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Audiobooks: A How-To

This is a self-published author’s take on creating audiobooks. Thanks to platforms like ACX, turning your book into an audiobook has never been easier. So, let's embark on this exciting journey together and explore the steps to transform your literary masterpiece into a captivating audio adventure!

Audiobooks: A How-To

Audiobooks have skyrocketed in popularity, opening up an entirely new world of storytelling possibilities. Listeners like me can enjoy books while commuting, working out, or simply relaxing. By converting your book into an audiobook, you tap into a growing market and reach a wider audience hungry for captivating narratives.

"Over the last 10 years, the share of US adults who listen to audiobooks has grown by more than 100%."


BUDGET The first thing you should know is that creating an audiobook can cost next to nothing, or it can break the bank. If you have a rich voice and can do accents, then recording your own narration might be for you. If you're like me, you have two options. 1) Tap a friend that is generous enough to give 10-30 hours of their time to you (not quite free). 2) Find a producer on ACX or similar websites (expensive). Whatever route you choose, regardless of the size of your bankroll, a poor-quality recording will cost you too much.

"Audible platform has a 63.4% market share in the audiobook publishing category."


NARRATING YOURSELF Nobody knows your book like you do. You know the intonations, the accents, the pacing, and where to be goofy or serious. So, if you have the skill set to do so, it's the best route. If you don't plan to record yourself, skip over this next bit.

But, before you start...Is your voice audiobook ready? If you're not sure, then you need to find out. Record a several-minute excerpt from your book, ideally one with the various accents and genders you'll use in other parts. Share that recording with a few strangers. It's easy to find critics with the following links: FB, and Reddit. You certainly don't need to pay a beta listener. Be direct and tell the listener that you want honest feedback even if it's harsh. If you don't get glowing reviews, please find someone else to do the recording.

If you're going the DIY route, you'll want to create a recording studio. First, find a place that is quiet. Air conditioning, street noise, and family life will ruin your narration. Next, borrow or buy a recording kit. You can find ones that range from free (your Phone) to astronomical.

There are a ton of knowledgeable sites that recommend the best podcasting equipment. Unlike a blog, you'll want a teleprompter app so you don't have to flip pages, whether digital or physical, which is distracting and may add noise to the background. Perhaps the most important step is to create an ergonomic setup so you won't be tempted to shift around, which can cause noise and may change the volume and tone of your recording. Lastly, get to know your software, including tools to remove residual background noise and to splice different takes together and adjust them so they sound continuous.


MEET ACX ACX.com, an Amazon-owned platform, provides a seamless and user-friendly way to turn your book into an audiobook. It connects authors with talented narrators and producers, making the process more accessible and efficient than ever before. There are other sites, but I am not familiar with those, so I'll stick with what I know here.

"Audible generates over $1.19 billion in audiobook sales revenue per year."



PREPARE THE JOURNEY Before diving into the creation process, take some time to prepare. Ensure your book is professionally edited, polished, and ready to captivate listeners. One of the most important steps that people won't tell you is to listen to your written work through text-to-speech (post about this coming soon). Additionally, consider your target audience and the genre of your book, as these factors will guide your choices during the audiobook production process. If you have voices that you imagine for your voice, write them down.


AUDITIONING NARRATORS ACX.com allows you to audition and select narrators who will bring your story to life. Browse through a diverse pool of voice actors, listen to their samples, and select someone whose tone, style, and interpretation align with your vision. Collaboration is key to ensuring the perfect match between your story and the narrator's voice.



CLAIM YOUR WORK

To claim your title on ACX, you need to follow a few straightforward steps.

  • Log in to your ACX account or create one if you haven't already. (Use a professional Amazon login...for reasons.).

  • Search for your audiobook title by entering the ISBN (upcoming post on ISBN), title, or author name in the search bar.

  • Click on it to access the title details page.

  • Providing the necessary information and verifying your rights as the copyright holder.

  • ACX will confirm your ownership, and you're ready.



CHOSE PAYMENT TYPE

ACX offers two primary payment options. "Pay-for-Production" (P4P) and "Royalty Share."

The Pay-for-Production model involves paying a narrator the complete upfront rate for their work, typically at a per-finished-hour rate, allowing authors to retain all future audiobook royalties, which is only 40% with Audible.

The Royalty Share model allows you and the narrator to share the audiobook's royalties equally, providing a more cost-effective option upfront, but they share the earnings down the line, so you only get 20% of the revenue. The choice between these payment types should be based on your budget and your long-term financial goals. Fewer experienced, high-quality narrators will audition for your project. Most Audibles don't earn out.



RATES

You can set the range you're willing to pay a voice actor per finished hour (pfh). Remember that as authors, we understand the need to be paid for our art. Narrators are no different.

  • Some new voice actors charge as little as $50 per finished hour (pfh) to build a portfolio and experience, so a 10-hour read will cost only $500.

  • The highest I've seen is $450 pfh, so $4500 for 10 hours.

