Earlier this year, ACX launched the Audio Analysis tool for Production Manager, a new feature that allows Producers and DIY Authors to upload audio files and receive immediate feedback in a report identifying seven of the most common production issues—all before submitting the project to Quality Assurance.
We hope you’ve been exploring the new feature and are finding it to be a helpful tool in your production process. Now that you’ve had a little time to get comfortable with Audio Analysis, we’re making an adjustment to the ACX submission process: starting today, some accounts will see the new experience, and byMay 4, all titles will be required to resolve any issues identified by Audio Analysis before they are able to submit for review.
Need help making corrections? The Audio Analysis tool provides a full report on all your audio files, with details on the issues that need addressing, and links to specific ACX Submission Guidelines and Reference Guides that can help you address them. And as always, if you need more guidance or assistance in getting your files QA-ready, the ACX blog and YouTube channel are at your disposal with further resources on recording, editing, mastering, and more.
Last week, we heard from Audible Approved Producer Hannibal Hills on how he built a successful narration career from square one in three years. If you’re new to narration or thinking about taking it full-time and wondering where to start, be sure to catch up on the first part of this narrative and learn how to set a solid foundation for yourself. And now, with the help of our narrator, we continue on our journey…
Investing in Editing, Coaching, and Mentoring
Like any growing business, your narration career may reach a point where you can afford to hire outside help to so your business can continue to grow. I have now reached the point where I outsource my editing so I can focus solely on narration. Earlier in my career, I felt the need to save on the pennies and stay in control of the whole process. But when income started to come in steadily, being behind the mic became the most valuable use of my time, and the increased output I was able to achieve from outsourcing easily counterbalanced the cost.
Performance coaching was another investment whose value I cannot overstate. Early on, I was beyond fortunate to connect with the great Sean Pratt, and he has been a true mentoring light as I moved from narration as a side-job to a full-time career. Coaching with a true expert is the single most important investment you can make in your narration career. The knowledge and advice they share can save years of trial and (mostly) error, and be the very difference between long-term success and failure.
Choosing the Right Projects
Choosing the right projects is every bit as important as having the performance skills or the right equipment. Sean, whose excellent book, To Be or Wanna Be: The Top Ten Differences Between a Successful Actor and a Starving Artist is a trove of clear wisdom, has given me countless useful pieces of advice and challenges to learn through. An example of the wisdom a coach like Sean can offer can be found in his famous three questions: Of each project ask yourself: will it pay, will it be good for my career, and will it be fun. If all three are true, that project is a clear good choice. If only two are a yes, it should only be accepted if you can comfortably live without the third. If only one (or none) is true you should never accept the project. This simple test is a golden barometer for a narrator in all stages of their career.
I am now careful to evaluate every project I am offered or consider auditioning for—not only for value, but for scheduling. Overbooking is an easy trap to fall into in the early years, but spreadsheets are just as good for calculating reasonable monthly output as they are for projecting income. Don’t undervalue your time and work. When you have only a few books to your name and are starting to realize how much you still have to learn, impostor syndrome can bend your will to accept projects that aren’t right for you and poor rates of return. Though it is hard, you mustn’t stop believing you are worth the accepted industry rates. Too many hours working hard while knowing you are being underpaid will eventually start to poison your heart, smother your passion, hurt your performance, and eventually make you regret your career choice altogether. A good coach will help you to continue to believe in the value of what you do.
Finding My Voice and Building My Identity
With the right home setup, a process you feel confident in, ongoing training that produces real improvement in your performance, and a steadily growing output of titles, it very quickly becomes clear the sort of titles that best suit your voice. I worked to resist the temptation to be an “everyman.” One of Sean’s most valuable contributions to my career was helping me define my niche and refine my identity and brand—externally but also internally, in my performance and approach. I now look for projects that suit that brand. This personal “flavor” can be applied across both fiction and non-fiction, and in my case to horror, comedy, classic literature, and more colorful, opinionated non-fiction. Every narrator will have their own flavor that comes from their own heart and passions, and this should be embraced rather than denied. I have found that taking on projects that appeal to me as a person, and which match my own personality and tastes, makes for a far more fulfilling professional life. My most successful projects have been achieved through forging relationships of trust and mutual understanding, where they know you believe in their work, and trust you to make the right creative choices to best bring their words off the page.
