ACX Audiobooks – A “New” Frontier?
I recently embarked on a new adventure to convert my book After “I Do!” A Marriage Map into an audiobook. I found two primary audiobook distributors. Each has pros and cons. The first is ACX Audiobooks, a division of Amazon. ACX makes the conversion process easy by providing an audition process for narrators to read excerpts of the author’s books. The author can select the type of “voice” for the narrator to use. ACX calls them producers, and that is a better description for the most experienced readers who understand that tone, inflection and accenting the right words can create a better experience for the listener. The downside can be the royalty fees and restrictive distribution addressed later in this post.
The alternative distributor, Smashwords, has recently signed a contract to provide audiobooks for libraries’ Overdrive program. One person who commented on the post thought that this was a bad idea because library users won’t have to individually pay to read his books. Personally, I think it is a great way to gain more exposure. Library users probably wouldn’t have purchased his books anyway, however, library users surely do tell others about great books they’ve read (or listened to) recently. Can you say free advertising? But, the downside for me was that I did not want to pay the producer directly as discussed later in this post.
So, I chose ACX. The first step was to submit the titles to ACX. The registration process was a snap. Once all of the pertinent contact information is entered, along with the Amazon link for the books, I set out to choose an appropriate clip that would entice producers to audition.
Producers are paid in two different manners. One method is to split royalties on the book. The downside I mentioned before is that ACX keeps 60% of the royalties. Therefore, if a royalty share is agreed upon between the author and the producer, each are paid 20%. Or, one can pay the producer a negotiated hourly rate per finished hour of production time and keep the entire 40% in royalties. A third option is to pay the producer a negotiated hourly rate and keep the distribution rights and 25% of the royalties.
It is worth mentioning that it takes approximately 6 hours of reading and editing time to achieve 1 finished hour of a book. The negotiated hourly payment rate is based on the 1 finished hour, not the 6 hours.
Choosing the correct contract with ACX is critical, as it spans 7 years. There are three options. Using the first option, exclusive distribution with a straight royalty share, the author is bound by a contract where Audible controls the distributions. They will place the audio book exclusively with Audible.com, Amazon.com and iTunes.com. I checked whether I would be allowed to purchase the books, send a copy with a cover letter and request that the retailer carry the books after contacting ACX for a wholesale price. This is not allowed under the royalty share structure.
With option 2, the author agrees to pay a direct fee per finished hour to the narrator and exclusive distribution to Audible. The distribution restrictions from option 1 apply. The 40% royalties are paid to the author and not split with the narrator.
Finally, we get to option 3, which is less restrictive. The author still pays a direct fee per finished hour to the producer but chooses non-exclusive distribution rights with Audible. The royalty share drops to 25%, payable to the author using this contract option. This option would have allowed me to obtain a professionally produced file I could then upload to Smashwords if I’d wanted to pay the producer’s fee directly. I may regret this choice later, but I hope not.
The ACX Bounty Program
No, we aren’t turning into the kind of bounty hunters who track bad people. We are hunting for newbies to audiobooks. For every person that purchases my book as their first purchase once they sign up to for the audiobooks program, I will be paid $50. If I’ve split the royalties with the narrator, then I also split the bounty. It sounds like a good deal, but actually convincing people to convert to audiobooks may take some effort. There is no limit to the number of bounties that may be earned for new listeners. However, I won’t get paid for the bounties until the new listeners have purchased three books. This prevents people from getting friends to sign up and order just the one book and never purchase another audiobook again. I thought this was reasonable, from ACX’s business perspective.
After “I Do!” received approximately 8 auditions within two or three days. I found one producer who’s voice I loved and made an offer. The author and the producer can agree on the completion schedule, or the author can just set due dates. Dictating due dates without considering the producer’s schedule could lead to a deal breaker if the producer’s cannot meet the due dates set by the author. The producer agreed to the royalty share and the due dates. We were off to the races and within 8 days I received messages from both ACX and my narrator that the first 15 minutes were ready.
I was ecstatic as I listened to After “I Do!” come to life. My producer nailed the presentation style. I did hear a few things that needed to be edited, but they were in my writing, not her reading. I’ve already corrected the eBook version, but I’m waiting to hear the rest of my book before I update the print file for CreateSpace.
Part 2 will discuss marketing decisions, cover art, the final editing process and the finished product. It may be a few weeks before Part 2 is posted, because the completion deadline is October 31st. I hope it remains a treat…
Update – Please continue to Part 2 here.