Creating Audiobooks – My Experience with ACX

Our own Sara Marks is a self-published author. She primarily writes chick lit and contemporary romance books. In 2017 she decided to focus her efforts on self-publishing over traditional publishing. This monthly series is about her experiences publishing and promoting her own books. 

One of the first things I considered after I had finished publishing Modern Persuasion, was producing an audiobook to go with it. I love audiobooks. In fact, the vast majority of the books I read are on audiobook. I can listen while I knit, while I clean, while I drive, or while I get ready for bed. I love being told a story just as much as I love reading for myself. As the market for audiobooks grows between Audible, iTunes, and even Overdrive (for libraries), a smart author won’t dismiss the option. I took the chance and a fantastic audiobook was created for Modern Persuasion, my first book. Soon production will begin for the audiobook of Phi Alpha Pi. Here are my tips for creating an audiobook.

Who will be the voice?

Who is the voice of your narrator? Is it your voice? Is it another’s voice? Is it more than one voice? This is something to consider. Being your own narrator does save money, but are you a good reader? Do you have the tools needed to create a quality audiobook? I’ve listened to a number of good authors read their own books, but it takes skill for both the reading and production. It might be worth the investment to buy the hardware and software to do it yourself. You can certainly learn to be a better speaker and reader (I suggest Toastmasters to build those skills). It doesn’t have to be you. It can be someone else and there are amazing readers available to you. Do you want more than one reader? It was something I considered given that I had two narrative voices in Modern Persuasion.

Keep in mind, for every hour of an audiobook, it takes about 2 hours of recording time. Your audiobook’s length depends on the length of your book. The average reader can read about 9.300 words an hour, so do the math to find out how much work will go into your audiobook.

Paying Your Reader

This is the main concern for indie and self-publishing authors. A read is not cheap, but it doesn’t have to be a huge, upfront cost. The most popular option for managing the entire process is using ACX, an Amazon/Audible option. One of the strongest reasons for me was their royalty sharing option between the Reader and the Author. The basic explanation is that, after your fees to ACX are taken from each sale, the reader (ACX calls them Producers) and author split the profits 40/40 (assume 20% is going to ACX). Your reader has an equal share in the investment of your audiobook and an enticement to promote it themselves.
Paying up front will vary in cost based on the experience of the reader, the amount of work they will have to do, the cost of their tech, and the time they will dedicate to the production. ACX requires a minimum of $250 an hour. Not all readers will be interested in a royalty share option, but on ACX you identify what you want when you set up the project.
Yes, if you are the reader, you can still use ACX. You just identify yourself as the narrator.

Picking a Producer/Reader

From this point forward, I’m going to focus on ACX. I recently began the process to create Phi Alpha Pi’s audiobook, The audition process, for both books, took me a while to get any activity and I was worried that my book might not be enticing enough. With both books I got lucky and the first auditions they received were perfect. You can provide all sorts of information from the gender you want for your reader, the characters age, the accent needed, and vocal styles. There are two key things others suggested to focus on: my comments about the project and my 5-minute sample. My comments would be my enticement to a reader to take a chance on my book. As a new author with my first book, I focused on my genre and the potential for future collaborations. I also talked about my marketing plans.
The 5-minute sample is the reader/producers way to entice you for a longer audition. It’s important to pick the right passage. I picked 3 paragraphs that I felt gave a good example of my POV character’s voice. The full audition script won’t include the same content. I picked from different sections of the book so I could hear how she would treat my secondary POV character and a few specific vocal choices like one with a strong Boston accent. It was about 2.5 pages of text for her to read.
Keep auditioning until you hear the right voice.

Learn more about what happens after you’ve selected your reader/producer and what to do if you don’t want to use ACX over at Sara’s blog Book Club of 1

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