Occasionally, I have taken off-brand projects, sometimes because the money and opportunity were tempting, or because I wanted to experiment with a new genre outside my core brand. For these projects, I have several alternate names—a pseudonym or “nom de vox”—so that my brand remains clear, and I can work anonymously if needed.
Learning and Looking Forward
In creating recent box sets with long-term collaborators—the authors of the books—I have had to revisit some of my very early work. It was fascinating to see how far I have come, and how much coaching has helped me improve. It is good to be reminded of the lessons I needed to know then, so I keep them at heart moving forward. Even if we are not proud of our early work, we should be glad that it helped us take another step toward where we are today.
Goal-setting is essential for moving your career forward. I have two key reminders I look to every day—the first is a small whiteboard of my goals for the year. Some I have already achieved, others still need a lot of work, but they are there in plain sight. Each goal I set can be measured in a very real way, from royalty units sold to number of books completed. The goals cover all areas, and each one nudges some aspect for my narration career ahead one more step—and when it does, it is toasted (perhaps with a glass of something with my wife), erased, and replaced with another goal just a little more challenging.
The Shared Adventure of Audiobooks
The second thing I come back to each day is our community: the indie audiobook narrators Facebook group, narrators I have met through mutual coaching, and those I’ve reached out to via email because I simply admire their work. Many authors and small publishers have also become friends through our collaboration, and I meet with many regularly on Zoom to discuss market trends and new project ideas.
Few industries have such a supportive, positive community of helpful cheerleaders, friends, joke-sharers, listeners, and advisors. We all want to see success in the others and cheer when we do, because we know that there is room for us all, that so many unique voices each have a place, and that what is right for me may be rightly different to what is right for you. We also know that together we are creating libraries of lasting enjoyment for millions of listeners. This really is an industry where dedication, honesty, manners, fairness, trustworthiness, and sharing are the qualities that build success. This is a job where the good guys and dedicated spirits really do win. It may have taken almost 46 years, but I found a home—one where each book brings to life a new adventure to be shared.
Hannibal Hills is the narrator of more than 40 titles. This ‘darkly sophisticated British storyteller’ can be found lending his voice to many a horror, mystery, or thriller novel.
Are you a narration newbie inspired by this career journey? An audiobook veteran who can add some sage wisdom of your own? Let us knowin the commentsbelow.
Today, the ACX team is excited to announce the launch of a new feature available in Production Manager: it can analyze all your audio files, let you know if they meet ACX Standards, and give you a precise report on the changes that need to be made, all before you ever submit your project to QA—it’s the Audio Analysis Tool!
This feature will be accessible to producers and DIY authors on all new ACX projects. Now when you upload audio to ACX—starting with the 15-minute checkpoint—you’ll get an immediate report on seven common audio issues:
That means no more waiting for the book to go through QA to learn you have one file in stereo and having to resubmit the whole project over again. Now you can find out right away and quickly make the required adjustments. The report contains precise indications on what needs to be adjusted and by how much, with links to helpful resources on how to do it. Don’t worry—all ACX audiobooks will get a final listen from our QA team before going on sale, and they’ll be on the lookout for spacing, noise floor, and other issues that can’t be detected by the tool—only now the process will be able to move a little easier, with smoother production timelines for all.
To give you some time to get used to this new feature, we’re accepting all audiobook submissions, even if Audio Analysis identifies errors within your files. When the feature launches fully, any issues detected by Audio Analysis will need to be corrected before the project can be submitted for Quality Assurance. This initial phase will give you time to identify recurring issues in your productions and make the necessary adjustments to your workflow without impacting your ability to submit audio and receive QA feedback.
We’re excited for this feature and we hope you are, too—we hope the earlier feedback and additional insights will help you improve you skills and setup, and result in a smoother production experience for all. And as always, if you have any questions about the feature, the answers can be found in our Help Center.
It’s been quite a year for the ACX community: ACX creators published over 30,000 audiobooks, aided by the launch of some exciting tools and features, like Royalty Share Plus and Enhanced Promo Codes. Thank you for continuing to elevate the field of independent publishing through your hard work and innovation. In this giving season, we’ve decided to honor the tradition of re-gifting by wrapping up a few of our favorite blog resources from 2019 and presenting them to you to help support your continued excellence. Enjoy… or re-joy!
