Category Archives: Authors + Publishers

On the Same Page: Communication for Audiobook Success

Yesterday, we premiered our debut episode of ACX University 2017, Peace, Love, and Understanding Your Audio Partner. Audible Approved Producer James Fouhey, and ACX Author Piers Platt, joined us to discuss their eight-books-strong creative partnership, and the details that go into making it a success both for them and their listeners. Today, they’re back with a recap of the tips you might not have caught on camera. Read on for their perspectives on the critical elements of audiobook production.

On Selecting the Right Narrator for Your Project

ACX Author Piers Platt

Piers: If you’re not already an audiobook fan, listen to samples of top-rated audiobooks in your genre to get a sense for what “good” sounds like, and feel free to reach out directly to some of those narrators to ask them to audition for your book, too.

James: Having a feel for how this medium has worked for other authors will help shape your expectations for your own title in a way that’s achievable for a narrator. It’s best to know what you like and don’t like about audiobooks before the project begins.

Piers: When you post your book for auditions on ACX, look for a narrator with some experience, and if they’ve got film/theater/TV training or credits, that’s a bonus.

James: The more experience a narrator has, the surer you can be that they can sustain the performance in the audition throughout an entire book.

Piers: Listen to all of the auditions that come in yourself, and pick your favorite 5-10. Then have several people you trust (ideally audiobook listeners) give you their opinion on which of those finalists to choose.

James: The more confidence you have in your narrator at the start, the easier it will be to give them the freedom they need to perform. Believing in your narrator’s ability as a professional will help you to collaborate.

On Setting Up Your ACX Title to Attract Top Talent

Piers: When creating your title profile, mention reasons why a Producer would want to work with you—have you published a lot of audiobooks, sold lots of copies, won any awards or accolades? If you have a robust marketing plan in place, if you plan on using the same narrator for the whole series, make sure to mention that as well.

Audible Approved Producer James Fouhey

James: How you go about describing this will help determine how many narrators are willing to put in the time to audition for you. The best narrators are professionals and want to work with authors who come across that way. Also, there’s nothing more enticing than a series audition, as those bring with them the potential to work on multiple books.

On Selecting an Audition Script

Piers: The portion of your book that you select as the audition script should have multiple characters talking and include a pivotal emotional moment. This will give you a sense of how they handle different characters (especially voices of the opposite gender or any foreign accents), how much they emote, whether they convey the book’s “tone,” etc.

James: This is critical. If well selected, the audition script can help you avoid many problems later on. Once you’re in production, re-recording swaths of the book that you’re unhappy with will cost the narrator time and money. Figure out beforehand what it is that you’re most worried about a narrator handling, and find a place for it in the audition.

On Starting—and Ending— the Production on the Right Foot

Piers: Once you select a Producer and agree to a contract, put together a guide to the important aspects of your title. This should include: how to pronounce all proper nouns (names and locations, for example), a short character cheat sheet with clear directions (protagonist should be gruff, but likable…femme fatale should be sultry, with a lower pitched voice for a woman, etc.). Pretend you’re a movie director and you’re giving your cast (narrator) instructions at this stage.

James: This is one of the things that sets Piers apart. He anticipates the narrator’s practical needs, has specific expectations, and gives the narrator tools to achieve them before the work begins.

Piers: Once your Producer has all the information they need, they’ll go off and produce your book. When they deliver the final audio, make sure to review it from start to finish. I like to speed up my file review process by downloading all the files from ACX and then listening to them at 1.25x or 1.5x speed. You can still catch any mistakes that way, but you get through it a lot faster.

James: Piers is great about reviewing the work in a timely manner, which is gratifying after all the care that goes into producing an audiobook. The technique of speeding up the audio for review is one that professionals use in quality control. Be careful speeding it up past 1.25x if it’s your first time.

Thinking of your creative partner’s needs from the outset of your audiobook production will help ensure you collaborate on a great-sounding audiobook that your fans will be excited to listen to. Try these tips for your next ACX production, then come back to the comments below to tell us how they helped.

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ACX Storytellers: Chris Philbrook

Author Chris Philbrook parlayed his love of playing role-playing games into an opportunity to write for them, and eventually, himself. His post-apocalyptic Adrian’s Undead Diary series has garnered an average 4.6 rating across 5,200 reviews on Audible. Read on to get his advice for achieving audiobook success.

Q: How did you become an author?

A: Ever since I was a kid my friends told me I was a storyteller. I cut my teeth running role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons and White Wolf through my teenage years, and I broke into writing by authoring serials for a game developer’s website in my early 20s. Writing for their games put the itch on me. I developed an idea for a series of stories, and one of my best friends from childhood essentially dared me to write it.

I started a blog with his help, and we did a lot of marketing online to promote it, like sharing posts in Facebook genre groups and giving out simple prizes. With that online exposure, I grew a reader base of thousands within a few months, and when I made the jump to eBook/print (and later audio), I had a path to success laid out for me. Eight novels into the Adrian’s Undead Diary series, I broke off and started to write other stuff, and those titles have been received well, too.

I make stuff up for a living. It was a good dare, and I’ll forever be thankful that my friend pushed me harder than I pushed myself.

Q: Can you tell us about your experience on ACX?

