Author Archives: mattaudible

Producing an audiobook with your iPad: it’s easy!

As many of our professional narrators know, technology has  created a new paradigm for audiobook production. It’s easier than ever to set up a home studio, and new devices continue to inform the way actors and producers get audiobooks made on ACX. Below, actor Dean Sluyter explains how the iPad can be a narrator’s best friend. If you have ideas or opinions about this, please post a comment or let us know on Facebook or Twitter.

The truth is, the iPad looked like such a supercool toy that I really just wanted an excuse to buy one. “I need it for narrating” was a convincing-enough justification. But, as things have turned out, the iPad has become an indispensable tool of my trade. In the course of using it to produce several audiobooks, I’ve discovered a number of advantages, some of them quite unexpected. Now — especially as an independent narrator-producer — I can barely imagine working without it.

In the old days, once I’d downloaded a script, I had to run to Staples, pay to print out 300 pages, then lug that brick of loose sheets around on planes and trains, to Starbucks or my backyard or the (windy) beach, or wherever else I wanted to sit and prep. Now I can work almost anywhere — including in bed, while my wife is sleeping, without turning on the light. And I can map my way through the contours of the text, using my finger to insert multicolored underlines, highlights, marginal notes, and customizable rubber stamps. The mark-up app I use is iAnnotatePDF. GoodReader is also popular.

Research has become much more efficient. When I encounter an unfamiliar name or term, by holding my finger on it for a moment I can go straight to the corresponding Wikipedia article or a choice of online dictionaries. I can finger-write or type the pronunciation in the script’s margin or even embed a little sound file there for later reference. That’s especially useful for preserving the nuances of  foreign pronunciations that I’ve cadged from a native speaker.

Another great pronunciation resource is an app called Howjsay: I type in a word and hear it regally enunciated by what sounds like the ghost of Sir Laurence Olivier. What about names of cultural figures less famous than Lady Gaga? I recently narrated Fool’s Paradise, a chronicle of South Beach and its culture of excess, and had to deal with the occasional paragraph that was essentially a guest list for a fancy party: architects, bankers, rappers, athletes, models. In two taps of my finger I could go to YouTube, and find a news or interview clip of the person. Back in iAnnotate, I can use the Find function to quickly gather every occurrence of the name or other tricky word and ensure consistency. Or, if a minor character I thought I was done with back in Chapter 3 suddenly shows up in Chapter 12, I can quickly locate his previous appearances, go to the corresponding spot in my sound file, and check the voicing.

Note: To use many of these apps, you must have a script in PDF format consisting of actual text, recognizable as such by an iPad or other computer. Some but not all of the scripts that rights holders upload to ACX fit that description. The others look identical, but are actually just pictures of pages (like a photocopy) and not computer-readable as text. Fortunately, you can convert a “bad” PDF to a “good” one by opening it in Adobe Acrobat, using the OCR Text Recognition command, then saving the file in a congenial format such as PDF/A or Optimized. If the PDF you’ve received has extra-wide top and bottom margins, which can make smooth scrolling a challenge, you can trim them through a handy free service available at pdfscissors.com.

In the recording booth, the most obvious benefit of the iPad is the absence of rustling pages (and dropped pages, and misplaced pages). With a device called the Standzfree, you can mount the iPad in front your mic stand, then use your finger to scroll smoothly from one screenful of text to the next. (I used to use the iKlip, which attaches the iPad directly to the mic stand, but found that that produces a rumble during scrolling.) Another benefit: as the session proceeds and your eyes get tired, you can keep making the text bigger. But perhaps the best perk is the most low-tech. If you’re working in a small, poorly ventilated booth — yeah, you in the bedroom closet, I’m talking to you — you don’t need any lights, so you don’t wind up drenched in sweat.

