Tag Archives: royalty share

Picking the Right Royalty Share Projects

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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.

Craig Tollifson_Headshot

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:

  • Genre makes a difference. Fiction accounts for nearly 80% of audiobooks sold, with mystery/thrillers and sci-fi/fantasy being near the top. Stick with popular genres if you want to sell.
  • 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 thJunior Arsonists.jpge 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.

How to Pick the Right Royalty Share Project

Huddle up, producers. We’ve got some guidance for you on how to pick the best royalty share projects to audition for on ACX. Choosing to forgo up front payment and counting on sales of the audiobook to pay you back can involve a leap of faith, but with a bit of planning you can tip the odds for success in your favor.

What Makes a Top Selling Audiobook?

While there is no single answer to this question, here are five factors that can help you predict how likely a title is to sell well in audio.

1. Are you the right voice for this title?

Before you can consider the sales potential of a book, you have to consider your own ability to do the material justice. You’re a talented audiobook producer, but even the best don’t have the right voice or style for every book. Few things can sink a good title’s sales potential faster than narration that’s just not right. Check out our post on knowing which title to audition for here, and take the advice to heart.

2. What can you learn about the title’s print/eBook versions?

Once you’ve decided you’re the voice for a book, it’s time to determine the book’s sales potential. Every title profile on ACX has a “Title Information” section that contains metadata about the text editions’ histories.

Royalty Share Advice 01

 

 

 

 

Let’s break these sections down:

  • Date posted to ACX: If this date is months in the past, consider sending the rights holder a message to confirm he or she is seeking auditions before submitting yours.
  • Original publication date: Knowing when the book was first published puts the other information that follows in the title profile in perspective. While a “frontlist” book can capitalize on the momentum built around the launch, don’t dismiss midlist or backlist titles, as they can expose a whole new audience to a certain author or series once the title is available in audio.
  • Published by: Information about the publisher of the print and eBook editions can be helpful when researching the title’s rights holder. Research the publisher to get a sense of what kind of titles they publish and what kind of effort they put into promoting them.
  • Amazon sales rank: Lower is better in this case, and by clicking on “view this title on Amazon,”  you can get a more specific picture of how a title is performing in its categories (example below). You may also consider the book’s price with its sales rank.

Royalty Share Advice 02

  •  Amazon rating: Note how many reviews it has received in relation to how long it’s been available for sale. The amount of reviews can be one indicator of how hard the rights holder is working to promote their book, as few readers discover a book by accident, and even fewer leave reviews unless they’re passionate or have been asked by the rights holder.
  • When it comes to the content of the reviews, remember that opinions about the writing style or the story can be subjective, but reviews that cite poor grammar, spelling, proofing, or editing could indicate a manuscript that’s not quite ready for prime time, or a rights holder who may need to pay a little more attention to detail.

3. What other information is the rights holder giving you?

The “Comments from the Rights Holder” section is the rights holder’s chance to sell you on their title. They can use this space to give you more information about character voices and the tone of the story. They can also list their promotional plans, social media accounts, awards and recognition, etc. This section is optional for rights holders, so if no information is provided, you may want to message them with questions.

Here's an example of a strong ACX title profile (click to expand)

Here’s an example of a strong ACX title profile (click to expand)

4. What else can you learn about the rights holder?

Google is your friend. Do a little research and get a sense of how much work the rights holder is putting into promoting themselves and their titles by answering these questions:

  • Do they have a website?
  • Does it feature audio versions of their other titles (if available)?
  • Do they provide audio samples on their site, or link to their Audible product pages?
  • Do they have a blog?
  • Do they have social media accounts, such as Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest that are updated regularly (and not just with sales pitches for their books)?

You’re looking for a motivated, savvy rights holder who will work with you to promote the audiobook.