A: I had caught wind of the ACX platform through a few writers groups on Facebook. Most of the authors reported an easy, profitable experience, and I got excited to try a new way to add readers to  my writing portfolio. After doing some research, I decided to post one of my titles. Forty-odd auditions later I made a connection with producer/narrator James Foster, and we were off to the races. He’s been my end-all, be-all resource, my close business associate, and dare I say, a friend.

Taking this step has opened up a world of opportunity for my creative talent. Going from print to eBook or vice versa is not the same as going to audio via ACX. The audio production process through the ACX platform is far more like going from print to the silver screen. You are producing a theatrical version of your book.

Creatively, you will be sharing a vision with a narrator and producer who have different takes on your story. They have ideas for how it should sound, and how it should be listened to, and there’s tremendous merit in listening to their ideas. Greatness is rarely developed in a vacuum, and ACX puts you in a position to interact with incredibly talented people who want to take your story and add to it so that an enormous audience can access it. It’s a thrill to work with folks who want to be successful with you, not just because of you.

I trust James’ ideas and interpretation because we’ve worked so closely together for so long. I put my vision in his hands, and know that he has learned about my writing style and reader base, and has my best interests aligned with his own.

Q: What are you doing to grow your skills and get better at your profession?

A: I read blogs about the profession and attend writers meetings as often as I can. Cory Doctorow’s blog, Poppy Z. Brite’s, and Neil Gaiman’s Journal are all favorites of mine. Joining the Horror Writers Association and the New England Horror Writers was a terrific pair of decisions that led to making many friendships, and securing a literary agent to promote my titles and help me be a better writer.

I also challenge myself by writing stories out of my comfort zone. I truly believe that the only way to be a better writer is to write things you wouldn’t normally write. I’m most well known for a post-apocalyptic story, but I love writing dark and urban fantasy. My dark fantasy works have been less of a hit, but my contemporary fantasy has been a smash. Walking away from my supposed bread and butter was frightening, but I think the payoff has been enormous. Taking the risk and writing new stories causes you to access new dialogue, new situations, new characters, and new ways to engage your potential readers. If you’re not trying to get better, you risk boring your readers.

Finally, I believe that traveling and meeting new people is huge when it comes to being a quality writer. Writing is about the characters, right? Compelling, interesting characters can be based on, or inspired by real people. I find traveling and meeting people is the best way for me to be inspired.

Q: Is there someone you look up to in your industry? Why?

A: I look up to the people who treat writing as more than just an artistic endeavor; I appreciate the folks who understand the level of commitment required and passion it takes to succeed. I appreciate the people who see the tools that are out there, and snatch them up to find success, not wait for it to come to them. Using email blast services, doing podcasts, attending conventions, speaking at panels, doing small local signings…all of it leads to selling books, and being a successful creator/author. This applies to the big people as well as those still coming up. Folks like Hugh Howey, Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman, Mark Tufo, and others have led the way, or are leading the way.

Q: What is your must-have item in your writing space?

A: I require music (preferably without lyrics) and copious amounts of coffee. I mean borderline illegal amounts of caffeine. Like, I should probably either scale it back, or get some kind of prescription.

I also need water. Not to drink, but to sit near, or listen to. I write so effectively when I’m near a lake, or river. I used to drive ten miles to a secluded town beach to write during warm weather because I just felt the writing there.

And don’t laugh, I keep a Chicago Manual of Style in the top right-hand drawer of my desk. Without it, I’d have to pay double to have my indie titles edited. Probably far more, based on how fast and loose I write when I’m feeling it.

Q: Can you tell us about a mistake you’ve made in your career, and what you learned from it?

A: I have consistently made the mistake of under-promoting my new releases ahead of time. I tend to complete a project, and after it has been edited and finalized, rush it to market. I’ve learned over time that if I slow it down, promote the title through social media, blogs, and interacting with authors in the same genre as my release, I tend to have much higher early sales (which means I chart higher), and then go on to have more subsequent sales of other titles. I’m a work in progress.

Chris Philbrook is the creator and author of the urban fantasy series The Reemergence, as well as the dark fantasy series The Kinless Trilogy and the post apocalyptic epic Adrian’s Undead Diary. Chris is the owner of Tier One Games LLC, his game development company.  He and his wife welcomed their first daughter, Willow, to the world in April of 2016. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

 

ACX Storytellers: Bethany Claire

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Self-published author Bethany Claire has used ACX to publish her ten books and two boxed sets in audio, amassing over $60,000 in earnings in 20 months. A master of Scottish time travel romances who harbors a not-so-secret Disney obsession, she joins us today to share her audiobook story.

Q: How did you become an author and audiobook publisher?

A: The writing bug bit me in college. I started writing creatively just for fun, which allowed me to escape from my 18-hour course load for a half an hour each day, and I lived for it. But that half hour quickly grew into several hours, and I knew that my passion for writing went far beyond the enthusiasm I’d had for any other hobby. Over the course of the next four years, I changed my major seven times. But it wasn’t writing.

Then, on one fateful summer day, I heard about a writers’ academy hosted by my university. I enrolled right away. It was the first time I’d been around other people who were as passionate about writing as I was. It totally changed my world.

When I decided to drop out of college and pursue writing full-time, I wrote like a fiend, studied every single thing I could find about the business, and made a plan for publication. I continued to work part-time before releasing my novels, but five months after dropping out of school, I released the first three books in my Morna’s Legacy Series. Less than a year after that, I hit the USA Today best-seller’s list.

