Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Let’s Talk About Your Book -- Your Audio Book

By: KL Cooper

Ever thought about making your book available as an Audiobook? If not, you should! It’s easier than you think and can increase your readership significantly. After all, not everyone can read, and not everyone has the time to sit down with a good book. Most importantly, this market is not yet saturated, and since 2012, audiobook sales have increased by 33%.

The Basics

There are a few places you can go to produce an audio book but the place you should start is Audiobook Creation Exchange is the distributor that pushes audiobooks out to Amazon, Audible, and iTunes. There are lots of helpful articles on their website to help you. And you have a few options for getting this accomplished.

Option 1 – Hire a narrator outright

The Upside This requires the lowest time investment, professional quality work, and you can keep more of the royalties. In this scenario, you will audition different narrators and pick one by sending them a short sample. They will send you back the audiobook. You listen to it and proof it. You pay them up front, and you get to keep the book.

The downside This is expensive. A 50k book could be about $1,300. That’s a reasonable rate with 2.5 cents per word representing the industry standard. Shop around. Some are going to me more, some will be less. If you are not a native speaker, you’re going to want to hire a narrator. If you have books that are already successful, this could also be a good option, because the chances are higher that you’ll see a return on your investment. This might also work for newer writers with less inventory if you don’t mind waiting a while to see that return.

To find a narrator you have two options.

1)You can hire ACX.
The simple process is to claim your book from Amazon on ACX. Then submit to have narrators bid on your project.

2)You can go directly to a producer or narrator.
Sometimes, by doing this, you can get more competitive rates. Research can lead you to some good narrators for your genre and possibly better than that 2.5 cents per word rate. I would not recommend, but you could go to other freelance sites to shop around.

Option 2 – Do a royalty-split via ACX

The Upside
 There is no out of pocket investment up front.

The Downside
You cut your royalty rates in half, and you CANNOT distribute outside of ACX, which also means, you can’t give your audiobook away in a promotion like an email opt-in or as a bonus. You might be able to do a few free coupons through audible, but that’s it.
Also, your book must be selected by a narrator. So, you don’t get free pick of who does the narrating. But just as in the first option, the narrator handles the audio editing, which is helpful.

You will lose more in the long run, potentially, with this approach, and you will be locked into a contract with ACX.

This is only a good option if you have no budget and if you don’t speak English natively. Apply this advice to whatever native language your book is written in, of course.

Option 3 – Record them yourself

The Upside
You can save a lot of money this way, and you’ll have full control of the rights and distribution. This method is also quicker, reducing your production time from weeks to possibly days. The biggest reason you might want to do this, not just the money and the speed of implementation, is to create a deeper connection with your audience. ACX encourages authors to narrate their own books. This is especially true with non-fiction or memoirs. But this works with fiction, too. You’ll be able to offer it as a bonus or for sale on your own website.

Recording your own audiobook is a form of proofreading! How many of you read your book aloud before or after you send it to an editor? It’s a great way to catch spelling mistakes, awkward wordings, and bad dialogue. You can also catch things an editor might miss. Since you’re probably going through this proofreading process anyway, why not get the audio done at the same time?

The Downside
I know that many of you would rather jump into a hot river of snot than record your own Audiobook, but if you do decide to do this, you’ll need to learn a few skills and buy a few pieces of equipment.

It will take some time to record it yourself at a ratio of 3:1 – 1 hour of audiobook takes about 3 hours of production time. Hiring out audio book production is usually $350 per finished hour. You can definitely go higher than that with an in-demand narrator.

What You’ll Need

Microphone – I recommend the Audio Technica ATR2100- $79 (this one comes with a pop filter) or Samson Q2U $59 (comes with headphones)-  You don’t want a terribly GOOD one, because those pick up more noise than is needed or wanted for audiobook recording. These do a great job of blocking out the sound that is not coming from right in front of the mic.

Pop Filter - $7
Microphone stand - $10 for a Neewer desk stand
Monitor Headphones - $24 if you already have some good ones, you can use those
Music Stand (optional) - $15 if you prefer to read from sheets of paper
Blanket, pillows, thick clothes from around the house

Studio Set-up Tips

Record in a small room. Don’t use a bathroom because they are reflective and will echo the sound back.

Hang clothes on a rack behind you, or take a patio umbrella and hang blankets over the top of it. Orient the mic away from noise sources.

Final Note

There are other ways to get an audio book made, but since this is a blog post, I wanted to keep the topic short and relevant to ACX. If there is interest, I could do a part 2 that covers other options another time, or cover the process of making your own recording in further depth. Just let me know in the comments section. I hope you got something useful out of this information.

About the Author: KL Cooper is currently on the Board of Directors for Pikes Peak Writers where she functions mainly as their Social Media Director. She is the owner of UnderCover Press, an independent small press. If you found this article informative and would like to learn more, KL will be presenting workshops, Today's Marketing for Yesterday's Author; DIY Book Covers, and Anti-Social Media Marketing as well as the latest book marketing techniques at #PPWC2017.


  1. I've published 9 audiobooks through ACX, and have 2 more pending. ACX allows the choice of going exclusive (which means distribution via Audible, Amazon, and iTunes) or taking a lower royalty and going wide. I've always chosen the 'exclusive' route but there is a choice.

    For my first 5 books, I had no budget, and did a royalty share. For my newer ones, I'm doing a combination, but even when I've paid up front for the full audio, I hired award-winning narrators for far less than the $350/pfh you quote, so you can find good narrators who work for less.

    Also, you're free to approach anyone to narrate your book; you don't have to wait for them to find you. You can search the ACX narrators for books in your genre, or narrators who have been recommended.

    Also, given what I've learned from my narrators, you make the 'DIY' narration sound very easy, but the finished product has to pass ACX's quality control. I know my narrators actually send their 'draft' to an editing service to get rid of breath sounds, or 'pops', etc. This all adds to the time (and their rates), and I think most narrators say they put in 5 hours for every finished hour of the audiobook. It's not a quick and easy process, and just like I hire an editor for my prose, I prefer leaving the narration to the pros as well. They're actors, basically, and just keeping all the character voices straight would drive me nuts.

  2. Thanks for sharing your expertise, Terry

    1. I figure the more information we share, the better informed everyone is. And my information is MY experience; others might have different ones.


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