In my perfect world, I’d be able to ditch my laptop and use the cool, silent iPad for all my recording and editing, but that may take a few more years. At the moment, the iPad’s recording capabilities don’t appear to be at the pro level. There’s a nifty little audio editing app called TwistedWave, which is adequate for such first-pass tasks as adjusting pauses or deleting coughs and false starts, but to clearly see and hear all the little pops and clicks, tweak the equalization, and so forth, I still need my computer’s trusty editing software. But the iPad still plays a role in post-production, especially in the in the QC stage, where I can follow along with the text, highlight pickups with a digital rubber stamp (I use a red skull-and-crossbones), then easily find them when I go back into the booth.

So … the iPad is a great tool that can make you seriously more productive. And after a full day of narrating or editing, when it’s playtime again, you can reserve your movie tickets with Fandango, gaze at the night sky with Star Walk, or just curl up and play another dozen rounds of Tiny Wings. Happy scrolling!

In addition to being a narrator-producer, Dean Sluyter is an author and speaker. He lives in Santa Monica, California, where he rides his Vespa a lot.

Upcoming: ACX at ASJA

Mark your calendars! On the heels of a successful outing at the American Society of Journalists and Authors annual conference in April, we’ll be conducting a live webcast, open to the public, about the ACX service at the ASJA office in New York City on Monday, July 23.

Details: Monday, July 23, 5.30-6.30pm, doors open at 5pm

ASJA Office, Times Square, 1501 Broadway, Suite 403, NY NY

free for ASJA members, $5 for non-ASJA members

For more information, including how to register to attend the event and how to watch the webcast, see here. You can also submit questions in advance that ACX head Jason Ojalvo will answer at the event. Please spread the word, and hope to see some of you on July 23!

Has ACX empowered you?

Greetings ACX fans! We’ve been busier than ever getting more audiobooks made, but we’re never too busy to share some great ACX success stories. We’ve been amazed by the feedback we continue to receive from both sides of the creative coin–authors who are thrilled to have their work available in audio at long last, and narrators and producers whose careers have been enriched by the opportunities they’ve found through the marketplace, if not entirely jumpstarted by ACX. Allow us to recap below.

Authors continue to reach out to us about their books’ new life in audio via ACX. Most gratifyingly, we’ve heard from several authors who see ACX as a way they can actively participate in the production and promotion of their work in a manner they couldn’t do with their professionally published print versions. Among those who have shared their experiences using ACX include Marta Acosta, who’s written about how ACX is helping her fulfill her dream of having her novels everywhere. Marta is a great example of an author who is successfully influencing how her audiobooks are made and how they are marketed in a way that she couldn’t with the print versions. Other authors have been just as generous with praise for ACX–and insightful advice for other authors using the service. Richard Shapiro encourages fellow authors to comparison shop when casting producers, and likens ACX to finding love on match.com! And in case you missed it, Bob Mayer offers up 10 ways to learn from the mistakes he made starting out on ACX.

Many of the audiobook professionals on ACX have been just as vocal about their experiences. Last fall, Johnny Heller provided a detailed rundown of our service, and this spring Arielle DeLisle shared an updated viewpoint (she also called out another exciting new program every ACX author should take advantage of, Audible Author Services). On our own blog, Shelby Lewis wrote about how ACX launched her audiobook career. Actress Toni Orans shared an account of helping bring Roy Hoffman’s novel Chicken Dreaming Corn alive via ACX. David H. Lawrence has even taken his knowledge offline, teaching a “Mastering ACX” class in Burbank, CA.

We continue to find that engaged ACX users help spread the word about ACX and teach others about it, which is wonderful. Thank you all for keeping our vision alive!

ACX turns 1!

This past month we celebrated ACX’s first birthday. It’s been a great first year, but we’ve only just begun. We now have thousands of audiobooks in the Audible store or in production via ACX, but there are still many thousands of books waiting to become audiobooks, and millions of listeners eager for more great books to listen to. In the meantime, we’re happy and proud to share some recent metrics and accomplishments below.

–          An average of 50 audiobooks are going into production every week on ACX.

