Picking the Right Royalty Share Projects – via The ACX Blog – Author/producer Craig Tollifson discusses how he reviews potential royalty share productions. Click through to read or listento his advice.
Like to listen? Click on the player below to hear this post in audio.
As an author, actor, and audiobook producer, Craig Tollifson brings a unique perspective to ACX. His publishing industry background has allowed him to make the most of the time he spends auditioning by putting his effort into the most promising titles. He joins us today to share his tips for picking the best Royalty Share projects.
ACX Author/Narrator Craig Tollifson (aka Andrew Tell)
The first audiobook I narrated went on sale in early 2015. It sold 11 copies. Since then, I’ve narrated 19 other titles, learned a lot about narrating, and learned even more about choosing good Royalty Share projects. This month I’ll pass 10,000 total sales, and recently averaged over 1,500 sales a month. And those numbers just keep going up. Not bad for a beginner!
I got my start on ACX as an author. I had my novella, The Junior Arsonists Club, produced as an audiobook by the talented Amy McFadden. I was interested in eventually narrating my own work, and had experience as a stage actor, so I decided to jump in and try it myself. Now I’m a full-time audiobook narrator and no one can say it’s weird that I sit in a giant box and talk to myself all day.
Having been on the other side of the fence as an independent author has helped shape my choices as a narrator. I knew from the start I wanted to pursue Royalty Share projects. For years I’ve followed the indie publishing scene and noted a parade of successes, like Hugh Howey, Michael Bunker, and many more. The potential to earn more than a regular Per-Finished-Hour rate over the long term and gain passive income was very appealing. I also knew that I had to be smart in choosing the right projects. I had to get good at picking the books with the most potential for success.
ACX gives you the basic research right on the project page. Now, let’s assume you’re skilled at narration, you’re interested in the project, and your voice is a good fit for the work. Here are some of the key points to consider:
The Amazon sales rank can be very important for predicting success. This number represents sales per day compared to every other book in the Amazon store. Audiobook and eBook sales tend to rise and fall together. Remember, this is one product on two platforms. The lower the sales rank, the better! Without going into too much detail: a sales rank under one hundred is amazing. Run to the booth and start auditioning! A sales rank in the thousands is pretty great (remember there are over a million books in the Amazon store!). When you get over a hundred thousand, or two hundred thousand or more, well…that’s not so great. But remember: this rank is only a snapshot of one moment which represents that day’s trend. Message the Rights Holder on ACX to see how the book has been selling historically. Oftentimes, a great rank can be the result of a recent promotion, and when the promotion’s over it can completely sink again. Also, make sure the number you’re looking at is the paid rank. If the book is free, the rank loses a lot of its meaning and is not a good predictor of audiobook sales.
The more reviews the better, and the reviews should be mostly positive. Take some time and read some of those reviews. I recommend reading the most recent reviews, as early reviews are often solicited. Click through some of the reviewers themselves and check their profiles–if it’s the only book they’ve reviewed, it’s likely they are friends or family of the author and shouldn’t be considered. Reviews are also great for quickly getting a sense of the story, often more so than the author’s description, or first few pages of the book.
Length of time on sale is a great metric when combined with the number of reviews and sales rank. A book that’s selling great, and has been on the market for, say, two years may have better potential than a book that’s only been out for two weeks with the same sales rank.
Evaluate the rest of the author’s catalog–every last book–with the same criteria as the one up for production: sales rank, reviews, etc. If they have other audiobooks, even better. Ask the Rights Holder how many copies the other audiobooks have sold. Or, check to see how many ratings the other audiobooks have on Audible. More ratings mean more copies have been purchased.
