Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Creating an audiobook using ACX

Over the summer I was hanging out with a bunch of indie author friends at a book fair in Pioneer Courthouse Square. Now, none of us ever sell very much at these things, but that's fine because they're really an excuse for us all to get together, eat doughnuts, and talk about indie writing/publishing/marketing stuff that no one else in our lives is remotely interested in. (We also take a lot of dumb pictures of each other trying to look authorly.)

Author Laura A.H. Elliott and I got to talking about audiobooks. She was just about to release her first one -  13 on Halloween. I'd always wanted to do audiobook versions of my books, but assumed that it was kind of a logistical nightmare and out of my price range. (I'm cheap. Book covers are the only thing I pay for!)

When she told me that she didn't have to pay a dime to have her audiobook narrated and produced, I was all SHUT THE FRONT DOOR and grilled her like I was doing a front page piece for the Cheapskate Gazette.

I went home and opened an ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange) account that day. Glimpse came out at the end of last month, Glimmer is making its way to Amazon, Audible, and iTunes right now, and Glow and the Zellie Wells trilogy are in production.

I thought I would share with you all just how easy the process of creating an audiobook through ACX has been for me, so that we can all have people not only reading, but listening to our books! 
2. Create an account (click on the big Get Started button after admiring Neil Gaiman for a minute)
3. This account works with your Amazon account - so you'll have the same sign in and password
4. Creating an account here is very similar to creating an account on any e-book platform - just follow the directions and fill in the info
5. Confirm you own the rights to your titles. This is similar to adding your books to your Author Central account, sort of an is this book yours? within ACX and then you confirm if it is or isn't.
6. Next comes the bit I found the most tedious - creating your title profile
 a. Post a cover photo (don't worry, it's not the FINAL cover art)
 b. Post a description
 c. Post an excerpt for narrators to audition with
 d. Post a write up of anything else potential narrators and producers need to know - for example, I stated that I needed a female narrator that could handle alternating POV's/chapters between a female and male character.
 e. Post word count, territories (most will be Worldwide like with e-books)
 f. Choose your royalty sitch.
This is where you decide if you are going to pay an upfront hourly rate or royalty share. Obviously, if you pay's going to cost something. If you do the royalty share, you don't pay anything upfront, but you do split all of your royalties with the narrator/producer 50/50.
I chose to share my royalties, and in fact am happy to share my royalties. I honestly feel like my narrator, Martha Lee, put just as much work into creating the audiobooks as I did writing the books!
7. Now your title profiles are listed on ACX for narrators and producers to peruse. (A lot of the narrators are also the producers.)
You can wait for them to come to you, but I have no patience, so I started listening to narrator auditions right away. (Go up to Search and click on Narrators for hire.)
8. To narrow down the number of auditions, you can put in parameters for your project. ex. Genre, Gender, Accent, Payment (some narrators don't do royalty sharing), Style, etc. I did this and came back with about 20 audition samples to listen to.
Now here's where I feel I had a bit of luck. I found Martha the first go around and when I heard her audition...I got that feeling like when you're going along writing and the dialogue is flowing and you don't even have to work for it. She just sounded right.
I could have made her an offer straight away, by clicking on the Make an Offer button, but I was new, so I asked her to audition for Glimpse. You know how in your head all your characters sound like you when you're reading your books? Well, when I heard Martha's samples, I thought she sounded more like Zellie than I did.
9. I made her an offer - this is basically stating that I would like to hear the first 15 minutes by this date and have the project completed by this date. Don't worry if you are clueless to how long the whole thing should take - ACX has a formula to help you figure it out based on word count. Also, I think it's a good idea to always go with the 72 hour offer. Martha is in New York and I'm in Oregon, so we have had some time zone issues.
So, hopefully they accept your offer.This is all done through the messaging on ACX. I will say that we had some trouble with some of our messages not reaching each other. No matter, when it came time to send her the manuscript, I emailed her the word doc. and we've mostly been communicating through e-mail since.
Now, you might not want to e-mail a stranger a word doc. Go with your gut. I wanted her to be able to print the manuscript out in the font and font size she wanted and also so she could make notes. In addition, Glimpse has been out since 2010, so I wasn't really worried about it being pirated (because it already has been all over the land) or people calling into question if it was mine. ( For better or for worse, it is. Ha!)
10. Then you wait. In the meantime, you can add your cover art to the project. However, BE CAREFUL. If you're good with Photoshop, you can probably adjust the covers yourself. If not, have your cover designer or someone that is good with Photoshop format your covers. Don't just slap your e-book cover in the shape of a square up there. 1. it won't look right 2. it's a pain in the butt to change it.
I put a placeholder cover up for Glimpse - a stretched out version of the e-book cover - and then I couldn't get it to go away. I had to e-mail ACX the good cover my husband made and ask them to change it on their end.
11. Listen to the 15 minute sample and either approve it, or ask them to make changes/try reading things a different way
12. After the 15 minutes are approved, you wait for the whole thing. Each chapter is a separate file to download. In addition, the narrator should send you a opening and closing credits and a 5 minute sample.
Listen to these intently - it's totally fun! - and make notes of any changes. Glimpse had two pronunciation changes and Glimmer had one. The narrators are locked out of making any changes until you click on the Request Changes button.
13. When you're totally satisfied with your audiobook, all you have to do is approve it and it goes to ACX for a final vetting. After that, it can take a couple weeks to a month to distribute out to Amazon, Audible, and iTunes. For me, it showed up on Audible within a few days, Amazon not much longer after that. iTunes was the hold out (as per usual).
The one sort of weird thing about the whole audiobook experience is that we don't control the price. Right now Glimpse is $19.95 on Audible, $17.46 on Amazon, and $9.99 on iTunes. In addition, Audible had a big promotion and Glimpse was offered at $5.46 or something for over a week, with the option to get it FREE if you joined Audible. So, FYI, if you're a control freak like me, that takes some getting used to.
14. Start promoting that puppy!
**If you choose to hire a narrator/producer outside of ACX, that's cool. There is also the option to distribute it to other audiobook retailers, but the royalty system is way different. I figured I was hitting the big three with my deal, so that's why I went with that.
**If you'd like to see this information with pretty pictures, go here.

