Category Archives: Storytellers

ACX Storytellers: Anna Parker-Naples

ACX Producer Anna Parker-Naples was a classically trained actress with a career on the rise. But when family and health concerns threatened to derail her dream, she turned to voice acting as a way to continue to getting work and making use of her acting skills. Now she’s an accomplished audiobook producer with nearly thirty titles under her belt in less than two years. Read on to learn how she turned a challenging situation’s silver lining into a fulfilling new career.

The Silver Lining: Audiobooks

My path into audiobook narration and production has been unusual. You never know what life will throw your way, and I am a firm believer that in every cloud there is a silver lining. For me, it turned out audiobooks were just that.

APN_StudioI trained in London with The Actors Company as an actress, and worked predominantly in theatre, touring nationally and internationally including performing at the RSC’s Royal Shakespeare Theatre, until I took a break to have children. My third pregnancy was very difficult, and I found myself in a wheelchair, not knowing if I would ever walk again. I had worked on occasional high-profile short-form voice overs during my acting career, (including work for Aardman Animations and the UK’s main children’s television channels, CBeebies and CiTV) and an audio producer friend mentioned that since technology had changed so dramatically in the past few years, many voice actors could now work from home to create professional quality audio. It was a light-bulb moment for me. I knew I could make a success of voice over work and perform that way even if I remained in a wheelchair for the rest of my days.

My lovely husband set about building me a booth, and I set about learning everything I could about the voice over industry – how to record and edit, how to promote myself, and all that jazz. I found I was quickly establishing myself as one of the leading young British female voice over artists, creating commercial and corporate audio for many top international brands. And most importantly, my health recovered. I think chiefly because I had work that I could be passionate about and could put positive energy into.

As my kids grew, I realised that I would one day want to return to acting, and thought that audiobook narration would be a great way to cross that bridge. After submitting a reel, and rigorous auditions, I was selected to narrate for the UK charity the Royal National Institute for the Blind, and soon found that I fell in love with narrating audiobooks. I discovered that it is an art form in itself, and that performing in this field provides a tremendous amount of creative satisfaction. As a narrator, you get to paint the whole picture yourself – you are all the characters and often the engineer and APN Coverdirector as well, so it feels like your creative baby, which is so different from stage and screen work. I also found it so much more gratifying than the short form VO commercial work I was doing, as I could really get my teeth into telling a story. This narration business seemed like a great fit for me, and I quickly went on to work for other mainstream audiobook producers in the UK, and have now completed 28 titles in just under 18 months.

Since March of 2014 I have completed 11 audiobooks through ACX, with 4 more on the way.  I love the creativity narration allows me, and the freedom I have to pick and choose which titles I get involved with when I use ACX.  I specialize in Young Adult, Historical Fiction and Romance, and there are some great stories for me on the site. I have a young family, and working from home means I am always there for school pick-ups and can still bring to life some fascinating characters and tell absorbing stories. At the start of my acting career, this would not have seemed an obvious choice to me, but I am delighted to have found my way to being an audiobook narrator.

Check out Anna’s ACX profile here.

ACX Storytellers: Sharon Hamilton

ACX author Sharon Hamilton and producer J.D. Hart are a match made in heaven, and it all started with a breathtaking audition. Learn why they work so well together, and how their partnership has lead Sharon to not only recoup, but exceed her $30,000 investment in 10 short months.

ACX Author Sharon Hamilton

I’ve enjoyed writing my whole life. There is something about the process that touches the best parts of my soul and makes me want to open up to my reading audience. What I didn’t realize until a year ago, was the effect hearing my stories in audio format would have on me. Just as I am so sated and satisfied when I sit down and create a compelling story, hearing those words spoken dramatically by a professional storyteller brings a whole new dimension to the experience. He literally breathes life into my characters, and they become real.

When I heard J.D. Hart’s voice, it was like magic, the kind of magic I feel when I write. And when he accepted my offer, I was beyond thrilled. I was literally dancing around the room, jumping on beds and celebrating down the hallway.

I am happy to report that excitement has remained to this day. If anything, it’s gotten stronger, after working on eleven books together.He doesn’t just read my stories, he performs them. He has become another character, and his narration is through his eyes, his heart.

A decision I made early on has proven to be one I’m still happy with. I decided to offer J.D. pay for production deals rather than royalty shares. I had faith in my own writing and in the process of creating the audiobooks. I 51eAae4kVKL._SL300_planned to have an initial expense to this project, but I’m happy to report the returns have been much better than I had expected, and the investment well worth it. I have invested over $30,000 of my own money and have gotten every penny back, plus a profit. To have done this just 10 months into a 7 year contract is wonderful. I plan on releasing a new audio book every 60 days or so, and I’m confident that every dollar spent will bring me back much more.

