For those of you who may not know, back in September, I self-published my first book, a horror novella titled, The Wailings. This story is special to my journey as a writer because it began on this very website as an entry to a Vocal Challenge. I documented the process of self-publishing in my article, "How I turned a Vocal Story into a Book."
Today's article could probably be considered a follow-up, or a "part 2" to this piece. So let's get into it:
Why publish an audiobook?
A better question... why not?
My guess is that if you opened this article and read it this far, I probably don't have to convince you about the merits of audiobooks. But just in case you need a push, I'll say that audiobooks are a wonderful and accessible way to reach larger audiences with the book that you've poured so much time and love into. I've heard from other indie authors that audiobooks did wonders for boosting the visibility of their books (especially if you are a romance writer). And through sites like ACX, the process to create an audiobook is quite painless. So really, you don't have much to lose by expanding your offerings to the world of audio.
Where did I start?
Because I self-published through Amazon, it made the most sense for me to keep riding the "Bezos Train" and publish my audiobook through ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange) which is part of Audible (A subsidiary of Amazon).
There are alternatives to ACX, but this was also the site I was the most familiar with, as I have friends and family with ACX experience (both in audiobook publishing and voice narration).
Because I published through Amazon, the process to start was simple, I created a ACX account, I found my novella in their search bar, claimed it, and began a project. Then I opened my project up for auditions.
Choosing and Paying Your Narrator
You can narrate your own book of course, but this isn't something I would recommend unless you have all of the following: (1) a excellent mic setup, (2) a background in in theater/narration/public speaking, (3) audio editing experience, and (4) plenty of free time. Personally, I have 1/4 of those qualifications, so I was happy to hire out the role of narrator.
So to hold auditions you need to select a portion of your book to serve as the "audition notes" and give a few instructions for what you want as far as accent and tone. You can keep auditions open for as long as you'd like, and listen to every audition as they flow in. I held auditions for 5 days while I was out of town, and received about 12 different auditions in that time. Once you select your narrator, you finalize a contract which details timeline and pay.
There are essentially two ways that you can pay a audiobook narrator: (1) royalty sharing, or (2) pay per finished hour.
Royalty sharing means that the royalties for the audiobook will be split in half between you (the author) and the narrator (the producer). For Audible, the Net Royalty rate is 40%, so you and the narrator each receive 20% of Audible Net Royalties. The benefit to royalty sharing is that there is no up-front cost to you and so it is an excellent option if you are on a budget because it allows you to produce an audiobook at relatively no cost. However, this is a "riskier" choice for narrators themselves (because low sales for you means low pay for them). So with this option, you are likely to only get auditions from those who are beginning and looking to grow their portfolio.
Pay per finished hour means that you agree to pay a set rate per finished hour of the audiobook (ACX provides an estimate of your "Finished Hours" based on your manuscript length). So as an example, if you pay $50 per finished hour, and your audiobook is estimated to be 5 hours long, you'll need to budget to pay a lump sum of $250 to your narrator ($50 x 5 hours). This is nice for the narrators, who will know approximately what their pay will be from the start (every "finished" hour is often multiple hours of recording and editing behind the scenes, so they work very hard for their pay). So, if you have the budget, this is a great way to catch some more experienced narrators in your "net" and avoid having to share your royalties.
(I did not have the budget, so I opted to royalty share. I hired a first-time narrator, and she was so so talented.)
Timeline for Producing the Audiobook
Once you've picked your narrator, you'll offer them a contract. In this contract you'll finalize the details of your payment method and your timeline. The first timeline date to set is the 15-minute checkpoint. This is a way to "sample" what your narrator is producing and give you an opportunity to provide creation direction (if necessary). This process will take a few days.
You'll also want to set the deadline for the audiobook to be submitted. This date should be about 3 to 8 weeks out, depending on the length of the book and everyone's schedule. According to ACX, it generally takes a total of around 6.2 hours for a narrator to complete one hour of an audiobook, so be reasonable with your expectations on the timeline.
When the book is submitted, you'll want to listen to the chapters and make sure that everything sounds good. You can approve the book or provide feedback for updates that you want. The narrator is contractually obligated to go through two rounds of updates with you (no more). This will take additional time of course.
Then finally, when everything sounds good, it's time to submit the audiobook. ACX and Audible have a stringent, 10 day approval process, so you'll have to wait just a little bit longer. But finally, you'll have a published audiobook in your hands (metaphorically).
So, for reference, here's what my timeline ended up looking like (The Wailings was 1.8 finished hours):
- September 14th - Auditions Opened
- September 19th - Offer Extended & Accepted
- September 23rd - 15 minute sample submitted
- October 11th - Audiobook was ready for review (and I requested minor updates)
- October 19th - Final Audiobook Submitted to Audible
- October 31st - The Wailings is officially published
Publishing and Marketing
And now, here we are! As of today, the audiobook has just been published on Audible (and will make it's way to iTunes and Amazon shortly). I had originally hoped to release the audiobook before Halloween (instead of on Halloween) since it is a horror, but unfortunately I just underestimated the timeline (notes for next time, I suppose).
Promotion-wise, I have begun to promote the release on my bookish social medias and we will see how it does. Audible is kind enough to give authors 50 free promo codes (25 for the US, 25 for UK) to help in the effort of promotion and getting reviews for the book. I'm planning on doing a few giveaways on my social media to help gain a little buzz.
I'm curious to see what happens next, and will once again keep you all updated on my journey.
Thank you for Reading!
I hope this was helpful for some of you. I really didn't know much going into this process and definitely made a mistake or two (re: timeline) along the way. So here's hoping I can help someone else out there! Please let me know if you have any questions about the process!
...And what kind of indie author would I be without a little bit of unabashed self-promotion? If you'd like to check out my audiobook, you're welcome to find it below: