Tag Archives: scott sigler

You Kept Your Audiobook Rights – Now What?

We last spoke with ACX DIY author/narrator Scott Sigler almost exactly one year ago. Back in 2014, Scott shared the success he’s had racking up our $50 bounty payments by driving new listeners to Audible. Today he joins us to discuss the decision that made all of those bounties possible: keeping his audio rights instead of signing them away to his print/eBook publisher.

Scott Sigler

PenguinRandomHouse_ScottSigler_JoanAllenPhoto

Author Scott Sigler

The debate about “what’s best” for authors — doing it all yourself as an indie writer, or striving to sign with a traditional publishing house — has been the stuff of bloggers and Internet wags for some time now. While proponents of each camp make excellent points, there is a third side to this coin: doing both and becoming a “hybrid author.”

A “hybrid author” is someone who produces independent works and writes for traditional publishing at the same time. One way to do this is to retain your audio rights when you sell print and/or eBook rights to a publisher. That’s what I did when Del Rey bought my Generations Trilogy. Alive, the first book of that trilogy, is out in hardcover, eBook, and audiobook on July 14, 2015.

That’s right: hardcover and eBook from Del Rey, audiobook from, well, from us. “Us” is Empty Set Entertainment, the company I own along with my business partner A Kovacs. When Del Rey rolls out the beautiful hardcover of Alive, Empty Set will kick out the unabridged audiobook. We did all the work for that audio version, and will also earn all of the royalties from it.

Retaining audiobook rights was a natural for us, because we’ve been creating our own audiobooks for years. We produced eleven of my fifteen titles currently available on Audible.

AliveFew publishers are going to offer to let you keep audiobook rights. Publishers are in business to make money, not to be your pal. If you want to keep those rights, you’ll have to negotiate for them. That’s what happened with fantasy author Michael J. Sullivan.

Sullivan’s first publishing deal was with Orbit, who kept the audiobook rights and sold those rights to Recorded Books. Sullivan was happy with Recorded Books — and his narrator, in particular. When it was time for a new deal, though, Sullivan wanted more control.

“When my agent was negotiating my second Orbit contract, I asked for her to get the audio rights held back,” Sullivan said. “Orbit said it would be a ‘deal breaker.’ When all was said and done, we signed the contract, and asked them to keep the rights with Recorded Books. They agreed and so the first two books of the Riyria Chronicle series were published as a subsidiary right.”

For Sullivan’s latest deal, however, he and his wife, Robin, took a different strategy — they sold the audiobook rights first. Therefore, those rights weren’t on the table for Del Rey, who will be releasing Sullivan’s next novel Age of Myth next summer.

“The lack of audio rights definitely wasn’t a deal breaker for Del Rey,” Sullivan said. “Nor the other publishers who were interested in the series.”

What to Do with Your Audio Rights

First, you can keep the audio rights in a print/eBook deal, then sell them to another company. That’s what John Scalzi did in his recent blockbuster $3.4 million, 13-book deal with Tor Books. This gave Scalzi the ability to negotiate for a higher payout for audio, and as part of that negotiation, possibly have more influence over production and casting decisions.

“I held onto the audio rights, as I hold on to every other right I can, because they have value,” Scalzi said. “Economically and artistically, it makes sense for me to maximize both (print and audio). I get the most amount of money possible and partner with the people who I think will do the best job making and marketing the work.”

Scalzi

Author John Scalzi

The second method would be to produce your own audiobook, which is what I did for Alive. Alive is a YA title with a female protagonist as the only point-of-view character. The readers see everything through her eyes. For voice talent, we hired Emma Galvin, who narrated Veronica Roth’s Divergent series. Emma was a perfect fit for my book and we were lucky to get her.

Producing it ourselves, means we earn the full 40% royalty from ACX, which is extremely competitive. That’s good, but it comes at a cost — all production and talent expense came out of our own pockets. We invested $5,000 in the creation of the Alive audiobook and will need to sell about 660 audiobooks to make that money back.

We invested similar amounts for our audiobooks Nocturnal and PandemicNocturnal earned out in eight weeks, Pandemic in seven. That means everything we earn for the remainder of the seven-year contract term is straight profit.