Two years after releasing my first three books, I made the jump into audio after listening to ACX representatives speak at the Romance Writers of America (RWA) national conference. It was something that my readers wanted, and I’d been curious about for a while. I knew it had the potential to be an extra source of income for my business, and I looked forward to the creative process of bringing the characters in my stories to life.

Q: What decisions have contributed to your audiobook success, and what made them the right decisions?

A: From the very start, I think one of the best things I did was offer a high per-finished-hour payment rather than the royalty share option. Despite my fear of investing so much money upfront for the audiobook production, I knew that my goal with my business has always been to look at long-term success. I knew that eventually I would earn out on that investment, and once I did, I would be so glad that I was able to keep my full royalties. It was an excellent decision. It only took a couple of months for me to earn out on the investment of paying my narrator a set amount.

Focusing a section of my marketing efforts towards the sale of my audiobooks has really helped with my success. Giving out the free download codes that ACX provides with each new audiobook release is a great way to build buzz among your readers about a new release and to encourage reviews. I also post and tweet about my audiobooks often, and use online design tools such as Canva to create beautiful and professional-looking images to go along with my posts and ads.

cover01Q: What are you doing to grow your skills and get better at your profession?

A: Writing consistently is one of the best things I do to continually grow my skills. When I do skip a few days of writing—whether it be to travel, sickness, or just plain laziness— my writing is always a little rusty on my first day back.

On the business end of things, I’m continually working to stay on top of changes in the industry. Conferences are a great way to do this. I try never to miss RWA’s national conference and will be attending the NINC conference for the first time this year.

Podcasts are a great way to stay educated. I love Joanna Penn’s podcast. She does a great job of discussing a wide range of self-publishing topics, including audiobooks. Another great podcast is the Sell More Books Show, which focuses on current news, and is a great way to stay on top of changes in the industry.

Blogs are another phenomenal resource. Jane Friedman covers everything from traditional publishing to self-publishing, marketing, and social media. I also think every author should read BookBub’s regular blog posts, which are filled with marketing tips.

Q: What do you wish you’d known when you first started out as an author?

A: I wish I’d understood the importance of creating work-life balance from the start. My first few years as an author, I worked nonstop. While I know it contributed to my success, every other area of my life took a hit as a result. I hit a wall in 2016. Totally burned out and exhausted, I had to stop everything for a number of months. Hard work is important, and I love my job, but if I had started writing and publishing from a place of balance—with self-care as a top priority—I wouldn’t have suffered the major burnout that I did last year. Now that I’ve re-evaluated my priorities, everything is in better shape—even work.

Bethany's writing room

Bethany’s writing room

Q: How about when getting your start in audiobooks?

I wish that someone had urged me to start sooner! I waited two years to get into audiobooks—two years that I could’ve spent growing my audiobook audience and income. I was nervous to take the initial dive into this format, but I had nothing to fear and so much to look forward to. I wish that I had considered audiobooks at the beginning of my publishing career.

Another piece of advice I would offer to fellow authors is that if you have a book that contains multiple points of view, post an audition piece that allows the narrators to read from each POV. For example, all of my books have scenes from both female and male POVs, and they are romance novels. So when I posted my audition script, I included a scene from each POV, as well as a love scene. Hearing the narrators read these portions helped me cast the perfect voice.

Q: What is your “must have” item in your writing space?

A: Every time I sit down to write, I diffuse peppermint and orange essential oils in the diffuser that sits close to my desk. The peppermint keeps me alert, and the orange is a mood lifter.

Bethany and friends at Disneyland

Bethany and friends at Disneyland

Q: Do you have a fun hobby or skill unrelated to your audiobook work?

A: I can plan a trip to any Disney theme park like a boss! Seriously, Disney should hire me. I also love to play the piano, although I’ll admit that eighty percent of the songs I know are Disney. In case you can’t tell, my love for Disney is a bit of a problem.

Bethany Claire is a USA Today Bestselling Author of the Morna’s Legacy Series, with more than ten books published since the release of her first novel in 2013. Bethany loves to immerse her readers in a world filled with lush landscapes, hunky Scots, lots of magic, and happy endings. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

 

Best of the Blog: 2015

We’re back to close out 2015 by highlighting some of our best pieces of the year. Some will educate, some will inspire, all should remind you of the awesome opportunity audiobooks present as we look towards 2016.

For Producers:

Mastering Audiobooks with Alex the Audio Scientist – Our resident audio expert brought his “A” game to the blog this year, educating producers on a range of recording and production topics. This post tackles one of the more intimidating aspects of post-production with an illustrated, step by step guide.

ACX University Presents: Finding Your Voice: Part 1 – This May, we hosted our third annual ACX University, which offered 70 producers in-person courses on audiobook production and performance. All of the sessions are available to watch on our YouTube channel, including this performance intensive featuring Audible Studios producers and Audie Award-winning narrator Ellen Archer of Orange Is the New Black.

ACX Storytellers: Anna Parker-Naples – One of our first UK producers shares her inspiring journey from the stage of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre to self-made audiobook success.

Five Things Every Audiobook Beginner Should Know – Voiceover actor and coach Gary Terzza offers a crash course for those new to audiobook acting and producing.

