Category Archives: Authors + Publishers

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.

Audiobook Casting and Collaboration

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!

 

The ACX Author’s Audiobook Checklist

Authors, do you think of yourselves as audiobook publishers? You should! When creating an audiobook through ACX, you cast the title, set the schedule, control the quality and promote the finished product. So, we think you can safely add “Audiobook Publisher” to your job title.

Being a publisher might sound daunting. Many tasks are vying for your attention, and at the end of the day you are responsible for the quality of the finished product. That’s why ACX Rights Evangelist Nicole joins us today to share her ACX Author’s Audiobook Checklist. Follow her the steps to ensure you stay on the path to successfully publishing your books in audio.

The ACX Author’s Audiobook Checklist

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An author’s best friend: ACX’s Nicole

Working with authors, publishers, and agents all day, every day, I’ve discovered that in audiobook publishing, there are optional items as well as critical items that must be checked off before proceeding from one step to the step. Here’s my handy check list for every step of the audiobook publishing process on ACX.

Stage 1: Before You Begin Production.

Verify Rights

checkbox-unchecked Confirm you have audio rights for your book by checking your print or eBook book contract. If you’re self-published (say, through Kindle Direct Publishing or CreateSpace), you’ve retained your audio rights. If you do not have audio rights, and the current rights holder has not produced an audiobook of your work, consider pursuing rights reversion like author Marta Acosta.

checkbox-unchecked Ensure your book is appropriate for audio. Click here for a list of books that usually do not turn into great audiobooks.

Claim Your Title on ACX

checkbox-unchecked Create an ACX account. You can use your existing Amazon email and password to log into ACX. It is important to fill out your name and address, bank information and tax information up front because I don’t want incomplete info to delay your payments once your audiobook is complete!

checkbox-unchecked Claim the best performing ASIN/version on ACX. Many rights holders have more than one version of their book (eBook, paperback, hardcover), and ACX will pull in certain metadata from your Amazon listing, such as the summary and current rankings and ratings. Potential audiobook producers will use this information when deciding if they would like to audition to narrate your book, so put your best foot forward.

checkbox-unchecked Start drafting your audiobook marketing plan. Keep your fans up to date throughout the production process to build anticipation for your audiobook. Your audiobook marketing plans can help you set due dates for your production and the time line in which you want your audiobook to go on sale.

Post your book for auditions on ACX.

checkbox-unchecked Create the title profile for your book. Creating a robust, specific, and accurate title profile is important. A book description that’s detailed and compelling helps producers get excited about working on your project. I always tell my authors to include some performance notes (characters, accents, overall tone, etc.) and to mention if the title is part of a series.

checkbox-unchecked Choose the right audition script for your book. This portion should be about 2-3 pages, and should include some dialog, some descriptive text, and any important accents or character voices. Don’t worry if you can’t find all of these things in one scene – you can build an audition script that includes a few shorter passages that cover the items above.

checkbox-unchecked Decide the payment method for your production. Do you want to pay your producer for their efforts upon completion of the audiobook (a fee per finished hour, as part of a Pay For Production deal) or do you prefer to split your royalties with them 50-50 (as part of a Royalty Share deal)? Learn more about payment options on ACX here.

checkbox-unchecked Make an offer! Clicking this button will start the process of making an agreement or deal. I recommend opening a dialogue with your narrator before or during the offer stage to ensure you are on the same page.

checkbox-unchecked Set a proper production schedule based on your needs and the narrator’s availability. Make sure to leave yourself time to review your final audio and communicate  any corrections to your producer.

Stage 2: Time to Produce

checkbox-unchecked Send the manuscript, and decide on a 15 minute checkpoint once your producer has accepted your offer. You can piece together the 15 minute checkpoint script from multiple parts of the book if need be. Make sure to include main characters, dialogue as well as descriptive text, any particularly tough scenes or tricky pronunciations. If any portion of the book seems likely to trip up your narrator or deserves extra attention, include it in the 15 minute checkpoint.

checkbox-unchecked Request clear and specific corrections to the 15 minute checkpoint as necessary. Once you approve, you narrator will have the green light to produce the rest of the book in its entirety.

checkbox-unchecked Secure and upload your audiobook cover. Cover art should meet our cover art requirements and should make your book attractive to potential listeners.

checkbox-unchecked Line up promotions. I’m constantly telling authors to think about marketing from the very beginning. Are you blogging about your upcoming audiobook? Are you alerting your fans or newsletter list that they will soon be able to hear your book? Keep whetting their appetite for audio and ensure they’ll be eagerly anticipating the day your audiobook becomes available for sale.

