So you’ve written and edited and marketed and published your first novel, and then you get the inevitable question… is there an audiobook for this.
It’s a question that seems to pop up almost immediately any time I post about a new book, or even an idea for a book. Is there an audiobook?
And of course, your answer will most likely be… Uhhhh…
Because the fact is, producing an Audiobook isn’t cheap, it takes time, and it takes resources.
But it’s not impossible!
So, let’s talk about it. Let’s talk about audiobooks. Let’s talk about your next steps after publishing.
BUT FIRST, A FEW SHORT HAND TERMS TO KNOW
RS – Royalty Share
PFH – Per Finished Hour
PFP – Pay For Production
ACX – Audiobook Marketplace – Amazon/Audible/Apple Books Narrator/Production Site + Distribution to said sites.
FV – Findaway Voices. Narrator/Production Site + Distribution to a variety of sites.
Finished Time – The final length of the audiobook
Pickups – Corrections needing to be made to the Audiobook
QC – Quality Control
RH – Rights Holder
HOW PRODUCING AN AUDIOBOOK WORKS
I know that this might seem a little silly to some people to explain, but in truth, I did not understand the full process, before I began, about what in all goes into taking an audiobook from a manuscript to being on someone’s listening device. There’s a lot more steps and levels than perhaps you might consider, and many of them have their little nuances that you can control in some way or another. And, just like publishing a book, they all take time.
You cannot simply wake up and say “I want my book to be an audiobook” and it happens. So, let me walk you through… particularly because we’re going to be going through every part of it in this post today, although, not in the order listed here lmao.
Step 1 – Narrator Acquisition
The first part is finding a narrator. Or narrators. There’s auditions, there’s listening, there’s fine tuning, etc. Then you have to figure out the engineering aspect. Sign a contract. Work out payment and details. This can take a few days to figure out, or perhaps a few months, depending on how you go about finding and selecting your narrator.
Step 2 – Pre-Production
Before the first words are even spoken into a microphone, the narrator has to go through and make notes, perhaps ask about various voices, various scenarios. If there’s dual narrator or duet narration, notes need to be made on which narrator speaks when. There’s prep time as well for when it fits into their schedule. Just because you book a narrator today doesn’t mean they can start now.
Step 3 – The First 15 Minutes
At some point, you will receive what is called “the first 15 minutes”, but this is not the first 15 of the audiobook itself. This is, instead, a random pulling of things from throughout your book. Likely, every character’s voice will be heard. There will be a mix of emotional scenes. You’ll get to make notes, on how you feel about various voices, if things should be corrected. Until you approve of the first 15, production cannot continue.
Step 4 – Engineering / Sound Boarding
When your narrator says “we’re finished recording”, that does not mean your files are ready. This means it’s time for the sound engineer to step in and fiddle things together. This means splicing and boosting and honestly idk how it all works but they basically take the hours your narrator spent in the booth and turns them into a cohesive audiobook. This, as well, takes time, depending on who is doing it, and what their schedule looks like.
Step 5 – Proofing
This may or may not be a step you are heavily involved in, depending on who you are working with, but I prefer to do a full round of proofing myself, no matter who I work with. Basically, you are proofreading, except instead of listening, you are narrating. I personally like to pair this with annotating and making notes of which sections I would like to use to promote the audiobook, but that’s up to you. Basically, you listen for any errors. I also sometimes find things I don’t like about my book and want edits. But, point is, you listen, and you send in corrections. This takes… A LOT OF YOUR TIME.
Step 6 – Final Edits
This is where the narrators (or engineers, depending) take your notes and make changes. This should be relatively short, and then they will upload the new file. You then pay, and make sure the cover is uploaded, and then…
Step 7 – Quality Control
This is what takes… eons. The website distributing your audiobook will have their own quality control, and that will take two weeks to two months, depending. And then from there, the individual vendors may also have their own QC. This is what sucks. This is the waiting. This is what I’m doing right now. But then…
Step 8 – It’s Live!
And you promote! AHH.
Let’s go ahead and just get the awkward part out of the way – Audiobooks can cost a lot of money to produce. Of course they do – it takes a narrator time to narrate, to edit, and then to do the engineering. If they don’t do their own engineering, then it has to be sent to another person to do the computer work to edit and fix and fiddle. Then there’s proofing, and edits again, and it’s… it takes a lot of time! A lot of energy! And a lot of equipment.