Archive: This Week in Links – Our weekly look at the best audiobook-related links from around the internet provided a range of perspectives, advice, and entertainment. We featured over 150 links for producers, so take a scroll through some of the best the voiceover industry had to offer in 2015.

For Rights Holders:

Market Smarter, Not Harder: The Personal Touch – Author Ryan Winfield dove deep on the ways he invested his time and reinvested his audiobook earnings to forge a personal connection with his listeners that paid off in the form of a loyal fan base.

You Kept Your Audiobook Rights – Now What? – Three top authors discuss the varying benefits of self-publishing your audiobooks or selling the rights to an audio publisher like Audible Studios.

ACX Storytellers: Joanna Penn – The “author entrepreneur” offered an inside look at what a writer who want to narrate their own work need to know to succeed.

Creating Your Custom Audible 30-Day Free Trial LinkAuthors (and producers!) can learn how to create a powerful marketing tool for their audiobooks – a custom landing page on Audible.com featuring any of your ACX projects.

ACX Storytellers: Sandra Edwards and Regina Duke – Two ACX authors share their takes on the value of a mentor/mentee relationship, as well as their top tips for audiobook publishing and marketing success.

 

Market Smarter, Not Harder: The Personal Touch

ACX author Ryan Winfield has written in the past about the value of retaining your audio rights and producing audiobooks using ACX. He joins us today to describe his experience promoting and marketing those audiobooks once they’re available for sale.

Ryan Winfield Headshot

ACX Author Ryan Winfield

I’ve heard it said that every author, once published, is a self-published author—and I believe it now more than ever after watching a big New York publisher roll out three of my titles. The simple fact is no one will ever market your books with as much zeal and creativity as you will yourself. I find that I have an advantage with my self-published books and audiobooks. Why? ACX and Kindle Direct Publishing royalties are more readily measurable via online dashboards, and are paid directly to rights holders monthly (not to mention ACX’s $50 Bounty Program), which allows me to reinvest a portion of my earnings into marketing. I do this consistently with a set percentage of my royalties, and what seems to work the best is focusing my marketing effort on making a personal connection.

Getting Personal

Most authors would love to see their title on the side of city busses and on billboards lining busy streets. They’d love to be the new “thing” getting the latest internet “buzz.” But it’s a mistake to think that those ads and that buzz are what make a hit book. I’ve discovered that it is much better to make a big impression on a small group of people than a small impression on a big group.

It sounds counterintuitive, but marketing to people who are already aware of you just works better. Promoting a Facebook post about my new audiobook to readers who already “like” my Facebook Fan Page yields much better results (better click rate, better conversion, and better engagement) than advertising to a wider audience that is not yet familiar with my work. I’ll sooner read a book recommended by a friend than one advertised to me on my phone or laptop. This is why reviews are so helpful, and why reviews by peers are so important. It’s my job to make my readers my friends—friends who will read my work and recommend it to their friends.

Here are some ways I do just that:

  • Sending personal emails to past readers offering free audiobook download codes in exchange for honest reviews nets me not only grateful fans but also plenty of referrals.
  • Reinvesting some of my earnings to offer a Kindle Fire or gift card giveaways to new readers who “Like” my Facebook page or subscribe to my email newsletter. (There are many services that can help with this, from Rafflecopter to Shortstack to Mailchimp, and many other helpful tools are available for those willing to do a little research.)
  • Making myself available for book club appearances, both in person locally and via video chat more widely, has won me many lifelong readers and friends.
  • Making my email address publicly available. Nothing will endear you to new readers more than a personal response to their questions or comments. When Jane’s Melody was first climbing the bestseller charts, I was answering as many as fifty emails a day. It became impossible to keep up, but as soon as things slowed down I returned to personally responding to messages.

Invest In Your Own Success

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00029]With every royalty payment I get, I earmark a percentage for marketing. With every marketing dollar I spend, I ask myself if I’m helping to reinforce my brand with those already connected with me. And with every connection I make, I ask myself if I’m making an impression that will lead these new friends to recommend my work to their other friends. Perhaps the best part of reinvesting royalties in this way is that it’s scalable. The more books or audiobooks I sell, the larger my marketing budget is and the more readers I connect with. The larger my marketing budget is and the more readers I connect with, the more books I sell. And so on and so forth.

Give it a try. Commit a percentage of your royalties to marketing and promotion, but then spend it wisely. Run some contests, promote some posts, and let people know about your unique voice. And who knows, maybe someday, with just the right amount of luck, that self-perpetuating cycle might just scale itself up until your book is topping bestseller lists and is plastered on every city bus and billboard.

Ryan Winfield is the New York Times bestselling author of “Jane’s Melody“, “South of Bixby Bridge“, “The Park Service Trilogy,” and several other books. He lives in Seattle, and you can connect with him at facebook.com/ryanwinfield.

You Kept Your Audiobook Rights – Now What?

We last spoke with ACX DIY author/narrator Scott Sigler almost exactly one year ago. Back in 2014, Scott shared the success he’s had racking up our $50 bounty payments by driving new listeners to Audible. Today he joins us to discuss the decision that made all of those bounties possible: keeping his audio rights instead of signing them away to his print/eBook publisher.