One reason for my confidence is that J.D. also helps me market my books. We create “audio trailers” so listeners can hear what he will sound like in the recording. This assists in the promotion the audiobook, but sells my other formats as well. Now I’m getting reviews and comments from people who can’t decide which format they love best. People who have read my stories are buying the audio as well – sometimes over two years after the initial print or eBook sale – wanting to experience the story all over again through J.D. I think this has converted many readers to audiophiles.

Author Sharon and Producer J.D. Hart

Author Sharon and Producer J.D. Hart

Having listened to so many hours of J.D.’s storytelling, I hear his voice in my head while I’m writing. I think it has made me a better writer to have my books in audio format. I choose words carefully, or adjust words to those that I know will sound better when my audio version comes out. My dialogue has become crisper because I trust that he will bring the voice of the character to the book. I’m writing faster, more efficiently. I feel the story on a deeper level, and that is always good for a writer. I notice my speech patterns, flow of words and uses of descriptors. We have a fantastic working relationship, made even better by the fact that he gets paid for his work, and I get to keep all the profits.

NYT, USA Today and Amazon Top 100 Bestselling Author Sharon Hamilton’s SEAL Brotherhood series have earned her Amazon author rankings of #1 in Romantic Suspense, Military Romance, and Contemporary Romance.  A lifelong organic vegetable and flower gardener, Sharon and her husband live in the Wine Country of Northern California, where most of her stories take place.

Are you an ACX success story? Tell us in the comments!

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.

ACX Storytellers: Scott Sigler

New York Times best-selling author Scott Sigler is an ACX bounty superstar, racking up over $10,000 in bounty payments this year alone. Releasing his self-recorded works as free podcasts, his “serialized audiobooks” built a dedicated audience that pushed his indie print novel Ancestor to #1 on Amazon’s Horror and Sci-Fi charts. His print success led to a recently signed three-book deal with Del Rey, and Scott successfully negotiated with the publisher to retain his audio rights. Read on to see why those rights are so important to him, and how he made ACX’s Bounty Program such a large part of his revenue stream.

Sigler_Bio

ACX Author Scott Sigler

NO STRANGER TO AUDIO

I worked for fifteen years to land a publishing deal, to no avail. By 2005, I had a nice, neat file folder labeled “motivation” that contained 124 rejection letters. That year was also when I learned about this newfangled thing called “podcasting.”

As an author, a lifelong reader, and a big fan of audiobooks, I saw the writing on the wall: podcasting would let people serialize audiobooks and deliver them to listeners. I still had my first novel, Earthcore. Since I hadn’t signed a publishing contract, I owned all the rights, which meant that I could record it and release it for free. Anyone who wanted to try out my stories could do so without spending money on an unknown author, giving me a competitive advantage to help gain new fans.

I built a large audience of people listening to my serialized audiobooks. When it came time to sell a story in print — the indie trade paperback of Ancestor, published March, 2007 — that audience rewarded me beyond my wildest expectations. Ancestor was the #1 print novel on Amazon’s Horror chart, #1 in SciFi, #2 in Fiction and the #7 best-selling book overall.

That success got New York publishing interested. They wanted to partner up and see if we could make something big happen. My novel Infected went into auction, Crown Publishing won, and we set out to make great books together.

ACX – THE ACCIDENTAL DISCOVERY

I absolutely loved working with Crown Publishing (a division of Random House). I wouldn’t trade that experience for all the footballs in Texas. But it was one small difference of opinion with Random House Audio, over my audiobook marketing strategy, that led to my fantastic relationship with ACX.Nocturnal Cover

By my fourth book with Crown, Nocturnal, Random House Audio simply chose to not put out the audiobook. Since they owned the audio rights, I couldn’t record it and release it on my own. Therefore, no podcast.

So we asked them: if you’re not going to release an audiobook, can we have the rights back? Happily, they said “no problem,” and promptly worked with us to release the rights back to me, the author.

That left me with the audiobook rights to a pair of in-demand novels. What to do, what to do…

HOW ACX BECAME A TRUSTED PARTNER

We had released one book with ACX, my horror short story collection Blood is Red. We next hired the golden-voiced Phil Gigante to record both Nocturnal and Pandemic, and released those audiobooks via ACX. We thought we might sell a couple of hundred copies, and that ACX’s high royalty rates would do us well.