  • Experienced excellent voice actors often use the minimum Screen Actors Guild (SAG) rate in per finished hour (pfh). The SAG rate was $325 pfh in early 2023.

  • Remember that you can reduce some narrator's rates by half for when profit sharing.

  • Most authors don't earn out, especially for self-published audiobooks with low-quality recordings.


"The average narrator charges around $200 per finished hour"



SALES

I'll post a short read about marketing, which will get into the sales of Audibles, which depends on how many eyeballs glance at your audio baby. You should be prepared to not recover your costs if you don't market.


"In total, Audible produces 10,000 titles annually."



SETUP AUDITION

Preparing for an ACX audition so 20-80 narrators can submit informed 3-minute-sample auditions. You'll need to describe the characters in the scene you choose for the short narration.

  • Reread the chosen short excerpt thoroughly. Pay attention to character voices, emotions, and any special instructions or accents to convey your vision.

  • Define the style. Convey the desired overall style/tone for your whole audiobook.

  • Prepare the short MS Word or PDF of the script so they can read it. Double spaced. Add comments if absolutely necessary. Don't clutter the doc.

  • Provide a detailed project description, specify the payment method, and set the audition deadline. You can also specify the qualities you're looking for in a narrator.

  • Review Auditions and Select a Narrator: Once you receive audition submissions from narrators, carefully evaluate their samples. Consider factors like voice quality, pacing, and their ability to capture the essence of your book. Communicate with potential narrators, ask questions, and request custom audition samples if necessary. Finally, choose the narrator whose audition aligns best with your vision for the audiobook.

By following these steps, you'll be well-prepared to hold successful auditions and find the right narrator to bring your book to life on ACX.


"An Audible narrator will speak around 155 words per minute"



CHOOSE A NARRATOR

There is no one way to select a narrator from the 20-80 auditions that stream in over the first three days. Don't feel obliged to choose right away. It's more important to get the right voice for the job than to rush it. Patience pays off. Here are several things to consider.

  • Price is a limiting factor. Some narrators will audition at a higher rate than your stated range.

  • Watch out for AI-narrated auditions. You can do the same, though I don't advise it.

  • Quickly throw out most narrators based on sound quality and voice. Only keep the top 3-5. Then compare them.

  • Listen to the samples of their previous works on Audible. Check the average ratings and number of ratings.

  • Glance at their social media presence to see if they can/will help promote your audible.

  • How is their communication? Use ACX messaging to discuss factors, such as process. Ask if they will give you the finished audio files after the final payment. (Royalty Sharing authors won't.) Does their timeline match yours? (Patience is important.) Some narrators will give you unfinished audio files of each chapter to give feedback through the process.

  • Good narrators will read at about the industry standard of about 150 words per minute.

  • Listen to samples at 1.2-1.4 speed because many listeners chose these or even faster speeds.



NAIL THE PERFORMANCE Once you choose your narrator, it's time to embark on the exciting production phase. Collaborate closely with your chosen voice actor. Providing guidance and feedback early and often to ensure the performance captures the essence of your book. Good voice actors are better at this than you, so accept their instincts. They view your novel from an unbiased first-time reader's perspective. If you don't like where they are going by the 15-minute checkpoint that Audible requires, do NOT move forward.


QUALITY MATTERS To create a professional and captivating audiobook, focus on sound quality. Pay attention to sound editing, audio levels, and overall production quality to ensure an enjoyable listening experience for your audience. Hissing, buzzing, mumbling, monotone voice, and other factors mean the audio sample won't appeal to listeners.


DISTRIBUTION OPTIONS ACX offers two distribution options: exclusive and non-exclusive. Audible accounts for less than half of the sales. Exclusive includes both Audible and Amazon. ACX drops your royalties from 40% for exclusive to 25% for non-exclusive. The choice is yours, tailored to your publishing goals. Divide those numbers to 20% and 12.5% if you choose profit sharing. Here's some quick math:


Exclusive: 40% royalty times 41% of the market gives you a sales potential of 164.

Non-exclusive: 25% royalty times 59% of the market gives you a sales potential of 124.



APPROVALS

You have the option to approve the final production. Do not accept a product with errors. Mispronunciations. Incorrect words. Repeated words. Missing words or sentences. This means you absolutely must listen to all of the audio files while visually reading your manuscript.



CELEBRATE THE LAUNCH Finally, when your audiobook is ready, it's time to celebrate! Announce your new creation through social media, your author's website, and any other marketing channels you utilize. Engage with your audience, host giveaways, and encourage listeners to leave reviews, building buzz around your audiobook. Personally, hearing my book in narrated form is an exhilarating experience that I value beyond measure. It immerses readers, including me, in a whole new dimension of storytelling. ACX can serve you well, whether by pairing you with a narrator or by helping you navigate the production process. So, embrace the power of voice and embark on this exciting journey. Captivate your listeners!

Next week, I'll post part two: Audiobooks: A Personal Perspective.


 

As always, I appreciate your support of self-publishing and indie authors. In the name of putting myself out there, here are a few of my works.



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