Scott Sigler

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Author Scott Sigler

The debate about “what’s best” for authors — doing it all yourself as an indie writer, or striving to sign with a traditional publishing house — has been the stuff of bloggers and Internet wags for some time now. While proponents of each camp make excellent points, there is a third side to this coin: doing both and becoming a “hybrid author.”

A “hybrid author” is someone who produces independent works and writes for traditional publishing at the same time. One way to do this is to retain your audio rights when you sell print and/or eBook rights to a publisher. That’s what I did when Del Rey bought my Generations Trilogy. Alive, the first book of that trilogy, is out in hardcover, eBook, and audiobook on July 14, 2015.

That’s right: hardcover and eBook from Del Rey, audiobook from, well, from us. “Us” is Empty Set Entertainment, the company I own along with my business partner A Kovacs. When Del Rey rolls out the beautiful hardcover of Alive, Empty Set will kick out the unabridged audiobook. We did all the work for that audio version, and will also earn all of the royalties from it.

Retaining audiobook rights was a natural for us, because we’ve been creating our own audiobooks for years. We produced eleven of my fifteen titles currently available on Audible.

AliveFew publishers are going to offer to let you keep audiobook rights. Publishers are in business to make money, not to be your pal. If you want to keep those rights, you’ll have to negotiate for them. That’s what happened with fantasy author Michael J. Sullivan.

Sullivan’s first publishing deal was with Orbit, who kept the audiobook rights and sold those rights to Recorded Books. Sullivan was happy with Recorded Books — and his narrator, in particular. When it was time for a new deal, though, Sullivan wanted more control.

“When my agent was negotiating my second Orbit contract, I asked for her to get the audio rights held back,” Sullivan said. “Orbit said it would be a ‘deal breaker.’ When all was said and done, we signed the contract, and asked them to keep the rights with Recorded Books. They agreed and so the first two books of the Riyria Chronicle series were published as a subsidiary right.”

For Sullivan’s latest deal, however, he and his wife, Robin, took a different strategy — they sold the audiobook rights first. Therefore, those rights weren’t on the table for Del Rey, who will be releasing Sullivan’s next novel Age of Myth next summer.

“The lack of audio rights definitely wasn’t a deal breaker for Del Rey,” Sullivan said. “Nor the other publishers who were interested in the series.”

What to Do with Your Audio Rights

First, you can keep the audio rights in a print/eBook deal, then sell them to another company. That’s what John Scalzi did in his recent blockbuster $3.4 million, 13-book deal with Tor Books. This gave Scalzi the ability to negotiate for a higher payout for audio, and as part of that negotiation, possibly have more influence over production and casting decisions.

“I held onto the audio rights, as I hold on to every other right I can, because they have value,” Scalzi said. “Economically and artistically, it makes sense for me to maximize both (print and audio). I get the most amount of money possible and partner with the people who I think will do the best job making and marketing the work.”

Scalzi

Author John Scalzi

The second method would be to produce your own audiobook, which is what I did for Alive. Alive is a YA title with a female protagonist as the only point-of-view character. The readers see everything through her eyes. For voice talent, we hired Emma Galvin, who narrated Veronica Roth’s Divergent series. Emma was a perfect fit for my book and we were lucky to get her.

Producing it ourselves, means we earn the full 40% royalty from ACX, which is extremely competitive. That’s good, but it comes at a cost — all production and talent expense came out of our own pockets. We invested $5,000 in the creation of the Alive audiobook and will need to sell about 660 audiobooks to make that money back.

We invested similar amounts for our audiobooks Nocturnal and PandemicNocturnal earned out in eight weeks, Pandemic in seven. That means everything we earn for the remainder of the seven-year contract term is straight profit.

That accounting, however, only represents our cash outlay. I am not factoring in the time I put in auditioning narrators, communicating with Emma, communicating with the engineer about edits, and managing the process. I can’t put a specific dollar amount on that time. It’s an opportunity cost, measured as time I was not writing new product. If you produce your own audiobooks, you’ll also encounter those opportunity costs.

Sullivan has considered producing his own audiobooks, but with the significant sales his works generate, the advances for audio rights are high enough that it makes more sense to sell them off.

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Author Michael J. Sullivan

“The most attractive thing ACX has going is that the author’s cut isn’t diluted,” Sullivan said. “If my future audiobook advances were to go down, then I would have a bigger incentive to self-publish the audio. I would definitely consider ACX.”

If you don’t want to sell your rights, and you also don’t want to produce the book yourself, that leaves the third method: using ACX’s marketplace to find a producer who will create the audiobook. Through the marketplace, you can either pay for your production up front based on the final running time of the audiobook (per-finished-hour (PFH) payment), or enter into a royalty share done as a 50/50 split between writer and producer. That makes your 40% share a 20% share, with the producer getting the other 20%. Seems severe, doesn’t it? Not when you take a step back and realize you don’t have any up-front costs, as I did with Alive. The royalty share method means you start earning revenue with the very first sale.

And, of course, there is one additional choice: sell the print, eBook, and audiobook rights to a single publisher. Collecting an advance and — hopefully — future royalties is still a viable option if you want to focus all of your energies on creating new works.

As for our strategy? Now and in the future, we enjoy the total control over our audiobooks, and we enjoy the higher profit margin. As long as we have working capital to produce the audiobooks, we’ll keep doing things that way.