We didn’t sell hundreds. We sold thousands.

And it’s not just the audiobook sales themselves: the bounty we receive when a new Audible Listener selects one of our books as their first purchase is a significant line item in our revenue stream. We actively market the availability of our books on Audible, and ACX in turn rewards us when we bring them new customers. Everyone wins.

It’s Empty Sethard to measure our podcast audience, but our stats show we have around 20,000 listens per episode within the first month of that episode’s release. Therefore, we have an existing audience that already listens to audiobooks on a regular basis. Our podcasts are free, but also serialized and ad-supported. We regularly tell our listeners that if they want the whole book in one big chunk, free of ads, they can swing over to Audible and buy it — free or paid, the choice is all theirs.

Offer the customer a choice, and you’ll be surprised how many will take the “paid” option. In 2014 alone, we’ve earned over $10,000 in bounty revenue. That’s on top of the royalties we’ve earned for the books themselves.

Since I am a happy and active Audible customer, I really get into pushing Audible to my podcast listeners. It’s a great service at a great price and I know the vast majority of my fans who try it will love it. We regularly pitch Audible as a “pre-roll ad” where the pitch comes before our episode’s intro music, and we often pimp it with messaging in our blog posts and posts on Facebook, G+, Tumblr and Twitter. We only pitch about once a month on each of those locations, however, so that we’re not beating our readers/listeners over the head.

AND THE FUTURE ROLLS OUT BEFORE US…

I recently finished my five-book deal with Crown, and my agent landed me a three-book deal with Del Rey (also a division of Random House) for my Generations trilogy.

Part of the negotiation with Del Rey was that we keep the audiobook rights. Del Rey agreed, and we’re excited to be in business with thUntitled-9at legendary Sci-Fi imprint. The success of Nocturnal and Pandemic on ACX taught us that we’re more successful when we control our own audiobooks. Del Rey manages the print and eBook products, we’ll sell our own audiobooks through ACX.

We can’t wait. We’re looking forward to a lifetime of royalties and bounties for our products, a long-term revenue stream that will contribute to our company’s bottom line. More importantly, that revenue will help us keep making new products for the readers who have given us everything we have.


New York Times best-selling author Scott Sigler is the author of fifteen novels, six novellas and dozens of short stories. His hardcover horror-thrillers are available from Crown Publishing and Del Rey. He also co-founded Empty Set Entertainment, which publishes his YA Galactic Football League series (The Rookie, The Starter, The All-Pro, The MVP and The Champion due out in September 2014).

ACX Storytellers: Zhanna Hamilton

Zhanna Hamilton is an ACX user doing double duty: she plays both roles in the ACX equation as an author and  audiobook producer, with a Master’s in Marketing to boot. Her combination of education and experience has enabled her to achieve success marketing over 90 ACX titles and generating hundreds of valuable Bounty payments. She joins us today to share her story and her tips for audiobook marketing success.

Zhanna HamiltonThe Zhanna Hamilton Story

As an Audible Approved Producer on ACX, my virtual studio and I have had the pleasure of recording, editing and mastering over 100 audiobooks. Some of these audiobooks have been my own books, with others for authors and small/medium publishers. Thanks to ACX, I’ve been fortunate enough to have my audiobook “Rewire Your Brain: 300 Affirmations for Positive Thinking” hit number one on iTunes in the self-development category in February 2014

As a child, I’ve always had an inclination towards writing. One of my first poems was about the psychology of a cat (it wasn’t as sophisticated as it sounds), prompting my mother to gift me a journal so I could keep my poetry in one place. As an adult surrounded by the growth of technology and the availability of the ACX platform, creating audio books was a natural extension of my love for words. The best audiobook production comes from a team of dedicated people with one goal in mind – to produce quality audio books. After building up a rock star team of voiceover artists and sound designers to produce my own audiobooks, I opened up our services to other authors and publishers.

Bounty Payments and Audiobook Marketing

Once the production process is completed, marketing becomes an integral part of the audiobook life cycle. Marketing your titles will expose them to a wider audience and is key to generating those bounty payments (awarded by ACX whenever a new Audible listener buys your book as their first purchase). It can be difficult to think like a marketer if you only view yourself as a writer. In order to sell well, you must be both. Even big publishers don’t do nearly the same amount of advertising for authors as they used to – placing much of the marketing responsibility on your shoulders. If you are self-published, that responsibility triples. Here are some tactics to help you become a successful marketer:

RewireEducate yourself. I learn best through trial-and-error, listening to interviews with other entrepreneurs or authors and self-educating through books, internet searches and tutorials. I do have a Master’s in Marketing, but I’ve found the information from a curriculum can be found on Google for much cheaper. In other words, there is no excuse for anyone in the information age to say, “I don’t know to market my book.” Just Google it!

