Tuesday, 23 September 2014

How to Create an Audiobook with ACX

by JD Smith

ACX is a service provided by Amazon where authors can hook up with narrators and turn their book into an audio book for distribution through Audible, Amazon and iTunes. Up until this year the service was only available in the US, but now it's available in the UK. Over the last few months I've been working with narrator Paul Hodgson on by book The Rise of Zenobia. You can listen to a sample here.

The Rise of Zenobia is available from Audible and iTunes

What does ACX actually do?

ACX is basically the interface you use to meet narrators, and deal with all the contractual information once you've found a narrator you want to work with. They check the recording quality of audio submitted before it's put through for distribution. And they also provide a dashboard to keep track of sales and payments.

How do I start?

You log in using your Amazon account and the set up is fairly minimal. ACX pulls most of the information of your book from Amazon and you then add a bit more information, to make your book enticing, such as review quotes and possibly sales figures.

Looking for a narrator

Don't expect narrators to come to you. I sat back waiting but only received a couple of very unsuitable offers. The voices were nothing like what I needed for my book. So I set about scrolling through and listening to dozens of samples of voices. You can sift through them easily using search functions for male/female and accent etc. 

Once you've found a few you like, message them and ask if they're interested in working with you on your book.

You can opt to narrate your audio book yourself, but be aware that it's very obvious if you're not a trained actor.

How much does it cost?

Some narrators want payment for every finished hour. So for example if your book is 6 hours long once recorded (ACX estimate this based on word count), a narrator may ask for $100 - $200 dollars for each of those 6 hours. 

OR, you can agree on a royalty split. ACX pay 40% royalty on audio books, so you and your narrator would each receive 20% for every book sold.

Some narrators ask for both a royalty split AND a fixed amount per finished hour.

Creating the book

Once I'd found Paul and we'd agreed to work together, I sent him a formal offer via ACX dashboard which he accepted. Then he was required to send me a 15 minute sample recording for me to officially sign off on via the ACX dashboard before going about recording the rest. 

Paul used a separate editor/proofreader to check over the recording. This ensured the quality was top notch and everything went through ACX quality control smoothly (note ACX are only bothered about the quality of the actual recording and NOT the quality of the writing). I've heard of both inexperienced and experienced narrators having trouble with getting recordings through quality control, and this can be a real nightmare, in some instances requiring an entire book to be re-recorded.

Some narrators send the book back in chunks for the author to check, or samples of voices of different characters. I was really pleased with the sample Paul sent and he cracked on with recording the entire book. I had no issues at all with the finished material - quite the contrary, I was astounded by the quality of it and, much to my own embarrassment, realised I'd been pronouncing an awful lot of names and places incorrectly!

Whilst your recording is taking place it's an ideal time to have your book cover adjusted for ACX specifications. They require a 2400 x 2400 pixel cover.

Once the whole book is uploaded and you've checked it, you press the approve button and off it goes to ACX quality control.

What next?

ACX usually take 2-3 weeks to approve a book and send it for distribution. If it fails to pass or there are any problems a real person will email you to chat you through the issue and how to go about rectifying it. Once they're happy it's out there!

How much does my book sell for?

The cost is set by ACX depending on the length of your book and you have no control over the retail price. Scary, eh? Not really. It means prices are fixed and everyone is on a level playing field with regards pricing, and works well for monthly Audible subscribers.

Review copies

Note that you can claim 25 codes each (author and narrator) to send off to reviewers, to use as promotional giveaways, or to give to friends. Simply email support@acx.com from your account email address and ask for them.

Earn an extra $50 with the ACX Bounty Program

From the ACX site: You earn a $50 bounty every time your audiobook is the first purchase of a new AudibleListener member. If you're sharing royalties, the Rights Holder will earn a bounty of $25, and the producer will earn a bounty of $25. Bounties are earned in addition to royalties on the sale of your audiobook. There's no limit to the number of bounties you can earn.


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