New York Times best-selling author Scott Sigler is the author of over 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.


Are you a hybrid author? Tell us your story below.

ACX On the Road: 7 Success Tips from Authors at Romantic Times and Book Expo America

May is the busiest month in the audiobook publishing industry, and this year we connected with ACX authors and publishers at the Romantic Times convention, Book Expo America, and The Audio Publishers Association Conference. We spent a lot of time talking about rights, new technologies, marketing strategies, and so on, and we’re happy to share with you the advice from seven bestsellers we met:

Use paid Facebook posts to drive fans to your audiobook detail pages on Audible.com. Soon after learning she’d won an Audie award for her ACX production of Alpha, Jasinda Wilder created a promoted post mentioning the win so she could capitalize on the buzz. More info on using Facebook to promote your audiobook can be found here.Jasinda Wilder Alpha Facebook AdHold onto your audiobook rights when negotiating traditional book deals. Author Ryan Winfield shared the importance of this decision with us last summer, and pushed to keep the audio rights to his upcoming Falling for June, set to release on June 30, 2015. Separating rights allows authors to leverage the promotional might of a publisher for print/eBook while being able to negotiate better royalty rates for the audiobook.

Expose readers to audio by sharing excerpts on your website via services like SoundCloud. Using these excerpts, authors create dedicated audiobook pages to promote their ACX titles. Check out the audiobook section of ACX author Wendy Lindstrom’s website:

Wendy Lindstrom_Combined

New to audiobooks? Your best resource is… other authors. Sandra Edwards and Regina Duke have turned their friendship into a mentorship; Sandra was the first to take the plunge into audiobooks and makes herself available to Regina for questions and best practices.

Find creative ways to expose your audiobooks to new listeners. We spoke to authors who send ACX promo codes to audiobook blogs and give them out to fans via their newsletter or Facebook page in return for unbiased reviews. Authors are also leveraging each other’s popularity by writing posts for each other’s blogs and even co-writing books and anthologies.

Use GoodReads to make sure readers are aware of your audiobook. The GoodReads Audiobooks page is ideal for finding audiobook reviewers to whom you can give promo codes. Have you noticed GoodReads started rolling out audiobook samples on title pages? ACX author Ava Miles’s title Nora Roberts Land is a good example of this new feature (highlighted in red below), and once samples are available for all titles with audiobooks, every author will be able to use their title page to promote the audio version.

Nora Roberts Land on GoodReads

Run a BookBub ad for your Whisperysync-enabled eBook. Exposing your eBook to a wider audience can have a trickle-down effect when readers find out they can get a great price on your audio version, as well.

While we learned a lot from the authors and publishers we met this May, we know there are even more of you out there working hard to promote your ACX audiobooks. Share your audiobook publishing and marketing tips below and help your fellow rights holders learn from your experience.

The Elements of a Well-Reviewed Audiobook

Today, we’re joined by Robin Whitten, Editor and Founder of AudioFile Magazine, one of the industry’s top sources for audiobook news and reviews. Robin is here to demystify AudioFile‘s editorial process, teach ACX Rights Holders how to cast the best voice for their book, and share how to submit for a review.

The Elements of a Well-Reviewed Audiobook

AuON14_cover_300dioFile has been around the block with audiobook reviews. I started the magazine in 1992 when I could not find any reviews that considered the audio performance or the listening experience. What started as a 12-page newsletter has morphed into a multi-platform audiobook review and recommendation source. We review nearly 200 audiobooks per month, and now have 36,000 reviews in our Review Archive.

Listeners, library selectors, authors, narrators, and publishers access AudioFile reviews in our print bi-monthly magazine, in weekly e-newsletters, on the AudioFileMagazine.com website, at AudiobookREX.com, and featured by content partners who sell audiobooks.

Audiobooks come into our Portland, Maine, offices in a steady (digital) stream. We receive review copies from all major publishers and in increasing numbers directly from authors, rights holders, and narrators. Our AudioFile reviewers –about 120 individuals from all over the country with a few scattered around the world—help us create 40-50 professional reviews each week.

What’s a professional review?

A professional or editorial review is often different from a user-review. Editorial reviewers step back and consider each audiobook from a wider perspective. They use their audiobook listening experience to evaluate and assess the quality of the narration, the overall performance, and the alignment with the author’s intent. A professional’s critique is considered alongside the many other audiobooks they’ve experienced.

There’s always a place for user-reviews. The candid enthusiasm and satisfaction (or lack thereof) offers immediate feedback and is easy for others to react to. AudioFile reviews are more than just one reviewer’s opinion; they’re deliberate and collaborative. At AudioFile, we encourage discussion of elements like successful emotional tone & dramatic style more than a rating system. Our reviews are carefully edited and meet strict standards. Three editors see each review, and the grammar and the sense of the language have to pass them all.

The Focus of AudioFile Reviews

Robin covers

Robin Whitten, AudioFile’s Founder and Editor.

AudioFile reviews very specifically focus on elements of the performance, and what sort of listening experience to expect. Obviously we have to discuss the storyline, but we are not there to critique the author’s written work, or to give a plot summary. Each AudioFile review should make clear to the reader that it’s an AUDIObook review. We may be critical of a performance choice, or the success of an accent, but we do not trash titles indiscriminately.