I’ve seen some people say you don’t need any special equipment to be a narrator… friend. No. LMAO. NO.
It takes equipment and it takes programs and it takes time and that requires money.
So, producing an Audiobook isn’t cheap, but there are options! There’s pros and cons, but you have to make the right decision for you. Let’s run through them.
Royalty Share is, in essence, all in the name – it’s sharing your royalties! Specifically, you share the royalties with your narrator. In going in, you don’t pay anything. You don’t… do anything with the engineering at all. Typically, this means that they do their own sound engineering in house. From there, when the audiobook is uploaded, you do a 50/50 split of the royalties. With ACX exclusivity, this is an automatic thing. Just, wham, bam. You pay nothing, and you split what comes out. Typically the contract is for seven years on this.
Royalty Share Plus
This is JUST LIKE ROYALTY SHARE except you also pay a small amount up front, typically the engineering fee, or maybe a little more. This is a per finished hour fee, meaning, you pay a set amount per total finished hours. You’re looking, normally, at paying less than $100 pfh if you’re doing RS+. This is what I have done with my first two Garoureve books – I paid for the technical stuff, they narrated it for a share of the royalty. All in all, easy done.
Pay For Production
This is the one that costs so much. This is what hurts the wallet. This is the… Oof. Yeah.
With Pay for Production, you are typically looking at anywhere from 200 to 400 to 600 PFH, depending on the narrator, their popularity, etc. It’s a lot. It is not chump change. It is… a lot of money. But, with this, you get 100% of the royalties, and it’s very easy to go wide with it, as you don’t have to worry about splitting anything. RS and RS+ on ACX is an ACX exclusive thing, so by going PFP, you can just take it wide, and no worries.
This is what I have done with Owen. I paid outright to the narrators. Yes, it’s a lot of money. It is. This is… A lot of money.
But again, I get the royalties, I hold all rights. I share nothing with anyone else. I have full control.
HOW LONG IS AN AUDIOBOOK
Now, I keep talking about PFH, and I’m sure you’re starting to wonder, well, how long will my audiobook probably be? And the answer is…
Depends on how long your book is! And your narrator’s style, I guess, but…
Typically it’s anywhere between 8,000 and 10,000 words per hour. When I’m doing my math, I lean more towards 9,000 words per hour, for my budgeting etc.
I also keep mentioning ACX Exclusive vs Wide, so, let’s talk about the benefits… and the negatives… of being ACX exclusive.
As I have noted above, ACX is the Amazon/Audible Audiobook Production platform, and it is by far one of the most frequently used platform for finding audiobook narrators. It is where I found my first audiobook narrator. It is actually how narrators have found me before following me on other social media. Most people who are narrators are on ACX.
ACX distributes directly to Amazon, Audible, and Apple Books. They do not distribute to other platforms. If you want to do that, you need to use another platform ON TOP OF ACX, because…
If you only distribute your book via another platform, they are going to upload it through ACX, and you will still have to deal with the ACX garbage… while also taking a lower cut of your royalties.
That stated, ACX is pretty dead set on how much they pay you, which is 40% of your royalties if you are exclusive, and 20% if you are not exclusive. They set the prices.
They also have things like your audiobook being cheaper if the reader already has it on kindle. There is also Audible tokens or subscriptions or something? Basically, good things for the reader, a pain in the booty for you.
Honestly, being ACX exclusive vs being wide is up to you – do you want higher royalties on one platform, or do you want to be available on multiple platforms?
THAT STATED – if you go with RS or RS+ on ACX, you have no choice, because you have agreed to split the royalties, and this is basically impossible to do on other platforms… unless there’s a lot of trust, but that means you would have to do this entirely like separate from the ACX contract, and yeah.
So, that’s ACX exclusivity. Kind of a pain, but I get it with RS and RS+.
OTHER DISTRIBUTION OPTIONS
But, what are your other options for Audiobook distribution?!
I’m going with Findaway Voices. While this is a platform that is ALSO used for audiobook production, you can use it solely to distribute your books. There are a few other places as well, but I don’t know much about any of them. What I do know is that Findaway allows you to set your prices, gives you promotion codes for some sites, and gives you 80% of what they are paid… meaning.
If the website gives a 40% royalty, that number then gets split to a 20% cut for FAV, and you get 80% of the original 40%.
