CREATE AN AUDIO BOOK
There are 27 million paperback books on Amazon.com, 9 million hardcovers, and 3 million Kindle e-books.
But there are only 180,000 audio books on Amazon.com. The audio book market has much better odds.
You can publish an audio book even through self-publishing. Amazon lets you publish an audio book through the Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX), which makes your audio book available on:
There is a market for audio books. Many truck drivers enjoy listening to audio books on long trips. They’re great for anyone taking a long trip (even kids). But they’re not just for trips. Anytime you’d just like to relax and enjoy having a book read to you. Or you could even read and listen together (check out Amazon’s Whispersync—you need an unabridged audio book with a nearly perfect sync rate for your book to be eligible for this feature). And there are yet other reasons that many audio book customers enjoy listening to books.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
I recently got involved in the audio book development process. Author Julie Harper wanted to create an audio book for her new Wacky Stories collection. I was fortunate to be able to get involved in the process and get a firsthand look. The experience was amazing, so much that now I’m thinking of which of my books might be a good fit for this.
You start out by visiting the Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX):
Log in with your Amazon account. (Wondering which one? Well, you should only have one. You can use the same account as a customer, at KDP, and even at Author Central. But if you didn’t, well, I guess you have to choose.)
Then you need to find a book that you’ve already published and is already available at Amazon. (For example, you can find this option from Projects > Open for Auditions > Assert more titles.) The title of your audio book will be the same as the title of the edition already published (in print or Kindle).
You can hire a narrator, try to sell the audio rights to your book, or narrate your own story (you’ll need sufficient equipment or access to a studio). Julie took the option to find and hire a narrator for her Wacky Stories, and it worked out far better than we were expecting.
Find a narrator by holding an audition at ACX. You need to provide a small excerpt from your book to serve as the audition script. Julie uploaded the first story of her Wacky Stories book for the audition. It’s a children’s story with animal noises (like “Moooo” and “cock-a-doodle-doo”). The narrators seemed to have some fun with this in the auditions. It was pretty cool listening to their performances.
The financial aspect of hiring a narrator includes two options:
- Offer 50% of your audio book royalties, paying nothing up front.
- Offer a fixed fee, payable upon completion of your audio book and before your audio book is available for sale.
There is no guarantee that you’ll sell any books. So if you wish to offer 50% royalties instead of a fixed fee, it may help if you can provide compelling reasons to believe that your audio book will sell. Note that the narrators will see your current Amazon.com sales rank when they find your book, so if your sales rank is in the millions, 50% of the audio book royalties may not sound like much. If your Kindle or print edition is currently a hot seller with many reviews, these are worth mentioning in the Additional Comments field. If you have a large following online, quote these numbers, too.
Julie selected the option to pay a fixed fee up front instead of 50% royalties. This is less risky for the narrator (but instead places the risk with the author). Julie’s Wacky Stories book is short enough (the reading time is 33 minutes) that it didn’t cost too much to produce the audio book. If you have a long book that would translate to several hours of reading time, a flat rate can get pretty expensive. You pay per finished hour (PFH). You offer a range of PFH’s when you make your audition available. Once you receive auditions, you can make a specific offer and negotiate the terms of the contract.
ACX pays a 40% royalty on the audio book list price if you distribute your audio book only through Amazon, Audible, and iTunes. ACX sets the list price. If you offered 50% of your audio book royalties to the narrator, you’ll effectively receive 20% royalties on your audio book sales. (If you know of other audio book distributors and have plans for significant sales through other outlets, in order to widen your distribution beyond Amazon, Audible, and iTunes, the royalty would be 25% instead of 40%.)
AUDITIONS AND PRODUCTION
I was able to listen to the auditions for Julie Harper’s Wacky Stories audio book, and was really impressed with the performances.
Julie made her audition available late in the evening. There were already 3 performances for that audition later the same evening.
And they were all amazing. Any of the narrators would have worked very well. They were actually better than we had imagined. This made Julie’s decision very difficult.
She selected Michael Pauley as the narrator, and was quite pleased with the production. I’ve listened to the Wacky Stories audio book, and I love Michael Pauley’s narration.
You can check out a free sample here (it’s fun to listen to):
- At Amazon: http://amzn.com/B00W5PJIVU (Under the image of the cover, click the play button between Listen and Play Sample).
- At Audible: http://www.audible.com/pd/Kids/Wacky-Stories-Audiobook/B00W3C605C
- At iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/julie-harper/id985756372
Once you offer a contract and it’s accepted, the narrator produces a sample chapter, and once you’re satisfied with that, the narrator completes the entire audio book (the deadlines for each are specified in the contract when you make your offer).
Be sure to set aside time in your own schedule when you begin the process. You’ll need time to listen to the audio book carefully when you receive it.
Once you’re happy with the audio book, you submit payment to the narrator directly (e.g. with PayPal; that’s between you and the narrator, and something you should work out in advance). Unless you picked the option to split the audio book royalties 50/50.
The narrator tells ACX when payment is received. Then it takes a few weeks for your audio book to become available at Amazon, Audible.com, and iTunes.
Michael Pauley narrated Julie Harper’s Wacky Stories audio book.
He has an impressive resume in theatre: http://www.michaelpauley.info/resume.html.
Here is his ACX page: https://www.acx.com/narrator?p=AKV8NSYEMQHEK.
Find audio books that he has narrated on Audible.com.
Julie Harper is the author of a popular series of handwriting workbooks.
Here is her Author Central page at Amazon.com: amazon.com/author/julieharper.
Check out her author website: http://wackysentences.com.
Her Wacky Stories audio book can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00W5PJIVU.
Copyright © 2015
Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers
- Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
- Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
- 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more