Stage 3: Review, Approve, and Pay

checkbox-unchecked Request clear and specific corrections to the final audio as necessary. Don’t be unreasonable, but don’t be shy. This is your audiobook, and sometimes corrections are necessary.

checkbox-unchecked Approve and pay for your audiobook (unless it is a Royalty Share, of course). Your title will be submitted to ACX and receive a quick quality assurance check and, if all is well, should be available for sale within 7 business days of your approval.

 checkbox-unchecked Finalize your marketing plans for when…

Stage 4: Your Audiobook is on Sale!

checkbox-unchecked Use your codes to drive reviews and sales of your audiobook. Once your audiobook is on sale, you will receive 25 free promotional codes via email to distribute to fans and reviewers.

checkbox-unchecked Update your web site, blogs, and social media accounts to reflect your new audiobook. I think author Barbara Freethy’s audiobook section of her website is a great example of how to feature your audiobooks.

checkbox-unchecked Check your backlist, and do it all over again! The only thing better than having a book made in audio via ACX is having ALL your books made in audio via ACX!

Download a printable version of this checklist.

Cynthia Hartwig’s Top Five Marketing Jobs for New Authors

We met Cynthia Hartwig in Seattle at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference. Cynthia teaches writing and storytelling at the Richard Hugo House and The School of Visual Concepts, and we learned right away that she had a knack for tackling topics writers find daunting. She joins us today to demystify what some consider to be the scariest task new authors face: marketing their titles.

Cynthia02The Top Five “Absolutely Positively Have-To-No-Matter-What” Marketing Jobs for New Authors

We need to talk. Yes, I’m talking to you, friend. I get that you’re a writer, a word nut, a lover of deep, heartfelt tales, more conversant in character arcs than target markets and audience splits.

Stop shaking in your boots. I’ve narrowed the marketing tasks down to the top five most effective steps for authors new to the marketing conundrum. If you’re stultified by the thousand things you’ve heard other experts telling you to DO RIGHT THIS MINUTE, start here and you’ll do better than fine.

Understand that a marketing hat is not a dunce cap, a cone of shame or a dog collar.

Writers are strange animals. They write books and they want people to read them. And yet when someone says, “be a marketer” they get all shamefaced and embarrassed.

If you can’t admit to the idea that marketing = sales, try thinking of marketing as an honorable way to find readers. Assuming you’ve got a great story, an inviting cover and a hook-‘em-hard title, this list of marketing priorities will get your book sales moving.

1.  Fill out your Amazon Author Central profile to help readers find you.

It seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many new authors forget this basic task. Filling out your Amazon Author Central page is far more effective than paying for a sexy web site at the early stage of your author career. This is because Amazon attracts millions of readers to its site—and all of them have no idea who you are or why they should look for you UNLESS your book comes up in their search bar.

You have no real brand identity (yet), so it makes sense to help Amazon direct readers to your e-books and audio version(s). Amazon is the online mega-store equivalent, so naturally you want to be front-and-center, as close to as many reader “buy” buttons as you can get. Your author profile page is there to help you.

2. Give out free copies like candy in exchange for reviews.

Cynthia04Deborah Reed, pictured right, is a very successful writer of both literary novels (much harder to sell than genre books) and thrillers (written under the pseudonym, Audrey Braun). Deb recommends sending lots of free copies of your book to bloggers for review. “Be incredibly generous and polite to said bloggers,” she says. “Also give free copies to other writers and readers, including people you know, in exchange for an honest review.”  Don’t worry that giving your book away will steal sales away from you; while it seems counter-intuitive, free sampling is a proven way to build an audience. Once you hook a listener, they will clamor for more. (ACX gives you 25 free download codes that you can use as Cynthia recommends. Just email support@acx.com to request them.Ed.)

3. Reviews are worth mowing the neighbor’s lawn, changing diapers, and washing cars.

Reviews are social proof that your book is worth spending hard cash for. We’re herd animals and believe me, the more you can herd friends, hair cutters, garage mechanics, yard people and yes, even family members, to write a paragraph of honest copy about your book, the better your sales will be.