–          Many hundreds of titles are currently in production, a number that continues to swell every month.

–          There are currently over 1,500 very active audiobook producers signed up on ACX. You can currently search through ~5500 of their audio samples. Many of these producers have a completed ACX audiobook on sale.

–          The majority of ACX titles now in the Audible store were produced under our royalty share model (Producers and Rights Holders split royalties). But close to 40% of the live titles were done via the pay-for-production model.

–          Jonathan Carroll’s Land of Laughs, produced on ACX under the Neil Gaiman Presents label, was named an Audie finalist in February.

Below are some site enhancements that we’ve made so far in 2012:

–          Don’t need to find a producer, since you already have the audiobook made and it’s retail-ready? ACX can help. If you have rights to the audio, you can now upload the audio to ACX and get it into Audible channels.

–          Were you having a hard time uploading your audio to ACX? Was it taking too long? We’ve redesigned the audio upload process, so the experience is more than 15 times faster.  And no longer do you need to upload each file one at a time.

–          Did you want to turn your title into an audiobook but found that you did not qualify? ACX has now opened its service to all authors–any author can turn his or her book into an audiobook using ACX.  Until recently, the service was limited to only a few hundred top publishers.

–          Do you have a large number of titles on sale via ACX? Now you can see all of your aggregated sales and get more information on how they were purchased at Audible.com.

–          Want a better experience navigating through the hundreds of titles that you are working on? We are making it easier for you to sort through and filter your titles on ACX.

–          Are you an author of an audiobook on sale on Audible.com? Join our Author Services program and get a dollar honorarium every time your audiobook is purchased.

More authors are seeing profit from our special $25 bounty, awarded each time your audiobook is one of the first three purchases by an AudibleListener member. Our first bounty payments are going out this month, and some titles are already earning more than 25% of their total revenue from audio from these bounties (the remaining 75% of their revenue is from royalties)!  This statistic really underscores the value of promoting your audiobook… since you stand to make even more from that effort per-sale than from our already-generous ACX audiobook royalties.

We are hard at work on new innovations that will galvanize production of more audiobooks, including a new production model that offers generous advances if you qualify.

Stay tuned, and thanks for being part of ACX!

ACX at Book Expo

Yes, we will be at Book Expo in NYC this year! Please come to our presentation next week at Amazon’s Kindle/CreateSpace booth.

Where: booth 4170, Javits Level 3 Exhibit Hall

When: 3 p.m., Tuesday, June 5

Learn more about ACX and how we can continue to help you get your books into audio, and find out what’s next for us–we are continually refining the platform and marketplace to allow for the production and distribution of ever more audiobooks. We look forward to seeing you next week!

Five reasons to love home studios

Spring is in the air, and that means that in addition to flowers, love is in the air. Here at ACX, there are a few specific things we love most, and one of them is the home studio.

Here are some great reasons to love home studios.

1. You’re the boss.

Taking greater control of your career can be an opportunity to learn new skills and uncover some you didn’t even know you had. And learning more about your industry is a process that exposes you to more people in the business and gives you a greater understanding of all aspects of production. Plus, the more skills you have, the more money you can make.

So how do you go about learning what it really takes to run your own home studio? Ask around! Talk to friends in the industry, studios and engineers you’ve worked with in the past and colleagues who have made the leap to home recording. They can tell you if you’re experienced enough to embark on this endeavor, and you can also learn from the mistakes they made. And don’t forget audio message boards, online tutorials (right here on ACX and on YouTube), and helpful blogs (ahem). Of course, you’re always free to drop us a line at audio@acx.com – we’re always happy to help.

If you’ve worked with some great engineers over the years, pick their brains for insight. Most passionate professionals love to pontificate on the positive points of their profession.  Once you gather some initial ideas, put them into use yourself. Practice practice practice! And remember, as far as recording goes, you’ll only need to learn the best settings for your voice once. When you work them out, you can use the same settings time and again from project to project.

