ACX: Turn Your Novel Into An Audiobook

Suspense-Thriller author Jeb Bohn


As writers, we are—among other things—always looking to reach new readers. Well, perhaps markets would be a better word because today I am going to talk about a medium that doesn’t actually involve reading.

Make sense? I thought not.

Moving on.

In previous blogs, we went over KDP Select and Draft2Digital, two ways to distribute ebook and paperback versions of your work. Today, we’re going to take a look at ACX, which gives authors the ability to publish audiobook versions of their books.

What Is ACX?

In the simplest terms, ACX is a marketplace that connects authors to audiobook producers. Once the audiobook is completed, ACX also makes it available for sale through three major platforms: Audible, Amazon, and Apple.

That’s the absolute basic outline.

Steps 1-4 of the ACX process
Steps 1-4 of the ACX process

How Does ACX Work?

Like most legitimate creation and distribution channels, it’s pretty straightforward. You create a free account and add your book in much the same way you would through KDP, Draft2Digital, or any other sales platform.

There is one additional item that you’ll need, namely an audition script. Ideally, you just need 1-2 pages from your manuscript, preferably a collection of scenes featuring different characters and moods. Using this approach will give potential narrators a better feel for your work while giving you a better idea of their range.

Once you find a narrator that you want to work with, you make them an offer (we’ll look deeper into that shortly) and let them do their thing. Once they submit a first 15-minute check-in, you can review it and submit any feedback that you have. If you give your blessing, they will continue until the entire audiobook is created.

Pretty straightforward, right?

Let’s take a deeper look at a few things, shall we?

Finding the Right ACX Narrator

There’s no way around it: the right narrator can make or break your audiobook. Talent and production quality are huge factors, however, they aren’t necessarily the final word in selecting the voice of your book.

You need to find a narrator who fits your book.

I don’t think I need to elaborate on that, but I will. Briefly. Your book has a tone, a mood. Maybe it’s light and carefree. Maybe it’s dark and brooding. Whichever category it fits, you want to ensure that the voice carrying your words to the listeners’ ears matches your creation.

Enter the audition process.

ACX gives you two primary options for selecting a narrator. You can browse existing samples and find one that fits the bill. Taking this approach opens you up to a wide variety of voices but is no guarantee that you’ll be able to land the one that you want.

Narrators in high demand may present a backlog of existing projects, pushing your anticipated release back further than you would like. Of course, this may not be a deal breaker for you if you really love the narrator’s work, but it is something to consider.

The second option involves uploading your audition script and opening it up for auditions. This route involves narrators looking for projects, so it’s critically important that you categorize your project accurately. Once a narrator submits an audition, you’ll be able to review it and contact them.

Whichever route you chose, be sure to pay close attention to the type of offers that the narrator(s) you like accept.

Types of Offers

Before we delve into making an offer to a narrator, it’s important that we take a look at the types of offers available via ACX:

Pay For Production

This method involves you paying the narrator directly. When browsing narrators, you’ll see the type of offers that they accept and you may notice something like $30 PFH. What does this mean?

PFH means Per Finished Hour, meaning that the narrator will get paid their base rate for every hour of your audiobook. As an example, my first novel is 94,354 words, which equates to 10.1 hours. Had I hired a narrator at $30 PFH, I would have paid them $303 upon my approval of the finished project.

Don’t fret if you’re unsure about the total hours of your project. Once you complete the information, ACX will estimate the total time, so you can estimate what hiring a particular narrator will cost.

Pros: greater flexibility in choosing a narrator; ability to choose to distribute via ACX’s sales channels as well as additional channels you choose, all royalties belong to you (40% if distributed exclusively by ACX; 25% if you choose to go non-exclusive)

Cons: you foot the up-front cost of paying the narrator

Royalty Share

Many narrators also accept Royalty Share offers. Under this type of agreement, all royalties are split 50-50 between you and the narrator, meaning you each receive 20% of sales. ACX also has a Royalty Share Plus program which is sort of a hybrid of the two plans. You can read more about that here.

Pros: no up-front cost in hiring a producer

Cons: only available with an exclusive agreement (your audiobook can only be distributed via ACX); reduced royalties (20% vs 40%)

What Comes Next?

Once you’ve selected your ideal narrator and they accept your offer, they’ll set to work on production. As stated earlier, they’ll submit the first 15 minutes to you to review. If everything is kosher, they’ll continue working.

It’s important to maintain communication through this process. Be open and clear with your narrator: if there’s something you want to be done differently, let them know! Likewise, you should expect feedback from them, usually in terms of seeking clarity on something. Remember, they’re not mind readers. This is a professional relationship and should be treated as such.

When they’ve completed the audiobook, you’ll be notified that the project is ready for review. Personally, this is my favorite part because I get to hear my book brought to life in its entirety. I recommend keeping a notepad handy (or using a notation app on your phone or computer) in case you find anything that you would like to be changed.

Once you’re happy with the finished product you submit it to ACX for the final step: Audio Review. They will check for consistency in sound levels, distortion, clipping—basically anything that can impair the listeners’ experience.

After the Audio Review is complete (and keep in mind this can take some time), your audiobook will be available for sale! That’s one more avenue set for distribution of your book and a new audience within your reach.

Things to Keep In Mind

This is just a quick overview designed to do two things:

  • Make authors aware of an easy way to turn their books into audiobooks
  • Give a basic rundown of what to expect

I’ve had pretty good luck with ACX so far and I absolutely believe that it is worthwhile for other writers to look into. It’s a very good tool that can expose you to a new audience, and that’s never a bad thing.

A few other items to bear in mind:

  • Pricing: ACX determines pricing based on length; the longer the audiobook, the higher the price
  • Cover: your audiobook cover MUST be at least 2400×2400 pixels and MUST be a perfect square; for a full rundown, you can view the cover image requirements here
  • Freebies: each title gets 25 promo codes per market (US and UK); these codes are good for a free download of your audiobook; they can be great promotions for loyal readers and nice incentives for new readers; find out more here
  • Preview: part of the production entails the narrator creating a sample; this can be used in a trailer (or other promotional use) to create excitement for your audiobook release
  • Bounty: if your audiobook is the first purchase of a new Audible member, you’ll get a nice bonus ($75 if you utilized Pay For Production; $50 if you used Royalty Share); you can find more info here

Have you tried ACX? If so, what are your thoughts? If you hadn’t heard of ACX before now, how likely are you to try them out? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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