Your goal is to hand-sell 20-25 reviews. Call in every favor, every chit, every IOU or marker you have outstanding from people in exchange for a review. Do not worry one whit about whether the reviews or good or bad; in fact, I believe bad reviews have a positive effect because people are so cynical they will distrust you if all the reviews are glowing.

4. Build an email list of 1000+ and mail an e-newsletter once a month.

Books have always been sold hand-to-hand until the marketing snowball gets rolling. I hope you started an email list a long time ago but if you didn’t, immediately start collecting names and email addresses of everybody you come in contact with. My list includes business associates, past clients, social club members, PTA committee volunteers, neighborhood watch folks and a host of people I meet in a busy social life. You want to track everyone you meet because people who know you are more likely buy your book than people who don’t. It’s been said that an email list is the one marketing tool that traditional publishers most want to get their hands on. So it makes sense as a “self-marketer”, that you’d build your list into a marketing asset of at least 1000 names.

cynthia03

Next, create an e-newsletter and mail it once a month. More often than that is annoying; any less and people will forget why they are getting a message from you and will unsubscribe. If you happen to blog, the best things to put in your e-newsletter are interesting and informative posts—just don’t make them posts about writing (most of your friends and associates don’t care a whit about the writing, just the reading). Always include a clear, simple call-to-action asking the recipient (nicely) to buy your audiobook. Show your cover with its short sales blurb and make sure they can click a link to buy on Audible, Amazon, or iTunes. If the e-news is informative and doesn’t bludgeon them over the head with a buy-Buy!-BUY! message, your newsletter will be the closest thing you have to your own storefront.

5. Create a blog that doubles as your web site (and isn’t about writing).

You won’t find social media on my “top five absolutely, positively must-dos” for a self-published author right out of the gate. Even though I’m a huge social media fan.

I believe a new author is better off creating a blog that will build credibility in a specific area and will later become the hub for social media. Instead of randomly tweeting or posting “Buy my book!” on Facebook (which doesn’t work and annoys people), create a strong blog designed to build both platform (aka who you are online) and proves your authority (why readers should care).

Don’t make your blog about writing, because the field is saturated. Instead of writing about writing thrillers, blog about weapons the good and bad guys use against each other; don’t write a blog about writing Regency romances, write a blog about the amazing fabrics (duppioni, muslin, jacquard, white weave, slub, satin!) of Regency-era fashions. Once you’ve got yourself established in the blogosphere, then links to your posts become the “there there” that all your tweets, Facebook posts, Goodreads comments, and Pinterest boards lead to. I use WordPress as my blog and website platform and by far, the Two Pens blog aimed at business readers is one of the most important marketing component I use.

6. Once You’ve Written a Book, Record It

I know, I said there would be five tips. But here’s a bonus. You’d expect that the ACX blog would recommend having your book produced in audio. But don’t do it just because ACX says so. Do it for selfish (i.e. marketing) reasons: people who buy audiobooks are way different than the people who buy e-books or print books—and the market is growing. Audiobook listeners are multi-tasking in some way: they’re driving to or from work, they’re riding the subway, enjoying a sunny day in the park – doing a hundred and one things you can’t do with your eyes glued to a page. A basic tenet of marketing is to be everywhere your buyers are. Why not expand your readership beyond books to listeners of audiobooks since ACX has made it so easy to have your words professionally recorded?Cynthia01

-Cynthia Hartwig

Have you tried any of Cynthia’s marketing tactics? Which have worked best for you? Tell us about it in the comments!

5 Tips for Choosing a Narrator

Today, we’ve got a crash course for ACX rights holders on choosing the right narrator for your book. How does an author know which voice is best to bring their work to life? We’ve got 5 tips below that you can use to hone in on the perfect producer for your title.

1. Better the narrator reads a little too slow than a little too fast.

Proper pacing for your title can be hard to nail down. Romance will have a different pace than action books or adventure novels. Different scenes within your title may require a slightly different read based on the content. But overall, it’s better for your narrator to err on the slower side than rush through the material, leaving listeners in the dust.

Listen to the following example of a passage read too quickly:

Notice how it’s hard to distinguish between dialogue and descriptive text. The poor listener is left in the dust, with no time to comprehend what’s being conveyed to them.

