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ACX: Turn Your Novel Into An Audiobook

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%)

The Herman Ingram Series

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!

Draft2Digital: Going Wide Made Easy

In my last entry, we talked about the pros and cons of going exclusive with Amazon’s KDP Select program. Today, we’ll take a quick look at Draft2Digital, a company that makes it easy to publish your book(s) to several marketplaces.

So, You Want to Go Wide

You’ve decided that you want to make your work available on several platforms. Maybe you feel that it’s the best route for more exposure. Maybe an exclusive distribution isn’t an idea that appeals to you. Whatever the reason, you should know your options before you jump in.

You may be wondering what the benefits of a wide release are, and you should. This is, after all, your business and you want to make the best decisions for that business. That said, there are a couple of obvious reasons to consider this approach:

  • Go To the Readers: yes, Amazon is a massive marketplace and gets a ton of traffic each day. There are, however, people whose preferences lie elsewhere. Maybe they like Barnes and Noble or perhaps they’re die-hard Apple supporters. Remember, going wide doesn’t prevent you from listing your book on Amazon, it just prevents you from enrolling it in KDP Select.
  • Hidden Benefits: a little extra food for thought
    • Barnes and Noble is a well-established bookseller and one with a large base of loyal customers. They also have their own line of e-readers, the Nook.
    • Apple has some of the most ravenous fans on the planet. Millions of readers have either an iPhone or iPad, if not both, and they all come with Apple Books, the company’s e-reader/ebook service.
    • Kobo currently has a partnership deal with Walmart, meaning your ebooks show up in searches for people looking for content like yours. Walmart, like Amazon, is a hugely popular (for better or worse) retailer, meaning more eyes can find your work.

Okay, So Why Draft2Digital?

Excellent question!

Let’s start by taking a look at some of the distribution partners that Draft2Digital works with:

  • Barnes and Noble
  • Apple
  • Kobo
  • Amazon (yes, you can also publish to Amazon via Draft2Digital if you don’t already have a KDP account)
  • Scribd

Yes, you can publish to those platforms yourself. As a matter of fact, I used to that myself. What swayed me? It’s simple: having to log in to multiple sites to check sales and royalties was a pain in the butt. Now, I just log into my Draft2Digital account and access everything from there.

They also create Universal Book Links (UBLs) that you can use for marketing. A reader clicks on the link and is then given the option to choose their retailer:

Bermuda Universal Book Link page

I like that you can edit each book’s UBL to include additional sites (I added Amazon since I publish there directly) and that you can add links to any audiobook versions. You can also label books as First in Series, Series Finale, and Latest Release.

Pretty cool.

On top of that, you can choose to make any books that you publish through Draft2Digital available to a quarter of library services (OverDrive, Bibliotheca, Baker & Taylor, and Hoopla).

Another cool feature is that once your book is uploaded and prepared, you’re given the option of downloading the formatted ebook in a trio of formats:

  • Mobi (full book or sample)
  • ePub (full book or sample)
  • PDF (4.5×6 or 5×8)

I’m a fan of the sample downloads since they make for excellent promotional material.

How Does It Work?

Another great question!

Once you set up an account, you upload your work in a similar manner to KDP or any other service. Draft2Digital currently allows you to upload manuscripts in the following formats:

  • Word (.doc or .docx)
  • Rich Text Format (RTF)
  • ePub

It’s important to note that, while you can upload an ePub, using this file type will not allow you to utilize their formatting tools. This isn’t a make-or-break rule, for me at least, but it’s worth noting.

Once everything is up to snuff (you’re given ample opportunity to preview your progress) you can publish your book to whichever outlets you choose or all available.

My only real gripe is that publishing to some outlets can take a few days, though that can’t be pinned on Draft2Digital. In the grand scheme of things, it’s a minor pain. That is, of course, assuming you plan ahead for releases that you have scheduled (you can also edit your UBL to show a book as Available For Pre-Order).

Note: Draft2Digital has a new feature called D2D Print to give you another option for creating physical copies. It’s currently in its Beta phase and, while I’ve registered for it, I have yet to use it, so I can’t offer any insight there.

The Herman Ingram Series

What’s This Going to Cost Me?

There’s no upfront cost when using Draft2Digital, so no need to stress there. Like most ebook retail outlets, they do keep a percentage of each sale (roughly 10% of the retail price).

When you consider everything that they offer, it’s a pretty good deal, at least in my estimation.

Draft2Digital: Should I Try It?

The only reason I would say not to try them out is if you’re having a ton of success running exclusively through a lone retailer (likely Amazon). After all, there’s no reason to mess with a good thing.

That said, if you are interested in having your book(s) available from many top ebook retailers, give Draft2Digital a look. I’m a fan of having a single dashboard that gives me a full sales breakdown and I absolutely love the UBLs.

Check out their website and give them a follow on Twitter.

Speaking of social media…

Until we meet again…

-Jeb