Now Hear This: Promoting with SoundCloud: Audio samples are your best friend when it comes to marketing your audiobook—they’re a great way to grab a listener’s attention and leave them eager to purchase the audiobook. Check out this article for great ideas on leveraging this free audio platform to put those samples everywhere your audience is, so they’ll be sure to give them a listen.
Bonus: Want more content on low and no-cost social media promotion for your audiobooks? Check out this episode from ACX University.
Amy Daws on Her Authentic Social Media Self: Authenticity is the key to a devoted community of fans, and nobody knows that better than this author and social media maven who uses her own genuine energy, fun content, and regular engagement to keep her fans’ attention between new releases. Learn from her social media strategies and fan the flames in your own fan base.
Bonus: Want to hear more on engaging with your fans? This is the ACX University episode for you.
Lighting the Way: An Author’s Journey into Narration If you’re an indie author, you’re no stranger to doing it all yourself, so chances are you’ve considered narrating your own audiobook. Well, paranormal mystery author Mary Castillo decided to do just that for her series, and you can read her full account of the production process from a writer’s perspective here.
Bonus: Interested in narrating your own book? Learn more about the art of audiobook performance here.
Production Pointers from Audible Approved Producers Whether you’re a narration newbie or a production pro, it never hurts to hear from other independent Producers on how they’re getting the job done. In this Q&A with a few of 2019’s newest Audible Approved Producers (AAPs), you can read about their favorite gear, pre-recording rituals, and at-home studio setups—you might learn a thing or two to add to your own process!
Bonus: Looking for more tips, tricks, and technical advice for audiobook production? Check out this ACX University series from our QA team.
A Portrait of the Artist How do you make a big impression and catch the attention of the authors you want to work with? It all starts with a compelling, professional, comprehensive Producer profile. In this article, we walk you through creating an ACX profile that stands out with examples from some of our favorite AAPs.
Bonus: Looking for more advice on your audiobook production career? This ACX University episode is for you.
Whether you’re new to the blog or seeing these articles for the second time, we hope it renews your drive and enthusiasm for creating great audiobooks, and gives you some good ideas for propelling your passion and your work forward into a successful new year. Feel free to re-gift these to the indie author or producer on your list!
Sharpen your pencils and get ready to hit the books: October 28th, ACX University is back at 5:30PM ET for its seventh year and it’s all about the pros: pro tips, pro experts, and the biggest pro of all—it’s free! We can’t think of any cons.
Our 2019 curriculum is a masterclass in taking your audiobook business to the next level, so expect plenty of advanced techniques and insider tips from the industry’s best. Get to the head of the class by marking your calendars with this handy calendar reminder and catching up on past episodes here.
Want a sneak peak at this year’s classes? Check out acxuniversity.com to catch a glimpse of our instructors and see what’s on the agenda for this season. We hope to see you in class!
Today, you may notice an update to how you create audiobooks on ACX: customizable Chapter Names!
Now, when you start a new project on ACX, you’ll be able to quickly and easily list the parts of the book you want included in your audiobook production as soon as you claim your title. Simply enter the Chapter Names in the new Table of Contents setup page as you want them to appear to your listener in their Audible app, using the “Import from Kindle” button (available for select titles), or copy and paste Chapter Names from your manuscript.
Authors, now you can easily present to your Producer which sections they should include when recording your audio edition, as well as making your final audiobook easy to navigate for your listener. Producers, this will make it easier for you to upload the corresponding audio to the Chapter Names you see in Production Manager.
So how do you make the most of this cool new feature?
Take the time to curate your chapter names. Now that listeners can use these chapter headings to navigate your audiobook in the app, you want to make sure your table of contents makes that navigation as easy and intuitive as possible. Designate the sections of your audiobook accurately, indicating specific sections like the introduction, prologue, or epilogue, and name your chapters for easy discovery. If you are able to import your table of contents directly from the Kindle version of your book, take a moment to carefully review the chapter headings to ensure all desired sections are present and that spelling, grammar, and formatting is consistent throughout. See below for example.
Remove sections that aren’t for audio. If you’ve ever wondered what sections of your book should (and shouldn’t!) be narrated for audio, this moment serves as an opportunity to remove any sections from the list that should not be narrated for the audio edition, such as the table of contents or index and other front or back matter. The chapter headings you provide will be automatically populated in the producer’s view of production manager so they can upload the appropriate audio for each section, so be sure your table of contents only includes the sections you want your narrator to record.