Now, let’s listen to the same passage read a little too slowly:

The pacing is a bit deliberate perhaps, but at least the listener can settle into the story and process what’s being read.

2. Character voices should sound natural, not over the top and “cartoonish.”

Another aspect of narration that will quickly turn off listeners is ridiculous sounding character voices. When in doubt, understated is best. Narration that hints at a new character speaking is better than a jarring change in tone. Here’s a clip of a silly, distracting character:

Yeesh! Who could listen to that for the length of an entire book? Now, let’s listen to the same clip with a more measured, understated read:

Much better. Notice how the narrator subtly hints at a change in tone, trusting the reader to pick up on the change in character. (Thanks to Victor Bevine for providing the audio examples above.)

3. Check to see if the narrator has other audiobooks on Audible, and read the reviews.

Proper pacing and character voices are definitely an art, and you shouldn’t feel bad if you’re new to audiobooks and unsure what sounds best. If that’s the case, we recommend you take advantage of the combined knowledge of Audible’s listeners! If the narrator has books already for sale on Audible, check the reviews of those titles. The “What Members Say” section can be found on each title’s product detail page, under the “Publisher’s Summary” section.

Ratings

 

Note that Audible has ratings and reviews specific to performance, not just for the story itself. You can also scroll down further and read opinions from individual Audible Listeners. Many are as attached to their favorite narrators as they are their favorite authors!

Reviews

 

4. Ask for your fans’ opinions.

Author Hugh Howey linked his fans to the ACX sample search and asked for suggestions. If you’ve already started receiving auditions, you can download them from ACX, post them to your website using a service like SoundCloud, and poll your readers with easypolls or another free online polling tool.

Download

 

This is also a great way to build some advance buzz and get your fans excited for your upcoming audiobook!

5. Trust your instincts

You know your book better than anyone. If something doesn’t sound right to you, it probably won’t sound right to others. If you’re unsure about a particular voice, use ACX’s sample search to invite a few of our 15,000 narrators to audition for your book. We’re confident that the perfect voice on ACX, ready to narrate your title!

How do you find the perfect voice for your title? Tell us in the comments!

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 Audible.com 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!

Sample, Sale.

Marketing your ACX titles to potential listeners starts with a dynamic audio sample: in just a few short minutes, Audible listeners will decide if your audiobook is their next great listen. So what makes a great audio sample? Join us as we cover how to get the most out of this brief sound snippet.

A great sounding sample comes from the same place as the rest of your great sounding audiobook – your narrator! Make sure to cast thoughtfully, and don’t be afraid to be proactive by using ACX’s narrator search to find actors and invite them to audition for your title.

As your narrator begins producing your book, give some thought to 3 – 5 minutes of audio that will best represent your title and make it desirable to Audible’s listeners. If you can find one representative scene of this length, great! Or, select more than one interesting passage, and have your narrator edit them together. If your title has action and romance, feature both scenes to really whet your fans’ appetites.

If you’re not sure how to best represent your book, ask your fans for their favorite scene from the print or eBook version. Or, ask your narrator for her recommendation. After all, collaboration is the name of the game on ACX!

Once your narrator has finished your book and uploaded the audio for review, you can approve the production and let us worry about getting the sample on Audible. In the meantime, you can download the retail audio sample file from ACX to your computer, then upload it to an audio sharing site like SoundCloud*. Share the link in your newsletter and on social media. SoundCloud even has a widget that you can place on your own website, further showcasing your audiobook to your fans.

The retail audio sample is a key part of your promotional efforts for your audiobook. Combining a little taste of what’s to come with your other promotional efforts should start to generate some buzz about your book, and set you on the path to strong sales and reviews for your title.

How do you select the perfect retail audio sample?

ACX Guest Post: Wendy Lindstrom on Writing For Audio

Known for the riveting emotional power of her work, award-winning author Wendy Lindstrom has found a perfect home in digital audio on ACX. Masterfully crafted for audiobook format, her bestselling Grayson Brothers series captivates listeners and is fast becoming an audio 5-star favorite. Today, she shares her ten tips on writing for audio.

Writing with Audio in Mind

The audiobook world is experiencing explosive growth, which presents a huge opportunity for authors to gain new readers and to create a potentially lucrative income stream. Writing for audio is an exciting new world that begins and ends with a great book. Preparing your manuscript for digital format requires some time and thought up front, as I quickly discovered.