2. More jobs.

A home studio allows you to work as you want to. And you won’t have to turn down jobs because of scheduling conflicts. So you can always go into a big pro studio when you get called by Joe Bigshot Producer, but you can also chase ACX gigs. And when you do have a home studio and at least a few audiobooks under your belt, it’s well worth contacting every audio publisher out there—they’ll want to hear from you.

3. Creative control.

There are many positive aspects to running the show yourself and being your own boss. The biggest is that you can really make the project your own, as you have more creative control without too many cooks spoiling the broth. You’ll still receive feedback from the person who hired you, and you may even want to ask your engineer friends to listen to your samples and give you some more tips.

4. Convenience.

Who hasn’t fantasized about rolling out of bed and into “the office” while still in pajamas? If you’re in the VO business know that a day’s work can often entail running uptown for an audition, downtown for a pickup session, and crosstown to deliver a batch of files. Having a few projects lined up for your home studio affords you greater control of your schedule, cuts down on commuting costs, and lets you work in a comfortable environment.

It’s true, not everyone lives in a quiet shack in the middle of nowhere. Construction, barking dogs, and your neighbor’s kids can create distractions and impart unwanted sound effects on your recording. But the longer you do it, the more you’ll learn the rhythm of your living environment and the times of day (or night) that provide a quiet window for recording. For those with flexible schedules, slotting in a few hours to record at the right time can be a productive use of what may otherwise be down time.

5. It doesn’t have to break the bank.

A mid-level setup (like the one highlighted on ACX’s Video Lessons and Resources page) can deliver great-sounding productions without breaking the bank, although you could easily look for online investment accounts login tutorials by ccbank and never break your bank again. And while top-notch gear can often carry with it a top-notch price tag, it doesn’t have to. Want even better equipment without all the cost?  Buy used. Scour eBay, Craigslist and music and equipment stores with pre-owned inventory. Already know people in the industry? Ask around and find out if anyone is looking to part with some gently used gear. Get creative and you’ll be impressed with the results.

As with any home business, you must be able to set boundaries, and that may take some getting used to. But setting up and running a home studio can be educational, rewarding and liberating. It can provide you with more options for work and greater control over your own destiny. And best of all, if done right, it can be an additional revenue stream to compliment the money you make recording for traditional studios. Are you ready to fall in love?

Introducing Audible Author Services

April was a busy month at Audible–good news for all authors who have used or are planning to use ACX to get their books into audio. In case you hadn’t yet heard, Audible just launched a new program for authors called Audible Author Services. Authors with audiobooks for sale at Audible.com (and that includes any author who made an audiobook through the Audiobook Creation Exchange) who enroll in Audible Author Services will receive tips on promotion as well as audiobook samples and links to use in their social media, to encourage active participation in the success of their audio. Authors enrolled in the program will also receive $1 per unit sold.

Audible created Author Services because authors have a special authority among readers and listeners. Authors who personally create awareness of their work can dramatically increase their audience; Author Services rewards authors for the kind of personal interaction that only authors can do to expand their audience. Moreover, as everyone who’s been following ACX knows, digital audio is growing rapidly and has become an important part of mainstream culture. Audio is a category that contributes significantly to authors’ overall success.

We encourage all ACX authors to visit http://www.audible.com/authorservices to begin taking immediate advantage of this new revenue stream. Of course, if your book is not in audio, we are here to help!

Author Marta Acosta shares her experience using ACX

ACX is nearing its one-year anniversary, but in so many ways we feel like we’ve only just begun–and so we never tire of hearing from authors who are thrilled ACX has made it possible for them to reach the rapidly growing audience of audiobook listeners. That’s why we’re here–to expand the audiobook selection for Audible listeners and to help authors expand their audience. Acclaimed writer of paranormal romance Marta Acosta has just begun to blog about her experience using ACX to get her novels into audio, and we’re delighted to point our readers to her first post, and not only because she applauds our service! Acosta also offers some useful insights and advice for any author who wants to get her work in front of the widest possible audience. Thanks, Marta!

