Resources for Writers
Audiobooks for Authors: A Beginner’s Guide by Eamon Ambrose
There was a time when releasing an audiobook, even for published authors was a ridiculously complicated and expensive task only the most successful of authors could dream of. However, with changes in technology and how audio can now be delivered to us (particularly the advent of the smartphone) the audiobook revolution is truly underway. There has been a huge surge in popularity in recent years, and much of that is due to one company – Audible.
I must confess, I’m a huge fan of audiobooks, although only a recent convert. Since I’ve started writing, my reading time has been greatly reduced, and audiobooks fill that gap when I’m doing housework, driving or out walking, and sometimes even sneaking a listen when I’m in the office.
I was really excited when Audible finally announced that their production wing ACX was now open to Irish authors. I could finally have my own audiobook! I instantly went to the website and began to prepare my manuscript.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
There are several different options available to authors wishing to produce an audiobook, and decisions you need to make beforehand. The main decision is down to your budget.
Audible offer three ways of getting your book produced:
Pay for Production
You pay a fee per finished hour to a narrator/producer. The main advantage to this is that you benefit from the full royalty, but it is expensive. If you’re already a successful author and have the budget, this is probably your best option.
With this option the Author and Narrator agree to share the royalties on a 50/50 basis. There is a stipulation that the the rights holder must agree to Exclusive distribution with Audible, which means the audiobook will only be available on Audible, Amazon and iTunes. This does have the advantage of a 40% royalty, so each party gets 20%. In some cases, the narrator may also be paid a stipend by Audible for agreeing to this option. The big difference here though, is cost. There is no upfront cost to the author for production, except perhaps a slight cover redesign to suit the image format for audiobook covers.
Author as Narrator
Obviously, this option is not for everyone, but can be very lucrative and easily achieved with a minimal setup and some basic technical knowledge.
At some point, you may be approached by a producer offering to buy your audiobook rights, these may be independent publishers, or even Audible’s own production wing. It’s worth getting some legal advice in this situation.
So, in my case being a new author, the royalty share option was the one for me.
The next step is to prepare your audition manuscript. This is what any potential narrator will see initially, and may affect their decision to work with you, so you need to make sure that you use an excerpt that does your book justice. The norm is 1-2 pages. In my case, I pulled a few paragraphs from various chapters that gave a good representation of my writing style and the type of story I was telling. Give details about the characters, any accents or styles you want. This will make it easier for narrators to decide whether or not to audition.
You also need to tell any potential narrators about yourself and your writing career so far. Be honest, don’t oversell yourself, don’t make claims about your book or your sales that aren’t true. Narrators can smell a bullshit artist a mile away. It’s in their best interest to pick a project that can potentially earn them money. This will also ensure you get the best auditions possible.
There are claims by some, that choosing Royalty Share limits the quality of narrators, but my reasoning is that a lot of authors who submit mediocre projects end up with mediocre narrators. If you’re considering audiobook production, your book, and more importantly your audition script, needs to be the best it can be, so make sure it’s properly edited, proofread and formatted before even attempting to woo narrators.
Now things get interesting! So, you’ve submitted your audition manuscript and all the relevant information, so what now?
Wait. You wait.
Give yourself plenty of time for auditions. They will start coming in within a few days. In my case I gave it a month. The number of auditions you receive can vary wildly, depending on the quality of your submission and your track record as an author. The genre you write in can also have an effect, as many narrators specialise in certain genres, so for example Romance may have many more potential narrators than Science Fiction.
You will receive some bad auditions. Some really bad ones. Let them down gently. ACX lets you approve or reject an audition once you’ve heard it. You have the option of giving the narrator feedback, although I would advise leaving it at that unless you feel you can offer some genuinely helpful feedback.
Check the sound quality of each audition. Any potential narrator should have a decent recording setup and tell-tale signs of one who hasn’t are background noise or poor sound quality. With technology today, it’s perfectly possible to record quality audio with a home studio setup, so don’t be turned off by a narrator who uses this method.
So, you’ve narrowed it down and picked your narrator. What now?
You make an offer. At this point you will have stipulated in your audition submission how you want to pay, so if you selected Royalty Share then you will only have received auditions from narrators who are willing to be paid this way.
A formal offer to the narrator is made, with a deadline for the first fifteen minutes to be produced, and afterwards a date for finished production. This isn’t set in stone, but you should give yourself plenty of time for corrections or revisions.
After you receive and approve your first fifteen-minute sample, production begins in earnest. The narrator will post the chapters in segments that you can review as you go along. Keep a close eye here, as the sooner you spot any potential issues, the sooner they can be amended. Here’s where it’s important for you and the narrator to be on the same page. Be clear about what you want from your narrator’s performance – don’t expect them to know your characters like you do. Monitor the performance carefully.
Once the production is complete, you will receive a message to review the entire project. This will be your last chance, so be thorough. Once any changes necessary are made, then it’s time to release. Once this is done, the audiobook is sent to ACX for review. Any issues will be relayed back to you quickly. It will then take 7-10 days for your book to show on the Audible store. Audible decide on the selling price, usually based on the book’s length, and reserve the right to discount at any time.
Reviews are important on Audible, possibly even more so than on the Amazon store. To assist with garnering reviews for your audiobook, ACX provide you with 25 free download codes which you can distribute to fans, bloggers or anyone who is willing to review. If your main audience is split between countries, they will also provide codes for other markets (in my case they were happy to provide codes for Audible UK and USA)
Another more lucrative approach is to persuade newcomers to Audiobooks to join Audible and download your book using the free trial they provide. This will not only earn you a royalty, but a bonus bounty if that person keeps their account open for a certain time.
After that, it’s all up to you.
(c) Eamon Ambrose
About Zero Hour:
The short story that inspired the bestselling scifi serial. A soldier wakes, possibly the last survivor of a brutal attack by machines intent on destroying humanity, but all is not as it seems in this thrilling futuristic tale with a twist that will make you want to read it all over again.
Due to popular demand, the story was continued as a serial, and it was released as a full novel in October 2016, with an audiobook version released in September 2017.
Ordre your copy online here.