The Age of Audio Books is Here
When is the last time you read a good novel? It's been a few years for me. However I just listened to a good novel last week. In fact, I listen to several good novels a month. While I'm stuck in traffic, road tripping with my family, on a long run, or just chilling in bed. And a good novel otherwise that is narrated by an engaging narrator easily becomes a great novel. For the many readers who have become listeners, the age of the audio book has come of age. But how about us authors?
Producing your own work as an audio edition has historically been very expensive, time consuming, and required navigating a nichey marketplace of studios, narrators and distributors. That has all changed, however, largely due to the new world of music consumption brought about by iTunes.
Any novel can now be produced for far less than you might think and in far less time. And the marketplace for doing so couldn't be easier to work in. Nearly as easy as selling a used bike on Craigslist.
The 1, 2, 3s of Audio Book Production
I'm going to assume you already have a finished and hopefully published novel to work with. If not, you've got some work to do. Hit the writing hard, finish your novel, get it published and then continue to read on. If your book is already available on Amazon then we're ready to rock and roll.
Let's begin by explaining the major players in the space of audio book production and sales.
- Amazon: Everyone knows that if you want to sell your book it needs to be available on Amazon. It's where books are bought and sold.
- Audible: Once an independent audio book online retailer, they are now part of the Amazon mother ship. It's where your audio book with most likely be found and bought by your readers (or listeners in this case). Their primary mode for sales is via a monthly membership. Customers receive a number of credits per month as a member of Audible. They then spend those credits on books. What's nice is that once a customer becomes a member they begin accumulating credits that need to be spent. Book price becomes nearly irrelevant. In a way, your book is almost seen as free to the listener.
- ACX: This is the online marketplace for the production of audio books. Again, they are part of the Amazon mother ship.
With the players established, let's now see how to coordinate them all into the production of your soon to be bestselling audio book.
Step 1: ACX Profile
Go to www.ACX.com and create a login and profile. Just like you've done a hundred times with other sites, you create an account at ACX from which to work in. Easy peazy. There is some extra work, though. You'll have to complete a few pages to supply tax and royalty payment information. You're essentially opening a small business which could in time generate significant revenue. Best to cross all the financial T's upfront and accurately.
Step 2: Claim Your Titles
Once you have completed the new account process you'll want to open a new project for each of your published titles. You'll submit your title and author info for each book and claim the rights to those books. If you have multiple editions of a particular work you'll want to only claim the rights to the edition you're actually going to produce an audio book from. Otherwise you get multiple editions in your pipeline and it becomes confusing for you and producers.
Step 3: Book Profile
For each claimed title you will complete a form to supply details of the book, which includes genre, plot summary and most importantly character bios. You'll also supply characteristics you're looking for in the narrator (unless you're going to narrate yourself).
You'll also submit an audition excerpt. Choose this section of your book carefully. This is what producers will use for auditioning. So make sure the piece is indicative of your book as a whole. I recommend choosing a section full of dialogue from your major characters. How a narrator performs your characters will make or break your audio book. So get a feel for their interpretation of your hero and villain upfront.
Be sure to take the time and provide as much data as you can. This information will be posted to the narrator marketplace. Like online dating, bad data in results in bad dating later. You're trying to match yourself and your book with an appropriate narrator.
Step 4: Auditions
With the book profile completed you'll submit the file to the producer/narrator marketplace. Here producers are crawling for new titles to audition for. If they like your project they'll submit an audition based on the excerpt you supplied. This audition period could take some time. Auditions will trickle in. Be patient. Don't just take the first one that comes along... unless you've had success online dating that way.
The key to selecting a producer will be to listen to the audition as you would an audio book. Use you best earphones. Find a dark and quiet place. Relax, close your eyes and press play. Consider how you feel while listening. Does the narrator engage you? Do they understand how to pace their reading? Do they bring your characters to life, bringing a distinct voice to each one?
Maybe get a few trusted opinions. You can even request to call the producer to discuss a few concerns and ease some of your worries. Perhaps get a few titles they have produced to listen to. Then trust your gut. Go with the producer you connect with as a listener. Your audience will be much like you. So go with your heart on this one.
Step 5: Production
Once you select your producer through the ACX pipeline you will have to choose how royalties are handled. You can either pay for production and keep royalties for yourself. Or you can split the royalties. I am currently paying for production on a lengthy novel. Total cost will be something like $2,500. I have confidence in my title that it will sell, and do so for many years to come. For this reason I don't want to split royalties. It's a business decision you'll have to make.
With the cost negotiated by you and producer out of the way, it's time to produce your audio book. The narrator will do the recording in their own studio. They'll send you sections to edit. Be sure to listen to each one. Don't assume they nailed it. No matter how good the narrator is you'll find typos and narrative interpretation choices you don't like. Is it any different when you write?
You're now the editor. Be constructive and supportive. These are artists like you. Nobody likes to be bashed. Try to inspire them. You want them to be working in that highly creative space where the magic happens. It's your work after all that will suffer if they lose their mojo.
Step 6: Prep For Upload
While the narrator is hard at work you'll want to prepare for the audio file to be uploaded to Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. You'll need a story summary, much like was used for the book's Amazon page. You'll also need to tweak the cover image. I always use the same cover image as for the ebook. However, the dimensions used for audio books is slightly different. It's a square image, rather than rectangular. You can have these items all uploaded to your ACX project.
Step 7: Final Approval and Upload
Your narrator will complete the audio file based on your edits and upload it to ACX. You should consider whether to include an opening and closing sound score as many audio books do. This is somewhat genre specific. Do what is expected of your genre. If you choose to do so work this out with your narrator. He can overlay the soundtrack you choose.
Assuming you have already uploaded the cover and summary, within a few days of the audio file being uploaded your book will be for sale on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. Just like that.
Step 8: Marketing
But no one will know your book is there unless you tell them. So now it's time to market your book. Sing it from the roof tops. Drive your audience to your Audible page. Before you know it you'll be getting regular royalty payments. And you'll be surprised how much more you make than from a typical ebook.
If I can, You can
It's time to join the age of audio. If you follow the steps above you can have your book available for sale on Audible within four weeks from today (depending on word count). You spent how many thousands of hours writing your book? Well don't let them go to waste. Leverage those hours. Put as many editions of your work out there in the marketplace, paper edition, ebook, audio book, maybe even film one day. The more revenue you can generate from those hours of labor the more free time you'll have to labor on the next one.
If you'd like to sample the product first before investing the time, I'll make you a deal. I recently produced my first audio book, Courage Between. If you're willing to submit a review on Amazon or Audible I'll send you a code for a free download (while supplies last of course). See what you think.
My current title under production, Cryptid, is in the final stages of step 5. It might just be complete by the time you read this blog. With two under my belt I can tell you this, every title I publish from now on will also be produced as an audio book. No reason to leave easy money on the table.