From the post:

“Most authors sign away their audio rights in a publishing contract, and nothing ever happens, because publishers are still working on the old model with cavemen slowly carving out physical recordings. All those possible audio books never ever get made and the author can’t do a damn thing about it because she no longer owns the rights.

It’s maddening. It’s infuriating. It’s needless.

The Husband admires my tenacity. Actually, what he says is “You’re like a dog with a bone” and “You’re a walking nightmare” and “You’re like rust — you never stop.”  Same thing! Anyway, I kept gnawing at the gate, wanting my audio rights returned for my books, badgering my first agent, badgering my editors, etc. And I got a new agent — and she got my audio rights returned from my publisher!”

Read Marta Acosta’s entire post here:

http://vampirewire.blogspot.com/2012/04/my-audiobook-journey-with-acxaudible.html

Finding your perfect match on ACX

Here at the Audiobook Creation Exchange, we’re often explaining how the service works by likening it to a matchmaker, albeit one that connects rights holders to narrators and producers. Little did we know one author would be using ACX and match.com almost concurrently, thus gaining particular insight into the similarities between the two services. Below, Richard Shapiro, the author of The Welcomer Edge: Unlocking the Secrets to Repeat Business, produced on ACX and now available at Audible.com, shares his ACX story, including the opportunity to work with Scott Brick! The story ends happily ever after…

In May of 2011, I found my perfect mate on match.com. On our first date, I told Susi about my book. I explained how I had developed a classification process for all service and sales associates: Welcomers, Robots, the Indifferent and Hostiles, and how this concept could help any business secure repeat customers.  At the end of our 45-minute rendezvous, I not only told Susi that I wanted to see her again, but also said, “You are a Welcomer!” The first question she asked was, “Will I really hear from you again?” to which I responded with an emphatic “yes.”  The second thing Susi said was, “I’m not sure what a ‘Welcomer’ is, but it sounds like a good thing.”

Over the next few months, Susi and I got to know each other very well and spent a great deal of time together. One of my friends and neighbors, Jen, works for Audible.com and I wanted Susi to meet her. Susi enjoys listening to audiobooks and mentioned that she was in love with Scott Brick.  She listens to all of his books, especially the Nelson DeMille mystery novels. When Jen heard this, she blurted, “Maybe he can narrate your book!” Susi almost fell out of her chair. My first thought was, “Who is this Scott Brick?”

Jen also told me about ACX and how I could get my book narrated. I registered for the site the next day. It was really easy. I selected the portion of the book I wanted read, the type of narration style and my proposed royalty arrangement. The first thought that came to my mind is “Hey, this is just like match.com.”

The process was amazing. When I received my first email that an audition was waiting, I was so excited. To hear the narrator read the words I had written was energizing. Although the first submission was fantastic, I was eager to hear more, since I know from any experience, it’s always best to be a comparison shopper.

During this process, I got a call from Jen, who told me that Scott was participating in ACX and might be available to narrate my book. When I told Susi that Scott Brick might be reading my words, she said, “Oh my God, I now know what it feels like to be in heaven!”

After Scott submitted his audition via ACX, I immediately accepted it. He was a pleasure to work with.  After he read the manuscript he had two questions. The first was, “When it says ‘readers’ in the book, do you want me to say ‘readers’ or ‘listeners?” I told him “listeners.”  Additionally, my book has many sidebars and he recommended that those be read by a woman friend of his to help differentiate between the narrative of the stories and the text within the shaded boxes.

When the book was completed, it was perfect. Scott and his friend turned my manuscript into an amazing play. When I listened to the entire version, I was so happy. I never realized how emotional I would feel hearing my own words read out loud by such a renowned narrator.

