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.
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.
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.