Don’t just SELL, SELL, SELL. As every self-published author has learned (or will learn), establishing a relationship with your audience is a must. This means engaging with your social media audience, always answering emails from readers, and treating people like respected friends – not wallets. Would you rather buy a product from a friend, or a stranger? The more familiar your fans are with you, the more you will feel like a friend to them. This enriches their lives, and in return, they will be more willing to choose your products over a stranger’s products. Familiarity helps establish trust, both in you as a transparent person, and in your line of products.

Value first, promotions second. In order to gain a real following, you must give immediate value outside of your line of products. “Value” is a vague word, as it means something different to each audience. Your audience might value humor, and that’s why they follow you on social media. If you are a romance novelist, they may value your insight on interpersonal relationships. Giving them more of what they value – with your promotions coming second – lets your readers and listeners know you are there to enrich their lives.

Quality over quantity. When I’m browsing the internet and come across a great article, video, or blog, I think, “My Facebook fans would love this.” The more useful your posts are to your audience, the more they will think of you as an authority in your industry. When I first started maintaining social media pages, I thought posting every hour like those big-budget pages did was the way to go. I quickly learned quality is more important than quantity and am pickier about what I post on social media. Before posting anything, I always ask myself, “would I want to see this in my newsfeed?” Sharing in this way helps me feel more connected to my audience when they ‘like’ what I post.

Learn

Set a schedule. Being an author, producer, and marketer creates the need for a schedule. I like to plan my productivity on a monthly basis, setting milestones and deadlines within each week with the overall goals of the month in mind.

Use those promo codes. ACX will give you 25 free promotional codes upon the publication of your audiobook. Personally, I enjoy offering freebies through my newsletter and social media channels, as these are the places my audience expects me to give such items. For example, I run a book reviewer program on my English as a second language website for reviewers wanting free books. Additionally, I give away books on a weekly basis through my Reddit profile and my newsletter. Sometimes, the books or audio books I give away are in exchange for honest reviews. Other times, they are for gaining a larger readership and come with no conditions. I have done Facebook giveaways, interviews and have shared my knowledge with others with the goal of connecting with my readers, listeners and other like-minded people.

Mix it up. I’ve found the best way to promote a product is to mix up your marketing method, experiment often and let the results lead your marketing plan. You might find that book trailers are a great way to promote audio books, or that Pinterest is where your audience hangs out the most.

My focus for all my audiobook marketing is always the end user and how to best connect with them. This outlook has made all the difference in both attracting new Audible Listeners and keeping them interested in our line of audio books.

To receive updates from Zhanna Hamilton, follow her on Twitter and Facebook. Subscribe to her newsletter on ZhannaHamilton.com for free books and audio books.

ACX Storytellers: Ryan Winfield

Author Ryan Winfield is no stranger to audiobooks, having published five through ACX. As an author who has published both traditionally and independently, he recently made the unconventional choice to turn down an advance from a major publisher and keep his audio rights. Today, learn why audiobooks mean more to his portfolio than ever, and why he made this surprising decision. 

Why I bet on myself with ACX.

Ryan Winfield Headshot

ACX Author Ryan Winfield.

It was an exciting day when I published my first novel with Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. I’ll never forget sending out the announcement email to my friends and seeing the first few downloads show up in my sales report almost immediately. I could never have imagined that just two years later I would be logging in to read my name on the New York Times bestseller list. A lot has changed since that first book. In addition to my independently published work, I now have a contract with a major New York publisher, and I spend more time flying to book conventions and less time writing than I would prefer. But one thing hasn’t changed: my desire to connect with readers through my stories. And getting my stories in front of as many readers as possible means making them available in every format—print, eBook, and audio.

After my first novel had found success, many readers reached out to me requesting I make the book available in audio for them to listen to. Some quick research led me to the Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX), a new Amazon company that facilitates the creation of audiobooks and distributes them through Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. I used their helpful tips and videos to create a home studio and record my first book in my own voice. It was a rewarding process that left me with great respect for professional narrators.

