11 July 2016

How to produce an audiobook with Amazon ACX

New Audiobook available on 
Audible and iTunes

England, 1441: Lady Eleanor Cobham, Duchess of Gloucester, hopes to become Queen of England before her interest in astrology and her husband's ambition leads their enemies to accuse her of a plot against the king. Eleanor is found guilty of sorcery and witchcraft. 
Rather than have her executed, King Henry VI orders 
Lady Eleanor to be imprisoned for life.

I’m always interested in finding innovative ways to reach new readers, although I always imagined the costs of producing an audiobook would be a stretch. I was encouraged to learn that Amazon’s ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange) offers a ‘profit sharing’ deal, where authors can sign up to a 50:50 royalty split with the narrator.

I did consider a one off payment but liked the idea of entering into a partnership with the narrator, who has an equal stake in the success of the finished work. ACX is part of Audible.Com and a subsidiary of Amazon. As the author, you decide how your audiobook is produced, who narrates it, and select your distribution channels.

To enter into a royalty share deal, you need to select exclusive distribution of the audiobook through Audible, Amazon and iTunes. Royalties of 40% are paid for exclusive distribution projects, so the rights holder and producer each earn 20% from each sale.

Here are the seven steps to take you from your edited manuscript to a completed audiobook:

Step One: Preparing your ‘pitch’

Once you’ve registered with ACX at https://www.acx.com you can set up your first ‘project’. You need to confirm you have audio rights for your book, then you will be guided through preparing your ‘pitch’. You want to attract the best possible choice of professional narrators, so it’s important to spend some time on this. For example, I emphasised the international sales and reviews and included a link to the YouTube trailer. I also adapted the synopsis, highlighting the elements I thought would be important to any potential narrators. You'll also need to upload a two-page excerpt from your book as an Audition Script for potential narrators.

Step Two: Selecting your narrator

You can wait to see who expresses an interest or listen to sample narrations (which you can filter by genre, gender, accent etc.,) and invite producers to audition for your book.  The Secret Diary of Eleanor Cobham is written in the first person, so I had to find a female narrator with an English accent – who could pass as a medieval duchess. As well as listening to auditions, you can look at the bio of potential narrators and discuss their approach. As soon as I heard Stephanie (Stevie) Zimmerman I knew she would be perfect.

Step Three: Agreeing the deal

You can make an offer to a Producer to produce your audiobook on the special Production Offer Page – and if they accept you can create a deal on ACX. It is recommended that negotiations take place within the ACX messaging system to document what has been agreed.

Step Four: Listen to fifteen minute sample

It is really important to make sure you are happy with the tone and pace of the narration, as this is where you agree what might eventually become eight or nine hours of recording. Here is the four minute sample of The Secret Diary of Eleanor Cobham:

Step Five: Listen to each chapter

I’d underestimated how much of a challenge this is, as you need to be vigilant for any pronunciation issues or changes of pace or style. You can ask the narrator to make up to two rounds of corrections to your finished audiobook and when you're content with the final version you pay your producer directly, unless you agreed a royalty share.

Step Six: Prepare audiobook artwork

I adapted the printed book cover to create the square format and added Stevie's name at the bottom, although you could opt for a complete re-design if this isn't practical. Once you are happy with the artwork you simply upload it and ACX do the rest once it has passed their quality check.  

Step Seven: Promote the new audiobook

As with any book, there is a correlation between time spent raising awareness and royalties earned through sales. This is my first audiobook, but I am pleased to say the feedback from ‘listeners’ has been great, so I now have three of my other best sellers in production with ACX.

Tony Riches

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