Now that you’ve done your research, you need to define success. Though you’re not working for a Per-Finished-Hour (PFH) rate when producing Royalty Share projects, you should still be thinking about how much you hope to earn. What is your time worth? Recording usually takes around 2 hours in the studio for every finished hour of audio. Then there’s editing, proofing, and mastering, which can add 3-4 hours (or more!) per finished hour of audio. You could easily be putting in 6 hours for every finished hour. With all that in mind, come up with your ideal PFH rate for the project. Multiply it by the length of the book in hours. Now, divide that total with a ballpark royalty and you’ll see how many copies you’ll need to sell to be satisfied that you’ve made a good decision. Do you really think the audiobook can sell that many copies? Does the Rights Holder? If you’re on the fence about a project, I find that thinking about earnings goals can help cement a decision.
Once the book is produced and on the market, you and the Rights Holder both have a stake in its success. Before you jump into your next production, spend some time marketing. I spend time every week promoting titles via giveaways and soliciting reviews. Social media can be a great resource if you find the right communities. There are a ton of places online that fans gather to discuss their favorite genre, like Goodreads, reddit, and many Facebook groups. Get yourself into those communities. You’ll meet fans and authors, both of which will help your audiobook career.
The last thing you’ll need is a little bit of luck. All the points of research can add up to the best looking potential project on the planet, and you can do great promotion, but still…the audiobook may not sell well! Royalty Share comes with an element of risk. Your job is to find the ones with the best odds.
I hope that the research tips I’ve given you today can help you choose the best bets for success.
Craig Tollifson is the author of the Kindle Single the Junior Arsonists Club, the forthcoming novel Happy, and has written for Mystery Science Theater 3000. When he’s not writing or performing on stage, he narrates audiobooks under the name Andrew Tell. He lives with his wife and kids in sunny Los Angeles, California.
We’re back to close out 2015 by highlighting some of our best pieces of the year. Some will educate, some will inspire, all should remind you of the awesome opportunity audiobooks present as we look towards 2016.
Mastering Audiobooks with Alex the Audio Scientist – Our resident audio expert brought his “A” game to the blog this year, educating producers on a range of recording and production topics. This post tackles one of the more intimidating aspects of post-production with an illustrated, step by step guide.
ACX University Presents: Finding Your Voice: Part 1 – This May, we hosted our third annual ACX University, which offered 70 producers in-person courses on audiobook production and performance. All of the sessions are available to watch on our YouTube channel, including this performance intensive featuring Audible Studios producers and Audie Award-winning narrator Ellen Archer of Orange Is the New Black.
Archive: This Week in Links – Our weekly look at the best audiobook-related links from around the internet provided a range of perspectives, advice, and entertainment. We featured over 150 links for producers, so take a scroll through some of the best the voiceover industry had to offer in 2015.
For Rights Holders:
Market Smarter, Not Harder: The Personal Touch – Author Ryan Winfield dove deep on the ways he invested his time and reinvested his audiobook earnings to forge a personal connection with his listeners that paid off in the form of a loyal fan base.
Here at ACX, we’re proud of the work you’ve done creating thousands of audiobooks in 2015. We hope the education we’ve shared this year has helped make you a better audiobook producer, publisher, and marketer. Before we look forward to 2016, we’re counting down the top links – based on your clicks – published in our This Week in Links series this year.
4. The Twitter Secret – via BadRedheadMedia – Learn how online fan acknowledgement could be secret ingredient in your successful author platform.
3. Six Magic Phrases You Can Use to Sell More Books– via where writers win – Learn key words to use in your “Amazon sales page, your website, your book announcement press release, your e-mail announcement, and other promotional materials that will help you sell more books.”
Before we get to this week’s top audiobook links, we’d like to remind you that the deadline to submit audiobooks to ACX for the best chance to be on sale for the holiday season is today, December 4th. Make sure your productions meet our Audio Submission Requirements and submit, review, or approve holiday projects by the end of the day. Then, check out the links below to help make your next audiobook even better!
5 Ways Voiceover Work and Family Influence Each Other – via Victoria DeAnda – “Family has a lot to do with how you perform as a voiceover artist. Learning how they affect it can help you control the feelings, emotions, and other factors that come into play as you work.”