When my fourth book, Jane’s Melody, hit the New York Times bestseller list, readers were once again begging for an audio edition. This time I used ACX to secure auditions from several pre-qualified Audible Approved Producers until I found just the right one. The book was up and available for readers within 45 days, selling well and getting great reviews. The process was so easy I couldn’t wait to audition narrators for my other work, and all three books of The Park Service trilogy are now available alongside my other titles, read by an extremely talented voice actor who listened to my input and brought my characters to life!

Park ServiceIt was this experience that led me to turn down an offer from one of the Big 5 New York publishers for the audio rights to my upcoming titles, which are being published by one of their imprints, deciding instead to use ACX. There was a time when I would have thought myself crazy for turning down the offer of a generous advance in favor of self-producing my own audiobooks. But now I know it’s just smart.

I believe every author must market themselves once they have a book out in the world, whether it’s published traditionally or independently, and the generous royalties offered by ACX, along with the bounty payments, provide me with the royalties I need to invest in finding new readers. Having just returned from Book Expo America (BEA) in New York, I am more aware than ever of just how easy it is for one book to get lost in the flood of titles pouring onto the market each year. I had to ask myself: Who has more interest in getting my books out to readers and listeners than I do? The answer was easy: No one does. With a 40% royalty and the possibility of earning a bounty every time a new Audible listener downloads my title as their first book, I have the revenue to reinvest in myself by advertising my work. How and where to spend that money is a different topic for a different blog post, but I have met few people more on the cutting-edge when it comes to marketing than the creative community of independently published authors currently climbing the charts.

In short, and in case you couldn’t tell, I love ACX. And who wouldn’t? A portfolio of professional narrators who will audition to read your work, an easy-to-use system for professionally producing your audiobooks, 40% royalties, bounty payments, distribution on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes, plus daily sales reporting that allows me to gauge the success of my marketing campaigns. With five titles already produced through ACX and a sixth on the way, I’m looking forward to continuing to reach new listeners while enjoying royalties for the rest of my life and beyond. And that’s why I bet on myself with ACX.

Ryan Winfield is the New York Times bestselling author of Jane’s MelodySouth of Bixby Bridge, and The Park Service trilogy. He lives in Seattle. To connect with Ryan, visit him at ryanwinfield.com or Facebook.com/RyanWinfield.

ACX Storytellers: Mark Tufo

ACX Author Mark Tufo has written over 20 books currently on Audible, including the wildly popular Zombie Fallout series. Mark initially sold his audio rights to a studio, but as he learned about audiobook production, he realized he could make more money and and gain creative control by keeping his rights and having his books produced via ACX. Today, Mark joins us to discuss the decision to take control of his audiobook publishing.

Why self-produce? Well, the simple answer is money. There was so much more that went into the decision, but money was the major factor. The studio that picked up the rights to most of the Zombie Fallout series was, in a word, awesome. I felt a loyalty to them, and making the move to go solo was not taken lightly. But ultimately, it came down to what was best for my family. It made no sense to be paid pennies on the dollar when I could make more doing it myself. When I found out that ACX would allow me to continue my partnership with Sean Runnette, the multi-talented narrator of the previous entries in the Zombie Fallout series, it was nearly a no-brainer (which is a good thing for me).

TufoRunnette NY02

L to R: ACX Author Mark Tufo and Zombie Fallout narrator Sean Runnette

I know that going this alone can seem daunting for some folks. Finding the perfect narrator for your work is just about as important as the story itself. But there’s something to be said for getting to be ‘hands-on’ during this endeavor. If you’re a control freak like me, blindly trusting a publisher can be scary too. But working with ACX has been nothing short of great. I didn’t think this process was going to be as smooth as it has been. As an independent author there is always so much work to do, and the thought of taking on more was cause for concern. But beyond giving the go-ahead to Sean’s work (by approving the 15 minute checkpoint) and uploading my manuscript, it was only about one large iced coffee worth of work. And ACX has been there every step of the way, whether we had questions in regards to paying the talent or receiving royalties.

Looking back, it seems like it all happened pretty fast. While my family and I were going through it, not so much. I’ve always loved to read and I’ve always loved to write. Even in grade school, when our teacher would assign a writing project and the rest of my classmates were groaning, I was secretly happy. I started writing my first novel in college and finished it many moons later. My wife shipped it to every publisher’s address we could find. I could probably make a book just from the stack of rejection letters. I did not have much hope that my book would ever see the light of day.