That accounting, however, only represents our cash outlay. I am not factoring in the time I put in auditioning narrators, communicating with Emma, communicating with the engineer about edits, and managing the process. I can’t put a specific dollar amount on that time. It’s an opportunity cost, measured as time I was not writing new product. If you produce your own audiobooks, you’ll also encounter those opportunity costs.

Sullivan has considered producing his own audiobooks, but with the significant sales his works generate, the advances for audio rights are high enough that it makes more sense to sell them off.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Author Michael J. Sullivan

“The most attractive thing ACX has going is that the author’s cut isn’t diluted,” Sullivan said. “If my future audiobook advances were to go down, then I would have a bigger incentive to self-publish the audio. I would definitely consider ACX.”

If you don’t want to sell your rights, and you also don’t want to produce the book yourself, that leaves the third method: using ACX’s marketplace to find a producer who will create the audiobook. Through the marketplace, you can either pay for your production up front based on the final running time of the audiobook (per-finished-hour (PFH) payment), or enter into a royalty share done as a 50/50 split between writer and producer. That makes your 40% share a 20% share, with the producer getting the other 20%. Seems severe, doesn’t it? Not when you take a step back and realize you don’t have any up-front costs, as I did with Alive. The royalty share method means you start earning revenue with the very first sale.

And, of course, there is one additional choice: sell the print, eBook, and audiobook rights to a single publisher. Collecting an advance and — hopefully — future royalties is still a viable option if you want to focus all of your energies on creating new works.

As for our strategy? Now and in the future, we enjoy the total control over our audiobooks, and we enjoy the higher profit margin. As long as we have working capital to produce the audiobooks, we’ll keep doing things that way.


New York Times best-selling author Scott Sigler is the author of over 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.


Are you a hybrid author? Tell us your story below.

The Top Ten ACX Blog Posts of 2014

Welcome to our final post of 2014. It’s been one heck of a year; you and your fellow actors, authors, studios and publishers have produced over 13,000 ACX audiobooks! All the while, we worked to bring you the best audiobook education, information, and inspiration around.

We’re here today to count down the top 5 ACX blog posts of 2014, for both producers and Rights Holders. Join us right here in 2015 for even more!

The Top 10 Posts of 2014

ACX Logo - High Res

Producers:

5. Karen Commins on Marketing Audiobooks – Prolific Audible Approved producer Karen Commins offered two great posts chock full of marketing advice for actors. Check out part two here.

4.5. The Last Job He Expected to Love – R.C. Bray’s success story didn’t technically appear on the ACX blog, but we’re giving him an honorary spot on the countdown anyway.

4. The ACX Narrator Knowledge Series: Editing & Proofing – Members of the Grammy-award winning Audible Studios team offered their advice in video form.

3. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Audiobook Professionals – Also known as The “DUH!” List, this post is great for actors new to the audiobook business.

2. Audiobook Production Basics Explained – George Whittam of Edge Studio offered ACX producers a concise overview of the basics of home recording in this video.

Andrew_250x3201. How to Succeed at Audiobook Production: Part 1 – Andrew the Audio Scientist kicked off his video series on home audiobook production with a focus on the importance consistency in home recording. Check out parts two, three, and four to catch the entire series.

Rights Holders:

5. Five Tips for Choosing a Narrator – Learn how to cast your audiobook production. Includes audio examples of “do’s” and “don’ts.”

Scott Sigler

An ACX success story: Scott Sigler

4. ACX Storytellers: Scott Sigler Find out the unique tactic this author/narrator used to rack up over $10,000 in $50 bounty payments this year alone!

3. Cynthia Hartwig’s Top Five Marketing Jobs for New Authors – Third place in our countdown goes to the post that challenged authors to work as hard at promoting their work as they do writing it.

2. The ACX Author’s Audiobook Checklist – keep your productions on track with this handy downloadable checklist which includes a box to tick off every time you complete a step.

1. How to Win Listeners and Create Great Audiobooks – This top post guided authors down the path towards audiobook publisher.

What would you like to see covered on the ACX blog in 2015?

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 $50 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 $50 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).