12 Things Writers Fear But Can Overcome – BookMarketingBuzzBlog – “Here are a dozen things many writers fear – and how to put such worries into perspective so they don’t cripple their efforts to write, pursue publication, seek out publicity, and market their life’s work.”
ACX authors Sandra Edwards and Regina Duke understand the impact a mentor can have on a writer’s career. A chance meeting at a local writers’ luncheon turned into an opportunity for Regina to learn from the writing, publishing, and marketing knowledge Sandra gained over her nine ACX productions. They join us today to explain how they both benefit from their mentor/mentee relationship and share some tips they’ve learned along the way.
ACX: Regina, how did you and Sandra first meet?
ACX Author Regina Duke
Regina: I went to a luncheon to talk to another writer who was quite popular with the group. But other authors immediately surrounded her, so I sat next to a friendly looking lady with the hint of a southern accent. Within half an hour, she was doing all the talking and I was taking notes on every piece of paper I could find…a flyer, a napkin, and an envelope. She outlined for the group, step by step, what she had done to get her books up for sale on Amazon. I couldn’t believe it. Here was a successful indie author outlining what steps to take. Near the end of our luncheon, Sandra leaned over and said to me, “Email me if you need a formatter.” I was thrilled.
Sandra: Romance writers are incredibly generous. Find one who knows her stuff and let her lead you.
ACX: How did this relationship lead to publishing your audiobooks through ACX?
Regina: I’d decided that 2015 was the year I would get into audio, but the prospect was daunting. Sandra told me of her experiences with ACX, and that helped make up my mind. I bought her first audiobook and absolutely loved hearing it “read” to me. It was a short hop from Sandra’s success to my decision.
ACX: Sandra, what aspects of publishing and marketing have you helped Regina with?
Sandra: There are a few areas where I think I helped Regina. Here are some specific pieces of advice:
Work on your craft. Everyone says this, but its importance cannot be overstated. Even now, we read writing books between projects. Never stop improving your writing.
Hire a cover artist. Once you are ready with the best book you can write (after proofreaders and editors have done their jobs), seek out a professional cover artist. Writers often think covers don’t count, but on a site such as Audible or Amazon, a compelling, professional cover is as important as the quality of your content.
Take your time reviewing the auditions you receive on ACX. Don’t rush to hire someone. It takes voiceover artists time and effort to submit an audition. Listen, listen, listen. Make notes to yourself about what you like or don’t like in an audition. Listen to samples and read reviews on Audible to get a sense of what listeners like and don’t like.
ACX Author Sandra Edwards
Include your audio version in every bit of marketing and promotion you do. Don’t let your audio version languish as a stepchild. Promote it as vigorously as you promote your Kindle books. And make sure your audio version qualifies for Whispersync, because that makes it even more desirable for your readers.
Budget your time between writing and marketing. Many writers love the writing process to the exclusion of all else. If you want to sell your audiobooks, you will need to parcel your time to include marketing. “No, no! Not the M word!” There’s a lot to learn when it comes to marketing. It’s been a “trial and error” thing for us. What works for some may not work for others.
Don’t wait to publish (in audio or otherwise) until you’ve written five books. We hear this advice at every conference and it astounds us. Some successful authors are telling newbies to wait until they have five books written before publishing. We respectfully disagree. What are you waiting for? There is so much to learn about being an indie author. Get that first book out there. Do it right: hire an editor, proofreaders, cover designer, formatter, and start learning.
ACX: How can ACX authors go about finding a mentor themselves?
Regina: I would turn that question around and first ask what I can offer someone who might, in turn, have information they’re willing to share with me? I call Sandra my mentor in the Romance category, but she has frequently assured me that our friendship is very give-and-take. I share any and all marketing opportunities I run across, and we both share learning opportunities.
Sandra: This is where conferences and writers group meetings come in handy. Let’s face it, you’re not going to be able to email a New York Times Bestselling Author out of the blue and ask them for advice. Well, I guess you could, but it’s unlikely that you’ll get very far.