I released my first book via CreateSpace & Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)  in February of 2009. One morning my wife said ‘Hey, there’s this self-publishing thing on Amazon and I’m going to put your book up there.’ I didn’t even know what that meant, but I agreed. I thought it’d be cool to see my book in ‘print,’ even electronically. I saw a ‘blistering’ sales rate of three copies over the first seven months (two were actually from family members who I think felt bad for me). When I found myself laid off, I turned to my hidden passion and wrote the first installment of Zombie Fallout, not because the “Zombie” genre was heating up (I had no clue), but rather because I truly love zombies.

I finZF7ished the book, and had a blast writing it. I self-edited (which I don’t recommend) and again published it with Amazon. We still had low expectations, so I almost swooned when we sold seven copies that first month (I said almost). At this point we actually weren’t doing any advertising, but were lucky when a few bloggers happened upon the first book and helped get the word out.  When the book started selling more and we could afford it, we had the book professionally edited. Increasing sales inspired me to keep writing, plus I really wanted to know how this was going to turn out for my characters!

It was with the release of Zombie Fallout 4 that my wife and I figured that this could be more than additional income; it could become our primary source.  It was with the release of the fifth book that I noticed more and more readers asking me about an audio version. I asked my wife if anyone actually listens to audiobooks anymore. I remember my mom with her ancient cassette player, listening to books in the kitchen. I thought it was a dying market, not a thriving one. So when that studio contacted me, I felt I had nothing to lose by signing with them and giving it a shot.

I admit I was misguided in my thinking and lack of research before signing.  I received my first royalty check about 8 months later and realized that there was actually a very large audio consumer group out there, and that I had signed away a very large sum of money by giving up my audio rights. That just goes to show you how much we were stumbling through the dark and trying to learn through this entire process.

Luckily, KDP puts out a monthly newsletter, and one issue had a write up on ACX.  I did some research into the service and decided to jump ship from my studio, as good as they’d been, and go with ACX for my next audio book.

ACX is there from start to finish of each project, ready to answer any questions I have. Payments are accurate and timely (something I’ve learned the hard way is not always standard in the ‘published’ world). ACX has been an incredible boon for us, without their help we would not have been able to move from our cramped townhouse to our own house with a yard.

Do you have an ACX story to tell? Put it in the comments and you might be the next featured user on our blog!

ACX Storytellers: Wendy Lindstrom & Julia Motyka

Wendy Lindstrom’s previous post on the blog, Writing For Audio, was such a success that we’ve asked her back. This time, she speaks with the narrator of her popular Grayson series, Julia Motyka. Read on to find out about Julia’s emotional connection to Wendy’s characters and how her career on stage informs her audiobook work.

Wendy Lindstrom: The inflections in your voice and the ways in which you approach each character’s dialogue are just wonderful. What is your process for bringing a character to life within a book?

Julia: I come to the world of audiobooks from the world of theater, so I find that I approach each book I narrate very much as I would a play, or one person show. As I read the book for the first time, I create a spread sheet of every character which contains their age, physical features and a few key descriptive words about their personality. I note whether the character has an accent of any kind or is described vocally in any way as well. After having read the book once, I look back both at the primary scenes a character takes part in and also at my description sheet.

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“Grayson” series narrator Julia Motyka

Most often, what happens next is a bit of a mystery- even to me! I sit quietly for a little while and kind of meditate on each character. I know it sounds silly, but I start to feel what it would feel like to be them, in my body; How they carry themselves, where they speak from (are they more intellectual or sentimental), etc. When I have a feeling for the essence of the character, I try on a little bit of their dialogue. If that feels ‘right’, I try a little bit more.

I don’t rehearse the entire book- that would take WAY too long, and besides, it would take a lot of the fun of the spontaneity out of the recording process, but I do try to get as fully ‘inside’ each character as possible before recording so that, as I read their dialogue, I feel fully invested in who they are are where they’re each coming from.

Which scene(s) in Shades of Honor/The Grayson Brothers Series did you most enjoy recreating and why?

Julia:  There were so many!! Truly! But, if I have to choose… [Spoiler Alert!] I’d say the scene(s) surrounding Evelyn’s father William Tucker’s death. I became very fond of that character and felt a particular affinity for him. I have a very close relationship with my father (both of my parents, actually) and spent several years caring for him when he was in ailing health in my late teens and early twenties, so that provided an added connection for me within that material.

727tpe4761sf5cg11374614520830I also felt the writing in that section to be particularly evocative and very moving. I had to stop narrating in the booth more than once to blow my nose and dab at my eyes! It’s always the best when the investment in a given set of circumstances and characters becomes overwhelming to that degree. It makes me feel like I’m doing justice to great writing!