Stacey Wallace Benefiel doesn't look very much like her Author Photo anymore, so she thought you might enjoy this picture of her taken by Angela Carlie in Lisa Nowak's backyard.


  1. Thank you for this post, Stacey! I had no idea it was that easy (to read about, ha ha) to get a book on audio. I never guessed it would be something I'd be able to do.

  2. I'm with Allison on this. GREAT post. And Allison...thanks for sharing it on Facebook. Something for me to think about after I get book two out there. :D

  3. GREAT POST! Will be linking to this one...!

  4. Glad you all found the post informative! I expect to see audiobooks from all of you soon. :) lol

  5. Love your pics, Stacey. Great information too. =) Thanks!

  6. Thanks for this post, Stacey! Very helpful and exciting stuff. You rock for sharing this.

    -Your fellow author-of-a-book-called-Glimmer

    1. I know! I have a g-word problem. My son is named Gus. :)

  7. If they ever find a better range of Irish accents, I'm totally on this.

    I've never actually listened to an audiobook before... should probably rectify that one. :)


    1. This is probably where it would benefit you to find someone local to narrate and then use ACX for everything else.

      I recommend listening to the Glimpse audiobook for your first. lol :D

  8. I love this post. I've been very curious about ACX and kind of wanting to try it, but scared to get started. How often do they report sales? Does ACX split the royalties before they pay you? I might email you some questions, hehe.

    1. Yes, please do! So, they report numbers daily, but not money and they do split the royalties before they pay you. They pay once a month, but I haven't had an audiobook out for a month yet, so I have no idea how much I made. I've sold 18, which I think is great, but I don't know if it really is or not. :)

  9. Thank you, thank you! I thought I was going to have to make everyone leave the house for weeks while I record my own...and rerecord when I mess up...and so on, so forth... ;-)

  10. Thank you, thank you! I thought I was going to have to make everyone leave the house for weeks while I record my own...and rerecord when I mess up...and so on, so forth... ;-)

    1. Me too! I could just imagine the kids in the background asking me to get them something to eat right when I was recording a pivotal scene.

