Sci-Fi imprint. The success of Nocturnal and Pandemic on ACX taught us that we’re more successful when we control our own audiobooks. Del Rey manages the print and eBook products, we’ll sell our own audiobooks through ACX.
We can’t wait. We’re looking forward to a lifetime of royalties and bounties for our products, a long-term revenue stream that will contribute to our company’s bottom line. More importantly, that revenue will help us keep making new products for the readers who have given us everything we have.
New York Times best-selling author Scott Sigler is the author of fifteen novels, six novellas and dozens of short stories. His hardcover horror-thrillers are available from Crown Publishing and Del Rey. He also co-founded Empty Set Entertainment, which publishes his YA Galactic Football League series (The Rookie, The Starter, The All-Pro, The MVP and The Champion due out in September 2014).