As a new author, I certainly feel lucky to have worked with Scott. While corresponding with him to make final payment arrangements, I told him how much I appreciated that he agreed to read my book and that I hoped he thought it was good. He quickly responded that he thoroughly enjoyed my book, thought it was not just good, but great, and had already implemented some of the recommendations I provided into his own business. I said “Wow!”  I have a winning book in my hands!

Without match.com, I never would have met Susi, or heard of Scott Brick. Without ACX.com, Susi would never have heard my words read by her favorite narrator.

ACX.com is a terrific way to meet narrators. It’s easy and fun! Try to find your perfect match!

 

 

 

Tucker Max Does It Himself on ACX

Tucker Max may not be the first New York Times bestselling author to use ACX, but he’s certainly one of the most skilled at understanding and adapting to the new paradigm for publishing success today. Max had a flourishing website and a TV deal before selling his first book, I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, which became a bestseller in 2006 thanks to Max’s tireless promotion of his book (and himself) and his ability to connect with his fans through the internet. Since that initial success, Max has published two more bestselling books, built a legion of fans through social media and word of mouth, and in another example of forward thinking we particularly like, he just made two of his books in audio himself through ACX. Since Max personifies the idea of author empowerment we talk about so much at ACX, we thought other ACX users might learn something from a Q&A, to which Max generously agreed. Thanks, Tucker!

How did you discover ACX?

I found out about ACX through my old assistant, Ian Claudius. He’s now running a publishing start-up I invested in, and he came to me with the idea of retaining my audio rights and just doing the audiobooks myself. I thought it was a great idea, and I was in.

You’ve now narrated four of your books. What makes the audiobook format important to you as an author? Do you think the audio format is becoming more important for authors?

I actually didn’t want to narrate the audiobooks at first, and only did it because they paid me 5k (Editor’s note: “they” refers to the audio publishers of Max’s previously published, non-ACX audio titles). But once I did it, and I started getting feedback from my fans, I realized that they really liked how I told the stories. They liked that I laughed at certain parts or that I ad-libbed certain things not in the book, or my little intonations or things that I did that only the person who wrote the book could bring to the reading of the stories. Once I realized that they liked it, I started taking it seriously and really putting some time into it.

I have no idea what the future holds for audio format for books. Sometimes I wonder about this–I think that oral storytelling is an incredibly cool and difficult art form, but I don’t think most authors currently give any real thought to creating different products for audio than for print–myself included–and maybe they should. Though the fact is, they are different art forms. For example, because I am a funny writer and quick-witted in person, lots of people tell me I should do stand-up comedy. No chance. That is a VERY different style of comedy, but people who aren’t artists don’t get that.

Any advice for other authors considering narrating their own work? How challenging is narration, and does it get easier?

It depends. If you like doing it, and you can bring something to the work that a professional voice actor cannot, then yes. I hate my recorded voice, but I do bring an authenticity and immediateness to my readings that no actor could ever replicate, because he wasn’t there and he didn’t live these experiences. I did.

Did you find yourself changing or editing your book as you narrated it? Did the experience change the way you felt about the book(s) in any way?

Oh yes. No matter how much I edit it, reading the book out loud fundamentally changes how I see it. I ALWAYS want to make changes and it drives me nuts each time. But that’s part of writing a book–you can always find something to fix. Sometimes you gotta just put it out.

A big part of the ACX message is self-empowerment for authors—promoting your work and driving your sales. You have proven that this method works. What tips can you give other authors about effective promotion and use of social media? What approaches/strategies have worked for you? 

Oh man, there are about 1000 things I could say here. I wrote a big piece about this for Tim Ferriss, but the big takeaway is this: The best marketing is a great book. The second best marketing is having something out there for free that people can try.

You recently described your “new life” in The New Yorker. What’s next for Tucker Max on the book front?

I just signed on to co-write the autobiography of the highest grossing movie star in the world. I can’t say exactly who it is until his people announce the book, but you should be able to guess who it is from that pretty obvious clue.

To download Max’s new audiobook of Hilarity Ensues, see here; for Sloppy Seconds, go here.