      I actually have a voiceover portfolio and could do it if I could find a quiet place...which doesn't exist with kids in the house.

      Still, I can't find anyone to do the DoS Omnibus, so never say never.

  11. Awesome! So many authors will find this so helpful! Thanks for pioneering!

  12. Wow, this is really helpful. Thank you for sharing. I never knew a service like this existed.

  13. DUDE! This was such an excellent article! Thank you so much for sharing this! And congrats on your audio books!

  14. You ladies are beyond awesome, this rocks!!!

  15. I would love to try this, so thanks for being the guinea pig. My first book comes out in audiobook sometime next year, so I'll need to do the second (I put the sequel out myself). It has singing in it though. I have NO idea how to tackle that one.

  16. A lot of the narrators are actors and every actors has had to sing in at least one musical! You might be better off going with a company (still through ACX) that has a group of voice actors that share a studio and producer. Bound to be a singer in the bunch.

  17. Greetings, Stacey! Congratulations on the production and release of your first audiobook!

    As an audiobook narrator, I hope I can alleviate your concern about providing the Word document of your book.

    Many narrators including me DO NOT USE PAPER in our studios! My microphone is so sensitive that it can hear every page turn, and I would have edit those sounds out of the recording.

    When recording, I read all scripts, including book manuscripts, from my iPad. It not only promotes silence during page turns, but an app called iAnnotatePDF allows me to mark up the text ahead of time. I can highlight all of the dialogue in different colors, add margin notes, and include sound files of character voices or pronunciations of words.

    Given my workflow, I would not accept an audiobook narration project if the rights holder can't or won't send either a Word document or PDF. I prefer Word so that I resize the text and change the font. I then would convert it to a PDF.

    I wrote a blog post a while back with more information for authors who may want to produce audiobooks of their work.

    It's wonderful that you were able to find Martha using the ACX search screen. Authors/rights holders also can post their titles and wait for narrators to audition for it. If you aren't getting auditions for your title, check out this comprehensive article from my colleague Jeffrey Kafer.

    Finally, regarding the decision about payment, I tell people: "You can have it fast, good, cheap -- Pick any two."

    Some narrators would not even consider a royalty-share project given the tremendous investment of time needed to create the book. A finished hour of audio can require 6 hours in real-time for read-through/text prep (including pronunciation research), recording, editing, and transmission.

    The narrator is also accepting all of the risk. No sales are guaranteed, and the narrator would have nothing to show for the time invested in the project.

    I will accept royalty share projects only if several months are on the contract. I can produce the book in between other projects that pay me up front. If the book needs to be finished quickly, expect to pay your narrator up-front rather than in long-term royalty payments.

    I hope these thoughts are helpful to you and your fellow authors as you move forward with audiobook productions. Best wishes for your continued health, prosperity, and success!

    Karen Commins

  18. Thanks for commenting, Karen, and filling in the blanks for me! It's great to hear from the narrator's POV.

  19. Stacey, So happy you found ACX as fabulous as I did. Happy to hear The Zellie Wells Trilogy is entering the world of audio! YAY!!!! I love my narrator too. We've learned so much about the process together! Congrats amiga :D

  20. Yay, this is a great post! I'm totally excited to check this out!

  21. Thank you for this post! I had no idea it was that relatively easy to do an audiobook. I'm already considering it for my new release. Very informative!

  22. Thanks, Stacey, super post! One of my publishers has published two of my Highland Medievals and they've done really well. I wanted to do my 3rd one in the series, since it's an indie title, and also some of my this is really great!

    I used to listen to audio books all the time when driving to work or on trips. They're wonderful!

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  24. Really useful post - I am singing ACX praises too - fabulous platform...

  25. Thanks for such a great post! I have my audio book up for auditions now! I appreciate the help.

  26. Thank you for this post!! I was confused about how final adding cover artwork would be...great info! Quick question if you get the chance: should I get producer approval for the cover artwork before I post it? I don't want to step on toes or seem like the complete newbie that I am (:/)