Or something like that?
But, before anyone says, wait, you don’t have to have a distributor for everywhere!!!
You’re right. You don’t. But some places you do. And you can choose to upload directly to some websites, and choose to let FAV do it for you on the ones which you can’t. Like, Scribd. Scribd requires that you have a distributor from which they can acquire it.
BUT ALSO!!! YOU CAN SELL IT YOURSELF!
With bookfunnel and a storefront!
I have Owen up and available via Bookfunnel, and people can purchase it from my shopify and listen to it either in the bookfunnel app or on their web browser. So, another option from which you can distribute!
FINDING A NARRATOR
Remember how I said we were going out of order today? Yup. This is the consequences of my own actions. Let’s go back to the very start of all of this… how do you find a narrator. Which is a great question. And um… Uhh… Honestly, a mix of luck and exhaustion.
As I mentioned above, you can 100% find narrators via ACX. You put your book up for auditions, attach a script, listen to any of the auditions that come in, and select someone from that. FAV is sort of the same, except on there, you invite narrators to work with you. You then have to sit there and listen to various voices, based on what you search. I’m pretty sure they do still audition there, so, you invite them to audition. So, platforms such as that.
There’s also social media, meaning, you find them on tiktok. That’s why some narrators narrate on live – they want authors to hear their voices and want to work with them. I have in fact found narrators this way – I was swiping my FYP, came across someone narrating, and said oop there we go. That’s the voice. That’s the vibe. From there, you can look at their social media and website, search for prices, etc. Contact them.
And finally, you can ask your friends! Listen to their audiobooks. Listen to their narrators. If you like your friend’s audiobook, and you like the voice, maybe you can use that narrator for your book. Ask for an introduction, etc. I have in fact done this before. In the process of this. Making narrator friends this way.
Do what works for you, and don’t feel awkward about reaching out. This is literally how people find their narrators.
And when you contact them, make sure you know going in a few certain things – know what your budget is. Know what your timeline is. Know what you want, whether it be RS or PFP. Know if you want dual narration or duet or is it single POV. Know before you go in. Look at their stuff – if they’re on ACX and FAV, they should have their rates listed. It should also be on their website. Know what you can before you go in.
And just… make the contact.
Dates, Times, and Contracts
Seriously. Know what your schedule looks like. Go in with an open mind. Have your calendar in check.
From the start of recording to the end of recording should be anywhere between a few weeks and a month. Maybe. Hopefully. Depends on what they have going on. At some point in that, there will be a 15 minute check you need to do. Plan for that.
Once the audiobook is complete, you need to do Proofing. That will take you at least two weeks of solid work. It’s exhausting, mentally. Plan for it.
From there, edits will be fast, or should be, at which point you will then pay before submitting it. So, plan to pay approximately 6-8 weeks after recording begins.
And then, plan for it to take 2-4 weeks for quality control on whatever platform you choose before it goes live.
AND SIGN A CONTRACT.
Whatever website you use will most likely have one built in, but sign it. Sign the contract. Agree to work with them. AND PAY THEM SPEEDILY WHEN THE TIME COMES. Don’t make them wait on that!
And from there… go in with an open mind… and get ready to promote your audiobook like a new release the second it goes live on Amazon or wherever you are most excited to sell it.
Now, you may have noticed that throughout this whole thing, I have not once mentioned using a production company. This is for a very good reason. This is for so many very good reasons. This is 100% a good question and yet…
*stares in I don’t want to get sued by anyone*
So, I do not have any personal experience with production companies, because I have been told horror stories. I’ve been told horror stories by authors and by narrators. And, I do not want to speak for any of them, nor do I want to give any stories that I did not fully understand or misrepresent scenarios. I do not want to try and even begin to give anything, because again…
*stares in I don’t want to get sued by anyone*
That stated. You can do this by yourself. You do not need to sell your rights to a production company to get your audiobook produced. You can do this all on your own. You can do this and have full control and be paid your royalties and have your own decisions have worth and just……
*stares in I don’t want to get sued by anyone*
No. Just. No.
I THINK THAT’S ABOUT IT. AUDIOBOOKS. IT’S A THING.
You can do it. I believe in you.
Next time, we’ll be either talking about taxes, if my taxes are done, or we’ll be talking about my 2023 Q1 Author Stats… which is overdue!