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I’m thrilled to have Stephanie Queen on my blog today. I haven’t listened to many audiobooks, but as people become busier and reading time becomes a luxury, audiobooks are the way to go – both as a listener and an author. Take it away, Stephanie.
Listening is the New Reading: All About Audiobooks
The last time someone (nameless interviewer) asked me what the last book I read was, I had to think back—way back—to before I started listening to books. I drive (too much) and work out at the gym (not enough) and those activities occupy so much of my time, I felt compelled to multi-task. So I started listening to audiobooks (I’d have preferred writing as my second activity, but discovered this beyond the limits of my mortal capacity, especially while driving).
I discovered I LOVE audiobooks! For writers out there who want to get in on the next big thing (I predict that’s audiobooks, but I think Audible is right there with me in this), you must first become a fan. Well, maybe must is a strong word, but I highly recommend first doing lots of listening and becoming familiar enough with the medium so you understand what’s good and what makes it good.
For instance, and you may have heard this, lots of audiobook fans are fans of narrators as much as they are of the author of the book. They are like actors, but they do multiple parts—usually all parts—in the production. But let me make this simple for you and give it to you step-by-step.
How to get started in audiobooks via ACX (audiobook creation exchange) for authors:
Step 1: Listen and become a fan, an aficionado of the medium. Become familiar with what’s good in your genre and why you like it. Become familiar with pricing and deals and retail distribution, digital download v. CD. Become familiar with the bestseller lists.
Step 2: Figure out how much money you have to invest in this venture. Do you have $100 or do you have thousands? You’ll potentially need to spend some money on the following:
a. Newly formatted square book cover, preferably identical to the ebook version except in shape. Maybe you can do this yourself—but I hired it out and it was less than $50 for me.
b. Narrator: You may want to choose the option of paying your narrator up front and should be prepared to pay in the high hundreds to thousands depending on the length of your book and the experience/quality of the narrator.
Step 3: ACX
I used ACX, like KDP as my creation/distribution channel, although you could find other means. I found ACX simple to use. Key for me. Logon here: https://www.acx.com:443/
Read through the basics and sign up.
NOTE an IMPORTANT DISTINCTION from ebook self-publishing—with ACX, you can self-publish your audiobook, but you can NOT establish your own price! Audible/ACX determines the price. They give guidelines about how they do it—mostly based on length of book.
Step 4: Royalty Share V. Hourly Rate
Decisions, decsions. You need your decision about how you will pay your narrator—who, by the way, will also be your producer. Narrators either produce the recordings themselves (record, edit, compile, do technical stuff).
This is where the question about how much money you have to invest comes in.
Naturally, most narrators find the hourly rate option more attractive unless you’re Norah Roberts or Tom Clancy. So it may be easier to find a quality narrator as a beginner by offering an hourly rate.
a. Hourly Rate: In the narrating/producing an audiobook business, hourly rate refers to FINISHED hours—i.e. how many hours your final audiobook is. ACX will estimate this for you based on the number of words, so you can project your costs. (They’re not always right. Mine was estimated at 11.3 hours and ended up over 13 hours!).
Hourly Rates start at $100 per finished hour. Many established high quality narrators command $350 per finished hour. This route is not for the faint of wallet!
b. Royalty Share: No up front payment, but you sign over 50% of your royalties to the narrator/producer. Two big issues with this are, as stated above, how do you convince a narrator/producer to put in the time and expense of narrating and producing with no up front money (and what kind of quality will you get) AND how much money will you end up paying if you believe you’ll do well.
This question is very individual depending on where you are in your career as an author, how well established you are, etc. Good Luck with it. Read all the fine print thoroughly.
Step 5: Choosing your Narrator! This is the cool and exciting part!!!
So you’ve decided how to pay your narrator, now how do you find one? The simple and effective way for me, was to look through ACX’s catalogue of narrator/producers.
a. Look for narrators with productions in your genre
b. Listen to sample clips
c. Send email invitations to narrators you enjoyed inviting them to audition for your project. HINT: This is where you must sell your project! Either sell it with a high PFH rate or the promise of mega royalties because you’re a superstar and this book sold like hotcakes. Also tell them about the project and how it fits with their style, body of work, etc.
d. Auditions: This is the COOLEST part of the project! When you hear back from narrators, you send/upload an audition script. This script should be an excerpt from your novel which will demonstrate to you that this person can handle the tone, the varying characters voices and whatever other challenges you may have in your novel. I had a British accent in mine, so I made a point of choosing people to audition who could handle this.
e. Evaluate and Choose: After listening and reviewing the auditions, I would rank them because not everyone is available and you may have to go with your second choice. My experience was that I found several narrators who were great possibilities. Also, this is where they are competing for your business now and you can negotiate money here if you’re paying PFH.
SPECIAL NOTE: Time is also a big consideration. Not everyone is immediately available and you must ask how long the narrator/producer estimates that they will finish. ACX imposes time limits on projects in production.
Step 6: Offer & Production
You make an offer via ACX using their simple prompts once you come to an agreement and your project will go into production. The next thing will be the narrator’s submission of the first 15 minutes for your approval.
But Production is another story for another day. This will get you started!
Stephanie Queen currently has an audiobook in production, The Throwbacks, the first in a romantic comedy suspense series (the ebook is now available on Amazon.) Her latest ebook release and the second in the series, is The Hot Shots, available now on Amazon.
Wow! Thank you for all this fabulous information, Stephanie. You’ve given us a lot to think about.