Can you describe a typical day in the studio during the recording of Shades of Honor/The Grayson Brothers Series? For instance, what happens the day of recording, and how long are your days in the studio?

Julia:  A typical day of recording for me is pretty simple. I’m generally in the studio for about 5 hours per session (some people prefer a 6 or 4 hour session, but 5 is my preference). I generally take about 5-10 minutes every 60-90 minutes to use the restroom, rest my voice, and/or eat a snack.

On the actual day of recording I get up pretty early, do about an hour of yoga, have a good breakfast, and steam my voice (Keeping your chords well hydrated is of paramount importance! If I’m recording a lot in a given week I’ll likely be steaming my voice at least 2x per day for about 20 minutes each time). Before I leave home, I warm my voice up a little bit – everyone is different, but I do little articulation exercises and sometimes even little vocaleases to get my voice as pliable as possible. I also look over the pages I’m hoping to record that day, reminding myself of any new characters that may be emerging in the book, and perhaps running through a couple of voices to make sure I have easy access to them.

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ACX Author Wendy Lindstrom

What one piece of advice would you share with those who would love to do what you do for a living?

Julia:  I LOVE what I do and feel so lucky to get to do it but people often think it’s MUCH easier than it is!! If you’re interested in narrating audiobooks, find a book you like and choose a chapter. Then record yourself reading it out-loud while sitting COMPLETELY STILL! Stop and go back every time you make a mistake, have to clear your throat, or swallow. If you still enjoy it (like I said, I LOVE it, but it’s not for everyone), listen back and see if you like what you hear. If you’re still giving yourself the thumbs up, consider putting a demo together and creating an ACX profile! The book world is booming with opportunity! Go get ’em!

Julia can be found on via Brick Shop Audiobooks’ ACX profile or at her website, www.juliamotyka.com.

What did you learn from Julia’s interview? Leave a comment and let us know!

ACX Storytellers: Tim Grahl

Author Tim Grahl recently completed his production of Your First 1,000 Copies, voicing the title himself and uploading it through ACX’s DIY pathway. As president of Out:think Group, Tim has worked with many authors and knows how to speak their language, which makes him the perfect guest to talk about his audiobook journey . Take it away, Tim.

Last week I announced the release of the audiobook edition of Your First 1000 Copies, produced via ACX. I originally had no plans to make an audio edition of Your First 1000 Copies, but my good friend and fellow author Josh Kaufman insisted on it.  Last year he self-published the audio edition of his first book The Personal MBA and has been completely overwhelmed by the success.  And since I do whatever Josh tells me to, I decided to go for it.

tim-headshotWho, how, and where to record?

The first decision I made was to record it myself. I listen to a lot of non-fiction audiobooks and my favorites are always the ones that are read by the book’s author. While they aren’t always as polished as a professional narrator, I appreciate hearing the author’s voice. I wanted listeners to hear my voice and how I talk about the subject. Sure, I made mistakes and wasn’t as eloquent as someone who does this for a living, but it was something I enjoy as a reader so wanted to do it for my readers.

The next decision was how and where to record. I read several places how self-published authors were doing it by recording straight through their desktop computer with a microphone, but I know the quality of these final recordings are often lacking. Plus, the idea of doing all of the editing myself seemed very overwhelming. In the end I decided to reach out to a friend I have who works at local radio stations and has a professional recording studio in his basement. It took two sessions that started after 9pm at night (which meant his kids were asleep and the house was quiet), but I was extremely happy with the final result.  It’s well edited and lacks the unpolished feel that would have come from doing it myself.  I’ll admit here that I also got it done for less than $400 which is significantly less than what you’ll spend with a typical studio.  It’s nice to have friends with the right equipment.

The recording process wasn’t too bad.  I printed the entire book out in large font and practiced turning the pages silently before heading to the studio.  I also practiced my volume and tempo a few times into my own computer to make sure I wasn’t going to fast or slow.  Again, while the final product isn’t as polished as it would be by a professional narrator, I’m very happy with how it turned out.

Just like self-publishing your digital and print books, quality matters.  People that listen to audiobooks are used to a certain level of quality, and I wanted to make sure my audiobook met those standards.  I’m happy with the decision to go with a recording studio whose job it was to make sure it was done right.jy2pdlpy1hgvv85n1380831492271

The Money

Here’s where things get really interesting.  The royalty model is unbelievable. On top of the royalties, Audible pays a $25 “bounty” if your book is one of the first three books purchased when someone signs up for Audible.  Again, pretty unbelievable.

I’m traditionally published, should I retain audiobook rights?