Wendy Author Photo pds copyright

ACX Author Wendy Lindstrom

Since June of this year, I have been working with a talented producer (Brick Shop Audiobooks) and actor to bring my Grayson Brothers series to audiobook via ACX.

Creating my title profile on ACX was a breeze, but auditioning narrators and working with a talented actor to create character voices and to bring my books to audio has been an incredible journey. I learned that writing for audio puts you in the driver’s seat. You’re in charge—and you’re responsible. Having control of the product and the creation process can be both heady and terrifying.

If you would like to see your work in audio format, here are 10 tips I wish I had known before I started the process.

Ten Tips to Improve the Audiobook Experience—For You and Your Readers

  1. Open with dialogue and action, if possible. Long narration can get boring fast. (I ought to know. After listening to the first fifteen minutes of The Longing, I cut most of the first chapter for this very reason!) Reading text is a very different experience than listening to those same words as an audiobook.
  2. Create descriptive tags that keep your readers from getting lost. Use tags to clarify who is doing the action or experiencing the emotion, especially in scenes where characters banter back and forth quickly or for long stretches. Without good tags, listeners must depend on the vocal skill of the narrator to differentiate characters. Not an easy task with two or three characters of the same gender in a scene. Listen to samples from other audiobooks and evaluate what works and what doesn’t.727tpe4761sf5cg11374614520830
  3. Ensure that your author voice is evident in your sentence cadence and phrasing. You might have heard the adage, “If it’s not on the page, it’s not on the stage.” This holds true in the audiobook world as well. The stronger your voice comes through on the page, the better chance your narrator will create something close to your vision of your book. The same is true for your character’s voice. If your protagonist speaks with a raspy, seductive voice, get that on the page. Envision how you will convey this information to your narrator and put it in your book. These are all tips your narrator will use when creating character voices and recording audio. Listen to superb character dialogue from The Longing for an example. 
  4. Limit the number of characters in a scene, or limit how many of those characters speak in that scene. In Kissing in the Dark, there are nine female characters conversing in a scene! My mistake. Thankfully, my talented narrator was able to pull this off, but I guarantee I won’t be doing this again.
  5. Maintain a balance between narration, dialogue, and inner monologue in order to keep the listener engaged. See tip #1.
  6. Make each word count. Words carry more weight when read aloud. A good voice actor can raise your story to a higher level, but don’t depend on your narrator to act or convey the level of emotion you imagine for the scene. Your words must create that impact. A skilled narrator will make those words sing.
  7. Beware of character accents and localized speech—use judiciously. A narrator must read those lines, and the results might be far different than you desire. Listening to characters with very heavy accents can be confusing and grow tiresome.
  8. Read your work aloud to pinpoint areas needing clarification and to eliminate choppy writing.uln8ne5nvavw7alt1374620097444
  9. Complete all revisions on your book project before uploading to ACX and seeking auditions from narrators. It can be confusing and difficult to swap out your manuscript and sales copy once production begins. Plus, for Whispersync for Voice your e-book must closely match the audiobook. If you revise more than a word here and there, you’ll need to upload a new e-book file that matches the revised audiobook.
  10. Manage your project budget through book length. Writing a shorter (but not too short) book will require less money to produce in audio format, which may enable you to get into audiobooks sooner. There is always the royalty share option to consider, but that is for another post.

I hope these tips help make your entry into the audiobook world a little easier. It’s a great place to be—it’s a place you want to be.

Read more about Wendy at www.wendylindstrom.com.

Do you write with audio in mind? Tell us in the comments!

Advice From Authors Near and Far

We’ve attended quite a few publishing & voiceover events this summer, from BEA to That’s Voiceover, and met many current and future ACX users along the way. Last month, we attended the annual conferences of the Romance Writers of America (RWA) and the Pacific Northwest Writers Association (PNWA), and we learned great tips from successful authors along the way.