5. Are you prepared to contribute to the success of this book?

The beauty of a royalty share production on ACX is that the producer and rights holder become partners, equally invested in the success of the book. In addition to bringing the story to life with your wonderful voice, you should be prepared to help promote the title on your website, social media accounts, email list, etc. Work with the rights holder to come up with creative ways to combine your powers. Interview each other for your respective blogs, record a brief audio-only bonus scene written by the author, or co-host a Twitter chat.

Picking the right title is an importation first step towards audiobook sales success. Delivering a great production and working to help promote the book ensures you’re doing everything in your power to maximize the earning potential of your work.

What factors do you consider when choosing a royalty share title?

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.

Money Talks – Paying, and Getting Paid, For Your Audiobook.

Authors, publishers, agents, circle up. Today, we’re going to talk money. ACX offers two different options when it comes to paying for your audiobook. You can also choose between two distribution options, which affect how much you stand to make from your audio sales. So let’s take a start-to-finish look at the different options you have on ACX when it comes to dollars and cents.

Planning Your Budget

Budgeting is one of the first things you should think about when preparing to get your book produced in audio. ACX offers two ways to compensate your producer: pay a “per finished hour” rate (PFH) when you approve the final audio, or enter into a royalty share agreement, where you pay the producer nothing up front, but agree to split your portion of the royalties 50-50 on the back end. The biggest consideration here is whether you have the funds to pay for your production up front, or whether you’d prefer to share royalties from sales. Both have their benefits – one allows you to keep your full portion of your royalties, the other gives you a marketing partner who is equally invested in the project, but it’s important to know which is right for you.

P4P: Is it 4 You?

Paying a per-finished-hour rate, what we call “pay for production” (or P4P) on ACX, is the traditional model of paying for an audiobook production. A good estimate of industry standard rates for retail ready audiobook production breaks down as follows: roughly $200 PFH for narration and another $200 PFH for the post production work (editing, QC, mixing and mastering). Rates can vary from producer to producer and from project to project of course. It’s also important to understand what you’re paying for, and the skill and time that goes into it. On average, it can take about four hours of work to produce one hour of finished audio. Your narrator is usually spending two hours reading in the booth and another two to three hours editing, mixing and mastering for each finished hour of audio. So while a rate of $300-$400 PFH may seem high, it makes sense when you understand the works that’s gone into it.

When budgeting for a P4P deal, the other factor to consider is the length of your title. We estimate that about 9,300 words equals one hour of finished audio (you can learn how to get an accurate word count for your title here). So, with that in mind, you can contact producers on ACX and negotiate  a fair rate for producing your title.

The Revolutionary Royalty Share

Of course, not everyone wants to pay their producer up front. For those that want to go a different route, ACX offers the royalty share payment model. Under these terms, you, the rights holder, forgo up front payment. Your producer will do the same work described above, and deliver the same retail-ready audio product. The time spent, and the value of the producer’s work is the same as if they were being paid up front. That’s why it’s extra important to have a solid plan for how you’ll market your title, and how your producer can fit into that plan. Choosing to split the royalties can get you a “partner in crime,” and double the marketing force behind your audio version.

It’s important to note that the royalty share option is only available when you grant ACX exclusive distribution of your title. Which brings us to:

Distribution – Exclusive or Non-Exclusive

The other big consideration for an ACX rights holder is whether to choose exclusive or non-exclusive distribution. This is a very in-depth topic, and much more detailed information on distribution and royalty rates can be found on our site. In brief, ACX will distribute your title to Audible, Amazon and iTunes. If you choose exclusive distribution, we will make your book available through these three channels and pay you an escalator royalty rate that starts at 50%, and increases in your favor the more you sell. With non-exclusive distribution, your book will still be available for purchase though the sites above, but you retain the right to sell or distribute it in any other way you wish. As we mentioned before, the royalty share method of paying your producer is only available with exclusive distribution.

Which combination of payment and distribution is right for you? Only you can know for sure, and it can vary from project to project. But with the information above, you should be well situated to make an informed, intelligent choice!

Which payment and distribution methods have you worked for you on ACX? Tell us in the comments!