My definite answer is “yes!”.  In talking to other authors, the audiobook rights are often sold for very cheap — a couple thousand dollars — or never sold at all.  In the example of Josh Kaufman above, his rights were never sold so he bought them back from his publisher.  In the first week after self-publishing his audiobook, he made back the money he spent buying back the rights.

In fact, if you are still shopping your proposal and haven’t signed yet, I recommend holding back the audiobook rights (most publishers won’t fight you on this) and self-publish it.  There’s all kind of upsides to this, not least of which is all of the promotion for the print/digital sales will sell the audiobook edition as well.

That’s A Wrap!

In my experience, most authors have very little understanding or interest in the audiobook edition of their book. I hope this helped give you some information and insight that you didn’t have before.

Tim Grahl is an ACX author and president of Out:think Group. He invites you to take a free 30 day course on how to build your platform, connect with readers and sell more books by clicking here.

ACX Storytellers: MCA Hogarth

ACX author M.C.A. Hogarth currently has 15 titles for sale on Audible, and has hit upon a ‘novel’ way to fund her audiobook productions and market her titles at the same time: Kickstarter! Today, we’re talking crowdfunding and how listening to her audio versions inspires M.C.A.’s next title.

Hi M.C.A. Tell us about your current audiobook project on ACX.

I’ve got quite a few irons in the fire! My space opera adventure Earthrise is in the approval queue now, with a science fiction short story collection, a novella and one fantasy short in the production phase, all with actors I’ve found through ACX.

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ACX Author M.C.A. Hogarth

Why did you decide to produce audio versions of your titles?

Fellow indie author Meilin Miranda mentioned her positive experience with ACX, so I decided to investigate and maybe test the waters with one of my shorter works. I’d never listened to an audiobook before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect of the auditions. But I was blown away by the experience of hearing an actor interpret my works. In some cases, I learned things about the piece I hadn’t realized until someone else emphasized things I might not have noticed.

Has having your audio version produced changed the way you see your books, or the way you write?

I joke with my readers that there was MCAH writing before audiobooks, and MCAH writing after—that’s how big a difference it’s made! For instance, Jim McCance, who narrated my fantasy short “Fire in the Void,” made the anger of the narrator so palpable that I realized he wasn’t done yet—and that spawned an entire new novel!

Constructed languages are also a big feature of my science fiction and fantasy, and hearing actors take on that challenge has been instructive. Moe Egan‘s pronunciation of the alien words in “Freedom, Spiced and Drunk,” was so foreign to the way I heard it in my head that I realized there must be other populations on that world who speak the exact same language, but with an accent so different it would feel like a language barrier to the characters. That became a major plot point in my Stone Moon Trilogy.

This doesn’t even count the times when having an audiobook performance of a piece has driven me to write more in that setting, just to hear the actor continue to voice those characters. These days I try to schedule my projects so I’m approving audio in a setting that I’m also writing in, just for the way it makes me eager to get back to the keyboard.

You’re known for using the crowdfunding website Kickstarter for your audiobook productions. Tell us about that.

I use Kickstarter as both a marketing and funding platform for my audiobook editions. Because my work has been solely available in print or e-book prior to my first audiobook a year ago, my fanbase primarily consists of people who prefer those formats. Many of them are delighted to learn I am branching out! Now, when I use Kickstarter to raise funds for my print editions, I fold the audiobook edition in as a stretch goal, which gives me the opportunity to both gather money to pay my actors and give my readers a chance to listen to the audiobook edition and maybe become listeners as well as readers. Amazon’s Whispersync for Voice has been very useful in that regard.

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To date, I’ve run seven successful Kickstarters (out of seven!). In fact, my best-selling audiobook is the recording of my book on how to use Kickstarter! I wrote From Spark to Finish: Running Your Kickstarter Campaign to help other people succeed with their crowdfunding dreams and decided to produce it as an audiobook when I read that nonfiction is the fastest growing market segment in audio. That’s definitely so in my case!

What advice do you have for other authors who are considering having their titles produced as audiobooks?

Be brave! Don’t wait for your actor to come to you. Go hunting for your voice. And most importantly, be mindful of your budget. There are so many amazing actors out there you can easily overrun your budget paying for their time!

What’s your next project, and when will we see it on ACX?

Next year I anticipate having another five or six fantasy and science fiction titles available, including my award-winning short “In the Line of Duty.”

Thanks for sharing, M.C.A.

Have you experimented with crowdfunding your audiobook productions? Tell us in the comments.