What Should Authors Listen For?

The most critical element for an audiobook review is the casting. The choice of the right narrator is essential. The skilled narrator can fulfill the intent of the written work and give subtle layers of brilliant storytelling. However, the narrator is not just a voice. The narrator has to get inside the words, and thus into the head of the author. Experience shows, and reviewers can spot the pros.

Sound quality is also something noticed by all listeners. Lapses in QC, like extraneous noise, sloppy edits, and varying sound levels will always be called out by reviewers. All of these are controllable issues, and not perfecting them is a black mark.

Unpredictability comes into reviews primarily because all performance choices or all stories do not appeal to all reviewers. Part of the professional review process is to match reviewers with audiobooks appropriate to their tastes and skills.

AudioFile reviewers are given criteria for their evaluation, criteria we take seriously enough to outline on our masthead: Narrative voice & style; Vocal characterizations; Appropriateness for audio format; Enhancement of the text. We have great respect for the narrators and authors. To get top marks with our review criteria, here are some specifics:

  • Listen for more than “a great voice.”
  • Choose a narrator whose vocal style and tone is aligned with your written style and tone.
  • Make sure the narrator emotionally connects to your intent.
  • Think about how much “performance” you want from your characters. (Note: at Audible, we recommend a subtle performance over a “cartoonish” one.)
  • Consider whether big accents will define your characters or distract from them.
  • Consider whether your book has visual elements like maps or charts, essential footnotes or multiple time-line shifts? These present extra challenges in audio production.

How Do We Choose Audiobooks to Review?

The audiobook publishing floodgates opened a few years ago when ACX added their titles to the already expanding lists from traditional publishers. AudioFile receives announcements of upcoming titles from traditional publishers and starts our selection process there.

CoverBest of-300We make one pass after looking over basic title merchandizing sheets; references from various book scouts in the library and publishing industries; and whatever publicity we find. If an audiobook comes out after the success of a print or eBook title, reviews and buzz can bring these into focus. We take recommendations from narrators, and authors, as well as standard publicity information.

Rights holders, authors, and narrators can submit titles to AudioFile by sending an email with information about the title to editor@audiofilemagazine.com. AudioFile’s managing editor, Jennifer Dowell, will coordinate the review copy and make sure we have all the relevant details.

Why a Good Review is Only Half the Story.

A good review can go a long way, but you need to get out in front of the crowd with the good news. Marketing audiobooks is one of the toughest parts of the process. ACX gives rights holder’s good tips and resources. AudioFile’s broad listener audiences are eager to find their next audiobook. Our readers depend on us to find and review gems that might otherwise be missed. To give listeners an additional resource we started the Indie Showcase for independent authors and publishers. The advertising program gives prime print and online exposure to individual titles. To find out more about the Indie Showcase, email Michele Cobb, michele@audiofilemagazine.com.

AudioFile strives to find the best audiobooks to recommend to our subscribers and visitors. If you follow our advice above and end up with a great audiobook, we’d love to hear it! Please send it in for review.

Robin Whitten is the Editor & Founder of AudioFile Magazine.

How Julianne MacLean Got Her Audio Rights Back

Rights holder Julianne MacLean kicked off September with a $5,000 payment from ACX. How did she manage that, having sold a number of books (audio rights included) to a major publisher in the early aughts? Read on to find out!

Sometimes, All You Have to Do Is Ask.

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ACX Author Julianne MacLean

I wish I could tell the tale of an epic battle where I triumphed magnificently, but getting my audio rights back from my publisher was actually quite simple. All I had to do was request that they return them to me. Thirty days later, they did.

Of course, it’s not always that easy. It depends on what your contract says. So if you are a traditionally published author with books that are still controlled by your publisher, at least go and read your contract. You may be able to get this one important subsidiary right reverted.

Why should this be important to you? Because audiobooks, as a means of entertainment, are growing more popular by the minute, thanks to new digital technology and the fact that almost everyone has a gadget and earbuds in their purse or pocket these days. It’s a perfect breeding ground for sales to listeners who love books. And it’s yet another way to reach new readers, and yet another income stream for the author, above and beyond her usual print and ebook royalties.

In my case, I had sold nine books to Avon/Harper Collins between the years 2002 and 2007.  In each of those contracts, this is what the audio book reversion clause looked like, and it was boilerplate at the time:

“6(d) If the Publisher does not either exercise or license audio recording rights to any Work within 60 days from the date of the Publisher’s initial publication of such Work, the Author may request in writing that the Publisher revert to the Author such rights, and the Publisher shall revert such rights to such Work within 30 days of such request.”

Color of HeavenI’m sure this language is no longer standard, however, because audiobooks are now in a stage of tremendous growth in the marketplace. Moving forward, publishers will no doubt want to hang onto those rights. So this is something to consider when negotiating a new deal with your publisher.

First of all, try and keep your audiobook rights if you can. If that is not possible, do your best to arrive at terms that provide a decent reversion clause.

So what can you do if you get your audio rights back?

You basically have three choices: sell those rights to an audiobook publisher for an advance; publish your own editions independently; or do nothing.

Personally, I chose to publish the audio editions independently through ACX. Within a week of receiving the reversion letter from my publisher, I had contracted Rosalyn Landor to narrate and had pushed the entire Pembroke Palace series into production.