Pay attention to formatting. To make your audiobook appear consistent with other titles and to give the listener the best in-app navigation experience, take the time to attend to formatting. Review our formatting guidelines, and check your chapter names for consistency throughout your audiobook. Adhering to industry-standard styles for your chapter headings will give your audiobook a polished, professional appearance in the Audible app.
Optimizing your chapter names for enhanced navigation is a small way you can make a bigdifference to your listener’s experience, and we hope you’ll take advantage of it to help your audiobook succeed!
Good news, everyone! Today, we’re introducing a faster, easier way to publish your audiobooks on ACX. With the new Direct Offer feature, authors and publishers can now choose to work directly with their favorite Producers and narrators without opening their titles to accept auditions. We’ve heard from many Rights Holders that they’ve found “the one” —that perfect voice—either through past projects or by browsing samples on the ACX site, and would like to move their audiobook projects directly into production, and today’s changes are meant to help make that even easier.
To make a Direct Offer to a Producer, navigate to your title from your Project Dashboard, or add a new project to your account. As you set up your title, you’ll have the option to accept auditions for your project or make a Direct Offer to the Producer of your choice. Selecting the option to make a Direct Offer will allow you to select your Producer by searching for his or her name, or selecting from a list of Producers that you’ve collaborated with in the past. You’ll then be able to make an offer directly to your Producer of choice and start collaborating as soon as your offer is accepted.
Want tips for selecting that perfect voice? The ACX Blog has you covered. What other features would you like to see added to ACX? Comment with your suggestions below.
ACX is excited to announce that we’re once again partnering with The Society of Voice Arts and Sciences at That’s Voiceover 2018! This year’s event will take place on Saturday, November 17th at the Sheraton Universal Hotel at Universal Studios Hollywood, and we’re offering a number of ways audiobook actors and producers can interact with ACX and Audible Studios:
Learn from our all-star panel presentation, Becoming an Audiobook Actor-preneur. Scott Brick, Luke Daniels, and Khristine Hvam will help you develop the tools you need to grow a long career in audiobook performance/production.
Meet the ACX team at our exhibit hall booth. Bring your audiobook production, performance, and marketing questions. We want to hear from you!
Read for Audible Studios. Schedule a one-on-one session with Audible Studios producer Chris Sacco and get feedback on your performance in the moment. The top male and female talent will each land a contract to perform a title for Audible Studios. Sign up here.
Would You Survive The Shark Tank? – via Paul Strikwerda – “If I were an investor on Shark Tank or Dragons’ Den, and you came to me with a pitch to back your business, what would I be looking for?”
6 Ways Social Media Can Hurt Your Voice Over Business – via Debbie Grattan – “To make sure your social media efforts end up benefiting instead of hurting your business, it’s crucial to steer clear of six different social media habits that can damage your VO career.“
Speak From Your Diaphragm! – via Dr. Ann Utterback – Learn the why this piece of advice is so often repeated, and how to implement it in front of the mic.
For Rights Holders:
Meet the Super Fan … the Secret Sauce Authors Want – via The Book Designer – “[W]hen you set out to develop and build Super Fans, you create a cult of sorts. You are “the one” that they are dedicated/devoted to. Whatever your words are, they think you are the cat’s meow.”
What Virtual Assistants Can Do For Your Voice Over Business – via Voice Over Herald – “You want to spend more time searching for new clients, being inside your booth recording, or perfecting your craft but you can’t find the time because you have been playing catch-up. How are you going to grow your business if you are overloaded with tasks and responsibilities that take you away from the money-making activities?”
Three Ways to Spice Up Your Vocal Delivery – via Dr. Ann Utterback – “If you say phrases exactly the same way each time, they become stale and uninteresting. Worse, if you voice these exactly the same each time, they can become a bore for you and the listener.”
How to Sell Books to Someone Other Than Your Mom – via The Write Practice – “There’s nothing wrong with selling a book to Mom, by the way. But ideally you write and sell a book that thousands of people can’t wait to get their hands on. Here’s how to do it.”
How to Market Your Book–When You Hate Marketing – via Helping Writers Become Authors – You can admit it: you’d rather be writing your books than marketing them. Reframing how you think about marketing, however, may help you find success and enjoyment in this important aspect of (audio)book publishing.