Moonburner is becoming an audiobook!

I’ve always loved audiobooks (check out an old post on it here), but my love has only deepened as my life has become more hectic. These days, a week may pass before I can find time to actually sit down with a book, but there are lots of stolen moments where I can listen to a book on my phone! Commuting, running, walking the dogs, making dinner, I can sneak a few minutes here, a few minutes there. Currently, I am listening to Siege and Storm, the second book in the Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo. Lauren Fortgang is the narrator, and she is awesome.

For some reason though, I assumed the process of turning your book into an audiobook was expensive and difficult. So I didn’t even consider it until another author reached out to me and asked if I wanted a free listen to his book in exchange for a review. Curious, I asked him about the process. It turns out that it’s a lot easier than you would think, thanks to ACX, a division of Audible and Amazon (our kind and generous Seattle overlords).

Through ACX, authors can create audiobook versions of their novels and sell them on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. It’s shockingly easy! Here’s how to do it:

1. Confirm you hold the audiobook rights to your work.

If you are a self-published author, this is no problem. If you have a publisher, check your contract to see if you granted or retained audiobook rights. Luckily, I negotiated a change in my contract before signing it, so I retained audiobook rights for Moonburner!

2. Create a profile on ACX and post your Project.

ACX allows various narrators (called “producers”) to audition for your project. At this stage, you will decide between two separate choices: (1) royalty share, where you pay nothing up front, but split 50% of the royalties with your producer; or (2) up front payment, where you pay the narrator, but retain all the royalty rights yourself. If you pay up front, expect to pay about $200-500 per hour of final audio. My 95,000 word book was estimated to be 10.5 hours. So, it would have cost me about $2000-5000 to pay for production up front and retain all royalty rights myself. No thanks. I went for the royalty split option!

At this stage you list some information about yourself and your work. Potential narrators want to know that your audiobook has a shot at selling, so you answer some questions about your social media reach and fanbase. You upload a few pages of your book, which producers will use for auditions. Then, sit back and wait for the auditions to roll in! You can also  pitch to specific narrators if you have someone in mind.

A side note about the section you choose for your audition section: its best to choose a section that has your primary narrator in it, or possibly some dialogue between key characters. It is important for you to be able to evaluate how the narrator reads your key characters; you don’t want to select them only to find out you hate how they read your protagonist’s voice!

3. Review auditions and make your offer.

Review your auditions! This part is fun. I had an awesome time listening to Moonburner read out loud for the first time. It was such a cool feeling. I selected Emma Lysy as my narrator, as I liked her tone and range. ACX’s system makes everything super simple. I made the offer through their automated form, and she accepted right away! Then, I uploaded a PDF of the whole manuscript.

4. Listen to the first 15 minutes.

At the next stage, the producer records the first 15 minutes of the book, and you get to listen and make comments. This is the best time for you to convey specific and constructive criticism, as it is basically the last shot for you to provide feedback before your narrator records the whole book. You don’t want them to have to go back and make a change after recording that you could have addressed up front! After hearing the first 15 minutes, there were some changes I wanted Emma to make to how she was reading some key characters. I never realized I had imagined a particular voice for a character, but it turns out I did!

I also sent Emma a list of words and names I thought might be subject to mispronunciation and a list of key characters with details about age, personality, relationship to the protagonist, and what those characters should sound like. It was difficult for me to articulate in writing how some of the voices should sound. I read a tip from another author that a good way to make these recommendations is to find an actor or actress who has a voice similar to what you are going for, so the producer can hear exactly what you expect. I did this for several of them.

5. Approve your final product.

When you originally post your Project, you select a deadline for completion. The producer will record the rest of the audio and provide it to you for review in advance of your deadline. I haven’t gotten to this point yet, but according to ACX’s procedures, you can go through up to two rounds of corrections after this point.

6. Distribute!

Congrats, you’re almost done! Before you can officially distribute your audiobook, you have to convert your cover art into audiobook format (basically from a rectangle to a square). Luckily, my producer Emma offers this as one of her services, so I will have her do it.

If you choose to have exclusive distribution through ACX, you get 40% royalties on the audiobook, and you can distribute through Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. If you choose a non-exclusive option, you get 25% royalties (and have to pay your producer up front), but can distribute through other channels. I chose the exclusive distribution option.

At this point (like with your print book), the hard work has only just begun! You’ll have to market your audiobook and try to generate sales for yourself and your producer. ACX does provide codes to you so you can provide free review copies to listeners, so that should get you started!

As authorpreneur extraordinaire Joanna Penn always says, the way authors make money is by turning one work into multiple streams of income. By creating an audiobook, you have generated one more way to earn potential royalties and reach fans. ACX makes it possible to do this without any outlay of cash up front. From what I can see, there’s no down side!

Featured image by Shinjih Akhirah, cc license

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