Tag Archives: josh kaufman

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 Success Story: Anti-Matter Media

Aric Johnson, owner of Colorado-based Anti-Matter Media, is still reeling from their Audie nomination for the  production of Josh Kaufman’s wildly successful The Personal MBA. Josh used ACX’s DIY platform to upload the completed audio and distribute it through Audible, Amazon and iTunes. Today we’re checking in with Aric to discuss Josh’s newly released The First 20 Hours, and to get this studio pro’s advice for authors, narrators and producers.

Tell us about your current audiobook project.

We just wrapped up The First 20 Hours: How To Learn Anything… FAST by Josh Kaufman. We get to ride with Josh as he explores a few completely new skills, and the ups and downs are not only entertaining, they’re very educational.  Listening to this book, you might  be surprised at how your interests expand. After working on it with Josh, I found myself wanting to try things I’d never thought about before.

Of course, that’s one of the main benefits of being an audiobook producer: you get intimately exposed to some really great content! Especially when working with an author as productive and focused as Josh is. His stuff is so useful, so applicable, that just working on his projects has impacted my business in ways that go well beyond the act of recording them. And since this was Josh’s second turn at bat narrating himself, we were able to really settle in and enjoy ourselves

Tell us about yourself.

AMM Aric

Aric Johnson, Owner/Creative Director of Anti-Matter Media

I have always wanted to inspire people, much the same way that I was inspired by the movies and music I experienced when I was young. So I started out in film production, but moved into music production because it was much easier to be independent in music. I started out producing albums for independent artists on small labels, and I’ve been doing that for over 20 years now.

After working on several small independent films, mostly documentaries, I was fortunate enough to be able to combine music production and post-production into an ongoing business and own my own studio. And now, my wife and I – we own the studio together, and are a team in the business – we get to work on really interesting projects with really interesting people from all over the country.

That’s part of what is so exciting to us about ACX and the Audible model. It is truly empowering to authors who want to work independently, to produce and own their content. Even if authors are already partnered with a publisher, the ACX/Audible engine affords them great control over quality and the means of distribution. And that’s everything, in the digital era: getting as close as possible to your audience, with efficiency and a minimum of overhead.

AMM LogoWhat attracted you to The First 20 Hours?

After working on The Personal MBA, I knew that anything Josh Kaufman created was something I wanted to be involved in. Josh’s projects are very congruent with the whole reason I love what I do: both The Personal MBA and The First 20 Hours are about empowering people to be their best and to be successful without the huge institutional overhead we so often assume is necessary. We had built a rapport on the first project, so it was a no-brainer that we would work together again. I enjoy working with authors who narrate their own projects; I think you get a passion and immediacy that, sometimes, only the author can provide.

What advice do you have for authors who are considering having their titles made into audiobooks?

First and foremost: keep your rights! Audiobook rights are and should be separate from publishing; do what you can to keep control and as much ownership as possible.

Then think about what you want your audience’s experience to be. Put yourself in their shoes, and create an experience for them that really honors your intentions. Don’t just hand it off and let it be done by someone who isn’t invested in your vision. Passion matters.

Don’t be afraid to break rules or stand against convention; be creative. As a producer, I would say to an author the same thing I often say to songwriters: If it helps tell the story and make it more compelling, do it! If it takes away from the story or distracts, throw it out. The story is king. That’s why sometimes letting the author narrate their book works. It may not be as polished or smooth as a professional read, but there are some ideas that are stronger coming directly from the mind that made them.

What advice do you have for those new to audiobook narration/production?

AMM Studio New

Anti-Matter Media’s state-of-the-art studios in Colorado.

For a narrator: Put some of your self into a project.  It will come through, and you’ll end up attracting more projects that are similar in tone and intention. That may be a basic life principle, but it is uncannily literal in audiobook production, simply because the naked human voice always tells the truth, in spite of what you might want it to say. There’s just nowhere to hide.

How you feel about the project, about yourself, about what your cat did or your primary relationship that day – all that will come through. So do whatever you need to do to bring your best self to the booth.

For producers: God is in the details. I can’t stress this enough: details matter. Get the editing really clean. Fix every fade and every breath. Even minor technical glitches or inconsistencies register subconsciously in the sophisticated voice-recognition software in our heads. It will pull the listener out of suspension of disbelief and remind them that they’re listening to a recorded product. You don’t want that.

It’s also the producer’s job to help the talent bring their best selves and to find the project’s core. That’s a whole art in itself – maybe that’s a book on its own – but use common sense and always keep the big picture in mind.

 Are you listening to any other audiobooks now? Which?

I know I’m really late, but I only recently finally got around to listening to my wife’s copy of The Da Vinci Code. What a great read by Paul Michael!

What’s your biggest takeaway from Aric’s interview? Tell us in the comments below!