Audiobooks = press play

TESTING 1,2,3…AUDIOBOOKS
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The first thing you need to look at when considering making an audiobook are the numbers. The Audio Publishers Association reported $800 million in audiobook sales in 2011. The number grew to $1 billion in 2012 and $1.2 billion in 2013. Yes, that’s billion, with a B. Goodereader.com said the audiobook industry was worth over $2 billion in 2014. I haven’t seen any numbers for 2015 yet, but there should be a little bit in there for you.
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Now that I have your attention, let’s create an audiobook. The process of creating an audiobook is completely painless at ACX. This post isn’t a commercial for ACX, but I’ve used them a couple times now, and they are author-friendly. ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange) is the company that links authors with narrators and distributes to Audible, Amazon, and iTunes.
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Your first step in creating an audiobook is to create an account at ACX.com, and then you can listen to some narrators by gender, accent, and style.
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downloadHIRE A NARRATOR
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Once you’re ready to go, you need to hire a narrator. You can narrate yourself, but it you don’t have recording equipment and lots of practice in front of a mic or lots of money to spend in a recording studio, it is a million times easier and faster to hire a professional.
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To find the perfect narrator, just upload a section of your book to ACX and invite auditions. Of course, you can email the actors you listened to when you first signed on. Make sure your uploaded section contains some dialog and maybe some drama in it. You want to hear the range of the narrator. Be ready to move forward quickly because you’ll get auditions almost immediately. Send each narrator a note of thanks for taking the time to audition your sample – whether you hire them or not. It takes a lot of time to record, master, and upload your sample, and they’re doing it for FREE.
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Once you choose a narrator, you then offer them a deal.
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6a00d8341bf73153ef0105359fa532970c-800wi“SO, HOW MUCH IS THIS GOING TO COST ME?”
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Narrators charge anywhere from $100 to $300 per finished hour. This is called a “pay-for-production” deal. Example: If you’re book is 50k words, that’s about 6 hours finished, so the finished cost will be between $600 and $1800. Some narrators opt to do a 50/50 “royalty-share” instead. That’s 50% of your royalties for 10 years with no money up front.
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Take a moment and do the math so you know how many audiobooks you need to sell to break even. ACX sets your price by the length, and the above 6-hour book example would sell for roughly $19.95. The longer the book, the higher the selling price. The shorter, the lower. Read further to find out your share. The range of Audible pricing is 1-3 hours $7-10, 3-5 hours $10-20, 5-10 hours $15-25, 10-20 hours $20-30. Here’s another fun fact: If your book is purchased by a new Audible member as their first download, you get a $50 bounty. That’s fun!
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distributionDISTRIBUTION
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ACX will offer you two distribution options. 1) 40% royalties for an exclusive distribution deal. This is a seven-year contract and you are not allowed to sell the audiobooks yourself to anyone at any time through any avenue in any format (digital, CD, audio tape) during that time. OR 2) 25% royalties for an non-exclusive deal, and you can sell them anywhere you want. ACX distributes to Audible, Amazon, and iTunes, so I don’t know where else you’d want to sell them, unless you want to have them pressed and sell them out of your trunk. But keep in mind, according to the Audio Publishers Association, audiobooks that were downloaded through a website instead of bought on CD in 2009 were 29%, 36% in 2010, and 46% in 2011, and growing, so there may not be any good reason to press your audiobook.
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If your narrator costs $250 per finished hour and your book is 6 hours long, it will cost you $1500 for a pay-for-production deal. If you go with exclusive distribution and are making 40% of the $19.95 sale price, you would need to sell a couple hundred copies to break even. One note here: Audible members which are a huge chunk of your sales pay about half price, so your royalty income and break even number would need to be adjusted for those sales. You’d need to sell about 400 copies to only Audible members to break even. A majority of buyers on Audible are members.
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If you choose the “royalty share” option with your narrator, you would NOT need to pay the $1500 up front, but you would split the royalties 50/50 and only make $4 per copy sold for the next 10 years, and $2 for an Audible member sale.
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So, figure out how long your book will be (roughly 8500 words per finished hour) and how many copies you need to sell before you step up to the plate and ask for auditions and negotiate fees.
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Once you decide on your narrator, make a price/payment deal with them, and choose your ACX distribution option, you’ll need to upload your entire book and give the narrator some deadlines. There will be two deadlines: one for your narrator to upload the first 15 minutes for you to approve and one for the whole project to be completed. If your narrator isn’t too busy, they can have the first 15 minutes to you within a few days and the book completed within a month. They will upload each chapter to ACX as it is recorded, so you can listen to each chapter as it is uploaded and send a message to correct anything you’d like corrected. Be specific about the pronunciation of any strange names or titles up front in the process to avoid later corrections. My book Okatibbee Creek is pronounced Oh-kuh-TIB-bee. That makes it easier.
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When the recording is finished and all chapters are uploaded, you’ll need to approve the recording. Your narrator will then send you a bill if you opted for the pay-for-production deal. If you opted for the royalty-share deal, this step will be omitted. Once you pay your narrator, he/she will let ACX know your audiobook is approved for sale.
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ACX will then take 2-3 weeks to get your audiobook live on the sites. So, the whole process should take about eight weeks. If you opt for a pay-for-production deal, save your pennies first. Do not make the narrator wait to get paid.
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Note
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The size of your cover needs to be adjusted for an audiobook to a square CD shape. You cannot use your ebook cover. Here’s the original ebook cover for Okatibbee Creek and the resized audiobook cover. The needed dimensions can be found on the ACX website.
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okatibbee creek cover front JPEG
okatibbee audio
Note 2
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I don’t know if they always do it, but Audible sent me 25 free download codes to give away. For the above example 6-hour book, that’s $500 worth of freebies, so while you’re waiting for your project to be completed, think of some creative ways to market and give those copies away. Some authors swear by audiobook sales. Give it a shot!
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Lori Crane is a bestselling and award-winning author of historical fiction and the occasional thriller. Her books have climbed to the Kindle Top 100 lists many times, including “Elly Hays” which debuted at #1 in Native American stories. She has also enjoyed a place among her peers in the Top 100 historical fiction authors on Amazon, climbing to #23. She resides in greater Nashville and is a professional musician by night – an indie author by day.
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