Wildest FantasiesI am finally capitalizing on a format I had not been able to break into while I was at Avon – and yes, it’s lucrative. The first few months may have been slow to get rolling with only one title in my catalogue, but as I added new books and listeners began to find me – and I started pushing harder to promote my audio titles – my monthly earnings began to increase substantially. Two days ago, I received a check from Audible for $5,113. That was for one month’s royalties and bounty payments. So as of this month, I have earned back my investment in the production of all ten titles, and all future revenues will be pure profit. Thank you, ACX.

And I am very glad I checked the reversion clauses on my old contracts. You just never know what you’ll be able to claim as your own.

Hear Julianne in her own words

Portions of this blog post originally appeared at JulianneMaclean.com. You can download the Pembroke Palace series from Audible here.

Directing the Actor

As an author, you’re probably used to working with editors, proofreaders, and cover designers. But when you put on your audiobook publisher hat for ACX, you’ll meet a new type of creative person: the actor. To ensure you cast the right actor and can effectively direct them on your audiobook’s needs, you need to know how to communicate. Read on for our expert advice on the subject and helpful forms you can use to guide your actor to a great performance.

Casting the Actor

Casting the right actor is the important first step towards getting the best performance. ACX features a wide range of talented actors,  and you’ll want to narrow that list down to those with the specific vocal attributes you’re looking for in your audiobook. During the title profile creation process, you’ll come to an area with the following options:

Describe

 

This is where you’ll set the overall tone of the narration. If the book is set in England, or the main character has a heavy Spanish accent, now’s your chance to note such details. You should also begin thinking about the more specific aspects of who your characters are, and how that plays into their personalities. You can include some of this information in the “Additional Comments” field of your title profile.

Directing the Actor

Any actor worth their salt wants to produce the best audiobook they can, providing their best performance while honoring the material and the vision of its creator. As a rights holder, you can help him or her achieve this goal by providing detailed notes on the characters.

How can you help your narrator get the characters and tone right? Start by thinking back to when you were writing the book. Dig deep into your characters’ origins, histories, and motivations. Try to answer some of the following questions to get a sense of who your characters are:

  • Where do they come from?
  • How were they raised?
  • How do they act when happy/sad?
  • How do they react to adversity?
  • Are they book smart or street smart? Perhaps neither?
  • Are they generally upbeat or pessimistic?
  • What motivates them to take make the decisions they make throughout the book?

Thinking about these things and communicating them to your actor will not only help ensure you get a great read, but will help you better understand your own writing and characters! Also, make sure to think about any tricky pronunciations, either place names, names of people, or made up words or names from a conlang (we’re looking at you, Sci-Fi/Fantasy authors).

A Good Example

Check out these character descriptions from a recent Audible Studios production:

The romantic leads: 



  • Jessica: She has a slight southern accent – nothing over the top. If we don’t have a soft southern lilt, then a soft, clean, alto voice. She’s a teenager and should sound like one.
  • Kayne: Slight Scottish brogue. Sexy. He’s the lead male in this book.
  • Sonyaza, The Mephilum King (aka The Bad Guy): Strong, deep, dark, old voice; he’s been around for a while (20,000+ years).

Supporting characters: 



  • James: British. steady. He’s one of the crew’s moral compasses, so a moral-sounding voice.
  • Norris: His voice is a superpower, so it needs to be very resonant; the kind of voice that can command people. Preferably a deep voice.
  • Mary-Beth: Neutral young woman, maybe with slight ‘valley girl’ undertones. She’s a fun person.
  • Eden: Smug, sensual, earthy.

Use this handy Audio Information Form to provide your actor with the information they’ll need to succeed.

The 15 Minute Checkpoint

The 15 Minute Checkpoint sets the baseline for the recording and performance quality you need. We’ve covered reviewing your audio for technical issues previously, so now we’ll delve into tweaking an actor’s performance.

When it comes to guiding or correcting your actor’s performance, remember two key points about your collaborator: he or she is an adult, and he or she is a professional. And like any adult professional, he or she should be able to handle constructive criticism when given respectfully and directly. Keep the following tips in mind when communicating your needs to your actor:

  • Be clear and confident in your vision. You’re going for respectfully direct, not wishy-washy.
  • Use a well known actor to guide your examples. “This character should be charming and romantic, like James Marsden.”
  • If your character is based on a friend or colleague, describe that person.
  • If you can’t describe what you want, try describing what you don’t want.

The Final Audio

If you’ve followed the advice above, you should reach the final audio review stage with very few, if any, notes on character voices and scene tone. Make sure to plan time to review your final audio, and if you have notes, communicate them expeditiously to your producer. It will only become more difficult for them to re-immerse themselves in the world you’ve created as time marches on and they move on to other projects.

Be sure to make reasonable and specific notes. Requesting a complete change to a character voice you approved in the 15 Minute Checkpoint is probably not a reasonable expectation at the final audio stage, but it’s OK to ask for tweaks to a key scene or a few lines of dialogue over the course of a book. You can make things easier for yourself and your actors by making use of the Audible Studios audio review form, found here.

Remember, an audiobook production is a collaboration between two creative parties. Setting up your partner for success will help ensure that you have a productive creative relationship that results in a great sounding audiobook.

Producers: What kind of direction do you find the most helpful? Tell us in the comments!