ACX’s own Jason Ojalvo took Atlanta by storm at the RWA’s annual conference, taking part in the fruitful Amazon indie publishing panel, and we’re not just saying that because he tried his first peach cobbler. Authors learned about the great benefits and services provided through Amazon, from Amazon Author Central to Kindle Direct Publishing and CreateSpace, as well as ACX. We also attended panels conducted by ACX authors such as Bella Andre and Barbara Freethy. Both offered tips for their fellow writers, including:

  • Write more than one book. There is strength in numbers
  • Spend more time writing than promoting. Promoting your work is definitely important. But as a writer, your main job is to write.
  • Network with authors and cross promote. You can multiply each others’ efforts, especially when you’re in similar or complimentary genres.
  • Get to know your retailers. Different retailers offer varying services and have different timelines for getting your book in their store. Learn who offers what to best navigate the landscape.
  • Get all of your fans to sign up for your newsletter. This is mainly to drive sales on the release date, in order to get on the best seller list. Be aggressive about getting email addresses – they’re even more important than fans on Facebook or Twitter.

Moving now to the Pacific Northwest, ACX Product Manager Mike Stover presented ACX to the gathered authors at PNWA, participated in the Independent Author booth for the full three days of the conference, and expertly avoided the siren song of Seattle’s casinos. Here’s some of what he learned from the fantastic authors he met:

  • Authors love hearing their work in audio. And, it inspires them to write future books with audio in mind.
  • Authors are advertising their audio edition alongside their print and eBooks. This is especially beneficial with ACX’s $25 bounty program.
  • Authors are putting their 5 minute sample on their blog or website. Oftentimes, fans only need to hear their favorite work in audio to be convinced to buy it.

We look forward to spreading the word about ACX at upcoming industry events like Novelists, Inc. 2013 in October and Self Publishing Book Expo this November. We hope to see you there!

Would you like to see ACX at your next publishing or recording industry event?

ACX Success Story: Falling Into You – Part 2

When we left off with the key players in the ACX production of Falling Into You, author Jasinda Wilder had chosen narrator Piper Goodeve and her real life beau Gabriel Vaughn to bring young lovers Nell and Colton to life. The two narrators and engineer Pete Rohan got to work preparing the script and began recording.

Narrator Piper Goodeve:

Prepping a book is always a fun process for me. If I have time I love being able to just read the book once without thinking of anything in terms of recording, just enjoying it as a reader, and then go back and read it again with characters in mind, underlining difficult passages, making notes, etc.

Engineer Pete Rohan:

Piper had a really good grasp of the story and characters. In the first chapters I thought that she might have been reading the main character too young but, as she pointed out, at that point in the story the main character was a callow youth. In retrospect it made perfect sense, and allowed for a more dramatic arc for the main character.

Author Jasinda Wilder:

Piper pretty much nails it the first time, every time. That’s part of why I love her so much. She gets the feel and voice of my characters, and accurately portrays them in a way that matches what I had in mind.

a165oxxqungc8e921364913817711Piper Goodeve:

A big part of the prep for me was actually listening to all of the music that Jasinda mentions in the book.  Music is a huge part of these characters and their lives, so it was important to me that I know the songs and what they meant to the characters, and why they were specifically chosen by Jasinda.  I made a mix of the songs (21 in total) and would listen to it on the way to the studio.  It helped me get into the world of the book more completely and embody Nell more fully.

With preparation finished, Piper and Pete began recording the 15 minute checkpoint for Jasinda. Their preparation and professionalism paid off. 

Jasinda Wilder:

I didn’t make any changes at the 15 minutes checkpoint. Listening to the final audio? There’s nothing like it. It’s such an amazing experience, hearing talented actors like Piper and Gabe bring my story to life in such a unique way. I had shivers as I listened to each chapter.

Pete Rohan:

This was my first foray into using more than one narrator, so I was a little concerned with the additional editing work. Thankfully the structure of the book made it a fairly easy edit, as most of the guy/girl parts were broken down into complete chapters. The whole thing came together beautifully if I do say so myself.

Piper Goodeve:

Sometimes at the end of recording it is hard for me to say goodbye to certain characters, especially in first person narration. I found that to be true of Falling Into You.  I was sad to be done with Nell and Jasinda’s wonderful writing.

acx_logo_600x600_smallJasinda Wilder:

Your audiobook is part of your toolbox. When you send out newsletters, post on social media, and do blog tours, make sure you’re mentioning your audiobook. Some people aren’t even aware of audiobooks, so part of our job is to heighten awareness of ACX/Audible, and how awesome it can be to listen to a book performed.

Listen to Falling Into You at Audible today. If you’ve forged an inspiring creative relationship through ACX, tell us about it in the comments!